Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Indian Tribal Forest Dwellers To Be Evicted

Survival international 267444 is a UK based  human rights organisation campaigning for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples. The head of the organisation Stephen Corry has taken up the cause of over a million tribal people in India. They face  being evicted from their homeland forest and jungle land after a couple of rulings by India’s supreme court. Evictions  are to be executed in the next few months under official and police supervision.

Indian law gave legal rights over forest land  to tribes and forest-dwelling communities provided they could prove their families have stayed there for at least three generations. However in mineral and resource rich areas the ability to defend this right has been heavily compromised.

Not all wildlife groups and conservationists are in favour of the tribes rights and their views have been used in a one sided court case that has brought the current issue to the fore.

‘With more than 700 tribal groups, India is home to over 100 million indigenous people. While the forest land is legally controlled by the government, people have lived in such areas for centuries.’ (Washington Post). Yet over the last 30 years, 5000 square miles of forests  have been lost to encroachments and 24,000 industrial projects.  It is believed that conditions under which these projects are given forest land are widely violated. (Scroll In)

Comment

  • This post takes an opportunity to highlight a UK charity with global reach in support of vulnerable people and Traditional Forest Dwelling tribes.
  • The conflicts created by government, business and environmental lobbies can leave ‘tribes’ without any appropriate support or unified voice.
  • In this Indian case it appears that some charities are conflicted and are pursuing action that will positively harm the tribes.

Billionaires Tax and Oxfam’s Poverty Reports

Oxfam no 202918 is a registered charity in England and Wales  and in Scotland SC039042. Oxfam GB is one of 20 members of the international confederation Oxfam.

From accounts just published in respect of 2017/18 Oxfam GB spent £336.9m on charitable work (£173.2m on humanitarian work, £151.6m on  development work and £12m on campaigning. A further £100m was spent on trading costs (net income £18.9m) and fundraising.)

Also just published is a report on equality and poverty saying ‘Last year, the poorest half of the world became 11% poorer, while billionaires’ fortunes rose 12% – or $2.5 billion every day….. The gap between the richest and poorest people is growing.’

Having  a Pop at Billionaires

The poverty report wants to engender a movement that creates a higher tax income from the Super-rich. This simplistic approach applies whether they are rich in terms of income or asset values. Rich list Americans like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill & Miranda Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, the Walton family of Walmart fame, Warren Buffett, the Koch brothers and the Mars family who are collectively worth well in excess of $500 billion.

Large corporations systematically hide their corporate profits in overseas tax havens to avoid tax. This is supported by Oxfam research under the headline ‘Drug companies as tax dodgers, price gougers, and influence peddlers that named four pharmaceutical corporations – Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co and Pfizer. Tax dodging, high prices, and political influencing by drug companies exacerbate the yawning gap between rich and poor.’

Comment

  • Oxfam is going through a turbulent period and interested charity watchers will be pouring over their latest annual reports and accounts. These detail some of the structural changes planned or implemented to restore the recent loss of confidence.
  • Billionaires are an apparently easy target to gain extra resources. Where is the effort to curtail corruption, political incompetence/misfeasance and other forms of oppression which would wastes resources gained from a billionaires tax.
  • Oxfam is a large and potentially cumbersome organisation that in our opinion needs to continue changing and honing down it’s focus to protect the core work that it should do.

Oxfam (India) Trust

The OXFAM (INDIA) TRUST charity commission for England and Wales registered no 277444 – seems to be defunct with no information on trustees or contacts available and accounts overdue by 1727 days.

Background

In 1951 Oxfam first started working in India to help with natural disasters. There was a need for relief in cases of famine, numerous floods even tsunamis together with the consequential humanitarian aid needs.

‘Oxfam India as a registered Non-profit under Section 8 of the Indian Companies Act, 2013’ still supports communities to help them cope with the impact of natural disasters but also focuses on gender equality, access to basic rights, campaigning, health and education.

Oxfam as part of Oxfam International seeks to address these problem with a “Rights Based Approach” ‘to bring a change in people’s lives through State and Institutional Accountability; Civil Society Participation; Empowering the Poor to Use Public Resources and Increased Social Inclusion of the Marginalised’.

Despite many areas and Indian states having a significant proportion of their population living below the poverty line India claims they have the resources, growing economic strength, knowledge and capacity to solve their own problems.

Concerns

  1. Oxfam had an unassailable position in disaster relief but for many years it has been drifting towards broader ‘social engineering’ that can dilute their impact. The core purpose could suffer a dilution of effectiveness despite best efforts.
  2. ‘Oxfam India’ is still evolving as an organisation and the ‘sympathy profile’ and the traditional ethos needs to be maintained.
  3. To maintain credibility, information management and communication needs to be consistent and upto date. The internet has a long memory and outdated data abounds.

 

 

 

Charitable Politics in Pakistan

It is not always easy to accept aid and charity even if you are a large and needy country. Nor is it always clear what strings are attached to the allocation of cash and resources.

In 2017 Reuters reported that Pakistan’s  ‘Ministry of Interior gave 27 NGOs 90 days to conclude operations, …… Among those being expelled are Action Aid, World Vision, Plan International, Trocaire, Pathfinder International, Danish Refugee Council, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oxfam Novib, and Marie Stopes.’ This month 18 of   such charities & NGO’s were given 60 days to wind up operations and leave the country. Sources say this could cost the new prime minister, Imran Khan  and his countries most needy population, upwards of £100m of aid.

Sources in Pakistan say 141 NGOs have been allowed to continue their activities subject to completion of documentation and agreement to an annual audit from the interior ministry.

Donald Trump has cancelled $300m of military aid to Pakistan on the basis it acted as ‘an agent of chaos in Afghanistan’ and has not done enough to prevent terrorism. This situation may only get reviewed if Pakistan help bring the Taliban to negotiations over the future of Afghanistan.

Charity Worker in Peril – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe  a 37 year old charity worker was on holiday visiting her family in Iran. In April 2016 at the airport trying to return to the UK  she was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard without access to a lawyer. She is accused of “… allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime” and was initially sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Her 2 year old daughter who has British citizenship  had her British passport confiscated and is stranded in Iran with her grandparents.

Nazanin who has dual nationality currently works as a project manager for the Thomson-Reuters Foundation which delivers charitable projects around the world but does not work in Iran.

It appears from media reports that Nazarin is now a political football involving the UK government and compensation due to Iran for a cancelled tank contract plus the resolution of frozen Iranian assets. Why this charity worker was targeted in the first place is unclear. However how can it be right to subject a very young child with British nationality to this treatment.
Politics and charity work often need to work hand in hand but this case seems to display no charity!

Oxfam a View on the Oldest Profession

Oldest Profession

Commonly held views can lead to errors of judgement. It is a widely and satirically held view that  the oldest profession is that of being a prostitute. In defending Ofam’s staff’s use of prostitutes in Haiti  Mark Goldring the chairman of Oxfam said ‘……makes you wonder what did we do? Murder babies in their cots?’ All this comment achieved was to provide fodder for the media industry (in our opinion not one of the older or more honourable professions).

Charity work has a valid claim to being the oldest profession. In the Garden of Eden the fruit of the tree of knowledge was given to Eve. There after the parable of ‘the Good Samaritan’ highlighted the good  work done by those who see a need and act to resolve the issue without thought of personal reward. (A massive thanks to all the modern day humanitarian samaritan charity workers operating with integrity.)

Many other profession should and are being called to account over abuse. Church and religious leaders have committed abuse on children then sought to orchestrate a cover up. Politicians have used there positions of power and influence thereby creating sex scandals. The entertainment industry, not wishing to miss out,  proclaim ‘#me too’. That is after years of ‘the casting couch’ innuendos. We wouldn’t expect all our military to be celibate and fervently hope no ‘scurrilous scandals’ emerge in these professions. Investigations in to the protection of the vulnerable by public sector professionals and workers has exposed the dramatic failings in Rotherham, Oxford, Newcastle and other UK areas.

Comment

Abuse and issues within a sector, in this case the aid charities, runs deeper than sexual and physical abuse. The current exposé should create a more open environment to address all the moral and human failings but do not expect the problems to be eliminated anytime soon.

Unfortunately many of the leaders in the aid and humanitarian sector do not seem to understand their aid work  is being undertaken ‘In My Name’ and in the name of all supporters, donors and right-minded people.

When a problem looks bad, experience shows it is probably far worse than originally thought. It is also a truism that a cover up will cause at least if not more opprobrium to be brought to the obsfucators.

There are numerous media reports on what could be called Oxfamgate which you may choose to investigate. As the dust settles Charity Chit Chat will revisit the core issues and the leadership needed to move forward.

 

Greenpeace Logging Dispute

Greenpeace Environmental Trust 284934 – is the UK charity arm of the international campaigning organisation that started in 1982 with the objective of “furthering public understanding of and promoting the protection of world ecology and the natural environment”. The charity made £6million of grants in 2016 of which £1,500,000 was to Greenpeace Ltd

During 35 years Greenpeace has developed a reputation for  ‘protecting the Earth through positive action …. by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse.

A $300-million racketeering lawsuit against Greenpeace, launched by logging and paper manufacturers Resolute Forest Products based on laws aimed at combating organized crime, has been dismissed by the judge in Northern District of California. Lawyers for Resolute claimed “Greenpeace’s true focus is on “emotionalizing” issues and raising funds rather than any lofty environmental initiatives. Because soliciting money, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s primary objective.”  After the ruling lawyers for Resolute say they will ‘appeal and expects to prevail’.

Concerns

  • Charities fighting for a cause tread a fine line when it come to using supporters and donors money to pay lawyers.

Burma Looking for Salvation

The United Nations Security Council met on 30 August 2017 to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Burma (Mayanmar). Nothing new about conflicts in Mayanmar. This latest crisis follows a  military offensive against civilians in Rakhine State. This time it is not The Salvation Army we know and love but an armed group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who are involved in the unrest.

Various UK charities are trying to ‘do their bit’ for Burma.

1. CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY INTERNATIONAL 281836
‘This charity is ‘working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.’ Christian Solidarity is calling for international action to tackle the crisis in Mayanmar, including measures such as targeted sanctions and the suspension of British training for the Burmese Army.
2. PENNY APPEAL 1128341
According to their latest funding appeal ‘close to 75,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following violence in Mayanmar.  The number is rising. They need your help, fast.

Treated worse than animals, this dehumanisation of the Rohingya people has become ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Human rights violations and destruction are rife, with women raped, children abused and villages burned to the ground. There is a mass exodus from the country as people flee for their lives, facing perilous journeys to do so. Dozens of refugees, including children, are missing and presumed dead, as Rohingya Muslims were forced to risk everything to escape this brutal persecution.’

3. KIDZ IN KAMPZ 1096118
Kidz in Kampz is still helping another oppressed minority from Mayanmar, the Karen people. Traditionally Karen people practised Animism (spirit worship) and  Buddhism. This smaller charity provides hands on service delivery on  projects such as  ′The School of Hope′ a school for children with special needs  located in Nupo camp. This refugee camp is  on the Thai border where the Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT)   focus on working with displaced persons from Burma.

 Comment

The above illustrations show three ways UK charities make an impact, via advocacy, by fund raising and providing service delivery. Choose your preferred method of helping those causes close to your own aspirations.

UN’s Child Refugees

A UNHCR report found that ‘Opportunities to learn diminish greatly when children are forced to flee their homes …’ hence the objective of a current funding campaign by UNHCR (The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is to help children obtain an education. Focused in Lebanon and elsewhere it is aimed at children who have been disrupted as a result of Syrian problems.

A back to school fund to help young Syrian refugees has been promoted by a five piece mailshot and a hard to find section of their website. The request was for £90 donation so a child ‘doesn’t miss out on their education and a chance of a better future.’

 

Relevant United Nations Comments

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950. Registered as a UK charity branch in 1994 this partcular charity was wound up with its funds expended in 2006 presumably in favour of the international operation.
  • UNHCR is directly concerned with the protection of refugees. It  provides operational support and coordination to a wide range of private and public actors who work in the interest of refugees.
  • UNHCR  has more than 10,966 members of staff and works in 130 countries.
  • The UN has other agencies that work with UNHCR through the “Delivering as One” initiative including,  UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF),  World Health Organization (WHO),  UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), International Organization for Migration  and others.
  • The major sources of funds are from governments, foundations and private donors. The European Union contributes $148m per annum plus national contributions and supplementary appeals.
  • UNHCR has a range of public figures who act as goodwill  ambassadors.

Considerations

  • Few would doubt Child refugees are a cause worthy of support.
  • Individuals and organisations may select UNHCR as a channel for support or seek to help service delivery via other ‘charities’.
  • Focused ‘Funds’ raised and spent for defined purposes should create the greatest benefit.
  • The lack of a registered UK charity prevents ‘Gift Aid’ being claimed.

Knights of Malta

THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH MEMBERS OF THE SOVEREIGN MILITARY ORDER OF ST JOHN OF JERUSALEM OF RHODES AND OF MALTA   227994
THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH MEMBERS OF THE SOVEREIGN MILITARY HOSPITALLER ORDER OF ST. JOHN OF JERUSALEM OF RHODES AND OF MALTA   1103567

A recent furore, surrounding this organisation and charity with over a thousand years of history, has begun to calm down . These two English & Welsh registered charities (along with SC040124) form part of the worldwide organisation based in the Vatican.

Issues for The Knights of Malta

It sees itself as a Roman Catholic ‘sovereign’ entity which runs refugee camps, drug treatment centres, disaster relief programmes and clinics around the world. As a result of recent turmoil a power struggle is taking place.

Internal fighting has enabled or forced Pope Francis to step into this semi autonomous organisation and rest control. An investigation has brought to light weaknesses in control systems, financial clarity and the conduct of its governance.

Matthew Festing, the British and recently deposed Grand Master of the order was banned from attending an election for his successor. He had accused and then dismissed the orders Grand Chancellor, Mr von Boeselager for condoning the distribution of condoms in an aid project in South-east Asia.  After much negative publicity and internal politicking, German-born Mr von Boeselager was reinstated with Vatican backing.

As the Catholic Herald reports ‘At stake is the governance of what is still technically, …  a sovereign international government which prints its own passports, wields enormous international influence, and controls considerable sums of money….. the religious and Catholic character of the order itself, and the true motivations of those who have triggered this whole process will be fiercely tested in the next year; and the new constitution which emerges will show not only who won, but what they were really fighting for in the first place.’

The British Charities

The Hospitaller order in December 2016 has reserves of over six million pound, annual income of £4,031,000 and charitable and other annual expenditure of £1,400,000 p.a.

The Military Order in December 2015 had reserves of £5,951,000 million pound, annual income of £4,166,000 and charitable and other annual expenditure of £1,035,000 p.a. (2016 accounts are due)

Comment

Expect more friction by May 2018 but don’t expect any illumination or clarity on the international funding and resources.

Current reserves look to be exceptionally generous unless charitable spending is dramatically increased.  The trustees should stop politicking and start spending

Small Potatoes All Chip In

The UK has thousands of small charities focused on helping to alleviate local problems in countries all over the world. Often these charities are very hands on and the benefits derived by local communities exceeds the raw cash investment. Additionally there are unregistered charitable works and support by individuals and groups to helping with local issues and specific causes.

Sample of Small International Charities.

1093083 – The Gambian Schools Trust- Manjai Kunda for less than £50k they completed 3 construction projects during 2016, a computer room at Kunkujang Upper Basic School, a perimeter wall around the expanded Ladies garden at the school in Loumen and the 10th Library  thay have built and equipped at a rural Nursery  in Jamwelly.
1012069 – A Passion for Africa raises £10k pa  towards building a children’s home in Sierra Leone.
1111755 – Action for Relief in Coastal Areas spending less than £1,000 pa for the benefit of those persons suffering from HIV/ aids in the East African coastal region.
1134480 –  Education for Indigent Girls in Africa (EFIG) raises £10k pa to sponsors the education of poor girls in Nigeria and Ghana.
1121411 – Operation South America   currently operates in Quyquyho, a village in Paraguay to support a foster home for  girls. Raising and spending £50k pa  over 5 years
1098390 – Sanitation in the Developing World generated £7k over 5 years to use in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. Money down the drain I hope!
1053569 – The Social Entrepreneurs Trust makes awards to accelerate the growth of early stage social entrepreneurs in India. The main income of around £300,000 pa is UK derived from corporate and individual donations . See more on the projects financed.

Questions

Are  UK charities efforts and contributions included in the official development assistance (ODA)  commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid? It seems not – Fact Checking Charity.

To encourage more small potatoes to be planted consider:  ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’,  ‘mighty  oaks from little acorns grow’,  little and often, small is beautiful, Oxfam was small once…………..

 

 

Fair Trade Industry – Should It Focus on ‘Not Unfair Trade’?

Globalisation and commercialisation has increased the rate of change across many agricultural and industrial sectors. Organisations and charities are trying to move with the times but need to retain their vision and focus on the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) principles of fair trade and the relevant charitable objectives.They do not need to become more aggressively  business like or political but world wide ‘fair trade’  has become an industry in its own life time with a raft of international assessors, promoters, branders and do betterers.

Leveraging exceptional value under WFTO principles of fair trade.

The  UK based charity  1043886 – THE FAIRTRADE FOUNDATION   has extremely wide objectives ‘To relieve poverty suffering and distress in any part of the world and to promote research into and education concerning the causes and effects of poverty.’ These aims are open ended such that the 100 or so Fairtrade Foundation employees have a business model for generating most of the funds required by using the ‘brand’ through activities based on licensing. This is the tip of the iceberg with a billion euro income for producers and probably more than double that for retailers and manufacturers.

More specifically Fairtrade Foundation (as part of wider fair trade) is :-

  • ‘Providing an independent certification of the trade supply chain with their fairtrade mark as the consumer guarantee.
  •  Facilitating the market so that producers can sell to traders and retailers in order that the market for fairtrade grows.
  • Raising awareness among consumers of the need for fairtrade and the importance of the fairtrade mark.’
  • For a charity, licensing is a very commercial business like activity but it would be churlish to question the charitable motives which are designed to help small farmers and businesses.

Since before 2010 the charity has had steady income of around ten million pounds a year from licenses bought by retailers and producers using the Fairtrade  supply chain, verification methods, reputation,  and logo. It is a complex and multi-faceted business where the license income has stalled but the volume of underlying ‘fair trade products sold seems to increase’. Somewhere the money trail seems to under perform against the ideals.

Global Fair Trade  is Fragmented to Divide and Rule

WFTO is the worldwide network of Fair Trade organizations and includes WFTO Europe which receives some funding from the EU and our own Fairtrade Foundation. The goals are to enable producers to improve their livelihoods and communities through Fair Trade. (see detailed principals below)

WFTO’s  fair trade certification scheme and mark is verified by self-assessment, mutual reviews and external verification.

There has been growth and unnecessary competition amongst fair trade certifiers, and ‘products’ in the market including Fairtrade International , IMO, Rainforest Alliance, Make Trade Fair, Eco-Social and Fair Trade USA .

Major corporate manufacturers and retailers like Starbucks are considering withdrawing from full certification. Suchards and Cadburys have chosen to establish their own sustainability programme ‘Cocoa Life’ but have a ‘side deal’ with Fairtrade that allows a continued use of a logo.

More Concerns  and Issues with Fair Trade

In recent years a greater awareness of issues highlighted by the advocates of fair trade  have been a major plus. However the commercial and business world is progressively modifying the concepts, ideals and attainments to suit their own ends. Fair trade its self has become a commercial competition, power base and business. Perhaps the time is coming to refocus onto Not Unfair Trade!

  • Where fair trade under performs it should return to focusing on helping the producer and their community.
  • Less scrupulous retailers, importers, middlemen and consolidators who abuse ‘Fair Trade’ exclusively for their own ends need to be ‘outed’. This is ‘Unfair Trade’.
  • Where potential benefits fail to filter down due to political interference fair trade needs to work in partnership with NGO’s and poverty focused charities.
  • Coffee production is up to 50% of fair trade schemes yet is hostage to the commodities  market and true fair trade is impractical.
  • Producers complain about costs of compliance, oversupply of certification, rigid rules and failure to enforce the standards and discrimination by large producers  .
  • Many people volunteer to support fair trade doing unpaid work for  Fairtrade in schools, towns, communities and with local governments or parliament. They may be misled if the benefit are going to businesses in rich countries or political influence in the producer countries.

WFTO Principles of Fair Trade

Read On…

Volunteering in a Green Economy

Book Cover

There may be as many forms of volunteering as there are willing people seeking to help. Volunteering for a ‘green’ project or in a specific country can be researched in a variety of publications (soon outdated in a fast moving world) and via web sites or better still via personal contacs. The bigger charities often use volunteers by the thousands whilst solo efforts can make a significant local impact. The smaller and international projects in less developed areas may need a bit more research but are often challenging yet fulfilling.

 Some Types of Volunteering

  • Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation
  • Humanitarian and Development volunteering
  • Wildlife & Conservation volunteering
  • Archaeological and Heritage volunteering
  • Wildlife rehabilitation

Gap year projects tend towards the short term whilst green volunteering may need a longer commitment. Certainly many of the projects and needs are permanent or long lasting.

Tips for Overseas & Project Volunteering

  • Research the organisation and project thoroughly using due diligence.Try to assess integrity, financial stability and the  commitment of the organisations.
  • Contact previous and current volunteers. Try to ascertain the nature of the work to be performed and the onsite management if any.
  • Most ‘projects’ require a contribution from the volunteer. It may be the main source of finance for the project and seeks to cover the cost of food and lodgings and some overheads. Small projects in developing areas may be free of cost but they are hard to find and will certainly exclude airfares.
  • Those with special skills, like vets or sanitation engineers, may be reimbursed living expenses or be externally charity funded.
  • The longer the volunteering term the more valuable the volunteer and less contribution may be expected.
  • Communication can be crucial to a successful project. Cultural barriers can be as significant as language barriers and are not to be underestimated.
  • Do not show up at a location in advance. Prepare, contact the organisers in advance and optimise your own time and efforts.

Some Links & Contacts

Charity as a career in our resources.

Wildlife rehabilitation is the treatment and care of injured, orphaned, or sick wild animals so that they can be released back to the wild.  British Wildlife Rehabilitation

From Pandas in China and Sea Turtles in Mexico to a reforestation project in Tanzania where you can help arrest the decline in Tanzania’s forests there are   thousands different projects and opportunities available around the world.  Conservation volunteering

The National Volunteer Center is a branch of the English Opens Doors Program and is supported by the United Nations Development Programme-Chile.

Beach cleaning   with Marine Conservation

Laddr – Volunteering a volunteering app

Good Governance link page to training and development

Volunteering Matters  Registered in England and Wales as a charity, number 291222 and in Scotland as charity number SC039171

Quotes

Better a volunteer than a pressed worker

Go for it – dive in and do your best!

Don’t expect anything, keep an open mind and get ready for hard work