ActionAid is a federation of 45 country offices that works with communities, often via local partner organisations, on a range of development issues. It was founded in 1972 by Cecil Jackson-Cole as a child sponsorship charity (originally called Action in Distress) when 88 UK supporters sponsored 88 children in India and Kenya, the primary focus being is providing children with an education, further the human rights for all, assisting people that are in poverty, assisting those who face discrimination, and also assist people who face injustice. ActionAid works with over 15 million people in 45 different countries to assist those people.
Today its head office is located in South Africa with hubs in Asia, The Americas and Europe. ActionAid was the first big INGO to move its headquarters from the global north to the global south. ActionAid's current strategy aims to "build international momentum for social, economic and environmental justice, driven by people living in poverty and exclusion".
|Legal status||Non-profit organization|
|Purpose||ActionAid works with communities to reduce poverty and promote human rights|
|Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Americas|
ActionAid has been campaigning for tax justice since 2008, conducting research into the effects of various international tax treaties and supporting local people and organisations to hold their governments to account. It argues that losing tax revenue to avoidance harms the world's poorest and most marginalised people, who depend on tax-funded public services. It is also often the case that the tax revenue lost in these treaties can exceed the amount of international aid money send to developing countries.
In 2011, ActionAid revealed that 98% of the UK's FTSE 100 companies use tax havens. In 2013 its research into corporate tax avoidance in Zambia showed that Associated British Foods were avoiding paying millions of dollars in corporate tax.
ActionAid integrates women's rights into all of its programming and project work, but also undertakes campaigns that focus specifically on these issues.
Notable examples have included raising awareness about unpaid care work and sexual harassment and violence (including acid attacks) in Bangladesh, offering free cancer tests to women in Nigeria who could not afford them, and tackling female genital mutilation in Sweden.
ActionAid's advocacy work on climate change focuses on climate justice, guided by the experiences and needs of its country programmes. Its most prominent engagement comes through the annual Conference of Parties, where it supports communities vulnerable to climate change to influence decision-making processes.
It calls for rich countries to live up to pledges of providing climate adaptation grants and pushes for agreements to improve the lives of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. ActionAid was also critical of climate insurance policies, such as those purchased by Malawi in 2015, since those insurance policies fail to deliver when they are desperately needed.
ActionAid promotes women's leadership in humanitarian responses, arguing that women are best positioned to identify their needs and those of the communities around them in times of crisis. Strengthening citizens' rights is also a focus, such as campaigning with Haitians for greater transparency and accountability in how aid money was spent after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
As it has established relationships with communities and other NGOs in countries that are prone to ecological events, ActionAid is often able to respond quickly to emergencies. Notable crises and responses have included the Boxing Day tsunami in 2010 in the Indian ocean, drought in East Africa and India, and floods in Ghana, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Child sponsorship is one of ActionAid's primary sources of income. Donors sponsor an individual child from a community in a developing country and receive regular updates about the child's progress and development.
Sponsorship funds support the child's whole community, "so children have a healthy and safe place to live and grow up." This support takes the form of providing clean water, healthcare, agricultural programmes, education centres in areas where schools are not available, and community income generation schemes.
As ActionAid has grown in influence, building alliances with like-minded organisations has become a key focus area. Announcing this approach at the World Social Forum in 2015, ActionAid has played a role in convening civil society and community groups to tackle issues of youth political participation in the Middle East and global inequality.
Charity Navigator recorded that in 2012 ActionAid USA had a high cost of fund raising (24%), with 53% of income spent on projects. This was also reported in an International Business Times article in October 2014, which noted that the "accounting processes the charity uses resulted in its administrative costs appearing to be 'particularly high' in the fiscal year ending 2012, the timeframe Charity Navigator relied on when calculating its current Charity Navigator score." Charity Navigator reports that for 2013 the cost of fundraising for ActionAid USA was much lower (9.4%), with 82.4% of income spent on projects.
ActionAid has been criticized for spreading unsupported claims and "grotesque" pictures of adverse effects from consumption of some genetically engineered crops in Africa, in particular the unsupported claim of genetically engineered crops causing tumors and cancer. The organization apologized for their misleading actions in 2015, after publication in the media.
ActionAid, who had supported coffee growing in 2000 and had earlier openly agitated against the democratically elected Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is with a number of other NGOs, strongly criticized for supporting the US backed coup that removed this, the first democratically elected president of Haiti in 2004, a coup which is described as "perhaps the most successful act of imperial sabotage since the end of the Cold War".