New Internationalist

Accounting For Aid

Issue 148

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Accounting for Aid
Huge sums raised for disaster aid make for dramatic headlines.
But we seldom see international comparisons made. Here’s a
New Internationalist survey for the voluntary aid scene.


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Source: data from agencies direct

We give only a selection of Third World voluntary agencies, and there is little consistency in their budget allocations. All try to show the highest possible percentage of money being spent on overseas projects. This gives the appearance of efficiency to the casual enquirer. In reality it might be better to spend more on administration, to ensure that the money for overseas projects is truly effective.

These are the latest published figures. Most organisations have since had their incomes boosted dramatically by the Ethiopian appeals. Extensive use of voluntary agencies as a channel for aid funds are used by some governments, notably those of Canada and the USA. The percentage is indicated after the income.

Some agencies refuse to itemise money spend on educating the public about the causes of world poverty. The funding of educational projects is one indicator of a progressive agency. But it can also bring attack from right-wing critics claiming donations were never given for this purpose.

Fundraising and administration expenses can be a lot lower for Church-based organisations if the donations come through the Sunday collection. The secular agencies will have to devote more of their budget to fundraising activities.

The allocation of spending between budget headings can be very arbitrary. Should the salary of a schools officer who also organises sponsored walks among the children be included under Education or Fundraising? Probably the most significant figures are those which show the total amount of income raised, and the extent of the educational initiatives undertaken by the agency.


Parents by post

Around a million children in the Third World now have Western sponsors.

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Two giant child sponsorship agencies are World Vision with 348,000 children adopted and Foster Parents Plan with 228,000. The Australian and New Zealand World Vision agencies each raise more than any other Third World voluntary agency in their countries.


Public and private giving

[image, unknown] Here is a comparison of selected countries government aid budgets (official development assistance) and the amount given by private voluntary agencies. We have also indicated official aid as a proportion of GNP and voluntary aid per head of population. Figures in millions of US dollars.

It has been generally accepted internationally that the minimum overseas aid commitment should be 0.7% of the Gross National Product (GNP).

Grants by voluntary agencies are for much smaller sums than official aid. But they bypass bureaucracy and go straight to community groups. So dollarfor dollar private giving can have far more value.


Disastrous drama

Aid funds are boosted dramatically whenever there is a major tragedy which captures news headlines. These have been the most significant disasters of recent years.

1976 - 1979 Indo China troubles
After Vietnamese victory, escaping Chinese made up the boat people. Invasion of Kampuchea by Vietnamese forces in 1 979. Pol Pot’s wholesale massacres of up to 3 million and destruction pf modern farming techniques brought threat of famine: Voluntary agencies helped the boat people, Thai refugee camps and internal Kampuchean reconstruction.

1980 East Africa drought
No rains in Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti aggravated by effects of Ethiopia/Somalia war. Somali refugee centres provided relief for 70 - 80,000.

1981 - 1985 Central America civil war
Internal fighting in El Salvador and Guatemala brought population displacement Major refugee camps in Mexico and Honduras.

1982 Lebanon civil war
Sporadic fighting since 1975 between Christians and Muslims. Intensified by Israeli invasion in 1982. Massacres in Palestinian refugee camps. 80,000 refugees displaced by fighting.

1984/5 Africa famine
Drought affects 15 - 20 countries, 6 very severely. Problems heightened by Ethiopian forces fighting secessionist movements in Eritrea and Tigray. Half Ethiopian drought victims in war zones unable to be reached by famine relief. 300,000 Ethiopians now in Sudanese refugee camps.


The Ethiopian dimension

Below we indicate the money raised in 1984/85 by voluntary agencies for the famine in Africa.

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It is probably true that the Dutch show more concern about this issue than any of the English-speaking nations.


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