WV USA, TShirts and the role of NGOS

I hope you have by now sorted out a present for your valentine and those who made their choice based on Sarah’s recommendation, A BIG THANK YOU.

For you see here at Ethnic Supplies we believe this is the best way to address  poverty- what can  folk do to help themselves out of poverty and what can we do to help them achieve this goal?


You would certainly think so. But in an ideal world things are not that straight forward and it is always tempting to cut corners.

small hats


When you are involved in development work, your work will bring you face to face with situations  that will make you want to throw money or Gifts in Kind and make them go away and it does happen to the best of us. The ability to desist this temptation to take short cuts is what carries you through and a key question to ask is

What about the next time? And trust me there will be a next time and another and another etc I suppose this would not be a problem if you have access to a gazzillion dollars and are inherently unethical.

I hope you are still with me so far as this gets interesting

This week I have written two blog posts on NGOs and Aid agencies. As far as I know or rather the ideal NGOs and Aid agencies should not be inherently unethical

In one post I asked a question IN WHOSE INTEREST DO NGOS AND AID AGENCIES WORK?.  This post was inspired by a story about food shortages in Karamoja North East Uganda a  region that has had Aid Agencies and NGO’s for nearly half a century but remains desperately poor. The situation is so bad that folk have taken to eating goat skin in order to survive because the World Food Program has woken up and decided that instead of handing out food they should encourage folk to grow their own food.

The Second post,  WORLD VISION AND THOSE 100,00 THSIRTS OK I admit this is a bit of a rant. This post was inspired by  going discussions on various social media platforms regarding the decision by World Vision USA  to dump 100,000 T shirts that have been gifted to them in kind by NFL. Never mind that Tshirts are from losing teams which shows how much regard WV USA has for the communities in which they work or perhaps they see folk in the developing world as losers- who knows?

So  take you back to where I started it is tempting to throw money or even gifts in kind at problems in the developing world but in our opinion that does not make the problem go away as demonstrated by the Karamoja example.

If you are spending other people’s  money like NGO’s do it is not the ethical thing to do.

So why then is World Vision USA justifying their position in this matter? As the Americans Say GO FIGURE

And when you do please come back and share your views here.

For every £1 that goes in £10 leaves

An interesting statistic indeed but what does it mean?

On Monday 18th Oct 2010 Channel 4′s Dispatches programme loked at how the Rich in the UK beat the Tax system. There were two surprises for me as I watched this programme

  1. Andrew Mitchell Secretary for state International Development whose budget has been ring fenced was one of the super rich implicated by the programme

    Andrew Mitchell -photo from Wikipedia

  2. The tax evasion has implications for overseas development.I have previously written about Vulture funds that see companies buying up third world debt and us the tax payers picking the tab so this was fascinating stuff indeed

Point number 2 was especially interesting the expert interviewed was John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network and this is what he had to say

for every £1 that goes  out of the rich countries into the developing world as Aid at least £10 of capital flows out of those countries illicitly into tax heavens through offshore structures and this explains in part why developing countries have not been able to finance their own development and remain reliant on aid and external borrowing

WOW! that statement left me lost for words and that is very unusual I must say.

But surely the secretary of state knows this?  Well I hope so anyway! It  was interesting note that he ended his speech at  the London School of Economics with that all so familiar ConDem slogan


Well are we?  Based on the information provided in this programme it doesn’t sound like it. One would also be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that only the rich truly benefit from Aid.

The question where do we go from here? If those that should know better are themselves seemingly avoiding the taxman what about the poor?

Further reading on the issue of ring fencing the Aid budget is at http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/has-britain-exported-its-welfare-benefits-system-to-africa/

Have you got a view? Did you perhaps watch the programme? What did you make of it

Should Corporate Social Responsibility be scrapped? #CSR

Or should we move beyond it?

Let’s begin with what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is all about

For those that may not be familiar with this term, put simply CSR is about companies mostly big corporations like Coca Cola, Cadbury, or Vodaphone doing their bit for society or rather giving back some of their profits to society.

This does not necessarily have to be in the developing world, it might be staff in these corporations spending time in Inner City Schools or they can pay someone else to do it and tick a box that they have done it. But as this blog is about the developing world I will address this notion of CSR from that point of view.

Companies working in  the developing world are increasingly being called upon to move beyond CSR because
1. it makes good business sense to do so
2. breeds good relationships with the communities in which they work
This type of CSR involves more than visiting schools and in fact it may mean that the company has to build a school or a hospital for the community. Let’s say it is not cheap! Some companies have whole departments dedicated to their CSR programmes whilst others contract it out.

school building in Ruhanga SW Uganda

If you have got this far you are probably thinking well those giant corporations are taking out of those communities so it is only fair that they give back. I would agree with you and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that line of argument and at the risk of contradicting myself this is the only way a local community can benefit directly from the presence of these giant corporatios in their neighbourhood.

The flip side of this type of CSR is that

1. it creates dependence because
2. it is a form of Aid- that is one school or hospital that the government doesn’t have to  build- never mind maintain
3. it lets that government off the hook in terms of social services provision
4. Who determines on what gets on the agenda?
5. what happens when these companies pack and leave

Surely these are not strong enough reasons to scrap CSR? Perhaps not, Should we therefore move beyond CSR?

This is something that has left me a little confused and I am hoping that I have not confused you too. If companies are doing more than simply fetching raw materials from the developing world and are building schools and hospitals, one would argue that they have moved beyond the box ticking CSR as we know it. And that being the case what more can they do?

Depending on the nature of their business, they could look into other opportunities within the community that could lead to win win win situations e.g creating whole new product lines based on what is available in the community. SABMiller and Coca Cola have done just that in Uganda

But does any of this really help folk in Africa in real terms? After all those companies are not owned by the indigenous population and this means that company profits leave these communities and are enjoyed elsewhere.

In my opinion a good mix would be encouraging local enterprises that can create employment and perhaps a local brand of Corporate Social Responsibility.

What do you think?