With Christmas over it’s that time we are all ready to sit back, put our feet up and reflect on the year that was. There have been a few themes in international development that have caught my eye and made me think hard about my own positions. It reminds me that no matter how hard I research and ponder an issue, new information and circumstances keep emerging to challenge and shift priorities. It is part of continuous learning and I love it.
Development or Relief
The priority of Australian international aid support is development work. Those activities that help build people and therefore countries for the longer term. This priority aligns strongly with Foxglove’s focus on the Self Help Group approach, training women to take responsibility for their own economic, social and political empowerment.
But each and every year there are crises. As a result of natural and man-made disasters, war and political upheaval, people are caught up in poverty and terror. At this time, we need to respond. This year drought has ravaged 17 countries in Africa, whilst flooding from monsoon rains killed thousands of people in South Asia. Syria continues to be torn apart by civil war and the Rohingya people persecuted as a minority in Myanmar.
For all our passion for development, we cannot stand by and let these events occur without responding with support and finances. There will always be a place for crisis relief.
In Australia, there has been a growing scepticism around the place of children’s homes in international development. The discussion is important. There is reason for great concern: orphans making up less than 20% children in institutional care, the institutionalisation of children and isolation from culture, the loss of youth from rural areas.
But the answers are being discussed very simplistically. A ‘link’ has been unfairly created between children’s homes and orphanage tourism. This is untrue. The majority of homes do not encourage visitors. Most workers in this field are compassionate and committed to the welfare of children suffering neglect, abuse and lack of opportunity. Change needs to come. We do need to support alternative models of caring for children but such change needs to come slowly and thoughtfully. In many ways, the West has underwritten the model. Now we can play our part in transitioning to something that is both healthier for the culture and more sustainable.
Charlie Teo, a leading Australian brain surgeon and philanthropist, stated in recent days that, “Big charities in Australia are spending up to 98% on themselves instead of their causes.” It is such a disappointment to discover that so much of the charity dollar can be attributed to administration and fundraising. And this may be doubled in international development when spent both in Australia and in the developing country.
But this is not always the case. We need to become a lot more discerning as donors. There is a need for an administration and fundraising cost. It provides good governance, accountability and effective reporting. Promotion and publications are needed to highlight needs and ask for financial support. But these costs must be managed and transparent.
Foxglove has a partnership with Global Development Group who oversees project accountability, monitors projects in-country, provides receipting, accounts for funds expenditure and forwards the monies to in-country partners acquiring the best possible exchange rates. Their cost is a fraction of what Foxglove could provide the same services. And together with our fundraising costs, we are still able to send more than 91% overseas at the present time. We have set a minimum benchmark at 87%. This is our commitment and accountability to Foxglove donors. It’s open and transparent. It’s the very best we can do.