Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Urking Oxfam (2)

Why can't Oxfam be open and transparent about where our money goes?

Moreover, why can't Oxfam live up to its own rhetoric?

Here is an example of the organisation's commitment regarding transparency and accountability, from its own Annual Report:
"We are working towards improved transparency and information sharing; more stakeholder participation in decisionmaking; and better evaluation and complaint mechanisms. Key stakeholders include the individuals and communities with whom we work; partners and allies; donors and supporters; staff, volunteers and the wider public; and regulatory bodies in the UK and in countries where we operate...Oxfam aims to be open and transparent with donors and supporters."
(Annual Report 2005-06, p. 25 and p. 26)
Oxfam is signatory to several standards as well, including the ImpAct Coalition, the INGO Accountability Charter and the Paris Declaration.

ImpACT (Accountability, Clarity and Transparency) is a "coalition of voluntary organisations [which] recognises that organisations must individually strive to be accountable and transparent". Its two principles are "Increase public understanding of our work and values" and "Communicate with clarity and openness". The Coalition's own FAQ document makes a good point: "Charities have nothing to hide from the general public. In fact, by giving people straight, honest answers, charities have everything to gain."

The INGO Accountability Charter, which Oxfam has also signed, puts transparency as one of its core principles: "We are committed to openness, transparency and honesty about our structures, mission, policies and activities. We will communicate actively to stakeholders about ourselves, and make information publicly available."

The Paris Declaration, signed by EURODAD (a collection of agencies which includes Oxfam), declared that "a major priority for partner countries and donors is to enhance mutual accountability and transparency in the use of development resources"

It seems clear from this Oxfam is under a duty to publish more information about its projects and activities. This would allow:
  • Members of the public to ensure their money was being spent in the best way possible
  • Other agencies to co-ordinate their aid flows
  • The recipients of aid to have a greater say about the help they receive.
Oxfam run a sophisticated programme-management system which would allow them to publish this information. All that they lack is the necessary will.

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