Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Should one charity criticise another?

8 January, 2015 - 14:10 -- John Burton

My recent blog about giving goats as gifts - and my distrust of the claims that livestock will help bring Africa out of poverty - begged the question ‘should one charity criticise another?’

Some people believe that charities should not judge one another and I understand this point of view. But I am firmly of the opinion it is important for the charitable sector to be open to criticism from within the sector. After all, charities are quick enough to find fault with businesses and governments, and charities cover a multitude of activities.

In my case I will openly criticise evangelical charities sending missionaries to South America. There are well documented accounts of atrocities that some of them have been party too, and I have seen some distressing results of their activities.

I am also critical of charities that provide long term aid to the developing world. While short term emergency aid can be justified, many of the other projects supported by aid charities are imposing western values and aspirations on cultures ill-adapted to them. And the most observable long term impact that I have seen is those societies becoming aid dependent.

Other pet hates of mine are charities whose main function seems to be to fundraise to employ staff and consultants. I will also criticise charities whose accounts are opaque and those use fundraising techniques that I believe to be coercive or misleading. (And don’t get me started on charities that distribute unwanted ‘free gifts’.)

And finally while I may not criticise them, I don’t have much sympathy for charities that are doing the job that I believe our taxes pay for. And it’s no good a government pleading poverty, since almost all governments spend more on armaments than they do on looking after the people that use them.

Obviously donors are going to support the charities with which they have empathy but my main point is that charities should be open to scrutiny and be prepared to discuss the rights and wrong of actions carried out in their name.

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