WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

INTERNATIONAL

AFRICA

Nascent Independent Unions Play Key Role in Arab Uprisings.” By Isolda Agazzi. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). May 28, 2011. In the Arab world, most trade unions are affiliated to governments, but independent labour organisations are starting to emerge. In Tunisia and Egypt they have been key in overthrowing corrupt regimes, while in Algeria and Bahrain they are trying to bring people to the street. For Arab unionists, the State must play its role to consolidate the economic transition, and privatisation is not the solution. “In Tunisia, we say that reversible jackets are out of stock. Some UGTT unionists who were affiliated to the RCD (the party of ousted president Ben Ali) have reversed their jackets and are now fully in support of the revolution. But the process has reached its limit,” Belgacem Afaya, secretary general of the General Federation of Health of Tunisia, a member of the UGTT, told IPS in an interview. The UGTT, the umbrella organisation of unions in Tunisia, played a central role in January in mobilising mass protests against Ben Ali, together with the association of judges and lawyers, students and cyber activists. Afaya and other unionists have come to Geneva for a meeting of Public Services International (PSI), the global confederation of public service trade unions. In the Arab region, the PSI has 36 affiliates in ten countries. “Most of the unions in the Arab region are close to the government and only two national federations have supported the recent revolutions: the UGTT in Tunisia and the brand-new federation of Bahrain, currently repressed by the regime,” Ghassan Slaiby, PSI sub-regional secretary for the Arab countries, told IPS.

Gates: Aid to Africa’s farmers helps.” By Mike Zapler. Politico.com. May 25, 2011. Microsoft co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates came to Washington on Tuesday with a tough ask even in the best of economic times: Washington, he said, needs to increase aid to help poor African farmers become more productive. It’s not only a matter of alleviating hunger and poverty, the co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building. It’s a business imperative. Gates promoted the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program, an initiative his foundation is funding — to the tune of $1.7 billion — to essentially turn small African farms into mini-businesses. It’s the second-biggest program his foundation is funding, after a global health initiative. The goal, in essence, is to apply the innovative mind-set Gates brought to Microsoft to agricultural practices in poor nations. That innovation comes in many forms, Gates said. It involves engineering drought- and disease-resistant seeds, finding ways to give African farmers easier access to markets and teaching them new techniques to boost their productivity and protect the environment at the same time. Gates said Congress has dedicated $100 million to the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program, which he launched last year with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the foreign ministers of Spain, Canada and South Korea.

AUSTRALIA

Attendance record broken.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. May 23, 2011. This year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival broke attendance records, with more than 30,000 tickets sold for the city events alone. There were queues in the city for free events and the suburban and regional program was also well attended. Box office takings met the budget target of $625,000, but fell short of last year’s record $700,000- plus takings, which were inflated by the high cost of tickets to Nine Lives. For the artistic director Chip Rolley, the highlights included appearances from Ingrid Betancourt, who spent six years as a hostage in the Colombian jungle, and Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed during the Israeli incursion into Gaza in January 2009. ”People have told us they have never been so inspired by a writers’ festival,” Mr Rolley said. ”I’m walking on air.”

Voice of future ain’t nobody’s fuel.” By Sarah Whyte. Sydney Morning Herald. May 22, 2011. The political activist group GetUp will launch a national television ad campaign tomorrow to pressure Prime Minister Julia Gillard to invest in renewable energy or risk losing the support of its 450,000 members. The quirky one-minute ad takes swipes at Tony Abbott, Justin Bieber and the fossil fuel industries. It features Home and Away actor Alan Cinis as a ”polluting industry executive” and 12-year-old Jack Versace as the young voice of the future. Both actors are seen sitting in Ms Gillard’s office, pitching for funding on behalf of the renewable energy and fossil fuel industries. ”GetUp members have been very supportive of the government’s proposed price on pollution,” national director Simon Sheikh said. ”But if the government uses the carbon price revenue to support polluting industries instead of renewables like wind and solar, their plan may lose support from GetUp’s 450,000 members. The group is calling for the Gillard government to invest $2 billion of the carbon price revenue in renewable energy over the first 10 years. ”We know this is possible,” Mr Sheikh said. ”If the government fails to do this they will see their support further erode and what credibility they have left in regard to protection of our environment’s future will be gone.”

Curriculum head warns against axing religion.” By Michael Bachelard. Sydney Morning Herald. May 29, 2011. The soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum may not include a religious education subject. The soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum may not include a religious education subject. The man in charge of Australia’s national curriculum insists there is no problem with the way religious instruction is taught in Victoria, and warns that any moves to axe religion classes could drive parents out of the public system and into private schools. Professor Barry McGaw, the chairman of the national curriculum authority, told The Sunday Age: ”I don’t see anything wrong with a special religious instruction that operates precisely on [the current] grounds. If we deny any place to religion in public education and wish to make it entirely [secular], we are actually basing it on a particular world view. ”And the problem with that is that religious parents might opt out of the public school system, and that would not be a good thing.” Religious instruction classes, 96 per cent of which are Christian, involve volunteers teaching the doctrine of particular religions for 30 minutes per week in state primary schools. The program has become controversial, particularly since Evonne Paddison, the leader of Christian group Access Ministries, was reported as saying it provided a ”God-given open door to children … to go and make disciples”. Many who oppose the lessons, including academic Anna Halafoff of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, propose an alternative – introducing a new academic subject to teach children about the world’s religions as part of the curriculum.

BRAZIL

Brazilian Companies Offer Education To Needy Kids.” By Juan Forero. All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. May 26, 2011. Brazil’s public education system handles 50 million students but, according to many, not very well. Private initiatives funded by thousands of Brazilian businesses have created a parallel education system. Thousands of Brazilian companies are now stepping in to improve public education for poor students. The idea is to help Brazil and its dynamic economy stay competitive with China and South Korea, where public education is a top priority. No one suggests that the private programs are an alternative for Brazil’s public education system, which educates 50 million children. But the private initiatives – particularly those developing new teaching methodologies – have been well received by government officials as they work to improve public education. And indeed, there are improvements in public education. Enrollment has risen fast. The budget grew more than threefold since 2003. Test scores have also inched up. But education researchers say the biggest challenge will be improving classroom instruction.

IRAN

Censorship Inc.: Iran Vows to Unplug Internet.” By Christopher Rhoads and Farnaz Fassihi. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. An Iranian engineer who helped design and run the country’s Internet filters says he subtly undermined some censorship until fleeing into exile. Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world. The leadership in Iran sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet, according to observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country. Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes. In February, as pro-democracy protests spread rapidly across the Middle East and North Africa, Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the telecommunication ministry’s research institute, told an Iranian news agency that soon 60% of the nation’s homes and businesses would be on the new, internal network. Within two years it would extend to the entire country, he said. [IRANNET] The unusual initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence, primarily originating from the U.S. In recent speeches, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials have called this emerging conflict the “soft war.” On Friday, new reports emerged in the local press that Iran also intends to roll out its own computer operating system in coming months to replace Microsoft Corp.’s Windows. The development, which couldn’t be independently confirmed, was attributed to Reza Taghipour, Iran’s communication minister. Iran’s national Internet will be “a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level,” Ali Aghamohammadi, Iran’s head of economic affairs, said recently according to a state-run news service. Halal means compliant with Islamic law.

JAPAN

Japanese pensioners volunteer to work in the stricken Fukushima plant; Tepco is struggling to recruit workers for the clean-up.” By Richard Lloyd Parry. Times of London. May 25, 2011. As emergency workers continue to struggle with overheating nuclear reactors, a group of Japanese pensioners are volunteering to risk their lives by working in the devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. The men and women, all of them retired, argue that young people should not endanger their health and fertility by exposing themselves to potentially deadly levels of radiation, and that the responsibility falls on the generation who built and benefited from Japan’s embattled nuclear power programme. The “Skilled Veterans Corps”, as the volunteers style themselves, have already recruited 180 members, aged 54 to 78, through a multilingual website created by Yasuteru Yamada, a 72-year-old retired engineer. “Our generation which has, consciously or unconsciously, approved the construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants and enjoyed the benefits of the vast supply of electricity … should be the first to join the Skilled Veteran Corps,” he said. “Young people with a long future should not have to be placed in a position of having to undertake such a task. Radiation exposure of [the] generation which [will] reproduce the next generation should be avoided.” So far a thousand people have offered various kinds of support to the Skilled Veterans Corps, and 180 people have volunteered to go into the nuclear plant itself, including retired academics, crane and bulldozer operators, construction workers, welders, former members of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces and engineers.

SOUTH AMERICA

Amnesty’s Tireless Vigil during South America’s Dark Night.” By Marcela Valente. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). May 31, 2011. – In the 1970s, with no Internet or social networking sites to get information out, Amnesty International managed to become a thorn in the side of the dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America, several people who benefited from its advocacy work recalled on the occasion of the rights watchdog’s 50th anniversary. “Amnesty International played a key role in the release of prisoners of conscience in our countries,” 1980 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel told IPS. “I myself was one of those prisoners.” Pérez Esquivel, an Argentine human rights activist, was the founder of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ). In 1977, the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 arrested and tortured him, and held him for 14 months as a political prisoner. In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson wrote the article “The Forgotten Prisoners”, which was published on the front page of the London Observer newspaper on May 28, 1961. The article called for the release or fair trial of six detainees in different countries, who were described for the first time as “prisoners of conscience.” It was reprinted in newspapers around the world and became an amnesty campaign that marked the birth of the organisation. Delegates from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States held their first meeting in July that year and decided to establish “a permanent international movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion”. On Dec. 10, 1961 the first candle – which became the symbol of Amnesty International – was lit in remembrance and support of all prisoners of conscience, in the church of St Martin-in-the-Field in London. Pérez Esquivel describes the basic mechanism followed by Amnesty: “They adopted prisoners of conscience in a country and held global campaigns for their release.”

WORLD CUP/FIFA SCANDAL

Dueling Corruption Claims Hit Soccer Governing Body.” By Alistair MacDonald and Javier Espinoza. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. Soccer’s global governing body said it opened an investigation into claims that its president, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, knew of alleged payments made to influence an upcoming election to head up the organization that runs one of the world’s most popular sports. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s move to investigate its own president—at the instigation of a rival candidate for the body’s top position, who is also under investigation—is the latest development to rock a global soccer world already plagued by corruption accusations. In December, FIFA awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar, respectively, amid allegations—by former soccer executives and the media—of bribery and vote-trading in the run-up to the decision. Now, the organization is embroiled in a firefight ahead of an election for the FIFA presidency that finds the two main candidates—Mr. Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who heads the Asian Football Confederation—facing internal ethics investigations based on allegations they have made against each other. The current battle began this week, when U.S. FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer submitted a report to the organization regarding a meeting this month between Mr. bin Hammam, senior FIFA executive Jack A. Warner and members of the Caribbean Football Union, according to FIFA. That meeting was convened by Mr. bin Hammam to elicit support for his bid for the presidency, according to reports. According to FIFA, Mr. Blazer alleged that cash payments were made at the meeting to members of the Caribbean group. Mr. Blatter called for FIFA’s ethics committee to investigate. FIFA also says that Mr. Blazer’s report indicates that Mr. Blatter knew of the alleged payments at the meeting and ignored them, contrary to FIFA rules requiring him to report the matter. Mr. Hammam requested that FIFA’s ethics committee investigate Mr. Blatter for failing to report the matter
Related stories:
FIFA’s presidential election; Beautiful game, ugly politics; Pity the republic of football. It has a government much like many another.The Economist. May 26, 2011.
Britain tells Fifa to stop election; Sepp Blatter will come before the ethics committee on Sunday Steffen Schmidt.” Times of London. May 27, 2011.
Fifa crisis deepens as Sepp Blatter goes before ethics committee; President to be questioned on Sunday along with Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner as bribery investigation widens.” Guardian. May 28, 2011.
Own Goal; The politics of world football is a shambles.” Editorial. Times of London. May 28, 2011.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter under investigation.” BBC News. May 27, 2011.
Turmoil at Fifa as two face bribe investigation; Sepp Blatter has been cleared of wrongdoing by the ethics committee.” Times of London. May 29 2011.
Sepp Blatter Cleared, Two Senior FIFA Officials Suspended In Corruption.” Huffington Post. May 29, 2011.

UK

Donor is university’s choice as new Chancellor of Cambridge; Lord Sainsbury will become Chancellor unless a rival candidate gains enough nominations to force an election.” By Chris Smyth. Times of London. May 23, 2011. Lord Sainsbury of Turville is likely to replace the Duke of Edinburgh as the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, three years after he made a donation of £82 million. The former Science Minister and Labour donor won the backing of the university’s executive council and will become Chancellor on July 1 unless a rival candidate gains enough nominations to force an election. The ceremonial position has been held by the Duke since 1977, but he told administrators last year that he would be retiring soon after his 90th birthday next month. Potential candidates have four weeks to find 50 nominations from academics and alumni with an MA degree or higher. If a rival emerges, a ballot of the university’s 150,000 graduates will be held in the autumn. In 2008 Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation gave £82 million to support a new plant sciences centre, the Sainsbury Laboratory. A spokesman for the University of Cambridge said: “The nomination committee considered a long list of names before settling on his.” A spokesman for Lord Sainsbury said that he was “incredibly proud to be nominated”. Lord Sainsbury was chairman of his family supermarket business between 1992 and 1998, when he was appointed Science Minister by Tony Blair. He has donated more than £13 million to the Labour Party, but has not contributed since Ed Miliband became leader. The Sainsbury family wealth has been estimated at £960 million.

Congregations may desert Kirk if gay vote is passed; Traditionalists tried to block the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie.” Nick Drainey. Times of London. May 23, 2011. The Church of Scotland faces losing whole congregations if it approves the appointment of gay clergy, an academic warned last night. Bill Naphy, from the University of Aberdeen, said that it would be “a very divisive issue” whatever was decided. The Kirk is holding its General Assembly this week and same-sex relationships will be discussed today. The topic was centre stage two years ago when traditionalists tried to block the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie, an openly gay minister. The Assembly ultimately voted in support of the Aberdeen-based minister after a lengthy debate, but called for a commission to study the general issue “for the sake of the peace and unity of the Church”. Today’s debate will focus on the commission’s report. Professor Naphy, an expert in both the history of sexuality and Calvinism told the Politics Show on BBC One: “I think the Kirk is likely to take a very cautious approach. If they allow the ordination of gay ministers there will probably be whole congregations that leave. I think it’s less likely that whole congregations will leave if it goes the other way. It is more likely that individuals will walk away. “Either way the vote goes, there will be people and congregations who are likely to leave. But the very fact that the Kirk has spent two years debating an issue that relates to handful of verses in the Bible must seem a very peculiar thing for the Kirk to spend its time on.”

College slaps income cap on parents.” By Richard Garner. Independent. May 23, 2011. Parents with a joint income above £26,000 will be barred from sending their children to a state sixth-form college planned for the East End of London. The college will be one of the Government’s flagship “free” schools, offering places to bright inner-city children to help them to get into elite universities. It is being proposed by a consortium of five independent schools, including Harrow, and 16 comprehensives in East London which do not have sixth forms. Only pupils with five A* grades at GCSE will be accepted – in line with Oxbridge entry requirements.

David Cameron to relaunch troubled ‘big society’ project; Downing Street acknowledges that it has struggled to explain the idea to voters who appear not to have digested the message.” By Nicholas Watt. Guardian. May 23, 2011. David Cameron will launch his troubled “big society” for the fourth time on Monday as he describes the project as being more than a “fluffy add-on” for a government with greater ambitions than imposing the toughest spending cuts in a generation. Following an admission by the minister responsible for running the big society project that the government had failed to explain it, the prime minister will say the initiative runs through all the government’s public service reforms. It also explains why he wants to build a “stronger society” with families at its heart. Cameron will say: “You learn about responsibility and how to live in harmony with others. Strong families are the foundation of a bigger, stronger society. This isn’t some romanticised fiction. It’s a fact. There’s a whole body of evidence that shows how a bad relationship between parents means a child is more likely to live in poverty, fail at school, end up in prison or be unemployed in later life.” Downing Street acknowledges that it has struggled to explain to voters the big society, the central theme of last year’s general election campaign. It is intended to devolve power and to foster a greater sense of responsibility by loosening the role of the state. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who runs the project, admitted on Sunday the government had struggled to sell its message. “We may have failed to articulate it clearly and we’ll carry on explaining as best as we can,” Maude told Radio 4′s The World This Weekend. “I think people understand what is meant when we explain it and think that it is all a good idea.”
Related story:
Stand by for Big Society 4.0; David Cameron’s ‘big society’ strategy: if it it ain’t working – relaunch it.” Guardian. May 23, 2011.

“‘Big society’ tsar Lord Wei leaves post after less than a year; Cabinet office insists departure does not mark scaling back of project, but Labour say flagship policy is descending into farce.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian. May 24, 2011. Lord Wei, the man parachuted into the House of Lords to lead the government’s “big society” project, is to leave his post after less than a year. Wei, dubbed the big society tsar, is leaving to work for a charity. The Cabinet Office has scrapped his role and the Downing Street policy unit will now take responsibility for the programme. A Cabinet Office spokesman insisted that it did not mark a scaling back of the prime minister’s ambitions for the big society, saying that Wei had completed the work of developing the policy so there is no need to replace him. The news came just a day after David Cameron gave a major speech on the subject in what was widely interpreted as his fourth relaunch of the project, which has struggled to register with the public and faced cynicism from Tory backbenchers. Cameron thanked the peer for his “hard work” while Wei said he was glad to have played a “modest” role in the project. Labour said the flagship policy was descending into a “farce” with no one in government now responsible for it.

Better-off are urged to start doing their share for charity; Ed Miliband at Michael Faraday School in southeast London yesterday. He called for a fairer Britain.” By Anushka Asthana and Michael Savage. Times of London. May 24, 2011. Middle class and wealthy people give a lower proportion of their income to charity than the poor, ministers revealed yesterday, as they launched a drive to encourage Britain’s better-off to become more generous. Figures released by the Cabinet Office showed that the poorest 10 per cent of households in the country give on average 3.2 per cent of their income to charity while the richest 10 per cent give 0.8 per cent. Those in the middle give 1.1 per cent. The Giving White Paper, published yesterday, concluded: “We think there is significant potential for the better-off to give more.” It warned that while the UK was a “relatively generous society”, levels of giving had “flatlined in recent years”. David Cameron also urged the public to do more for charity. In a speech that critics called the fourth relaunch of the Big Society, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to “encourage a stronger culture of giving in Britain — with more people giving more money and, vitally, more time to good causes”. He emphasised that about 3 per cent of employees in Britain give to charity through their payroll, compared to more than a third in the US. He promised to boost the figure. Psychologists said that changing the culture was possible although it would be tough. George Fieldman, a cognitive therapist with an interest in altruism, said: “The notion of promoting a culture of generosity is difficult to do because people have an incentive to cheat. But it is quite possible to get some human beings to behave in terrible ways through social pressures and the reverse is also true.” Focusing on the well-off could be the key. Tom Hughes-Hallett, the chairman of an independent review into philanthropy and chief executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, highlighted the fact that the wealth of Britain’s richest individuals had risen by 18 per cent this year but donations from the 100 top philanthropists fell by 33 per cent.

Anti-abortion group to advise ministers on sexual health policy.” No by-line. Times of London. May 25, 2011. An anti-abortion organisation has been appointed to a government advisory group on sexual health while the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which carries out a quarter of abortions in England and Wales, has been excluded. Life, which is opposed to abortion in all circumstances and supports abstinence, will attend meetings of the Department of Health’s new Sexual Health Forum. The forum has been introduced as a replacement for the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, which was abolished by the Government last year. One of the abolished forum members, Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the BPAS, said last night that she was disappointed to have been “disinvited” to the new forum. “We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum,” she told The Guardian. The Department of Health said that the BPAS, which has been providing pregnancy counselling for 40 years, had been offered joint membership of the new forum with Marie Stopes International — each would attend alternate meetings — but had declined the invitation. A department spokeswoman said: “To provide balance, it is important that a wide range of interests and views are represented on the Sexual Health Forum. Marie Stopes International and BPAS have similar interests. We offered them shared membership but they declined, and after careful consideration we concluded that it was not feasible to invite both organisations.” Stuart Cowie, Life’s head of education, said he was delighted the organisation had been invited by Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, to “represent views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past”.
Related story:
Anti-abortion group drafted in as sexual health adviser to government; Coalition appoints pro-abstinence charity Life to key sexual health forum, while omitting British Pregnancy Advisory Service.” Guardian. May 24, 2011.

Care homes in the balance as Southern Cross struggles; Financial chaos of care home provider Southern Cross is a salutary tale for a government pursuing market-driven reforms.” By Anna Bawden and Richard Alcock. Guardian. May 25, 2011. Last week, the future of 750 care homes hung in the balance after the UK’s biggest care home operator warned that it may not have enough funds to stay in business beyond June. The saga of Southern Cross Healthcare shows what happens when private equity meets public service. After a series of arcane financial deals, the company is facing wipeout unless it can put together an agreement between the complex competing interests of creditors, property investors, bondholders, banks, shareholders and landlords, among them the offshore fund of the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA). Last week, its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that there was “significant doubt” over Southern Cross’s ability to remain a viable concern. Latest half-yearly results show that Southern Cross made £311m losses.”In the event that the group does not reach agreements with its landlords and lenders, and no alternative finance is available, the group is unlikely to be able to trade,” PwC said. Meanwhile, 31,000 residents, their families and thousands of staff in its care homes across the UK are waiting to hear their fate.

Innocent smoothie maker says charity cash bottled for best interest rate; £520,000 in donations for foundation held back; Charity’s projects run ‘with due diligence’.” By James Ball. Guardian. May 26, 2011. The glowing image of Innocent, Britain’s biggest smoothie maker, has survived most knocks, including exploding bottles in 2007 and a Coca-Cola buyout last year. The company’s blend of natural ingredients and chatty branding, helped by a pledge printed on its bottles to donate 10% of the profits to charity, have seen off all comers. But perhaps proving that charity begins at home, Innocent has held on to £520,000 pledged to its charitable foundation in 2007, and has not donated a penny to that foundation since 2008. Most of the company’s charitable giving, which is also promoted on its website, is channelled through the Innocent Foundation, which funds development projects in the countries where Innocent sources its fruit. The foundation funds other charities working on sanitation, health care and microfinance. The charity has received no funding from Innocent in recent years as the company’s expansion drive across Europe, coupled with wider economic downturn, meant it delivered no profits between 2008 and 2010. Analysis of documents filed at Companies House and the Charity Commission reveal that Innocent also clung on to the lion’s share of the donation pledged to the foundation from 2007, a year in which the company made record profits and the parent company, Fresh Trading Limited, paid out £12m in dividends to Innocent’s directors and other shareholders. Innocent made a profit of £8m in 2007 and assigned £650,000 of this to its foundation. An additional £100,000 was given to Age UK, making a total contribution of £750,000 – a little short of the promised 10%. Innocent had, however, in other years, donated more than 10% of profits. However, £520,000 donated to the foundation was retained in Innocent’s bank account in the form of a loan from the charity, whose trustees are Innocent’s three directors: Adam Balon, Richard Reed and Jon Wright. Innocent says the money is owned by the foundation and was held by the company because it could garner twice the rate of interest offered by commercial banks. It accepts that if the company went bankrupt the charity would become one of its creditors, but says there has been no point where the company could not or would not pay that money if needed. A spokeswoman for Innocent said the company’s commitment to charity was “true and decent”. She said the foundation benefited by allowing Innocent to look after its money, explaining that Innocent’s bank account accrued more interest than that of the charity. She expressed regret that an “oversight” had led to no interest being paid to the foundation in 2008, and said the charity would be invoicing Innocent for the £5,000, which would have been accrued were interest charged at 2%.

Charity and volunteering; The government’s proposals to boost charitable giving are myriad but modest.” No by-line. The Economist. May 26, 2011. Critics called it the umpteenth relaunch of a failed idea. David Cameron insisted that he was fleshing out his vision of a more philanthropic, civically active Britain. Either way, the government’s white paper on boosting charitable giving, launched on May 23rd alongside a speech by the prime minister on “the space between the market and the state”, confirmed that he is not giving up on his theme of the Big Society. Many of his proposals look fiddly in isolation. The government, informed by research into behavioural science, hopes to “nudge” people into giving by making it possible to donate money through cash machines and introducing rewards for volunteering feats. There will be money—though, given the austere fiscal context, not much—for civic activity in poor areas, as well as for organisations that help to advertise and co-ordinate voluntary opportunities. The government, perhaps optimistically, hopes that lots of relatively small measures will add up to something big enough to rejuvenate Britain’s third sector. But critics wonder whether there is actually a problem to solve. Ministers say that the giving of time and money in Britain has “flatlined”, but the country still scores well by international standards. The World Giving Index, put together by the Charities Aid Foundation, an organisation that connects donors with charities, surveys 153 countries to find how many of their citizens had given money or time, or helped a stranger, in the past month. Britain is eighth, comfortably ahead of comparable countries such as France and Germany, and not far behind world leaders such as Australia and New Zealand.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-the-giving-sector-is-a-mess-ndash-and-thats-being-charitable-2290324.html

“Editor-At-Large: The giving sector is a mess – and that’s being charitable.” By Janet Street-Porter. Independent. May 29, 2011. David Cameron wants us to give more to charity – an admirable goal most of us would endorse. Last week he talked of “nudging” the public into giving more by pressing a donation key at cash machines, or by “rounding up” the total when we pay a bill. Critics say that Dave’s Big Society is doomed, but I’m not so cynical. Most of us already participate in our own way – through village halls, and community groups – but we don’t want to be bossed about by government. We secretly suspect that Dave’s Big Plan will mean expensive project reviews and implementation documents written in Whitehall bollocks ordinary people can’t understand. If Dave wants to do something radical, he should appoint a management consultant to overhaul the entire charitable sector. Treat it like a business, ruthlessly streamline it and ensure that it gives donors value for money. He’s slashed the budget of the Charity Commission by 30 per cent – maybe he should cull the quango all together and replace it with a tougher control system.

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