WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 9-15, 2012)

INTERNATIONAL

AFRICA

Africa Begins to Rise Above Aid.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 11, 2012. An increasing number of African countries are beginning to step away from aid dependency, as the domestic private sector becomes the engine of growth across much of Africa. Currently, at least a third of African countries receive aid that is equivalent to less than 10 percent of their tax revenue. They include Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Libya. This is a significant change from years of high dependency on aid. These are countries that have made the most progress towards replacing aid with domestically mobilised resources. On average, Africa has managed to raise an estimated 441 dollars in taxes per person per year while receiving 41 dollars per person per year in aid, according to a comprehensive look at African resource mobilisation by the African Economic Outlook 2011. “What this means is that Africa as a whole receives aid that is less than 10 percent of collected taxes,” says Ken Mwai, a financial analyst and real estate investor in Kenya. “Although aid exceeds 10 percent of tax revenue in 34 countries, these countries have shown a progressively higher expansion of their tax base.

Supermodel puts her energies into sustainability for Kenya.” By Kaya Burgess Nairobi. Times of London. January 13, 2012. As the UN this week launched 2012 as the year of “Sustainable Energy for All”, The Times was invited to accompany Gisele Bündchen and the charity Practical Action on a tour of Kenya. The trip aims to highlight the issues of energy deprivation and cheap ways to solve a crisis that keeps people in poverty around the globe. Access to clean energy is often seen as the black sheep of the development family, behind water, education and healthcare. But more people around the world, about 1.6 million each year, die from smoke inhalation from kerosene, charcoal or firewood stoves than from malaria, forcing energy poverty up the agenda for world leaders before the the once-a-decade Earth Summit, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June. Undoubtedly more used to catwalks than the garbage-lined streets of Kibera — the vast slum that sprawls across Nairobi in a network of labyrinthine streets and open sewage ditches — Bündchen, who is a UN ambassador, was shown around the new projects seeking to turn that human waste into energy; producing gas for cooking and heating, fertiliser and water for the land, and clean toilets in an area where a million people jostle for room in corrugated shacks. Bündchen, who funds projects around the world through her own charitable foundation, said: “I know from the outside people might look at me and think I’m just a girl who takes pictures, but in my head all I’m thinking the whole time is ‘OK, if I take this modelling job then I can have more money to put into this action’.

AUSTRALIA

“Joyce hails tax break bar on charity ‘crims’.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. January 12, 2012. The Australian Tax Office is right to deny Sea Shepherd charitable status and should also strike Greenpeace and other ”law-breaking organisations” from the list of charities that can receive tax-deductible donations, the Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce says. The Sea Shepherd group, which the Herald reported yesterday received multimillion-dollar tax- deductible donations from the US, is challenging an ATO decision to deny it charity status. But Senator Joyce said no group engaging in illegal activity or destroying public property deserved taxpayer-funded concessions. ”Criminals should not get tax concessions – if you break the law, then donations to your organisation should not be tax deductible,” he said. ”If you board another nation’s vessel, then that is stepping over the line. And, if you break into the CSIRO and use whipper-snippers to destroy a genetically modified wheat crop trial, like Greenpeace did last year, that’s stepping over the line, too.” The Liberal-linked website Menzies House is running an online poll stating Greenpeace has been stripped of its tax-deductible status in New Zealand and Canada for being primarily a political group rather than a charity and asking whether the same should happen in Australia. A Greenpeace spokeswoman, Julie Macken, said the organisation deserved its tax status. ”We think it is proper that these things are decided through a rigorous process by the Australian Taxation Office and not by politicians,” Ms Macken said.

Hospital refuses to accept cancer charity’s donations.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. January 14, 2012. Despite figures showing it is harder than ever to raise funds in the crowded charity sector, one charity is having difficulties giving its money away. The Kids with Cancer Foundation has given more than $13 million to eight Australian hospitals, and hundreds of families since it started in Sydney in 1998. But The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne has refused to take its money. Nor will it allow its social workers to contact the foundation about families in financial distress, which is the practice in other hospitals. The foundation’s co-founder and executive director, Peter Bodman, said the Melbourne hospital is protecting its favoured charity, Redkite, formerly called the Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children, which does similar ”fantastic” work. He also said the hospital does not like the way he raises money – by selling $2 lottery tickets in shopping centres through commissioned sellers – and it believes his overheads are too high. He admits about half the $360,000 raised in the last four-month lottery went on overheads, including printing, postage and prizes. While Redkite provides an ”annual review” of income and expenditure on its website, there is no financial statement there. This has not stopped the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, from accepting more than $5 million from the foundation, which was described by a spokesman as ”one of [its] major donors”. Funds were spent on refurbishments, research and staff. The Kids with Cancer Foundation was given naming rights to the oncology day unit following a $500,000 donation in 2006.

Caution on school funding.” By Dan Harrison. Sydney Morning Herald. January 14, 2012. Peter Garrett has predicted a shake-up of school funding will not reignite class divisions, declaring the nation has moved on from debates about funding private schools. The panel charged with reviewing funding, chaired by the businessman David Gonski, handed its report to Mr Garrett, the School Education Minister, shortly before Christmas. Mr Garrett is developing the government’s response, which will be released with the report early in the new school year. The opposition’s education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has predicted the government will cut funding to private schools, forcing them to increase fees or sack staff. But Mr Garrett said despite Mr Pyne’s ”mischievous” contributions, the debate on funding schools had been ”mature.” ”I would certainly caution against the opposition thinking that there is some window of opportunity once a report of this kind is released to reignite those stale old ideological warfare exercises,” Mr Garrett said. ”We’re in a different place as a country now. We recognise that we have a government system and non-government systems of education and we need to have an approach that applies to all systems, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Group seeks permission for Islamic museum.” By Michael Inman and Scott Hannaford. Sydney Morning Herald. January 15, 2012. A Muslim group is seeking land in the ACT to open a museum dedicated to the contribution the community has made to Australian life. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils hopes to exhibit Islamic art, culture and history at the proposed site, documents obtained under freedom of information showed. In letters to the National Capital Authority, the territory’s chief planning body, the AFIC president, Ikebal Patel, said the proposed institution would be a valuable addition to the capital’s landscape, educating the nation on the legacy of Islam in the southern continent, an association that started before white settlement. He said the museum would also help strengthen ties with Islamic countries, including two close neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Demand for Catholics to open archive on abuse; The lawyers say the Catholic Church should allow access to its ‘secret archive’.” By Sean O’Neill. Times of London. January 17, 2012. Lawyers representing victims of clerical abuse say that the Government should order a public inquiry and require the Roman Catholic Church to open its “secret archive” to scrutiny. In a letter to The Times today, the specialist solicitors, all experienced in fighting legal battles for victims of abuse, say that the main churches are “too compromised by their own failings to police themselves effectively” and should submit to an independent inquiry to gauge the scale and extent of abuse in England and Wales. They stress the importance of full disclosure by the churches, claiming that they have frequently encountered “evidence of cover-ups”, which they believe are “the tip of the iceberg”. The lawyers say the Catholic Church should allow access to the “secret archive” that, according to canon law, covers “matters of morals” and “criminal cases” and which every bishop must keep under lock and key. “The only way to address the scandal of sexual and physical abuse in these organisations is through a comprehensive public inquiry, and we urge ministers to order this without delay,” the letter concludes. Research by The Times today also reveals that there have been three times as many sex offence convictions of Catholic priests and members of religious orders than admitted in official Church figures. The Catholic Church said it was reviewing its method of gathering statistics after The Times identified 31 known convictions for sex offences in the decade since the Nolan Report in 2001 into child protection. By contrast, the Church’s statistical bulletins list only 11 convictions between 2002, when it began collating figures, and 2010.

Belgian Church Offices Raided in Abuse Inquiry.” By Stephen Castle. New York Times. January 16, 2012. The Belgian authorities searched the offices of bishops in three cities on Monday, removing documents as part of an investigation into child sexual abuse that has plunged the country’s Roman Catholic church into crisis. The raids took place in Antwerp, the eastern city of Hasselt, and Mechelen, where, in 2010, investigators drilled into a crypt in the quest for evidence. A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecution Service, Lieve Pellens, said that the investigation, known as Operation Chalice, was an important phase in which officials were trying to establish whether there were grounds to prosecute priests on charges of negligence and failing to aid abuse victims. “We have had around 200 statements from victims,” she said, “and based on these, and 87 civil claims, we wanted to look at the individual personal records of priests made by their superiors to see if, in these records that were kept by archbishops or bishops, there is anything useful.” Of the 20 to 25 files removed, Ms. Pellens said, most were of old cases dating from the 1960s or 1970s, she said. Last week, the church said that priests who had abused children could be required to pay damages if they were able to do so. The issue of child sexual abuse has undermined the church’s credibility in many Western nations, as revelations piled up for months of cover-ups by bishops of priests’ misconduct. Belgium found itself in turmoil as hundreds of people came forward to offer harrowing accounts of abuse over several decades. The former bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, shocked the nation when he admitted that he had abused two nephews.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech Republic: Churches to Get Restitution for Seized Property.” No by-line. New York Times/Associated Press. January 11, 2012. The Czech government agreed Wednesday to pay billions of dollars in compensation to churches for property seized by the former Communist government. The deal threatened to topple the coalition government earlier this week after a junior partner voiced anger at the thought of huge sums being paid to churches in the middle of the European debt crisis. But even in a country where indifference to religion is strong, the compensation plan — to be spread over 30 years — seems advantageous to both sides. The government would no longer have to pay priests’ salaries, and religious groups would finally receive payment after several previous attempts failed. Under the plan, the nation’s 17 churches, including the Roman Catholic and Protestant sects, would get back 56 percent of their old property now held by the state — estimated to be worth $3.7 billion. They would also get $2.9 billion over the next 30 years, and the state would gradually stop covering their expenses over the next 17 years.

FRANCE

France Steps Forward With Robin Hood Tax.” By A.D.McKenzie. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 14, 2012. The decision by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to push ahead with a financial transactions tax (FTT) may be a political ploy ahead of elections, but it has the approval of many non-governmental organisations, even as support lags elsewhere. “If France is setting an example, we support this as a principle,” said Matt Davies, head of international policy and advocacy for international movement ATD Fourth World, a French-based organisation that works to eradicate extreme poverty.”I think there’s a consensus in society that there should be a far greater accountability by the financial sector,” he told IPS in an interview. “What’s important is that the money that’s brought in by the FTT should go towards combating poverty, but we’re slightly sceptical in some ways because we often see that money destined for development doesn’t reach the poorest people.”Sarkozy said this week that the French government may implement the tax without waiting for its European or G20 partners to come on board. “If France waits for others to tax finance, then finance will never be taxed,” the President said in a speech. The United Kingdom and the United States oppose the so-called Robin Hood tax, with government officials saying that it would damage efforts to boost the economy and may cause financial firms to flee to other countries or regions.

INDIA

Anna Hazare trust accused of diverting funds.” By Dhananjay Mahapatra. Times of India. January 9, 2012. Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (Capart) had given a grant of Rs 1 lakh to Anna Hazare-led Hind Swaraj Trust (HST) for watershed development in three villages in 1999-2001 but more than 90% of the money was spent on honorarium, travelling, printing and stationery, the Supreme Court was told. Responding to a PIL filed by advocate M L Sharma alleging that large amounts of government funds were being doled out without taking proper account of utilization of grants by NGOs, Capart in an affidavit denied any wrongdoing by HST and annexed audited account for the utilization of Rs 1 lakh. In two years, the trust spent Rs 63,243 on paying honorarium, Rs 20,347.50 was accounted towards travel expenses and Rs 6,487.50 was spent on printing and stationery. This means, of Rs 1 lakh granted for watershed development in three villages, the trust spent Rs 90,078 on honorarium, travelling and printing and stationery. The CA’s certificate said HST on March 23, 1999 received a grant of Rs 1 lakh from Capart and spent Rs 21,127.50 during the financial year 1999-2000. Interestingly, Rs 8,567 was paid as honorarium, Rs 1,920 on printing and stationery while Rs 10,640.50 was spent on travel. An unspent amount of Rs 78,872.50 of the grant was carried forward to the year 2000-01. Capart functions under the ministry of rural development and assists over 12,000 voluntary organizations across the country in implementing a wide range of development initiatives. Denying allegations made by Sharma in his petition, Capart said Hazare had functioned as its executive committee member, general body member, national standing committee member and chairman of regional committee, Ahmedabad. “During the year 2001, when Hazare was the chairman of regional committee Ahmedabad of Capart, amounts (over Rs 1.5 crore) were released to various NGOs for relief work in earthquake affected areas. Hazare appears not to be associated with any of these NGOs in any manner which received grants for relief work in the earthquake affected areas in the year 2001,” it said. Sharma had alleged in his petition that large amounts of money were doled out to NGOs but many of them were not maintaining accounts of utilization and had requested the court to order a thorough inquiry into the spending of the grants by voluntary organizations.

Yamunanagar Red Cross to put up calendars of blood donors in govt offices.” By Pradeep Rai. Times of India. January 10, 2012. In a rare initiative of its kind, the authorities in the district Red Cross Society have decided to put up the calendars having photographs of prominent and regular blood donors from the district in all government offices, especially those into the public dealing. Targeted to encourage the old blood donors and motivate new ones, the calendars which are published by society shall be put up along with official calendars provided by the public relation department for government offices. Enquiries revealed that among those persons whose pictures shall appear in the calendar shall be those who have donated blood for more then 75 times. All this shall be in addition to providing chairs to the blood donors who have completed 50 donations in the district. Chairs shall be provided in all government departments and shall be reserved for blood donors only, informed Shyam Sunder, the secretary of DCRS here. Ashok Sangwan, deputy commissioner, Yamunanangar confirmed the initative started by the administration. “Though, blood donation is a habit where you require minimum efforts. All what we are doing is giving respect the area donors. Since locals are more identical, hence their photographs published on calendar shall attract others and would motivate them to be a donor,” Sangwan said.

Govt to assist Rama Krishna Mission develop Maoist heartland.” No by-line. Times of India. January 14, 2012. The Centre is set to involve Ramakrishna Mission in development activities in the Naxal heartland, impressed by its dedicated pursuit of welfare in the thick of fear and chaos in Narainpur district in Chhattisgarh. Union rural development ministry is positively considering the Mission’s Rs 23 crore proposal to aid education, health, greenery, water harvesting and sports in the region. Noting that he was impressed by the RK Mission Ashram during his visit to Narainpur, RD minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh that various categories of work mentioned in the Mission’s proposal be taken up under central schemes. Ramesh told TOI that the Mission was involved in serious and fearless work, and was the only organization active in the feared Red zone. He said the Mission’s quiet work would help mitigate the sufferings of common people who were left stranded by the official machinery in view of booming Naxal guns. The Mission runs a model residential school, a 30-bed hospital, maintains a 90 km kachcha road and stop dams among other activities started during its 25-year stay in the region. To boost its existing work, the Mission has sought government backing for a hostel extension for 70 boys, new boys hostel for 300 students, girls hostel extension, stadiums, construction of ponds, wells and repair of a few old buildings. The works are estimated at Rs 23 crore. Ramesh said the state should aid the Mission which was involved in Narainpur despite the vast rugged terrain being a haven for Naxals.

RUSSIA

Russian Activists Turn To Social Media.” By Jackie Northam. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 13, 2012. Relying on social media, Russian activists are attempting to organize more mass rallies against the Russian government. Here, protesters staged a huge rally in Moscow on Dec. 24, 2011, alleging vote rigging in parliamentary polls. Russia’s largest anti-government demonstrations since the Soviet breakup of 1991 are being organized and driven by a force that didn’t exist two decades ago — social media. In recent years, protests have been relatively rare, and Russians who got their news from state-run television essentially saw one narrative — one that relentlessly extolled the virtues of the country’s leaders, particularly Vladimir Putin. But demonstrators took to the streets last month after parliamentary elections that were widely seen as fraudulent. And activists are trying to maintain that momentum with slick Internet videos that satirize and disparage Russia’s government. One of those videos welcomes viewers to a mental asylum, where the inmates vote for Putin, the current prime minister. Putin has already served two terms as president, from 2000 to 2008. His decision to run for a third term in March served as a rallying point for his critics, along with irregularities in the parliamentary voting. Some 50 million Russians are now on the Internet, absorbing these videos and using it as a forum to vent their frustration over government corruption, the top-down political system, and alleged election fraud. Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social media helped mobilize the protests last month. The demonstrations were enormous. Tens of thousands protested in Moscow on Dec. 24, with some estimates putting the figure at as many as 100,000.

UK

Charities scared to speak out amid cuts, says report; Service provider charities censoring their public remarks for fear of funding reprisals, warns Independence Panel.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. January 8, 2012. Charities that provide public services are increasingly reluctant to speak out against social injustice because they fear they will lose their funding, according to a report. The Independence Panel, a commission set up to monitor the voluntary sector as it grapples with huge cuts in public funding, said service provider charities that traditionally have also had an advocacy role were censoring their public utterances for fear of reprisals from local authority and central government funders. It said there was a perception that charity independence had come under more pressure as a result of cuts, particularly among smaller charities working with socially excluded groups such as homeless people and individuals with addiction and mental health problems. “Some organisations that rely on state funding are fearful of challenging government or local authorities, in case this could lead to reprisals,” the report said. In a pointed reference to the government’s “big society” rhetoric, the panel warned that charities’ contributions to society could be eroded if safeguards were not introduced to preserve their independent voice.

Prince’s charities are given £1m after Waitrose takes the biscuits; Prince Charles sold the Duchy Originals brand to Waitrose.” By Jon Super. Times of London. January 10, 2012. The Prince of Wales will get a £1 million boost to his charities after successfully farming out Duchy Originals, his organic food business, to Waitrose. Sales have increased by 133 per cent since the relaunch in September 2010, and the range expanded from 180 to more than 240 lines. The year before Waitrose came to the rescue, Duchy Originals, which the Prince set up in 1990 to support his charities, did so badly that it was unable to give anything to good causes. The accounts for the year ending March 2011, which includes eight months of trading under the deal with Waitrose, showed that the brand generated a profit of £2.25 million, against a loss of £520,000 the previous year. It gave more than £620,000 to the Prince’s charities, the first time in three years that the company has generated a profit for charity. Waitrose said that the figure rose to £1 million once the remainder of the first year’s trading was taken into account. Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose, said: “These figures reflect an extremely successful start for Duchy Originals from Waitrose and we look forward to announcing next year that the charity donation for our first 12 months of trading has significantly exceeded our £1 million commitment.” Under the deal, which gave Waitrose exclusive supermarket rights for Duchy Originals, the company gives a donation from every sale to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation and to The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which supports rural communities. A spokesman for Clarence House said: “The Prince set up Duchy Originals to sell biscuits made from wheat from Home Farm. His idea was to support local producers and farmers.

Charity chair pledges to track how cuts are affecting poverty levels; Tony Stoller, the new chair of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is driven by a responsibility to side with people in poverty.” By Alison Benjamin. Guardian. January 10, 2012. With all the main political parties hell-bent on refashioning the welfare state to reduce its spiralling costs, by siding with hardworking people (the deserving poor) and labelling anyone else as benefit scroungers (the undeserving), it is reassuring to learn that at least the UK’s leading voice in social policy research is not adopting this invidious rhetoric. In its new strategic plan (pdf), the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says: “We are independent but we are not neutral: we are on the side of people and places in poverty.” What that means, says Tony Stoller, the foundation’s new chair, is to “be an advocate for those communities that bear the burden of poverty”. The foundation, however, is a non-campaigning organisation, so achieving that goal can, he admits, be tricky. But the foundation tends to build alliances with campaigning organisations that will make a noise about the often worrying findings of JRF-funded research. Its newest friends are the Guardian and the London School of Economics, and it funded their Reading the Riots study – interviews with 270 people who took part in England’s summer unrest. Over the next three years, the foundation will pump £23m into research in three main areas: identifying the root causes of poverty and injustice, supporting communities where anyone can thrive, and planning and developing for an ageing society. In particular, it will track how the coalition government’s public spending cuts are affecting levels of poverty and inequality, and how disadvantaged people are coping, or not; the foundation will help to develop practical solutions to reducing poverty.

Live Q&A: The London Olympics and the ‘social enterprise legacy’ – Thursday 19 Jan, 1.30-3.30pm; Join us to discuss how social enterprise can benefit from the Olympics and Paralympics.” By Gines Haro Pastor. Guardian. January 10, 2012. The decision to awards two major Olympic contracts to social enterprises and the tantalising prospect of a social enterprise square mile emerging in London after the games have ended – has raised expectations of a social enterprise legacy from the 30th Olympiad. We’re holding a live Q&A to explore what this could mean for social enterprise in London and throughout the rest of the UK. We’ll explore questions such as: • How can the social enterprise legacy benefit the rest of the UK, and not just London and the south east? • To what extent have social enterprises managed to win smaller contracts linked to the olympics? • What can social entrepreneurs and their supporters do to increase the likelihood of a sustainable legacy emerging from the games?


“Albert Hall warned as members ‘tout’ tickets for up to £20,000.
” By Fay Schlesinger. Times of London. January 13, 2012. The Albert Hall has been cautioned by the charities regulator for allowing members and trustees to make thousands of pounds a year from events such as the Proms and Cirque du Soleil, The Times can reveal. Holders of debenture-style seats at the Victorian venue, which has benefited from a £40 million National Lottery grant, can resell their tickets at a profit thanks to a legal loophole. More than 1,200 seats at the concert hall are held on 999-year leases by about 320 individuals or businesses under arcane laws. The Albert Hall has enjoyed unprecedented success in recent years, so members stand to make considerable sums by selling back unwanted tickets through an offical return scheme, which is legal. But a few have taken to touting their seats online for up to £20,000 for a box at the Last Night of the Proms. The value of members’ seats has almost doubled in the past five years. According to the Charity Commission, a charity must only allow members to enjoy private benefits that are incidental to its public function. The commission confirmed that it raised concerns about the level of private benefits after being approached by trustees. A spokesman said that it was satisfied that the Albert Hall has drawn up plans to remedy the problem. But Peta Travis, the Albert Hall’s president, said that the plans would be difficult to implement. Trustees were walking a tightrope by striving to curb profiteering while keeping generous benefactors happy, she added.
Related story:
For investors, the Albert Hall is the land of hope and glory.” Times of London. January 13, 2012.
Proms last night seats for 20 times value; Totem performs at the Albert Hall.” Times of London. January 13, 2012.

Leave a Reply