ActionAid is an international non-governmental organization whose stated primary aim is to work against poverty and injustice worldwide.[1]

Actionaid logo.svg
FounderCecil Jackson-Cole
TypeInternational NGO
Legal statusNonprofit organization
PurposeActionAid works with communities to reduce poverty and promote human rights
  • Johannesburg (Headquarters)
Region served
Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Americas
Child sponsors
Secretary General
Julia Sánchez

ActionAid is a federation of 45 country offices that works with communities, often via local partner organisations, on a range of development issues. It was founded in 1972 by Cecil Jackson-Cole as a child sponsorship charity (originally called Action in Distress) when 88 UK supporters sponsored 88 children in India and Kenya, the primary focus being is providing children with an education, further the human rights for all, assisting people that are in poverty, assisting those who face discrimination,[2] and also assist people who face injustice.[3] ActionAid works with over 15 million people in 45 different countries to assist those people.[3]

Today its head office is located in South Africa with hubs in Asia, the Americas and Europe. ActionAid was the first big INGO to move its headquarters from the global north to the global south.[4][5] ActionAid's current strategy aims to "build international momentum for social, economic and environmental justice, driven by people living in poverty and exclusion".[6]

Tax & economic justiceEdit

ActionAid has been campaigning for tax justice since 2008, conducting research into the effects of various international tax treaties and supporting local people and organisations to hold their governments to account.[7] It argues that losing tax revenue to avoidance harms the world's poorest and most marginalised people, who depend on tax-funded public services.[8][9] It is also often the case that the tax revenue lost in these treaties can exceed the amount of international aid money send to developing countries.[10]

In 2011, ActionAid revealed that 98% of the UK's FTSE 100 companies use tax havens.[11] In 2013 its research into corporate tax avoidance in Zambia showed that Associated British Foods were avoiding paying millions of dollars in corporate tax.[12]

Women's rightsEdit

ActionAid integrates women's rights into all of its programming and project work, but also undertakes campaigns that focus specifically on these issues.

Notable examples have included raising awareness about unpaid care work[13][14] and sexual harassment[15] and violence[16] (including acid attacks[17]) in Bangladesh, offering free cancer tests to women in Nigeria who could not afford them,[18] and tackling female genital mutilation in Sweden.[19]

Climate justiceEdit

ActionAid's advocacy work on climate change focuses on climate justice, guided by the experiences and needs of its country programmes. Its most prominent engagement comes through the annual Conference of Parties, where it supports communities vulnerable to climate change to influence decision-making processes.

It calls for rich countries to live up to pledges of providing climate adaptation grants[20][21][22] and pushes for agreements to improve the lives of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.[23] ActionAid was also critical of climate insurance policies, such as those purchased by Malawi in 2015, since those insurance policies fail to deliver when they are desperately needed.[24]

Emergencies & humanitarian aidEdit

ActionAid promotes women's leadership in humanitarian responses, arguing that women are best positioned to identify their needs and those of the communities around them in times of crisis.[25] Strengthening citizens' rights is also a focus, such as campaigning with Haitians for greater transparency and accountability in how aid money was spent after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[26]

As it has established relationships with communities and other NGOs in countries that are prone to ecological events, ActionAid is often able to respond quickly to emergencies. Notable crises and responses have included the Boxing Day tsunami in 2010 in the Indian ocean,[27] drought in East Africa[28][29] and India,[30] and floods in Ghana,[31] Rwanda,[32] Sierra Leone,[33] Bangladesh and Nepal.

ON 4 OCTOBER 2018 ActionAid announced that Pakistan government has ordered 18 international aid groups to leave the country.[34]

Child sponsorshipEdit

Child sponsorship is one of ActionAid's primary sources of income. Donors sponsor an individual child[35] from a community in a developing country and receive regular updates about the child's progress and development.

Sponsorship funds support the child's whole community, "so children have a healthy and safe place to live and grow up." This support takes the form of providing clean water, healthcare, agricultural programmes, education centres in areas where schools are not available, and community income generation schemes.[36]


As ActionAid has grown in influence, building alliances with like-minded organisations has become a key focus area. Announcing this approach at the World Social Forum in 2015,[37] ActionAid has played a role in convening civil society and community groups to tackle issues of youth political participation in the Middle East[38] and global inequality.[39]

Supporting social causes through the mass mediaEdit

ActionAid made India's first Bollywood film focusing on AIDS,[citation needed] Ek Alag Mausam, a love story involving HIV positive people, based on a script by playwright Mahesh Dattani.[40]

ActionAid also supported Shyam Benegal's film, Samar, which is based on the book Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives by Harsh Mander.[41] The film raises issues about Dalits.[40]


Charity Navigator recorded that in 2012 ActionAid USA had a high cost of fund raising (24%), with 53% of income spent on projects.[42] This was also reported in an International Business Times article in October 2014, which noted that the "accounting processes the charity uses resulted in its administrative costs appearing to be 'particularly high' in the fiscal year ending 2012, the timeframe Charity Navigator relied on when calculating its current Charity Navigator score."[43] Charity Navigator reports that for 2013 the cost of fundraising for ActionAid USA was much lower (9.4%), with 82.4% of income spent on projects.[42]

ActionAid has been criticized for spreading unsupported claims and "grotesque" pictures of adverse effects from consumption of some genetically engineered crops in Africa, in particular the unsupported claim of genetically engineered crops causing tumors and cancer. The organization apologized for their misleading actions in 2015, after publication in the media.[44][45]

ActionAid, who had supported coffee growing in 2000 and had earlier openly agitated against the democratically elected Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide,[46] is, with a number of other NGOs, strongly criticized for supporting the US-backed coup that removed this, the first democratically elected president of Haiti in 2004, a coup which is described as "perhaps the most successful act of imperial sabotage since the end of the Cold War".[47]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Who we are". ActionAid. Archived from the original on 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
  2. ^ "What we do | ActionAid". Archived from the original on 2017-11-13. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  3. ^ a b "Who we are | ActionAid". Archived from the original on 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  4. ^ "Facilitating more than leading". Development and Cooperation. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  5. ^ "'Internationalizing' your NGO: 4 lessons from ActionAid". Devex. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  6. ^ "Strategy 2028: Action for Global Justice". Archived from the original on 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  7. ^ "The anatomy of a campaign: tax justice, ActionAid". The Guardian.
  8. ^ "How Tax Havens Plunder the Poor". Global Policy Forum.
  9. ^ "ActionAid report says "shady" tax treaties disproportionately favour multinationals, increasing inequality & poverty in poor countries". Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.
  10. ^ "Bistånd verkar inte i ett vakuum". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swahili).
  11. ^ "98 of FTSE 100 companies use tax havens". New Statesman.
  12. ^ "ugar manufacturer Associated British Foods avoids paying corporate tax in Zambia – video". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Women do four years more work than men in lifetime, report shows". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "Women's paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover".
  15. ^ "50% women face unwanted touching at markets: Study". The Daily Star.
  16. ^ "Gemma Chan Shares Powerful Stories From Sexual Violence Victims In New ActionAid Film". Grazia.
  17. ^ "Brave acid attack victims take to catwalk as they "refuse to hide their faces"". The Mirror.
  18. ^ "Actionaid Nigeria Offers Free Cancer Tests to 100 Women".
  19. ^ ""Tusentals flickor i Sverige riskerar könsstympning"" (in Swahili).
  20. ^ "How conflict increases countries' climate change risk". World Economic Forum.
  21. ^ "Trump win will not derail global climate effort, activists vow". Reuters.
  22. ^ "WWF, Care And Action Aid Launch Adaptation Report". Blue & Green Tomorrow.
  23. ^ "Paris climate change deal too weak to help poor, critics warn". The Guardian.
  24. ^ "Action Aid faults drought insurance that failed Malawi".
  25. ^ "World Humanitarian Summit: Time to shift power to women on the frontlines". Left Foot Forward.
  26. ^ "Two years on, ActionAid's earthquake response continues, but huge challenges remain". ReliefWeb.
  27. ^ "Finance: ActionAid close to budget on its six-month tsunami relief spend". Third Sector.
  28. ^ "Mobile phones save lives in remote African communities affected by drought".
  29. ^ "ActionAid appeals for help in drought-hit areas of East Africa".
  30. ^ "Unprecedented crop loss in State, says ActionAid". The Hindu.
  31. ^ "ActionAid donates to Dome flood victims". GhanaWeb.
  32. ^ "Action Aid donates to flood victims". The New Times, Rwanda.
  33. ^ "Sierra Leone: Action Aid Donates Food Items to Flood Victims". All Africa.
  34. ^ "Pakistan Tells 18 International NGOs To Leave Country: Report". Retrieved 2019-06-05.
  35. ^ "ActionAid: the welcome to child sponsorship package".
  36. ^ "Six things you should know about sponsoring a child". ActionAid UK.
  37. ^ "World Social Forum can inspire activists to unite against the global power grab". The Guardian.
  38. ^ "NGO seizes election opportunity to boost youth's political mobilisation". The Jordan Times.
  39. ^ "About – Fight Inequality". Archived from the original on 2017-11-19. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  40. ^ a b "'Ek Alag Mausam' based on AIDS". Archived from the original on 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  41. ^ "The Hindu : Working for change". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  42. ^ a b "Charity Navigator Rating – ActionAid USA". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  43. ^ Connor Adams Sheets (10 October 2014). "Ebola Relief Charities: 5 Aid Groups To Avoid Donating To". International Business Times. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  44. ^ "ActionAid: The charity spreading 'groundless' fears over GM". The Independent. 25 March 2015. Archived from the original on 25 March 2015.
  45. ^ Ongu, Isaac (30 March 2015). "ActionAid in Africa ensnared by its own ugly GMO cancer scare tactics".
  46. ^ Bowcott, Owen (2000-11-23). "Violence and boycott mar Haitian election campaign". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  47. ^ Hallward, Peter (2007). Damming the flood : Haiti, Aristide, and the politics of containment. Verso.

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