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ActionAid was founded in 1972 as a child sponsorship charity when 88 UK supporters sponsored 88 children in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, the focus primarily being to provide children with an education. Global accounts are now reported in Euros and in 2007 and 2008 turnover was close to 180m Euros. ActionAid is an international anti-poverty non-governmental organization
Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

 whose primary aim is to fight poverty worldwide. ActionAid has been a growing organization for over 30 years. Today, it helps over 13 million impoverished and disadvantaged people, in 42 countries worldwide. ActionAid works with local partners to fight poverty and injustice. ActionAid’s vision "is a world without poverty and injustice in which every person enjoys their right to a life with dignity." ActionAid’s mission is "to work with poor and excluded people to eradicate poverty and injustice." In June 2010, ActionAid faced a leadership transition, as Joanna Kerr became the new Chief Executive of the organization, replacing former Chief Executive, Ramesh Singh.

Being connected with the local community and bearing witness to the poverty and injustice are very important aspects of ActionAid’s work. ActionAid works on various projects, from those that address the immediate conditions of poverty to those that focus on campaigning and advocacy, which address the causes of poverty and change practices and policies at both local and national levels. The nature of the work at ActionAid is about assisting different groups of rights-holders to claim and enjoy the rights that they possess.

International reach

ActionAid International works in more than 40 countries in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, the Middle East  and Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. The international secretariat is based in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, and operations are organised on a regional basis; managed from Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 and Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. Within each region there are a number of countries with an ActionAid office that manages the work there. The international functions for finance and fundraising are based in the UK, and there is a US office in Washington DC for fundraising and lobbying purposes.

ActionAid's work

Over time, ActionAid has moved from being a British charity based on child sponsorship to becoming an international coalition fighting poverty across the globe. ActionAid works with poor and marginalised communities throughout the world to help them recognise, promote and secure their basic rights, and control their own development. Its mission is to work with poor and excluded people to eradicate poverty and injustice.

In order to achieve its mission, ActionAid works in the following areas:
  • Women's rights
    Women's rights
    Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

     and gender equality
    Gender equality
    Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

  • Education
    Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

  • Food rights
  • HIV
    Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

     and AIDS
    Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

  • Emergencies and conflict
    Group conflict
    Group conflict, or hostilities between different groups, is a pervasive feature common to all levels of social organization .. Although group conflict is one of the most complex phenomena studied by social scientists, the history of the human race evidences a series of group-level conflicts that...

  • Democratic
    Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

    Governance is the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes...

  • corporate accountability
    Corporate crime
    In criminology, corporate crime refers to crimes committed either by a corporation , or by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or other business entity...

  • Trade justice
    Trade justice
    Trade justice is a campaign by non-governmental organisations lobbying for changes to the rules and practices of world trade so that poor people and the environment benefit...

  • International aid and debt
    Developing countries' debt
    The debt of developing countries is external debt incurred by governments of developing countries, generally in quantities beyond the governments' political ability to repay...

ActionAid has been fighting poverty worldwide for over 30 years and working in over 40 countries. The charity works within regions such as Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean; it is secular and has no political affiliations.
The charity campaigns and lobby against the root causes of poverty, to try to ensure that poor people are treated fairly by governments, companies and international institutions whose decisions affect these people’s everyday lives and their basic human rights.
ActionAid works in partnership with communities on practical projects aiming to improve the opportunities for these communities and provide them with facilities such as wells, water systems, schools and health centres in order to tackle the causes of poverty.

Organization focus

The seven main areas that ActionAid is focused on are:
  1. Aid and Debt: this includes lobbying for debt cancellation with The World Bank, IMF, and donor governments
  2. Emergencies and Conflict: Providing immediate relief in emergencies, setting up long-term projects to help the most vulnerable people rebuild their lives, their communities and livelihoods.
  3. Women’s Rights advocacy: Lobbying for gender equality
  4. Corporate Accountability: The charity is campaigning for new UK and international laws to make multinational companies accountable for their impact on local communities and the environment.
  5. Trade: ActionAid are lobbying and campaigning for an international trade system to make fairer regulations.
  6. HIV and Aids: ActionAid is lobbying for greater provision of AIDS treatment in the developing world especially for women
  7. Education: ActionAid provides adult literacy and social change programmes. ActionAid also provides education funding and to ensure that schools are places where the right to education is respected.

Organizational Themes

The themes that ActionAid focuses on are the following:
  • Women’s Rights
  • Right to Education
  • Right to Food
  • Right to Human Security in Conflict and Emergencies
  • Right to Life and Dignity in the face of HIV & AIDS
  • Right to Just and Democratic Governance

Organizational Values

ActionAid’s values are as follows:
  • Mutual respect: Requiring ActionAid to recognize the innate worth of all people and the value of diversity
  • Equity and justice: Requiring ActionAid to work to ensure equal opportunity to everyone, irrespective of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, HIV status, color, class, ethnicity, disability, location and religion
  • Honesty and transparency: being accountable at all levels for the effectiveness of the organization’s actions and open in its judgments and communications with others
  • Solidarity with the poor: The powerless and excluded will be the only bias in ActionAid’s commitment to the fight against poverty
  • Courage of conviction: Requiring ActionAid to be creative and radical, bold and innovative – without fear of failure – in the pursuit of making the greatest possible impact on the causes of poverty
  • Independence: Independence from any religious or party-political affiliation
  • Humility: Humility in ActionAid’s presentation and behavior, recognizing that the organization is part of a wider alliance against poverty.

Women's Rights

ActionAid’s new strategy, “Rights to end poverty”, furthers the women’s rights agenda. ActionAid believes that women’s rights and gender equality help with poverty eradication and hence, women’s rights must be protected and promoted. Women’s rights and gender equality are priorities that lie in the heart of ActionAid’s international agenda. The organization works directly with other women’s organizations in order to advance gender relations. ActionAid wishes to see that women grow in confidence, skills, and knowledge throughout the world.The ultimate goal is that women shape their own destiny, live without fear of violence, and participate effectively in those decisions that affect their quality of lives and livelihoods.

Right to education

  • Support excluded and disadvantaged groups, especially girls, in gaining access to the quality

education which is their right
  • Promote the rights of all learners within education systems and ensure that both boys and girls

understand women's rights, and discrimination and violence are eliminated.

Right to life and dignity in the face of HIV/AIDS

  • Push for the rights of women and girls
  • Push for freedom from stigma and discrimination
  • Free comprehensive treatment and care should be given to the poor and excluded, especially to women and girls.

Right to just and democratic governance

  • Capacity building strategy to help women and other poor and excluded people to organize themselves to claim their rights, participate in the decision-making process, and have a say in politics and public policy.

Right to human security in conflict and emergencies

  • Promote the protection of women and girls during conflicts and disasters
  • Assist women’s groups and civil society to be active in conflict resolution and peace building.

Strategic priorities

ActionAid pursues four main strategic priorities:Reduction of violence against women and girls; Increase attention and action on women’s rights in relation to HIV and AIDS; Contribution to greater recognition, realization, and protection of women’s land rights; enhance women’s participation in politics.
  • Reduction of violence against women and girls:
    • Increase awareness about violence against women and girls
    • Call for laws that protect the rights of women and girls
    • Improve effectiveness of organizations and movements that focus on violence against women and girls.
  • Increase attention and action on women’s rights in relation to HIV and AIDS
    • Increase awareness about HIV & AIDS as it relates to females.
    • Call for laws that protect the rights of women and girls in the HIV/AIDS context.
    • Improve effectiveness of organizations nad movements that focus on HIV/AIDS as it relates to females.
  • Contribution to greater recognition, realization and protection of women’s land rights
    • Increase awareness about women’s land rights.
    • Call for laws and policies that protect women’s land rights
    • Call for new organizations (and improve existing organizations) that focus on women’s land rights.
  • Enhance women’s participation in politics
    • Increase awareness about women’s leadership, or lack of leadership in the political sphere.
    • Call for laws and policies that will advance their leadership and participation in politics.
    • Call for implementation of existing laws that enhance women’s political participation.
    • Assist other organizations and networks that work in this area of women’s political participation.

Gender Mainstreaming at ActionAid

ActionAid places a major focus on achieving women’s rights. In addition to achieving gender equality in the local communities, ActionAid works towards achieving gender equality in the organization itself. For example, in ActionAid Nepal, the gender imbalance in the organization itself was so great that ActionAid Nepal established a temporary “Women-Only Recruitment Policy,” which raised the percentage of female staff from 12% to 24%.
In 1995, in the Beijing Platform for Action (also known as the Fourth World Conference on Women
Fourth World Conference on Women
The United Nations convened the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace on 4-15 September 1995 in Beijing, China. 189 governments and more than 5,000 representatives from 2,100 non-governmental organizations participated in the Conference...

), gender mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming is the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for women and men of any planned policy action, including legislation and programmes, in all areas and levels...

 was identified as the most important mechanism to reach the ambitious goal of gender equality. There are eight major components of gender mainstreaming policy that are implemented by ActionAid.They are as follows:
  1. A dual strategy of mainstreaming gender combined with targeted actions for gender equality.
  2. Gender analysis
    Gender analysis
    Gender analysis is a type of socio-economic analysis that uncovers how gender relations affect a development problem. The aim may just be to show that gender relations will probably affect the solution, or to show how they will affect the solution and what could be done...

  3. Internal responsibility
  4. Gender training
  5. Support to women’s decision making and empowerment
  6. Monitoring and evaluation
  7. Working with other organizations
  8. Budgets
    • Dual strategy of mainstreaming and targeting gender equality:
      • ActionAid has used gender mainstreaming in policies, projects, and programs at all cycle stages.
      • ActionAid also takes actions that target gender equality.
    • Gender Analysis:
      • ActionAid provides a gender analysis at all program cycle stages; however, sex-disaggregated data and gender info, along with a gender-sensitive budget analysis are not provided.
    • Internal Responsibility:
      • At ActionAid, responsibilities are shared between all staff and gender specialists/focal points.
    • Gender Training:
      • At ActionAid, there is an understanding and implementation of gender policy for staff and counterparts.
      • There is also staff/counterpart gender training/skills.
    • Support to women’s decision making and empowerment
      • ActionAid strengthens women’s organizations through capacity building and training.
      • ActionAid offers support to women’s participation in decision making and empowerment.
    • Monitoring and evaluation:
      • ActionAid contains effective tools for monitoring/evaluation and contains gender-sensitive indicators.
    • Working with other organizations:
      • ActionAid strengthens gender equality by working with government, donors, UN, private sector, and NGOs.
    • Budgets
      • ActionAid allocates certain financial resources for staff to carry out gender policy.

Rights-based approach

The human rights-based or rights-based approach to poverty eradication and development lies at the very heart of ActionAid’s work. ActionAid realizes that poverty is a direct consequence of the violation of human rights and the inequality that is associated with claiming and realizing one’s rights. ActionAid believes that the impoverished should as well realize that their situation is not a consequence of their own failings or a natural phenomenon, but rather, realize it as a consequence of human rights abuses. A vital part of ActionAid’s rights-based approach is holding governments accountable.

ActionAid has a specific process which implements a rights-based approach in the organization’s programs and projects. The six steps are as follows: Organizing and raising critical consciousness, addressing people’s needs as rights they can claim, ensuring participation and actions of poor and excluded people, paying attention to issues of power, deepening democracy at every level, holding state (and non-state actors) accountable.
  • Organizing and raising critical consciousness
    • The first step is to raise awareness and consciousness through education and through practical support. This step challenges those marginalized and impoverished groups who believe they do not have rights. The goal is to change this false perception within those groups, and to make them believe there is a possibility for change.
  • Addressing people’s needs as rights they can claim
    • Although ActionAid does provide immediate and short-term services to those groups that require them, ActionAid attempts to ensure that people’s basic human rights are claimed and granted from the state and governments for long-term security.
  • Ensuring participation and actions of poor and excluded people
    • The rights-based approach employed by ActionAid calls for the full involvement of the rights-holders. These rights-holders must take actions to establish their needs.
  • Paying attention to issues of power
    • This rights-based approach at ActionAid calls for the confrontation or engagement with those who are powerful in order to lead to change.
  • Deepening democracy at every level
    • Calling for a true democracy that is all-inclusive of freedom of information and participation, action and decision-making.
  • Holding state (and non-state actors) accountable
    • Requires state to recognize the human rights provided to citizens by its constitution, laws and regulations.
    • Provides mechanisms to monitor states in that they do not deny anyone from claiming these rights.


ActionAid has been criticized for supporting US led violent regime change in Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

in 2004.