Christian Aid director says government can do more to support charities

By staff writers
7 May 2009

Daleep Mukarji, director of the international development agency Christian Aid, says that the UK government needs to do more to help charities working in economically poorer countries during the present financial crisis.

Speaking in the run-up to Christian Aid Week (10-16 May) which is one of the UK’s largest community fundraising events, Dr Mukarji revealed that the plunging value of sterling on international currency markets had cost the charity around £15 million.

He explained: "We pay for offices, staff and partners abroad. The collapse of the pound has cost us 25 per cent of the value of our money. Put simply, our purchasing power is about £15 million less than it was a year ago.

"This has had a serious impact on our partners and other beneficiaries. We are grateful that the government has not cut the aid budget, but I am sorry they are not funding us to cover some of our costs", he added.

"In the recent budget the Chancellor announced he was putting money into domestic charities, but international charities seem to have been left out," said the Christian Aid head.

Dr Mukarji described charities belonging to the British Overseas Aid Group – Christian Aid, ActionAid, CAFOD, Oxfam and Save the Children - as international leaders in the fields of humanitarian relief and long-term development.

"There is no other group of charities in any country that is as well known and as well organised," he said. "The British public and the British government need to recognise the role major development charities play in influencing the international community on behalf of poorer countries and poor people."

He continued: "It has got to come to terms with the fact that we are valuable. We play an important role in providing humanitarian assistance. We also, through our human rights work, build up civil society and accountable governance in many parts of the world where the UK government is constrained from that kind of intervention.

"It is sad that while the government can find money to help out the banks and some manufacturers, they can’t find anything for us.

"This recession is very real for our supporters and the organisation itself. But its impact is particularly hard hitting in developing countries where some 1.2 billion people were already living in poverty before it began. That number is now growing. That is where need is greatest."

Dr Mukarji said that Christian Aid had been forced to cut funding for a number of international projects and to review its domestic activities, but he added that alternative sources of finance were actively being sought.

"We have diversified our income. We are looking at new ways to get funding from governments, trusts, and international bodies",he said. "And our supporter base is strong and loyal. We are grateful to the many churches and their members who support us in Christian Aid Week and throughout the year.

"I’m confident that at the end of this period of economic difficulty, Christian Aid will emerge stronger than ever."

Dr Mukarji , who was awarded an 0BE earlier this year for his lifelong work in international development, went on to defend Christian Aid from claims that its activities were "too political".

"Our political agenda is not party political", he said. "It is to impress on world leaders, and the international community with its multinational corporations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, that certain policies have to be adopted that will get rid of poverty and contribute to social justice."

He added: "Our agenda is to support the poor and the marginalised. Great social movements have often been led by well known church leaders – Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu for instance. Those are people who got involved because they saw injustice, denial of human rights and civil rights. They saw people being exploited and oppressed.

"We should not get involved in party politics but the charity commissioner has accepted that it is legitimate for charities to campaign and try to influence policy and public debate. After all, poverty is not apolitical. Social justice is not apolitical."

Christian Aid works with a variety of highly regarded partners, some Christian, some from other faith backgrounds and some secular, across the world. It assists people regardless of creed.

During the last Christian Aid Week, supporters collected a total of £14.7 million to help the struggle against poverty.

The Christian Aid Week dedicated website (http://www.caweek.org/) has a list of events taking place all over the country. Donations can be made on-line.

You can also buy Christian Aid gifts and support present aid online.

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