New alliance formed between church and development organsations

By Ecumenical News International
June 1, 2009

A church-based emergency grouping and a development organization, both Geneva-based, with similar names and backers, have announced they are to unite and will formally launch in March 2010 as the ACT Alliance, which will have access to billions of dollars - writes Peter Kenny.

Zambian-born ACT International director, John Nduna, said from Buenos Aires, "The future ACT Alliance will be able to better show who we are by combining emergency and development work. We are on the side of the poor and oppressed and we will fight for their rights to a dignified life."

ACT Alliance will be launched in Malawi by the merger of ACT International and ACT Development, both of which are supported by mainly Protestant and Orthodox churches along with their development and aid organizations.

Jill Hawkey, the New Zealander director of ACT Development, said, "The unification is a great moment for our members, since most of them work in both long-term development and emergency response. It make sense to them coming together like this."

The general assembly of ACT Development, holding a meeting in Buenos Aires, decided on 27 May 2009 to united with the emergency network, ACT International said in a 28 May statement.

In its statement from Buenos Aires, ACT International said the new organization will bring together more than 150 agencies, churches and organisations with a common income of more than US$2 billion dollars and staffs numbering 40,000, including volunteers

"This new alliance will strengthen the ability for the civil societies to coordinate and deliver, together with local authorities," said Atle Sommerfelt, who heads Norwegian Church Aid. "It's a genuine global network with members connected to the grass roots population. That makes them a proper partner, not just a receiver of aid."

Elizabeth Kaseke of Christian Care, Zimbabwe, was quoted as saying, "I am excited, there is time to raise the flag for the ecumenical movement. In ACT Alliance the voices from the global south are heard, and we sit at the table."

Both groups making up the new alliance are based in Geneva. Through emergency appeals, ACT International coordinates humanitarian operations all over the world, and has been recently active in areas such as Sri Lanka, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Colombia and India.

ACT Development works on long-term development issues and coordinates work in areas such as aid effectiveness, impact assessment and malaria. The members of the two groupings come from both the global north and south.

ACT International's Nduna said, "The magic of ACT is the cooperation with churches all over the world. When most infrastructure collapses, there is still a church that operates and that we are working with. That represents a unique network."

Jack van Hem, general director of ICCO, the Netherlands-based interchurch organisation for development cooperation, said, "We have managed to create a faith based network for development and emergencies. Now we have to invest in it. ACT Alliance will put religion and development high on the global agenda."

Forty representatives at the ACT Development general assembly voted for the unification with two votes against, said the ACT statement.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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