Annual report 2015

This year women and men living in poverty continued to mobilise for their rights despite the volatile mix of disasters, militarism, conflict and economic displacement that left many of the world’s poorest people more vulnerable than ever. Inequality continued to rise, characterised by many of the states in which we work, serving the interests of rich elites and powerful multinational corporations while performing poorly in protecting, promoting and respecting their citizens’ rights. Women continued to experience exclusion and rights violations as a result of deepening fundamentalism and patriarchy, and a development model that further exploits them, while young people continued to bear the brunt of ‘jobless growth’.

In this difficult context, women and men living in poverty did not lose hope. The world saw people mobilise in traditional and new ways to claim their rights and build alternatives. The climate movement grew, with the result that there was progress on mitigation and adaptation at the climate agreement in Paris (though the agreement did not meet the expectations of those afected most by climate change – the poorest and most vulnerable). ActionAid played an important role, leading in areas such as funding for measures to help people adapt to climate change, and strengthening collective work through the Climate 8 alliance, which brings together environment and development organisations. We also supported the deepening of Climate Resilient Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA) through farmer-to-farmer exchange, farmer field schools, use of demonstration plots, training of farmer groups, and extension agents. This was accompanied by advocacy support to influence public policies in favour of smallholder farmers.

Our work on women’s access to land enabled women’s movements to ensure increased control over land and other natural resources for almost 80,000 women, and with ActionAid’s support, people living in rural areas actively resisted land grabs by multinational companies from Cambodia to Senegal and Tanzania. Our report on the land grab in Bagamoyo, Tanzania led to significant supporter mobilisation and contributed to the withdrawal of a donor agency from a project that threatened the livelihoods of poor communities whose land was set to be taken by a Swedish company. Our continued mobilisation and engagement also contributed to the European Parliament proposal to limit the use of land-based biofuels in Europe at 7% of the fuel used in transport, because of their detrimental social and environmental impacts in the global south – including land grabs.

We increased our influence and visibility through activities at key external events such as the World Social Forum in Tunis, the Financing for Development Summit in Addis Ababa, the Sustainable Development Goals summit in New York, the Paris Climate Summit and the Nairobi Trade Talks – all of which contributed to networking and alliance building. Our engagement at the Financing for Development Summit helped ensure governments from the global south pushed for progressive global corporate tax reform to sustainably fund the world’s development aspirations.

We partnered with African governments to challenge developed countries on the need for a global tax body and played a role in helping develop and secure support for the Mbeki Panel Report on Illicit Financial Flows, which sets out the actions needed to tackle tax dodging. Our tax justice campaign in many countries helped change national laws to tackle tax loopholes and enabled us to come together with others to call for a new global tax system.

Meanwhile, our work on democratic governance at local and national levels also progressed, with strong alliance building resulting in advocacy for better services and an emphasis on gender responsive public services across several countries. We also played an influential role in shaping a progressive and inclusive agenda for the Education 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and Framework for Action – including placing domestic financing and tax justice on the radar of global education debates.

We shared experiences and tactics across many countries on how to tackle the trend of shrinking political space for citizens to claim their rights and freedoms. In countries where ActionAid or partners suffered threats, we worked in alliance with others and continued to confront the repressive attitudes by states that are increasingly captured by powerful interests. ActionAid co-led the Progressive Alliance – a growing coalition of non-governmental organisations including Amnesty, Greenpeace, International Trade Union Confederation and Oxfam who are committed to challenging issues such as shrinking political space, rising inequality, climate change and women’s rights. We will continue our role as convenor and strengthen this alliance in 2016.

With our support, women worldwide mobilised to denounce violence against women, unpaid care work and the gender pay gap. On International Women’s Day we successfully launched our Safe Cities for women campaign in 35 cities across 20 countries worldwide – women in particular are at risk from attacks and harassment due to poor lighting, dark streets, dangerous public transport and inadequate policing in urban areas. Already we have seen some local public policy achievements in countries such as Vietnam.

During 2015 ActionAid responded to 27 new and five ongoing emergencies, including a response to the refugee crisis on the Greek island of Lesvos and in Jordan. We also responded to the devastating earthquake in Nepal, where our work reached over 8,000 families, and continued our responses in the Philippines and in Vanuatu. In all instances we emphasised women’s rights, local partners and accountability.

Our total global income was €243 million in 2015, an increase of 6% on 2014 performance and 2% ahead of plans. Institutional and high value income streams continued to grow, with official funding increasing 23% from the start of this strategy and now representing 35% of our total annual income. But despite this, the funding context for the Federation continued to be challenging. The global picture for supporter marketing was down against 2015 plan targets and against 2014 performance. ActionAid Greece was deeply affected by the economic crisis and later in the year the new Danish government implemented an abrupt and substantial cut to financial aid, with a huge impact on ActionAid Denmark and the Federation.

In 2015 the Federation innovated to build a strong networked Federation, deepening the impact of our work, strengthening the organisation’s financial sustainability and becoming more democratic, accountable and effective. We reorganised the decision-making bodies of the Federation to ensure countries play a stronger leadership role. This included the introduction of a Federation Leadership Team and International Platforms where countries lead on making management decisions and setting the priorities for issues that affect all ActionAid countries. Through these new ways of working, we experienced greater integration of our empowerment, solidarity and campaigning work across local, national and international levels and were able to share learning from experiences across the Federation.

Given the many changes in the external and internal context, the Federation – in response to demand by members – decided to bring forward its strategy review and development, thus creating an opportunity for all of us to reshape our organisation in a way that will add the most value for the struggles of poor women and men. We believe that more than ever we need to be committed, passionate and agile to serve the communities and movements with whom we work.

As you read this report, please keep in mind that this work is about our passionate and committed teams across the Federation, the partners and communities that work tirelessly to fght poverty and injustice, and our friends and allies who accompany us. We are proud to share with you our collective achievements and learnings.