Dear Aseem and colleagues
Congratulations on your excellent article in the WP. But please can I suggest
that we all pause before fixing this narrative of the Oxfam crisis?
I am not for one second condoning the behaviour of the staff in Haiti, nor
Oxfam’s economy of the truth in reporting it. But I do want to stress how the
story about Oxfam, and the recent flurry of added allegations about the aid
sector, have come at a time in the UK when there is a very clear campaign to
discredit overseas aid. The UK passed a law in 2015 to make it a legal
requirement to spend 0.7 percent of GNP on overseas aid, which has been
vigorously opposed by the same politicians and newspapers who have fought to
leave the EU. Many analysts believe that reducing trust in one of the oldest
brands associated with international aid is an effective route to influencing
public debate about aid along those same libertarian lines.
Your article asks: "Why do nonprofit organizations behave in unprincipled
ways?” That’s a very good question. But I think we also have to ask “What are
the influences on the information we receive about nonprofits?” and “Do other
sectors get the same scrutiny?” I suggest we need to be more cautious about
how to interpret this widespread criticism of the aid sector before assuming
the stories are facts, and that the lessons are clear.
Professor, Department of International Development,
London School of Economics and Political Science
On 19 Feb 2018, at 18:32, as...@u.washington.edu<mailto:as...@u.washington.edu>
Several scholars on this list study nonprofits/NGOs and have written on
governance failures. The article
we published on the Oxfam scandal in the Washington Post/Monkey Cage Today
might interest them:
The Oxfam scandal shows that, yes, nonprofits can behave badly. So why aren’t
they overseen like for-profits?
The civic sector plays an important role in the contemporary society.Yet, the
Oxfam scandal (and other scandals that are now getting revealed as well as the
cover-up at Oxfam since 2011 of the Haiti episode) raises serious questions
about our theoretical understanding of the NGO/nonprofit sector.
Yes, this is not the first scandal. Nevertheless, if a moral leader such as
Oxfam has serious governance failures, we should seriously examine our
conception of the NGO/NPO sector -- with the intent to reform it. To do so, we
need to study both the successes and failures of NPO/NGO governance.
Professor, Department of Political Science
Walker Family Professor for the College of Arts and Sciences
Founding Director, UW Center for Environmental Politics
39 Gowen Hall, Box 353530
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3530
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