How political can NGOs get?, UN Safeguarding nightmare, JK Rowling, and more.

Posted on 05 November 2019

+ How political can NGOs get?

How far can New Zealand's international NGOs go when it comes to political advocacy, without undermining their core development mission under the CID Code? The role between politics and advocacy is often blurred. 

How would New Zealand feel if American NGOs or Chineses organisations were running campaigns in New Zealand during elections?

But that doesn't mean charities can't lobby for policy positions, or for democratic representation in other countries for example. As long as your primary purpose remains charitable and focused on development, you can lobby for changes in policy.

And protecting civil rights is more important than ever. We know that freedom of association and democratic representation is diminishing in many parts of the world, Our NGOs have a role in advocating and supporting others to carve out that space.

According to Civicus, an international umbrella organisations set up to promote civic space, just 3% of people live in countries where the rights to protest, organise and speak out are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Just 26 countries (out of 195) are rated as open, meaning the state safeguards space for people in the country to share their views, participate in public life and influence political and social change.

The right to associate freely with others in order to advance collective interests has been an established facet of international human rights law since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 70 years ago.

This right has been further interpreted by international experts, in terms of how “participation” can include “political activities” by CSOs.

The 'charitable purpose' of NGOs has been challenged recently in New Zealand, with various court cases, ultimately leading to the loss of charitable status for Greenpeace, despite a Supreme Court decision that held that a "political" purpose can, in appropriate circumstances, be charitable.

But even though the Court removed the previous blanket "political purpose" exclusion that has precluded some organisations from getting charitable status, it set out a narrower test, or at least a much more rigorous test, for charitable status.

The Board of the Charities Services, in the end, decided that Greenpeace "has an independent purpose to advocate its own particular views about the environment and other issues which do not advance a public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable."


+ Oxfam in Vanuatu accused of 'foreign interference'

Involvement in political processes was the topic of a news story this week, when Vanuatu's government warned that it will not tolerate 'foreign organisations interfering with political issues of this country', RNZ reported this week.

The warning came from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat, who is also responsible for non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Mr Napuat has scolded the local Oxfam office for getting involved in a campaign to have women voted into Vanuatu's parliament.

The Daily Post reports his comments came after Vanuatu National Council of Women's raised concerns about Oxfam's involvement in the 'Vot Woman' campaign, which had pushed for 50 percent representation of women in parliament.

The minister said the government could not accept foreign NGOs getting involved with political issues of the country.

Mr Napuat acknowledges the work Oxfam had done over the years in Vanuatu to help peoples' lives.

But he said there were other approaches the organisation could have taken in supporting women on the issue of representation in parliament.

  Meanwhile, Oxfam GB has produced this excellent podcast on the challenges of measuring women's empowerment.

+ Also in Vanuatu - UK 'scopes' governance 

Graham Teskey, governance expert and recent host of a CID workshop on governance, has been taking part in a  “scoping mission” on behalf of the Office of British High Commissioner to Vanuatu to look at assisting Pacific Island Countries and "seeking ways to effectively address emerging challenges and drivers of instability and insecurity.”

The focus was on security in the region, humanitarian responses and protections from cyber crime.

+ Save the date! Workshop in Monitoring & Evaluation
Please, indicate your interest by sending an email before 10th November to, so we can save you a space.

CID, in consultation with MFAT and M&E experts, is developing a 1-day Monitoring & Evaluation Workshop that will be held in Wellington and Auckland.
  • 11th and 12th December (locations TBC).
The workshop will be informed by MFAT's new approach to MERL (Monitoring, Evaluation, Research & Learning)  presented during the MFAT-NGO Annual Hui last week, and will be facilitated by Liz Smith or Sandar Duckworth from LITMUS, a leading social research, evaluation and design firm.

The workshop will focus on how to manage and measure outcomes and will have a practical, hands-on approach aimed at strengthening member organisations’ outcomes management capacity. The training will draw on case studies using multi-year, multi-country and multi-sector arrangements, and smaller activities.


+ Inside Bosnia's nightmare camp for migrants

Aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian disaster in Bosnia, with people facing a winter without proper accommodation, as seen in this BBC video.

Bosnia is now a major route into the EU – 45,000 migrants have arrived in the country since the start of 2018.

The country’s official refugee camps are full and the government has not allocated new sites, despite being given £10m by the EU this summer to do so.

+ UN investigation lets down victims

After nearly 100 women and girls in Central African Republic accused Burundian and Gabonese peacekeepers of rape, sexual abuse, and exploitation, the UN deployed investigators to the country in 2016.

A subsequent UN report reveals blunders in the investigations.

The draft report details a litany of problems in the way investigators conducted interviews with the alleged victims – for example failing to ask crucial follow-up questions that could have corroborated  accounts. It also states that:

  • The UN failed to take accurate victim testimonies and waited weeks before informing the UN’s investigatory and oversight body of the allegations.
  • The UN failed to provide basic security for investigators.
  • The atmosphere for women and girls making the allegations was described as “threatening”, with one investigator reportedly asking a woman about her alleged perpetrator: “Did you love him?”
  • The system of DNA collection and storage allowed samples to decay – specimens that could have identified alleged perpetrators.

+ ACFID Conference  - understanding the Pacific
The theme for last week's ACFID (Australian Council for International Development) conference, held in Sydney, alongside CID's conference  was also looking at partnerships 'beyond aid'. Speakers from the Pacific included Emeline Siale Ilolahia, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation, Serena Sasingian, CEO of Digicel PNG Foundation, and James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

"The message was clear: they needed to be listened to and provided a seat at the table with decision-makers", writes Lisa Cornish on Devex.

Serena Sasingian, told the audience she was "fed-up" with the status quo of aid and development funding and suggested that western donors and development organizations were reliant on the existing models of development.

"What if we did get ourselves free [of aid]?” she asked the audience. “Like really free? Where would that leave you? More importantly, where would that leave us?". "Listening isn't about listening to our cries and our problems, but also listening to our innovations, our solutions,” Bhagwan told the audience. “There are different models of development, and we can offer those."

In Papua New Guinea, Sasingian said that the country was falling “ way behind” in ensuring youth have a sustainable future — and in her opinion the future was not in aid but trade, requiring a focus on providing opportunities through education.  Creating a strong future for youth was tied with the cultural values of the Pacific — values linked to family, community, culture, and connection to the land.

“Even the basic context of economic development for the Pacific economic development is not as much a priority as well-being because our values are different,” he said. “The key thing is understanding the value system in the Pacific as opposed to Western countries — and just because it’s different that does not mean it is bad.” “True sustainability can only be achieved if people can set their own agenda,” Sasingian said.

This article talks about the shift from development to dignity, pity to agency. 

"People don’t want pity, they want respect. Why not put that challenge at the heart of decision-making?" writes Jonathan Glennie from Open Democracy. 

+ Webinar: The Humanitarian/Development nexus

On 22 October the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) organised the first of a 3-series of webinars in partnership with the Global Protection Cluster (GPC) on the future of humanitarian protection in the humanitarian-development-peace-security nexus.

Humanitarian action has never been carried out in isolation from other sectors. Building on long-running initiatives, such as “linking relief rehabilitation and development” (LRRD) and disaster risk reduction (DRR), efforts to strengthen connections with other sectors have accelerated over the past few years, especially following the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. The UN and OCHA's New Way of Working (NWoW), the EU’s Joint Humanitarian and Development Frameworks, and other initiatives have in common a focus on the “nexus” between humanitarian work and development, as well as with peace and security to ensure that common objectives are reached. 

In these new models connecting and aligning humanitarian action, development, peace, and security, the vision of the role for humanitarian protection is less clear. There may be agreement that the overarching responsibility for protection is shared, but key practical questions remain, including:

  • Who carries out humanitarian protection work in practice in the nexus? 
  • How is the need for independence of certain protection work ensured in conflict-affected and politically sensitive contexts? 
  • Are we facing risks that we will create protection gaps? 
  • Who should be tasked with coordinating to ensure any such gaps are covered? 

Find the recording of the webinar and a rich list of resources on the nexus, here.

+ JK Rowling -  'don't volunteer at orphanages'

Speaking at the One Young World summit in London, the global forum for young leaders, the Harry Potter author and founder and president of children’s charity Lumos, said orphanages do “irreparable harm” and “perpetuate the abuse” of children and communities.

“Despite the best of intentions, the sad truth is that visiting and volunteering in orphanages drives an industry that separates children from their families and puts them at risk of neglect and abuse,” she said.

An estimated two-thirds of UK students believe volunteering at an orphanage overseas would enhance their CV or career prospects, and one in five have either visited or volunteered at an orphanage overseas – or know someone who has.

The vast majority of students are also unaware that 80% of the 8 million children currently living in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent, Lumos’ research found.

Rowling was launching a three-year global campaign to challenge attitudes toward orphanage tourism and volunteering, #HelpingNotHelping. The campaign is backed by recently revised travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office warning of the potential harm of orphanage tourism and volunteering.

The #HelpingNotHelping campaign is calling on schools, colleges and universities for support, as most students who have previously visited orphanages did so through educational organisations, writes Kate Hodal on The Guardian

+ Kōrero Invite on COP25 Climate Change Conference

COP25: Time for Action
The New Zealand Climate Change Ambassador, Kay Harrison, with the support of Simpson Grierson invites you to join us in a kōrero on New Zealand’s international climate change priorities at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP25 conference, being hosted in Madrid.
Joining the Ambassador will be negotiators from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ministry for the Environment who will be available to discuss three priorities for New Zealand at COP25.

  • International carbon markets*
  • Loss and Damage from the impacts of climate change*
  • New Zealand’s Multilateral Assessment (peer review of our domestic climate action)*

 You will be able to talk one-on-one, in-depth and informally, about New Zealand’s priorities for COP25.  Equally, they want to hear your thoughts and views so they can take those into the negotiations with them. It is a drop-in event and you are welcome to come for all or some of the time, to fit with your other commitments.
When and where 
Thursday 14 November | 5 – 7 pm
Simpson Grierson
Level 28, Lumley Centre, 88 Shortland Street
Tuesday 19 November |5 – 7 pm
Simpson Grierson
Level 24, HSBC Tower, 195 Lambton Quay
Please let them know you’re going
Register your interest to by Monday 11 November help them keep you updated for this and future events.
If you miss it
You can find more information about New Zealand’s priorities and approach at COP25 at:

+ 'Assessing Aid and Militarism in Asia' e-book


The Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific (RoA-AP) and CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Asia launched “Assessing Aid and Militarism in Asia”, a collection of research essays discussing country-level challenges along with the themes of aid and militarism, development cooperation, and conflict and fragility.
These include case-studies from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Tajikistan that illustrate the relationship between aid, development projects and militarism.

The e-book is available for free download here.

+ How to bring research back to communities

Most of us, let alone our partner organisations, rarely see the findings of the studies we contribute to. But all too often people experience the impact of decisions resulting from data interpreted by non-local researchers. This practice can deepen communities’ mistrust towards researchers – and this can result in tensions in the most sensitive environments, writes Melanie Pinet on this ODI piece.

What is the point of research?, writes teaching assistant and researcher Christian Chiza Kashurha on his Oxfam blog. 

"The standard response to this question – he says – is as follows: To produce knowledge. Yet very rarely do we ask ourselves for whom this knowledge is intended, and to whom it should be made available".

In many cases, "the populations that participate in studies have very limited access to the resulting knowledge. In academia, texts tend to be extremely technical and, in many cases, accessible only through a paywall.  In the NGO world, knowledge is often generated in the service of practical objectives that align exclusively with the activities of a given NGO".

Melanie Pinet explains her experience in being part of a research team who decided to share information with communities before the second round of a household survey data collection on youth working in the cocoa sector in Ghana

Here are the main learnings, based on their experience of how they approached restitution of their own research findings and reflection of what they could have done differently:

  1. Don’t just brief  fellow researchers to present findings, train them properly – particularly if they were not previously involved in either collecting or analysing the data. It’s important that they understand the methodology so that they understand what questions might be asked by local leaders.
  2. With widespread internet access easing communication, gather contact details or keep in contact with community leaders via local partners to share research findings beyond website publication.
  3. Build-in time – and budget – for this exercise, and don’t expect a one-size-fits-all format. Based on the local customs, it varied from a short ‘closed-door’ meeting to a long community event.
  4. When submitting ethics applications (or research proposals), restitution of findings must be done using various channels of communication and via accessible products tailored to the local context. We used posters but newspaper articles, participatory theatre or radio spots could also be considered. Remember: remote communities are unlikely to go online to read lengthy reports.
  5. Make it business as usual. We don’t think projects should be praised for carrying out restitution of research findings. It’s not a nice-to-have activity; it’s something that should be systematically embedded within the research cycle.

+ The CID Weekly is Proudly Sponsored By
Direct Impact Group supports organisations to maximise their social impact, because changing the world isn't easy, and in dynamic times this work is more important than ever.

+ VSA helps develop the first-ever global volunteering standard

Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA)  had significant input in developing global standards for volunteering for development. The standards have been agreed by several hundred stakeholders from across the international volunteering for development sector.

Chief Executive, Stephen Goodman, has been co-chair of an international team that developed the first-ever set of Global Standards for Volunteering in Development 

These will encourage more responsible and impactful volunteering and will help organisations contribute positively to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The standards took 18 months to develop and were formally launched last month at the Forum’s International Volunteer Cooperation Organisation (IVCO) Conference in Rwanda. Mr Goodman also signed VSA’s commitment to achieving the standards during the conference.

“The standards outline the base-level expectations for organisations working in our sector. There are more than 81 organisations in the Forum with over 10,000 volunteers in 124 countries," said Steve Goodman.

“For VSA, these standards sit alongside and complement our commitment to the CID Code of Conduct which remains VSA’s primary accreditation. The standards provide VSA with further validation of our policies and practices.

“The standards are a resource that can be used by any organisation working in the volunteering and development sectors.

Volunteering organisations will be encouraged to sign up to the commitments of the Standard to demonstrate to volunteers, partner organisations, donors and governments that their programmes align with good development practices and the SDGs.

The International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum) is a global network of organisations involved in international volunteering which promotes the value of volunteering for development through policy engagement, mutual learning and by sharing innovative and good practices. The forum has 28 members in more than 81 organisations with over 10,000 volunteers in 124 countries.
+ CID Events

Monitoring & Evaluation Workshops (Wellington & Auckland): 11 & 12 December - SAVE THE DATE!
CID XMas Drinks: 13th December

+ Other Events Coming Up
+ CID Activities
  • CID Quarterly planning completed
  • Post Conference activities and survey prepared
  • Planning for #nziswatching Media Trip
  • Code Review continues