It seems that in the UK things are slowly changing. According to The Guardian, Oxfam has just announced that they will be moving their international headquarters from Oxford to Nairobi. Big news for an organisation that was founded in Oxford as a response to the Greek Famine in 1942 and which is now one of the world’s largest development organisations, employing over 6,000 people worldwide.
It follows in the footsteps of ActionAid, which moved its headquarters from the UK to Johannesburg some years ago, and now Amnesty has announced that it will be considerably reducing the size of its London office in favour of opening more offices spread around the world.
It seems to make sense. The new role of agencies like Oxfam, says Oxfam International’s CEO Byanyima, isn’t to “direct” countries in the global south from Europe or North America: it’s about supporting the citizens of these countries to work for their rights and to overcome systemic poverty.”
Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, secretary general of international NGO Civicus adds: “Added to this, the positive spin-offs from these organisations – the trained activists, lobbyists and professional campaigners – are going to European cities at the moment. Having that community of professional people working for social change in cities such as Nairobi will benefit that city. If Oxfam ends up employing a few hundred Kenyans in their Nairobi office, that will have a positive impact on Nairobi society.”
For Amnesty, it’s about making NGOs more authentic, more efficient, faster, better informed and more accountable. For the full article, go here.
So what is happening in Germany? We spoke to some of Germany’s biggest development organisations - including Brot für die Welt, Welthungerhilfe and the German NGO confederation VENRO, to find out if a similar shift is happening here. And the answer is - categorically and across the board - “no”. Responses ranged from mild surprise to absolute incomprehension as to why a German organisation, funded by German donors and taxes, would even consider such a thing. They do certainly have offices abroad already, but the headquarters should be in Germany. End of.
And they are certainly not alone. Only 1% of funding actually goes to NGOs in developing countries. But maybe it is time to rethink that attitude?