DfID fund 'curbs campaigning'

Acevo has written to international development secretary Douglas Alexander to demand that his department removes "unacceptable" lobbying restrictions on charities that apply for funding.

The chief executives body has complained that the Department for International Development’s Development Awareness Fund explicitly prevents the funding being available for initiatives that involve the direct or indirect lobbying of the Government. The department rejected the criticism and said the restriction only applies to one small pot of money.

Information for applicants to the fund says the money cannot be used for “initiatives which involve direct lobbying of the UK Government or of international organisations of which the UK is a member, or which involve lobbying for or against activities of particular companies, individuals or institutions”.

Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb said the situation was unacceptable. “I suspect an anally retentive official because it cannot have political backing,” he said. “Acevo is giving Douglas Alexander 10 days’ notice to withdraw the advice or we will start biting.”

A DfID spokesman said funding from this pot was restricted, but denied that the department discouraged lobbying. “DfID encourages public campaigning from the NGOs and provides significant funds to organisations that campaign,” he said.

“The particular purpose of the Development Awareness Fund is to fund projects raise awareness of development issues among UK communities. This fund is not designed to support the lobbying work of NGOs directed at particular institutions.”

Last year, charities criticised the Government after Ian McCartney, then trade minister at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, told officials to cancel meetings with charities opposed to the new EU economic partnership agreements unless they become less hostile (Third Sector, 4 April 2007).

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