Girl Guides in dilemma over US offer of Aids abstinence grant

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has admitted it faces a dilemma over whether to accept a US government grant to promote sexual abstinence in the fight against HIV/Aids in Africa.

Chief executive Lesley Bulman told the Acevo conference last week that the association was still deciding if it would implement the programme, run by US federal overseas development agency, USAID.

The abstinence programme is part of US President Bush's emergency plan for Aids relief. Grants are for organisations to work in the 15 countries that are most affected by the Aids pandemic, such as South Africa and Kenya.

"Do we accept millions of dollars for an abstinence programme USAID want us to promote?" asked Bulman. "The choice is between being poor, principled and not powerful, or building some capacity." The Association's board will decide tomorrow whether to accept the grant.

Bulman was speaking from the floor after Friends of the Earth chief executive Tony Juniper claimed that campaigning organisations that did not accept government or corporate funding were poor, but powerful.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of think-tank Nfpsynergy, unveiled research at the conference showing that the charities rated best at campaigning by MPs have levels of voluntary income nearly twice the sector average. Many, such as IFAW, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, have 100 per cent voluntary income, or close to it. Saxton said charities needed substantial resources to campaign.

Juniper agreed: "If you're invited to have a chat with the Prime Minister, you're not going to go on the Today programme the next day and be rude about the Government."

- See Hot Issue p15.

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