OPINION: Wanted: global ombudsman

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust but writes in a personal capacity

Recent reports that Save the Children UK had come under pressure from its US counterpart over its response to the war in Iraq were a reminder that working with others across the globe can bring challenges.

An increasing number of UK charities are operating globally, either establishing bases in other countries or, as with Save the Children, as part of a network of organisations that share the same values, purpose and brand.

Inevitably, these relationships can be difficult at times. Save the Children UK strongly denied that it had bowed to pressure from the US, but admitted that discussions were sometimes "lively". Tensions around policy, the focus of campaigning or funding relationships can inevitably emerge when organisations based in different countries work together.

Despite the difficulties, one thing is certain, there is growing pressure for UK domestic charities to go international. Few organisations can now afford to ignore the global agenda. For one thing, there is the financial necessity of charities reliant on investment income to keep a watch on international money markets and the global economy.

Policy and campaigning work has become more international too. Most domestic issues have a global dimension and there are fewer legitimate reasons for opting out of global debate. The internet has provided opportunities for charities to reach a global audience. The ability to communicate with those in other countries has opened up the question of whether UK charities should be able to raise income for their work from abroad.

Global issues also affect charities. Concerns about terrorism and the possibility of NGOs being used by terrorist groups led the Charity Commission to step up its international work by sharing best practice with charity regulators overseas.

All these issues suggest that there will be mounting pressure for the creation of some form of international body for charities - one that could oversee global charity regulation and act as an ombudsman when problems arise. We have similar international bodies for both the public and private sectors - why not for the third sector?

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