ActionAid USA

How do you solve one of the world's most persistent problems? Over one billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty—a figure that stuns most organizations into hesitation with its sheer scale and complexity. Not true of ActionAid USA, the U.S. office of ActionAid International. "Our mission, quite ambitiously," said Executive Director Peter O'Driscoll, "is to end poverty." What separates ActionAid from other international nonprofits with the same focus, however, is its approach: mobilizing impoverished people around a sustainable solution to global poverty.

ActionAid USA was established in Washington, D.C., in 2002 to further this mission. On the one hand, the organization works from its Washington office to advocate on a range of issues, specifically those relating to the six thematic focuses of ActionAid: food, medicine, government, education, security and protection, and the rights of women. On the other, ActionAid USA coordinates with coalitions of poor and excluded people from around the world in order to empower them to take action in their own communities and governments. "We want civil society to be able to demand greater participation in the formation of monetary policies," said O'Driscoll.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is one such exclusive forum where this demand is necessary, said O'Driscoll. "The IMF really is the most important lender or signaler of developing countries' budgets," he said. This means that whether or not the IMF will lend to a developing country can hugely impact its ability to secure capital from other sources. Yet, there is a catch: countries doubt whether they can sustain a restrictive IMF loan and grow their economy at the same time. "The IMF inflation caps and wage caps are unnecessarily restrictive," said O'Driscoll, which means that attempts to improve healthcare or education in a developing country will "collide with IMF obligations to keep debt down." ActionAid USA is working to change IMF lending policies to allow greater spending on critical sectors.

The other oncoming collision is between climate change and economic development—a problem that only recently has gained attention. "Climate change really was considered only an environmental problem up until three years ago," said O'Driscoll. But that changed with the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report, which revealed that developing countries would require billions of additional dollars in aid to reverse the effects of climate change in the future if preventative steps are not taken now. "Nobody, when faced with statistics like that, can ignore that something important is happening," he said. Indeed, ActionAid USA has gone to work to help poor and excluded communities to identify projects that qualify for climate change funding and to strengthen the capacity of partners within countries to lobby their governments.

Related Grants

Organization Amount Awarded Date Program
ActionAid USA $100,000 03/18/2011 Democratic Practice
ActionAid USA $80,000 01/28/2010 Special Initiatives and Opportunities
ActionAid USA $200,000 11/19/2009 Democratic Practice
ActionAid USA $150,000 11/20/2008 Democratic Practice
ActionAid USA $150,000 12/15/2005 Democratic Practice
ActionAid USA $50,000 12/16/2004 Democratic Practice
ActionAid USA $10,000 10/09/2003 Sustainable Development