Campaigns

Earlier in the week you heard about community campaigner Will, who went inside the Barclays AGM to challenge the CEO and the Board about their Offshore Corporate services. I caught up with Will after the dust had settled to find out a bit more about why he got involved with the campaign to clean up Barclays.

Will Davis outside the Barclays AGM
Will Davis outside the Barclays AGM
Photo: Natasha Adams/ActionAid

Why is this campaign important to you?

It’s great that tax avoidance is now getting the media coverage it deserves. There are tens of trillions of pounds stashed in tax havens. Much of that could, and should, be helping poor country governments build the infrastructure and services needed to lift people out of poverty. Banks such as Barclays should not be helping businesses in some of the poorest countries in the world to set up in tax havens. Doing this deprives millions of people in poor African countries the chance of a better life. Where would we be in the UK if much of the money needed to run the services we take for granted such as hospitals and schools was simply not there, because it was sat in a bank account on a small island half way around the world? Tax havens have existed for decades. As global inequality increases it’s right that we shout about this injustice, both for ourselves in the west and for those living in poverty.

Why did you feel it was important to come to the AGM today? 

Taking action is the best way to achieve change. I sign petitions and attend meetings with fellow campaigners quite often, but there is a greater sense of achievement when you get out there and do something yourself. Even only a small thing could be a step towards making change happen. Barclays have a responsibility not only to their shareholders, but also an ethical responsibility towards the citizens of the countries in which they operate. I wanted to be involved today to make sure they got that message. Encouraging and facilitating tax avoidance is something they should not be doing in any part of the world they operate.

How did you feel about asking a question?

I was anxious, would I fluff it, would I let campaigners down? I had great support on the day from the ActionAid team who made sure things went smoothly. After a slightly nerve-wracking long wait I finally got up to the podium and spoke as clearly as I could with conviction, but not so much that they could discount me as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’. The question had been carefully honed with the help of ActionAid staff. It had to be clear about its demands and was perfectly formed.  I was nervous at the start, but I always feel that when you know right is on your side it’s easier to speak with conviction. Royal Festival Hall holds about 2500 people and it was fairly full, but I was only focussed on getting our important message across to the Barclays Chairman. He did respond positively, as did the CEO who gave a ‘personal commitment’ to find a way forward. I hope my small contribution does go on to bear fruit and that Barclays will work collaboratively with ActionAid to bring about a sea change in the role and use of tax havens.

How did you feel the day went?

The day went well. There was quite a lot of nervous waiting around and rehearsing my lines, I have a new huge admiration for world leaders who get up in front of the world’s media to deliver long speeches with no script.  It was fantastic to see how much media coverage ActionAid's pop-up tax haven outside was getting later in the day, it seemed to be the ‘go-to’ picture for any news organisation covering the AGM. I’m sure Barclays bosses were not expecting an easy ride at the AGM, and they certainly didn’t get one. One after another, small shareholders objected to another year of poor performance, and yet still huge pay and bonuses, with a heady mix of humour and rage. Those protests didn’t change anything and those rewards were still voted through ultimately. However, our question to the board did achieve a result and we left with a good step forward in terms of a commitment. Something we didn’t have when we went in.

What would you say to others who are thinking of getting involved in this kind of campaigning?

Campaigning makes a difference, having the chance to do this kind of active, carefully conceived and thought through campaigning can be quite exciting, and you get to meet a lot of like-minded and dedicated people along the way. There are dozens of new online petitions doing the rounds every day, it’s good to sign those where you feel compelled to, but the buzz and sense of satisfaction from actually going out and doing something yourself to further a just cause can’t be beaten. It’s easy to look around and see social injustice all over the world, it’s also easy to shut it out and go back the crossword, but through getting involved with Action Aid campaigns you can do something about that injustice and have a bit of fun and new experiences along the way. Some NGOs and campaigning organisations don’t appear to involve their supporters to any significant degree in what they do. ActionAid is quite different. As an unpaid supporter I was offered a place at the centre of things for the Barclays AGM, an opportunity for which I’m grateful. I would encourage anyone who cares about international development issues to get involved with this kind of campaigning. The bigger collective voice campaigners and organisations like ActionAid can muster the more chance we have of making the world a fairer and more equitable place.

Campaigners take on Barclays at the bank's AGM

Eva Watkinson's picture
Eva Watkinson Campaigns Engagement Manager

Last week Actionaid campaigners went to Barclays AGM to demand that they aren't a bank for tax dodgers. Check out our gallery of pictures from the day. 

ActionAid campaigners were out in force last week at the Barclays AGM.

After six months of campaigning - but little action from the bank - we wanted to make sure that they got the message that promoting tax haven services to companies investing in Africa is part of a problem that drains vital resources from the continent. 

Our pop-up tax haven, campaigners dressed as Barclay's boss Antony Jenkins, and our giant billboard got the message across loud and clear. Campaigners from as far afield as Zambia and Australia also took action and joined the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. 

And it worked! Pictures of our stunt were reported across the media, including The Guardian, The Times and the Huffington Post, helping to ramp up the pressure.

Inside the AGM ActionAid campaigner, Will Davis, representing over 50,000 of us who've taken action, put Barclay's boss Antony Jenkins on the spot by asking him a direct question in front of the board, the media, and all of Barclays' shareholders. 

Antony Jenkins made a personal commitment to find a way forward and address the issues we've been raising.

This is a big step forward for the campaign so a huge well done to everyone who took action.

With his own reputation on the line, now we need to make sure Antony Jenkins acts.  

Tweet #BarclaysAGM

Claire Donner's picture
Claire Donner Digital Campaigner

Today we're at the Barclays AGM delivering messages from campaigners all over the world who want Barclays to stop promoting the use of tax havens by companies investing in Africa.

The Barclays billboard that we're driving around the AGM
The Barclays billboard that we're driving around the AGM
Photo: ActionAid

Tweet your message to Barclays using the AGM hashtag

You can send your messages to Barclays boss, Antony Jenkins, by using the conference hashtag #BarclaysAGM. Here are some key facts about the campaign in case it's helpful for writing your personal message:

  • Barclays are promoting the use of tax havens to companies investing in Africa
  • Developing countries lose three times more revenue to tax havens than they receive in aid each year
  • There's over $20 trillion stashed in offshore tax havens and Barclays is helping to make this happen
  • When companies don’t pay their fair share of tax, this denies some of the world’s poorest people access to vital funds for schools and hospitals
  • Antony Jenkins promised to clean up the bank's image and make it a 'force for good in Africa’. But ethical banks don't promote tax havens, especially if that helps them avoid tax in some of the world’s poorest countries
  • 50,000 people have already called on Barclays to clean up its act on tax havens

You can also share one of our Barclays AGM images by adding this link to your tweet: pic.twitter.com/A4tsMDM50T

Tweet your message to #BarclaysAGM

If you have any questions or get stuck, you can email us at campaign@actionaid.org, tweet @ActionAidUK or comment below.

Thanks so much for your support!

Tell us what you want to say to Barclays

Natasha Adams's picture
Natasha Adams Activism Officer

Don't want Barclays to be bankers to tax dodgers? Neither do more than 50,000 people who've complained so far! Help us pile on the pressure at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) by telling them what you think.

Write your message to Barclays below this blog

Zambian and Danish campaigners call for Barclays to behave
Activists from Zambia and Denmark with their messages to Barclays
Photo: ActionAid

AGM time

On April 24th, Barclays will host their AGM in central London. This is a real moment under the spotlight for Barclays' CEO Antony Jenkins - after two years promsing to clean up the bank he'll be getting plenty shareholder scrutiny and international press attention.

Since Barclays is still promoting tax havens to big businesses in Africa, and given that tax havens help to drain vital public resources from some of the world's poorest countries, we want to use their AGM to make some noise about this. ActionAid campaigners will be inside questioning the Barclays Board, and outside with a pop up tax haven.

Send your message

Campaigners from all over the world can get their voices heard at the AGM by sending us messages to pass on to Barclays - we'll deliver them with the 50,000 complaints already made about their tax haven promotions.

Writing tips

  • Essentially we're asking them not to be a bank for tax dodgers. 
  • If you make your message personal, it will have more impact. Say why you think tax dodging is such a problem, especially in Africa.
  • Be polite! However angry you are, Barclays staff are more likley to listen if you keep it civil. Rude comments are easy to write off.
  • We're not accusing Barclays of dodging tax themselves - we don't have evidence for this. But we do know that their Offshore Corporate division is promoting tax havens to businesses in Africa.

Campaigner messages for inspiration

"By promoting the use of tax havens in Africa which enable tax dodging Barclays is doing more harm than good in Africa."

David Habba, Nigeria

"Tax revenue funds infrastructure essential for fighting poverty and keeps governments accountable to their citizens - Barclays promoting tax havens is utterly unacceptable."

Jonathan Waring, UK

You can write your message to Barclays in the blog comments below, or email it to me at natasha.adams@actionaid.org 

Is aid getting better? Time to ask difficult questions

Iñigo Macías-Aymar's picture
Iñigo Macías-Aymar Aid & Development Alternatives Policy Advisor

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) meets in Mexico this week to discuss how best to deploy international aid for developing countries.  ActionAid UK's policy team is on the ground joining aid donors and NGOs to ensure that people in developing countries get a fair deal.

Although aid provided by donors won’t solve all the problems of developing countries (and is not intended to do so), it does represent a big chunk of public money earmarked exclusively for this purpose. Despite continued pressures on donors’ national budgets, development aid recently reached record levels, driven in part by increased amounts from the UK. While this is in itself an achievement, it goes without saying that it is vital that this money is well spent.

That is the issue that the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) High Level Meeting taking place this week in Mexico aims to address.

Hundreds of donors and as many business and NGO stakeholders will discuss how best to ensure that the international principles on aid effectiveness, notably those agreed in Busan in 2011 (download), are being implemented and what should be done to take things further.

Empowering countries to define their own futures

These principles concentrate on committing to put developing countries in the driving seat of their own development as much as possible. Donors also committed to be more transparent, better coordinated and more aligned with recipient countries’ needs.

It is fundamental that we all get it right this week, as the international community is currently working on a new post 2015 framework for tackling poverty over the coming decades, and aid must be used in the best way possible to contribute to delivering this new framework.

Unfortunately, the Global Monitoring Report, which evaluates progress since 2011, shows that we are way off track.  One of the key problems is country ownership.

After almost 60 years of development and a decade of commitment to let poor countries define their own future, donors still seem reluctant to completely deliver on this. Can countries end their dependence on aid if donors continue to bypass their governments and instead establish alternative systems and aid delivery mechanisms?

Problems with private sector solutions?

Worryingly, it seems this won’t get better as many donors are starting to resort to the private sector to solve their problems. There is concern that this does not focus on strengthening what already exists in the country but rather acts as a bandage, if not actually undermining governments.

Donors must be clearer about their intentions with the private sector and how they will ensure that aid delivered through these channels will respect the Busan Principles and not unravel them.

These questions are at the centre of the ActionAid briefing that we released today in Mexico.

I will be working hard this week with colleagues from ActionAid Zambia, ActionAid Italy and ActionAid UK to ensure that the final communique from the Mexico High Level Meeting provides us with clear answers!

Follow me on twitter @IMaciasAymar to hear the latest from #GPHLM