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Avaaz Statement on Abari 2015 Nepal Earthquakes Grant

Hi everyone,

I'm the Deputy Director of Avaaz and I wanted to write about a grant we made to an organization called Abari in Nepal after the devastating 2015 earthquakes.

The $350,000 grant (all donated online by our members) was in two parts - to help with immediate needs and long term rebuilding for hard-hit communities across Nepal. Some time after the grant was given, an individual with a past affiliation with Abari approached us with a concern about financial misconduct. Abari had voluntarily shared their audited financial documents with us, so we reviewed these - they showed a discrepancy with reports we'd received regarding exactly when the first part of the grant was spent, but also showed that all of it was spent on its intended purpose. Abari said they'd made an honest reporting mistake, and it was clear that all the money was accounted for.

Like any other responsible donor we don't police our past grantees, but as Abari wrapped up its work on the second part of the grant, we hired two, best-in-the-business evaluators to make sure everything checked out on the ground. You can read their full report here.

Those evaluators reviewed audited financial statements, and spent weeks talking to Abari staff, partners, government officials and most importantly recipients of their aid. They found no evidence of misconduct, and came back with a glowing report about Abari and its work, showing that our members' donations were used excellently, helping thousands. At the same time, we heard very disturbing assessments of the motives, agenda and tactics of the person accusing Abari of misconduct. To get a sense of these concerns and hear Abari’s side of the story about all this, you can see their Director’s statement here.

Overall, the evaluators’ report left us feeling great about the quality of the work our members’ donations had enabled in Nepal. It’s really outstanding stuff that we’re proud to have supported. The remaining controversy doesn’t seem to us to be about this great work, it’s whether a particular group who did part of this great work, called Believers, was adequately compensated by Abari. Avaaz has neither legitimacy nor competency to investigate or arbitrate this kind of dispute.

So why are there some online comments critical of Avaaz in all this? The criticism seems to stem from the individual who first approached us with concerns, who also demanded to see Abari’s internal financial documents. Not feeling it was the role of a donor to share such information without permission, and having heard serious concerns about the motives of this person, we refused. That seemed to earn us all manner of accusations from this individual in multiple forums.

We really hope that Abari and the Believers are able to resolve their issue in a just and truthful way. And we hope that Abari's individual critic is just trying to resolve an issue and not the sketchy and potentially criminal troll described in Abari’s statement. But we also know that there are limits to how helpful we can be here, and we have an obligation to our mission and members to focus our tiny team on urgent priorities.

Avaaz works in many contexts around the world, and we often see the stresses and strains that crises and public service place on individuals, and how well meaning but imperfect people (aren't we all!) can experience misunderstandings that quickly escalate into conflict. Regardless of how the issues above get resolved and who’s at fault, I hope everyone will keep perspective that Abari and Believers by all accounts did wonderful work for the people of Nepal in a time of desperate need. That’s truly inspiring, and we’re genuinely grateful to everyone who contributed.

With respect,
Emma Ruby-Sachs

Here’s our evaluators’ final report -