Thank you for reading this and doing further research about Invisible Children and Kony 2012. In response to this explosion of interest about the Kony 2012 film, there have been hundreds of thousands of comments in support of the arrest of Joseph Kony and the work of Invisible Children. However, there have also been a few pieces written that are putting out false or mis-leading information about these efforts. This statement is our official response to some of these articles and is a source for accurate information about Invisible Children’s mission, financials and approach to stopping LRA violence.
Invisible Children’s mission is to stop LRA violence and support the war affected communities in Central Africa. These are the three ways we achieve that mission. Each is essential: 1) Document and make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring these films around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people. 2) Channeling the energy and awareness from informed viewers of IC films into large scale advocacy campaigns that have mobilized the international community to stop the LRA and protect civilians. 3) Operate programs on the ground in the LRA-affected areas to provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.
As you will see, we spend roughly one third of our money on each of these three goals. This three-prong approach is what makes invisible children unique. Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on, on-the-ground development. We do all three. At the same time. This comprehensive model is intentional and has shown to be very effective.
Invisible Children’s financial statements are online for everyone to see. Financial statements from the last 5 years, including our 990, are available at www.invisiblechildren.com/financials. The organization spent 80.46% on our programs that further our three fold mission, 16.24% on administration and management costs and 3.22% on direct fundraising in FY2011. Invisible Children is independently audited every year and in full compliance with our 501 c 3 status.
Below is a screen-shot from pages 35 and 36 of the 2011 Invisible Children annual report that detail our total expenses for Fiscal Year 2011. An expense statement by class is the way nonprofits present their expenses to the public because it’s the clearest way to show the purpose of different organizational expenses vs. a line item expense statement such as the one on Page 6 of our Audited Financial Report.
CHARITY NAVIGATOR RATING
Charity Navigator gives our Programs its highest rating of 4 stars. Our Accountability and Transparency score is currently at 2 stars due primarily to the single fact that Invisible Children does not have 5 independent voting members on our board of directors--we currently have 4. We are in the process of interviewing potential board members, and we will add an additional independent member this year in order to regain our 4-star rating by 2013. We have been independently audited by Considine and Considine, since the fiscal year end of June 30, 2006 and all of our audits have resulted in unqualified opinions on the audit reports.
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU (BBB)
Participation in BBB's program is voluntary-- we are choosing to wait until we have expanded our Board of Directors, as some questions hinge on the size of our Board. The current Board is small in size and reflects Invisible Children’s grassroots foundation. Invisible Children has now reached a juncture of success that has astonished even its greatest supporters. While it is important to retain a presence on the Board that reflects Invisible Children's early beginnings, we also are working to realign the structure this year.
The best researched paper supporting the policy position of the KONY 2012 campaign can be found here, drafted by Paul Ronan of Resolve: http://www.theresolve.org/peace-can-be--3
But here are a few quick responses to some of the most common questions we’re seeing online:
THE STRATEGY TO SECURE KONY ARREST
For more than two decades, Kony has refused opportunities to negotiate an end to the violence peacefully, and governments of countries where Kony has operated -- including Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic -- have been unable to capture Kony or bring him to justice. This is because regional governments are often not adequately committed to the task, but also because they lack some of the specific capabilities that would help them do so. The KONY 2012 campaign is calling for U.S. leadership to address both problems. It supports the deployment of U.S. advisors and the provision of intelligence and other support that can help locate and bring Kony to justice, but also increased diplomacy to hold regional governments accountable to their basic responsibilities to protect civilians from this kind of brutal violence. Importantly, the campaign also advocates for broader measures to help communities being affected by LRA attacks, such as increased funding for programs to help Kony's abductees escape and return to their homes and families. For a clear understanding of the KONY 2012 political goals, please see the letter to President Obama.
UGANDAN GOVERNMENT HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD
We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army (UPDF). None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments.
We are advocating for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a precedent for future war criminals. The goal of Kony 2012 is for the world to unite to see him arrested and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity.
WHY WORK WITH THE UPDF IF THE LRA IS NO LONGER IN NORTHERN UGANDA
The LRA left northern Uganda in 2006. The LRA is currently active in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Invisible Children’s mission is to stop Joseph Kony and the LRA wherever they are and help rehabilitate LRA-affected communities. The Ugandan government’s army, the UPDF, is more organized and better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries (DRC, South Sudan, CAR) to track down Joseph Kony. Part of the US strategy to stop Kony is to encourage cooperation between the governments and armies of the 4 LRA-affected countries. The LRA was active in Uganda for nearly 20 years, displacing 1.7 million people and abducting at least 30,000 children. The people and government of Uganda have a vested interested in seeing him stopped.
PROGRAMS ON THE GROUND
While the vast majority of the recent exposure and commentary about Invisible Children has been towards the awareness portion of our mission, below is an up-to-date explanation of our direct work in Central Africa, an equally important element to the mission of Invisible Children.
THE PHOTO OF THE FOUNDERS WITH THE GUNS (SEE BANNER IMAGE)
A story told by Jason Russell: The photo of Bobby, Laren and I with the guns was taken in an LRA camp in DRC during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks. We were there to see Joseph Kony come to the table to sign the Final Peace Agreement. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was surrounding our camp for protection since Sudan was mediating the peace talks. We wanted to talk to them and film them and get their perspective. And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, “Haha - they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.” The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing. And we still don’t want war. We don’t want him killed and we don’t want bombs dropped. We want him alive and captured and brought to justice.
INVISIBLE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND SOUTH SUDAN:
Protecting communities and demobilizing the LRA
HF EARLY WARNING RADIO NETWORK:
To address the lack of information from the most vulnerable and remote communities, Invisible Children partnered with Commission Diocesaine Justice et Paix (CDJP), under the umbrella of the Catholic Diocese of Dungu, to expand a High Frequency (HF) Radio Network connecting communities to one another through twice-daily security and humanitarian reporting. This network allows for advanced warning of LRA activity and increased security information for humanitarian responders. Communities participating in the project were selected due to their susceptibility to LRA attack and their lack of the communication infrastructure necessary to report and receive security information. A Local Protection Committee is established in each community to gather and disseminate information, provide regular maintenance to the equipment, and to ensure that trained operators in each community are carrying out the daily reporting,
This project connects communities with local and international humanitarian groups, ultimately allowing for heightened humanitarian response, while limiting the LRA’s ability to attack without warning. Through Invisible Children’s support, there are now 27 communities linked into the HF Early Warning System in Haut and Bas Uele.
To encourage and facilitate the surrender of LRA combatants, Invisible Children partnered with UN DDR/RR and Interactive Radio for Justice (IRfJ) to increase the capacity of Radio Zereda, a community-run FM radio in Obo, Central African Republic, from 1km to an over 30-km radius. Through locally produced radio programming, members the victims’ association in Obo and cultural leaders from LRA-affected regions share insight and sensitize local populations to the LRA’s activities. In conjunction with sensitization, LRA-directed programming is broadcast in both the local Pazande and Acholi languages to encourage and give instructions for peaceful surrender.
In 2011, Invisible Children also provided support to repair Radio Rhinoceros in Faradje, and provided monetary support for a DDR/RR mobile FM unit deployed on rotation in Haut Uele. Additional community-FM projects in Haut Uele and in the highly remote and vulnerable district of Bas Uele are being identified and assessed for support during the 2012 calendar year.
LRA Crisis Tracker: The LRA Crisis Tracker is a real-time mapping platform and data collection system created to bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Using information sourced from Invisible Children’s Early Warning Radio Network, UN agencies, and local NGOs, this tool allows for better response from governments, policy-makers, and humanitarian organizations. This joint project, developed by Invisible Children and Resolve, marks the first time data surrounding the crisis has been comprehensively aggregated and made publicly available.
As forceful abductions continue throughout Central Africa, Invisible Children is partnering with a renowned LRA-trauma specialist, Els de Temmerman, and the leadership of CDJP-Dungu, to establish the first intensive rehabilitation program in the LRA-affected regions of northeastern Congo. The center, located in Dungu, is locally managed and provides one-on-one counseling, utilizing UNICEF-approved Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET). The center provides vocational and life skills training and reunification services. Upon completion of the second phase of construction, the center will have capacity for up to 250 children and youth to live and receive holistic counseling services. Currently, a limited number of severely traumatized children are receiving treatment while the center builds staff capacity and develops systems in preparation for full operation. Program management will continue to coordinate with both local and international NGOs and UN agencies to ensure that the center’s activities are utilized by, and fit within, the regional psychosocial and protection strategies.
Promoting peace and prosperity through Education and Livelihood initiatives
LEGACY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM (LSP):
The scholarship provides fully paid, merit-based scholarships and mentoring from local full-time IC Mentors. Students are selected based on academic potential and need.
Stats as of December 2011:
University students: 250
Secondary students: 590 (currently recruiting additional students)
SCHOOLS FOR SCHOOLS (S4S):
This program partners with 11 secondary schools and their surrounding communities in northern Uganda, working on projects that both build and renovate structures, while also investing in teachers and curriculum. The program also facilitates a yearly Teacher Exchange Program benefiting both Ugandan and international educators.
Stats as of December 2011:
Partner schools: 11
Students attending partner schools: 9,048
The Livelihood Program takes a holistic approach to providing sustainable economic growth and improved living conditions for war-affected northern Ugandans. It impacts rural communities using a three-pronged approach: over 1,250 community members are saving and loaning together, participating in our Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) program; 5,000 community members are benefiting from clean water and health and sanitation initiatives through the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program; and over 1,000 people are receiving training on numeracy, reading, and writing in their local language as a part of our Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) program.
Stats as of December 2011:
WASH: over 5,000 (20 communities with an average of 250 community members)
VSLA: 1,250 community members (50 groups of 25-30 members each)
FAL: 1,000 community members (50 groups of 20-25 members each)
THESE ARE THE STATS USED BY THE KONY 2012 FILM AND CAMPAIGN:
30,000+ children abducted in Uganda by the LRA
66,000 youth (interviewed when 14-30 years old) abducted by the LRA
2.1 million people displaced in Uganda
Source (2010): http://ochaonline.un.org/ocha2010/uganda.html
440,000 people displaced in DRC, CAR, and South Sudan:
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
We’ve done our utmost to be as inclusive, transparent, and factual as possible. We built this organization with “seeing is believing” in mind, and that’s what why we are a media-based organization. We WANT you to see everything we are doing, because we are proud of it. Though we would no longer consider ourselves naive, we have always sought counsel from those who know much more. We have never claimed a desire to “save Africa,” but, instead, an intent to inspire Western youth to “do more than just watch.” And in Central Africa, focus on locally-led long-term development programs that enable children to take responsibility for their own futures and the futures of their countries. Our programs are carefully researched and developed initiatives by incredible members of the local community that address the need for quality education, mentorship, the redevelopment of schools, resettlement from the camps, and rehabilitation from war - and if you know anyone who has been there to see it first hand, there is no doubt they will concur. Also, we have invited you to join us on LRACrisisTracker.com, which we established as a way to bring you near real-time reports from the ground, making available to the public the same information received by humanitarians working on the ground.
But, credibility in the eyes of policymakers, fellow non-profit workers, LRA-affected communities, and YOU is our most important asset, so we would like to encourage you, if you have critiques, to get specific: find facts, dig deeper, and we’ll gladly continue the conversation from there. If encountering something you disagree with, suggest an alternative to what we are doing- and we will absolutely take heed. If it’s a matter of opinion, taste, humor, or style: we apologize, and will have to agree to disagree. As the poet Ke$ha says, “we are who we are.”
Let's focus on what matters, and what we DO agree on: Joseph Kony needs to be stopped. And when that happens, peace is the limit. This is the beautiful beginning of an ending that is just the beginning. We are defending tomorrow. And it’s hopeful.
This article appears courtesy of Invisible Children and is published with their approval. It is a direct response to:
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