Grounding ActionAid’s Tax Justice Campaigns in Nigeria

Authors: Ma Josep Cascant-Sempere
Publisher: Institute of Social Studies, The Hague
Date: April 2022

Abstract:

Development and Change Volume 53, Issue3

Integrating the demands raised by those most affected by poverty into international campaigns is important for safeguarding ethical integrity and encouraging mobilization. This article examines the case of the international non-governmental organization (INGO) ActionAid, which managed, although not without challenges, to integrate the tax complaints of market traders — such as multiple taxation — into its international tax justice campaign in Nigeria. The case provides an example of an INGO-driven campaign that created and nurtured bottom-up processes. The author argues that more could have been done to channel additional claims from traders — such as steep tax increases and tax harassment — and to support their actions, their visits and letters to the government, and their tax strikes. Overall, however, the INGO retained relevance by identifying campaign frames and targets at local, national and international levels while ensuring the campaign remained unified. The article contributes to debates about tokenism in international advocacy and argues that the use of social movement theory enriches the international advocacy literature as it promotes an understanding of campaigning processes. However, social movement theory still proves insufficient to fully understand political voice. Theories about hidden forms of resistance play a complementary role, unveiling more concealed political action, especially in repressive settings or contexts with weak civil societies.