The Long Riders' Guild

Neil Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps, asked to suspend charity’s logistical support for race

Mr. Keny-Guyer, in a recent interview with journalist, Bija Gutoff, you were quoted as saying, “We want people to think outside the box, to take risks.”

While your spirit of leadership is to be commended, the Long Riders’ Guild does not believe you intended that philosophy to include the active logistical support, by your employees in Scotland and Mongolia, of the world’s most highly condemned equestrian event.

The horse race being organized in Mongolia would not have occurred without the eager assistance of Mercy Corps employees.

When asked if this partnership of participation meant that Mercy Corps was in the horse racing business, Jennifer Adams, the Event Development Coordinator at Mercy Corps, European Headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland answered, “I guess you could say that.”

Anderson, and Project Director of Mercy Corps’ Civil Society in Mongolia. Ms. U. Mandal, confirmed that Mercy Corps assisted the race organizers by enlisting 800 horses, as well as the assistance of their owners, twenty-five Mongol herder families.

While neither Mercy Corps spokeswoman could verify that the Mongolian national government had been informed and asked to authorize the event, they corroborated that the herder families were already participants in the Mercy Corps program, RASP.

Jennifer Adams said that while Mercy Corps was receiving £25,000, roughly $40,755, in guaranteed “donations” from the contestants, she could only state that the Mongolian herders would receive “a fair amount” in exchange for putting their horses at risk.  

There are very disturbing consequences linked to these revelations, including a concern that Mercy Corps is exploiting the very people they have been entrusted to protect, by engaging their services in what many mounted leaders consider to be an act of equestrian colonialism.

Furthermore, though the contestants in the race are being told they are engaged in voluntary fund raising for your charity, that in fact may not be true. The race organizers have instituted a policy which states that if a rider doesn’t pay Mercy Corps a minimum of £1,000, then that contestant will not be allowed to ride.  That’s a fee, Mr. Keny-Guyer, not a donation.  A donation is a voluntary gift, a fee is a charge for services rendered.

Dominic Graham, Mercy Corps' Director in Mongolia, was quoted on your charity’s website as saying, “Before Mercy Corps begins any new project or activity, we first engage in a careful assessment of local challenges, opportunities and possible solutions.”

Yet that critical rule seems to have been overlooked in the case of the Mongol Derby, touted by the race organizer as the “biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet.”

In an email dated, June 17th, Adams advised the Guild that you were not directly aware of the equestrian events being undertaken in your charity’s name in Mongolia.

“I wouldn’t discuss this event with Neil as it is all dealt with through the European Headquarters based in Edinburgh, therefore our sister office in the US is not involved at all,” she wrote.

The charity you represent is noted for supporting rural communities in Mongolia meet their economic and social needs. However, the people in the outside world who are asked to support such endeavors are less motivated to donate to an organisation suffering from mission drift, especially if they suspect that a bond of trust has been violated. The public will forsake donations if social justice is perceived to be lacking.

If we take on a position of prominence in an organisation, Mr. Keny-Guyer, we have an obligation to behave correctly and serve as a role model. That is why the Long Riders’ Guild is asking you to restore the confidence of your donors worldwide by ordering your employees to cease assisting the organization of this unethical equestrian event and by issuing an immediate public statement which leaves no doubt that Mercy Corps is protecting, not exploiting, the Mongolian people.

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