Black and White of NGO’s

By Erick San Juan

NGOsAt this morning’s Tuesday Club fellowship of top level media practitioners at Edsa Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City, the talk is how genius scammers are using NGO’s to siphon government funds by conniving with corrupt government functionaries. The talk is how some NGO leaders connived in toppling governments of Marcos, Estrada and Arroyo and becoming cabinet secretaries as success fees. These NGO’s (non-government organization) and PO(people’s organization) rally the people in disguise as for social change. They have perfected the infiltration at the grassroot level. One example was the CODE NGO where some of its leaders were behind the so called Hyatt 10 which almost ousted former President Gloria Arroyo. Up to now there’s no accounting of the P35 billion that was supposed to be returned to the government coffers.

Ka Maning Almario, a veteran auditor mailed me some information about NGO’s. Sam Vaknin site was his source of information. To quote- “NGO’s arrival portends rising local prices and a culture shock. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV’s, sport $3000 laptops and PDA’s. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists. They are parasites who feed off natural and manmade disasters, mismanagement, conflict, and strife. Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption. They are the non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.”

“Some NGOs – like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Amnesty – genuinely contribute to enhancing welfare, to the mitigation of hunger, the furtherance of human and civil rights, or the curbing of disease. Others – usually in the guise of think tanks and lobby groups – are sometimes ideologically biased, or religiously-committed and, often, at the service of special interests.

NGOs – such as the International Crisis Group – have openly interfered on behalf of the opposition in several parliamentary elections in Macedonia. Other NGOs have done so in Belarus and Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Israel, Nigeria and Thailand, Slovakia and Hungary – and even in Western, rich, countries including the USA, Canada, Germany, and Belgium.

The encroachment on state sovereignty of international law – enshrined in numerous treaties and conventions – allows NGOs to get involved in hitherto strictly domestic affairs like corruption, civil rights, the composition of the media, the penal and civil codes, environmental policies, or the allocation of economic resources and of natural endowments, such as land and water. No field of government activity is now exempt from the glare of NGOs. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner rolled into one. Regardless of their persuasion or modus operandi, all NGOs are top heavy with entrenched, well-remunerated, extravagantly-perked bureaucracies. Opacity is typical of NGOs. Amnesty’s rules prevent its officials from publicly discussing the inner workings of the organization – proposals, debates, opinions – until they have become officially voted into its Mandate. Thus, dissenting views rarely get an open hearing.

Contrary to their teachings, the financing of NGOs is invariably obscure and their sponsors unknown. There’s lack of transparency.

Indeed, the bulk of the income of most non-governmental organizations, even the largest ones, comes from – usually foreign – powers. Many NGOs serve as official contractors for governments. NGOs serve as long arms of their sponsoring states – gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting their interests. There is a revolving door between the staff of NGOs and government bureaucracies the world over. The British Foreign Office finances a host of NGOs – including the fiercely “independent” Global Witness – in troubled spots, such as Angola. Many host governments accuse NGOs of – unwittingly or knowingly – serving as hotbeds of espionage. Very few NGOs derive some of their income from public contributions and donations. The more substantial NGOs spend one tenth of their budget on PR and solicitation of charity. In a desperate bid to attract international attention, so many of them lied about their projects.

All NGOs claim to be not for profit – yet, many of them possess sizable equity portfolios and abuse their position to increase the market share of firms they own. Conflicts of interest and unethical behavior abound.

Large NGOs resemble multinational corporations in structure and operation. They are hierarchical, maintain large media, government lobbying, and PR departments, head-hunt, invest proceeds in professionally-managed portfolios, compete in government tenders, and own a variety of unrelated businesses. Some NGOs are more like cults than like civic organizations.Many NGOs promote economic causes – anti-globalization, the banning of child labor, the relaxing of intellectual property rights, or fair payment for agricultural products. Many of these causes are both worthy and sound. Alas, most NGOs lack economic expertise and inflict damage on the alleged recipients of their beneficence. NGOs are at times manipulated by – or collude with – industrial groups and political parties. It is telling that the denizens of many developing countries suspect the West and its NGOs of promoting an agenda of trade protectionism. Stringent – and expensive – labor and environmental provisions in international treaties may well be a ploy to fend off imports based on cheap labor and the competition they wreak on well-ensconced domestic industries and their political stooges.

According to the Red Cross, more goes through NGOs than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.

Local businessmen, politicians, academics, and even journalists form NGOs to plug into the avalanche of Western largesse. In the process, they award themselves and their relatives with salaries, perks, and preferred access to Western goods and credits. NGOs have evolved into vast networks of patronage in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

NGOs chase disasters with a relish. More than 200 of them opened shop in the aftermath of the Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999-2000. Another 50 supplanted them during the civil unrest in Macedonia a year later. Floods, elections, earthquakes, wars – constitute the cornucopia that feed the NGOs.

NGOs are proponents of Western values – women’s lib, human rights, civil rights, the protection of minorities, freedom, equality. Not everyone finds this liberal menu palatable. The arrival of NGOs often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes.

The British government ploughs well over $30 million a year into “Proshika”, a Bangladeshi NGO. It started as a women’s education outfit and ended up as a restive and aggressive women empowerment political lobby group with budgets to rival many ministries in this impoverished, Moslem and patriarchal country.

Other NGOs – fuelled by $300 million of annual foreign infusion – evolved from humble origins to become mighty coalitions of full-time activists. NGOs like the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and the Association for Social Advancement mushroomed even as their agendas have been fully implemented and their goals exceeded. It now owns and operates 30,000 schools.

This mission creep is not unique to developing countries. As Parkinson discerned, organizations tend to self-perpetuate regardless of their proclaimed charter. Remember NATO? Human rights organizations, like Amnesty International.

As “think tanks”, NGOs issue partisan and biased reports. The International Crisis Group published a rabid attack on the then incumbent government of Macedonia, days before an election, relegating the rampant corruption of its predecessors – whom it seemed to be tacitly supporting – to a few footnotes. On at least two occasions – in its reports regarding Bosnia and Zimbabwe – ICG has recommended confrontation, the imposition of sanctions, and, if all else fails, the use of force. Though the most vocal and visible, it is far from being the only NGO that advocates “just” wars.

The ICG is a repository of former heads of state and has-been politicians and is renowned (and notorious) for its prescriptive – some say meddlesome – philosophy and tactics. “The Economist” remarked sardonically: “To say (that ICG) is ‘solving world crises’ is to risk underestimating its ambitions, if overestimating its achievements.”

“NGOs have orchestrated the violent showdown during the trade talks in Seattle in 1999 and its repeat performances throughout the world. The World Bank was so intimidated by the riotous invasion of its premises in the NGO-choreographed “Fifty Years is Enough” campaign of 1994, that it now employs dozens of NGO activists and let NGOs determine many of its policies.

NGO activists have joined the armed – though mostly peaceful – rebels of the Chiapas region in Mexico. Norwegian NGOs sent members to forcibly board whaling ships. In the USA, anti-abortion activists have murdered doctors. In Britain, animal rights zealots have both assassinated experimental scientists and wrecked property.
Birth control NGOs carry out mass sterilizations in poor countries, financed by rich country governments in a bid to stem immigration. NGOs buy slaves in Sudan thus encouraging the practice of slave hunting throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Other NGOs actively collaborate with ‘rebel’ armies – a euphemism for terrorists.

NGOs lack a synoptic view and their work often undermines efforts by international organizations such as the UNHCR and by governments. Poorly-paid local officials have to contend with crumbling budgets as the funds are diverted to rich expatriates doing the same job for a multiple of the cost and with inexhaustible hubris.
This is not conducive to happy co-existence between foreign do-gooders and indigenous governments. Sometimes NGOs seem to be an ingenious ploy to solve Western unemployment at the expense of down-trodden natives. This is a misperception driven by envy and avarice.

But it is still powerful enough to foster resentment and worse. NGOs are on the verge of provoking a ruinous backlash against them in their countries of destination. That would be a pity. Some of them are doing indispensable work. If only they were a wee more sensitive and somewhat less ostentatious. But then they wouldn’t be NGOs, would they?”

Operating in the countries of Southeast Asia, some NGO’s are funded by USAID which many believe is associated with US intelligence agencies which often have close contact to local radicals and opposition. Despite the declared humanitarian nature of their activities, they actively influence the political situation in several nations including street protests. The ‘Arab Spring’ in the Middle East was instigated through NGO’s. Protests in Thailand, in Venezuela and in Ukraine according to several news reports were inspired by PO’s and NGO’s. These NGO’s have been successful in using the internet through the Twitter, You Tube and Facebook to spread anti-government propaganda, disinformation, etc. These social networks were used to mold public opinion in the process.

Foreign funded NGO’s are regulated in several countries like China, Laos and Cambodia allegedly due to perceived shady financial assistance to the local opposition and to neutralize governments that cannot be dictated by big foreign powers.

Our National Security Council should study this concept or safety valve if the government really wants to move on without fear or favor. If other nations have the political will and understanding and wary of these facts, why not us? Lets take the necessary measures to monitor and restrict their activities that contradict our national interests. Especially now that our nation is on the verge of turbulence due to too much corruption being exposed.


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