Paul.Treanor on Wed, 4 Jun 1997 20:54:57 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Why NGOs are wrong (fwd)

To: gabor@WELL.COM
Subject: Why NGOs are wrong

About the mail on NGOs which reached GEOPOL via nettime and the Hungary 

The basic defect of NGOs are these:

1] Most NGOs are national, and operate within one state and culture. 
Their membership is disproportionately from the university-educated 
middle class within each nation state (that often excludes ethnic 
minorities). NGOs are elite organisations.

2] There is a hierarchy of NGOs: almost all the political influence is 
concentrated in the small number in international NGOs - INGOs. 
(Greenpeace and Amnesty are the best known). Their membership comes from 
the elite within the first elite - usually English speaking.

3] NGO’s in western countries are in transition to business entreprises. 
(In the case of Greenpeace, for example, that transition is complete.) 
They operate increasingly as firms, seeking market share. The internal 
structure is that of a business entreprise: the fact that directors of 
INGOs look like directors of businesses is a sympton of that, but 
obviously not the cause.

4] NGOs therefore have collective interests. They must logically defend 
their operational enviroment, just as business entreprises must defend 
the free market. The concept of Civil Society is the result. De facto, 
Civil Society means NGOs, citizens groups and so on - it is a society of 
organisations, not individuals. Politically, NGOs promote Civil Society 
in the same way that business organisations promote the Free Market. (The 
Soros Foundation is good at combining both).

5] This defence of collective interests extends to the selection of 
personel. Just as business logically excludes opponents of the free 
market, NGOs discriminate against their opponents (although their is no 
organised opposition in the same way as opposition to the free market). 
In this way NGOs cut themselves off from criticism, and become a 
self-selecting elite, in the same way as the “business community”

6] NGOs are not subject to outside control. This is not a problem, so 
long as they do not impose their activity on others - but by definition 
they try to influence state and society.

7] In summary, NGOs are a section of the population, trying to impose a 
social model on the rest of the population - within states and at global 

Paul Treanor

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