Interactive | NGOs: Global Change Agents or Trojan Horses for Western Hegemony?

 by Glen Wright

First published Dec 8, 2012

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Prezi transcript |NGOs Global Change Agents or Trojan Horses for Western Hegemony? NGOs: A Potted History WWI Today WWII ’50s-’60s ’60s-’70s Post Cold War NGOs gain prominence repairing Europe Focus on Third World development and modernisation The ‘self-help’ era The ‘New Policy Agenda’ Empowerment Conscience raising Advocacy Utilises Good governance Democracy Civil society Service provision Focuses on NGO budgets have skyrocketed in this period, in part because governments see NGOs as good vehicles for delivering the New Policy Agenda. That NGOs encourage democratisation through the strengthening of civil society That NGOs are more efficient and cost-effective service providers than governments This is based on 2 assumptions: While these assumptions have been questioned, they remain central to the current development model: Socio-economic development based on neoliberalism economic liberalisation free trade open markets privatisation deregulation private sector Approximately 15-20% of aid is channeled through NGOs Thus there are more NGOs And they rely more on government funding Legitimacy Authenticity Genuineness Popular support Local participation Voluntarism (discussion, bargaining, accommodation, persuasion) “If you have your hand in another man’s pocket, you must move when he moves” African proverb Perception of illegitimacy Real illegitimacy: NGOs tied to changing focus of the donor Government NGOs… GOs! 2 US examples: Cambodia & Central America Acountability To whom? Partners Host governments Staff Ultimately they should be accountable to their beneficiaries The New Policy Agenda has distorted this: funds given to NGOs must be accounted for accountability shifts away from beneficiaries… …and to donors who want to see concrete results but development is not necessarily measurable in this way Programs are “not accountable to local people but to overseas donors who ‘review’ and ‘oversee’ the performance of NGOs according to their criteria and interests” Petras (1999) “We realised we had no end of upward accountability procedures in place, but what we really didn’t know was what difference our work was making” ActionAid Let’s people! EMPOWER e.g. NGO “political sensitization and organizing the poor for their social and economic rights” World Bank increase “capacity of poor people to become ‘clients’ who are capable of demanding and paying for goods and services” The goals of the NGO are generally subordinated, it loses its social justice focus and simply becomes an implementer of Western governments’ policy agendas ‘-isation’ bureaucratisation homogenisation corporatisation technicisation in short, NGOs often become sterile, unrepresentative and embedded in a way of thinking that makes no sense in the development context they are in The technical and bureaucratic nature of NGOs has stifled the mix of cultures and ideas thought to be necessary to create genuine social change Context and diversity are eradicated in favour of Western methods Thus small African community organisations talk of log frames and SWOT analysis (Wallace 2004), while a rural support program in India tracks 89 different indicators (Ebrahim 2003) Just as colonists saw diversity as an impediment to rule, the same governments now push neoliberalism through NGOs As NGOs become unwieldy bureaucratic machines, elites and professionals are drafted in to run them There is often a big gap between the perspective of such professionals and the beneficiaries the NGOs seek to assist NGO/Western donors opinion is dictated from above, rather than the NGO working with beneficiaries to plan according to need Donors want results, they set the agenda: ‘corporatise or die’ (Brinkerhoff 2007) “hundred of individuals sit in front of PCs exchanging manifestos, proposals and international conferences. Then they meet in well-furnished conference halls to discuss the latest struggles” Petras (1999) “development NGO activists, supported by international funding… can be found in the best restaurants on any day of the week” Lehr-Lehnardt (2005) Providing Services Displacing Governments New Policy Agenda = shift to service provision Rather than helping the state to build institutional capacity, donors fund private actors to provide basic services in developing countries This neoliberal preference for a ‘small state’ thereby becomes self perpetuating Rewrites the social contract between government and citizen – ‘franchise states’ NGOs ‘At the end of history’ NGOs tend to reflect their home culture and donor preferences We assume that we are at the end of history, i.e. that our current socio-economic paradigm is inevitable But it isn’t NGOs take this with them to the development context They presumably mean well, but simply assume the inevitability of our system and fail to consider their role in perpetuating the West’s paradigm for the structuring of societies and economies. What is their role? How do NGOs perpetuate this view? “[neoliberalism] has been created by people with a purpose… it is a totally artificial construct” George (1999) Ameliorating the worst effects of the imposition of neoliberalism upon developing countries Diffusing popular social movements that rally against this imposition: ‘“NGO-izaton” (Bendana, 2006) NGOs are fatalistic and assume that “nothing significant or structural can be changed” Murphy (2000) NGOs are an ‘indicator species’: “the greater the devastation caused by neo-liberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs”! Roy (2004) Western governments push neoliberal policies on developing nations (structural adjustment) They then provide increased aid in areas where this hits hardest An influx of aid, “mostly from the core capitalist countries and international financial institutions… flow[s] into countries alongside… Northern NGOs” (McKinley 2003) Western NGOs enter civil society and assume control over popular movements As these movements have arisen and united around claims for rights and democracy, iNGOs have emerged to program the new era (Rajagopal 2003) NGOs choose which voices are ‘legitimate’ and channel them through the avenues acceptable to the Western world When these social movements don’t accord with neoliberal thinking, they don’t receive support (Pratt et al. 2006) Local movements adopt the NGOs’ technical and managerial frameworks (Kamat 2004) Social movements are either crippled or de-radicalised; education and empowerment programmes that seek to question the dynamics of power and inequality are abandoned In order to challenge the idea that neoliberalism is the only way, ideas need to be able to develop and be discussed and debated Some NGOs allow development to homogenise and corporatise In many cases, NGOs simply reinforce the Western way as the only way; further promoting Western hegemony While many believe that neoliberalism is inevitable and that NGOs must work within these constraints, NGOs can only be true agents of change if they do not allow a Western viewpoint to constrain them NGOs “do not have to be cogs in the machine” (Murphy 2000) Legitimacy Accountability Conceptions of empowerment ‘isation Service provision/displacement of government NGOs and hegemony Contents! Good reads! American Enterprise Institute (2003) ‘We’re Not from the Government, but We’re Here to Help You. Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few’ Bendana (2006) ‘‘NGOs and Social Movements: A North/South Divide?’’, Civil Society and Social Movements Programme Paper No. 22 Brinkerhoff (2007) ‘Corporatization of the Nonprofit Sector and NGOs: Trends and Issues’, NGOs, International Security, and Global Governance (conference) Ebrahim (2003) NGOs and Organizational Change: Discourse, Reporting, and Learning (Cambridge University Press) Edwards and Hulme (1998) ‘Too close for comfort? The impact of official aid on nongovernmental organizations’, World Development 24 (6) George (1999) ‘A Short History of Neo-liberalism: Twenty Years of Elite Economics and Emerging Opportunities for Structural Change’, Conference on Economic Sovereignty in a Globalising World Lehr-Lehnhardt (2005) ‘NGO Legitimacy: Reassessing Democracy, Accountability and Transparency’, Cornell Law School LLM Papers No. 6 Odinkalu (1999) ‘Why more Africans don’t use human rights language’, Human Rights Dialogue 2(1) Petras (1999) ‘NGOs: in the service of imperialism’,Journal of Contemporary Asia 29(4) Rajagopal (ed.)(2003) ‘‘Completing a full circle: democracy and the discontent of development’’, International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge University Press) Srinivas (2009) ‘Against NGOs? A critical perspective on nongovernmental action’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 38(4) Wallace (2004) ‘NGO dilemmas: Trojan horses for global Hegemony’, in Pantich and Leys (eds.)The Socialist Register 2004: The New Imperial Challenge (Merlin Press) Wright (2012) ‘NGOs and Western hegemony: causes for concern and ideas for change’ Development in Practice 22(1) Yudelman (1987) ‘The integration of women into development projects: observations on the NGO experience in general and in Latin America in particular’, World Development 15 Thanks! ‘Structural adjustment’ Glen Wright, UNSW, 7 December 2012

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