NGOs are facing a backlash globally
Sri Lanka during the war years bore the brunt of the global
phenomenon of the growth and proliferation of the so-called
Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). The secessionist war provided the
opportunity for international NGOs to establish themselves in the
country and to forcefully intervene in national affairs under the guise
of humanitarian and anti-corruption activities and purported rural
Behind the scenes the NGOs were the ‘eyes and ears’ of the mythical
‘international community’ made up of just a few western governments and
the United Nations (UN) organs controlled by them. They fed the western
corporate media and western governments with manufactured news,
analyses, and ‘advice’ that were designed to improve the prospects of
dividing the country through international intervention.
Naturally, the NGOs resented the end of the war for the loss of
opportunity, power and influence they had to suffer. Founded on their
collective assessment that the current Sri Lankan government is
politically too strong, and too popular for a developing country such as
Sri Lanka, they are currently trying to undermine the government and the
Sri Lankan nation through sponsorship of, and participation in,
‘protests’ on largely contrived issues. Their underlying concern is that
the government’s vision of a truly independent Sri Lanka could, if
copied by other developing nations, spell trouble for them and their
backers at a global scale.
The purpose here is to throw some light on the NGO modes of operation
globally and in Sri Lanka, with a view to place their involvement within
the broader framework of the global growth and proliferation of the NGO
‘virus’ over the last four decades. The world is now ‘waking up’ to
their nefarious activities, and is taking steps to curb their business
through the introduction of new legislation, and censure and expulsion.
NGOs are not NGOs at all
Cutting through the NGO web of conspiracy that began to inflict the
world since the mid nineteen seventies demands skills in deciphering the
deceptive use of language: from the very beginning, the NGO movement
stole the terminology of the Marxists such as “solidarity”, “people
power,” “grass roots empowerment” and “gender equality” for camouflaging
their operations and sloganeering.
The “NGO” label itself is the best example of deceptive nomenclature
they adopted: in reality NGOs are not ‘non-governmental’ organisations
at all as the name implies: they receive funding from foreign
governments, in addition to the vast amounts of funding they receive
from multi-national corporations (MNCs), international money lenders and
corporate-funded private Foundations.
Leading international NGOs such as World Vision, CARE, Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF) and Oxfam receive 80 – 90 per cent of their income from
western government sources, the dubious Soros, Rockefeller and Ford
Foundations, and the EU. But they have successfully spread the myth that
they are “non-governmental”.
Contrary to their rhetoric about “grassroots” involvement, most NGOs
are located in posh offices in urban areas, do not have a membership
base, and are run by a self-appointed core management team with
permanent tenure and absolute control while drawing lucrative salaries
and enjoying extensive perks. In structural and operational terms, they
are undemocratically operated entities only accountable to the foreign
The NGOs’ claim to be representing “civil society” obscures the
existence of divided ‘classes’ of people in civil society, making it
impossible for any ‘one’ group, other than established political
parties, to meaningfully represent significant numbers of people in
civil society. But they present themselves individually and collectively
as civil society.
The term “solidarity” the NGOs have stolen from Marxists essentially
means, in their context, channelling foreign aid to designated groups
through mechanisms that resemble nineteenth century Christian missionary
activity. This approach is totally alien to the original Marxist concept
which meant solidarity within oppressed groups (women and people of
colour) for common action against their foreign and domestic exploiters.
NGOs on the other hand serve the neo-liberal aim of pulverising such
groups to be manipulated to serve their interests.
Such deceptive use of language by the NGO movement helped them hide
the real nature of the activities they were engaged in for several
NGOs have created a new elite and shadow governments
NGOs world-wide have become the vehicle for a select group amongst
the ambitious intellectuals, academics, lawyers and other professionals
as well as journalists in developing countries to earn exorbitantly high
incomes in hard currency, provided they are prepared collaborate with
foreign governments and intelligence agencies to carry out their ‘dirty
work”. Such participation has enabled the collaborators to reach a new
elite status, distinct from that is defined by inherited wealth or high
level government jobs, and from the “nouveau riche”.
Professor James Petras brands the new class as a “neo-comprador”
group that trade in domestic poverty for personal benefit. Lacking solid
organic support within their native societies, this new petty bourgeois
thrives on international endorsement and rewards received in return for
acting as the new viceroys who ensure conformity with the goals, values
and ideology of the donors.
NGOs play an insidious political role in developing countries: they
enter into collaborative relations with foreign neo-liberal elites and
serve their agenda of criticising national governments of human rights
violations and other crimes against humanity on flimsy grounds, as
required by their masters. The humanitarian NGOs never denounce the free
market policies of the IMF or the World Bank that impoverish the masses
in their home countries.
Through such collaborations, NGOs foster a new type of cultural and
economic colonialism in that the objectives of the programs they
implement are restricted to the priorities of the Western funding
groups; The projects are never voted on but ‘sold’ to the communities
they purport to serve. The only accountability the NGOs display is to
overseas financiers who oversee and review their performance according
to objectives and criteria set down by foreign governments.
The most sinister aspect of NGO activity is that they compete with
elected local leaders and other socio-political movements in developing
countries for influence among the people, with particular emphasis on
ethnic and other minorities, the poor, and women. They intervene in the
domestic politics under the guise of forming ‘solidarity’ with
minorities, clamouring for international intervention in conflict
Through these processes NGOs undermine democracy in developing
countries by taking social programs and development projects out of the
hands of elected local leaders, creating dependency on non-elected
anointed local operatives of foreign governments. During any internecine
conflict, they campaign for the division of countries under the pretext
The NGO ideology depends heavily on identity politics, engaging in
the dishonest polemic that poverty in developing countries is always
caused by ‘exclusion’ and ‘gender or racial discrimination’ by their
national governments. They routinely choose to ignore the obvious fact
that poverty in poor countries cuts through racial, ethnic and gender
identities. NGOs totally ignore the structural conditions of the
ruthless globalised market economy, IMF privatisations and MNCs due to
the handsome payments they receive from such free market operators.
The feminist NGOs’ fight for gender equality is confined to the
micro-world of the household, and only addresses humdrum social and
cultural issues such as patriarchy, sharing of domestic workload, family
planning and divorce, portraying the equally exploited and impoverished
male peasant the villain of the piece.
Transparency International, the model NGO
No other NGO embodies the above characteristics than the
international NGO Transparency International (TI). Created by a person
named Peter Eigen, a World Bank official who worked to create the
organisational infrastructure for Globalisation, the expressed objective
of TI is to ‘fight against corruption at the national level’. However,
its funding comes from MNCs renowned for bribery and corruption in the
developing world, and Western ‘development agencies’ renowned for
The disgraced former US energy company Enron, Shell Oil, which admits
to have fuelled corruption in Nigeria, and the pharmaceutical company
Pfizer, who were ordered to pay billions of dollars in damages for their
involvement in the largest health care fraud in the history of the US
are some of the MNC financiers of TI. The Ronald Regan created notorious
CIA front organisation, National Endowment for Democracy, with a record
of attempting to destabilise legitimate elected governments in the
developing world is also a big donor to TI.
TI’s Managing Director Cobus de Swardt is a former chair of the World
Economic Forum (WEF). De Swardt replaced David Nussbaum who holds
degrees in theology from Cambridge, and is an accountant with a
background in venture capital firms. Previously he was a Deputy Chief
Executive of Oxfam.
An intriguing aspect of TI’s existence is its total focus on the
developing world, and more particularly on the Middle East; a large
study it sponsored to evaluate the “systems of integrity” in a selection
of countries in the Middle East did not include Israel, but included the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA), just a territory under Israeli
TI also puts out a global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)
annually. The 2012 CPI deems more than two-thirds of the countries
surveyed, predominantly the developing countries, as “very corrupt”.
Only 53 of 176 countries surveyed attained a “passing grade” of 50 out
of 100, with Scandinavia sweeping the board as usual, and not
surprisingly, Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan share the lower end.
The UK and the US managed the 18th and 19th standings respectively with
China pushed down to the 80th place. Within the EU, sovereign debt
struggler Greece was the “worst performer”.
A cursory look at the methodology adopted by TI in its ranking of
corrupt countries shows the fraudulent nature of the exercise: the Index
is an indicator of “perceptions” and TI is not being transparent about
on ‘whose’ perceptions they base their rankings. Data is supposedly
sourced from “independent institutions specialising in governance and
business climate analysis” and the raw data or information on the
sources is not readily available. Another hidden feature of the Index is
that it only measure perceptions of corruption in the ‘public sector’.
Reasons for not focusing on corruption in the private sector are not
The ridiculous nature of this methodology is made patently clear by
the results of a recent survey of 500 financial services professionals,
conducted by the US market researcher Populus. They reported that nearly
25 percent of those surveyed believed that financial services
professionals may “need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct in
order to be successful”. Nearly 35 percent felt “pressured by bonus or
compensation plans to violate the law or engage in unethical conduct.
The true objectives behind the totally disingenuous TI corruption
prevention campaigns and the totally meaningless nature of the
‘pseudoscience’ behind concepts such as National Integrity System and
CPI are now beginning to attract the attention of genuine university
academics, exposing the MNC serving purpose of CPI.
NGOs and TI are facing a Backlash
After nearly forty years of uncontrolled growth and increasing levels
of influence in international affairs, and domestic affairs of
developing countries, the NGOs are beginning to get their ‘just
Russian authorities have been concerned for some time about the
thousands of NGOs using foreign funding to foment political unrest in
their country: in 2006, The Russian security service, the FSB, broadcast
a film showing four British spies, working as diplomats, and a Russian
national attached to the human rights NGO ‘Moscow Helsinki Group’
downloading classified data from a transmitter hidden inside a fake rock
left on a Moscow street.
In 2011, the head of the FSB accused US and other foreign
intelligence services of using NGOs to spy on Russia and foment
political upheaval in ex-Soviet republics. President Putin alleged that
protests surrounding his re-election were orchestrated by US-funded NGOs
via cash transfers from the US State Department.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) was expelled from
Russia with effect from 1 October 2012 for “meddling in politics”
through its grants. The termination of the USAID’s work in Russia is
bound to seriously harm the operations of the election monitoring NGO
‘Golos’ and Russia’s largest human rights group, ‘Memorial’. Russia has
also given UNICEF until Dec 31 to conclude its projects in Russia
because Moscow “no longer requires the services of the international
As of November 21, 2012, NGOs in Russia that receive finances from
abroad and engage in political activities, defined as activities aimed
at influencing the decisions of government, will be treated as Agents,
and espionage statues of the Russian Criminal Code have been
In addition, all receipts over $7,000 from abroad for use by Russian
NGOs will need to be reported to the “Committee for Corruption and
President Vladimir Putin also proposed bringing NGOs under closer
government supervision, with the introduction of a set of criteria for
evaluating the quality of services provided by them, as well as a public
ratings system, to be finalised by April 1, 2013.Russiainsists that the
new laws are about bringing order to the jungle of Russian NGOs and
enforcing rules of financial transparency.
On November 21, following the new NGO laws coming into force,the
Russian branch of TI was picketed by youth groups, with signs and
slogans that urged it to register as a “foreign agent.” According to a
public opinion survey conducted in July 2012, 64 percent of Russians
expressed the view that it is unacceptable in the political life of a
country to have NGOs financed from abroad.
It is happening in other countries too: in March 2012, the U.A.E.
shut down the local office of the US based NGO National Democratic
Institute, and the Gallup Poll Centre, and the German think tank
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. These expulsions from the Gulf came after
these groups and other human rights and pro-democracy NGOs were expelled
from Egypt last year following the Spring.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous
leader in its 500 year history, accused some of the NGOs in his country
of being “the fifth column of espionage”. According to journalist Eva
Golinger, USAID poured at least $ 85m into destabilising the Bolivian
government by training separatists from the predominantly white Santa
Cruz district and to court the Indigenous communities through the
environmental NGOs. In June 2012, foreign ministers of the Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) bloc countries passed a
resolution that: “USAID openly meddles in sovereign countries’ domestic
affairs, sponsoring NGOs and protest activities intended to destabilise
legitimate governments. USAID operates via its extensive NGO networks,
which it runs outside of the due legal framework, and also illicitly
funds media and political groups.” The resolution was signed by Bolivia,
Cuba, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
In September 2012, Pakistan expelled foreign staff of Save the
Children, due to government suspicion that they helped US spies hunting
Osama bin Laden to recruit Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor, who
helped the CIA locate bin Laden. Afridi was charged with treason for
helping the US and was sentenced to 33 years in jail.
In December 2012 Laos expelled Anne-Sophie Gindroz, the country
director of Helvetas Swiss Inter-cooperation for slandering Laos in a
letter, just prior to the 2012 “Implementation Roundtable” of donors,
accusing the government of creating a hostile environment for civil
society groups by stifling debate and freedom of association. The
government viewed Gindroz’s letter as demonstrating her explicit
rejection of the Laos’ Constitution and law, and its political system.
She was given 48 hours to leave.
In India, the crime branch of Tamil Nadu Police and CBI have filed
cases against four NGOs for violation the Foreign Contribution
Regulation Act, diverting funds meant for charity to fuel protests
against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP). A German national
with links to the NGOs was deported for assisting the agitators. The
actions came days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in an interview
to ‘Science’ magazine, accused NGOs based in the US and Scandinavia of
funding anti-KNPP protests.
These developments show that at long last, the world is beginning to
see the NGO conspiracy for what it is, and are taking remedial action.
The NGO cabal in Sri Lanka is one of the most ‘engaged’ by international
standards and may be the Sri Lankan government needs to take a careful
look at their activities and the roles of local collaborators.