Why we should consider bringing NGO’s down a few pegs

What comes to mind when the average person thinks of NGO’s? Let’s assume that the average person knows little to nothing about NGO’s, what they think when they hear the word NGO will likely be a poor country’s struggle to survive. However, under the apparent good intentions and saviour-like attitude that surrounds NGO’s there may exist a, seemingly unintended, seedy underbelly. 

NGO’s, many argue, hold every characteristic to be classified as a corporation. As such, they have their own motives of financial gain as well as robed concerns. Nonetheless, they manage to squirm their way out of public inspection purely because they profess themselves to be representatives of the people. For NGO’s to be taken seriously and to assure as close to absolute as possible, legality they need to document their spending, budgets and especially profits adequately. It seems as though, NGO’s use their charity as a fig leaf to deny us any lengthy verification of how their funds are implemented to help said civil society. This is not to say that many NGO’s intentions are not pure. However, I am not convinced that they necessarily need to be held at such high esteem. Furthermore, I am definitely against the idea, that they have so carefully preserved, that they should be exempt from thorough vetting.

fullsizeoutput_c67I emphasise the importance of thoroughly vetting NGO’s  as the increase in wealth funnelled through NGO’s is continuously said to be bringing about fraud and corruption. In fact, I argue that NGO’s should welcome closer scrutiny. However, the majority of NGO’s find this to be a sore topic, and most are wary of speaking about it. Last year, an article in The Guardian declared that the British government tip-toes around the topic of corruption in NGO’s because it makes donating money to charities seem futile and senseless. This came after the 2014 announcement that 67% of the British public believed it is pointless giving money to charities who’s names are associated with corruption. 

People also need to consider that often NGO’s are controlled, by their benefactors as opposed to the impoverished. The majority of the capital NGO’s use to put in motion their charitable enterprises are awarded to them by wealthy sponsors. These sponsors include anything from affluent companies like Apple to individuals like Mark Zuckerberg. This is where the problems come in, before a large corporation or wealthy individual has donated money, NGO’s must accommodate the opinions and requirements that said benefactor has. Usually, this involves some kind of guarantee to the benefactor that their donation will be worthwhile. This in turn may mean that NGO’s are put in a position where they are obliged to put the needs of the donor ahead of that of the people.

Another reason why I believe we shouldn’t necessarily hold NGO’s at such a high esteem is that charity at times comes at a high cost for the people. Let’s take for example food aid NGO’s, food is delivered to developing countries by wealthy nations either free or occasionally at a very low price. Why would this be a bad thing? Although this may seem like a blessing to the hungry children that seem to live in our television screens, in reality what NGO’s are doing by giving away this free food is undermining the hard work of local farmers. Hence, making it harder for farmers to sell their crops. This may not seem like a big deal, certainly when you look at it as a few unlucky farmers misfortune as the majority of the peoples good fortune. However, when you step back and look at the big picture what NGO’s are doing is further contracting the economy of countries trying their very best to develop.

This is a prime example of our innate nature as Westerners to fling money at an issue and assume it will fix itself. We need to be able to put aside these ideals that have been so deeply embedded in our heads and realise that money does not solve everything and that to actually help we need to dive deeper and search for a long term solution, like the one proposed by the Hunger Project. I am not saying that food aid is not good, in times of crisis and famine to give food aid is an absolute necessity and obligation. However, in normal circumstances there are better and less harmful ways that NGO’s could be spending their money.

All in all, although NGO’s are capable of doing a lot of great things when aiding developing countries and trying to tackle things most of us wouldn’t dare to we need deal with fundamental problems that have arisen in the international NGO community. Utilised correctly and in the right hands NGO’s would be the worlds greatest tool for tackling monumental problems such as world peace and hunger but its getting to that point that’s difficult.

References: 

  1. The Guardian. (2016) Secret aid worker: by not measuring impact NGO’s are abusing their power. [Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/19/secret-aid-worker-ngos-abusing-power-costly-evaluations
  2. The Resource Alliance. (2014) NGOs, you must talk about corruption. [Online] Available from: http://www.resource-alliance.org/ngos-you-must-talk-about-corruption/
  3. The Guardian. (2015) Does talking about corruption make it seem worse?[Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/22/corruption-global-poverty-development-politics
  4. Celebrity and Development. (2009) The Public, DFID and Support for Development – A Rapid Review. [Online] Available from:  https://celebrityanddevelopment.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/darnton-rapidreview_ad011209.pdf
  5. Toward Freemdom. (2014) Arundhati Roy: The NGO-ization of Resistance. [Online] Available from: http://www.towardfreedom.com/33-archives/globalism/3660-arundhati-roy-the-ngo-ization-of-resistance
  6. Forbes. (2016) Mark Zuckerberg Makes $1.6 Billion In A Week, Net Worth Soars To All-Time High. [Online] Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2016/10/22/mark-zuckerberg-net-worth-facebook-record/#796e43ac6067
  7. The Guardian. (2007) Does food aid do more harm than good? [Online] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2007/may/27/in1987iwasworking
  8. The Hunger Project. (2015) Rethinking the Solution to Ending World Hunger. [Online] Available from: http://www.thp.org/rethinking-solution-ending-world-hunger/
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