Fwd: U.S. Conservatives Take Aim at NGOs

Christopher Carrico ccarrico at temple.edu
Thu Jul 10 18:42:43 MDT 2003

>U.S. Conservatives Take Aim at NGOs
>Jim Lobe, OneWorld U.S.
>WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12 (OneWorld) - While non-
>organizations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International,
Greenpeace, and
>Oxfam have made significant contributions to human rights,
>environment, and development, they are using their growing
>and power to pursue a "liberal" agenda at the international
level that
>threatens U.S. sovereignty and free-market capitalism.
>That was the message delivered by a series of speakers at
an all-day
>conference, "Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing
Power of an
>Unelected Few," Wednesday sponsored by the American
Enterprise (news -
>web sites) Institute (AEI), a Washington think tank that
has been
>particularly influential with the Bush administration.
>"NGOs have created their own rules and regulations and
demanded that
>governments and corporations abide by those rules,"
according to AEI and
>the conference co- sponsor, the rightist Institute of
Public Affairs of
>Australia. "Politicians and corporate leaders are often
forced to
>respond to the NGO media machine, and the resources of
taxpayers and
>shareholders are used in support of ends they did not
>"The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal
democracies has
>the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional
>democracies, as well as the effectiveness of credible
NGOs," they warned.
>To shed more light on NGOs, AEI announced the launch of a
new website,
>NGOWatch.org (www.ngowatch.org), that will provide
information about
>their operations, funding sources and political agendas.
Brian Hook of
>the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies,
which is
>co-sponsoring the site, said it will cover those NGOs "with
the most
>influence in international affairs."
>NGOs, which have proliferated at the local level since the
>1980s--particularly in developing countries--have become
major players
>at the United Nations (news - web sites) and other
>agencies, such as the World Bank (news - web sites), which
>traditionally dealt only with governments. Several thousand
NGOs now
>enjoy "consultative status" at the UN, which entitles them
>participate in some debates, while their image as
representatives of
>"global civil society" has endowed them with a moral and
>legitimacy, which they have used as leverage in dealing
with the other
>major global actors, governments and corporations.
>But, unlike corporations and governments, they are largely
>and their internal processes often lack transparency and
>according to their critics and even to many NGOs
themselves. Indeed, a
>UN commission on civil society chaired by former Brazilian
(news - web
>sites) President Henrique Cardoso is expected to recommend
the adoption
>of guidelines or other mechanisms to ensure that NGOs
recognized by the
>UN are transparent and accountable.
>To the groups who gathered at AEI Wednesday, however,
international NGOs
>raise concerns that go far beyond transparency and
accountability. To
>them, the international NGOs are pursuing a leftist
or "liberal" agenda
>that favors "global governance" and other notions that are
also promoted
>by the United Nations and other multilateral agencies.
>"This is inherently a project that is tilted to the left,"
according to
>Cornell University government professor Jeremy Rabkin, who
argued that
>NGOs are using the multilateral system to try to regulate
>and governments.
>"NGOs want to be players. They want to be regulators,"
agreed IPA's Gary
>Johns. He cited NGO lobbying for the adoption of codes of
conduct for
>multinational corporations. "Before long, you have a degree
>regulation that no one thought was possible."
>In fact, according to George Washington University
political science
>professor Jarol Manheim, international NGOs are pursuing "a
new and
>pervasive form of conflict" against corporations which he
>"Biz-war," the title of his forthcoming book. NGOs, for
example, work
>with sympathetic institutional investors, such as union and
>pension funds, to sponsor shareholder resolutions demanding
>corporations adopt more environment- or human-rights-
friendly policies.
>Such efforts, he said, should be seen as "part of a larger,
>anti-corporate campaign."
>This was echoed by John Entine, an AEI adjunct fellow, who
called the
>"social investing" movement, as it is called, a "wolf in
>clothing. "Anti-free market NGOs under the guise of
corporate reform are
>extending their reach into the boardrooms of corporations,"
he said. "In
>many cases, naive corporate reformers, within corporations
and in
>government, are welcoming them."
>Moreover, the strategy is working. "Big shareholders are
>embarrassed to be associated with some companies," said
Manheim, who
>noted that companies are increasingly using NGOs as
consultants or even
>hiring former NGO officials to protect themselves against
>publicity or consumer boycotts.
>On the global political front, international NGOs, which
led the fight
>for the global ban on anti- personnel mines, the Kyoto
Protocol (news -
>web sites) to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, and the treaty
>the International Criminal Court (ICC), are pursuing
a "liberal
>internationalist" vision that is very much at odds with
that of the Bush
>administration, according to American University law
professor Kenneth
>These efforts are intended in part to further a world order
based on
>"global governance" and the rule of international law,
rather than one
>based on the sovereignty of democratic nation states. The
leaders of
>international NGOs are part of a culture that "wants to
constrain the
>United States" and whose ideas about world order "are not
congenial to
>the ideas of this administration," according to Anderson.
>Several speakers praised the work of NGOs in providing
services and
>humanitarian aid to needy people in developing countries
but stressed
>that, at the international policy level, much of what they
did actually
>hurt the intended beneficiaries. Roger Bate, director of
Africa Fighting
>Malaria, cited NGOs' opposition to the use of DDT to fight
malaria and
>to the delivery of genetically-modified maize in southern
Africa as
>examples of policies which amounted to "eco- imperialism"
and showed a
>"callous disregard for human life."
>"NGOs definitely provide benefits in the short run, but in
the long run,
>their influence is almost always malign," he said.
>Mike Nahan, IPA's executive director, charged that
international NGOs
>supported secession movements in East Timor (news - web
sites) and Aceh,
>Indonesia; put Papua New Guinea "on the road to bankruptcy"
by forcing
>out the mining industry; and is "destroying civil society
in many of
>these countries."

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