Sunday, 18 September 2011

Do the professional altruists making any good for humanity ?

Professional altruists brings a culture shock for any said territory. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV's, sport car and use $3000 laptops and PDA's. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and human behavior reshaper.

Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption.  They use to set a new frame and work such as  non-governmental organizations, or NGO's.

Some NGO's - like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Amnesty - genuinely contribute to enhancing welfare, to the mitigation of hunger, the furtherance of human and civil rights, or the curbing of disease. Others - usually in the guise of think tanks and lobby groups - are sometimes ideologically biased, or religiously-committed and, often, at the service of special interests.

The encroachment on state sovereignty of international law - enshrined in numerous treaties and conventions - allows NGO's to get involved in hitherto strictly domestic affairs like corruption, civil rights, the composition of the media, the penal and civil codes, environmental policies, or the allocation of economic resources and of natural endowments, such as land and water. No field of government activity is now exempt from the glare of NGO's. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner rolled into one.

Regardless of their persuasion or modus operandi, all NGO's are top heavy with entrenched, well-remunerated, extravagantly-perked bureaucracies. Opacity is typical of NGO's. Amnesty's rules prevent its officials from publicly discussing the inner workings of the organization - proposals, debates, opinions - until they have become officially voted into its Mandate. Thus, dissenting views rarely get an open hearing.

NGO's serve as long arms of their sponsoring states - gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting their interests. There is a revolving door between the staff of NGO's and government bureaucracies the world over.

Very few NGO's derive some of their income from public contributions and donations. The more substantial NGO's spend one tenth of their budget on PR and solicitation of charity. In a desperate bid to attract international attention, "The Economist", that the Red Cross felt compelled to draw up a ten point mandatory NGO code of ethics. A code of conduct was adopted in 1995. But the phenomenon recurred in Kosovo.

Large NGO's resemble multinational corporations in structure and operation. They are hierarchical, maintain large media, government lobbying, and PR departments, head-hunt, invest proceeds in professionally-managed portfolios, compete in government tenders, and own a variety of unrelated businesses - among other businesses. In this respect, NGO's are more like cults than like civic organizations.

"economic and social rights" - such as the rights to food, housing, fair wages, potable water, sanitation, and health provision. How insolvent countries are supposed to provide such munificence is conveniently overlooked.
Many NGO's promote economic causes - anti-globalization, the banning of child labor, the relaxing of intellectual property rights, or fair payment for agricultural products. Many of these causes are both worthy and sound. Alas, most NGO's lack economic expertise and inflict damage on the alleged recipients of their beneficence. NGO's are at times manipulated by - or collude with - industrial groups and political parties.

NGOs are proponents of modern Western values - democracy, women's lib, human rights, civil rights, the protection of minorities, freedom, equality. Not everyone finds this liberal menu palatable. The arrival of NGOs often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes.

. The voluntary sector is now a cancerous phenomenon. NGOs interfere in domestic politics and take sides in election campaigns. They disrupt local economies to the detriment of the impoverished populace. They impose alien religious or Western values. They justify military interventions. They maintain commercial interests which compete with indigenous manufacturers. They provoke unrest in many a place. And this is a partial list.

NGOs should be forced to democratize. Elections should be introduced on every level. All NGOs should hold "annual stakeholder meetings" and include in these gatherings representatives of the target populations of the NGOs. NGO finances should be made completely transparent and publicly accessible. New accounting standards should be developed and introduced to cope with the current pecuniary opacity and operational double-speak of NGOs.

"The best way to prevent famine today is to secure the right to free expression - so that misguided government policies can be brought to public attention and corrected before food shortages become acute." It blatantly ignored the fact that respect for human and political rights does not fend off natural disasters and disease.