Friday, December 02, 2005

Is the Catholic Church a Colonialist NGO? (article from Daily Mirror-Harare)

[Le Requin canadien sent the article below as I was buzzing around Krakow trying to figure out where I was. It’s like Berkeley or SF State or Chico St in 1969 here–but without the political foment, and every other building is a Catholic Church.

For some time it’s been obvious that most of the First and Second Worlds have so internalized Feudalism--most folks today live in some Kingdom or other—the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Nod (where I hung out a lot back in the day—you get there by taking route 26 directly into the mainline . . . sorry, too hip!), the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Elvis or the Magic Kingdom (Krakow seems like the latest Disney installation: Christian Anti-Communist Land)—so enchanted with Lords and Ladies and Kings and Princes is a greater part of the world that the mere mention of the socio-economic irrationality of the current Order (in Poland there's 40% unemployment in agriculture, in the countryside people run around collecting discarded coal from great waste heaps in order to cook or heat their houses, while here in Krakow, Soros’ overprivileged Spawn surfs the internet, studies philosophy and does theatre, all in the happy delusion that History began (or ended) in 1989—or maybe at 2:30 pm yesterday) gets you tagged with a retro-nutsoid heretic's jacket.

But trust the Requin to find the critique all the way down in Africa. The NGOs are the New Colonialists. And what bigger or more primal NGO than the Catholic Church?

They say Communism began its collapse right here in Poland—even before the Solidarity strike of 1980. When in the Summer of 1979 the recently named Pope John Paul II, formerly the Bishop of Krakow, returned home to Poland, he brought out 3-4 million people—totally knocking the Communist government’s collective dick in the dirt. During his two masses, in Warsaw, first, then in Krakow’s Blonie fields, millions of Poles were screaming ‘We Want God!’ Kinda like, ‘Make Mine Feudalism!’ or 'I'd Rather Be Fascist'. And from Blonie fields, J-P 2 went on to make EEurope safe for both geriatric and neo-Nazisim, this renaissance extending from Croatia to Lithuania, and from Poland's ancient territories of Belarus and Ukraine to the Olympic movement (see Simonovic’s critique of Olympism.)

But now it’s off to rehearse 'Warsaw Rebuilds'. In browsing through the History of Poland, I saw a healine: Stalin Rebuilds Warsaw! I dearly hope our audiences aren’t expecting any of this sort of historicism.

But check out the web site: http://www.butterflyeffects.pl/

And check out Le Requin’s article below—datelined Kigali!—mc]



Daily Mirror (Harare)
October 25, 2005

ARE NGOs THE NEW COLONIALISTS?

Open Forum with Georgianne Nienaber

KIGALI – Henry Munene’s article on NGO corruption in Africa (New Times,
Wednesday, 24 August 2005) raises some interesting questions regarding
foreign investments and developmental aid in Africa.

His assessment of the Kenyan NGO self-regulating council as the “proverbial
leopard watching over Africa’s development cattle” is alarming, insightful,
and calls for more discussion. There is no doubt that much good has been
accomplished through the intervention of reputable charitable organizations
in Africa and elsewhere. Lives have been saved, wildlife preserved, and
human rights have been advanced. Even the United States has benefited from
organizations such as the Red Cross and others in the aftermath of hurricane
Katrina.

However, both in Africa and the United States there are long lists of phony,
corrupt organisations, tales of embezzlement and millions of lost dollars
that never reach the intended recipients. As Munene says, this is cause for
much concern. Little has been done to address the problem, although there
has been much hand-wringing over the issue.

A visit to Rwanda reveals villagers living with no infrastructure who must
walk miles to market, while shiny new NGO Land Rovers and SUVs tear down the
highways, forcing the local population to jump for their lives. Local
restaurants are crammed with boorish groups of foreign workers who loudly
order their meals and beer while the local staff rushes to accommodate them.
As villagers return from market to homes with no electricity, foreign
workers retire to gated compounds and enjoy television. Stories from the
Louisiana bay in the United States reveal similar stories of the displaced
and jobless poor living in run-down trailer parks. No-bid contracts go to
out-of-state contractors who produce goods for two and three times the cost
of production in Louisiana or Mississippi. Jobs are stolen, the poor remain
homeless, and the US taxpayer foots the bill.

Graft and corruption respect no international boundaries, but the United
States, at least, has many watch-dog groups that bring allegations of fraud
to the attention of the media and other oversight agencies. The same cannot
always be said for Africa, and there seems to be little or no accountability
in place. The role of charitable giving on the world stage has been
increasing to the extent that NGOs and non-profit organizations operating on
the African continent have become major economic players.

The influence they wield can be utilized for the common good of the African
people and their severely endangered ecosystems.

However, abuse has become rampant in some quarters, sometimes funded by
American aid programs. Some of these African aid programs operate as
non-profit organisations based in the United States and rely heavily upon
tax incentives and public donations. There is an increasing wariness in
America, especially after abuses were revealed in the aftermath of the
Indonesian tsunami disaster, that monies donated for foreign relief might
instead be going into the pockets of the administrators of these charitable
funds.

By definition, the presence of Western foundations on African soil as NGOs
must represent an extension of their own governments policies. They may
appear to operate publicly, but there can be hidden agendas, some dangerous
and some benign. Often conditions are attached to the money and sometimes
bribes are paid in order to ensure that the NGO operates safely and with
impunity in politically unstable regions.

It is often the donor organization which will benefit more than the third
world society which is, on paper, the recipient of the benefits. The lack of
local funds to support local needs in the Great Lakes Region and other areas
of Africa opens a giant loophole through which indigenous societies can be
compromised through the introduction of Western value systems and beliefs.
Cottage industries have evolved which provide tool kits for grant writing
and policy implementation in third world countries.

Law firms in the United States have created special services which educate
charitable organizations in the process of income tax preparation and audit
compliances. Munene terms them briefcase operators.

The intended recipients of charitable funds are the only persons who can
assess whether or not altruistic goals have been met. How much of the money
has actually improved the lives of the poorest of the poor? Are NGOs
becoming the new colonialists in Africa? According to World Bank figures, 12
per cent of foreign aid to developing countries already was being channeled
through NGOs in 1994, and as of 1996, the total amount was $7 billion
worldwide.

Today, NGOs in Africa manage nearly $3.5 billion in external aid. According
to Newsweek Magazine International (5, September 2005), the Comparative
Nonprofit Sector Project at Johns Hopkins University studied 37 nations and
found total non-profit NGO operating expenditures in 2002 of $1.6 trillion.

If the non-profits were a country, they would have the fifth largest economy
in the world, Newsweek said.

Nicholas Stockton, a former executive director and 20-year veteran of Oxfam,
was quoted as saying: “There’s a market for good works, and its big
business.” Good works may be big business, but is this necessarily good for
the people these organizations pledge to serve? Who, in the end is watching
out for the populace, as Munene asks. Is this another ENRON scandal in the
making?

According to Newsweek, it’s increasingly clear that like governments or
companies, NGOs have vested political interests, as well as financial
motives. They need to attract aid to stay alive.

But unlike governments, they aren’t elected. There is no safety net of
checks and balances in place.

They are not traded on the market exchanges and have no incentive to produce
quarterly reports which reflect their solvency. Indeed, there is no need for
solvency at all, other than the ability to issue paychecks to the CEOs of
these organizations.

The UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) issued a paper in 1997
which listed the responsibilities of NGOs to the communities which they
serve. Chief among these responsibilities was the duty of the NGO to foster
autonomy.

In other words, it is the duty of the NGO to put itself out of business, but
this is clearly not happening. Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia
University wrote that there is hope that poverty reduction, disease control,
and debt reduction in poor countries is the answer. (The End of Poverty:
Economic Possibilities for Our Times).

The ONE Campaign is a new effort by Americans to rally citizens to fight
global Aids and extreme poverty. The campaign grew out of the G 8 Summit.
However a closer look at the 39 organisations which have signed up reads
like a “who’s who” of big business NGOs.

Americans are a generous lot. Gradually, they are learning more about
Africa, and as they do, are eager to contribute to bettering the lives of
the poor there. However, Americans are also becoming more and more cynical
as they learn that their charitable donations and tax dollars are not going
where they will do the most good. Americans also need to be reminded to keep
an eye upon the leopard.

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