In a state of nirvana and uthopia, civil societies and NGOs would, as writer Evgeny Morozov had written, “challenge those in power by documenting corruption and uncovering activities like the murder of political enemies. In democracies, this function is mostly performed by the media, NGOs or opposition parties.”
Do you see this happening in Malta?
Although NGOs are often seen or represented as the guardians of moral virtues and highly associated with a society’s sacred cows the claim that they are immune to the temptation of corruption is fundamentally flawed. The fact that they are independent and not beholden to political parties interest groups and governments (what they try to make you believe) helps them build a reputation of objectivity and therefore authoritative because political interests do not taint them. Who would not be moved by their rhetoric that continually reminds us to save the planet uphold human rights and justice and look after the needs of victims of injustice?
Although they frequently boast about their independence from the market and government we have to agree with what Theda Skocpol wrote in her book “Diminishing Democracy” that “they are profoundly intertwined with both especially with government” and they are financed by foundations companies and public bodies.
It’s odd how the term “non-governmental” categorizes these organizations by what it excludes them from being. In other words their supposed authority is based on what they claim not to be. The term “non-governmental” however suggests a connection to its opposing force the governmental. In fact an NGO’s standing is related to its relationship with governments. NGOs are used by public institutions like the European Union to support their decisions and policies. NGOs occasionally collaborate closely with businesses and private interests. Private interests try to use NGOs as a moral bulwark and partner with them. They frequently amount to nothing more than lobbying organizations that covertly advance private interests.
Civil society institutions are not immune to corruption as the recent experience with the scandal involving corruption that is plaguing the European Union has shown. No Peace Without Justice and Fight Impunity two human rights NGOs have been at the centre of what appears to be a money-laundering scheme that is redistributing funds to EU oligarchy members.
NGOs are not as moral and upright as they portray themselves to be for two key reasons. The first is that these are private businesses operated by people who are only answerable to themselves and perhaps a board of like-minded individuals. Because NGOs are not held accountable their leaders are not constrained by pressure or public opinion. They effectively have their own laws. The fact that civil society organizations depend on both private and public donors to survive is the second reason they are not immune to corruption. Roslyn Fuller who has conducted thorough research on how civil society institutions function made the following observations:
“As the founder and operator of a pro-democracy civil-society organisation I’ve often been astounded at calls to give NGOs a greater say in rule-making more visibility during negotiations and privileged access to decision-makers. Because I know what few people do – that small member-driven self-funded NGOs are relatively rare.”
Since NGOs are dependent on private donors or government organizations to survive it is not surprising that in some cases they end up serving as the means by which the objectives of those funders are furthered.
Who truly funds local NGOs and civil societies?