31 May 2008

Aren't we glad to be funding NGOs?

That is, needless to say, a rhetorical question. Apart from anything else, if we were glad to be funding them, we would do so and not have money compulsorily extracted from us for the purpose. NGOs are not charities that live on voluntary donations but are provided by taxpayers’ money.

This story comes via the Taxpayers’ Alliance blog, which quotes a recent report from NGO Monitor, to which they do not link. Tsk, tsk. But then, it is not always easy to do so, which makes me wonder how often NGO Monitor might suffer from hackers.

The Executive Summary, which is only one page, outlines the problem. The EU is, according to its own propaganda, committed to a peaceful solution that will not involve the destruction of Israel or the expulsion and worse of the Jewish population of that country. (Anyone who thinks that the destruction of Israel will bring peace to that part of the world has not been paying attention.)

That’s the propaganda. The reality is that
Between 2005 and 2007, the European Union provided tens of million Euros from public funds to numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of which are politically active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to offering services, their reports are perceived as providing expert information to policy makers, journalists and others, and their campaigns have significant political impacts. These activities however, are often inconsistent with the stated objectives of both the NGOs and EU frameworks under which they are funded, including the use of funds ostensibly designated to promote peace, for pursuing political objectives which undermine the protection of human rights.
The Report gives details of the NGOs that have received money to promote their political agenda:
This detailed research documents the degree to which EUfunded NGOs exacerbate conflict and advance particular political agendas. Many of these groups participated in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference, and their reports and campaigns repeatedly refer to Israel as a “colonial entity”, and “racist and apartheid state”, while promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Some EU-funded NGOs also consistently advocate a rejectionist Palestinian narrative of the conflict, erase the context of Palestinian terrorism, falsely accuse Israel of “war crimes” and seek to undermine Israel’s Jewish identity.
The chances of the next Durban conference, scheduled for 2009, being anything but another anti-Israeli, anti-American, anti-Western hatefest are slim.

Some of the problems are endemic to NGOs and all tranzis, particularly the European Union, the one fully political expression of tranziedom and it boils down to one word: unaccountability. Forget transparency – it means nothing. You can open up the odd meeting to audiences and publish any number of documents. As it happens the EU is quite good at publishing documents; considerably better than our own government or civil service. As long as there is no direct line of accountability to those who provide the money, which is the poor benighted taxpayers, corruption, both financial and political, is inevitable.

Whether the organization in question is a relatively small one like the London Development Agency, whose shenanigans played their part in Ken Livingstone’s downfall, or a much larger and better financed NGO or those über-tranzis, the EU and the UN, the result is always the same.

Naturally enough, the most ruthless and corrupt players take control. So far I have not seen any suggestions for reform that would overcome these problems as unaccountability is endemic to NGOs and tranzis, there being no direct link between funding, political decision making and specific project management.

After all, there is nothing particularly surprising about the following:
This report also examines the limited transparency and accountability in EU funding for NGOs. Despite the tens of millions of Euros provided by taxpayers, there is no uniform framework or central database for obtaining information regarding which NGOs the European Commission funds. Moreover, much of this funding information is unavailable or hidden beneath numerous bureaucratic layers. The various EC offices that do provide some information on NGO funding use different systems to display this data, making comparison and analysis particularly difficult. Although some EC officials cooperated in providing funding information to NGO Monitor, the difficultly in obtaining this data reflects the lack of transparency. Some requests for specific funding information went unheeded.

In addition, the official guidelines by which the NGOs are selected to receive public funds are very vague, allowing for a high degree of individual preference and bias on the part of EC officials. These (often) anonymous officials and outside experts decide on the allocation of millions of Euros to highly political NGOs, yet are not subject to any external process of accountability. The absence of specific performance indicators to evaluate the impact of EU-funded NGO projects adds to the accountability deficit.
Outrageous, maybe; surprising, no. To be fair, I do not get the impression that NGO Monitor is surprised.

While we are on the subject of NGOs, let us take another look at that interesting and self-righteous organization, Amnesty International. We have written about it on various occasions, for instance here and here. To sum up a long and tedious development, Amnesty International has fulfilled its exemplary role in O’Sullivan’s First Law – not being specifically a right-wing organization it became a left-wing one.

No longer does it limit itself to helping prisoners of conscience in various oppressive countries. The organization’s main role now seems to be, despite the research done by its overworked and underpaid staff (not, naturally enough SecGen Irene Khan), to attack the West, particularly the United States and Israel with other countries that have the temerity to fight terrorists and terrorism coming close behind.

NGO Monitor has been looking at Amnesty International in connection of that organization’s reports on the Middle East. Here is the summary of its latest findings:

NGO Monitor has systematically analyzed Amnesty International’s Middle East coverage in 2007, applying a quantitative methodology, similar to that used to examine the agenda of Human Rights Watch.
The results show that in 2007 Amnesty singled out Israel for more condemnation than Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Lebanon, and Algeria.

More items were published condemning Israel, than the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah combined. If detailed reports are used as an indicator, Amnesty ranks Israel and Iraq as equally the worst human rights abusers in the Middle East.

Israel’s democratic and open society ironically invites disproportionately negative reporting from Amnesty International. Access to information facilitates more comprehensive research than in less democratic regimes; democracy demands higher standards of human rights, according to Amnesty International’s Israel branch; external factors, such as media attention, dictate AI’s policy.

Amnesty's 2008 annual report (covering events in 2007) is yet another example of the NGO's highly biased approach. It presents a gross distortion of the conflict, selectively reports events to remove the context of terrorism and ignore human rights issues not related to its political agenda, while repeating un-sourced and anecdotal claims.
Not precisely what Amnesty International should be doing but as a tranzi NGO it has long ago abandoned its useful role of campaigner on a single but very important issue.

On the organization’s own website one can find all sorts of interesting matters. There is, for instance, the appeal to world leaders to do something about human rights. Well, not to the ones who can do something about it, with the exception of China and Russia, both up to a point, but leaders in general.
Amnesty International’s Report 2008, shows that sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.
True enough, but then all those countries are in the United Nations and have all signed the Universal Declaration as well as any other declaration going. In any case, the collapse of the Soviet Empire has brought about a certain amount of alleviation on the subject of human rights though that event had little to do with the UN or that wretched Declaration, which had been strongly influenced by the Soviet Union back in 1948.

So, apart from bringing down unpleasant regimes, something AI does not approve of, as we know, what else can be done?
“The most powerful must lead by example,” said Ms Khan.

China must live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games and allow free speech and freedom of the press and end “re-education through labour”.

The USA must close Guantánamo detention camp and secret detention centres, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them, and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.

Russia must show greater tolerance for political dissent, and none for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.

The EU must investigate the complicity of its member states in “renditions” of terrorist suspects and set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.

Ms Khan warned: “World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses that can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.”
An interesting list and even more interesting emphasis on what matters in human rights. Apparently, it is the war on terror that produces most of the crimes and they are the ones Amnesty International feels the need to emphasise. Iraq and Afghanistan, eh? Not Iran or Syria, one assumes, or is it to be assumed that those two countries are looking to the United States for leadership?

China and Russia are chided lightly and in a very limited fashion, particularly the former. We must not get too worked up about real tyrannies where free speech is suprressed and all critics of the political regime and of officialdom are imprisoned. Oh and it has the highest number of capital crimes and rate of executions after trials that are the shortest in history. Not something Amnesty International should pay attention to?

What of the latest annual report? The Introduction lives up to all one’s worst expectations. It seems that matters have become worse in the last sixty years despite the hope that was engendered by the end of the Cold War which “were dashed by the explosion of ethnic conflicts and implosion of states that unleashed a spate of humanitarian emergencies, marked by massive and vicious human rights abuses”.

So, um, how did the Cold War end, what were the immediate results, why were there these hopes and who unleashed the various conflicts? Indeed, why was there a fertile ground for those conflicts? And why is the name of the Soviet Union not mentioned in this rather sketchy outline of the last sixty years?

Could it be that the powers that be in Amnesty International actually share ex-President, now Prime Minister Putin’s view that the collapse of the Soviet Empire was the greatest geopolitical disaster?

Moving down we find that the worst human rights abuses happen in the United States (our old friend Guantánamo again) and the EU is rapped over the knuckles for not controlling the member states when they exercise “rendition” of terror suspects to countries where they might be ill-treated at the CIA’s behest. No, since you ask there is no particular evidence and no mention in the Introduction of the fact that there are human rights abuses in other countries. And since when have terrorists been political prisoners to be supported by international NGOs?

There is no question about it, Amnesty International sees the war against terror a far greater problem than the terrorism itself, no matter what some of the more detailed chapters in the Report might say. Their website talks far more about protecting rights in the fight against terrorism than about protecting rights against terrorists.

The real problem about NGOs is that they are not charities who live exclusively from private donations. There are big donors, of course, but a reasonable amount comes from government and tranzi funds, in other words, from the taxpayer, whether we like it or not.