Sunday, July 03, 2005

NGO's and the Help that Hinders

by Arundhati Roy

NGO's real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. NGOs alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt political resistance.

There are NGOs doing valuable work; there are also fake NGOs set up either to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges. Most wealthy NGOs are financed and patronised by aid and development agencies, funded by western governments, the World Bank, the United Nations and multinational corporations.

They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. The greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the US preparing to invade a country while simultaneously readying NGOs to clean up the resultant devastation.

To ensure their funding is not jeopardised NGOs have to present themselves in a shallow framework. Another malnourished Indian, starving Ethiopian, Afghan refugee camp, maimed Sudanese in need of the white man’s help.

They unwittingly reinforce racist stereotypes and reaffirm the achievements, the comforts and the compassion - the tough love - of western civilisation. They’re the secular missionaries of the modern world.


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