News Column

NGOs Must Reform or Die

June 21, 2014

They pass themselves off as voluntary organisations that serve people mainly in the developing world in the social services sector, but their proliferation over the past 20 years shows that they are embedded in the expansion of global white capital throughout the world.

NGOs are as much a part of capitalism as the neo-liberal economic prescriptions from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that create enabling environments for their emergence.

The economic prescriptions from the two Bretton Woods institutions advocate minimum government as they call for budget cuts in the 'non-productive' social services sectors.

When the State moves out of these sectors, the void left is conveniently filled by the western-sponsored NGOs that take over the government's role of looking after the citizens.

The ultimate objective being to alienate the citizen from the 'uncaring' government.

This may all seem harmless since these philanthropic organisations are, after all, "non-governmental."

The plot is, however, much uglier as the NGOs are intrinsically linked to the governments in their home countries, which is why some scholars have likened them to latter day missionaries as they facilitate neo-colonialism.

Nowhere has this reading of NGOs been more apparent than in Zimbabwe since the standoff with London began at the end of the 20th century as a glut of Western-funded NGOs sprouted agitating for regime change. They naturally became embedded in opposition politics and took an adversarial approach to Government. They have indeed been Anti-Governmental Organisations.

A move that has not helped matters or the citizens they purport to serve.

To this end, we welcome the advice given to the Zimbabwean NGO community by European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Dell'Ariccia, who urged the NGOs to drop the adversarial stance to Government by taking advantage of the doors opened.

The EU ambassador rebuked the NGOs for "living in the past" saying, "The civil society has a role to play but I have the impression that you are a little bit anchored to the past where instead of seeing NGOs one perceives AGOs, Anti-Government Organisations. And if you start catching the flair of the time, the trend, there is an opening to be worked upon."

We couldn't agree more.

Mr Dell'Ariccia represents the financiers of this community, and we naturally -- in line with the dictum 'he who pays the piper calls the tune' -- to see a change in the civic society with a movement towards co-operating with the Government.

Indeed the NGOs must move from the sordid past of dabbling in opposition politics and focus on the terms of reference of their registration.

But surely did it have to take an outsider to knock sense into the heads of the brothers and sisters in the NGO community?

Zimbabwe is the only country we have, anywhere else we go we will be mere visitors.

The onus is on us to build and defend our country.

In light of the destructive engagement we have seen from the NGO community over the past 15 years, there may be a strong case for leadership renewal within the NGO sector if there is to be a paradigm shift towards constructive engagement.

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Source: AllAfrica

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