Who finances the NGO sector (or: whose interests does it serve)?

The question about who finances the NGOs is very important, because it also brings us to the answers to other questions, such as: whose interests do they serve, which are their real goals and what is their role in society. The question about the financing of the NGOs also undermines the general opinion about the independence and the non-governmental character of the NGO sector.

The two main financial supporters of the NGO sector on a global scale are the corporations and the governments. A smaller amount of the funds also comes from religious organizations, mainly Christian, Muslim and Jewish, which, much like the state and the capitalists, also do that in order to strengthen their domination.

On a global scale, almost every corporation that you’ve heard of have formed their own foundation to finance the NGO sector: from Microsoft, Monsanto, Nike, Bosch, Western Union, Ford, Toyota, Intel, all the way to Starbucks. If the corporation does not have a grantmaking foundation, then its filthy rich owners certainly do, such as billionaires Bill Gates, George Soros, Rockefeller brothers, or even the queen of England. Being a “philanthropist” has become a part of the image of every ultra-rich capitalist, who we assume probably hopes that the exploited workers all over the world will want to hang him less if they knew that he threw a few dollars for the poor in Africa.

When corporations finance projects for helping the poor, the children, the sick and other vulnerable groups, or rather for protecting the environment, they do that in order to build an image of caring and responsible companies and use that image to encourage people to buy more from them and increase their profits. People, obviously, don’t mind the fact that, Apple, for example, exploits million and a half workers in the sweatshops throughout Asia, making them work up to 14 hour shifts and paying them a yearly salary that barely equals the price of a single iPhone; but that’s OK, because, obviously, they’re a caring company because they’ve once donated a few thousand vaccines for malaria.

What people also don’t seem to grasp is that with this short-term help, the corporations only keep the status quo in the undeveloped regions of the world, making them dependent on western help (which might and might not come this year, and certainly won’t get to all in need), while the imperialist forces continue to rob their resources, leaving them unable for any kind of development. By encouraging mercy in the form of charity and philanthropy, the NGO sector undermines the struggle for radical changes which might put an end to the causes of poverty, hunger, sickness, illiteracy and all the other misfortunes whose victims would not have to wait for the mercy and the occasional help by the western charity organizations.

Corporations don’t finance only NGO projects surrounding the “care for the community”, but they invest even more in spreading the “political” NGO sector, through which they can impose their own agendas for sustaining the status quo of the society as it is. Governments also mostly direct their funds towards this kind of NGOs, and in the case of Macedonia, a great amount of those funds serve the mass propaganda for entering the EU and NATO. These funds, along with the rest, all serve the top goal of Macedonia: to develop into a capitalist state of the western type.

Comments

strypey
Aug 30 2016 12:12

You've come up with a set of generalizations based on theory. Your argument might be more convincing if you included some real world examples to back up your claims. Otherwise your argument amounts to "anarchist theory says states and corporations are bad, therefore anyone whose wages or salaries are funded by them is bad". The problem is, this broad brush kind of argument applies equally to fulltime activists funding their living costs by taking a welfare benefit, or anarchists whose day job happens to be at a workplace owned by a corporation.

Some NGOs are obviously sinister, such as climate "skeptic" think tanks funded by carbon-spewing corporations, some of them are subversive, such as open source projects taking funds to pay for the development of free software and making it available to everyone. There are many cases where it's hard to tell if you're looking at the former or latter without some careful examination of their actual practice and outcomes, mainly because both have good reasons to try to obscure both their funding sources and their deeper political goals. People working on short-term practical projects often don't even share political goals beyond the immediate project.

It might also be more useful if you go beyond the good/evil moralizing implied in your piece (unfunded anarchist organisations good! NGOs evil!) and acknowledge that there are a whole raft of reasons people or groups form and work within NGO structures and use philanthropic funding. I know a number of anarchists in Aotearoa who have worked day jobs at NGOs, and state-run public service organisations. People who do caregiving for children or elderly people or support work for people with disabilities often work for NGOs, and feel they can do more meaningful work than they would if they worked in the private sector or directly for government bureaucracies. Yes, organisations doing practical work like that have to survive in the world as they find it, and that often means adapting themselves to the status quo is some ways, but we all have to do that (although some of us are more honest about it than others).

One way to look deeper into the implications of NGOs from a revolutionary perspective is using the concepts of recuperation and detournment. Look at a particular NGO or project and ask yourself whether its a case of soaking up radical energy and redirecting in into strengthening the status quo, or a case of radicals pulling resources from the system (paid work hours, materials, services like web hosting) and redirecting them towards radical ends?

Steven.
Aug 30 2016 17:13
strypey wrote:
You've come up with a set of generalizations based on theory. Your argument might be more convincing if you included some real world examples to back up your claims.

On this bit, I do actually agree that some real-world examples here would be helpful. However as to the rest of your point, unfortunately you have completely misunderstood this text.

Quote:
Otherwise your argument amounts to "anarchist theory says states and corporations are bad, therefore anyone whose wages or salaries are funded by them is bad".

That is not the argument at all.

Quote:
The problem is, this broad brush kind of argument applies equally to fulltime activists funding their living costs by taking a welfare benefit, or anarchists whose day job happens to be at a workplace owned by a corporation.

Again this text wasn't making the former argument, but even if it did this latter point is a complete non sequitur in any case.

Quote:
It might also be more useful if you go beyond the good/evil moralizing implied in your piece (unfunded anarchist organisations good! NGOs evil!)

Again this point just shows you haven't understood this text at all