Global Policy Forum

Foreign NGOs Have Their Own Agenda


By Mohammed Khidr *

Yemen Times
October 5, 2006

Undeniably, various European and American non-governmental organizations have been playing large roles in defending human rights the world over particularly with regard to developing countries where most of the ruling systems and the regimes are lacking democratic approach in dealing with their peoples. It is basically the question of rights pertaining to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and other essential human rights.

There are numerous examples of the good results achieved by those NGOs leading to mitigation and in some cases cancellation of certain restraints used to be imposed on the peoples of developing countries regimes, especially those that have not yet adopted democracy in their governance. In countries with emerging democracies foreign NGOs offer assistance and training to national NGOs to help them develop their work and to become capable enough to play their required role defending rights of their peoples and protesting of if possible preventing any violation of them.

To further assistance offered to third world countries some NGOs have opened offices in those countries to be closer to and make their humanitarian job easier and on the spot. Those offices are more important in offering assistance in countries that have recently adopted the pursuit of democracy. Workers of those offices have dual jobs. On the one hand they help train national civil society organizations in those countries especially technically to develop their work and sometimes offer material assistance if needed, on the other. Their offices in those countries enable them to have direct contact with political parties, and various segments of the people and this gives an idea on the ground on how to help and what kind of help to offer. Of course those NGOs are allowed to open their offices in countries following democracy and thus they are permitted to act without thinking about borders of those states.

Organizations such as Journalists Sans Frontieres and Doctors sans Frontieres operate freely, but should those organizations act in a big or excessive "sans frontiers" manner? Should they behave as if there are really no state borders in the sense regarding sovereignty of those states, or must they put in mind certain boundaries they must not trespass? I think foreign NGOs hosted by countries where there is a certain degree of democracy have to act and behave in a way avoiding provocation of the hosting country. They must not ignore the sovereignty of that country in a way causing them trouble and then disrupt their activities and mission. Unfortunately, there are instances where some foreign organizations have behaved in a manner violating sovereignty of the states hosting them.

Since their goal is humane and helpful they should not forget there is a government where they are practicing their activities and should not ignore that fact but rather keep friendly and cooperative relations with the government to facilitate solving any problems or mistakes they perceive that government is doing to is subjects. Even in their own original countries those NGOs have respect towards sovereignty and power of their governments to avoid collision of interests that both governments and organizations should coordinate their efforts to serve the objective of respecting the people rights and not to violate them by some public institutions.

Every NGO has its own agenda that is not necessarily identical to all domestic interests of the peoples and states that are the target of the organizations' activities. Those organizations are not the angels who we have seen on television. Therefore, we as recipient people should not over exaggerate in our faith in them or in respecting them to the extent that we think they can be the alternative of our governments or states. It has happened that some foreign NGOs, through their offices based in some countries, have violated their original declared mission and faced troubles with governments of those countries.

We should respect and appreciate the good and sincere missions of these organizations in extending their helpful and caring hands to our society but we must not over exaggerate that trust and belief to the degree making us forget that they are note the alternative of our state and could not be so and we should not be too trustful in a naí¯ve way. We also have our own national NGOs to seek their help and they know better about what we need or suffer from. Let's support them and develop them for our own interests and welfare.

About the Author: Mohammed Khidr is a journalist and a senior translator from Iraq.

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