Time to wake up NGOs

18 Nov 2018


I was talking about the newly formed Extinction Rebellion campaign last night with a colleague.  We got to discussing how Aotearoa/ New Zealand citizens need to urgently join that movement, including pressuring NGOs to join with us - including iwi (Māori peoples' authorities). We are of course grateful for the good work that many NGOs do. But it's been a known fact for a long time now that many social justice and environmental NGOs operate in political and economic comfort zones, meaning there are some subjects they'll steer clear of because they're too politically or economically controversial, or others have conflicts of interest and are captured by the wishes of an elite group of big donors that they don't want to scare off (the tyranny of undemocratic philanthropy), or they want to stick with 'feel good' topics like saving the whales, optimizing failed policy spaces but not addressing the systemic violence and oppression that’s at the root of humanity’s collective suffering.


I acknowledge that there must be a balance struck and NGOs have limitations which force them to make hard decisions about what campaigns they'll work on. But it's high time NGOs realize why is it there’s more NGOs than ever in human history, yet they are losing the war, they're losing ground. For all the nominal gains NGOs are making and little battles they may win here and there, the brutal big picture truth is (evidenced by our climate crisis and social decline trajectories) they're making a net deficit in terms of environmental restoration and social justice.


This in itself should ring alarm bells: why the need for all these NGOs? Because Governments are acting in the interests of failed, insane pathological agendas, not in the interests of We, The People (more perversely, and just to put the boot in, governments finance their abuse of us with our own taxes).  And the burden is falling more and more on NGOs to sop up that ‘failure gap’ (yet no adjustment to our taxes in recognition of this), but the NGOs are self-censoring, so their efforts are likewise underwhelming compared to what's needed. 


It’s criminal, a scam of monumental proportions:  governments increasingly exporting State responsibilities onto civil society just like corporations externalize their costs of production onto the environment and ordinary citizens. Civil society needs to pay less attention to all the celebratory noise around the nominal ‘wins’ NGOs are making on relatively superficial matters, and pay predominant attention instead to the net loss incurred because of failure to address the underlying causes. And, everyone needs to find the courage to say what needs to be said, then act.  If NGOs were corporations, they’d surely by now be calls from shareholders to sack the Board of Directors for running their core business into the ground.

(We, The People, must mobilize. Please share this blog).



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