UPC External Bureau Victoria, British Columbia
Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)
An enigmatic solution to poverty eradication28 January 2006
A few decades ago, the wealthier western countries provided aid to developing countries through direct government to government grants. This practice occurred for many years of the post independence Africa. After some time it was realized that most African leaders and people in positions of advantage were in fact kleptomaniacs. Some individuals were buying villas in Paris. Others were moving around in unreasonably large luxury vehicles splashing mud on pedestrian tourist who had actually made sacrifices to send money to poor countries.
Eventually, the western countries decided that enough was enough. They had to change the funding model to channel money through alternative means, whereby greedy people would not get their dirty little fingers on to it. At this point enters the NGOs.
Just as everyone was beginning to give a sigh of relief from white collar thieves, the NGOs have evolved into a force of their own. There are problems with the NGO driven funding model. Consider some of the following issues.
- For an NGO to operate in any given country, they it must be registered and licenses to operate. Guess who is issuing the licenses? The kleptomaniacs of course! The thieves have found an unlocked back door, and hey are in. A case in point is the Global Fund affair. The global Fund is a very powerful group endorsed and supported by the United Nations. It is the group recommended by most lobbyists with a genuine concern for poverty. How on earth could such a powerful NGO fall foul to gerrymandering? It is simple. As it turns out, the leaders on NGOs are as human as the African leaders they were supposed to replace they can be bribed!
- Most NGOs have a complex administration structure. Let's take an organization such as World Vision. They have head offices in all the major western countries. They raise money mostly by displaying children with distended bellies, with flies swirling all over them - in most cases naked. They have arrangements with western governments whereby they are given 2 dollars for every dollar they raise from private donations. To operate effectively, they have to rent office space, they have staff to run the joints, and spend considerable money to find the right child with the right number of flies to photograph and market on television. They hire local expatriates who know how to be politically correct and send them off to be bitten by mosquitoes and pay them extra for the experience. The operations are fairly sleek. This is the home country situation.
- On the ground in the country of operation, the NGO sets up infrastructure and a network of agents to deliver aid to its final destination. They buy Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) so that their workers do get bogged down in mud in villages. They get swanky digs for the big guys so they can think clearly about poor people. They entertain important government officials generously to ensure that no licenses are denied.
- The expenses involved in points 2 and 3 add up. For some NGOs these overhead expenses may add up to 75% of the seed money they start off with for a project. He most generous spend 20% on overhead. A few, such as the Agha Khan Foundation spend 0% on overhead. It is covered by the patrons of the foundation. In the case where 75% of the donated money being spent on overhead, who is actually getting the poverty alleviation? Is it the administrators of the donation or the donation recipients? You be the judge.
- Some powerful politicians are in-bed with some NGOs to the extent that aid is channeled selectively. As a case in point, it is almost impossible for a donor in North America to sponsor a child in Acholi, yet children closer to the equator are abundantly available. Why is this? Aren't the Acholi children the ones on IDPs? Aren't they the ones starving and lacking education?
The NRM has been colluding with NGOs since the 1980s when one NGO exploited the Karamojong in that embarrassed us who lived in the west. They talked about government soldiers attacking villages and killing children. We saw emaciated children clutching floppy mammary gland of starving mothers. But in all that, they never displayed a single refugee camp of a displaced people's encampment. It was just a ruthless assault on our senses without producing a tangible sign of an assistance program. But the audiences responded sympathetically and money rained in.
Some NGOs are doing a good job, but the world needs to wake up to some bad apples. A new funding model, which will reduce or eliminate the white collar crimes (by both governments and NGOs) effectively, is badly needed.
I am confident that a UPC government can do better on distributing aid equitably. No single Ugandan should be left behind.
Long live the people of Uganda. Long live Mama Miria Kalule Obote. Long live the long suffering people in IDPs.