Conflict of Interest

Issue section: 

NGOs face blackmaill from funders - and some give in

In his article on NGOs (June SR) Chris Harman highlighted a tension that exists between NGOs and their funders. This is because many NGOs are set up to expose and alleviate the effects of wars and other crimes against humanity, yet in order to do this effectively they come into conflict with the very governments that fund them.

Last year the US partner of the charity Save the Children UK said that the UK organisation should stop criticising military action in Iraq. This was because the American organisation feared the loss of financial support from Washington and other big donors. According to InterAction, a network of 160 relief and development NGOs, the head of the Agency for International Development threatened to terminate NGO contracts if they did not stress that Iraqi and Afghan children were receiving food and vaccines courtesy of George W Bush. In other words, NGOs were expected to behave as a wing of the US military. Moreover, aid workers and those working on humanitarian contracts were informed that they should not speak to journalists unless they had been given prior permission from Washington.

NGOs are faced with a choice: either they bleat the mantra of Washington or they rebel. While anti-war and anti-capitalist activists should be made aware the financial blackmail that NGOs face, they should also expect NGOs to stick to their principles and resist.

Gill Hubbard
Globalise Resistance Scotland