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e-book Silences in NGO Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa

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Shivji argues that despite some good intentions, NGOs have uncritically situated themselves within neoliberal and donor-driven discourses. Review quote "The two brief essays that comprise this booklet are exemplary, both originally presented to gatherings of NGO Non-Governmental Organizations representatives in the author's native Tanzania. Together, they offer a coolly principled and empirically well-grounded 'wake-up call' to both countries of the global South and, especially, to activists in the NGO sector, both transnational those coming principally from 'Northern' countries in the global capitalist center and domestic the focus of Shivji's greatest interest.

Whether, given the nature of their present funding sources and the barren 'common-sense' of the contemporary 'development discourse' of global capital that too many of them have swallowed, the NGOs will permit themselves to so act is the question that Shivji eloquently forces them to ask themselves here.

Saul, professor emeritus of politics, York University, Toronto" show more. About Issa G. Shivji Issa G. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book.

Close X. Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. Sign up now. Sierra Leone was the victim of conditional aid when Western states withdrew their support with the intention of starving out the autocratic regime in power.

Are NGO Agendas Dictated By Western Assumptions?

Instead, the biggest toll was taken by the population when famine broke out De Torrente New humanitarianism is oblivious to cultural relativism and the notion that Western structures may not be adapted to developing states is not even considered. This proves that former colonisers have not learned their lessons and still try to impose unadapted measures on societies different from their own. Conditional aid shifts the accountability of NGOs from the developing state and its population to the donor state. Furthermore, conditional aid is a violation of international law.

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He asserted the ICRC was an accomplice of crimes against humanity for helping undeserving parties in a conflict and refusing to denunciate violations of human rights Chandler Aid agencies were criticised after the Rwandan genocide when they delivered aid to a million refugees in Zaire in Moreover, NGOs relied on local Hutu elites to manage refugee camps since they were thought to already possess the leadership skills. The downside was that those elites could take advantage of their power positions and use aid as leverage to impose their political views on refugees Belloni NGO officials justified their actions by stating that since no one else was willing to feed these people, they were the ones who had to do it Storey The critiques of their action implied that NGOs were expected to take a moral stance and only help the deserving victims of conflicts instead of providing aid without discrimination.

Universality is no longer a capstone of humanitarianism and thus NGOs are starting to be considered as instruments of the Western world. Along with universalism, impartiality of NGOs is also challenged. New humanitarianism advocates for an engagement in long term action that would create peace and end conflicts Chandler Humanitarian relief is turning into goal oriented development aid. By invoking a responsibility to protect, Western governments justify their interventions in sovereign states.

NGOs considerably trespass their mandate and appropriate the role of peacekeepers and diplomats which they cannot legitimately hold. The violation of national sovereignty was acceptable when it was for relief purposes but the altruistic imposition of structural changes resembles colonialist behaviour.

Rieffer Flanagan argues that neutrality was anyway never really present in humanitarianism because if NGOs decided to provide aid to both parties or to neither of them, it automatically benefited the stronger party NGOs are therefore encouraged to take sides in conflicts if morality requires them to since there is always unintended consequences anyway.

Issa G. Shivji

This goal oriented humanitarianism, by seeking long term solutions, neglects the short term and essential objective of relief: saving lives Fox Whereas before the Cold War, governments were able to distinguish between humanitarian relief and development aid, they now seem to have merged into one. NGOs are therefore compelled to make prophetic assumptions on the evolution of complex emergencies that are unravelling as a result of a myriad of uncontrollable and unpredictable factors. Belloni argues that this reckless behaviour only prolongs war and misery Human rights based humanitarianism is designed to address the root causes of the conflict and create sustainable peace.

Instead, it simply creates a sentiment of resentment towards donor countries. As a result, conditional aid can be a threat to the safety of NGO personnel Fox Being the sole vehicle of funds, they gain power beyond their capacity. Seen as the agents of imperialism, humanitarian workers are targeted by anti-Western movements and parties of the conflict. The ICRC learned this lesson the hard way in the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC when four of its personnel were killed as the result of their decision to take aid away from the most powerful faction in order to reallocate it to its more needy opponent Mills While this was a politically neutral decision, it was seen by the disgruntled warring party as favouritism.

The lack of safety of personnel in the field therefore limits their ability to distribute aid since they are not be able to access certain zones. New humanitarianism, in addition to exacerbating the divide between North and South, seems to have decreased the possibilities of aid agencies. Finally, NGOs are by their nature and structure inherently prone to imperialism. NGOs are know as the third sector but over the years, they have slowly merged into both the first sector, the state, and the second sector, the market.

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The omnipresence of NGOs in developing countries has created an economic and political dependency in those states and may end up harming the local leadership. Humanitarian aid has therefore become institutionalised as part of the state and is no longer considered external intervention Hearn NGOS are characterised by hierarchies and multi-billion dollar budget that make them appear as transnational corporations rather than members of the civil society Petras NGOs are forced to act as profit making businesses in order to survive Sujay They must engage in publicity as if they were advertising poverty.

The media is the largest medium of fundraising. They tell the story of the poor African victims being oppressed by their corrupted governments and being saved by the wonderful NGOs Chandler Those deceptive methods participate in creating a patronising image of African states as incapable children needing to be rescued. NGOs impose their will and the one of Western states and thus ignore local values.


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For example, MSF was faced with an ethical dilemma in Somalia when they were unable to amputate a number of people suffering from severe infections because the people in question only wanted to live if they could do so with their bodies whole Bell and Carens MSF felt their mission was being threatened because they were unable to carry their mandate but the point of view of the Somalis was essential and needed to be respected.

Imposing measures in that case would have been cultural imperialism.

Silences in NGO Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa

As well as being increasingly integrated into the neo-liberal market system, NGOs are also politicised. This is due to their heavy reliance on donor countries who dictate their behaviours and policies. In case of excessive violence, the reaction of the international community and therefore NGOs is usually mediocre as show the example of the DRC were little is being done to improve the situation. Belloni argues that the will to intervene militarily and provide aid is directly proportional with the geographical proximity of the threat This is why developed states gave five times more aid to Kosovo in than they gave to Sudan.


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NGOs are therefore bound by the ambitions of donor states. This absence of transparency endangers their legitimacy.

Governments are also dependent on NGOs because they use them to uphold their international reputations and image of good Samaritan Sujay However, this does not mean that NGOs are free to act as they please. Because they are guided by the will of Western states, they are to follow political agendas. Humanitarian agencies are even being accused of replacing existing political elites by taking over their responsibilities Storey Donor states do not admit to this imperialism and designate this relationship as a partnership for development Shivji From and , the number of local NGOs tripled in Kenya in an attempt of the West to fade its obvious presence Hearn