‘NGOisation of resistance’ by Arundhati Roy

The NGO-ization of resistance

Arundhati Roy

2014-09-23, Pambazuka.org, Issue 695

NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche.

A hazard facing mass movements is the NGO-ization of resistance. It will be easy to twist what I’m about to say into an indictment of all NGOs. That would be a falsehood. In the murky waters of fake NGOs set up or to siphon off grant money or as tax dodges (in states like Bihar, they are given as dowry), of course, there are NGOs doing valuable work. But it’s important to consider the NGO phenomenon in a broader political context.

In India, for instance, the funded NGO boom began in the late 1980s and 1990s. It coincided with the opening of India’s markets to neoliberalism. At the time, the Indian state, in keeping with the requirements of structural adjustment, was withdrawing funding from rural development, agriculture, energy, transport and public health. As the state abdicated its traditional role, NGOs moved in to work in these very areas. The difference, of course, is that the funds available to them are a minuscule fraction of the actual cut in public spending.

Most large-funded NGOs are financed and patronized by aid and development agencies, which are, in turn, funded by Western governments, the World Bank, the UN and some multinational corporations. Though they may not be the very same agencies, they are certainly part of the same loose, political formation that oversees the neoliberal project and demands the slash in government spending in the first place.

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Release of Apple’s ‘iSlave6′ Highlights Working Conditions

09/20/2014

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The promised to be a premiere full of fans and buyers looking to get the new iSlave6 has been brought into reality by the protest of several members of the NGO Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, popularly known as SACOM.

Protesters of that organization have come to the premiere of the phone on the Apple store in Hong Kong to protest against the working conditions of Apple employees.

The protest has achieved its objectives as SACOM activists have hung a banner on which was written the name “iSlave 6″, referring to the working conditions endured by workers in the factories that produce the smartphone Apple. Continue reading

India: NGO reform agenda designed to block radical solutions

[NAPM is reported to be a collection of imperialist-funded NGOs in India whose explicit function is to undercut, and drag intellectual supporters away from, the radical thrust of such alliances as represented by RDF –which the author falsely labels a “front organization,” (thus implying with this innuendo that it has no independence or legitimacy)– and from radical campaigns against Operation Green Hunt, against forced uprooting and displacement, to free political prisoners and other popular anti-repressive initiatives. The NGOs do this by leading people on separated issues into dead-end appeals to the system to adjust policies, rather than building and linking together mass political forces against the system as a whole. This article, from LiveMint/Wall Street Journal, details the utility and importance of NAPM for its Indian (Wall Street-ish) audience–corporate business interests and comprador government apparatchiks. — Frontlines ed.]

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A non-violent, less radical agenda

Author urges, “Policymakers need to listen to the hundreds of such organizations that point out the failing of India as a nation.”

by Sudeep Chakravarti, in Live Mint/Wall Street Journal, Thursday, Nov 22 2012

Photo from mass struggle against displacement at POSCO. Author claims that “While ‘Maoist front organizations’ such as RDF naturally seek to promote Maoist interest, umbrella organizations such as NAPM feed a non-violent, relatively less radical agenda.” Photo: Hindustan Times

A meeting, significant in the context of the ongoing and future battleground of industrialization and protests against it, took place in Thrissur, Kerala, earlier this week. It was the biennial convention of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), an influential umbrella organization that seeks to primarily protect livelihood and property rights, and their close cousin, human rights.

A statement from NAPM firmly targeted the proposed land acquisition law expected to be debated in the winter session of Parliament which began on Thursday. NAPM’s assumption is that the draft law in its various incarnations has steadily been weighted towards business, that there is wilful ignorance of realities at the ground level where extreme policy coercion dominates free consent, besides concerns of loss of livelihood; and it ends in nasty business.

And so, the meeting resolved to “take forward the primary mandate of sangharsh and nirman (struggle and reconstruction) with establishment of a navnirman manch”, or a reconstruction, within NAPM. “The fight for the control over jal, jungle, zameen”—the trinity of water resources, forests and land—“by the communities will be fought tooth and nail through the gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas”. It further declared that decentralization of power is “the only way out”. This is towards a goal to strengthen panchayati raj institutions, seen both as a cure and curse of (when corrupted) from-the-ground-up empowerment and development.

For government and business to dismiss this as simple extremism would be unwise and symptomatic of denial. Continue reading

South Africa: Protestors Force Israeli Products Off Shelves

By Francis Hweshe, West Cape News (Cape Town), 2 October 2012

The move by Wellness Warehouse came after protests in Cape Town.

Human rights activists in Cape Town have cautiously welcomed a decision by upmarket retailer Wellness Warehouse to pull products from an Israel-based company from its shelves.

The move by Wellness Warehouse came after protests on the weekend by the University of Cape Town Palestinian Solidarity Forum (UCT PSF) and lobby group Open Shuhad Street (OSS) outside the store on Kloof Street.

The approximately 40 protestors demanded that products from AHAVA Cosmetics products be removed from the store.

According to the activists AHAVA Cosmetics has become “a key target” of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. They allege the company has violated the Department of Trade and Industry’s recent notice preventing the false labelling of Israeli products manufactured by companies in the Occupied Palestine Territories.

They said AHAVA products were being mislabelled as ‘Made in Israel’ instead of ‘Made in Occupied Palestinian Territories’. Continue reading

Africa: Rio+20 Summit Under Corporations’ Undue Influence

18 June 2012, Friends of the Earth (London) –press release

Rio De Janeiro — On the eve of the Rio+20 United Nations Earth Summit [1] on June 20-22, Friends of the Earth International warns world leaders that multinational corporations such as oil giant Shell have an undue influence over the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

According to a briefing released today by Friends of the Earth Netherlands [2], the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell is influencing the Rio+20 Summit thanks to senior company representatives in several corporate lobbying groups active in the Rio+20 negotiations, including: the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the UN Global Compact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the International Emissions Trading Association

“It is not acceptable that companies like Shell who cause massive pollution and human rights abuses should be in the driving seat of processes for sustainable development. That is a recipe for disaster for our planet and peoples. Corporate polluters should not help making laws, they should face the law,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. Continue reading

South Africa: Apartheid Petty and Grand, Old and New Is Evil

Fahamu (Oxford)

By Ayanda Kota, 26 April 2012

The Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) was formed in August 2009 to respond to the crisis of unemployment and the commoditization of essential services in a society dominated by corruption and greed. As Steve Biko said, we blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that we should be playing. We want to do things for ourselves and all by ourselves. This is a realisation that we are the protagonists of our lives and nobody will free us but ourselves; we – the unemployed – will have to be our own liberators.

Despite celebrations of freedom on 27 April every year, severe and widespread poverty persists. Our education system is in tatters, the future of many black kids has been declared futureless. Unemployment is sky rocketing, wasting the talents of many young people who are condemned to a life of permanent poverty. Many black people continue to lack access to electricity, clean water and proper sanitation. Many are terminally under nourished. All these things are happening when the elite and the government officials are living affluent lives. The president has just built a mansion in Enkandla to the tune of more than R400m. Malema has also built a house to the tune of R16m. Every weekend the elite host parties and weddings that cost no less than a million while the people they claim to represent go to bed on an empty stomach and live in absolute poverty. They do not find this morally troubling. They have no conscience, otherwise they would not have killed Andries Tatane and many other activists; they would not shoot us with rubber bullets when we protest because they have neglected us. The prophetic Biko was spot on again when he once said ‘Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security and prestige it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege.” It is this prestige and wealth that forms a hard shell around their consciousness so that they do not see that it is fellow human beings suffering in the poverty around them. Karl Marx put it in a different tone: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. Apartheid was a tragedy, but our economic apartheid is a farce. Indeed history repeating itself. We are repeating the disaster of the post-colonial regimes that Fanon attacked fifty years ago.

We live in a society where the unemployment rate is said to be 23% while the truth is different. Our government is committed to propaganda. The real unemployment rate is closer to 40%. Continue reading