‘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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NGOs: the West’s soft instrument for hegemonic policies

How NGOs are planned and structured: NGOs are carefully managed and funded for the purpose of social control, with no room for democratic accountability to the people they claim to serve.

by Tahir Mahmoud

(Sunday, June 6, 2010)


“Western NGOs skilfully exploit the unpopularity of corrupt regimes in order to further the foreign policy objectives of their own governments. Since foreign NGOs have the money to implement vital projects, many local NGOs which are sincere in improving the conditions in their own countries become vulnerable to manipulation by receiving grants from outsiders. Lack of funding forces local NGOs in the developing world to surrender their integrity and lose their identity as truly non-governmental bodies since they become the extended arm of foreign governments.”


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become an important political tool in the hands of the West. Like the word “aid”, the NGOs (they also use the alias non-profit organizations) are used to penetrate and undermine other societies, especially in the Muslim world. Looked at superficially, the concept of NGOs may appear practical and beneficial, but the manner in which they are used by the US and the West in general is not only a distortion of their original aim but borders on the scandalous. Continue reading