What is the Role of NGOs in the Current Global Context?

Polarization is deepening between the Western group of former and existing colonial powers in North America, Europe, their Pacific allies and the increasingly less under-developed majority world.

Daniel Ortega (L) and his wife Rosario Murillo (R) have both faced attacks from the media.

In that global context the role of so-called nongovernmental organizations has become more ambivalent than ever before. At the time of the demise of the Soviet Union, it seemed reasonable, although perhaps optimistic, to think that the practice of non-aggression and self-determination of peoples, fundamental principles of the United Nations 1948 charter, would prevail. What has happened over the last quarter century is the reverse.

Imperialist economic and trade policies and outright military aggression made nonsense of the immediate post-Cold War optimism. The humanitarian disasters in Somalia, Rwanda and the Congo, the successive wars against Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya, Syria and deliberate support for terrorism by the United States and its allies are conclusive. They have shown that the Western imperialist powers will never change until they suffer a decisive strategic defeat. Perhaps the only question is whether that defeat will happen before or after those countries have driven the planet to irrevocable environmental disaster.

In Latin America, over the last decade or so, the Western powers instigated coups d'état, successful or not, in Haiti, Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. These conspiracies were forerunners to the current carefully orchestrated aggressions against Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil and the continuing refusal to end the blockade of Cuba. This is the context in which so-called nongovernmental organizations work.

Since the 1980s, NATO country governments have co-opted nongovernmental organizations by means both of funding and their incorporation as policy making "partners." Ever since the early 1990s, that low profile but pernicious process irremediably compromised the always questionable independence of Western nongovernmental organizations and their client organizations in countries of the majority world. But this was clear even in the 1980s, when, for example, Church of England and British Council of Churches representative Terry Waite, prior to his abduction in 1987, accompanied Iran-Contra criminal Oliver North in Beirut.

In Latin America, the role of allegedly nongovernmental organizations as partners in destabilizing countries in the region has been extensively documented, for example in Venezuela by Eva Golinger. The clearest examples have been exposed in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador Venezuela and Nicaragua. One look at that list of countries reveals something obvious - all are countries of the Alianza Bolivariana de las Americas or ALBA. The Western powers detest ALBA because it is leading the definitive emancipation of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently in Brazil and Argentina, the role of social movements.is of tremendous importance in swaying the political balance for or against the progressive governments of those countries. In that sense, the non-governmental sector plays a similar role in terms of propaganda perception management as the communications media. Western nongovernmental organizations are so-called despite frequently receiving large subventions from their governments. These grants enable them to subsidize local partners in the countries of the majority world. Thus direct government funding of nongovernmental organizations finances NATO country psychological warfare campaigns against foreign targets, as was very clear in, for example, Ukraine.

Here in Nicaragua, as in all the other ALBA countries, the propaganda war against the government of Daniel Ortega ebbs and flows according to the destabilization requirements of the North American and European powers. The latest anti-Sandinista efforts in the English-language media have demonized the government of President Daniel Ortega, focusing on aspects of the proposed Interoceanic Canal. In other languages, for example in the Swedish-language media, the propaganda has focused on misogynistic fake-feminist attacks on Rosario Murillo, President Daniel Ortega's partner, who serves in practice as Nicaragua's prime minister.

The choice for nongovernmental organizations in majority world countries could hardly be clearer given the international experience of disingenuous collaboration by nongovernmental organizations in NATO country psychological warfare and military aggression. Either nongovernmental organizations support the political processes working in favor of emancipation from imperial control and corporate domination or they do not. In political processes variously inspired by socialism, as in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela or Ecuador, the self-evident role of nongovernmental organizations should be to support and complement government policies in favor of the impoverished majority.

That role can be fulfilled in innumerable ways. Direct collaboration with government program to reduce poverty, promote gender and economic equality or defend the natural environment can multiply impacts by marrying limited nongovernmental organization sector resources with a government's incomparable capacity to reach the general population. It is long past time for nongovernmental organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean and elsewhere to define whose side they are on and abandon the sterile narcissism engendered through co-option by North American and European ideology and funding.

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"Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA."
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