According to Issa Shivjiin the African countries, the slogan of the NGOs was ‘structural adjustment programs’, which meant that ‘the African states’ bureaucracies were corrupt, incapable and unable to learn’
Men are sentient beings; they feel the pain of others and harbor the urge to help out. The power of empathy binds one man with another, stranger to him, living thousands of miles away. But the fact is that however universal this trait of human nature may be, people who commit their lives for the purpose of others are scarce to find and surely the noblest. To rise from personal needs and fulfillment and to reach the wretched hand of a sufferer is truly a tedious journey on the part of man; a journey the majority among us would not resolve to make.
Yet, is it possible that empathy may belong to a special group of people, maybe the ones profuse in riches, as they are the only ones who might have respite from normal human toil and the excess to spend lavishly upon others? That would be the same as saying that nobility is concurrent to wealth. Such a notion would make the pursuit of economic wealth the noblest path to tread; exactly the phenomenon entrapping the Western thought in its neoliberal age. Only a belief such as that can allow the institution of the NGOs to prevail as brokers of the ‘love of humanity’ in the length and breadth of the world.
Non-Governmental Organizations are a network laid throughout the grid of humanity that claim to be the ‘noble ones’; they pose to be cross-border crusades of altruistic people, yearning to bring food, health and human rights to a suffering humanity. But the dilemma of the NGOs is that in order for ‘sympathy’ to operate at continental levels, it has to be broken down into innumerable manageable bits.
For any faculty to work cross-borders, it has to be institutionalized; and institutionalization means the breaking down of a system, for inquiry, into linear and deterministic formations, so that it can become eligible to those seated at the two remote ends of the institute. Therefore, when one has to define a feeling like love, nobility or sympathy for a people living in the deserts of Africa to a think tank placed in the Western capitals, one has to jot it down in ‘catchwords’ and ‘numbers’ which would have the ability to pass across the multilayered sieve of the institution and reach the donor end in eligible ways, filtering out real life entities through pre-constructed procedure maps. Once it has reached the donor end, the requirement is not of tears and hugs, but what is required is for empathy to be translated into dollar bills. So we end up in three unique paradigms; one of the poverty stricken, unlettered humanity that has no say in what is to be said about it; another one of the institution of the NGOs that have to make for the survival of the institute as well as the sustained wretchedness of the communities, which has made their existence legitimate in the first place; and yet another one of the super-rich class who feels this urge to sympathize with a world whose resources, for centuries, it has selfishly grabbed as its own.
In such a scenario, the discourse of the NGOs, that started out to wipe the tears of a sobbing humanity, has chances of quickly turning into a machine for the creation of empirical data meant to extract easy money in the loads. And the donors that started with unbearable sighs of altruism do not, therefore, take long to see world-wide power and manipulation under this guise of ‘returning to the poor’.
More presence and more connection are the tool for change; change can be a word, an idea, an inclination that could churn the wheels of produce to channels that deliver back to the donor’s end; just being stationed in the midst of a people gives the NGOs the legitimacy of showing them the light, correcting them and hence governing them.
So much said, let us give a little sight to how much the NGOs have performed all around the world. While most African countries swarm with the presence of NGOs, hunger, poverty and disease are on the rise; only in sub-Saharan Africa, 388 million out of a 763 million population lives in abject poverty. India is estimated to have around 3.3 million NGOs, which is one NGO per less than 400 Indians, many times more than the number of primary schools and primary health centers in India; Bangladesh has the NGO density of 3.5 foreign NGOs per square mile, yet both these countries have the highest numbers of poverty and hunger stricken people around the world, about 650 million people (53.7% of population) living in poverty in India and about 56 million (40% of population) of Bangladeshis living below the national poverty line.
It is also interesting to find how the NGOs actually work; most NGO projects are short term sections comprising of isolated issues to be dealt with in 3 to 5 years periods, reports submitted at the end of these projects are mostly of targets ‘not achieved’. There is no obligation on the NGOs to fulfill their targets, as they are in their self-perception: non-political, non-partisan, non-ideological, non-academic, non-theoretical, non-profit associations, of well-intentioned individuals, dedicated to changing the world to make it a better place for the poor, the marginalized and the downcast; so we can only be thankful for what they have done for us, or what they have failed to do. And it would be a shame if we were to criticize these few, hard-to-find, well-intentioned people of the world; ONLY if they were few!!