RUTGERS MODEL UNITED NATIONS 2008 S
Committee: Social, Humanities, and Cultural Committee
Topic: Ensuring NGO Cooperation
Delegates: Ankita Panda
EAST BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL
Since as early as the 1970s, the proliferation of nongovernmental organizations (‘NGOS’-which were aimed towards amending humanitarian crises) has been a largely profitable business (Reimann 38). However, since the 1980s, NGOs have been utilizing generous grants for political dominance over state governments, to trigger conflict in weary nations, or even for their own selfish needs (40). As a result, NGOs are abusing their own powers by adopting many nations’ governmental responsibilities. Furthermore, NGOs have indirectly expanded conflicts in many African nations by providing food and relief towards violent guerrilla armies. The nation of Rwanda encourages NGO involvement in service provision or towards ameliorating poor living standards. In order to monitor legitimate NGOs, Rwanda encourages that governments should: register NGOs in their nation, encourage NGOs to teach civilians on political unity, should make laws limiting NGO political control, and encourage NGOs to make a code of honor proving their legitimacy.
NGOs were created to eradicate poverty, hunger, disease, and suffering. However, in the years following the Cold War, the NGOs’ main priority has steered from humanitarian issues towards political control over vulnerable nations (Aall 93). For this reason, the government of the Russian Federation has banned NGOs from operating. Also, nations like Zambia and Zimbabwe both argue that NGOs are trying to replace their governments, instead of helping to reduce the humanitarian problems (Mutasa 2). In addition, NGOs are attracted to crisis areas, due to the extensive aid they receive from donor nations, International Organizations and the WTO. However, instead using the financial aid towards assisting the unfortunate civilians, fake NGOs use it for their own
selfish needs. For instance, in the village of Natore in Bangalesh, thirty NGOs swindled about ten lakh rupees from the impoverished villagers who were in dire need of assistance (Haque 1). Unfortunately, fake NGOs are quite a common occurrence around the world today. For example, the Social Welfare Department of Bangladesh claims that of the 48,635 NGOs registered, more than half are illegitimate (2). Furthermore, NGOs in crisis situations are catalysts to long term violence. For instance, in nations like Rwanda, South Africa, and Somalia, NGOs contributed to the 1990s genocide by unknowingly assisting power hungry rebels. Scholar Edward Hulmes believes that relief NGOs aided the conflicts in five ways: “(1) By providing resources to warring sides; (2) by contributing to market distortions; (3) by reinforcing societal divisions and conflict; (4) by freeing up internal resources for us in conflict; and (5) by legimising warring side” (Reimann 45). For instance, when NGOs donate food (resources) to the warring side, the warring side does not eat the food, but it uses the food to show power and manipulation over those civilians without any food. Relief can end up, as witnessed by the Cambodian refugee camps and the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in the “wrong hands.” It is imperative that the UN find potential solutions in limiting unnecessary NGO involvement in crisis situations, as well as, distinguishing the fake NGOs from the authentic ones.
The height of NGO involvement in Rwanda was during the 1994 genocide, when over 280 NGOs based their efforts in the Rwanda/The Rep. of Congo border (Joint Evaluation of Emergency Resistance to Rwanda 6). Although a few NGOs succeeded in providing shelter and food for homeless civilians, the majority of NGOs were unnecessary and some triggered more cultural conflicts between the Tutsi and the Hutu
groups of Rwanda. Only 40 International NGOs had any experience in emergency situations beforehand, meaning that the majority of NGOs were inexperienced and based in Rwanda merely for the fame and wealth (from donors). As a response to the surge of NGOs in Rwanda, the Red Cross suggested that all NGOs adopt the “Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief,” which states that NGOs should create a legal document proving their legitimacy as a human rights organization (7). In addition, the nation of Rwanda greatly encourages the nonpolitical involvement of NGOs, provided they are monitored by the government. For this reason, Rwanda passed law no No 20/200 of 26/07/200 which states that an NGO must be authorized by a government before it can start working (“NGO Application Information” 1). This drastically reduces the number of fake NGOs in Rwanda. In addition, the Rwandan government is deliberating on officially passing the NGO law, which would allow more NGOs the freedom to exhibit their humanitarian efforts over a range of activities.
Rwanda supports NGO involvement in institution building. NGOs have played a vital role in creating Rwanda’s two prosperous institutions: the Gacaca and the Ubudehe, aimed towards encouraging community cooperation and bringing about conflict resolution (Fisher 183). However, of the 212 NGO institution building projects in Rwanda, only 11% have a chance to continue after the NGO’s aid terminates (183). For this reason, the Rwandan government looks favorably upon those NGOs with the 11% chance to stay. The Rwandan government understands the gravity in eliminating
unnecessary NGOs and encouraging authentic ones and has taken the necessary steps to uphold NGO cooperation on a domestic, as well as on an international scale. Rwanda proposes notable solutions towards monitoring the legitimacy of NGOs. The government suggests that nations encourage all NGOs to adopt the Code of Conduct. This legal documentation serves as proof to an NGO’s authenticity. The Code of Conduct has been proven a success in the past, not only in African countries, but also in Israel and confederacies like Palestine, where it helped prove the authenticity of 74% of NGOs (“Final Opinion Poll on Corruption in the NGO-Sector” 1). Rwanda also encourages the use diplomatic pressure to convince nations to register NGOs. However, Rwanda realizes the importance in respecting a nation’s national sovereignty and therefore emphasizes the respect of a country’s decisions should it not wish to adhere to this solution. Rwanda also stresses the limitation of NGOs during crisis situations, on the basis that NGOs interfere with domestic conflicts, albeit indirectly, and fuel the expansion of conflicts. Laws should be passed towards limiting a country’s involvement during crises. Expanding to this, WTO and donor nations should stop funding NGOs during crises situations unless NGO involvement is approved by the conflict nation. Furthermore, although Rwanda does not wish to prohibit all NGO involvement in crisis scenarios, NGOs that do wish to provide aid must have history of previous experience in emergency situations. These NGOs should preferably be well-trained in institution building. Should these measures be implemented, nations will find a drastic decrease in inexperienced and illegitimate NGOs. Furthermore, the UN should pass more resolutions, like the Rwandan NGO laws, which outline the specific roles of NGOs. These laws highlight the
humanitarian aspects of NGO involvement. They can also shed the common misconceptions amongst the NGOs that believe they have a right to replace a country’s government.
It is also imperative that those NGOs granted the opportunity to work in crisis nations, take a neutral stance on conflict situations. NGO leaders should not convert to one side of a conflict as this will only exacerbate the crisis situation even more. For this reason, NGOs should also think twice before providing relief to a certain side of the conflict. As evidenced by Rwanda, NGOs should generally steer away from proving direct relief to guerrilla groups. Rwanda does not completely encourage the prohibition of NGO relief efforts towards civilians, however recommends that NGOs think cautiously before acting. Rwanda believes in a preventative, rather than a reactive approach. Therefore, in order to control the number of NGOs that are politically inclined, more NGOs should steer their efforts towards educating civilians on civil unity. In many conflict nations, problems arise between groups of people who are ignorant about civil unity. For this reason, NGOs should provide educational programs aimed towards educating civilians on the importance of working together as a united body. These programs could expand upon religious obedience (in nations which allow it), which could deter numerous ethnic conflicts from happening. Should nations adopt these measures, NGO involvement will be more legitimate, beneficial to the state of a nation, and successful in reducing conflicts on an international level. “An NGO is a private, self-governing, not-for-profit organization acting of its
own volition on behalf of others” (Weiss 95). However, illegitimate NGOs have put that declaration into question by illegally smuggling funds, selfishly neglecting the impoverished civilians, and contributing to the conflicts fought within crisis nations. Rwanda notes with sincerity the importance and urgency of the issue at hand and strongly believes that should nations and NGO follow the correct steps, this crisis will be on its way to recovery.
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