WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nongovernmental organizations, especially
environmental, play an increasingly important role in international
politics. With the financial backing of major U.S. philanthropies, such
as the Ford Foundation, environmental activists use United Nations
forums and other international meetings to influence global trade and
Environmental groups were stunned when the cash-strapped Turner Foundation — which gave about $28 million to green causes in 2002 — announced recently that it would temporarily suspend all funding for at least a year. The prospect of losing a major donor was a setback for radical activist groups like the Ruckus Society, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace. (The Turner Foundation, however, will fulfill multi-year grant commitments totaling $6 million for 2003 and $6 million for 2004; and Turner?s United Nations Foundation plans to fulfill his pledge of donating $1 billion to U.N. programs. To date, the United Nations Foundation has donated at least $400 million.) They and other so-called ?nongovernmental organizations? — or NGOs — are ubiquitous at gatherings of the U.N., the World Trade Organization and other international organizations. These activist and advocacy groups are use to financial backing from a network of foundation donors. It?s what keeps their large and diffuse network in constant motion around the world.
The July 2003 issue of Foundation Watch outlined the NGO phenomenon on the world stage. Authors David Riggs and Robert Huberty recommended that international organizations adopt transparency rules similar to those governing U.S. nonprofits. They would require NGOs to make public reports on the amount and sources of their revenue — including government funding — and their expenses before receiving U.N. ?consultative? status or other forms of official recognition. Riggs and Huberty noted that as things stand now, international NGOs face little or no public scrutiny despite their officially sanctioned presence at major intergovernmental meetings.
However, the NGO picture isn?t completely opaque. Because many of the most important NGOs before international bodies are U.S. tax-exempt nonprofits, they must adhere to U.S. financial disclosure laws. A look at the foundation grants they receive allows us to ?follow their money? — at least some of it. It will give us a glimpse into the funding network that keeps the international NGO machine humming.
The foundations underwriting NGOs are among the wealthiest in the United States. They include the Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Despite the Turner Foundation?s funding woes, plenty of well-heeled liberal philanthropies are on hand to subsidize the international environmental movement. Their grants put green activism on display in 2002 at the Johannesburg U.N. Summit on Sustainable Development and this September at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Cancún, Mexico. (I attended the Cancun meeting as a representative of International Consumers for Civil Society, which had applied for and received U.N.-accreditation as an ?NGO.?)
NGOs and the U.N.: A Symbiotic Relationship
Most NGO representatives like to refer to themselves collectively as ?civil society? — that is, they claim to represent the people as distinct from the governments of U.N. member states. Of course, no one has elected them to any office. It?s U.N. officials — who aren?t elected either — who bestow legitimacy on them as participants at countless U.N. conferences and meetings. There is a good reason for this, says Gary Johns, a senior fellow at Australia?s Institute of Public Affairs and editor of a forthcoming American Enterprise Institute book on NGOs. Johns explains that NGOs give U.N. officials and other transnational bureaucrats something they would not otherwise have — a constituency that needs the forums they organize. This in turn allows the NGOs to portray themselves as the agents of participatory democracy. But what results is a very complex process of endless rounds of talk, not democracy. The ultimate point of it all? — to force governments to legitimate the process, one that NGOs are in charge of organizing and monitoring.
U.N. officials say they are simply trying to help developing countries by ?capacity building.? This means that they use NGOs to provide consultation, services, and infrastructure to governments on important economic and social policy matters. ?Capacity building? projects give NGOs an official imprimatur to push their agendas onto the governments of developing countries. For example, the Energy and Transport Branch of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) advises the governments of poor countries on energy projects. Created after the 1992 Rio Summit, CSD is supposed to focus ?on increasing the supply of energy services in developing countries, particularly in rural areas, and managing the demand for energy, largely through energy efficiency efforts.? How does it do this? CSD relies on NGOs to promote tools of central planning, energy regulation, and subsidies for ?renewable energy? (e.g. solar and wind) projects. Governments that might prefer private sector investment to build dams or power plants are encouraged to become dependent on NGO-proposed alternatives.
CSD has several major NGO partners that it looks to for capacity-building assistance. They include Earthjustice, a U.S environmental litigation group, the International Institute for Sustainable Future (IISF), the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), among others. (ICLEI and ICFTU are profiled later in this article).
Oakland, California-based Earthjustice used to be called the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund when it was founded in 1971. In the U.S., its mission has been to sue federal and state governments to enact stricter environmental regulations. Currently, it opposes the nomination of former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt to be EPA Administrator. In the world arena, it litigates to burden international trade agreements with environmental provisions, to assert ?the right of governments to limit trade where necessary to protect the environment or human health.? In 2002, Earthjustice had nearly $18 million in revenues.
The International Institute for Sustainable Future (IISF) provides an even better example of how U.N. officials and NGO activists use each other. Called the Urban Development Institute when it was founded in 1974 by the government of India and the U.N., the mission of the Mumbai (Bombay)-based IISF is ?bringing sustainability to developing countries.? IISF says it ?conducts research, training, planning, besides advising governments, international organizations, and corporations in the field of environment, urban planning, ecological architecture and design, industrial safety, disaster management, sustainable energy, organic agriculture, and global ecology.? By its own account, the NGO has handled projects in more than 30 countries over the last 15 years ranging from ?appropriate technology development in Sri Lanka? to ?population programs in Egypt.? IISF financial information was not available for this article, because it has no significant U.S. presence and therefore does not have to observe U.S. disclosure laws.
IISF is typical of many overseas NGOs. Its director is Dr. Rashmi Mayur, an advisor to the U.N. Sustainable Development Program and vice president of the Association of World Citizens (AWC), whose goal is the abolition of the nation-state. AWC?s ?Human Manifesto? states: ?We declare our individual citizenship to the world community and our support for a United Nations capable of governing our planet in the common human interest.? IISF also has an ?international advisory board,? which includes radical American historian Howard Zinn and Canadian Maurice Strong, a wealthy environmental activist, philanthropist, and policy adviser (See December 2001 Foundation Watch for a profile of Strong).
U.N. Empowers NGOs
NGOs are welcome participants at meetings of U.N. departments and affiliates like the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Non-Governmental Liaison Service, and the U.N. Department of Public Information. These bodies decide which nonprofits deserve ?consultative status,? which opens doors to the U.N. deliberative process. An independent group called the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations — or CONGO — is another important ?gatekeeper? organization that helps screen NGOs and organize their activities.
How do these groups work? A look at one of last year?s most important U.N. meetings offers a good case study.
On August 26-September 4, 2002, the United Nations held its World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two thousand three hundred delegates (including more than 100 heads of state) from 163 U.N. member states attended. President George W. Bush declined to join the throng but sent Secretary of State Colin Powell instead. Also attending were 8,096 representatives from 925 NGOs.
One objective of the Johannesburg Earth Summit was to further the goals of Agenda 21. This was a very ambitious declaration adopted by 178 U.N. member states including the U.S. in 1992 at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Earth Summit because it was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In grandiose terms, Agenda 21 called for central economic planning and the transfer of wealth to the developing world. It also sought to increase the role NGOs would play in international capacity building. The Agenda 21 preamble states:
The developmental and environmental objectives of Agenda 21 will require a substantial flow of new and additional financial resources to developing countries, in order to cover the incremental costs for the actions they have to undertake to deal with global environmental problems and to accelerate sustainable development. Financial resources are also required for strengthening the capacity of international institutions for the implementation of Agenda 21.
Chapter 27 of Agenda 21 is more specific:
Both the United Nations system and individual governments should invite non-governmental organizations to be involved in making policies and decisions on sustainable development. [Bold in original] They should also make non-governmental organizations part of a process to review and evaluate how Agenda 21 is being put into practice. These organizations should be given timely access to the data and information they need to support sustainable development. Governments should encourage sustainable development partnerships between nongovernmental organizations and local authorities.
The United Nations should see that all its agencies draw on the expertise of non-governmental organizations, and the U.N. should review its financial and administrative support for these organizations to strengthen their role as partners?Non-governmental organizations, particularly in developing countries, will require significant additional funding to help them contribute to sustainable development and to monitor progress on Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 Today
NGO influence has exploded in the ten years since Agenda 21 was adopted. The 925 NGOs accredited to attend the 2002 Johannesburg summit were no rag-tag crew of activist students and drop-outs; they were savvy professionals from such well funded groups as Conservation International, Corp Watch/Tides Center, Earth Island Institute, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Greenpeace International, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, Oxfam International, Sierra Club, Socialist International, and various national United Nations Associations.
At Johannesburg, U.N organizers gave NGOs access to the summit by establishing what they called ?multi-stakeholder dialogues? — which is U.N. terminology for special interest NGO meetings. The groups claimed to represent:
- non-governmental organizations
- local authorities
- workers and trade unions
- business and industry
- scientific and technological communities
- indigenous people.
Each of these stakeholder groups was represented by U.N.-selected lead organizations. Some of the representatives were comfortable conference-goers; others were determined trouble-makers. But all were eager to insert themselves into the interminable Summit discussion processes that ultimately give political leverage to NGOs, their international agency sponsors, and their foundation funders.
Women. Under the U.N.?s auspices, the New York-based Women?s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), founded by legendary feminist Bella Abzug, sent two official delegates to the summit to coordinate the dialogue for women ?stakeholders.?
WEDO?s stated mission is to ?increase public awareness about the negative impacts of globalization on women? — it praised the recent collapse of the World Trade Organization?s meeting in Cancún, Mexico — and to promote government central planning and access to abortion. WEDO is a member of the Pro-Choice Education Project, a collaborative effort of about 40 feminist and abortion rights groups and some unions (including the AFL-CIO), which promotes the slogan, ?It?s pro-choice or no choice? to young women and girls.
In Johannesburg, WEDO set up a ?Women?s Action Tent? for speakers from groups like the Sierra Club and the Federation of Cuban Women, a Castro government front group that the U.N. accredits as an NGO. One WEDO organizer, Indian antiglobalization activist named Vandana Shiva — she also runs a group called ?Diverse Women for Diversity? — conducted a panel discussion where she championed the ?women?s movement against Coca Cola? and the ?movement against privatization of Ganges water.?
The Ford Foundation is the biggest foundation donor to WEDO. Since 1999, Ford has given WEDO $4,279,000 in grants. According to Foundation Center records, almost all funds have been for general operating expenses, except for one $99,000 grant enabling WEDO to participate in a U.N. conference on women held in New York in 2000, and a $50,000 grant to conduct a search for a new WEDO executive director.
Youth. The lead NGOs were the South Africa National Youth Council, which represented the host country, and the European Youthforum (?established by national youth councils and international non-governmental youth organizations in Europe?). Interestingly, membership in the Youthforum is not open to individual young people but only to NGOs, which work ?with international institutions, mainly the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations?to channel the flow of information and opinions between young people and decision makers.? The European Parliament and European Commission provide funding for Youthforum meetings. If not for U.N. and E.U. gatherings, the European Youthforum and the South Africa National Youth Council would have little reason to exist.
Non-Governmental Organizations. This stakeholder caucus worked to give NGOs more access to the U.N. deliberation process. At Johannesburg, its organizers came from three NGOs: the Third World Network, the Danish 92 Group, and the Environment Liaison Centre International.
Third World Network (TWN) is based in Penang, Malaysia and has offices in Geneva, Delhi (India), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Accra (Ghana). It publishes a magazine, Third World Economics, which opposes free trade and economic liberalization (It features articles with such titles as ?Free trade not truly free but ?imposed?? and ?Liberalization agenda?s ?promised land? a mirage.?) Just before the Summit, it joined Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, and CorpWatch to celebrate ?Corporate Accountability Week,? which accused corporations of causing poverty and environmental degradation. TWN?s Chee Yoke Heong told the British journal New Scientist: ?How can you have a partnership between the polluter and the victim, the land-taker and the people whose land is taken?? TWN co-published Vandana Shiva?s book The Violence of the Green Revolution, an attack on the revolutionary changes in agriculture that are ending food shortages. Shiva deplores their impact on traditional village life — i.e. subsistence and poverty.
In 2001, the Ford Foundation gave $350,000 to Third World Network ?to strengthen [the] voice of African civil society groups in international trade negotiations.? According to NGO Report (#1, 2003), a publication of Australia?s Institute for Public Affairs, TWN received $600,000 from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to maintain its international activist network. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund provided $275,000 and the Foundation for Deep Ecology $255,000 to support the campaigns of TWN and its close collaborator, the Consumers Association of Penang. TWN executive director Martin Khor is on the ?shadow management board? of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, a radical funder opposed to bio-technology, population growth and economic development practices it considers destructive of nature.
The Danish 92 Group is a coalition of 20 Danish NGOs, including the Danish U.N. Association, Greenpeace Denmark, and World Wildlife Fund Denmark. It demands stringent environmental treaties and would add more environmental links to World Trade Organization negotiations. The 92 Group was organized just before the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In Johannesburg it joined eight other NGOs — Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature, EarthJustice, Euroda, Friends of the Earth, Northern Alliance for Sustainability, Oxfam International, and Consumers International — to form the ?Eco Equity Coalition,? which denounced so-called voluntary partnership initiatives with the private sector — also known as ?Type 2? partnerships in U.N. jargon — as insufficient to meet the goals of Agenda 21. ?The responsibility for agreeing on world-wide social and environmental rules must remain with governments,? said the coalition. ?Global problems require global solutions through global governance.?
Denmark has a well-organized NGO sector primarily funded by the government. It is estimated that Denmark gives more than one percent of its gross national income (equal to $1.5 billion) to overseas development, making it the ?most generous? donor to the developing world in proportion to its population. However, a new, more conservative Danish government is proposing to trim its spending in this area.
The Environment Liaison Centre International is based in Nairobi, Kenya and aims to strengthen ?communication and cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society, providing liaison between NGOs and the United Nations Environment Program.? It claims a staff of 30 and works with 800 African NGOs.
Local Authorities. This stakeholder constituency included a representative from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). It bills itself as ?an international association of local governments implementing sustainable development? and specifically Agenda 21, whose Chapter 28 proposes this plan:
Each Local Authority should enter into a dialogue with its citizens, local organizations, and private enterprises and adopt a ?local Agenda 21.? Through consultation and consensus building, local authorities would learn from citizens and from local, civic, community, business, and industrial organizations and acquire the information needed for formulating the best strategies.
What are these strategies? Toronto-based ICLEI claims that, ?attempts at development in poorer regions of the Earth put nature and its resources under such an amount of pressure that sooner or later a collapse seems inevitable. Therefore, sustainable development in Europe means creating new ways of economic activity which will guarantee the desired quality of life and yet, in the long run, reduce the consumption of natural resources to a fifth of the current value.? [Emphasis added]
ICLEI?s Local Agenda 21 (LA21) campaign aims ?to build a worldwide movement of local governments and associations dedicated to achieving sustainable development, through participatory, multi-stakeholder sustainable development planning.? In other words, it wants worldwide politicized zoning and planning boards. One ICLEI project, Cities for Climate Protection Campaign (CCP), has even developed software to help cities monitor greenhouse gas emissions and develop ?local action plans to direct urban planning, transportation choices, and development decisions to positively affect local and global environmental quality.?
ICLEI had $5.7 million in 2001 revenues. It reports receiving $600,000 in grants from foundations and $2.6 million in grants from governments and international organizations. The now-inactive Turner Foundation provided $205,000 in grants in 19992000.
Workers and Trade Unions. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the ICFTU Youth Committee led this stakeholder group. ICFTU, founded in 1949, is a confederation of national trade union federations with 231 affiliated organizations in 150 countries and a total membership of 158 million. Headquartered in Brussels, it works with the U.N.?s International Labor Organization and has consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council. In Johannesburg, ICFTU spokesman John Evans called for a global system of corporate regulation. Evans said Enron and other corporate scandals had internationalized the issue of corporate governance: ?We can?t say this is just an issue for national governments.?
ICFTU tilts to the Left, but because union jobs depend on corporations and economic growth it tempers its support for the demands of radical NGO ?stakeholders.? An August 2003 ICFTU statement notes:
[T]he term ?stakeholder? is much overused and abused and obscures more than it clarifies. It it too imprecise to be used in an instrument whose purpose is to create or amplify legal obligations? ?Stakeholder? is a term that requires a relationship to be of use. Not all stakeholders are equal. And not all stakeholders have a legitimate claim against the behavior of a company arising out of the broader interests of society, including the protection of or promotion of respect for human rights.
In short, ICFTU wants to regulate business, but, unlike the radical green Left, it doesn?t want to regulate business out of existence. On its most recently available financial report (1995–1998), ICFTU reported 1998 income from its labor union affiliates of about $11 million; 60 percent of the amount came from Europe and 25 percent from North America.
Business and Industry. The lead here is taken by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Founded in 1919, Paris-based ICC has 800 corporate members and has enjoyed U.N. consultative status since 1946. It lobbies for open markets, but favors broad, U.N.-style declarations on environmental protection. ICC?s Business Charter for Sustainable Development lists business activities improving the environment, but never mentions the importance of economic growth. ICC?s chairman is Jean Fourtou, CEO of Vivendi Universal, the struggling Paris-based media conglomerate. The Geneva-based World Business Council has 165 corporate members, including 30 American corporations (e.g. Chevron, Texaco, Dow, Dupont, Ford, GM, Monsanto). Like many other NGOs, it was created after the Rio Summit.
Scientific and Technological Communities. The International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) organized this stakeholder group. ICSU is a coalition of 101 national scientific academies and 27 scientific unions. It is funded by member contributions, but also receives funding from UNESCO, other U.N. agencies, and foundations. Lately it has focused on global climate change. Paris based ICSU works with 19 U.N. agencies, the Council of Europe, European Commission, Organization of African Unity, Organization of American States, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Its series of reports on sustainable development, issued for the summit, was funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Some reports were produced in partnership with WFEO, which was founded in 1968, also with UNESCO support.
Farmers. The stakeholder leaders were the radical Honduran group Via Campesina and the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP). Via Campesina claims 69 ?participating organizations,? mostly in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In Johannesburg, it joined the South African Landless Peoples Movement, Social Movement Indaba, AIDS activists, and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in a noisy street demonstration called the ?March for the Landless.? Organizers invited Robert Mugabe, the brutal Zimbabwean despot, to address the crowd.
Via Campesina favors subsistence farming, opposes biotechnology, ridicules property rights (?Indigenous peoples have sustainably managed their ecosystems for generations without knowing formal property rights?), and endorses ?land redistribution by means of expropriation and forfeiture of quality land, in which the State assumes its responsibilities.?
Unlike Via Campesina, IFAP is membership driven. Founded in 1946, it is a federation of 100 national farmers? organizations from 71 countries, including the radical National Farmers Union in the U.S. Also unlike Via Campesina, IFAP favors biotechnology to improve agricultural yields while reducing pesticide use. But it too regards attendance at international conferences as essential to its mission. And just like many other international NGOs, it is based in Paris.
NGO organizers at the Johannesburg Summit did include representatives of less radical NGOs, like ICC and IFAP, and even accredited a few pro-market organizations, such as the American groups Consumer Alert and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Moreover, conservative organizations like Concerned Women for America and Family Research Council have made a point of acquiring NGO certification precisely to counter the influence of population control and abortion rights NGOs at this and other international forums.
Still, the vast majority of NGOs at these meetings equate civil society with government mandates and the private sector with greed and predation. ?With only a handful of free-market groups able to attend any of these meetings, it?s been difficult for us to have an impact,? says Consumer Alert President Frances Smith. ?But we are rapidly learning how to seize the moral high ground by seeking allies in the developing world.?
The Johannesburg summit came with a big price tag. So who pays? Although they are subject to few financial disclosure rules, it?s clear that European governments and foundations and U.N. agencies are undoubtedly major supporters of many overseas NGOs. The largest U.S. foundations — MacArthur, Mott, Packard, Pew — are also heavy contributors to advocacy groups, especially U.S.-based environmental nonprofits. But any list of major donors to international and environmental NGOs must take special notice of the Ford Foundation.
Last month?s Foundation Watch by Martin Wooster [ed. –October 2003] described a number of Ford Foundation grants to U.S. nonprofits, and it noted how their missions were far different from the beliefs and intentions of Henry Ford. But more can be said about the Foundation?s international activities. In 2002 the Ford Foundation approved 2,510 grants totaling $529.3 million. A great many of them went to overseas NGOs.
At the Johannesburg summit, Ford was everywhere. A search of the Foundation Center?s database discloses that it gave half a million dollars to the summit?s NGO section (The search turned up no other U.S. foundation grants to this body.) The Foundation sent 125 representatives to the Summit — it has a Johannesburg office — and it funded many of the NGOs attending the conference, including NGO group dialogue organizers.
Here are just a few of the NGOs at Johannesburg that have benefited from Ford Foundation support:
Corp Watch/Tides Center received $125,000 in 2002 for a Climate Justice Initiative ?which seeks to redefine climate change debate in the U.S. from discussion of energy use to one of human rights and environmental justice.? The Corp Watch mission at the Summit seemed to be to keep anti-globalization activists informed and networked to one another by circulating detailed dispatches on NGO activities. More recently, it praised the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancún, betraying its view of the world as a zero-sum game: ?As the 5th WTO ministerial meeting ends in collapse, there is a tangible sense here that the newfound strength of a large bloc of Southern nations has shifted the balance of power between rich and poor countries? — as if it were not possible for both rich and poor nations to benefit from trade.
The San Francisco-based Tides Center received over $1 million from Ford in 2002, including the CorpWatch grant. Center chairman Wade Rathke is a founder of the far-left group ACORN, a driving force behind campaigns for ?living wage? laws, which mandate local area minimum wages, and ?community reinvestment? laws, which mandate bank loaning in low-income areas.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) received $435,000 in 1999–2002 (including grants to FoE International, FoE Washington, D.C., and FoE Nigeria). One $155,000 grant went last year ?to improve governance structure and strengthen international networks to address global environmental policy issues.? FoE International, based in Amsterdam, has 68 independent national affiliates. For FY 2002 (ending June 30, 2002), the U.S. affiliate in Washington, D.C. reported $3.8 million in revenue (and $4.27 million in expenditures). FoE, was a member of the Eco Equity Coalition in Johannesburg. A spokesman there branded the U.S., Canada, and Australia as an ?axis of environmental evil.?
At the WTO meeting in Cancún, FoE activists disrupted a food donation event at a poor Mexican village in which I took part. FoE activists warned villagers that the food — containing genetically modified beans, rice and cornmeal — was poisoned. Most of the village residents ignored them, took the food, and thanked the donating organizations — the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Committee for A Constructive Tomorrow, International Consumers for Civil Society, and Congress of Racial Equality. The next morning FoE protesters staying at my hotel made no fuss when they ate corn flakes for breakfast — the same brand we donated to the villagers the day before.
World Wildlife Fund/World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Ford gave $1.5 million to its various chapters last year. A member of the Eco Equity Coalition, WWF is among the largest and most prestigious environmental groups, enjoys patronage from the British and Dutch royal families, and boasts 4.5 million members worldwide. It has 28 national affiliates and 24 program offices. Based in Switzerland, WWF and its national chapters raised $332 million last year. Revenue to the U.S. affiliate was $118 million in 2001. WWF?s history is riddled with questionable management and fundraising practices detailed in the May 2003 Foundation Watch.
Abantu for Development, a London based organization, its mission to Africa includes ?strengthening the management capacities of NGOs? and ?capacity building for NGOs to engage with policies from a gender perspective.? One $300,000 Ford grant in 2002 went for a ?training and advocacy program to strengthen capacities of women?s NGOs to engage with policies on sexuality and reproductive health from gender perspective in West Africa.? A second $120,000 grant went ?to build capacity and public awareness on gender and governance and for organizational development.?
South Africa?s Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF) received $165,000 in 2002 to help plan the Summit and ?to host Soweto-based international week of environmental justice activities.? However, EJNF was dissatisfied with the Summit?s outcome, especially the final statement on corporate accountability, which it deemed too vague. EJNF is also critical of multinational corporations that introduce genetically-modified foods into South Africa.
Oxfam America — $1.1 million in 2002, including $500,000 ?[t]o build capacity and strengthen leadership of Cuban rural and urban agricultural organizations? and two grants totaling $550,000 to promote ?fair trade? coffee.
National Wildlife Federation — $320,000 in 2002, including $20,000, ?[t]o research and develop [a] video documentary on certified wood and fair trade coffee.?
The size of the U.N.-NGO behemoth and its massive funding is enough to discourage supporters of limited government and American sovereignty. But it?s not all bad news. For the most part, U.N. conferences are ineffective, and there is even occasional good news.
In June, the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency, revoked Greenpeace?s consultative status. Although it gave no official reason, press accounts attribute the move to Greenpeace?s protests on the high seas, which shipping companies argue recklessly endanger shipping.
Funders also can get their comeuppance. In June 2003, CNN media mogul Ted Turner?s foundation announced it had financial troubles and would cease grant making for at least a year. A spokesman for Friends of the Earth called the shutdown ?a terrible loss? and added, ?it?s really like losing one of your strongest allies.? The Turner Foundation?s gifts were large — over $12 million to the National Environmental Trust in 1998 and 1999, and over $1 million to the Natural Resources Defense Council between 1998 and 2000. And it didn?t shy away from the lunatic fringe. One grantee, the Ruckus Society ($50,000 in 1999), is renowned for its street protest tactics at demonstrations against ?globalization.?
However, NGOs will not give up easily. They have found a cause and they have found donors to support them over the long haul.
Ivan Osorio is Editorial Director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (www.cei.org.)