Under Fire: NGOs Face Increasing Hostility

Long accustomed to occupying the moral high ground, NGOs are coming in for increasing criticism.

By Luke Hunt

The Diplomat

In recent decades the ubiquitous NGO has taken up the banner for charities and worthy causes. From the environment and human rights to health, education and animal welfare, nongovernment organizations have championed the dispossessed, winning legions of fans.

But in recent years pockets of NGO Land – as some call it – have lost their shine.

Too militant, too strident, and too sanctimonious are among common complaints leveled at NGOs – whether in Australia or in Southeast Asia and beyond — amid allegations of blatant lying and a victory at any cost mentality.

It was a point noted by academic and veteran correspondent Karl Wilson, from the Asian Centre for Journalism in The Philippines, who spent time working with a prominent human rights group.

He said they were not shy on self-promotion or in molding headline grabbing causes with fundraising potential.

“A toothless bloke fishing in Indonesia whose livelihood is threatened by global warming is not as attractive as a bikini clad chick on the Great Barrier Reef, snorkeling,” he said. “Working with them showed me how the other side works and how agendas are pushed and pushed hard.”

Arbiters of Bad Behavior

Greenpeace, which has annual revenue of around $350 million, has come under sustained attack for the highly questionable methods it has employed.

In Australia, it was caught using photographs from a devastated reef in The Philippines as part of its campaign to have the Great Barrier Reef listed as endangered by UNESCO at next week’s annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn.

Later, the environmental campaigners were accused of running a massive disinformation campaign in regards to the reef, driven by its broader agenda to have coal mining banned.

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