NGO crimes go far beyond Oxfam

We were so incensed by the way the scandal of Oxfam was being presented, and how the issue of the money collected and whether it reached people was not mentioned, that some of us wrote this letter to The Guardian. It gave us a chance to focus public attention on the way that Haitians in particular have been robbed after the devastating earthquake in 2010. So called NGOs did not deliver what the international public, with small donations, on small budgets, wanted them to have.

This letter was published in The Guardian yesterday, the online version is still to be corrected.

The Guardian   Letters   13 Feb 2018

NGO crimes go far beyond Oxfam

Figures for earthquake relief range from $10bn to $13.4bn. Some of us who visited Haiti have seen little or no sign of that money, write activists

Poster seen in window of an Oxfam bookshop, Glasgow.
Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

In 2008 some of us had written to Barbara Stocking, then Oxfam chief executive, objecting to a report that it sponsored, Rule of Rapists in Haiti, which labelled Haitians as rapists while hiding rapes by occupying UN forces. The year before, 114 soldiers had been sent home for raping women and girls, some as young as 11. No one was prosecuted. We wrote: “NGOs like Oxfam have known about rapes by UN forces, as well as by aid and charity workers, for decades. It’s the pressure of victims, women and [children] in the most impoverished communities, who had the courage to speak out that finally won … public acknowledgement.” There was no reply.

The latest revelations of sexual abuse by major charities (Report, 13 February), are but one facet of NGO corruption. The people of Haiti were the first to free themselves from slavery, but the colonial “masters” they defeated – France, Britain and the US – have continued to plunder and exploit, including through imported NGOs. Haiti has more NGOs per square mile than any other country and it remains the poorest in the western hemisphere.  [Ian Birrill was right:] Corruption begins and ends with neo-colonial powers.

While celebrated for “doing good”, NGO professionals do well for themselves. They move between NGOs, academia and political appointments, enjoying a culture of impunity while they exercise power over the poorest.  [When she left Oxfam, Stocking went to academia, advising on “gender equality”.]  The Lancet described NGOs in Haiti as “polluted by unsavoury characteristics seen in many big corporations” and “obsessed with raising money”.

Figures for earthquake relief range from $10bn to $13.4bn. Some of us who visited Haiti have seen little or no sign of that money. The public was outraged when they discovered the Red Cross intended to build a luxury hotel and conference centre in Haiti with some unspent donations. Big NGOs are far from non-governmental. For example, Oxfam receives millions from the UK government. USAID is another major funder. Unsurprisingly, NGO politics follow the cash.

In 2004 the US (backed by Canada and France) overthrew Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He headed a popular movement to chart an independent course that would move Haitians “from destitution to poverty”. His government supported small farmers, raised the minimum wage (the lowest in the western hemisphere), built schools and hospitals. (UNIFA, his medical university will be celebrating the graduation of its first class of doctors in March). The coup against him had NGO support. Charities thrive on the poor, not on ending poverty.

[Words in square brackets were omitted from the published letter]

Cristel Amiss
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Red Thread, Guyana
Margaret Busby
(Publisher & author)
Sara Callaway
Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike
Luke Daniels
Caribbean Labour Solidarity
Jocelyn Dow
Red Thread, Guyana
Selma James
Global Women’s Strike
Pierre Labossiere
Haiti Action Committee
Emma Lewis
Caribbean Labour Solidarity
Dr. Altheia Le Cointe
Trinidad & Tobago

Eddie Le Cointe
Nina Lopez
Legal Action for Women
Ian Macdonald QC

Nichola Marcus

Red Thread, Guyana
Rose Okello
All African Women’s Group
Margaret Prescod
Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike
Lawrence Renee
Payday Men’s Network
Sidney Ross-Risden
Haiti Support Working Group
Becky Titah
All African Women’s Group
Sam Karl Weinstein
Refusing to Kill network

We got a few Caribbean people including our Haitian point of reference and a few others of us dedicated to Haiti to express a slice of our experience of Haitian suffering which has given us great pain.

Clearly the NGOs have now become an unaccountable substitute for aid budgets of the UK and other countries. Once the governments fund, the NGOs must promote whatever political and economic interests the funders want pursued.

If funding is the aim and the object of so called charitable organisations, what they do is determined by what it will earn not what it will accomplish for the people they are supposed to be helping. The amount of money collected ($10-13.4 billon) is consistently camouflaged. We don’t know how many people died or were permanently maimed, etc., because this money given for them did not go to them. Hardly anyone has mentioned this in all that we have read.

Some aid workers blew the whistle and told us what was really going on. We owe great thanks to them because they went against the grain and this is not easy for people to do, though it is a habit that must be cultivated by all of us.

In addition one journalist who writes for the Sunday Mail and cannot be considered left wing described how “aid workers” were eating in posh restaurants where outside people were starving.  With friends like that who needs enemies.

Some of us who visited Haiti had seen small charities doing work connected with cholera that UN troops had imposed who were dedicated and quietly effective.

We have no idea how those who work for the large NGOs are recruited and how their dedication, or lack of it, is gauged. But it is clear that they have recruited people who are interested in sex with children. Also we know that when they leave one charity they can get a job with another, whatever have been their crimes. How does this happen? They each now have to explain.  Were they given references, for example?

We do know that charities were anxious for their name/logo to be photographed in situ so they could claim that they were helping; even Israel was quickly on the spot with doctors and cameras – for two weeks. Then they left.

Now we know that the charities are another way we the public are being fleeced. The Charity Commission has never complained above a whisper about this fleecing. It has been considered above suspicion. Now we must ask what corruption they are involved in.

Some years ago a malicious complaint was made about our small charity to count and value women’s unwaged work. The Charity Commission went through every piece of paper, every receipt and invoice. It took us weeks to prepare and explain. At the end of it we were given a clean bill of health but we were exhausted. Why were we challenged in this way? Because we had challenged women’s poverty and had no big-shot patrons. But the big charities are like the banks, too big to fail. Or rather too big for their failure to result in their demise.

Replies to our letter are coming in and we will be posting them soon.

1 Comment

  1. Anne Ness on 28th February 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Cultivating the habit of saying what is really going on is so important and thank you for your dedication to having that habit. As a professional nurse, i have feared opposing injustice in healthcare in order to continue receiving what benefits i can share from the healthcare nonsystem here in the USA. Our rich country depends on donations like NGOs do, and the dictators of charity hold our lives in their hands.