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Sullivan Is Right: NGO-World is Biased and Deeply Flawed

Andrew Sullivan refers us to a paragraph by Pranab Bardan.  The graph gets development NGO’s right:  they don’t and can’t truly represent the poor.  The problems are huge.  NGOs are unelected, they are accountable to their funding sources (who are generally based in the advanced democracies) and as Bardan points out they lack the political legitimacy and experience of actual political parties.

More broadly, “civil society” is not the true voice of a nation: it is usually a synonym for genteel upper middle class opinion.

Messy and unsatisfying as democratic politics can be, it is through the political process that a people speaks.  That speech may be crude and may be offensive, and democracies can go off the rails.  Even so, the dialog of NGOs and civil society groups is trivial chit chat compared with the authority and the majesty of the genuinely democratic debate that takes place whenever a free people goes to the polls.

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  • Luke Lea

    Reminds me of Auden’s quip about do-gooders: “we’re all here to help other people but what the other people are here for we don’t know.” Still sympathy is good: having an industrial revolution on the Western model is one of the most traumatic, disorienting, and often unjust transformations a society can go through. It would be nice if a more geographically decentralized version could be devised, less disruptive of traditional society. Modern transportation and communications technologies change the parameters.

  • back40

    “We are all on earth to help others. What on earth the others are here for, I can’t imagine.”

    “Often cited as by Auden without attribution, this quotation has been traced to John Foster Hall (1867-1945), an English comedian known as the Reverend Vivian Foster, Vicar of Mirth.”

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