NGOs are nongovernment organizations that focus on one main topic and raise money that goes toward combating the causes and helping those in need of help. There is many different types of NGOs such as MANGOs, TANGOs and many others. Each specialize in helping a certain cause. They are only a recognized organization if accepted by the United Nations. Most NGOs receive millions of dollars and get away without any second thought from donors. The donors feel good for using their money to help a great cause and get to write it off on their taxes. Win-win, right? But Linda Polman raises concerns about the truth of some of the NGOs, the level of helpfulness of NGOs during time of war and where the ethical issues that arise from the organizations.
In chapter 3 of Linda Polman’s book, Crisis Caravan, she talks about MANGOs and the financial responsibility of Nongovernment Organizations. She starts her story by explaining how the top executives of various NGOs are at a resort that most of the locals would be unable to get in, let alone afford. The only people of color at the resort were the wait staff. At dinner, they are all having the most expensive items on the menu. The food is of course all paid for on the NGOs dime, so none of them are concerned when the check comes. When people donate to an organization, they do not want their money going towards a steak dinner for the workers. Instead they want it going towards making a difference in the lives of others, following the message that they heard in the advertisements that trick them into donating. I believe that organizations need to be honest about the portion of funding and where every penny goes to. Some organizations are great at how they responsibly spent the money that was granted and gifted to them. But many “aid organizations are businesses dressed up like Mother Teresa” (p.177). When Linda Polman says this she means that many aim to do well and that helps bring in the donations, but they are really only out there to help themselves more than those needing the money and where the money is supposed to go. Being able to travel on someone else’s dime, eating and not having to pay for the buildings rent because millions of other people are donating money to cover it. But really they are being fooled into paying for greedy peoples’ things.
She also goes on to question if NGO’s actually help in times of conflict or prolongs wars. While it is great having people so selfless that they are willing to put themselves on dangerous territory to save many lives, they may also be putting many lives in danger by doing so. They stitch people up from both sides so they can get back out on the battle field and injure, if not kill, more people on the other side. This keeps the war going because people who are injured are able to get back out there, when they should be sitting out and healing. It is great that organizations like the Red Cross can be so neutral that they can help both sides, they are also helping oppress the already oppressed side by helping the people doing the oppressing. It is important to remember both sides are human, and in time of need many would want to help those no matter their background. It is a great feature of humanity and caring for every life. But in the circumstance when they are going to pick up their gun after getting healed, is it the right thing to do? If they would stay out of the crossfire once they got injured, the answer would always be yes. But since they are going back to harm others instead of help, it complicates the situation.
There are many overall ethical issues that arise from the conflicts that NGOs try to help and also cause. Should they be able to help both sides of a war? Should the money from donors be able to go towards their personal expenses? Would it be acceptable if the donor was knowledge about where their money went and was spent on? Who has the power to make these rules followed and keep NGOs in check? There are many questions that the topics of NGOs bring up and unfortunately most are in grey areas of what is right and wrong. I believe that organizations need to have an overseeing body that they must report their financial spending reports to. They will keep them honest. They should also have to reapply every few years. If their reports are poor in previous years, they have time to fix it before their application is reviewed. The goal is to keep the money going to the places it is supposed to. Unfortunately, people need supervision to make sure that happens.
Polman, L. (2003). Crisis Caravan. London: Viking