June 25, 2003

NGO Watch
(via Merde in France)

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies have launched a new project to promote transparency and accountability in the increasingly influential world of non-governmental organizations. Here is an excerpt from their mission statement:

Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth in the power and influence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While it is true that many NGOs remain true to grassroots authenticity conjured up in images of protest and sacrifice, it is also true that non-governmental organizations are now serious business. NGO officials and their activities are widely cited in the media and relied upon in congressional testimony; corporations regularly consult with NGOs prior to major investments. Many groups have strayed beyond their original mandates and assumed quasi-governmental roles. Increasingly, non-governmental organizations are not just accredited observers at international organizations, they are full-fledged decision-makers.

Throughout much of the world, non-governmental organizations are unregulated, spared any requirement to account for expenditures, to disclose activities or sources of funding or even to declare their officers. That is not the case in the United States, where the tax code affords the public some transparency about its NGOs. But where is the rest of the story? Do NGOs influence international organizations like the World Trade Organization? What is their agenda? Who runs these groups? Who funds them? And to whom are they accountable?