Global Justice Now is a decentralized democratic global social movement which aims to challenge the powerful and create a more equal and just world.
It’s a great example of a small, politically oriented NGO (Non-governmental organisation) so makes a great study for that part of the Global Development module within A-level sociology.
Some of their current main campaigns include focusing on promoting Fair Trade that works for people and planet and the Freedom of movement for people (pro migration).
They have a strong anti-Corporate and anti-Trump agenda.
They organize several activities every year to highlight global social justice issues, which typically involve small protests and handing petitions to ministers expressing concern about generally neo-liberal policies.
They also produce a magazine full of leftist articles focusing on fair trade and the global south and organize occasional meetings around global social justice issues.
One of things to be critical of is how effective (or ineffective) this organisation is their budget is only £1.5 million a year, which is less than the annual salaries of most of the CEOs of the companies they criticise!
Still, it’s a good NGO case study and useful source of information to keep you up to date with global justice issues.
‘Until the end of the Second World War, national governments were traditionally responsible for ensuring the welfare of their citizens, however since 1945, more and more governments have become members of International Institutions, such as the United Nations and the European Union, through which they agree to stick to International guidelines on issues such as citizenship and human rights. In this way, global political ideals restrict the freedom of governments to shape domestic social policy. ‘
Anthony Giddens (2009) notes the following features of Political Globalisation
The collapse of Communism in the 1990s meant the end of the divided ‘cold war’ world, and now these ex-communist countries are themselves democracies and integrated into the global economy.
The growth of international and regional mechanisms of government such as the United Nations and European Union – governments of Nation States are increasingly restricted by international directives and laws stemming from these international bodies.
International Non-Governmental organisations such as OXFAM or Greenpeace operate in dozens of countries, and members tend to have an international outlook.
‘Fifteen years ago, German journalist, Ulli Schauen helped compile a book of the top 500 global aid programmes… they ranged from schools for Maasai nomads to support for organic farming to training for volunteer sexual health workers.
The question is did they succeed or fail? Ulli travels to Kenya to see how the projects in that country fared. Ulli sets out to find if Aid really does make a difference.’
International Aid money has helped all of the projects below….
Project One – OSIGILI
in 1995 the Laikipiak Maasai formed an organization called OSILIGI (which means ‘Hope’.)
In one of the first projects OSILIGI organized reading and writing courses geared to the nomadic life. In April, August and December, when the nomadic herdsmen are settled, a teacher comes to the village. During these weeks children have concentrated lessons. This made-to-measure education is considerably cheaper than state elementary school. In 4 years, OSILIGI has reached 380 children with this programme, mainly from poor families.
However, the broader issue OSILIGI campaigns for is to establish land rights – to pasture and watering holes, and here they appear to have lost. The Maasai still have no formal rights and their land, and thus way of life, is under threat from agribusinesses and eco-tourism and in the programme we discover that the Maasai live amongst miles and miles of fences – which fence off private farms – one farm being as large as the island of Malta, which houses shipped-in Rhinos for eco-tourism, but this leaves little room for the Maasai.
Osigili seems now to be focussing on the education aspect, but the land rights issue has been taken up by another organisation – IMPACT. It is possible that more progress will be made in this area in the future.
Project Two – A Voucher System for Health Care
In the far West of Kenya the German Government Trained volunteer health advisers – 20 000 community health workers for 10 years. Unfortunately this terminated in 2006 and so no evaluation or final report can be found, the argument here, however, is that a lasting legacy
The German government now funds a voucher programme for the poor where they can use vouchers to receive free or subsidised contraception, maternal health services and HIV treatment.
Through the voucher programme local (privately run) hospitals receive $50 for maternal treatments and $12 for AIDs screenings (from the German Aid fund, they don’t get state funding) – 3/4s of the money goes on medicine and food, but the rest is available to allow for hospital expansion.
To give an example of how it works – one woman is interviewed who is HIV positive, and giving birth in the hospital meant that the infection was not passed on to her two children.
Despite the above, Kenya still failed to reach two of its MDGs -reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health.
But German Government trying to influence Kenyan health policy into the bargain. Germans wand to promote health insurance, Americans want to promote other issues – donors don’t co-ordinate their programmes.
This is a cooperative of 4000 women, who initially set up a library, primary school and a health centre. They also established a range of small businesses devoted to weaving, water, candlemaking, bakery.
However, all of this stopped working years ago… 75% of the initial money went into other people’s pockets – so they couldn’t pay workers or for materials to keep the projects going.
However, what these women learnt in the early days of this project allowed them to establish their own businesses, many of which are today successful and export to other countries.
Project Four – Environmental Protection on Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is heavily overfished and polluted.
This projects aims were to build water treatment plants and limiting the spread of the water hyacinth. There are laws in place about catch size (enforced by the mesh size of nets). However, it seems that everyone is happy about breaking the law and the aid-funded environmental organisation doesn’t seem to be enforcing the rules.
The World Bank Project labelled this one as unsatisfactory.
Project Five – A Foot Pump for Water
An Australian company called Kick Start (originally known as Aprotec ) which focussed on developing just one product – a small, foot operated water pump, claims to have lifted almost one million people out of poverty. Aid has been essential in this. The CEO says that it is not profitable to develop such products for people – it’s high risk, low return, and high cost – so it’s a market failure – thus subsidies in the form of International Aid, with this money going mainly into Research and Development and marketing (radio ads).
The pumps themselves are sold for $130 – and they have sold 250 000, which means about 900 000 will have been lifted out of poverty. We visit a tree nursery to see how this works – where an employee is using the foot pump (like a step machine) to pump water to water the young trees – this has allowed the company to grow a lot more trees and it is now much bigger than it used to be.
Question – Has development aid worked in the above five cases?
The programme finishes off by noting that we see all of the classic problems associated with Aid in the above examples, but it is the positive impacts which stick in his mind, especially the fact that when official projects collapse, the people who have gained skills carry on campaigning in different ways.
Find Out More…. There are another two episodes in the series if you wish to listen further!
The advantages of NGO Aid over Official Development Aid
Generally smaller and thus more responsive to the needs of local communities than the kinds of large scale development projects undertaken in the days of Modernisation Theory.
There is no political agenda as is often the case with government aid, and thus aid is not ‘tied aid’ – it is freely given.
NGOs can provide a more continuous supply of aid compared to governments, which can be effected by elections
NGOs are more likely to help the poorest of the poor, unlike TNCs who will only invest in slightly more developed countries that are more stable because these provide a better prospect for profit.
NGOs provide one of the most critical voices of government aid agendas and provide a broader range of knowledge about life in developing countries compared to Official Aid Agencies
Limitations and Criticisms of Non-Governmental Organisations
NGOs provide a tiny amount of aid compared to Governments and the World Bank – ODA from Britain is around £10 billion a year, total donations to development charities measured in the hundreds of millions. This relative lack of funding means NGOs can only do a limited amount compared to bigger, official aid agencies. NGOs cannot help to bring about Industrialistion or serious economic growth, only help small local communities with social development.
NGOs spend much of their money on glossy advertising campaigns and administration costs rather than helping people in the developing world – a good 25% of money raised is spent on such costs.
A lot of aid campaigns portray images of Africans as starving and helpless in order to generate sympathy and thus donations. This perpetuates the idea of Africa as a helpless continent incapable of helping itself, whereas the opposite is actually true – Africa is full of incredibly creative entrepreneurs.
NGO Aid can often be misguided, doing more harm than good such as with the ‘buy a goat campaign’ or the ‘sponsor a child campaign’.
There is a very wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). NGOs are groups of concerned citizens who are independent of the government and business, and are thus nominally non-political and non-profit organisations. NGOs typically have charity status and raise funds through a combination of voluntary donations from the public, but also grants from governments and other international development institutions.
Many NGOs are tiny, focusing on development in one region and specializing in one area, others, however, are global institutions, have huge budgets and work in several countries on numerous types of development project. This section focuses on these larger ‘aid organisations’ with an international focus – such as Oxfam and Action Aid. Although such organisations have an international focus, they still have a tendency to divide their attention so they focus on hundreds of different micro-level projects at one time.
Commentators generally point to four functions of NGOs in development
The development function – Probably the most obvious – This typically involves focusing on small scale aid projects such as local irrigation schemes, or developing rural health and education schemes in conjunction with local communities.
The Empowerment Function – More so than with private companies and Governments – NGOs aim to ‘empower’ local communities – This involves striving to give local communities a role in how aid projects are developed, but also lobbying International institutions like the European Union to establish trade rules which do not unfairly advantage Western companies and farmers. (We’ll come back to this point later).
The Education Function – Oxfam is a good example of an NGO that puts a lot of money into developing education for schools and advertising to keep developing world issues in the public consciousness.
The ‘emergency aid function’ – when natural or social disasters occur – Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Famines for example – NGOs are often the front line in the delivery of emergency aid.