Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Howard offered to investigate all aid agencies working in Indonesia using Australian government funding, following complaints by President Megawati Sukarnoputri. And in a move that critics see as politically motivated, his government has hired a conservative think tank to investigate NGO influence on some government agencies.
'NGOs are becoming very influential today - they sit on various committees and are seen to influence governments and big business. As global players they need to be more transparent,' says Mike Nahan, executive director of the IPA.
IPA is not the only group scrutinizing NGOs. In June, IPA joined with two organizations in the United States - the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), known to be close to the Bush administration, and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies - to launch NGOWatch. The site will monitor the operations of international NGOs and their relations with corporations and government.
The cyber watchdog is being set up at a time when NGOs are gaining credibility on the world stage for attempting to reform world markets and politics to make them more humane. A study released by the United Nations and SustainAbility, a consulting firm, concludes the groups such as Oxfam International, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund have become more receptive to market-based solutions to global problems - and in turn, corporations are more keen to work with NGOs.
Let's see. Howard has hired an NGO. They were given the contract, without any competitive bidding, to investigate other NGOs. Howard is doing this at the request of the Indonesian government. And the goal is transparency.
The Asia Times reported on 14 June 2003:
To mark the site's launch, AEI, which is funded mainly by major corporations and right-wing foundations, also held an all-day conference called "NGOs: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few" that featured a series of presentations depicting NGOs as a growing and largely unaccountable threat to the Bush administration's foreign-policy goals and free-market capitalism around the world. The conference was co-sponsored by a right-wing Australian think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.
Perhaps the IPA, which has sponsored previous conferences on the 'NGO problem' might begin its transparency campaign by declining the contract until it is subject to an open tendering process.