Yet another look at NGOs in UkraineOctober 10, 2011
As regular readers of this blog will have noticed, I often turn my eye to observe the NGOs of Ukraine, their effectiveness or otherwise, their profile, who is behind them, what they set out to achieve, the hidden agendas of those financing them and the perception of them amongst the Ukrainian public.
The above link reads rather well considering what is about to come.
Of course I am not the only one who looks at these things. Every party with a vested interest in them does as well, meaning both the government of Ukraine and foreign governments amongst others.
Over at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union website, they have published the results of a survey undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) which corroborates all that I have repeatedly said before.
Whilst it is somewhat gratifying to have a survey that adds substance to what I have already said many times about NGOs in Ukraine, thus making it harder for you dear readers to dismiss my writings as the ruminations of a disconnected foreigner in Ukraine who knows nothing about what the locals really think, one does wonder why it was necessary to have a survey on the blindingly obvious, unless to inform the financiers and professional managers of the NGOs, in writing and from an independent source, what they already knew.
What is it they already know? By and large they are completely ineffective.
There are a very large number of NGOs in Ukraine and most Ukrainians couldn’t even name 5 of them. Few would have very little idea what they did, would be far more suspicious of many foreign NGOs parachuted in from outside than the grass roots NGOs (and grass roots is really where legitimacy of NGOs comes from in the minds of the populous), would be highly suspicious of the motivations of the financiers behind many of the NGOs, particularly the private financiers such as Mr Soros and would generally look to NGOs in areas where there are specific and measurable results on the ground in any particular locality.
Just as with international aid, those that make an immediate and noticeable difference be it with health, education, specific areas such as child welfare or womens issues etc, and in specific towns and cities, are deemed far more valuable and useful than those foreign NGOs abstractly trying to change political systems, media freedoms and all the other “big” areas that are so “big” they are completely and utterly disconnected from the Ukrainian public to the point that they have never heard of them, are suspicious of their motives, distinctly fall into the “others” interfering in “our” structures, not for “our” benefit but “theirs”.
As and when there is a better understanding of NGOs, it will then not be long before Ukrainians see NGOs as a “profession” as it has become in other nations thus giving concerns over the passions behind the “professional leadership” that replaced those who set up the grass roots NGO, who whilst administratively imperfect had a true belief in their cause and did not see it as a job opportunity and a route into governmental dinner parties and embassy “drinkies” to circulate with the “enlightened” and seek out other career avenues that may present themselves whilst networking at such events.
Quite what Ukrainians would think about the rather more nefarious activities of information/intelligence gathering, deniable fronts for foreign government liaisons with people/groups/networks of interest, trawling their social forums etc which is a function of many foreign government sponsored NGOs beyond their declared functions, who knows?
One suspects even more suspicion of foreign NGOs than that which currently exists would be a natural consequence.
The problem with domestic NGOs is that to be effective they have to get close to government which all to often means a compromise at the very core of a NGO belief. Minor victories for major issues being kicked into the long grass. Eventually their legitimacy is eroded against their original principles, particularly when professional managers are brought in and ticky box accountability to the financiers needs to show some progress…….somewhere……no matter how little or how peripheral to the original cause.
All rather difficult when in 20 years, very few NGOs have “street recognition” with the Ukrainian public when it comes to who they are, what they do and what they have achieved. There are certainly branding and publicity issues for most.