The worldwide crackdown on NGOs – Lawrence Solomon

GreenpeaceFord Foundation

Lawrence Solomon“In the United States there is no talk of crackdowns, not because the U.S. is blasé about foreign-funded NGOs but because it has long had strict laws on the books. In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act after he realized that the American Nazis were being funded by Hitler’s Germany. FARA’s original pre-World War II purpose has since morphed to become a fixture of U.S. policy, used to require public disclosure in everything from Communist propaganda during the Cold War to three Canadian films dealing with acid rain and nuclear war.” – Lawrence Solomon

NGOIn Canada, China, India, Israel, Russia and in other countries around the world, governments are cracking down on foreign-funded NGOs operating in their countries. These crackdowns are inevitable and understandable, and in all cases come down to one factor: Governments, whether democratic or dictatorial, don’t like foreign forces interfering in their domestic politics.

The crackdowns typically take the form of beefing up laws and regulations, or creating new ones, to require more disclosure on the activities of NGOs. An exception is China’s proposed Foreign NGO Management Law, now in Second Reading in its legislature, where the Public Security Department of China’s State Council — its cabinet — would assume responsibility for approving the funding and the activities of all NGOs in receipt of foreign funds, to guard against purposes ranging from the political to the religious to the economic. Unlike other countries, China’s NGO law isn’t about disclosure but about censorship and control.

Ford Foundation: The CIA's social and cultural front organisation.

In one country — the United States — there is no talk of crackdowns, not because the U.S. is blasé about foreign-funded NGOs but because it has long had strict laws on the books. In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) after he realized that the American Nazis — then a potent force in U.S. politics — were being funded by Hitler’s Germany. FARA’s original pre-World War II purpose — to expose “German propaganda agents” – has since morphed to become a fixture of U.S. policy, used to require public disclosure in everything from Communist propaganda during the Cold War to three Canadian films dealing with acid rain and nuclear war, including the Academy Award winning documentary, “If you love this planet.”

When the government’s use of FARA was challenged as censorship and a limitation of free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in 1987 that it saw value in public disclosure that spotlighted material from those who might have an alien agenda, “so that the government and the people of the United States may be informed of the identity of such persons and may appraise their statements and actions in the light of their associations and activities.”

Foreign Agents Registration ActFARA’s disclosure requirement applies to any foreign monies employed “to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws.” Russia’s 2012 law on “foreign agents,” based on FARA, similarly demands disclosure when foreign money is used in the “shaping of public opinion” and in “influencing decision-making by state bodies in order to change state policy.”

While many foreign-funded NGOs are apolitical, many others — including the highest profile foreign-funded NGOs — tend to be highly political. They are often funded by foreign governments to further the foreign governments’ foreign policy interests; they often coordinate their activities with foreign governments in applying political pressure. Perhaps the most egregious example of such foreign interference involves Israel, where NGOs receive an estimated $75 million to $100 million per year in foreign dollars. Most of this money comes from European governments and European-government-funded NGOs, and most of it is designed to tilt the country leftward, particularly as regards the Palestinian issue.

Indian EconomyMuch larger sums, however, are being spent by Western governments and Western foundations in a worldwide effort to influence environmental agendas, chief among them energy policies that affect climate change. Canada’s federal government is concerned about the success of U.S. foundations, working with the Obama administration, in thwarting Keystone and other energy projects. Because Canada does not apply strong FARA-style disclosure laws to foreign funded activities, Canadians do not realize when the Canadian NGOs who lobby against Canadian projects are receiving money from U.S. organizations to do so. – Financial Post, 18 May 2015

» Lawrence Solomon is a Canadian writer on the environment and the executive director of Energy Probe, a Canadian non-governmental environmental policy organization. His writing has appeared in a number of newspapers, including The National Post where he has a column.

IB Report

World Vision India

3 Responses

  1. Vladimir Putin signs new law against ‘undesirable NGOs’ – AP – The Telegraph – Russia – 24 May 2015

    Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law on Saturday giving prosecutors the power to declare foreign and international organisations “undesirable” in Russia and shut them down.

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned the measure as part of an “ongoing draconian crackdown which is squeezing the life out of civil society.”

    The law is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent that intensified after Mr Putin began his third term in 2012. His return to the presidency had been accompanied by mass street protests that Mr Putin accused the United States of fomenting. Russian suspicions of Western intentions have been further heightened because of tensions over Russia’s role in the conflict in Ukraine.

    The new Russian law allows prosecutors to declare an organisation undesirable if it presents a threat to Russia’s constitutional order, its defeces or its security.

    Laws passed in recent years already have led to increased pressure on Russian non-governmental organisations, particularly those that receive foreign funding. Rights activists fear the new law could be used to extend the crackdown to Russian branches of international groups and the Russian activists who work with them.

    In a statement, US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said the United States is “deeply troubled” by the new law, calling it “a further example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices and intentional steps to isolate the Russian people from the world.”

  2. Russia’s Putin signs NGO “foreign agents” law – Andrey Ostroukh & Mark Heinrich – Reuters – Moscow – 21 July 2012

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a law which will tighten controls on civil rights groups funded from abroad, the his press office said on Saturday, a step opponents say is part of a campaign to suppress dissent.

    The law, which was cleared by the upper house of parliament earlier in July, will force non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” and to file a report to officials every quarter.

    Opposition groups say Putin is trying to silence groups whose criticism of his human rights record has undercut his credibility and helped fuel seven months of protests against his rule, the biggest since he came to power in 2000.

    Putin, a former KGB spy, has dominated Russia for 12 years as prime minister or president and he won another six-year stint in March.

    Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department voiced “deep concern” about the NGO law – and was promptly rebuked by Moscow for “gross interference”, an exchange that underlined the impact the bill has had on already strained relations.

    Putin said on Thursday that laws to open up competition in Russia’s political system must be implemented with care, suggesting he remains wary about reforms introduced after the wave of protests.

    In April then-president Dmitry Medvedev signed off on a law that eased regulations on the registration of political parties, cutting the required number of members in a party to 500 from the previous 40,000.

    The law was aimed at appeasing demonstrators who had taken to the streets after accusations of voting fraud in a parliamentary election in December which gave the Putin-supported United Russia party a slim parliamentary majority.

    “It is necessary that the laws which were passed on a legislative level make their way into society correctly, peacefully and in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law,” said Putin.

    “But in no case (may they) allow any destructive forces to shake up the situation or moreover allow them (to do so) in a destructive-terroristic way.”

  3. Considering the United State’s own draconian law, FARA, used to monitor NGOs, it can hardly question India about its investigation into the funds and activities of the Ford Foundation and Greenpeace.

    The Ford Foundation is a known CIA front and political agent, so lets stop pretending it isn’t. It should be asked to close shop and get out.

    The article above (which appeared in a Canadian newspaper) doesn’t deal with religious NGOs engaged in proselytising and conversion, and apparently the Modi Sarkar is blind to them too.

    This is unfortunate. But the Christian NGOs shouldn’t think we don’t know what is going on just because Mr Modi has not yet acquired the political gumption to throw them out of the country.

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