Recently a man named Sherzad Mosa walked into a bar in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, and was surprised to overhear a woman describe it as an “NGO bar.” Mosa wondered on Facebook why hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in the Kurdish region, and “kids and women” are suffering while “200 NGOs have more than 1,600 foreign people working for them and they are getting paid more than $10,000 per month and staying in the best hotels?” Others commented on his thread that NGO workers were driving around in brand new vehicles and spending just a few hours with refugees and then driving back to their hotels.
What these men had seen was only a small piece of a new kind of feudalism that involves governments, NGOs, international organizations and to a lesser extent media and academics. (...)
Working in the Palestinian territories I came across these kinds of NGO employees and members of UN and EU government staffs over the years. Their fleets of SUVs plied the streets and their workers made ten times the local salaries. On their own they joked about the job they were doing. One German working on Palestinian election issues admitted it was all a financial windfall. There would never be elections, he said, “but I make great money here and get a resume builder.” A man we met who had a political science degree had somehow become a “security expert” for an international organization, giving “assessments” about threats in Gaza.
Organizations such as the “Temporary International Presence in Hebron” are not temporary, existing for decades and paying salaries to Europeans who spend their weekends, as evidenced by their vehicles, enjoying themselves at Jerusalem or Tel Aviv bars. The new colonials call themselves “internationals.”read more
If the interest was education, in places such as Africa we would expect to see a process of indigenization, whereby high-level staff and well-paid positions are held not by outsiders, but by increasingly educated locals. But we don’t see that. In places like Haiti we see generations of NGOs paying non-Haitians exorbitant salaries to help local people. In effect what has happened is the creation of a new colonial empire, staffed with the same upper class Westerners that previously staffed the high echelons of colonial administrations.
“Working for the empire” has been replaced with “get a job at an NGO.”
This may be called “non-profit,” but there are large profits involved. Aiding the “third world” is not the selfless task it appears to be, but a key part of a system that has developed to move salaries from donors to their class peers. In essence almost all the money spent on projects in the third world remains in the first world. There isn’t wealth transfer to the global south, rather there are salaries that start in Europe and stay in Europe.
More on this subject: Palestine – ‘Occupation Incorporated’by Tim Marshall