Why are we doing this?
We are doing this because we are in a race against time – against increasing inequality, mass species extinction and ecological collapse.
We believe that NGOs are full of inspirational people, who have set out to make the world more just and equal. Their commitment and enthusiasm for a better world has inspired so many of us. Taking their lead, many of us have written letters to our elected representatives, signed petitions, raised money, joined campaigns, demonstrated and taken direct action.
So, to state our position clearly…
Yes! We agree that most NGO workers work with the best of motives
Yes! We agree that many NGO workers are brilliant people
Yes! We agree that NGOs save lives
Yes! We agree that many NGOs work to enable people to make decisions about their own lives
Humanity is facing ecological, economic and social crises that are interconnected. It is impossible to solve one of these crises without addressing the others.
The magnitude of the situation we face is so great that what is at stake is no longer a particular civilisation but the fate of humanity and life as we know it. Currently only international NGOs have the reach and capacity to rouse people to acknowledge this reality and galvanise around alternative visions.
What about the Sustainable Development Goals?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of targets to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. For us, there are three problems with the SDGs.
Firstly, we believe that economic growth — as measured by GDP — is the primary cause of poverty and the ecological crisis. Eradicating global poverty requires changing the rules of the global economy to make it fairer to people and non-destructive to the environment.
Secondly, there are currently no goals to reform the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. We argue that these institutions are the greatest drivers of poverty.
Thirdly, there is no historical and political context to the way the problems are defined and the way solutions are enacted. The SDGs do not help us to understand fundamental questions such as:
- How is poverty created?
- How did the geographical distribution of wealth inequality come into being?
- Who is developing who?
- What are the functional roles of foreign aid, trade agreements, debt service, and tax evasion in the process of development?
- Why must the sole measure of progress be growth (measured in monetary terms)? Who benefits from this story?
- What are the alternatives to the current dominant view of development?
Alternatives to the current reality can only be constructed if we deepen our understanding of the above questions and challenge the concentration of power in favour of privileged elites in both public and private spaces.
We must stand back and see the whole planet as a system. We must also look into history to find the roots of our current crises – the core beliefs that were forged over decades and centuries.
The SDGs are worthy goals but they are not enough to stop mass global inequality – nor mass species extinction.
Therefore we are concentrating on encouraging international NGOs to reset their focus. These organisations have the capacity, the energy and the influence to bring about the fundamental changes required.