Home Letters NGOs (including OGGN) are political instruments bent on disrupting oil & gas...
Numerous organisations in Guyana construct their identities under the label of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). NGOs emerged out of two main dynamics and the definition of an NGO is linked to the said sources. Firstly, NGO developed from groups that are supposedly not under the control of Governments, that is, they belong to that sphere called civil society.
While these are private groups that push specific interests, they often depend on operating in the public sphere. Secondly, NGOs have historical links to what political scientists like me call ‘social movements.’ These latter are broad-based in their aims and objectives and are usually focused on social change. NGOs are in many ways parts of social movements.
Yet many of the NGOs in Guyana are, in association with their international partners, deeply political. This is most easily proven by the direct links that exist between those who claim to be in an NGO, but who are widely and indisputably linked to political parties.
Many local NGOs have links with foreign NGOs and vice versa. Local NGOs get access to the international community, when they link-up with International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), such as Green Peace. They also receive money and senior members get invited to fully paid conference trips. This last is a kind of NGO-sponsored tourism.
In turn, INGOs get access and legitimacy to countries, mostly in the Global South, where they can prosecute their interests, which often involve implanting foreign values and interests albeit under the rubric of furthering development and strengthening governance. Building capacity is a favourite expression with deep connections to the global technocratic class, themselves linked to the interests of dominant states.
Many INGOs that come here are staffed by lower grade academics and their students who are not among the highest academic achievers. These types see the Global South as ‘slim pickings,’ meaning that they assume the Third World is backward and needs the same kind of civilising missions envisaged by Rudyard Kipling or Thomas Macaulay more than a century ago. Many of these foreign entities recruit local collaborators to push their civilisational interests while forgetting the responsibility they should take based on the historical record of the countries they come from. Students in foreign universities are taught to frame their NGO interference as learning from us.
There is a third category type of organisation. These are NGOs made up mostly of people in the diaspora. The Oil & Gas Governance Network is the most relevant to our discussion here. It is made up of people who do not live here, as the list that follows shows. Alfred Bhulai (Guyana), Dr Andre Brandli (Switzerland), Dr Janette Bulkan (Canada), Dennis Henry (Canada), Darsh Khusial (Canada), Joe Persaud (Canada) Dr Ganga Ramdass (USA), Mike Persaud (USA), Charles Sugrim (USA). Of the nine members of OGGN’s Board of Directors, only ONE lives in Guyana.
OGGN is a hypocritical organisation because while members are living in countries that are massive producers of oil and gas, they want Guyana to desist from using our hydrocarbon resources for our own development. Except for Mr Bhulai, the Board of Directors are part of the populations that are the worst polluters in the world. The US and Canada produce 25 million barrels of oil daily! Worse, is the fact processes destructive such as fracking are prevalent in the countries where the members of board of OGGN live. There is also highly toxic hydrocarbons extracted. Guyana, by contrast, is blessed with light, sweet crude.
Oil from the Alberta tar sands, for instance, is among the worst in the world. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity “oil from [the] tar sands is one of the most destructive, carbon-intensive, and toxic fuels on the planet. Producing it releases three times as much greenhouse gas pollution as conventional crude oil does. Tar sands oil comes from a solid mass that must be extracted via energy intensive steam injection or destructive strip mining, techniques that destroy ecosystems, put wildlife at risk, and defile large areas of land. Finally, when transported by pipeline or rail, it puts communities, wildlife, and water supplies in danger of toxic spills that are nearly impossible to clean up.” Four of OGGN Directors live in Canada, including Dr Bulkan who is a neighbour of the tar sands province.
Editor, the added problem we have here is that not only are many INGOs interfering in our national economic development. They are also actively interfering in the domestic politics of this country. The 501 (C) OGGN for instance has taken positions NOT connected to oil & gas.
NGOs and many INGOs have the support of the hegemonic states of the world, liberal academics and think tanks, the PR departments of global corporations, and the blessings of that elusive entity called the ‘international community.’ The assumption is that NGOs (domestic and international) are always superior in knowledge, credibility, capability, and legitimacy, compared to elected governments. This assumption, however, applies only to poor countries, developing, non-Western countries, and to that amorphous mass called the Third World.
Democratically elected governments are pushed aside by the foreign and local NGOs, working hand in hand. NGOs, both domestic and foreign, seem bent on disrupting the development of our oil and gas sector. This Guyanese people will not let that happen.
Dr Randolph Persaud