Politics & Policy

Agendas All Their Own

The perils of NGOs--non-governmental organizations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the January 26, 2004, issue of National Review.

In September, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Open Forum played host to “philosopher, philanthropist, financier” George Soros. In his remarks at Foggy Bottom, Soros called on the global community to empower “civil society” when governments don’t merit support. Two months later, Soros was giving the Washington Post a somewhat more pointed message: that he considered Powell’s boss the global community’s Enemy Number One. In fact, Soros explained, defeating George W. Bush “is the central focus of my life” and a “matter of life and death”–because “America, under Bush, is a danger to the world.”

Soros is a billionaire, and boasts about the estimated $25 million he has pledged to MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups. But documents recently leaked from one of the global pressure groups he supports–his foundations spend almost $500 million a year around the world–outline a more covert assault, one based on the conviction that it’s representative democracy itself that threatens the international order.

Under the banner of a “civil society” that claims to represent citizens rather than governments, hundreds of groups are aggressively lobbying international organizations and U.N. member states under the misleadingly benign classification of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Many of them are funded by governments, and their private funding is not fully disclosed. Although largely unaccountable to the public, they define their agendas as the public’s interest–and seek to impose their policies through undemocratic means.

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