How a Human Rights Movement gets disempowered?
By Sunil Babu Pant, Blue Diamond Society
Activists from the ‘global south’ hear, far too often, from our donors that we should ‘Learn how to become professional, make your NGO management efficient’.
Let’s decode what “becoming professional” means and what “efficient management means”:
1) Professional means a person engaged or qualified in a profession. ‘Profession’ is the key word here, and donors would like to make sure that you become a ‘professional’ activist, and want to see you taking it (human rights work) as a profession.
2) Efficient management means performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort. For conventional NGOs this means achieving targets, writing professional reports and submitting it in a timely manner. To really understand the “danger” of becoming efficient, you must compare it with effectiveness. Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right (no matter how far you have moved away from human rights ‘activism’ to be part of an efficient management team).
As soon as a well-meaning group of activists start the process of becoming a NGO, the problem begins. No matter what is said at the outset about the ‘NGOs being free to act the way they have envisioned’, the truth is that the NGOs are deeply indebted by donors, well-funded NGOs are even worse. This is start of a ‘professional’ submission to a system that repeatedly dis-empowers and controls the movement, denies the freedom of a human rights movement to do what it is supposed to do, all slogans of ‘grassroots-led and empowerment’ not-upheld.