Needed: Governmental Non-Governmental Organization

02Feb08

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) typically function independently of governments for some specified purpose.  Examples include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, and the World Council of Churches.

There appears to be a need for an NGO capable of addressing the problems of failed countries reliably.  For assorted political reasons, NATO, the United Nations, and other transnational organizations lack that capacity.

An example of a failed state (or worse) appears in the Central African Republic, which “has become virtually a phantom state, lacking any meaningful institutional capacity at least since the fall of Emperor Bokassa in 1979,” according to an organization quoted in The Economist (Jan. 26, 2008).

Involvement of any single government (e.g., the U.S.) can be problematic in situations where the people of a given country distrust that would-be intervenor’s motivations (its religion, say, or its military or monetary intentions).  An NGO with a reputation for focusing upon the needs of its clients could avoid that objection.

The needed NGO would have the purpose of moving into a failed state, taking control, establishing basic institutions and infrastructure, and retaining control for a period (e.g., 20 years) sufficient to support long-term stability.  The NGO would thus be a governmental organization, in the sense of setting up and running a complete functioning government and, very gradually, handing off the control of that government to the people of that country.  But it would still be an NGO, in the sense that other governments would not control or steer it.

This NGO could not simultaneously tackle all failed states.  It would have to focus on one at a time.  Five years after its first apparent success, perhaps, it would be in a position to undertake a second one.  After some decades, the goal would be to reach a position in which there are no more persistently failed states.  At that time, the NGO’s core structure would become inert, capable of being resuscitated within a relatively short time (e.g., a year or two) after the emergence of some new failed state.

Such an organization could excite considerable interest from volunteers.  A reputable organization, adequately funded by (and with a long-term mandate from) a spectrum of nations, corporations, and other international actors, could supplement its first-wave military interventions with second-wave humanitarian interventions.  It might, for example, draw upon personnel commitments from various nations’ armies and Peace Corps-style organizations.

Someday, after developing and establishing its capabilities and methods in relatively manageable contexts, this NGO could conceivably be positioned to address long-running problems in such complex settings as Afghanistan.  Such a development could alter and potentially reduce the number of instances in which various nations consider unilateral military action essential.

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