28 March 2011

A critical view on NGO's and Activism

When we think about large NGO organizations such as Greenpeace and World Vision, we tend to see these organizations as publics with very specific goals in mind to change behavior in society. In comparison to for-profit corporations, NGO's focus on societal changes rather than income. However, both sectors use very smilar strategies and tactics in order to reach their desired goals. This blog post tries to position NGO's within the public relations industry and discuss the power and influence of the 'third sector'.

Activism within the Public Relations Industry
Activities of NGO's are entirely based on public relations practices, which allow them to spread their message amongst their stakeholders, providing a platform for changes in society. For NGO's it is key to have an excellent relationship with their publics, as they are the heart and soul of every NGO organization. Essentially, NGO's use persuasive tactics to change ones mind about an issue. By using these tactics, it is key to question the objectives of all NGO's, to ensure honest practices with a meaningful purpose for the industry.

The Power of NGO's
The importance and massive influence of NGO’s is undeniable. After extensive growth in the past 20 years, NGO’s reached a level of influence that easily exceeds that of large corporations and even countries. With such an importance in society it is important to analyze and observe their size and financial power, as well as what political and societal powers they have developed over the past two decades. Influence of NGO’s is so strong that they have the power to influence virtually any corporate company if they seem to have a problem with their practices. With this power, a lot of responsibility comes along and it important to have a closer look at their operations with the rise in power they have gained.

When NGO's fail - Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds
In a blog post by Captain Paul Watson, Greenpeace has been exposed of distracting public attention of illegal whale fishing by investigating in corruption within the Japanese whaling industry. While this may seem a regular activity of Greenpeace, it is important to keep in mind that issues such as corruption is something governments should take care of, not NGO's. Another issue with their investigation was that two Greenpeace employees broke into a whale fishers home and removed whale meat from the workers. While Greenpeace was trying to expose a scandal, this act was completely illegal and not in the honest practice of the third sector industry. In addition to the illegal activity of the Greenpeace members, the ownership of whale meat is not even illegal in Japan. The problem with this 'scandal', was that there was absolutely no scandal being investigated, but merely trying to hurt the whale fishing industry with brute force and unethical practices.

NGO's are essential in our society and they try to do more good than bad. Whale fishing is a horrible act which needs to be stopped as soon as possible. However, this example clearly shows that NGO's may act more extreme as they claim. This 'eco-terrorism' does not only create distrust within the third sectors, but also questions their tactics in achieving their goals. With the power the third sector has gained, responsibility towards their goals, stakeholders and objectives has to be continuously practiced within the limits of the law and with the most honest practices possibles.

Suggested reading:
Criticism of NGO's: http://knol.google.com/k/non-governmental-orgnaizations-ngos-criticism-of#

LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/14/world/fg-japan-whales14

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