From Mon Feb 14 08:00:08 2005
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2005 10:02:18 -0600 (CST)
From: “Gregory Elich” <>
Subject: Proliferation of Non-State Actors Worrying
Article: 204553
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Proliferation of non-state actors worrying

By Mabasa Sasa, Political Editor, Sunday Mirror (Harare), 13 February 2005

THE recent Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) short-lived ’fact-finding’ mission to Zimbabwe once again highlighted the growth in influence of non-State actors, as embodied in civil society, multi-national corporations and churches, in the affairs of sovereign nations—particularly those in the Third World.

As has been noted by a number of analysts ever since the non-governmental organisation (NGO) phenomenon first manifested itself in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the State remains the most single powerful political player, non-State actors influence in the political global economy can never be under-estimated.

A number of examples dating over the past two decades can be drawn upon to illustrate the insidious nature of some of the non-State actors that have thrived magnificently behind the fagade of carrying out philanthropic work in the Third World.

A cross-section of non-State actors in Europe and America reportedly largely formulated the bloodless 2003 Georgia coup that ousted Eduard Shevardnadze.

The Wall Street Journal of November 24 2003 concurred that “a raft of non-governmental organisations” with the backing of American and other Western institutes “spawned a class of young, English-speaking intellectuals hungry for pro-Western reforms”.

Sam Vaknin, writing in The Self-appointed Altruists noted that organisations like the International Crisis Group openly interfered on behalf of opposition parties in the last Macedonia elections.

“Other NGO's have done so in Belarus and Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Israel, Nigeria and Thailand, Slovakia and Hungary—and even in Western, rich countries including the USA, Canada, Germany and Belgium.” Vaknin added, “Their iron grip on food, medicine and funds have rendered them an alternative government—sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they supplant.” However, this has never been kept a secret in Western capitals though, as expected, the messages somehow do not filter into the Third World until it is almost always too late.

For instance, a January 2003 USAID report entitled Foreign Aid in the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security and Opportunity, there is a marked departure from the former self-righteous claims of “alleviating poverty” to “encouraging democratic reforms”.

The report reads: “Assistance can be provided to reformers to help identify key winners and losers, develop coalition building and mobilisation of strategies, and design publicity campaigns.Such assistance may represent an investment in the future, when a political shift gives reformers real power.” While some have argued that the Zimbabwean government's approach was a bit too heavy handed and gave the impression that the State was hiding something, it was probably in this context that the planned Cosatu ’fact-finding’ mission was greeted with distrust and dismissed with hostility.

In 2004, researcher James Petras noted that, “The World Bank, the neo-liberal regimes, and Western Foundations co-opted and encouraged the NGO 's to undermine the national welfare state by providing social services to compensate the victims of the multinational corporations.” The interpretation is that most non-State actors are the ‘community face’ of neo-liberalism.

Observers have said that organisations like the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were created so that they in-turn would create subsidiary civic bodies that would do the dirty foreign affairs work the American State Department could not be seen doing by the public. In William Blum's Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, “The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities. It was a masterpiece.” In fact, Allen Weinstein, one of the men who helped draw up the NED constitution, said in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” The NED has been implicated in election results manipulation in Nicaragua (1990) and Mongolia (1996). NED was implicated in the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Bulgaria (1990) and Albania (1992).The unbridled growth of non-State actors works to undermine the power of the State and the influence it has in the development of the ordinary citizens. As Muhittin Ataman pointed out in an article “The Impact of non state actors on world politics”, “The proliferation of non-state actors has recently led some observers of international relations to conclude that states are declining in importance and that non-state actors are gaining status and influence.” In terms of foreign policy formulation, non-State actors are gradually usurping the power of State-actors as can be seen by now-unavoidable practice of consulting international bodies before making key moves.

However, non-State actors are not inherently evil creations that always seek to implement regime change.

Analyst Claude Maredza pointed out, “Not everyone can be a State actor as the space is always limited. Hence, it is an individual's democratic right to choose to be a non-State actor. The problem is the question of what really motivates some people to become non-State actors.” Maredza noted that people who went into it for money were the most dangerous and could be likened to mercenaries.

“On the whole, it is a destabilisation project that seeks to impose on Africa a new brand of leadership that kow-tows to the West. This then is the justification States have in regulating the activities of non-State actors.”