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Atlantic: Why Do Some Foreign Countries Hate American NGOs So Much?

April 5, 2012


Robert W. Merry explores why Egypt, Russia, and the UAE have had problems with American NGOs. Merry regards the matter as a foreign policy issue, deserving more attention than what it is getting in American discourse.

The Times reports that the United Arab Emirates has shut down the offices of the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit U.S. agency whose mission is to promote democracy around the globe. The NDI is often called an NGO, short for nongovernmental organization, which might leave some people a bit quizzical given that this particular NGO is funded to a significant extent by the U.S. government. But Wikipedia helpfully explains: "In cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status by excluding governmental representatives from membership in the organization."

Given the language of the Times story on the matter, by reporter Steven Lee Myers, one could get the impression that most people consider it the most natural thing imaginable for the U.S. government to fund organizations that send people into the world to spread democracy, even to the point of helping to foster revolutions in countries deemed insufficiently Jeffersonian. Myers calls the UAE decision "a surprising act of diplomatic defiance." He also labels it "especially provocative," given that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was scheduled to arrive in the region shortly for talks with the UAE and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

And Clinton herself followed suit by declaring that "we very much regret" the UAE action and adding that NDI plays "a key role in supporting NGOs and civil society across the region, and I expect our discussion on this issue to continue."

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