NGO Threat to African Growth and World Bank Agenda

Roger Bate | 05 Jun 2005
Sunday Independent (South Africa)

Paul Wolfowitz marked his first day as the new head of the World Bank by reaffirming his plan to focus primarily on reducing poverty in Africa. He also intends on allowing poor countries to have a greater say in the decision making process at the global lender. One of the legacies of the Wolfensohn era that he will be forced to address is the increasing influence of non-governmental organizations, and their most strident incarnation--advocacy pressure groups. And while he tries to promote more lending to democratic states he will be undermined by many of the same NGOs who want Bank funding.

But while he would expect to have to deal with anti-dam greens groups and human rights groups opposing movement of people (even when they want to move) he may have to battle with more established 'friends' who are funding radical groups in Africa. As Alex Singleton of the London-based Globalization Institute has pointed out the UK Government is funding odious groups in Southern Africa, which push forward a neo-Marxist agenda of land redistribution.

Zimbabwe--the example to follow?

Political repression, lack of free speech and widespread poverty are nothing new in Zimbabwe, but in the past ten days nearly 23,000 people have been arrested for simply trading goods as millions now face starvation. And while there are many reasons for Zimbabwe's decline, its collapse was triggered by the forced removal of white farmers from land where they successfully grew tobacco and staple foods. The loss of foreign exchange earning from tobacco farming and food from other farms and employment for a million blacks from all farms has led to an appalling life-threatening situation. Couple this with the total loss of confidence in the property right and banking systems from the land grab and the economy has contracted by at least 50% in recent years.

Given this evidence it seems almost inconceivable that the British government is funding a campaign which promotes anti-white "land reform". But as Singleton says, the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) gave £338,000 (approximately $600,000) last year in "civil society" funding to support War on Want, a hard-Left campaign group. War on Want has been central in setting up the Landless Peoples' Movement in South Africa. The Movement says it supports "the gallant actions of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe" in taking land from white farmers. According to War on Want: "The LPM is still at the early stages of mobilising people. It is working on building up the movement's leadership and profile, and developing ways to attract new members, and build relations with government and other movements. War on Want supports and assists their work." War on Want says that white people own too high a percentage of African land and it says WoW is "at the centre of the tough battle for land."

While there is no doubt that reallocation of land has to proceed in Southern Africa it has to be done in a sustainable fashion--or violence, starvation and death will occur. It is therefore, unclear why DFID has anything to do with War on Want, given that the policies it supports have led to Zimbabwe becoming the fastest shrinking economy in the world.

More worrying still is that anti-white land redistribution issues are bubbling up in neighboring South Africa and Namibia, and being stoked by War on Want. Although there is no violence at the level of Zimbabwe, squatting and confrontation is happening on white farm land in Zimbabwe's neighboring states. But while both countries are in far better democratic shape, with the rule of law generally being applied, it is not inconceivable that a landless movement could destabilize sensible, willing seller, willing buyer redistribution that is happening (albeit too slowly) in Southern Africa.

With most left wingers from Holywood to Hungary opposing the former Pentagon number two's appointment to the Bank, it is a pity that his 'friends' from Britain are funding such stupidity. Paul Wolfowitz may find his new job is going to be even tougher than even he imagined.

Roger Bate is resident fellow at AEI.