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The International Green Agenda

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The International Green Agenda

U.S. Foundations Support Environmental Activists on the World Stage

Environmental groups were stunned when the cash-strapped Turner Founda-tion—which gave about $28 million to green causes in 2002—announced recently that it would temporarily suspend all fund¬ing for at least a year. The prospect of losing a major donor was a setback for radical activist groups like the Ruckus Society, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace. (The Turner Foundation, however, will fulfill multi-year grant com-mitments totaling $6 million for 2003 and $6 million for 2004; and Turner’s United Na-tions Foundation plans to fulfill his pledge of donating $1 billion to U.N. programs. To date, the United Nations Foundation has donated at least $400 million.) They and other so-called “nongovernmental orga-nizations”—or NGOs—are ubiquitous at gatherings of the U.N., the World Trade Organization and other international orga-nizations. These activist and advocacy groups are use to financial backing from a network of foundation donors. It’s what keeps their large and diffuse network in constant motion around the world.

The July 2003 issue of Foundation Watch outlined the NGO phenomenon on the world stage. Authors David Riggs and Robert Huberty recommended that inter-national organizations adopt transparency rules similar to those governing U.S. nonprofits. They would require NGOs to make public reports on the amount and sources of their revenue—including gov-ernment funding—and their expenses before receiving U.N. “consultative” sta¬tus or other forms of official recognition. Riggs and Huberty noted that as things stand now, international NGOs face little or no public scrutiny despite their offi¬cially sanctioned presence at major inter-governmental meetings.

However, the NGO picture isn’t completely opaque. Because many of the most important NGOs before international bodies are U.S. tax-exempt nonprofits, they must adhere to U.S. financial disclosure laws. A look at the foundation grants they receive allows us to “follow their money” at least some of it. It will give us a glimpse into the funding network that keeps the international NGO machine humming.

The foundations underwriting NGOs are among the wealthiest in the United States. They include the Ford Founda¬tion, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foun¬dation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Despite the Turner Foundation’s funding woes, plenty of well-heeled liberal philanthropies are on hand to subsidize the international envi¬ronmental movement. Their grants put green activism on display in 2002 at the Johannesburg U.N. Summit on Sustain¬able Development and this September at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Min¬isterial meeting in Cancún, Mexico. (I attended the Cancun meeting as a repre¬sentative of International Consumers for Civil Society, which had applied for and received U.N. accreditation as an “NGO.”) the people as distinct from the govern¬ments of U.N. member states. Of course, no one has elected them to any office. It’s U.N. officials—who aren’t elected either— who bestow legitimacy on them as partici¬pants at countless U.N. conferences and meetings. There is a good reason for this, says Gary Johns, a senior fellow at Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs and editor of a forthcoming American Enter¬prise Institute book on NGOs. Johns ex¬plains that NGOs give U.N. officials and other transnational bureaucrats something they would not otherwise have—a con¬stituency that needs the forums they orga¬nize. This in turn allows the NGOs to por¬tray themselves as the agents of participa¬tory democracy. But what results is a very complex process of endless rounds of talk, not democracy. The ultimate point of it all?—to force governments to legitimate the process, one that NGOs are in charge of organizing and monitoring.

U.N. officials say they are simply try-ing to help developing countries by “ca-pacity building.” This means that they use NGOs to provide consultation, services, and infrastructure to governments on im¬portant economic and social policy mat¬ters. “Capacity building” projects give NGOs an official imprimatur to push their agendas onto the governments of devel¬oping countries. For example, the Energy and Transport Branch of the U.N. Commis¬sion on Sustainable Development (CSD) advises the governments of poor coun¬tries on energy projects. Created after the 1992 Rio Summit, CSD is supposed to fo¬cus “on increasing the supply of energy services in developing countries, particu¬larly in rural areas, and managing the de¬mand for energy, largely through energy efficiency efforts.” How does it do this? CSD relies on NGOs to promote tools of central planning, energy regulation, and subsidies for “renewable energy” (e.g. solar and wind) projects. Governments that might prefer private sector investment to build dams or power plants are encour¬aged to become dependent on NGO pro¬posed alternatives.

CSD has several major NGO partners that it looks to for capacity building assis¬tance. They include Earth justice, a U.S environmental litigation group, the Inter¬national Institute for Sustainable Future 

 

(IISF), the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), among others. (ICLEI and ICFTU are profiled later in this article.

Oakland, California based Earthjustice used to be called the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund when it was founded in 1971. In the U.S., its mission has been to sue federal and state governments to enact stricter environmental regulations. Cur¬rently, it opposes the nomination of former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt to be EPA Administrator. In the world arena, it liti¬gates to burden international trade agree¬ments with environmental provisions, to assert “the right of governments to limit trade where necessary to protect the envi¬ronment or human health.” In 2002, Earthjustice had nearly $18 million in rev¬enues.

The International Institute for Sus-tainable Future (IISF) provides an even better example of how U.N. officials and NGO activists use each other. Called the Urban Development Institute when it was founded in 1974 by the government of India and the U.N., the mission of the Mumbai (Bombay) based IISF is “bringing sustainability to developing countries.” IISF says it “conducts research, training, planning, besides advising governments, international organizations, and corpora¬tions in the field of environment, urban planning, ecological architecture and de¬sign, industrial safety, disaster manage¬ment, sustainable energy, organic agricul¬ture, and global ecology.” By its own ac¬count, the NGO has handled projects in more than 30 countries over the last 15 years ranging from “appropriate technol¬ogy development in Sri Lanka” to “popula-tion programs in Egypt.” IISF financial information was not available for this ar-ticle, because it has no significant U.S. presence and therefore does not have to observe U.S. disclosure laws.

IISF is typical of many overseas NGOs. Its director is Dr. Rashmi Mayur, an advi¬sor to the U.N. Sustainable Development Program and vice president of the Associa¬tion of World Citizens (AWC), whose goal is the abolition of the nation-state. AWC’s “Human Manifesto” states: “We declare our individual citizenship to the world com¬munity and our support for a United Nations capable of governing our planet in the common human interest.” IISF also has an “international advisory board,” which includes radical American historian Howard Zinn and Canadian Maurice Strong, a wealthy environmental activist, philanthropist, and policy adviser (See December 2001 Foundation Watch for a profile of Strong).

U.N. Empowers NGOs

NGOs are welcome participants at meetings of U.N. departments and affili-ates like the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Non-Governmen-tal Liaison Service, and the U.N. Depart-ment of Public Information. These bodies decide which nonprofits deserve “consul-tative status,” which opens doors to the U.N. deliberative process. An indepen¬dent group called the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consulta-tive Relationship with the United Nations— or CONGO—is another important “gatekeeper” organization that helps screen NGOs and organize their activities.

How do these groups work? A look at one of last year’s most important U.N. meetings offers a good case study.

On August 26-September 4, 2002, the United Nations held its World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two thou-sand three hundred delegates (including more than 100 heads of state) from 163 U.N. member states attended. President George W. Bush declined to join the throng but sent Secretary of State Colin Powell in-stead. Also attending were 8,096 represen¬tatives from 925 NGOs.

One objective of the Johannesburg Earth Summit was to further the goals of Agenda 21. This was a very ambitious declaration adopted by 178 U.N. member states including the U.S. in 1992 at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Develop¬ment (UNCED), also known as the Rio Earth Summit because it was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In grandiose terms, Agenda 21 called for central economic planning and the transfer of wealth to the develop¬ing world. It also sought to increase the role NGOs would play in international capacity building. The Agenda 21 preamble states:

 

The developmental and environ-mental objectives of Agenda 21 will require a substantial flow of new and additional financial resources to developing countries, in order to cover the incremental costs for the actions they have to undertake to deal with global environmental problems and to accelerate sus-tainable development. Financial resources are also required for strengthening the capacity of in-ternational institutions for the implementation of Agenda 21.

Chapter 27 of Agenda 21 is more specific:

Both the United Nations system and individual governments should invite nongovernmental organizations to be involved in making policies and decisions on sustainable development. [Bold in original] They should also make nongovernmental organizations part of a process to review and evaluate how Agenda 21 is being put into practice. These organiza-tions should be given timely ac¬cess to the data and information they need to support sustainable development. Governments should encourage sustainable develop¬ment partnerships between non-governmental organizations and local authorities.

The United Nations should see that all its agencies draw on the exper-tise of nongovernmental organi-zations, and the U.N. should re¬view its financial and administra¬tive support for these organiza¬tions to strengthen their role as partners... Nongovernmental or¬ganizations, particularly in devel¬oping countries, will require sig¬nificant additional funding to help them contribute to sustainable development and to monitor progress on Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 Today

NGO influence has exploded in the ten years since Agenda 21 was adopted. The 925 NGOs accredited to attend the 2002 Johannesburg summit were no ragtag crew of activist students and dropouts; they were savvy professionals from such well funded groups as Conservation Interna-tional, Corp Watch/Tides Center, Earth Island Institute, Friends of the Earth, Glo-bal Exchange, Greenpeace International, International Council for Local Environ-mental Initiatives, Natural Resources De-fense Council, Nature Conservancy, Oxfam International, Sierra Club, Socialist Inter-national, and various national United Na-tions Associations.

At Johannesburg, U.N organizers gave NGOs access to the summit by estab¬lishing what they called “multi-stakeholder dialogues”—which is U.N. terminology for special interest NGO meetings. The groups claimed to represent:

women

youth

nongovernmental organizations

local authorities

workers and trade unions

business and industry

scientific and technological com-munities

farmers

indigenous people.

Each of these stakeholder groups was represented by U.N.-selected lead organi-zations. Some of the representatives were comfortable conference goers; others were determined troublemakers. But all were eager to insert themselves into the interminable Summit discussion processes that ultimately give political leverage to NGOs, their international agency spon¬sors, and their foundation funders.

Women. Under the U.N.’s auspices, the New York based Women’s Environ-ment and Development Organization (WEDO), founded by legendary feminist Bella Abzug, sent two official delegates to the summit to coordinate the dialogue for women “stakeholders.”

WEDO’s stated mission is to “increase public awareness about the negative im¬pacts of globalization on women”—it praised the recent collapse of the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Cancún, Mexico—and to promote government cen¬tral planning and access to abortion. WEDO is a member of the Pro Choice Education Project, a collaborative effort of about 40 feminist and abortion rights groups and some unions (including the AFLCIO), which promotes the slogan, “It’s prochoice or no choice” to young women and girls.

In Johannesburg, WEDO set up a “Women’s Action Tent” for speakers from groups like the Sierra Club and the Federa¬tion of Cuban Women, a Castro govern¬ment front group that the U.N. accredits as an NGO. One WEDO organizer, Indian anti globalization activist named Vandana Shiva—she also runs a group called “Di¬verse Women for Diversity”—conducted a panel discussion where she championed the “women’s movement against Coca-Cola” and the “movement against privatization of Ganges water.”

The Ford Foundation is the biggest foundation donor to WEDO. Since 1999, Ford has given WEDO $4,279,000 in grants. According to Foundation Center records, almost all funds have been for general operating expenses, except for one $99,000 grant enabling WEDO to participate in a U.N. conference on women held in New York in 2000, and a $50,000 grant to con¬duct a search for a new WEDO executive director.

Youth. The lead NGOs were the South Africa National Youth Council, which rep¬resented the host country, and the Euro¬pean Youth forum (“established by national youth councils and international nongov¬ernmental youth organizations in Eu¬rope”). Interestingly, membership in the Youth forum is not open to individual young people but only to NGOs, which work “with international institutions, mainly the Eu¬ropean Union, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations...to channel the flow of information and opinions between young people and decision makers.” The European Parliament and European Com¬mission provide funding for Youth forum meetings. If not for U.N. and E.U. gather¬ings, the European Youth forum and the South Africa National Youth Council would have little reason to exist.

Non-Governmental Organizations. This stakeholder caucus worked to give NGOs more access to the U.N. deliberation process. At Johannesburg, its organizers came from three NGOs: the Third World

Network, the Danish 92 Group, and the Environment Liaison Centre International.

Third World Network (TWN) is based in Penang, Malaysia and has offices in Geneva, Delhi (India), Montevideo (Uru-guay) and Accra (Ghana). It publishes a magazine, Third World Economics, which opposes free trade and economic liberal-ization (It features articles with such titles as “Free trade not truly free but ‘imposed’” and “Liberalization agenda’s ‘promised land’ a mirage.”) Just before the Summit, it joined Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, and CorpWatch to celebrate “Corporate Accountability Week,” which accused corporations of causing poverty and environmental degradation. TWN’s Chee Yoke Heong told the British journal New Scientist: “How can you have a part-nership between the polluter and the vic-tim, the land taker and the people whose land is taken?” TWN co published Vandana Shiva’s book The Violence of the Green Revolution, an attack on the revolu¬tionary changes in agriculture that are ending food shortages. Shiva deplores their impact on traditional village life—i.e. subsistenced poverty.

In 2001, the Ford Foundation gave $350,000 to Third World Network “to strengthen [the] voice of African civil so-ciety groups in international trade nego-tiations.” According to NGO Report (#1, 2003), a publication of Australia’s Insti¬tute for Public Affairs, TWN received $600,000 from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to maintain its international activist network. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund provided $275,000 and the Founda¬tion for Deep Ecology $255,000 to support the campaigns of TWN and its close col¬laborator, the Consumers Association of Penang. TWN executive director Martin Khor is on the “shadow management board” of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, a radical funder opposed to biotechnology, population growth and economic develop¬ment practices it considers destructive of nature.

The Danish 92 Group is a coalition of 20 Danish NGOs, including the Danish U.N. Association, Greenpeace Denmark, and World Wildlife Fund Denmark. It de¬mands stringent environmental treaties and would add more environmental links to World Trade Organization negotiations.

The 92 Group was organized just before the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In Johannesburg it joined eight other NGOs—Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature, EarthJustice, Euroda, Friends of the Earth, Northern Alliance for Sustainability, Oxfam International, and Consumers International—to form the “Eco Equity Coalition,” which denounced so-called voluntary partnership initiatives with the private sector—also known as “Type 2” partnerships in U.N. jargon—as insufficient to meet the goals of Agenda 21. “The responsibility for agreeing on worldwide social and environmental rules must remain with governments,” said the coalition. “Global problems require global solutions through global governance.”

Denmark has a well organized NGO sector primarily funded by the govern¬ment. It is estimated that Denmark gives more than one percent of its gross na¬tional income (equal to $1.5 billion) to overseas development, making it the “most generous” donor to the developing world in proportion to its population. However, a new, more conservative Danish govern¬ment is proposing to trim its spending in this area.

The Environment Liaison Centre In-ternational is based in Nairobi, Kenya and aims to strengthen “communication and cooperation between nongovern¬mental organizations (NGOs) and civil society, providing liaison between NGOs and the United Nations Environment Pro¬gram.” It claims a staff of 30 and works with 800 African NGOs.

Local Authorities. This stakeholder constituency included a representative from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). It bills itself as “an international association of local governments implementing sustain¬able development” and specifically Agenda 21, whose Chapter 28 proposes this plan:

Each Local Authority should en¬ter into a dialogue with its citizens, local organizations, and private

enterprises and adopt a “local Agenda 21. ” Through consultation and consensus building, local authorities would learn from citizens and from local, civic, community, business, and industrial or¬ganizations and acquire the information needed for formulating the best strategies.

What are these strategies? Toronto based ICLEI claims that, “attempts at de-velopment in poorer regions of the Earth put nature and its resources under such an amount of pressure that sooner or later a collapse seems inevitable. Therefore, sustainable development in Europe means creating new ways of economic activity which will guarantee the desired quality of life and yet, in the long run, reduce the consumption of natural resources to a fifth of the current value.” [Emphasis added]

ICLEI’s Local Agenda 21 (LA21) cam¬paign aims “to build a worldwide movement of local governments and associations dedicated to achieving sustainable development, through participatory, multi-stakeholder sustainable development planning.” In other words, it wants worldwide politicized zoning and planning boards. One ICLEI project, Cities for Climate Protection Campaign (CCP), has even developed software to help cities monitor greenhouse gas emissions and develop “local action plans to direct urban planning, transportation choices, and development decisions to positively affect local and global environmental quality.”

ICLEI had $5.7 million in 2001 revenues. It reports receiving $600,000 in grants from foundations and $2.6 million in grants from governments and international organizations. The now inactive Turner Foundation provided $205,000 in grants in 1999 2000.

Workers and Trade Unions. The In-ternational Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the ICFTU Youth Committee led this stakeholder group. ICFTU, founded in 1949, is a confederation of national trade union federations with 231 affiliated organizations in 150 countries and a total membership of 158 million. Headquartered in Brussels, it works with the U.N.’s International Labor Organiza¬tion and has consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council. In Johannesburg, ICFTU spokesman John Evans called for a global system of corporate regulation. Evans said Enron and other corporate scandals had internationalized the issue of corporate governance: “We can’t say this is just an issue for national governments.”

ICFTU tilts to the Left, but because union jobs depend on corporations and economic growth it tempers its support for the demands of radical NGO “stakehold¬ers.” An August 2003 ICFTU statement notes:

[T]he term “stakeholder” is much overused and abused and obscures more than it clarifies. It is too imprecise to be used in an instrument whose purpose is to create or amplify legal obligations... “Stakeholder” is a term that re-quires a relationship to be of use. Not all stakeholders are equal. And not all stakeholders have a legitimate claim against the be-havior of a company arising out of the broader interests of society, including the protection of or pro-motion of respect for human rights.

In short, ICFTU wants to regulate business, but, unlike the radical green Left, it doesn’t want to regulate business out of existence. On its most recently available financial report (19951998), ICFTU re¬ported 1998 income from its labor union affiliates of about $11 million; 60 percent of the amount

came from Europe and 25 percent from North America.

Business and Industry. The lead here is taken by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Founded in 1919, Paris based ICC has 800 corporate members and has enjoyed U.N. consultative status since 1946. It lobbies for open markets, but favors broad, U.N. style declarations on environmental pro¬tection. ICC’s Business Charter for Sus¬tainable Development lists business ac¬tivities improving the environment, but never mentions the importance of eco¬nomic growth. ICC’s chairman is Jean Fourtou, CEO of Vivendi Universal, the struggling Paris based media conglomer¬ate. The Geneva based World Business Council has 165 corporate members, in¬cluding 30 American corporations (e.g.

ChevronTexaco, Dow, DuPont, Ford, GM, Monsanto). Like many other NGOs, it was created after the Rio Summit.

Scientific and Technological Communities. The International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) or¬ganized this stakeholder group. ICSU is a coalition of 101 national scientific academies and 27 scientific unions. It is funded by member contributions, but also receives funding from UNESCO, other U.N. agencies, and foundations. Lately it has fo¬cused on global climate change. Paris based ICSU works with 19 U.N. agencies, the Council of Europe, European Commission, Organization of African Unity, Organization of American States, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Devel-opment. Its series of reports on sustainable development, issued for the summit, was funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. Some reports were produced in partnership with WFEO, which was founded in 1968, also with UNESCO support.

Farmers. The stakeholder leaders were the radical Honduran group Via Campesina and the International Federation of Agri¬cultural Producers (IFAP). Via Campesina claims 69 “participating organizations,” mostly in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. In Johannesburg, it joined the South Afri¬can Landless Peoples Movement, Social Movement Indaba, AIDS activists, and pro Palestinian demonstrators in a noisy street demonstration called the “March for the Landless.” Organizers invited Robert Mugabe, the brutal Zimbabwean despot, to address the crowd.

Via Campesina favors subsistence farming, opposes biotechnology, ridicules property rights (“Indigenous peoples have sustainably managed their ecosystems for generations without knowing formal property rights”), and endorses “land redistri¬bution by means of expropriation and forfeiture of quality land, in which the State assumes its responsibilities.”

Unlike Via Campesina, IFAP is membership driven. Founded in 1946, it is a federation of 100 national farmers’ organizations from 71 countries, including the radical National Farmers Union in the U.S. Also unlike Via Campesina, IFAP favors biotechnology to improve agricultural yields while reducing pesticide use. But it too regards attendance at international conferences as essential to its mission. And just like many other international NGOs, it is based in Paris.

Fighting Back

NGO organizers at the Johannesburg Summit did include representatives of less radical NGOs, like ICC and IFAP, and even accredited a few pro market organizations, such as the American groups Consumer Alert and the Committee for a Construc¬tive Tomorrow. Moreover, conservative organizations like Concerned Women for America and Family Research Council have made a point of acquiring NGO certi-fication precisely to counter the influence of population control and abortion rights NGOs at this and other international fo-rums.

Still, the vast majority of NGOs at these meetings equate civil society with government mandates and the private sec-tor with greed and predation. “With only a handful of free market groups able to attend any of these meetings, it’s been difficult for us to have an impact,” says Consumer Alert President Frances Smith. “But we are rapidly learning how to seize the moral high ground by seeking allies in the developing world.”

Who Pays?

The Johannesburg summit came with a big price tag. So who pays? Although they are subject to few financial disclosure rules, it’s clear that European governments and foundations and U.N. agencies are undoubtedly major supporters of many overseas NGOs. The largest U.S. founda-tions—MacArthur, Mott, Packard, Pew— are also heavy contributors to advocacy groups, especially U.S. based environmen-tal nonprofits. But any list of major donors to international and environmental NGOs must take special notice of the Ford Foundation.

Last month’s Foundation Watch by Martin Wooster described a number of Ford Foundation grants to U.S. nonprofits, and it noted how their missions were far different from the beliefs and intentions of Henry Ford. But more can be said about the Foundation’s international activities. In 2002 the Ford Foundation approved 2,510 grants totaling $529.3 million. A great many of them went to overseas NGOs.

At the Johannesburg summit, Ford was everywhere. A search of the Founda-tion Center’s database discloses that it gave half a million dollars to the summit’s NGO section (The search turned up no other U.S. foundation grants to this body.) The Foundation sent 125 representatives to the Summit—it has a Johannesburg of-fice—and it funded many of the NGOs attending the conference, including NGO group dialogue organizers.

Here are just a few of the NGOs at Johannesburg that have benefited from Ford Foundation support:

Corp Watch/Tides Center received $125,000 in2002 for a Climate Justice Initia¬tive “which seeks to redefine climate change debate in the U.S. from discussion of energy use to one of human rights and environmental justice.” The Corp Watch mission at the Summit seemed to be to keep anti globalization activists informed and networked to one another by circulating detailed dispatches on NGO activities. More recently, it praised the collapse of the WTO talks in Cancún, betraying its view of the world as a zero sum game: “As the 5th WTO ministerial meeting ends in collapse, there is a tangible sense here that the newfound strength of a large bloc of Southern nations has shifted the balance of power between rich and poor coun¬tries”—as if it were not possible for both rich and poor nations to benefit from trade.

The San Francisco based Tides Cen¬ter received over $1 million from Ford in 2002, including the CorpWatch grant. Cen¬ter chairman Wade Rathke is a founder of the far left group ACORN, a driving force behind campaigns for “living wage” laws, which mandate local area minimum wages, and “community reinvestment” laws, which mandate bank loaning in low-income areas.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) received $435,000 in 19992002 (including grants to FoE International, FoE Washington, D.C., and FoE Nigeria). One $155,000 grant went last year “to improve governance structure and strengthen international networks to address global environmental policy issues.” FoE International, based in Amsterdam, has 68 independent national affiliates. For FY 2002 (ending June 30, 2002), the U.S. affiliate in Washington, D.C. reported $3.8 million in revenue (and $4.27 million in expenditures). FoE, was a member of the Eco Equity Coalition in Johannesburg. A spokesman there branded the U.S., Canada, and Australia as an “axis of environmental evil.”

At the WTO meeting in Cancún, FoE activists disrupted a food donation event at a poor Mexican village in which I took part. FoE activists warned villagers that the food—containing genetically modi¬fied beans, rice and cornmeal—was poi¬soned. Most of the village residents ig¬nored them, took the food, and thanked the donating organizations—the Competi¬tive Enterprise Institute, Committee for A Constructive Tomorrow, International Consumers for Civil Society, and Con¬gress of Racial Equality. The next morning FoE protesters staying at my hotel made no fuss when they ate corn flakes for breakfast—the same brand we donated to the villagers the day before.

World Wildlife Fund/World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Ford gave $1.5 million to its various chapters last year. A member of the Eco Equity Coalition, WWF is among the largest and most prestigious environmental groups, enjoys patronage from the British and Dutch royal families, and boasts 4.5 million members world-wide. It has 28 national affiliates and 24 program offices. Based in Switzerland, WWF and its national chapters raised $332 million last year. Revenue to the U. S. affiliate was $118 million in 2001. WWF’s history is riddled with questionable management and fundraising practices detailed in the May 2003 Foundation Watch.

Abantu for Development, a London based organization, its mission to Africa includes “strengthening the management capacities of NGOs” and “capacity build¬ing for NGOs to engage with policies from a gender perspective.” One $300,000 Ford grant in 2002 went for a “training and advocacy program to strengthen capaci-ties of women’s NGOs to engage with policies on sexuality and reproductive health from gender perspective in West Africa.” A second $120,000 grant went “to build capacity and public awareness on gender and governance and for organiza¬tional development.”

South Africa’s Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF)received $165,000 in 2002 to help plan the Summit and “to host Soweto based international week of environmental justice activities.” However, EJNF was dissatisfied with the Summit’s outcome, especially the final statement on corporate accountability, which it deemed too vague. EJNF is also critical of multinational corporations that introduce genetically modified foods into South Africa.

Oxfam America—$1.1 millionin2002, including $500,000 “[t]o build capacity and strengthen leadership of Cuban rural and urban agricultural organizations” and two grants totaling $550,000 to promote “fair trade” coffee.

National Wildlife Federation— $320,000 in 2002, including $20,000, “[t]o research and develop [a] video documen-tary on certified wood and fair trade cof-fee.”

The size of the U.N.NGO behemoth and its massive funding is enough to dis-courage supporters of limited government and American sovereignty. But it’s not all bad news. For the most part, U.N. confer-ences are ineffective, and there is even occasional good news.

In June, the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency, revoked Greenpeace’s consultative status. Al¬though it gave no official reason, press accounts attribute the move to Greenpeace’s protests on the high seas, which shipping companies argue recklessly endanger shipping.

Funders also can get their comeup-pance. In June 2003, CNN media mogul Ted Turner’s foundation announced it had fi-nancial troubles and would cease grant making for at least a year. A spokesman for Friends of the Earth called the shutdown “a terrible loss” and added, “it’s really like losing one of your strongest allies.” The Turner Foundation’s gifts were large— over $12 million to the National Environ-mental Trust in 1998 and 1999, and over $1 million to the Natural Resources Defense Council between 1998 and 2000. And it didn’t shy away from the lunatic fringe. One grantee, the Ruckus Society ($50,000 in 1999), is renowned for its street protest tactics at demonstrations against “global-ization.”

However, NGOs will not give up eas-ily. They have found a cause and they have found donors to support them over the long haul.