Review of Issa Shivji’s “Silence in NGO Discourse”

review of silences

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) maintain a ubiquitous presence in most peoples lives (whether they realize it or not). It therefore should be a commonsense act that we scrutinize NGO activities to ascertain their exact political function within the “our” neoliberal world order, yet this is not normally the case. In response to this deliberative void, Issa Shivji, a professor of law based at the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) argues the urgent need for such critical inquiry’s in his useful booklet Silence in NGO Discourse: The Role and Future of NGOs in Africa (Pambazuka Press, 2007). As Firoze Manji observes in the publications foreword: often “dressed up with the verbiage of participatory approaches,” “[o]ver the last two decades, development NGOs have become an integral, and necessary, part of a system that sacrifices respect for justice and rights.” Shivj’s own background, helps inform his work, and in his introduction he notes:

“Before I begin, I must make two confessions. First,my paper is undoubtedly critical, sometimes ruthlessly so, but not cynical. Second, this criticism is also self-criticism, since the author has been involved in NGO activism for some 15 years. Finally I must make clear that I do not doubt the noble motivations and good intentions of NGO leaders and activists. But we do not judge the outcome of a process by the intentions of its authors. We aim to analyse the objective effects of actions, regardless of their intentions.” (p.2)

This is an important point, and so after summarizing some of his criticisms of the NGO community, I aim to to “analyse the objective effects of” Shivji’s booklet in an attempt to determine the limitations of his scathing polemic…

CONTINUED HERE

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