Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs),
The Force of Alternative Development:
Identifying their Contribution and Limitation through
A Case Study of Negro Movement
The form of traditional development, lead by the Government authority (co-operating with the Transnational Company) with the aims of the development of local economics, has many problems. It leads to the social problems relating to the living of the people, especially the lower class and rural people. Because of such disadvantages, alternative developments organized by different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are emerged. Although the NGOs have many contributions to the development for those ignored group, it still have many limitation and potential problems.
In this paper, the problems of the traditional development will be illustrated through the example of project of Narmada Dam first. Moreover, the characteristics of the alternative development raised by NGOs will be discussed and commented. Then, there will be the discussion of their development program base on the Negro movement, a program of alternative trade. The brief history, contribution, effectiveness and potential problems of the project will be discussed. Finally, it will be discussed if there is any alternative trading developed in Hong Kong.
Problems of Traditional Development
The Narmada Dam Project
In this section, the problems that was result from the implementation of Narmada Dam project will be illustrated in order to show some potential problems of the Government lead development program.
The India Government plans to build the big dam, a ‘symbol’ of modernization, at Narmada and hopes that it can help the electrical supply and irrigation. Therefore, it should be expected that the living standard of her people should be improved as such facilities can provide extra work opportunities and improve the output of the agriculture. Moreover, it can be seem that the process of such modernization plan is closed to the plan of urbanization and industrialization.
However, the story is different. The rural people do not enjoy any benefit from the ‘industrialization’ but the Government gets the benefit of foreign financial support only. Moreover, the constructor of the project, the foreign transnational company, can earn the profit as well. The rural people are only the sacrifice of the resettlement. To make the situation worse, no one know the fortune of the rural people when they are forced to leave. It seems that they are disappeared in the world. On the other hand, the cost of upsetting the ecology system is also high. It leads to the lost of forests and wildlife, siltation and even increase of earth tremors.
It should be aware that there is a checking system of the development. The World Bank should take the responsibility to monitor the implementation of the plan. However, she is too ‘mercy’ to the Government. The deadline for the requested improvement is always extended. Therefore, the Government is not threatened by the withdrawal of financial assistant even she does not follow the guidance for resettlement and environmental protection measure. In other word, the role of the monitor of World Bank is neither effective nor reliable.
The Problems Disclosed in the Project
The basic problems of the project are the problems of resettlement and upsetting the ecological system. However, it discloses the underlying problems during the development process as well. It shows the problems of the right of decision making of the future of the affected rural people and marginalization. The governmental authority makes the decision of replication of the western development for them, the rural people have no voice in the decision making. Moreover, the benefit of the development will be enjoyed by the authority and transnational company only, the affected one is always ignored, sacrificed and further marginized. It can be concluded that the Government-lead development program helps to develop the country at a ‘macro’ level of the urban area only and the benefit will be shared by the minority of the authority and wealth. Meanwhile, the majority of the affected rural people at a ‘micro’ level (the marginized area) will only be ignored, sacrificed and enjoy nothing except the pain of resettlement. In other word, the Government-lead development program always ignores the need and voice of the ‘ignored’ group and making the problem of marginalization worse.
It has been discussed above that the marginized minority is always neglected in the Government-lead development program. As a result, there are many alternative development programs emerged. Most of them are leaded by the Non-Governmental organization (NGOs). Negro Movement is one of the examples. Before the further case studies of the program, the basic characteristics of such alternative program will be mentioned first.
First of all, instead of the consideration of the benefit gained by the country at a ‘macro’ level, the interest of the ignored minority will be focused. This is the fundamental difference between the traditional mode of development. Base on the fundamental difference, there are five characteristics that should be noted.
Firstly, different aspects of the developing community should be considered. The development plan of the authority always concerns the material aspects only. For example, they may consider the building of dam and other modern facilities as the symbol of modernization. However, it can that help to meet the material development aspects only of the country and community only. It should be aware that the wholeness of a community does not include the material aspects only. The aspects of religion, health and education, etc. should be noted as well. In
Secondly, the right of the decision of the direction of development should be in the community herself but not the central governmental authority. This character may be developed from the first characteristics. For the governmental authority may not understand the actual need of the community, their plan for the community may not fit them. Therefore, it is suggested that the community should hold their right for the decision that may related to their future. It should be noted that the right is hold by the ‘majority’ of the community (e.g. the group of elderly or co-operative) but not the minority of the leader of the community. Thus, the benefit of the majority of a community is concerned.
Thirdly, the resource of the development should be self-reliant. In other words, one community should develop themselves base on their internal strength and resource instead of seeking external assistant. Although the developing community may solve their immediate needs with the external help, the community may become the slave of the external authority. For example, if the developing community gets into the trouble of debt regine. Their authorities of choosing their direction of developing mentioned in above character may be lost to the external ‘professional’ of the debt management. As a result, the external authorities may force the community to follow their plan in order to return the debt. That is why this character is emphasized in protecting their authorities.
Fourthly, the ecological system is concerned. It is emphasized to the protect the local ecological system as it is only the treasure for the present but also for the future generation.
Finally, the basic structural system of developing community is recommended (or forced) to be changed according to the suggestions or regulation of the offering organization. If the developing community refuses so, they may not received the assistant. (e.g. the program of Grameen Bank) It seems that it violates the basic holding discussed above; fortunately, the requested changes are the common moral standard accepted by the developed country. For example, the requests of minimizing or even eliminate the sex discrimination, ethnic discrimination etc. Although such ideology are ‘imported’ or ‘impacted’ to the community in a compulsory way, it is expected that such new structure can prepare and better and heather system for the future development.
Re-Considering the Basic Characteristics
The development programs lead by the NGOs are community orientated. The ‘ignored’ majority is respected and they can enjoy the rewards of the development. This is why the ‘voiceless’ grass-root class often welcomes the proposed programs. However, some characteristics mentioned above should be considered.
Firstly, the programs promote the development of self-sufficient community. It is good for the community to reduce their external dependence for they can ensure their authority. However, the development trend is the globalization that every community and group just serves as a functional unit in the wholeness of the world. If the community accepts the idea of self-sufficient and holds it firm, it may be very difficulty for them to adapt to the new trend. In my opinion, the alternative program proposed should handle the direction of development in a balance way. In fact, the Negro movement may be one of the successful example that will be further discussed below.
Secondly, the right of the decision of the direction of development falls to the shoulder of the community, but one should consider if they are ‘capable’ to make the decision. As it can be expected the educational level of the ‘under-developed’ group may be comparatively low in some aspects, can they make the appropriate decision? For example, they may demand the ‘functional training’ only but not the skills of literary. However, the NGOs should know what is ‘also’ needed for the community. Should the NGOs help the community in the decision to certain aspects? Just like the compulsory exercises of eliminating the sex, ethnic discrimination. On the other hand, the ‘developed’ people may have their blind vision. For example, the governmental authority ignores the preservation of ecological system. In my opinion, the direction of the development of the community should be made through the sharing and interflow between the NGOs staff and the members of the community. More ideas bombarded from different angles help to provide a more comprehensive decision. Once again, the Negro movement handle this problem properly.
Finally, the structural reformation is the only exercise that are ‘forced’ to be implemented in the community, but it should be considered if it is a fair way of introducing the exercise. The idea of equalities of the right of sex and ethnic is still under development in the modern city like Hong Kong. This can be reflected from the recent promotion campaign of such idea. Furthermore, such ideology needs a long period to be accepted in the U.S.A. In fact, such problems are not solved yet in the developed country. Will the ethnic minority or female be treaded in a fair way after the withdrawal of the assistant? In my opinion, the NGOs should aware this problems. Although such exercise can help the quick start of accepting the ideology, such ideology should be spread through education for the long-term development.
After introducing and reflecting the main characteristics of the concerns of the alternative development; the Negro movement, a form of Alternative Trade, will be introduced to further illustrate what have been discussed above.
Negro Movement: an Alternative Trade
Concept of Progressive Market
Negro movement is a form of alternative trade that can be regarded as progressive market. It is the business that specific ethical, social or environmental influences as well as the economic reward are considered in the business.
In the example of Negro movement, it will be demonstrated that how the Negro people are benefited from the trade rather than suffering.
Negro is a place in Philippines. There was about 70% of Negro people earn their living through the planting of sugar that is their monoculture cash crop. A ‘fatal’ problem happened when the international sugar price fell. The Negro people lost their ‘only’ economic income; as a result, most of them suffered from starvation.
It is estimated that there was about one hundred and fifty thousand children were in starving.
There are two problems disclosed in this case. Firstly, there is a wrong planning of the economic infrastructure of Negro. Different kind of crops should be planted instead. However, the key problem behind is the authority of the decision making. This lead to the problem of the proper sharing of the reward. It has been discussed before that the authority of the Government-lead development program will made their own decision and enjoy most of the benefit herself. In the case of Negro, the ‘middleman’ may take similar role. The farmer cannot sell their product to the customer directly but through the middleman. As a result, the kind of the export commodities is decided by the middleman. Moreover, the middleman may earn the major share of the profit during the trade. On the other hand, most of the peasant’s income is gained by the landlord. Thus, this situation is quite similar to the case discussed before. The farmer lost their autonomy and cannot enjoy the reward of a reasonable living in spite of hard working due to the unreasonable sharing of the profit.
Consumer’s Movement in Japan
There has been a upraised consumer co-operative movement in Japan. In 1989, there is a co-operative named ‘Alter Trade Japan’ (ATJ) formed. The purpose of setting such organization is selling some ‘alternative’ product to their customer. It is ‘alternative’ because they take the responsibility of the customer as well. They teach them why the product sold is important for the producer, why most of the international trade is unethical and how the produced is deprived, etc.
They starts the alternative trade in Negro.
It will be expected that foreign financial assistant is provided for the Negro. However, it is only a short-term means for the assistant. The Negro movement is ‘alternative’ as it gives the Negro a net rather than the fishes only. The ATJ help (‘help’ but not ‘forced’) them to plan (the planning by the Negro but not the ATJ) to build up their community autonomy. And it gets great success.
The ATJ found that the Negro has a resource, the banana. It is not welcomed by the Negro but it is suitable for the export and suits the taste of the Japanese. In spite of the difficulties faced, liked the trouble made by the Philippine Military, the ATJ imports the banana from the farmers directly. As there is no middleman involved, the farmers earn most of the money and they can uses the money to build their fundamental community and buy the land from the landlord for the long-term development.
It should be aware that the Negro have earn what they worth. The selling price of the banana is about US$6.00 per kg. While the international price is only about US$1.5 to 2.0. It implies that ATJ pay them at a ethical price while other international business may treat the worker (farmer) at a deprived price. The income earned by the Negro implies that they are not the beggar but able to develop themselves if there is a proper environment.
Alternative Development Plan
In this section, the five basic characteristics discussed before will be applied to discuss the case of the Negro in order to identify the achievement of the Negro movement. Once again, the Negro, the minority of the Philippine, is always neglected by the government. Moreover, they do not have any fundamental community in spite of their hard working for the ‘employer’ (the middleman and landlord) over half century. However they are respected by the ATJ and helps them to develop their community.
Firstly, the development is not focused on the development of material aspect only. It is not difficulty to see that their concern is people-orientated rather than material aspects only. It can be reflected from their indicator of development. If they just focus on the development of material, the GNP or GDP will be selected as the indicator of the development. However, the indicator does not indicate if the living condition of the Negro is improved because most of the earning may be deprived. They use the indicator of ‘living standard’ (basic needs) instead, e.g. "eat three meals a day, buy new clothes at least three times a year, send their children to school and have some kind of health care." The indicator also gives the direction to different aspects of the development like the education and health. The ATJ helps the Negro to develop in a more comprehensive way rather than narrowing in the material aspects only.
Secondly, the right of the decision of the Negro future is on the Negro themselves. Although there is a five-year plan of the Negro movement by the ATJ, it can be expected that the Negro are involved in the planning. In fact, they take the leading position in the planning, while the ATJ staff are the advisers only. It should be noted that the Negro does not have any obligation to do anything in order to exchange any assistant except the direct export. In other words, the Negro’s autonomy is preserved.
Thirdly, the Negro uses their own strength to develop different crop like the vegetable, potato in order to earn the money for the communal development. It is not only help them to prevent the problem of monoculture cash but also help them to build up their self-image. It is because they are no longer work as a peasant but a farmer who has their own autonomy
Regarding the forth and fifth characteristics, it could not be reflected from the case study of the Negro.
There are two more successful characteristics of the Negro that should be mentioned that are not included in the five characteristics. Although internal reliance is emphasized in the plan, the co-operation among different co-operatives is encouraged as well. For example, they may exchange different commodities among different co-operatives. This has overcame the potential limitation of local development mentioned before.
On the other hand, there is also some benefit gained by the ATJ. It seems that the members of the ATJ gained nothing except the ‘much expensive’ unnecessary commodities. However, it is expected that the moral spirit of the member regarding the social concern can be increased through the trade. In other words, there may be no help in improving the ‘material’ living and economic situation of the ATJ but helping the rising of moral aspects only. As the members of the ATJ have considered the importance of the social concern, it is expected such helping is what they expected. Such influence is not gain effectively if the direct financial assistant is given instead.
To conclude, the ATJ may take the role of mentor who just guides the development of the Negro and gives them a fair and ethical trading. Under this situation, the Negro can develop themselves properly.
Potential Problems of the Project
It seems that the alternative trade of Negro is quite successful as it help the Negro to help themselves while preserving their prestige and autonomy. However, there are still two problems.
Firstly, there is the problem of importer. At the early stage, the Negro is dependent on the ATJ direct importation. However, it may have the risk of no importer if there is any relationship break off between the ATJ. Fortunately, it is not happened. Moreover, this is only the problem in the early stage of development. The risk is minimized when they plant different kind of crops and a better network is setup among different co-operatives. Nevertheless, one should care the balance of the development of self-sufficient community and the networking between among different community and countries.
Secondly, the form of the administration of the operation of the alternative trade should be aware. In my opinion, this is a problem of paradox that cannot be solved easily.
The administrator of the operation of the co-operative for the alternative trade may work on a voluntary base without any authorized power. Moreover, there is no formal or structural system for the daily operation. When compared with the structure of a company in developed country, the hierarchy of the power is quite clear. Therefore, the problems happened in a company can be settled very soon as there is authorized power in the company. However, extra time may be needed for the solving of the problem in the co-operative. For example, if the member do not provide adequate number of product in time intentionally, the administrator may not take any effective action as the nature of the organization is based on the co-operation only. However, if the co-operative members do not treasure the opportunities of self-help and continues to fail to supply the requested commodities. The trade partner may refuse to import any more. Therefore, the form of the operation of the co-operative may be suggested to be changed to a small ‘company’. In other words, some employed staff may be employed for the daily operation. And more structural management should be implemented. The paradox is here. The aims of the co-operative is providing the maximum benefit for the member based co-operation and the operation may be not effective. Meanwhile, the aims of a company may be providing the maximum benefit for the business holders and the operation may be much effective. If the mode of the operation of the co-operative is not changed, it may be ineffective and may lose the trade partner progressively. However, if the mode is changed to a ‘company’, the benefit of the members may be smaller as there are many expense is needed for the operation. Moreover, it may slide back the situation of introducing the ‘middleman’ again. As a result, they may lost their autonomy.
In my opinion, in order to have co-operation with the potential importer who request the effectiveness, some system of business management should be implemented in the co-operative. Although it is an alternative business, it is still a business. Thus, the effectiveness should be ensured. Thus, certain amount of the autonomy and profit is worth to be paid to provide the effectiveness and better trust of the trade partner. It is suggested that the directors of the company should be the representatives of the community in order to ensure the autonomy of the company and ensure that the community can enjoy the maximum of the profit. Although it is very difficult to have a system that has the effectiveness of business management and the concern of the co-operatives, it should be the goal that should be work for.
Insight from the Project
After stating the contribution and the potential problem of alternative trade, some insight from this project will be shared. In my opinion, the alternative trade gives us a reflection of the form of the assistant. We have adapt the traditional form of direct financial assistant. However, the Negro movement have shown us that even the ignored and marginized group are not only the beggar. They can develop themselves if there is a ‘fair’ and ‘ethical’ environment is given. Therefore, it is the time for us to choose the most appropriate way for the assistant of the needed.
On the other hand, the ethical responsibility of business should be reflected again. Should a company increase their profit through the deprivation? This is a debating question. In my opinion, the aims of a business may be maximizing the profit while the responsibility of the social welfare should fall to the governments or NGOs. This leads to other question, what is the extent of the influence of the alternative trade? This problem will be discussed in next section.
Alternative Trade in Hong Kong
Before the discussion of the extent of the influence of alternative trade in Hong Kong, the contributing factors of the success will be discussed first.
Factors of Success
In previous part, the contribution of the success Negro movement has been discussed. There are two side in the partnership in the trade. The Negro has their contribution in the success. However, the factors of the ATJ contributing to the success should not be overlooked. There are three reasons for the success. Firstly, there is well-established network of ATJ. They can distribute the product ordered and the ideology very effectively. Secondly, there is a social awareness of the concern of the local and international social event. They may even take the involvement of the trade that may have no economical return. Of course, such awareness is not cultivated in one day. Finally, the economic status of the ATJ members should be good enough to do the ‘charity’ and involving work.
Alternative Trade in Hong Kong?
It seems that there is no prominent alternative trading in Hong Kong. What we know are the selling of carrying bag made by Chinese ethnic minority and the ‘ya ba he’. One may ask such ideology is not common in Hong Kong. It will be analysis if there are the contributing factors mentioned above.
There should be some well established network of co-operative in Hong Kong, e.g. the Hong Kong Teaching Professional Association, Hua Yuan Association (Association for the Civil servant). Both of them have their own retail shops for offering discounted products to their member. However, there is no alternative trade involved by them. Regarding the second factors, it is expected that educated class of the Hong Kong Teaching Professional Association should have the social awareness to certain sense. Why do they not involved in the alternative trade?
In my opinion, they have the social awareness of helping the others, especially those in the Mainland China. They have got the habit of using the direct financial assistant instead, e.g. financial assistant of the education in China. In fact, Hong Kong people have their own right to choose the form of the assistant. Moreover, alternative trade is possible only if the needed have their resource for trading. Perhaps, there are little place that can export their extra resource that the Hong Kong liked. However, will the alternative trade be expand if there is any good quality product with reasonable price available?
In my opinion, there would be ‘limited’ development of alternative trade in Hong Kong only. The Hong Kong people may have the commitment of the financial donation only. Their sense of the social awareness may be not high enough for the long-term involvement of the organization promoting alternative trade. In other words, seldom organizations are willing to ‘commit’ in promoting the ‘no economic return’ business. However, if it is a profitable business, the trading can be success in spite of any difficulties. For example, the business of Amway has the similar structure of co-operative. The business is quite success and the network is built up under the stimulation of profit. Thus, the commitment and social awareness of the ‘ethical’ business of Hong Kong people may be the key factor of the success. On may ask if it is possible to operate the alternative business in a commercial way. It seems that it can help the members to committee in the ‘profitable’ alternative business. But it falls to the dilemma mentioned above. Will it be a ‘charity’ business any more? Will it be just other ‘Amway’ business? On the other hand, it is expected that the potential customer may not be willing to buy the product. It is because the living standard of Hong Kong is not high in recent years. They may not want to or not able to buy the relative expensive product. Moreover, the network for distributing the product is limited. The inconvenient distribution handicapped the marking of alternative trade. Thus, such ‘ethical’ trade may not be popular in Hong Kong in recent years.
After analyzing the case in Hong Kong, one should expect that the success of Negro movement may be an exceptional case. The success needs the co-ordination of different conditions on both sides of the partners. As it is discussed above, the key of the success may be the willingness of the commitment of this ‘no economic return’ ‘charity’ business.
It cannot be denied that the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have contribute to the development of the ignored marginized group through different means. The alternative trade is one of form of the means used by the NGOs. The Negro movement is one of the successful example of the alternative trade. It helps the assisted community to help themselves in the development. Moreover, the NGOs gain the benefit of improving the moral spirit of social concern of their society. However, it should be noted that there is the problem of the proper form of operation of the co-operative (the dilemma of effectiveness and proper sharing of the profit) needed to be solved. Although Hong Kong has certain factors that favor the development of alternative trade, alternative trade is not prominent. It is predicted Hong Kong people have adopt the model of direct financial assistant instead of alternative trade. In fact, it is expected that the alternative trade may not become popular in recent years as there is no committing organization and customers so far. Nevertheless, the contribution of the NGOs in the alternative development should not be ignored. They have shown us that even the ignored and marginized group are not only the beggar. They can develop themselves if there is a ‘fair’ and ‘ethical’ environment is given.
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