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Editors Note: Scott Poynton at Huffington Post argues our story to be "too spooky" and doesn't think NGOs are competing for money. Nevertheless he thinks competition of NGO's will increase in the future...

Actually it was only a matter of time, because the sign stood for a long time to storm. In terms of tropical deforestation, sustainable forest management (SFM) and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) there is a big mistrust between environmental NGOs and social NGOs (read further here…).

Of course, environmental NGOs are and have always been in the crossfire of public criticism. Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. Form your own opinion about it (e.g. The wrong kind of green or  Amazongate  -  some additional articles on this topic can be found here).

However, these were mostly attacks on U.S. environmental NGOs receiving financial support from U.S. corporations. The role-model for such unholy alliances between industry and environmental groups was the partnership between Shell and Greenpeace, which was closed as a result to the media hype surrounding the planned sinking of the floating oil tank "Brent Spar" back in 1995.

But in recent time we can spot an escalation of the conflict between social and environmental NGOs. Just two weeks ago the US based social NGO “CORE” published massive allegation against the forest certification label FSC. Last week finally, a frontal attack by the social NGO “Global Witness” against the environmental NGO's WWF was facilitated.

Superficially viewed, in this conflict environmental agendas (deforestation, land use change and forest degradation) and rights of minorities (indigenous peoples) are pitted against each other. Grossly simplified throw the opponents against each other, that environmental NGOs are rating nature conservation and biodiversity higher than the rights of indigenous peoples, conversely, the social-NGOs are accused of neglect of nature and environmental protection. And then of course it can happen that the environmental NGOs are accused of profiteering at the expense of nature.

Objectively viewed, the question naturally arises already, why Global Witness right now denounces the practices of the WWF. Practices which have been applied by the WWF since a long time and have been well known by everybody since ever (John Vidal, the WWF and literature). Generally spoken, the WWF can’t be blamed for applying these practices, because now it's long been established that sustainable change of business practices of companies mostly can’t be achieved by external pressure.  The only successful way of doing this is by setting up internal change initiatives. Such an approach takes time and needs appropriate auditing mechanisms to record the progress achieved under permanent surveillance. But when the measures taken do not bear fruit, then the appropriate steps to cancel the partnership must be executed. Given it is very likely that, the WWF may have missed this permanent control within the partnership and therefore did not pull the ripcord timely. However, this would not be reason enough to justify this massive attack by Global Witness.

There must be some other valid reason for picking a public forest-based quarrel between environmental NGOs and social NGOs, something behind the scenes…

And it's obviously the only topic that has enjoyed greatest attention in all cultures and peoples of the earth since time being. It's all about power and influence.

"May the force be with us"

To put it simply: who advises governments in certain respects, has power and influence. Well, environmental and conservation issues played no major role in developing countries, so far. What e.g. in the industrialized countries of Western Europe is different. There, environmental NGOs have taken over a long time ago because of their established relationships with the resorts of environmental ministries (and the exercise of subtle pressure medium from the threat of mass media campaigns) and therefore gained a lot of power. Yes, there are even Western European countries in which environmental programs are generally rolled out only after approval by environmental groups like WWF.

This was different in developing countries. Media campaigns could not threaten there. Governmental influence by NGOs in developing countries was therefore mainly established by funding of projects with own money (which was raised in industrialized countries). The success of this approach was quite impressive.

However, situation is changing now. The increasing dynamics of the climate change subjects like REDD+ (here is a New York Times article as well) and the associated cash flows to developing countries are creating a new situation for all kinds of NGOs. Unfortunately we are not talking about the funds that come from multilateral institutions like the UN-REDD or FCPF (forest carbon partnership facility) or the FIP (forest investment programme) of the World Bank. Multilateral institutions are carefully ensuring a balanced involvement of all types of NGOs.

We are talking about money which is going to come from the voluntary carbon markets and will form a compeltely new part of the game. This is because it's all about the real big money.

And simply spoken, those NGOs, which get the mandate by the governments of developing countries to support them in managing (and distributing) these funds, will gain enormous power and influence. Social and environmental NGOs are therefore competing now for getting into these drivers seats...

That is the "holy grail" by which the power struggle between environmental NGOs and social NGOs has been triggered. Although, the race for these monies has lasted since REDD was born back in 2005, we are now witnessing top gear shifting. And be prepared - this will just be the introduction of a whole series of ugly discrediting campaigns. Money makes the world go round...

You think its all about Environment protection, Biodiversity and Land tenure rights of indigenous people living in tropical forests for which social and environmental NGOs are fighting for?

No way! The real business of what it is all about is power & influence.

The Precious.

The One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them
(JRR Tolkien)

September 2011: As time goes on ... ever heard about LTS International? Read here...

Faust in the Forest ... read further here...

May 2012 - Some Update on this issue:


Global Witness against WWF: The struggle for power has broken out now


Blog | by Dr. Radut