DIANA JOHNSTONE—In former Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western NGOs have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and “democracy” is not the people’s choice but whatever meets with the approval of outside donors. This breeds arrogance among the outside benefactors, and cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers.
Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18, 1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that the Serbian elections to be held three days later “will be neither free nor fair.”