The Politics of Canadian Government Funding for Advocacy NGOs

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • The Politics of NGO Advocacy
  • The External Affairs Bureaucracy and Canada’s Middle East Policy
  • The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDS) & NGOs
  • Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • Alternatives
  • The International Development Research Center (IDRC)
  • Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
  • Mada Al-Carmel (The Arab Center for Applied Social Research)
  • Conclusions
  • References

Executive Summary

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are often portrayed as forces for good that promote universal human rights and international development in a non-partisan manner. This perception produces a “halo effect” around NGOs, which enhances their soft power while reducing public scrutiny of their activities and accountability. Yet growing evidence demonstrates that many NGOs have abandoned universality to engage in partisan advocacy on controversial and divisive issues, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Canada, many NGOs that have received government funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and other government frameworks promote strident advocacy under the guise of raising public awareness about international development and human rights. Although this advocacy is often inconsistent with the principle of universality as well as Canada’s foreign policy, it is shown to be encouraged to varying degrees by the government agencies responsible for administering public funding. This paper examines four NGOs that received Canadian government funding while promoting partisan advocacy on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and assesses both the advocacy activities of the NGOs and the governmental processes that resulted in the allocation of public funds to the NGOs.

About the Authors

Steven Seligman

Steven Seligman