08 november 2008
Dutch Report: Western NGOs want things Southern NGOs do not want
This difference in approach emerged in May this year, when the MVO-Platform organised a CSR-week with some 27 civil society representatives, most of whom were experts from NGOs and trade unions based in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. They had come to The Netherlands in order to discuss their experiences with CSR, and how the mainly ‘Northern’ concepts influence the daily life of people in developing countries.
The meeting dealt with painful issues, such as the fact that while there may be an abundance of well-meant initiatives to promote CSR, not all of them are appropriate in the context of developing countries. What is the use of highly sophisticated regulation if following the rules simply leads to further impoverishment, was the issue foremost in the minds of many delegates.
The main conclusion was that the voice from the South is more or less inaudible when it comes to defining corporate social responsibility. Recently, the MVO-Platform published a report of this meeting (Whose Voice is Heard?), focussing on the mismatches between Northern and Southern approaches.
According to Crijns, this conclusion must not be seen as criticism but as a form of verification: “Are we on the right track? CSR is still relatively new to these organisations, with only a couple of people involved. It is therefore very helpful to meet each other and talk face to face.”
Although there is an obvious difference in approaches, Crijns believes we are beginning to see a shift in Northern thinking. “Development NGOs are taking the lead in their partnerships with western companies. NGOs need business for development. At the same time, we must stay critical. That is what Southern NGOs are asking of us.”
P+ webtip: Whose Voice is Heard?