There was a time when Western Europeans, armed with the technology and flush with the wealth of the Industrial Revolution, went to the nations of Asia, conquered them, and harnessed the resources of foreign lands for whatever purposes they chose. By the mid-20th Century, the nations of Asia had finally had enough of these imperialists and, one by one, sent the Europeans home. Now it's the 21st Century and Western Europeans, this time armed with the technology and flush with the wealth of the Information Technology Revolution, have returned to Asia.
Much has changed over the past one hundred odd years for the Europeans. Their methods are different, their agenda is different. But two things haven't changed. First, just as in the past, these neo-colonialists are determined to impose their will on the peoples of Asia and second, just as in the past, the Europeans are making the poorest, most vulnerable communities of Asia, the so-called indigenous peoples, their first targets. These Asian communities are fast losing their ability to decide what to do with their own lands as "advisors" from European special interest groups force them and their nations to adopt the euphemistically named practice of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent or FPIC.
FPIC is, according to the Forest Peoples Programme (a leading advocate of FPIC), "the principle that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy, or otherwise use." The irony of this philosophy is that FPIC serves to erode the private property rights of individuals, be they indigenous or otherwise. As one farmer in a small Asian community so aptly put it, “When you say I need permission to cut my own trees, I have lost my right to my land.”
As is typical of the European left, these high minded and noble sounding ideals are little more than a cover for their own agenda. In the case of FPIC, communities are "advised" and "encouraged" by the representatives of European groups to adopt anti-development stances. This damages the nation as a whole by effectively creating two systems of legal and constitutional rights wherein one group of people (theoretically) receives additional rights based on their ethnic background. It also damages the local community as it directly curtails development opportunities and increases the indigenous community's dependency on its "advisors."
And it's those "advisors" that are the key to this leftist neo-colonialism. They mainly come from (or are sponsored by) groups commonly referred to as "non-governmental organizations" or NGOs. The term is actually a misnomer though; these organizations are so deeply ingrained in the political framework of the European Union and its member states, both formally though elected officials (often, but not always, of the Green Party) and informally through their extensive lobbing arms, that they can only laughingly be referred to as "non-governmental." But make no mistake, these “non-governmental organizations” are by no means the tools of the nations of Europe, but rather the reverse is true: It is the nations of Europe which have become the tools of these organizations. When the NGOs bark, entire nations jump.
But their amorphous, supranational nature is their Achilles Heel. In the last century the imperialist equation essentially boiled down to Nation vs. Nation (i.e. European vs. Asian), but that is no longer the case. The same groups that seek to dominate and control the lives and property of Asian communities are already dominating and controlling the highest echelons of European politics. But the rule of these groups in their homelands is far from universally acknowledged, let alone loved. Those who take a stand against these NGOs will find support and allies all over the globe. It's time for those of us from Europe and Asia, from Africa and the Americas to take that stand.
Ben Wolinski is a freelance writer and proud troglodyte. Though a vegetarian, he regularly goes hunting for animals he has no intention of eating and purchases fur products that he has no intention of wearing.