I’ll start this by saying that I have had a long-running campaign against Human Rights Watch, academically and on this blog.
HRW is an overwhelmingly American organisation – the vast majority of its membership, employees and offices are in the US. It contributes to the imbalance in NGOs working in the developing world – overall 89% of NGOs and their workers are Western. Only 11% are from the developing world.
So would it surprise you to learn that at the HRW Film Festival, which starts in London this week, only TWO of their 25 films come from the developing world (and one of those is from Eastern Europe).
More than half of the films come from the West – most of those from America. And a handful are mixed western-developing world productions.
This is a film festival of movies by Westerners for Westerners. They’ve picked cinemas in Notting Hill and Greenwich, just so the privileged don’t have to drive their Mercedes far.
In case you care, my thesis was on the normative role of NGOs in the developing world. Put crudely, Western NGOs – with HRW leading the way – are unwitting vehicles for the export of Western morals and values. (And, no, it wasn’t that tired argument about cultural sensitivity and the universality of human rights. Some human rights really are universal. Female genital mutilation and torture can’t be explained away by ‘tradition’.)