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Ever more NGOs are dedicated to the eradication of poverty, while various government bodies are also committed to the moral and material progress of the so-called `human family’. However, the record is bleak. The arms trade constitutes a crime against humanity against which NGOs can make little headway. On the contrary, single-issue campaigns, for example on landmines, may in fact distract them from the wider issues. Similarly, through their involvement in humanitarian missions, often mounted mainly to appease the consciences of citizens in the rich world, NGOs may unwittingly be helping to maintain the deeply unjust world order. We need to reflect upon what NGOs actually do, rather than on ways to increase their efficiency, given that NGO actions alone cannot secure human rights. If NGOs do not engage in self-critical reflection, the poor will be always with us, so will NGOs, and the system will not change for the better.

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