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NGOs | John Feffer
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Foreign Agents

It’s time for a confession. I have worked as a “foreign agent.” When I lived and traveled in Asia and Eastern Europe, I was an employee of U.S.-based NGOs. I was paid by these organizations to promote social change in those parts of the world. I worked hand-in-hand with groups that often criticized their own governments. Of course, they were also critical of U.S. policies and those of many...
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How to Launch People

Most NGOs focus on building and winning campaigns. They might have specific legislative goals. Or they might serve a watchdog function. Or they might amplify the concerns of a marginalized segment of society. Stocznia, which is Polish for “shipyard,” is a different kind of NGO. It functions like a university. It focuses on transforming people. And in that sense it’s an educational...
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Hungary’s Green Wave Crashes

When I met the biologist Gyongyi Mangel in 1990, her enthusiasm was contagious. So much was going on in Hungarian civil society that it was hard to keep track of all the new initiatives. She was passionate about connecting issues — feminism and ecology, food and health, or transportation and sustainability – and it was hard not to get caught up in her can-do spirit. And it wasn’t just...
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Fighting for Equal Opportunity

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the case of Vaclav Havel, the playwright morphed into...
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Romania’s Fraying Social Safety Net

Romania is near the bottom of all social indicators in Europe. If you live in Denmark, you have approximately a one in seven chance of growing up in poverty – or what Brussels calls AROPE (at risk of poverty or social exclusion). But if you live in Romania, at the other end of the EU spectrum, the odds are a much more sobering 50-50. When it comes to the elderly, only Bulgaria has a worse AROPE...
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