Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who watches over Gary Haugen?

The recent issue of the New Yorker magazine has a bio (abstract here) on Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission. For those not familiar with IJM, they are a legal organization that works through justice systems in developing countries to ensure "justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression". You can see on Dateline NBC a raid they orchestrated of a child brothel in Cambodia.

They are also extremely Christian and don't accept non-Christian lawyers. They are though pragmatic about how far that gets them. As Haugen says in the article, "Prayers help. Prayers and a lawyer help more".

Beyond their Christian basis, IJM is also controversial for its tactics. The most distressing line of the piece is a comment from Melissa Ditmore of the Urban Justice Center Sex Worker Project on using police in Cambodia to sweep up child brothels:
When they [police] storm into a brothel on a raid, and the police seize the sex workers, the women think they are being kidnapped and taken away by the police to be raped, which is what contact with the police usually means. This [raiding brothels] is a form of terrorization.
What struck me about the whole piece though is that this is one of the few organizations I have heard of that is trying to actively strengthen local governments, rather than running behind their backs, as so many NGOs do. Long-run sustainable development (economic or social) requires governments be the voice of the people, not foreign organizations.

It is of course horrible that police raids can terrorize innocent individuals. But in the long-run, is this kind of cooperation between government and NGO ultimaltely more sustainable?

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