The Vanishing International Origins of Domestic Association

I was just looking up the website of the Centre for Environmental Justice in Sri Lanka.  David, Wes, and I previously used it as one of many examples of domestic associations that are created and/or funded by international organizations.  I quote our IJCS paper entitled World Society, NGOs, and Environmental Policy Reform in Asia:

Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice, for example, originated in 2004 with financial support from Community Aid Abroad (Australia), Both Ends (Netherlands), Environmental Defense (US), NGO Forum on Asian Development Bank (Philippines), Global Greengrants (US), Institute of Professional Environmental Practice (US), Environmental Law Alliance (US), and the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (South Korea), among others.

Our source was their web page from a couple of years back. Turns out that they have a new web page now:

I’m not seeing any discussion of their founding or hint of substantial international resources.  You’d think they sprung up from the grassroots, independent of global processes (except for the obvious isomorphic similarity to Western environmental NGOs).

It seems pretty obvious that putatively domestic/grassroots organizations are tremendously celebrated and have a big advantage in terms of legitimacy.  Sometimes even the donors want to stress the grassroots nature of the associations that they create or fund. Creating a western-style environmental NGO sounds like cultural imperialism, but “supporting a grassroots initiative” sounds like democratic empowerment.

So, it makes a lot of sense…  But, it makes it hard to document the role of international dynamics/resources in shaping domestic civic life. Everyone is conspiring to erase the evidence. I sure wish I saved a copy of their old page!


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