Organisations such as Greenpeace have “no culture of accountability,” and have now “become the establishment,” according to Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, which seeks to make non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace more accountable.
Steinberg was speaking after the disclosure that Greenpeace is in disarray over the handling of its £58m budget and has been for years. Steinberg told the Guardian that “The extent of it [the financial problems] was not something I expected [at Greenpeace]. But it’s part of the fact that NGOs keep things very much within the organisation, there’s no culture of accountability. They call on governments to be accountable but they lack this in so many ways, so in that sense it’s not a surprise.”
Greenpeace grew out of the 1960s hippie movement and anti-nuclear bomb protests. The tone of the organisation was set when the lead act at its first fund-raising concert in 1970 was Joan Baez, folk singer and sometime partner of Bob Dylan. Just months earlier she had performed at the lost paradise of hippie myth, the Woodstock festival.
Since those counter-culture beginnings, Greenpeace has grown into a global organisation with offices in over 40 countries, a £58m budget and a management that has now been found to be tangled in millions of pounds in foreign exchange speculation and big-business-style disputes over staffing and pay.
Steinberg says: “It requires a cultural change. NGOs tend to see themselves as insurgents. They have now become the establishment but without the structures that are required for such large organisations – they can no longer think of themselves as insurgents but as corporate organisations.”
“That hurts their self-image but there is no other way to avoid the financial meltdowns that can take place [otherwise].”