No need to raise the bar on NGO neutrality
Regarding your Sept. 5 article "Australia scrutinizes influence of nongovernmental groups": The Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia and the American Enterprise Institute in Washington are calling for greater transparency and accountability for nongovernmental organizations. Ironically, NGOs are already subject to some of the strictest financial and program-outcome reporting standards that exist. Whether donations come from the public, governments, the United Nations, or private foundations, major humanitarian aid organizations have long had an imperative to document their impact to determine how to better help people in need. Relieving suffering is the bottom line.
The criticism voiced by the think tanks behind www.NGOWatch.org shows how little they know about the function and history of NGOs, specifically humanitarian aid providers. Mike Nahan, the director of the IPA, asks: "Why should NGOs like Oxfam, which were adamantly against the war in Iraq, be given money to work there?" The answer is clear: Groups such as Oxfam, have signed the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and NGO Code of Conduct, are bound to be impartial during wartime. That is why, contrary to Mr. Nahan's assumption, Oxfam did not seek or accept a dime from the United States, United Kingdom, or Australian governments for our operations in Iraq. These standards exist to preserve neutrality and protect staff and victims of armed conflict.
Oxfam welcomes any critique that will help us do our job in a more open and effective way. It seems, however, that Nahan and his colleagues are more concerned with ensuring aid groups share their ideological stance than with providing services that can mean life or death for people in war zones.
Humanitarian Director, Oxfam America
Regarding your Sept. 5 article "What Estrada's exit means for future battles": What was so bad about the Senate Democrats' filibuster to deny Estrada's confirmation? Over the course of a four-year term, a president will submit a great number of nominees to the Senate. Most of them are readily confirmed by large majorities, some even with the unanimous vote of each party.
So when a nominee refuses, as this one did, to answer key questions, the opposition party's use of legitimate ways to reject him is far from improper.
I would like to correct misinformation reflected in your Sept. 3 editorial "What is Israel, Exactly?" The law preventing Palestinians from obtaining Israeli citizenship as spouses of Israeli Arabs is not designed to be discriminatory, but rather to protect all citizens of Israel - Jews and Arabs alike - against terrorist attacks, perpetrated in part by some Palestinians who had obtained Israeli citizenship under the guise of spousal reunion. The law is temporary in nature and is to be reviewed on a yearly basis.
Yan L. Gindin
Regarding your Sept. 4 article "It's cool to be a cowboy in Brazil's 'Wild West'": How sad it is to see brazen animal abuse popularized in Brazil. Shoving electric prods into animals, twisting their necks, slamming them to the ground, and otherwise abusing them is not "heroic" in my book. The cowboys voluntarily risk injury; the animals have no such choice. This sad and sorry aspect of the Wild West should have been relegated to the pages of history long ago.
Program coordinator, In Defense of Animals
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