De­fund the World Wildlife Fund

Or­ga­ni­za­tion spends tax­payer funds to de­stroy free mar­kets abroad

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By An­drew Langer

Alexan­der Hamil­ton once quipped, “No­body ex­pects to trust his body over­much af­ter the age of 50.” One could make a sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tion about the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which just en­tered its fifth decade of ex­is­tence. In the past few days, WWF has be­come em­broiled in one of the largest scan­dals to hit the or­ga­ni­za­tion since its in­cep­tion, rais­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions re­gard­ing its ac­count­abil­ity, in­tegrity and, most sig­nif­i­cant, trust­wor­thi­ness.

Not con­tent with be­ing a mere ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tion that siphons off tax­payer dol­lars to cam­paign against free-mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism, WWF re­cently has moved into the busi­ness space, con­vinc­ing gov­ern­ments and in­sti­tu­tions that it can be trusted with man­ag­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in aid. One na­tion that fell for WWF’S sales pitch was Nor­way, which re­cently granted WWF re­spon­si­bil­ity to over­see two en­vi­ron­men­tal aid projects in Tan­za­nia worth a com­bined $7 mil­lion. Last week, amid ac­cu­sa­tions of em­bez­zle­ment, the Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment an­nounced that it was sus­pend­ing the project.

Pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions sug­gest that WWF failed to per­form proper due dili­gence and im­ple­ment ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures to pre­vent such a dis­as­trous out­come. Of course, this mat­ters lit­tle to the Nor­we­gians, who have wit­nessed their stel­lar de­vel­op­ment cre­den­tials be­ing un­der­mined se­verely overnight by an or­ga­ni­za­tion more in­vested in ide­ol­ogy and so­cial en­gi­neer­ing than in ac­tual out­comes.

WWF’S fail­ure should be a les­son to the rest of us, but it’s hardly the first time the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­tegrity has been called into ques­tion. WWF has been caught re­peat­edly play­ing fast and loose with the truth, fab­ri­cat­ing in­for­ma­tion in its re­port on the Hi­malayan glaciers in 2009 as well as de­for­esta­tion rates in the Ama­zon, In­done­sia and Pa­pua New Guinea.

Even “part­ners” of the or­ga­ni­za­tion have been burned by its fun­da­men­tal op­po­si­tion to eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. In 2010, WWF uni­lat­er­ally down­graded Viet­namese pan­ga­sius, a sta­ple fish, in its “sus­tain­abil­ity score­card” de­spite a part­ner­ship with the in­dus­try and co­op­er­a­tion from pro­duc­ers to im­ple­ment its prac­tices. The facts point to one con­clu­sion: WWF’S sole pur­pose is to alarm the public, avoid an open de­bate and turn de­vel­op­ing world com­mu­ni­ties into vas­sals. It’s all the more tragic that the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ceives public fund­ing — WWF is pros­per­ing off the backs of U.S. tax­pay­ers.

Pre­vi­ously, WWF was fo­cused pri­mar­ily on co­op­er­at­ing with groups like Green­peace to in­tim­i­date and un­der­mine the in­tegrity of the pri­vate sec­tor. This ob­vi­ously is still part of its ev­ery­day op­er­a­tions, with the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple tak­ing place right now in Virginia, where WWF has sought to co­erce re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Kroger into aban­don­ing their busi­ness with lo­cal pa­per man­u­fac­tur­ers. At stake are the jobs of more than 150 di­rectly em­ployed peo­ple, not to men­tion the com­mu­ni­ties that rely on those in­comes. Vir­gini­ans might want to ask why the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to throw checks at an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ing it­self to de­stroy­ing jobs. But the U.S. tax­payer is fund­ing an­t­i­cap­i­tal­ist WWF ac­tiv­i­ties that go well be­yond the shores of the United States. In fact, tax­payer dol­lars help WWF im­ple­ment its agenda on a global ba­sis.

WWF is so en­trenched in the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment ap­pa­ra­tus that it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore its pres­i­dent re­ceives a Cab­i­net-level po­si­tion. Per­haps one of WWF’S board mem­bers, for­mer Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, sees this ef­fort as an al­ter­na­tive av­enue to power from his failed bid for the pres­i­dency. The U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) has been par­tic­u­larly cul­pa­ble in al­low­ing WWF to siphon off tax­payer dol­lars for the pur­pose of pro­mul­gat­ing ide­o­log­i­cal pur­suits in some of the world’s most im­pov­er­ished na­tions.

In Septem­ber alone, USAID se­lected WWF to over­see projects worth a com­bined $60 mil­lion in Nepal and In­done­sia. WWF’S work in In­done­sia is all the more in­sid­i­ous given that it’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously at­tack­ing the coun­try’s pa­per in­dus­try while at­tempt­ing to close off Western mar­kets that pro­vide thou­sands of jobs. In ad­di­tion, these projects run con­trary to the strate­gic goals of in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment. They un­der­mine eco­nomic growth, op­pose free trade and en­cour­age de­vel­op­ing na­tions to be­come more re­liant on U.S. tax­pay­ers. Thus, it’s not just aid dol­lars Amer­i­cans are los­ing, it’s na­tional pres­tige.

In the past decade, real progress has been made in re­fram­ing the de­bate on in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment, fo­cus­ing much more on how trade op­por­tu­ni­ties can be lever­aged to help al­le­vi­ate poverty than on merely send­ing bun­dles of cash over­seas. Un­for­tu­nately, this progress is in jeop­ardy, thanks to a per­ni­cious part­ner­ship be­tween gov­ern­ments and groups like WWF. As the Nor­we­gian gov­ern­ment sur­veys the wreck­age left by WWF in Tan­za­nia, the United States and other na­tions around the world should con­sider whether it’s wise to send hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has failed to de­liver. An im­me­di­ate mora­to­rium would be a good start. In or­der to re­store trust, end­ing such fund­ing en­tirely would be a good end.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY JOHN CAMEJO

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