Another European ‘PGO’: the International Federation of Human Rights

The public is largely unaware of the extent to which EU money influences political debate: not only in Europe, but around the world. When, for example, the French-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) filed a “torture” complaint against Donald Rumsfeld during the former Defense Secretary’s brief visit to Paris last month, many commentators dismissed the move as a typical stunt of European “leftists.”

But this interpretation does not do justice to the quasi-official role FIDH plays as a “PGO”: a “Para-Governmental Organization,” which receives massive public funding from the European Commission to promote EU policy choices and, so to speak, a properly European “worldview.” For many years, FIDH was, in effect, the “point” organization selected by the Commission to promote the International Criminal Court (ICC): itself a pet project of the EU. (On the ICC as EU project, see my “A Lawless Global Court” in Policy Review.) In 2003, the FIDH received an EU grant of some €1,092,800 to this end: what the Commission itself describes as “the formation and support of national NGOs for the promotion and effective realization of the ICC.” Note that the program description implies that the FIDH was supposed to use EU money in order actually to create pro-ICC “NGOs” in countries. (For the budget item, see here (spreadsheet): contract number 64036.) In the same year, the FIDH received an additional €611,200 in EU money to militate for the abolition of the death penalty. The American public especially might be surprised to know that the American Bar Association received some €856,563 in EU money to do the same! (For both of the latter grants, see here (spreadsheet) under the heading “Support of the Abolition of the Death Penalty”: contract numbers 31204 and 31087 respectively.)

Last year, the FIDH received an EU grant of some €968,000 to support the “mobilisation to prevent torture in the framework of the fight against terrorism” — a heading under which the FIDH’s highly public harrying of Donald Rumseld could easily be understood to fall. (See here (spreadsheet), contract number 118111.) The total of the three grants discussed here is nearly €2.7 million: making FIDH undoubtedly one of the leading beneficiaries of European PGO-funding in recent years.

The FIDH’s complaint against Donald Rusmfeld is not just the stunt of some miscellaneous “Leftist” organization. Behind the FIDH, it is none other than the European Union itself that via such actions is, in effect, making war on the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”

On another prominent European “PGO,” see this related article on Reporters Without Borders.