Asia: ‘Dead Wood’ in the Human Rights Industry

We use the term ‘industry’, as there are many NGOs in existence today in which cronyism and nepotism is the rule of the day. The first order of business is to continue to obtain funds, not for the welfare of the people they are supposed to be protecting and assisting, but to pay the salaries and perks of the directors and favoured staff members.


by A Special Correspondent

( October 20, 2017, Macao, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the mid-seventies in the business community in Asia a new expression was created: “Dead wood”. It referred to any employee that did not pull his weight and bring in enough business in order to justify his salary and related expenses. The days of ‘the Raj’ where relatives and friends of the management could obtain comfortable positions and actually produce very little in the way of work or business were well and truly over.

Sadly, this is not the case in the human rights ‘industry’. We use the term ‘industry’, as there are many NGOs in existence today in which cronyism and nepotism is the rule of the day. The first order of business is to continue to obtain funds, not for the welfare of the people they are supposed to be protecting and assisting, but to pay the salaries and perks of the directors and favoured staff members. The management use donor funds to employ and keep persons who are relatives and others who are virtually unemployable, but, who support every decision made by the directors as they know, to go against their wishes might well mean the end of a very lucrative contract.

Such is the case in a regional NGO where we see the situation in which a relative of one of the directors is presently employed in a position, the duties of which he is incapable of fulfilling. He was brought in to satisfy the whims of one of the directors and not because of his qualifications. The truly sad thing about this is that a highly qualified individual was dismissed for no valid reason in order to make way for his employment.

In another case, within the same NGO there is another employee who has been promoted time and time again, with enormous increases to his salary when his only claim to fame is that he is well-known to be a ‘yes man’. We will refer to him as Mr. A. Mr. A is person who will support the directors in whatever decision they make because, once again, to go against their wishes might well mean the end of a very comfortable position. As far as his professional expertise is concerned, in the eight years of his employment he has produced very little in the way of work but has been promoted over the heads of more deserving staff because of his fawning behaviour.

Mr. A’s first position in the organisation was that of an intern and at the end of his training period he returned to his home, South Asian country. However, he was fully aware of the potential for an easy and lucrative full-time position. He realised that he could apply for such a position by claiming that his life was in danger. He contacted the then executive director, claimed that he had received threats to his life, and within weeks he was happily ensconced in his new life.

As far as his productivity is concerned, in order to paint an accurate picture, it is necessary to compare him with his colleagues. Most of the other officers were producing two to three products a week. Mr. A’s contribution to the work of the organisation was about six projects a year!

In fact, within the NGO in question, there are several such employees. People whose work records will reveal that they have produced very little effort but who all share the same attitude or are relatives or cronies of the management.

It is a very sad situation indeed, when productive staff are overlooked in favour of such people. Mr. A and others like him can truly be considered ‘dead wood’.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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