Facilitators of development or Kapos for capital: the primrose path to GATS

This article arose from work undertaken on behalf of a UK-based NGO developing a policy response to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). It looks at GATS as a key to locating development NGOs (NGDOs) within the broader field of development aims and practices, examining the long-term implications of GATS with respect to the idea of a ‘fourth position’ for such NGOs. It is argued that this theoretical position fails to take into account changing imbalances of power between NGDOs and their Southern counterparts that began under structural adjustment, as a consequence of which many NGDOs now occupy a position from which effective mediation between civil society, the state, and the market would be difficult if not impossible. In addition, GATS represents a step-change along the evolutionary path towards a market-oriented ideology whose verticalist worldview represents a profound contradiction to the avowedly progressive aims of most NGDOs.