By Dr. Mike Jones, researcher
British politicians have for many years talked about a ‘bonfire of the quangos’. Whether or not they’ve managed to get that bonfire going, it has meant there’s been a reasonable focus and discussion of what quangos do, who works for them and how much taxpayers’ money they spend. Quango bonfires, real and rhetorical, have been blazing for at least 40 years.
The same cannot be said, however, for the web of global quangos that exert increasing influence on the lives of British taxpayers. To a large extent, MPs have hived off the functions of the state and farmed them out to a complex range of extra-governmental organisations and semi-independent bodies. Thus, for example, it is not unusual for taxpayers’ money to be spent on official development assistance (ODA) to multilateral organisations.
A case in point here is the United Nations (UN) – an intergovernmental body whose stated purpose is to maintain global peace and prosperity. Though still comparatively small in size, the UN has extracted more than £206 million in taxpayers’ money between 2013 and 2021. Staggeringly, Britain’s contribution to the UN has grown by 257 per cent since 2018, from £14 million to £50 million in 2021.
Chart 1: U.K. official development assistance (ODA) to the United Nations, 2013-2021 (£million)
These figures, eye-watering as they are, ought not to be a surprise. From western Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, policy-makers are moving many policy fields upwards, to the international or supranational arena, and downwards to NGOs and private companies. In both instances, decision making powers are exported by elected officials to unaccountable bureaucrats who can’t be voted out. On social policy, in particular, we find that the globalist lobby is aiming to change domestic law and convention with little scrutiny.
What does this kind of regime look like in practice? I think one illustrative example can be found in something like the UN Working Group of Experts of African Descent (WGEPAD). This is a group of five ‘independent experts’ tasked with exposing alleged instances of racism and ‘Afrophobia’ within individual UN member states. Over the past decade, WGEPAD has produced a series of critical reports on countries such as Ireland, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
This indicates that the global system has moved on from simply representing major economic interests. This newer version of globalism involves a string of separate projects such as the breakdown of physical borders and the realm of states, or the movement of sovereign power increasingly away from people to transnational quangos.
A healthy civil society has space for all sorts of concerns to be aired, and campaigns to be waged. But when unaccountable global quangos push particular agendas, that comes at a large cost: every pound the UK government spends on this global bureaucracy is one less pound for the British taxpayer.