International Nongovernmental Organizations and their Functions
- / -
with Kjell Skjelsbaek
International Peace Research Institute, Oslo
Published in: A.J.R. Groom and Paul Taylor (Eds): Functionalism; theory and practice
in international relations. London. University of London Press. 1975.
The purpose of this paper is to describe and discuss a particular set of actors
in the global social system which, in an historical perspective, may be considered
newcomers on the scene. They are frequently called international organizations
(INGOs)(1), and this term covers a wide variety of organizational units with
many and different functions. Our objective is not to put INGOs into a comprehensive
theoretical model, but to give a description of them and their relationships
and activities using ideas and terms borrowed from the theory of functionalism.
First of all we shall discuss the context and concept of INGOs. Then we shall
present some data showing the growth and spread of the INGO system. The following
section is a presentation of what INGOs typically do, and what functions they
perform. On the basis of this we will then try to outline what we think are
likely future trends, and we conclude this paper with a number of policy recommendations
aimed at increasing the effectiveness of INGOs and improving their relationship
with other kinds of actors in the international system.
2. Context and concept of INGOs
In this section we want to widen the range of types of organization (rather
than organizations) prior to isolating those entities that conventionally are
termed INGOs. The suggestion therefore is that many statements made elsewhere
in this text are also applicable to styles of organization found outside these
2.1. The Concept of an Organization
There are many factors which determine the manner in which different functions
are associated with particular styles of organization drawn from the wide range
of possibilities of kinds of organization. An attempt at isolating some different
combinations is presented in Table 1, which in no way is intended to be definitive,
but is really an indication of how some different styles of organization may
be distinguished. One example of how a need satisfied by a conventional organization
may be satisfied by a functional equivalent in the table is the case of a "subscription
ship". In one setting it maybe necessary to have interaction between members
via an "organization", while in another the need for such interaction may be
satisfied by a journal to which individuals can subscribe. Another example is
the case of an "agreement" which may be considered an hyperf ormal organization.
In one setting a written or even verbal agreement may satisfactorily regulate
relations between members, in another an equivalent agreement may have to be
administered by a secretariat via an organization. Where formal agreement is
not possible, an 15 organization" may even perform the necessary mediating or
nego tiating functions between its members. A final example is the case of a
meeting, and particularly large regular meetings, in a series. In terms of activity,
this maybe more significant than a small normally constituted organization.
One consequence of focusing on conventional organizations only is that functional
equivalents, particularly in non- Western cultures(2), are excluded from the
analysis thus introducing cultural bias and jeopardizing comparative studies.
Another consequence is that even within a certain culture an `organizational
analysis" will exclude many styles of organization performing functions which
mesh with those of the organizations we are trying to isolate for closer scrutiny
in this paper, thus rendering the analysis incomplete. A complicating feature
is that a conventional organization may, for example, perform functions for
a "membership", but at the same time produce a periodical which serves as a
focal point for a
subscri ership" which is not identical nor coterminous with the membership.
A further complicating feature derives from the dynamics of a social system
in that the growth or decay of a particular organization form may be accompanied
by transference of functions to another organization form, for instance due
to change in technology. The ability to accomplish this transference may be
hindered by inertial features, such as vested interests identified with particular
patterns of organization.
Finally, it is useful to consider what may be termed "potential" organization,
namely the facility with which a network of interacting bodies can gel out appropriate
organization forms and combinations of members in response to each new detected
need. Such organizations come into existence when required but otherwise only
exist potentially their potential existence obviates the need for a permanent
organization in the domain in question (3).
2.2. International vs. national.
There is a series of problems connected with this dimension. Some organizations
may have members from one or two nations, but financial support from one only
(4). Their activities may be geared towards the international system as such,
towards the domestic situation in a specified set of countries or towards one
single country regardless of the structure of the membership and/or financial
contributions. In addition there is a difficulty connected with the distinction
between manifest and latent functions. Activities of typically national NGOs
to solve national problems -for instance a strike organized by a trade union
-- may very well have unintended repercussions in other nations thus affecting
inter-nation relationships. Any cutting point is therefore bound to be arbitrary
(see Table 2) . The conventional requirements are that an INGO must have members
and financial support from at least three different countries and the intention
to cover operations in as many.
There is a further problem for many organizations in that the nationality of
members, funding and activity or office location may be considered of little
significance to the members -- the organization is not territorially-orien ed.
In such cases the term "transnational" is more appropriate (5) .
2.3. Nongovernmental vs. governmental
The concept of a "nongovernmental" organization is an extremely difficult one
to handle satisfactorily. The definition at the inter national level derives
from a compromise wording in the early days of the United Nations (6).
Table 3 shows some of the many borderline areas (points 2- 13) which are treated
as "nongovemmental" . The current crisis in INGO-UN relations (7) is in part
due to the fact that the narrow Western concept of an NGO is not re- examined.
(There is also a suspicion that the prefix "non-" may translate badly into some
non-Indo-European language and culture settings and give the sense of "anti-",
or at least a "non-kosher" connotation.) More or less successful imitations
exist as functional equivalents in non-Western societies, but frequently with
a strong governmental component making them "mixed" or "intersect" organizations.
(8) The government or party influenced "NGOs" in socialist countries tend to
be viewed as political front organizations by the West, whereas the socialist
countries tend to view Western "NGOs" as fronts for secret service activities.
A more sophisticated typology is required.
2.4. Non-profit vs. Profit
Within the UN context, which originated the term NGO, there is no specific restriction
on recognition of nongovernmental organizations which themselves have profit
making objectives. To date however, of the 350 organizations in consultative
status with ECOSOC, more have such objectives -- although some, as for example
the various trade associations, are clearly attempting to facilitate profit
making on the part of their members (9). Many aspects of nonprofit status are
indicated in Table 4.
Tax law may further confuse the issue by recognizing some nonprofit bodies as
having "charitable status" or as being "benevolent" or "philanthropic". This
varies very much from country to country.
2.5. Voluntary vs. Nongovernmental
"Voluntary" is as subject to confusion as "nongovernmental". Many INGOs have
"voluntary bodies" as members, and may even have programmes administered by
"volunteers". But on the other hand, many differ from profit-making bodies only
in the lack of a prof it- objective, and would oppose the label "voluntary".
(10) There is a tend ency to treat "voluntary agencies" as a special class of
INGOs with programmes for developing countries.
2.6 Legal Status
INGOs are fictional entities in terms of international law. They are international
"outlaws". (11) This is true of both profit and nonprofit organizations. No
international convention exists to supply either with legal status. In both
cases they are treated as national organizations in the country where they are
headquartered (12) and as "foreign" organizations in other countries. This situation
has had a marked negative influence on the thinking of scholars unwilling to
recognize any body not accorded existence by law. Even at the national level,
however, many organizations remaining unincorporated for a variety of reasons
-- one of which may be the illegality of their activities.
Organized crime is an important feature of the social system, at least through
the influence of the "nationwide cartel and confederation", "the single loosely-knit
conspiracy" operating in the United States, and most probably through other
related international crime syndicates, about which information is unobtainable(*)
. In some respects organized crime resembles a set of normal profit-making enterprises,
although illegal; in others the underlying "family structure" (as with the Tong
secret societies) are significant; or, as a totality, it may be a network loosely-knit
structures, possibly with a central arbitrating "commission" International organized
crime is almost entirely ignored in analyses of governmental and business systems
due to its "abnormalities", but aside from thus falling into a catchall category
of INGOs it may through its functions as a network of pressure groups or established
structures and properties bear a strong resemblance to the legitimate network
of associations (as well as infiltrating some', such as unions and trade associations)
Such organization may perform some positive functions. (13)
Organizations may be distinguished by their visibility to the ublic eye. There
appears to be a tendency to study the most visible. (14) The following range
should however be considered:
(a) secret societies (e.g. Freemasons), organized crime (e.g. Mafia), secret
services (e.g. CIA), and liberation movements.
(b) deliberately not publicized for political reasons (e.g. Bildeberg Group),
for reasons of profit (e.g. certain trade associations cum cartels) .
(c) known but closed to the "nonqualified" public (e.g. certain professional
association) or bodies with deliberately high entrance fees (e.g. exclusive
with international reciprocity of membership) .
(d) known and open to the interested.
(e) deliberately publicized (e.g. certain mass movements and prosyletizing
**** "Our knowledge of the structure which makes 'organized crime' organized
is somewhat comparable to the knowledge of Standard Oil which could be gleaned
from interviews with gasoline station attendants."
There is a a marked tendency in sociology and political science to focus on
"permanent" organizations -- particularly since they are reliable generators
of comparable data for diachronic studies. Organizations are, of course, not
permanent and, in the case of business enterprises the average lif e may be
a s low a s f ive years in the U. S. Less easily documented, for example, is
the organization associated a meeting -- which may extend over five years for
international meetings of 10,000 people -- but which nevertheless may substitute
for a possibly ad hoc organization, as in the case of regular meeting series
or a one-off meeting.
Of increasing importance are temporary bodies specially Incorporated for a specific
task and generally grouping a number of permanent bodies. The most ambitious
examples of these are the International Geophysical Year and the International
Quiet Sun Year (15), which grouped a wide range of bodies. The boundary between
such activities and international "programmes" launched, for example, by the
United Nations, may be unclear. Such bodies as the United Nations Development
Program gelled out of other UN programmes as an "organization only halfway through
the first UN Development Decade which became its major concern. Programmes and
meetings may act as functional substitutes for conventional organizations.
It is a mute point as to what degree of impermanence should be considered a
cut off point. The informal temporary alliances between delegations with respect
to an agenda point at an international conference can be of great significance
during the hours they last. It is in this time period that much "organization"
is created, modified and dissolved. A process oriented perspective would attempt
to isolate any relative invariance as being significant.
2.9 Levels of Coordination
There is a prevailing assumption, particularly in UN circles, that every international
NGO has national association members or branches. There is also a tendency to
assume that the secretariat or executive committee has no constitutional limitation
of its control over a national affiliate (16). The reality of the situation
is that there are many combinations of membership and degrees of control. Of
particular significance is the emergence of international NGOs which themselves
group other international NGOs (e.g. the Council for International Organizations
of Medical Sciences) . In some cases, the member international NGOs may themselves
have international NGOs as members (e.g. the International Council of Scientific
Unions) and the latter type may in turn be member of several general conferences
of international NGOs (e.g. the Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations
in Consultative Status with ECOSOC) . This phenomena may repeat itself at the
national level (e.g. the American Council of Learned Societies) to give a complex
multi-level structure separating the ultimate member from the highest level
of coordination. This structuring and the potential of this mechanism has not
been subject to academic scrutiny.
2. 10. Cross -modality (17)
A given organization's Programme may be restricted to a mix of one or two concerns
- problem focus i.e. where solutions to real world problems is of major concern
- discipline focus, i.e. where development of methodology, skills or theory
- profession focus, i.e. where job security, status, remuneration, or possibly
ethics, is primary.
More sophisticated organizations are faced with the interaction between these
concerns and their integration within a viable and socially responsible strategy.
The extent of this cross-modal integration could be an important means of highlighting
particularly significant bodies. Other possible modes of importance might include:
policy-making, pro gramme management,. education and public information. Lack
of cross-modal coordination tends to give rise to 'spastic' efforts
in the social system.
2. 11 Multidiscip linarity
Organizations may also be usefully distinguished by the range of disciplines
which they attempt to Work with or relate to. Many international organizations
are concerned to interrelate different relevant perspectives expressed through
member or sub-sections activity. To the extent that such activity is coordinated
through complex multilevel structures, the integrative potential of the top
most layer is high. There do, however, appear to be certain parallels between
behaviour with respect to geographical and functional territor which merit study
to avoid a repetition in a new domain of the existing territorial conflict.
The participativeness of an organization is especially important in the case
of nongovernmental organizations. Potential members or supporters experiencing
an organization as non-part icipat ive will tend to allocate their resources
to more participative groups. NGO activity as a whole may in some respect be
considered a participative alternative to governmental activity -- although
there is a definite bureaucratization of NGO activity which suggests that youth
and volunteer movements represent a still more participative wave. There is
need for measures of degree of part icipat ivenes s, for example:
- Decisions are reached through the unanimous sense of the meeting, or in
- Decisions are by majority vote with every facility for the expression of
- Decisions are made by an in-group and then approved by an assembly in a
democratic vote following appropriate speeches by the leaders.
- Decisions are made by an in-group and then presented in appropriate speeches
- Decisions are made by a charismatic leader or dictator.
It is a truism that no organization exists in splendid isolation. However, the
extent of organizational inter-dependence is not well recognized. This may extend
to a point where the boundaries between organizations or their sub-sections
are fixed arbitrarily for legal, fiscal or funding convenience but do not constitute
a meaningful boundary in the working activity of most of those involved. Organizations
may be conceived as embedded in a network to a degree in some cases that the
links in the network between organizations are of g reater importance than the
nodes, i.e. the organizations themselves. (18)
2.14. Conventional INGOs
The above paragraphs indicate the range and complexity of nongovernmental organizations
in society. The UN system faced with this complexity in 1946 introduced, in
Article 71 of its Charter a negative definition of NGO which in fact established
no clear cut off points on any of the above dimensions. UN practice has, however,
resulted in recognition as NGO of Western-style "permanent organizations" with
an "established headquarter", a constitution and, where possible, members in
a "substantive number" of countries.
This legalistic definition has tended to disguise the sociological reality although
convenient for some practical administrative purposes. Clearly it only discloses
a small proportion of the activity which would be detected with a more comprehensive
acceptance of styles of social organization. The legalistic definition appears
to result in embarrassment over such categories of organization as churches
(e.g. the Roman Catholic Church), youth movements, "people organizations" (e.g.
in the style in P.R. of China) and liberation movements. A new attitude and
terminology is required. Perhaps "transnational association networks" would
be better -- although to it should be added such adjectives as dynamic, evolving,
adaptive, participative, and the like.
In the remainder of this article attention will be confined to conventional
INGOs as recognized in the Yearbook of International Organizations. This means
(i) permanent bodies with offices, officers and a constitution, (ii) not created
by intergovernmental agreement, (iii) members, officers, and funds from at least
3 countries, (iv) no redistribution of profits to members, (v) non secret, (vi)
democratic officers election procedure, (vii) autonomous, excluding subgroups
of organizations, (viii) currently active, (ix) excluding: (non-democratic)
religious orders, educational or training institutions or social and entertainment
clubs. This leaves us with a total of 2281 INGOs in 1970, 288 of which were
European Common Market or EFTA business and professional groups . (19)
2 .15. Some Illustrations
The 2281 organizations make up a very heterogeneous group. Among them are the
International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Federation
of Kennel Clubs, the International Society for Plant Geography and Ecology,
the World Council of Churches (WCC), the International Commission of Rules for
the Approval of Electrical Equipment (CEE), and the International Olympic Committee
(IOC). In addition, there are international trade unions, international political
organizations, for instance the Socialist International, a large number of professional,
commercial, agricultural and cultural organizations. Other INGOs deal with problems
of health, peace, documentation and f inance. There seems to be almost no limit
to the number of activities that can be and will be organized internationally.
3. Growth and spread of the INGO system
We have selected a few tables based on the data collected and published by
the Union of International Associations (UIA), an INGO situated in Brussels.
A more detailed presentation and discussion of these and related tables can
be found elsewhere. (2 0)
3.1. Growth in Numbers and Memberships
Figure 1 shows the number of INGOs found per five-year period since 1850. Before
1895 the number never exceeded fifty, but in the subsequent period lasting to
the onset of World War I there was a sharp increase. The war killed the boom,
but after 1919 the world witnessed a resurgence of INGOs which lasted until
a new political catastrophy emerged in the thirties. Since 1945 there has been
an impressive and steady growth of organizations. Table 5 shows the number of
active INGOs since 1954. It has practically doubled in the course of those sixteen
years, which means that the mean annual increase has been somewhere between
4% and 5%. (EEC and EFTA INGOs are excluded from this as well as from the other
tables.) The mean number of countries represented in each organization has also
increased considerably. It was 21.0 in 1951 and 25.7 in 1966, a growth of 22
per cent in fifteen years. These figures partly reflect the large number of
new nations, of course, but it nevertheless means that INGOs generally have
become more representative.
3.2. National Representations across Regions
In spite of the growth of the mean number of national representations, representativeness
still remains one of the key problems in the INGO system, as this is illustrated
in Table 3. (21) The Northwestern region has more than half of all the national
representations in INGOs. The figure drops considerably from 1951 to 1966, but
this is in large part due to the increasing number of nations in some of the
other regions. The number of nations now seems to have reached it saturation
point, and we therefore expect less reduction of the Northwestern bias in the
future to come unless there is a conscious attempt to change this. On the basis
of other data regarding the site of headquarters, the nationality of INGO officers
and the like, it is safe to conclude that the higher the level in the organizational
structure at which involvement takes place, the larger is the percentage of
Northwest representation. Moreover, the higher the organizational level, the
more slowly the percentage of Northwest representation diminishes. Thus the
INGO system is to a large extent, but certainly not exclusively, a Northwest
4. Structure and functions of INGOs
Because INGOs are so varied in size and composition and operate in so many
different issue areas, it is difficult to summarize their features in a few
words. We shall first try to describe what immediately meets the eye, the upper
part of the iceberg, and then examine the submerged problem of their latent
functions and importance for other types of social actor. Finally we shall discuss
the role of INGOs in relation to certain problem areas.
4.1. Membership Composition
The composition of the membership of INGOs varies tremendously from organization
to organization. It may consist of individuals, national organizations, governmental
agencies or their officers, national branches, business enterprises, international
regional groupings of organizations, international universal organizations,
or any mixture of these. There are presently approximately a hundred INGOs which
partly or exclusively have other INGOs as members either exclusively or in part.
Needless to say, the size of the membership also varies appreciably. The International
Committee of Food Science and Technology consists of 28 individuals while the
International Co-operative Alliance is made up of more than 600,000 cooperative
societies whose membership totals 224, 000, 000 people. Only three nations can
boast of a larger population.
4.2. Activities of INGOs
One of the most important objectives of almost any INGO is to coordinate the
activities of its members whether they are individuals or organizations in one
form or another. Most international secretariats have little formal regulatory
power, so the coordination usually takes the form of suggestions, exchange of
views and information, and bargaining during organizational meetings. Exchange
of information is also an important function in itself. An organization frequently
serves as a clearing-house between its members f or the sector in which the
INGO has competence. Some of them publish reference works, others compile bibliographical
and documentation material. Scientific INGOs frequently administer the exchange
of scientific data. A large proportion of all INGOs have their own periodicals
which keep their members and other persons concerned informed about the state
of affairs between their general conferences. On an average, such general meetings
are held every second year while the executive boards meet more frequently,
usually once or twice a year.
A few INGOs not only try to coordinate and encourage research among their members,
but are also actively engaged in research projects themselves. Direct INGO involvement
in projects has certain advantages when the research includes cross-national
comparisons. A related pair of functions is education and training. A large
number of INGOs organize exchange of scholars and students. An important part
of the programme of the World Crafts Council, for instance, is to exchange apprentices
and artists. INGOs also frequently provide opportunities for "on the job training"
in connection with development aid programmes. Some of these programmes include
education and training of the local population.
With respect to development aid, it is too often forgotten that national and
international private nonprofit organizations and volunteers make a very substantial
contribution to development. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that aid resources handled
by nonprofit bodies exceed US $ 1 billion annually of which at least $ 700 million
($ 840 million in 1970) is raised from private resources (excluding foundations
and missionary societies). For a comparison of aid flows to developing countries
see Table 7. In 1968, some 25,000 people from developed countries were working
as volunteers in the low-income countries. This figure had increased five-fold
in six years and was then equivalent to nearly a quarter of all technical assistance
personnel serving abroad under official programmes (22).
A limited number of organizations have specialized in training courses for diplomats
and other civil servants dealing with international politics. Finally it should
be stressed that INGOs educate a large section of the general public through
their branches. This is done in study groups, at meetings, and conferences,
and in a number of other ways as is well known.
The establishment and revision of technical standards is another activity of
some INGOs. The need for standardization of technical equipment and measurement
has been one of the driving forces behind the growth of international organization
over the past hundred years and it has the side-effect of easing transnational
communication in other areas. A related activity is the elaboration of professional
and ethical codes and norms of operation. The World Medical Association, for
example, is concerned with the ethics of medical doctors.
INGOs have often been described as international pressure groups, and this is
perhaps the part of their activity that the political scientist will be most
interested in. INGOs may focus on many different kinds of targets in order to
promote their interest. Sometimes they try to influence national governments,
but our impression is that this is practically always done through members in
the respective countries. On the other hand, intergovernmental organizations
(IGOs) are usually approached directly (sometimes on invitation) but there are
instances in which INGOs have tried to influence the decision of an IGO by asking
their national branches to exert influence on the respective governments. This
latter approach seems more practical when an INGO tries to influence the content
of an intergovernmental convention. Multinational business enterprises constitute
another target of the political activities of some INGOs. They are of particular
concern to international trade unions and consumer organizations, but other
INGOs with a general interest in peace and development have also become aware
of the mounting power of international business. (2 3) Finally, many INGOs try
to influence the mass media. This is, of course, the case for most of those
who seek mass support, but several limited membership organizations also wish
to have their message distributed to a larger audience or to draw attention
to specific problems. This may be done, for instance, in connection with the
visit of a secretary general or a president to a national branch or local group.
Related to the pressure group activities is the consultative function many INGOs
are performing, particularly vis-à-vis the United Nations, some of its
specialized agencies, the Council of Europe and the OAS. About twenty per cent
of all INGOs are formally given consultative status with one or more of these
IGOs. Some of the problems involved in this relationship will be discussed below.
INGOs often serve as channels of information complementary to those of conventional
diplomacy. Many organizations have good contacts and recruit members from the
"grass roots" level, and they are less subject to short-term political considerations.
This information may, of course, be used both positively and negatively.
In addition to serving as information channels, INGOs also serve, as recruitment
channels. In response to a questionnaire, about five per cent of the secretary
generals who had made up their plans for future employment, said that they expected
to serve in IGOs. Others will be involved to a varying extent in international
programmes. sometimes serving in developing countries. Experience from INGOs
is, supposedly, useful for national civil servants who, to a smaller or greater
extent, become involved in international cooperation on the governmental level.
Parallel to the recruitment function is the participation function of INGOs.
(2 4) They make it possible for persons other than diplomats and high ranking
civil servants to participate in international affairs (in the broadest sense
of that term) . It is true that a stable leadership in member organizations
of INGOs often monopolizes the international contacts so that it should be possible
to increase the degree of participation by such means as greater rotation of
personnel in delegations to conferences.
Although social clubs (perhaps unwisely) are excluded from inventories of INGOs,
there still remains a number of organizations that has value expression as one
of their most important functions. Value expression is also a significant by-product
of the activities of many others. An example of an organization in which comradeship
is particularly evident, is the International Association of Skal Clubs.
An explicit objective of many INGOs is to increase international understanding.
This is done in a number of ways, of which increased participation is one of
the more important ones. Other means such as information dissemination and exchange
programmes have been discussed above.
Some INGOs are mainly protective, that is, they try to defend the interests
of their members. The protective element may be strong in INGOs made up of minority
groups (the Celtic League) or exile organizations.
Another INGO activity which deserves mention is the continuing attempt to integrate
and formulate member concerns both for their own internal purposes and for third
parties. This process goes on in all kinds of organizations, but one should
pay special attention to it on the international level because, in addition
to all ordinary causes of disagreement, there may be differences of opinion
on the basis of loyalty to different nation states.
For a number of reasons nongovernmental organizations are often able to respond
quickly to new needs created by changes in the environment (breakthroughs in
technology, natural disasters, etc.) or by changes of policies or quality of
services provided by government and business, either prior to an awareness of
the need in government or business, or after their programmes have terminated
or deteriorated. INGOs can therefore perform the function of "lookout" institutions
for society. In this manner INGOs can serve as functional equivalents or substitutes
of other actors.
Finally we want to mention that some INGOs see it as their duty to make relevant
and interpret international programmes to national members or special constituencies.
This is one way support for international programmes is mobilized.
The above presentation of INGO activities and goals is by no means exhaustive
although we think we have covered most of the essential features.
4.3. INGOs, their actual and potential Impact
International nongovernmental organizations mean different things to different
people. They are therefore called by different names and there is a lack of
awareness of them as a class, as a whole. In this section we shall discuss the
relevance of INGOs first to different classes of actors, and second, to different
4.3.1. INGOs, functional for whom and in which way?
At the present time, and partly due to the lack of an elaborated interorganizational
conceptual framework, too few INGOs perceive themselves as part of a network
of actors (other than in the meta physical sense used when referring to the
"international community") This network of organizations is constantly changing
and evolving as different parts of it perceive and respond to new problems.
Sub-networks of INGOs (perhaps in combination with non-INGOs) with a special
interest in common come into existence for a period of joint action and are
implicitly mandated to meet the challenge. A given INGO may be participating,
terminating (or commencing participation) in any number of such partial networks.
The lack of a network perception leads INGOs to be less functional for each
other than they could be. There are, nevertheless, groups of international nongovernmental
organizations that cooperate rather effectively with each other, particularly
when they have a strong interest in the same relatively limited problem area
such as care for the handicapped and training of social workers) . INGOs with
very different objectives also sometimes cooperate in order to promote the interests
of INGOs as a class and to improve their status in the international system.
This seems to be one of the main functions of the conferences of INGOs in consultative
status with ECOSOC and UNESCO.
The functions of INGOs for their members are manifold, but to a large extent
these have already been covered above. To the IGOs, the INGOs are of importance
in three respects. Firstly, INGOs provide pools of competence on which IGOs
can draw in the execution of specialized projects. This is recognized in the
consultative relationship. INGO information may be more detailed over longer
periods of time or information which does not enter governmental channels for
political reasons may be collected by INGOs which are thus able to detect problems
long before there is any trace of them in the ordinary information channels
of IGOs. A good example is the whole environment issue, of which aspects have
been for many years the major concern of the following:
- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (founded
- European Federation for the Protection of Waters (1956)
- International Association on Water Pollution Research (1962)
- International Association against Noise (1959)
- International Union of Air Pollution prevention Associations (1964) and
The United Nations is taking action on this issue following the UN Human Environment
Secondly, INGOs may carry out projects for IGOs under contract or carry on programmes
which would otherwise have to be performed by IGOs. (Unfortunately, the current
tendency is for an IGO to assess an INGO in terms of whether it contributes
to the IGOs programmes rather than in terms of its effectiveness in tackling
the problems the IGO and INGO have in common; in short, the INGOs are seen as
satellites of the IGO.)
Thirdly, INGOs represent an extremely useful channel by which IGOs can influence
special sectors of the public to support IGO programmes, for example, to create
the political will to support development programmes. This leads some IGO officials
to treat and assess INGOs as a new media to disseminate the current IGO message.
A fourth unrecognized function of interest to IGOs with social development programmes,
is the extent to which increase in INGO activity in itself is a form of social
development - - to the extent that social development may be interpreted as
the complexification of the organization of a society in terms of number, variety
The way in which INGOs are relevant for national governments depends not only
on the nature of the INGOs involved, but also on the kind of national government.
As in the case of IGOs, INGOs can provide the governmental sector with specialized
opinion and technical information, and this will be particularly welcome when
the government concerned does not have adequate expertise in a particular area.
Furthermore, INGOs may channel funds, technical and other forms of assistance
to governments, and this may be especially important when other national governments
are, for political reasons, debarred from assisting.
What are the functions of INGOs vis-à-vis multinational business enterprises?
We have already mentioned that there are international consumer associations,
and we expect these to play an increasingly important role in line with the
growing consciousness of consumers in many countries. They may serve as effective
checks on these international manufacturing and service organizations that up
to now have had the opportunity to "divide and rule" with respect to their scattered
markets and sites of operation. International trade unions provide another kind
of check on international business, although, according to some observers, they
are not as effective as they could be. A difficult problem is, for instance,
the tendency of multinational enterprises to exploit wage differences between
countries in such a way that workers in high-pay and low-pay countries may find
it difficult to formulate a common policy. In addition, several other INGOs
which cannot be classified as trade unions and consumer organizations, are relevant
for multinational business. Together they represent large segments of actual
or potential markets and thereby provide channels of Information about products,
advertising, and buyers' reaction to this. (The international motor organizations
wittingly or unwittingly performs these functions vis-à-vis the international
The INGOs themselves constitute an important market and have a significant effect
on the tourism industry through the many widely dispersed international meetings
to which they give rise. (26) Their presence in a country, or that of IGO offices
for that matter, is not a drain on the host country, as used to be thought,
but a minor source of foreign currency. The economic side-effects of the presence
of many international bodies may, however, be extremely important in terms of,
for example, use of the country's airline, hotel accommodation of incoming visitors,
tendency to organize meetings in cities with many similar institutions, use
of local services (printing, etc.) . In small cities like Geneva and Brussels
with relatively large numbers of foreign personnel, their internationalizing
impact on the society maybe quite significant. Brussels is unique as a host
to major headquarters or regional offices of IGOs, INGOs, and multinational
To the extent that multinational corporations take a significant interest in
their social and environmental context and the social consequences of their
activities, INGOs can provide an appropriate channel for application of the
resources (skills, communications channels, contacts, funding, etc.) of multinationals
problems. (2 7) This opportunity may prove increasingly significant for multinationals,
given the growing business-career disillusionment of the young elites from which
they attempt to recruit personnel for key positions.
A very important function of some INGOs is to be mechanisms for interaction
and protection of competing businesses. The International Air Transport Association
(IATA) is a prominent representative of this category of INGOs, but there are
many others. They work out standards, defend their common interests vis-à-vis
governments, IGOs and the general public, and regulate competition. Multinational
enterprises sometimes become members directly, but the usual practice is for
their subsidiaries to join. It is very interesting that some of these INGOs
serve as arbitrators in conflicts between business enterprises on the national
and international level. An example of such an organization is the Inter-American
Commercial Arbitration Commission. In addition many of these organizations develop
expertise and sponsor research that is utilized by their members, that is, business
corporations. International professional organizations also possess specialized
knowledge that is used in business. Furthermore, the professional organizations,
together with the international trade unions, serve as vehicles for multinational
International nongovernmental organizations perform many functions that are
very valuable to academics. We mentioned above their coordinating activities,
research activities and information dissemination. The primary purpose of a
large proportion of INGOs is simply to serve as communication channels between
scholars. Furthermore, scientific INGOs provide academics with a channel through
which they can make their research conclusions known to government, both on
the national and on the international level. Finally, INGOs provide scholars
with a means of formalizing the many "invisible colleges" (2 9), scientific
milieus, and thus contributes to the universalization of science.
Next we want to consider what INGOs do for underprivileged persons. The organizations
working in this area seem to be very responsive to any form of discrimination,
social injustice or physical depravation. However, one side-effect of the very
existence of these organizations, regardless of which issue area they are particularly
concerned with, is to perpetuate a more or less elitist system insofar as they
provide unequal status opportunities for those involved. If more thought was
given to new forms of INGOs, this side-effect could possibly be counteracted.
Finally, INGOs contribute to the degree of pluralism in world society by providing
isolated and special interest persons and specialists with a vehicle through
which they can facilitate the information and furtherance of their activities.
(A quick glance through any compilation of names of INGOs will convince the
reader that some of the interests are quite off -beat.)
4.3.2. INGOs and World Problems
The importance of INGOs depends, of course, to a large extent on the degree
to which they can contribute to the solution of grave world problems. There
are, as we know, many of these, but the overriding one seems to be the absence
Like Galtung, we conceive of peace as the absence of violence, of which there
are two sorts. (2 8) First, there is personal violence which becomes manifest
when person A physically hurts person B (for instance, by shooting him during
a battle). Second, there is structural violence which is analogous to exploitation
and social injustice. This kind of violence usually occurs in a social structure
which is set up in such a way that some people become rich (in terms of life
expectancy, income, education, individual freedom and what not) and other people
remain or become poor. This relationship may or may not be realized by the members
of such a social structure. The net result of both kinds of violence is a reduced
quality of life and/or shorter life expectancy due to untimely deaths.
INGOs can and do contribute to the reduction of violence in two different ways.
(30) They can take direct action aimed at preventing war and reducing social
injustice, and they can contribute to both ends by their mere existence without
any deliberate efforts to promote peace. Given two different kinds of violence,
this leaves us with four distinct ways in which INGOs contribute to peace:
(i) They do many different things to prevent wars between nations. Indeed,
45 per cent of a highly representative sample of INGOs considered that "to
work for peace between all nations and peoples in the world" was one of their
objectives. Among the different strategies are: Peace research and education,
political action, exchange of persons and information and deliberate attacks
on national loyalties of members and non-members.
(ii) Fifty-one Per cent of the same sample stated that they worked "for social
and economic development in the world", and have already discussed some of
the ways in which this is done. An important trait in this picture is the
transfer of know-how to developing countries. The problem here is that aid
to development is often felt as an attempt to super impose Western culture
in non-Western societies. The scepticism against INGOs in some developing
countries is probably sound and should be taken very seriously.
(iii) The very existence of a network of INGOs have an effect on the structure
of nation states. Conflicts between nations or groups of nations frequently
lead to the termination of most forms of interaction between them. This has
at least two consequences. The opponents become less functionally dependent
on each other, and their negative perceptions of each other become mutually
reinforced. The setting is ideal for overt conflict behaviour (war) .(31)
It seems, however, that interaction through INGOs is less easily stopped than,
for instance, trade and diplomatic relations. Although there are difficulties,
INGOs relatively frequently penetrate the wall between the Warsaw Pact and
NATO countries, they frequently include both Arab and Israeli members, and
representatives of divided countries meet more often in INGO settings than
one would expect by chance. (32) one reason for this is that INGOs constitute
a multilateral form of inter action. It is often hard to withdraw from or
resist becoming member of an organization in which adversaries are members
because it is most likely that it includes quite a few "friends" too. Another
reason is that INGOs are non governmental. They do not get much public attention,
and delegates to meetings and conferences do not have to participate in whatever
official capacity they may have.
(iv) To what extent can the structure of the INGO network contribute to the
reduction of structural violence on the world level? First of all, being represented
in INGOs may be a coveted goal in itself, an indication of the prestige or status
of a nation. Second, being represented in many INGOs makes it easier to obtain
what is currently a highly regarded asset - specialized information. In addition,
it may be easier to get funds for certain purposes and so on. Thus, to the extent
that the distribution of the value "INGO -membership" is less skewed than and
uncorrelated with the distribution of other values in the international system,
say GNP per capita, the INGO system contributes to the estab lishment of social
justice between nations. Empirical investigations show that the number of INGO
memberships is less unevenly distributed across nations than most indicators
of social, economic and technological development, and the correlation between
the number of representations and these indicators is positive and moderately
high. Consequently, INGOs make a contribution to social justice through their
activities although this is somewhat counteracted by their membership distribution.
INGOs are also important to society in the process by which new values are generated
by the emergence of new problems and in the process by which society debates
which problems are of overriding importance. They also keep a watchful eye on
other potentially- significant problems. INGOs clamour for social recognition
of the (often obscure) problems around which they were created. It is in this
respect that they appear to perform a function for the psycho- social system
analogous to aspects of population dynamics, which maintains the variety of
a gene-pool and thus provides the best guarantee of racial survival. Efforts
by any one organization to coordinate other bodies to force them to subscribe
to a particular value system, or to force them into any position of dependence
for needed resources, information or. recognition lead to a reduction in variety.
These need to be carefully assessed for patterns of structural violence carried
over with elitist -imperialist thinking habits.
4.4. Ignorance about INGOs and other Problems
In this section we shall first deal with the problems arising from the wide-spread
ignorance about INGOs which is to the detriment not only of the nongovernmental
organizations themselves, but also to those persons and institutions who are
unable to benefit from the services INGOs provide. Then follows a discussion
of some other problems of INGOs not directly related to ignorance about them.
4.4.1. Ignorance about INGOs and its consequences
The general neglect of INGOs takes many forms. Starting with the legal ignorance,
we observe that INGOs are practically excluded from consideration in international
law because of their lack of de jure status (33) despite the fact that they
are well established de facto.
Although apparently trivial, this lack of legal status is sufficient to convince
wide segments of society, particularly governments, that INGOs do not exist
-- thus blinding governments to their social significance.
In effect, INGOs are forced to function as international "outlaws", and this
weakens their ability to interact effectively with many official bodies. It
also creates many kinds of practical problems in connection with taxation, recruitment,
status of personnel, receipt and transfer of funds, and the like.
Secondly, there is scholarly ignorance. We have to admit that there is a regrettable
tendency to exclude INGOs from "systematic" analyses of the international system
and from comparative studies of organizations. (34) This leads to oversimplified
typologies of actors in the international system and of possible forms of organization,
both of which in turn result in poor awareness of organizational ecology. Another
consequence is insensitive predictions about the future of world society and
the construction of unrealistic models for the same future. The same ignorance
shows up in the poor education of students and briefing of government delegates
and administrators as well as in the biased coverage of text books. (3 5) If
INGOs are at all mentioned, the emphasis tends to be on isolated organizations
or categories of organizations without recognizing the many interorganizational
relationships in the INGO network and to the IGO network. In the case of applied
research with policy implications such as some peace research, there is with
a few notable exception little awareness of the potentialities of the INGO system
as an agent for change. In many countries there is a tendency not to make use
of national NGOs in governmental programmes and thus to avoid using the international
contacts provided by the related INGO system. This leads to inefficient use
and development of available organizational resources.
Many IGOs give some kind of official recognition to INGOs, but the recognition
is extended only to a small proportion of the international nongovernmental
organizations and usually on a bilateral basis. For administrative purposes
IGOs tend to ignore the network of INGOs as a phenomenon of the social system
they are trying to develop and instead treat a select group of INGOs as an administrative
problem. In particular IGOs are short-sighted in their desire to monopolize
competence in certain areas thus placing an unnecessary strain on their own
administration and budget instead of seeking to delegate programme activity
to the competent part of the INGO network where resources and support may be
more readily available. Indeed, the fundamental problem for IGOs is to define
an area of competence for INGOs without destroying their sense of commitment
and thus depriving society of valuable organizational resources. However, the
tendency of IGOs to give a shallow recognition to a small proportion of the
INGOs leads to a kind of divide and rule strategy which means that the INGO
system is fragmentized and polarized around a few IGO agencies. At the same
time, IGOs perceive INGOs as satellites and query the relevance of many aspects
of their programmes which do not directly reflect or support the current short-term
political interests of the intergovernmental agency.
We have tried to summarize our arguments in the attached diagram
4.4.2. Other Problems of INGOs
It is often difficult for INGOs to stimulate interest on the part of members
via regional and national branches, particularly interest in international activity.
There seems to be a tendency for some leaders on the national level to monopolize
international contacts, or to fail to relate international cooperation to the
activities and problems of rank and file members. As a corollary it is difficult
to pursuade national organizations to allocate significant resources to international
activity. The focus of action tends to be at the national level.
Another problem some INGOs struggle with is the incompatibility of national
members. In different social systems functional equivalents of national organizations
may have different relationships to governments particularly with regard to
the degree of governmental control, funding and staffing. National sections
in different countries may perform ranges of functions that only partially overlap
such that the non-overlapping features tend to result in suspicion and incompatibilities
probably lead some governments to hesitate in facilitating interaction between
their national organizations and the equivalent INGOs. In particular, in some
non-Western cultures there maybe difficulty in locating organizational forms
natural to that culture which could relate to a given INGO. (36) There may be
resentment of any imposition of a new Western style organization, and a lack
of any socio-anthropological skill to match very different styles of organizations,
or to create or adapt an INGO appropriate to them. Most INGOs require the same
basic administrative services and facilities, but because of their restricted
budgets, they are forced to use minimum facilities, which are often inadequate
and insufficient. Because of great sensitivity to
their independence and autonomy of their programme, they are reluctant to pool
services and facilities in order to increase the efficiency of their administrative
operations. This is partly due to an inability to distinguish between the objectives
of the organization and the facilities and professional skills required to achieve
Because of a combination of factors, INGOs individually or in small groups tend
to think of themselves as operating In an international vacuum. They are often
surprised to find other organizations with similar programmes or whose programmes
are in some way affected by their own. There is, at present, no method to determine
and facilitate the most appropriate inter -organizational contacts.
Because of a narrow conception of socio-economic development in which "social"
is restricted to factors contributing to "economic" growth, IGOs, and particularly
the UN system, accept isolated INGOs as instrumental to development without
being able to respond to the network of INGOs as a feature in itself, a new
stage of psycho-social development. Consequently IGOs do not seek to improve
the functioning of the INGO network independent of immediate governmental concerns,
thus relegating INGOs to a form of "third world" status vis-à-vis governmental
and business organizations.
In conclusion, the nature of the problems to which INGOs are exposed places
them in a vicious circle, in that the problems force them into a state of progressively
greater inefficiency, preventing them from getting off the ground operationally.
The inefficiency is seen as justifying the non-participative policies of intergovernmental
organizations which in effect contribute directly to the inefficiency of the
network. The IGOs are then, as in the case of UN development programmes, surprised
to be faced with the seemingly unrelated problem of public apathy and lack of
"political will" for development. (37)
5. Probable future trends
See note (38)
Increasingly rapid organizational creation, evolution, adaptation, and dissolution
is to be expected with rapid membership turnover and constantly changing patterns,
of inter- organizational interaction, including splits and mergers. The rate
at which people or organizational units link together in response to newlyperceived
problems will increase. This will be facilitated by improvements in communication
technology. Some information systems may even be deliberately designed to bring
increasingly improbable combinations of bodies into the same organization on
very specific issues for very limited periods. (39)
New styles of INGO may arise as a result of contacts between the mixed government-voluntary
sector organizations encountered in many socialist and Third World countries
and the intersect organizations in the West. The influence of the position of
the People's Republic of China in the debate on INGOs within the United Nations
may prove to be particularly significant in this respect. Disillusionment with
coordinating "umbrella" and other inter-agency organizational mechanisms will
lead to more sophisticated use of information systems to link organizations
and by-pass the behavioural and "territorial" problems of "super-INGOs" to the
point of substituting for many of the functions performed by them.
The difficulty for society to organize itself in advance in preparation for
unknown problems which no existing official body is mandated to recognize, will
lead to greater recognition of dependence on the network of nongovernmental
bodies as "lookout" and "first-aid" institutions before the problem is politically
respectable. It will be recognized that the network will "generate" organizational
forms appropriate to the problem.
The option of channelling project funds through the most appropriate body under
the circumstances, whether it be governmental business, academic, or nongovernmental
will gain greater acceptance. The organization of response to a problem will
become much more complex as many interdependent channels in the network are
The effectiveness of INGOs will come under increasing criticism and new, more
sensitive, criteria for evaluating their performance and significance will be
developed. (One possibility is the development of a variety of organizational
indicators, similar to corporation stock indicators, to show the utility of
contribution through a particular nonprofit body.)
The number of regional INGOs will increase. It is also probable that the number
of INGOs formed from sub-national level NGOs will increase as the fragmentation
of the nation-state becomes a social reality. The territorial basis of representation
will become less significant.
It will increasingly be recognized that INGOs and voluntary organizations constitute
a participative, possibly part- time, career opportunity and a viable alternative
to the frequently alienating and dehumanizing environments of the government
and business sectors. This recognition by young people will be accompanied by
a rejection of bureaucratic INGOs and the adaption in some cases of a new style
of operation, which may have more of the features of movements and, possibly,
networks of communes. This is also a central notion in Mitrany's thought.
6. Conclusions and recommendations
The number of INGOs is growing, and they are expanding in terms of geographical
representation and functional scope. Whilst the INGOs, directly or through their
members, constitute an extremely useful group of actors in some respects, their
full contribution to the global social processes can only be achieved if the
development of the INGO network is stimulated along certain lines to correct
for imbalance, side-effects and inadequate utilization. A number of policy recommendations
in this direction are listed below:
6.1. The degree of organizational interlinkage would seem to preclude simplistic
analysis of organizations as isolated entities. Furthermore, the network of
INGOs is constantly evolving in response to new insights, possibilities, and
problems. It is therefore less the pattern at any one moment which should be
the focus of concern and much more the pattern-forming potential of organizational
sub units and active individuals.
6.2. To handle the problems associated with the catchall category of INGOs,
the goal should be to map organization in its broadest sense, namely as composed
of relatively invariant entities. The entity is in fact a pattern of relationships,
subject to change, but recognizably extended in time. The cut-off point, below
which the duration of a pattern is considered too ephemeral, should be dependent
upon data collection ability rather than preconceived models. This way 'of regarding
the objects of attention in society helps to resolve the dichotomy between the
individual and society and many other pseudo-problems resulting from the tendency,
built into language, to regard entities as "things" rather than systematically
related sequences of events. (40)
This "loose" approach can be achieved by handling the entities and relationships
as networks which can be processed and represented using graph theory techniques
(41). In effect, a non -quantitative topological structure of the psycho-social
system is built up, to which dynamic and quantitative significance can be added
as and when appropriate data becomes available.
6.3. Greater effort should be made to map out transnational networks (possibly
by a succession of overlapping surveys) so that organizations can see their
direct and indirect relationships to one another, -- and also such that second
and higher order patterns of dominance can be detected. (Interorganizational
maps should have the same status and accessibility as road maps in order that
people can navigate more effectively through the social system.)
6.4. The degree of possible functional substitution between different styles
of organization suggests that great care is required when establishing categories
for the purposes of analysis, program elaboration or legislation. There is in
fact a need for greater understanding of organizational networks as ecosystems,
such that the function of a significant, but seemingly insignificant, body in
a communication web can be made apparent.
A greater tolerance of the variety of organizational species is required and
of the manner in which particular types are more appropriate under given conditions.
(It is perhaps appropriate to note that botanists and zoologists recognize around
one million plants and animals respectively -- whereas a sociologist might be
said to recognize around one hundred types of collectivity.) A taxonomy and
a new "Origin of Species" is required to knot together this variety into an
evolving psycho-social system.
6.5. Greater stress should be placed on the network of nongovernmental nonprofit
bodies as a social -phenomenon rather than as an administrative or political
problem for government. The degree of organization of a society is one measure
of its social development. The number and variety of organizations or office-holders
per capita is a measure of the participative opportunity or socializing potential
of that society. Data on INGOs and their national counterparts could therefore
constitute an important social indicator for development policy-making and should
have a status equivalent to that of economic units of society. (As things stand,
no systematic data collection on organizations between the national and local
level is carried out.) (42)
6.6. Nongovernmental, nonprofit bodies pose a special problem for countries
in the early stages of social development, since, as with the two-party system,
they appear to constitute a threat to the stability of the government in power
and are therefore the subject of suspicion if permitted to exist. Further study
is required of the areas in which the different styles of INGOs can usefully
function, at different stages of development, without constituting a rallying
point for premature dissent. This should help to determine at what stage, and
under what conditions, the (more suspect) link to an INGO becomes appropriate.
6.7 Besides the functions performed for their special constituencies, INGOs
in a network perform functions for one another. Further study is required of
the manner in which control information should be elaborated and circulated
to govern the action of a network of organizations in the absence of any prime
controller (due to the continuing emergence of new problems configurations)
any single permanent objective ( ) .
6.8. The degree of interconnectedness and direct or indirect interdependence
of organizations suggests that, where two organizational systems have common
objectives or concerns, it is short-sighted and possible counter -productive
for the first system to request the second for assistance in the accomplishment
of its own system objectives -- and to ignore or disassociate itself from the
second when it pursues the same objectives in a different manner Both systems
seek to improve their functioning as interdependent systems and ensure that
their operations mesh effectively.
6.9. Any successful attempt by a particular organization to mobilize all others
in unquestioning support of its own programmes reduces the overall ability of
the network of organizations to respond effectively to unforeseen problems.
Recommendations to "regroup", "reduce proliferation", or "increase coordination",
assessed against the need for variety. The degree of fragmentation of organizational
systems (whether governmental or nongovernmental) in part reflects the need
for sufficient organizational frameworks through which active individuals can
meaningfully participate in the social process. The interlocking complexity
of the nongovernmental sector may be considered a major insurance against undetected
manipulation of social processes by elite groups -- provided such
bodies have sufficient freedom of action to fulfill their responsibility.
6.10. Means are required to achieve an optimum degree of organizational coordination
(consistent with points 6.7., 6.8., 6.9.).
(a) Informal contact: Provision of low-rent office and meeting facilities
(or other shared administrative services) in one centre within major cities,
brings a variety of organizations with potentially related concerns into fruitful
informal contact. This increases their effectiveness, leads to working contacts
where and when appropriate, provides the "critical mass" required for mutual
encouragement and outside recognition, and facilitates the conception and
germination of new programmes. It also provides the facilitative base for
newly- e stabli shed bodies during their growth period. The creation of such
focal points for the mobilization of untapped social forces should be viewed
as a priority for city and national governments.
(b) Information systems: Bodies should be informed of each other's
existence a s soon a s they are able t o f ormulate a problem or interest
in common. Prior to entering into some direct relationship potential partners
need to be conceived of as "members" of a "potential association" from which
particular groupings gel as required by the problem configuration, and into
which they dissolve when their objective is achieved. Such a potential association
could be given the necessary operational framework by substituting a form
of information system or cum referral service for normally- con st ituted
membership organizations -- thus avoiding administrative and political problems
of "recognition" and proof of "relevance".
Provision of low-cost communication facilities (telephone, telex, datalink)
between organizations in centres (see point 6..9.) in different countries permits
organizations to develop regional contacts more easily to mesh their programmes
more effectively with those of other bodies, to channel resources through the
network more efficiently and rapidly in response to emergencies, and increases
their ability to interact with their counterparts at the national level and
with programmes in the field.
6.11. In order to reduce official hostility or indifference to INGOs in the
future, steps should be taken to introduce material on nongovernmental action
and its relation to social development into university curricula, diplomat training,
and foreign service briefing sessions. Intergovernmental organizations, particularly
the UN Specialized Agencies, could usefully focus in their. public information
and personnel training programmes on their relationships with INGOs.
6.12 Specific legislation concerning the status of INGOs with headquarters or
branches in a given country (possibly on the Belgian model) should be recommended
to States via intergovernmental assemblies. (This should take into account the
apparently minor questions of status of "alien" personnel, problems of double
taxation, continuity of pension and social security rights for personnel moving
between countries and organizations, which are the sine qua non of the effective
professionalization of the INGO network.)
6.13 Steps should be taken to represent the case for an international convention
to give an international legal status to INGOs -- with due consideration for
their responsibilities and rights. As participants in the social process they
have responsibilities for the well-being of individuals, other bodies, and society
as a whole, in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- the
principal responsibility is to make every effort to call attention to, or to
counteract any errors of omission or commission in society which their special
expertise enables them to detect. Organizations should have certain rights for
their protection in the exercise of their responsibilities ( )
6.14. INGOs (and IGOs) must recognize the existence and need for a wide range
of styles of organization, that is, the "significance" of an INGO should be
rated on a combination of many measures rather than on membership or budget
. Functional equivalents of Western-type organizations should be recognized
in other cultures, and social systems. Allowances shoul i d be made for structural
or constitutional incompatibilities between potential members. Research is needed
on the problems of
decision-making in multi-cultural organizations.
6.15 Regional IGOs should facilitate the formation of regional INGOs according
to the styles of organization in the region. IGO-INGO contact mechanisms at
the regional level should be developed. In some issue areas super-INGOs of regional
INGOs should be encouraged when appropriate. Efforts should also be made to
increase the involvement of developing region INGOs or national bodies in multi-region
INGOs. In particular communication links should be improved (see point 6.9.),
meetings should be rotated through developing region countries, or possible
travel expenses could be pooled so that everybody pays the same regardles's
of where he or she comes from.
6.16. It would be useful to consider the extent to which many INGOs and other
bodies are "non-territorial actors", that is, actors for which the geographical
or national representation is of minor importance to their action (4 3) . There
is some possibility that such bodies may be sliding into a repetition of processes
(structurally very similar to those encountered throughout the history of territorial
conflict) with respect to what has been termed "quasi-territory", namely the
sort of functional domain which each body defines and stakes out as its special
field of concern -- a domain whose boundary line is constantly called into question
by changing societal conditions (44). The stress in the future may be less on
the problems of national interest -coordination, which led to the formation
of the United Nations, but increasingly on the problem of functional coordinations
for which some equivalent global mechanism may eventually be evolved, possibly
in part out of the existing INGO system, but certainly out of the three hundred
to six hundred multinational corporations which it is expected will control
much of the wealth of the Western world by the year 2000. Functional domains
will be decreasingly fragmented by territorial preoccupations, but nation states
will be increasingly fragmented by functional preoccupations. In this sense
the problems of coordination would seem to be the common root concern of international
relations and the policy sciences.
1. "INGO" is the accepted abbreviation in academic circles. Intergovernmental
system documents refer to "NGOs" avoiding any definition of international or any
clear distinction between national and international NGOs. The term is usually
restricted to nonprofit bodies, in which case the profit-making bodies are referred
to as multinational corporations (MNCs) or business INGOs (BINGOs),
2. For example, in Arab countries or those with a Moslem culture, a common form
of organization for social development is the "Waq" (mentioned in the Koran)
which bears some resemblance to a Western religious fund or foundation. It is
not known whether any of these are "international". Similarly, the family name
and ancestral province association play an important role in and between countries
with a Chinese population.
3. Each new issue inspires a new configuration of bodies. This has been discussed
in connection with political party election machinery in Richard R. Fagan. '
Politics and Communication. Little, Brown, 1966 (Chapter on the "Components
of Communication Networks"). For a means of developing this technique, see:
Anthony Judge, New types of social entity; the role of the potential association.
International Associations 239 1971
4. Many United States trade unions are "international" in the title, e.g. International
5. There is a movement to restrict "international" to "intergovernmental" and
to refer to INGOs as transnational associations; see: G.P. Speeckaert, Transnational
ou International? International Associations, 24, 19727 4, pp. 225- 232.
6. "Any international organization which intergovernmental agreement shall be
mental organization-" (UN ECOSOC Resolution 1296 (XLIV) June 1968). See discussion
in G.P. Speeckaert, ibid.
7. Anthony Judge. Summary of the crises in inter-organizational relationships
at the international level. International Associations, 24, 1972, 5, Also:
The UN System's ivory tower strategy. International Associations, 23, 1971,, pp. . 24-48 [text]
8. Kenneth E. Boulding. Management of "intersect" institutions. In: Management
in a Changing World,
Conference Board, USA 1972
9. The United Nations, even through its Agencies concerned with trade, cannot
recognize the existence of multinational business enterprises as INGOs because
of the political sensitivity of profit-making. The exception is FAO through
its FAO/Industry Cooperative Programme on which multinationals are represented.
This embarrassment is in sharp contrast with OECD which has a Business and Industry
10. For a broad definition of voluntary, see: David Horton Smith, et.al. Types
of voluntary action; a definitional essay. In: D.H. Smith (Ed.) Voluntary Action
Research. Lexington, Lexington Books, 1972. (See also: Journal of Voluntary
11. Those "recognized" by the United Nations acquire a measure of legal significance.
There have also been attempts to extend the interpretation of the status of
private persons in international law to cover collectivities. See: Université
Catholique de Louvain. ' Premier colloque de Département des Droits de
1'Homme (1969); les droits de 1'homme et les personnes Morales. Bruxelles. Emile
12. Belgium is the only country to recognize and provide special legislation
and facilities for INGOs (Law of 25 October 1919 expanded by Law of 6 December
1954) which is one reason why 490 INGOs have offices there. Efforts are being
made by the European Economic Commission to define a "European Corporation"
to which international trade unions will have a specially recognized relationship.
13. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.
Task Force Report: Organized Crime. Washington, US Government Printing Office,
1967. Note that profits to organized crime from gambling, loan sharking and
narcotics (excluding infiltrated legitimate business and other operations) are
probably in the region of $ 8 billion per year in the United States alone.
14. 25 per cent of the studies on international nongovermental organizations
listed in the International Political Science Bibliography over the past eight
years are concerned with one organization, the International Red Cross.
15. G.P. Speeckaert. Les associations momentanées d'organisations internationales.
International Associations, 23, 1971, 4, pp. 205-217.
16. G.M. Riegner. Consultative Status; recent developments and future prospects
(11th General Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status
with ECOSOC). Geneva, 1969, 11/GC/22, p. 2
17. "Cross-modal" is a term used in psychology, to refer to the ability of an
individual to handle and integrate several modes of sensation (sight, sound,
etc.). It seems equally applicable to the degree of integration of different
modes of organization action.
18. "The problem of the seventies will lie not so much within the organization
as between it and society. We shall have to look much more to the social and
family life of organizations, at organizational marriage and divorce, at the
children that organizations spawn. We shall begin to know organizations by the
company they keep. The future, I think, will be social, political, inter-organizational."
Harold J. Leavitt, The Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow of Organizations. European
Business, Spring 1971, 29, pp. 28-33.
19. United Nations, ECOSOC. Arrangements for consultation with non-governmental
organizations. E/RES/1296 (XLIV), 25 June 1968. (Text and commentary reprinted
in International Associations 20, 9, 1968, pp. 609-649.
20. Union of
International Associations. Yearbook of International Organizations (1970-1971). Brussels, Union of
International Associations, 1971, 1053 p.
21. Kjell Skjelsbaek. Development of the systems of international organizations;
a diachronic study. IPRA Papers on Peace Research: proceedings of the Second
International Peace Research Association General Conf erence. Assen; Netherlands,
Van Gocum, 1970. Kjell Skjelsbaek. The growth of international nongovernmental
organizations in the twentieth century. International Organization 25, 39 1971,
22. Lester B. Pearson. Partners in Development; report on the Commission on
International Development. 1969, pp. 185-189.
23. An example of the concerns of trade unions is the action taken by the International
Federation of Chemical and General Workers Union (ICF) in 1969. The ICF coordinated
the confrontation with the French multinational glass manufacturing company,
Compagnie de Saint Gobain, by unions in the Federal Republic of Germany, France,
Italy and the United States. This confrontation dramatized a development which
was taking place over a much wider front, See: Robert W. Cox, "Labor and Transnational
Relations International Organization M, No. 3 (1971), pp. 556- 557.
24. Antony Jay. Corporation Man. Jonathan Cape, 1972, p.
58 (suggests that the tendency of bureaucracies to frustrate the
formation of natural working groups (ten- groups) leads to the enormous burgeoning
of societies, professional associations, action committees and the like which
provide the channel for the instinctively needed face-to-face purposeful group
Schon. Beyond the Stable State; public and private learning in a changing society.
London, Temple Smith, 1971 (Notes that the network of organizations is always out-of-phase
with the reality of problems that people think are worth solving. The problem
is to reduce this mismatch by increasing the response-time of the network.)
26. Depending on assumptions annual non-travel expenditure by participants at
international conferences in 1971 is estimated at US S 0.25 - 3.0 billion. Travel
expenditure is estimated at US $ 0.40 - 4.0 billion. (It has been estimated
that one per cent of airtravel arrivals are for international meetings.) Investment
in conference facilities in 1966 was $ 0.8 billion (5 8 billion required by
1980). The number of participants travelling annually to international meetings
is estimated at 2 million in 1971 (4-50 million in 1985). (Data at Union of
International Associations. See also: International Organizations and the Budgetary
and conomic Aspects of their Congresses. Brussels, UIA, 1971.)
27. A group is currently forming in London to create an experimental INGO clearing
body on which INGOs and MNCs would be represented. This would act as an interface
to permit INGOs to benefit from MNC skills and to permit the latter to elaborate
non-profit social programmes using INGO channels.
28. Johan Galtung. Violence, Peace and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research,
7, 3, 1969.
29. Diana Crane. Transnational networks in basic science. International
Organization, 25, 1971, pp. p. 585-601 (The term "invisible college" is applied to the informal networks of scholars
with an interest in a particular topic on which they exchange reprints, comments,
etc. The network may be loose or very precisely defined but is vital to the
research activity and professional standing of those concerned. )
30. Kjell Skjelsbaek. Peace and International Organizations. Journal of
Peace Research, 9, 4, 1972
31. Our reasoning here is parallel to that of David Mitrany as expressed in
his book A Working Peace System (Quadrangle Books, 1966). It should
be noted, however, that Mitrany primarily thought of IGOs, but we feel that
his functionalist propositions are equally applicable to INGOs.
32. Nils Petter Gleditsch. Interaction Patterns in the Middle East. Cooperation
and Conflict, 6, 1, 1971
Kjell Skjelsbaek. The Representation of
Divided Countries in International Nongovernmental Organizations.
33. Typically a volume of 580 pages on "international organizations" may contain
a 12 line reference excluding INGOs in the following terms,
"Des associations revetant les formes d'une organisation internationale peuvent
etre créée par des personnes do droit privé ou do droit
public non étatique .... Mais, n'étant pas formées par
les Etats, ce no sont pas là des organisations internationales au sons
strict des termes." (W.J. Ganshof van der Meersch. Organisations Européennes.
Bruxelles, Emile Bruylant, 1966).
34. As an example, in justifying the exclusion of certain categories of organizations
from an adequate data base on the global system, Michael Wallace and J. David
Singer make the following point: "First, our theoretical interests (and, we
suspect, those of most of our colleagues) are more concerned with IGO's (inter
governmental organizations) than with nongovernmental organiza tions (NGOs)
.... One can hardly urge that the amount of NGO is likely to be important in
accounting for many of the theoretically interesting phenomena which occurred
in the system of the past century or so." (Intergovernmental Organizations in
the Global System, 1815-1960; A Quantitative Description. International Organization,
24, 2, Spring 1970, p. 240) For some of the consequences of this attitude, see
Chadwick F. Alger, Research on Research; a decade of quantitative and field research
on international organizations,. International Organization, Summer 1970, pp.
414-450; This study indicated that 66% of the studies were on the UN (28 bodies),
19% on the other IGOs (201), possibly with the UN, 14% were on INGOs (2577),
and 0% were on MNCs (2819). (Data on the numbers from the 1968-1969 edition
of the Yearbook of International Organizations).
35. This general ignorance about INGOs is clearly reflected even in the deliberations
of the ECOSOC subcommittee on NGOs, which, among other things, selects INGOs
for consultative status.
36. For example, it proved impossible to create a national professional body
in the USSR to work on public administration, stimulated by membership of the
International Institute of Administrative Sciences, because public administration
was not considered a science in the USSR.
37. In reviewing the results of the United Nations first Development Decade
(1960-1970), the Secretary General of UNCTAD stressed that the highest priority
should be placed on the persuasion of public opinion and the creation of political
will to avoid a second Development Decade of oven deeper frustration. The danger
lies in the probability that the United Nations system public information programmes
(together with those of the national United Nations Associations) will lead
to informed public, many decision-makers, and UN officials to believe that the
UN is doing all that can or need be done and has the attack on every world problem
well-coordinated. This automatically devalues the activities of other bodies,
reduces the allocation of resources and support to them, dampens initiative
from the local and national level which is not channelled through governmental
and UN channels, and effectively nullifies the type of constructive critic icism
which can lead to renewal of effort, new approaches, and galvanization of the
political will necessary to the accomplish ment of all internation (and UN)
38. David Horton Smith. Future trends in voluntary action. International
Associations. 24, 2, 1972, pp. 166- 169.
39. Anthony Judge. Wanted: New Types of Social Entity. International Associations 23, 3, 1971, pp. 148-170. [text]
Anthony Judge. Communication and International Organizations.
International Associations, 22, 27 1970, pp. 67-79. [text]
40. David Bohm.
The Special Theory of Relativity. Benjamin, 1965, (Appendix on physics
41. Norman J. Schofield: "A topological model of international
relations" (Paper presented at a conference of the Peace Research Society, International,
London, 1971 -- to be published in the Papers of the Society).
42. As an indication of the amount of internationally unrecognized organization
activity on which the more visible INGOs are based. David Horton Smith estimates
for the USA that there are from 30 to 100 voluntary associations per 1000 population
in town with less than 10,000 (5 to 30 per 1000 for larger towns) g ving approximately
5 million voluntary bodies for the USA as a whole. ("Estimation of the total
number of voluntary associations in the United States". Washington, D.C. Center
for a Voluntary Society, 1970, unpublished paper; preliminary investigation
shows that similar per capital figures hold in European countries). An indication
of the amount of ad hoc linkage represented by the meetings of such bodies is
given by a by a study for the Social Work Advisory Service (London). It was
found that those with offices held an average of 23 inside meetings per year
of more than 10 people, and an average of 5 outside meetings per year of which
50 per cent were for more than 200 people.
Anthony Judge. A study into the feasibility of
establishing an administrative centre for a group of voluntary organizations.
London, 1970, summarized in International Associations, 24, 1972, 3, pp. 155-157 [text]
43. Johan Galtung. Non-territorial actors and the problem of peace. Oslo,
Paper of the International Peace Research Institute, 1969.
44. "1 have found in the corporation something that I can explain only in territorial
terms even though it is not strictly territorial. It is a kind of territorial
defense of role or job, and although it certainly operated within individuals,
it is at its most powerful in groups: "my department's responsibility", "my
salesmen's area", "my union's job" .... The result is something I can only call
a quasi-territorial response, a defense of your means of livelihood calling
upon territorial instincts but not precisely or exclusively territorial in its
application". (Antony Jay. The Corporation Man, op.cit. p. 132).