The UN System's Ivory Tower Strategy

and the death knell of INGO Consultative Status

- / -

Discrimination and Fragmentation in the 1970s: an organized response to global crisis (Part 1)
(Originally published in International Associations, 23, 1971, 1, pp. 28-48; PDF version)

INGOs and the Development Decade

At the annual conference in New York at which INGOs are informed of UN plans affecting them, one speaker introduced his talk with the following remarks :

"At the threshold of a new Development Decade, we are by now fully conscious that we must not stay in our ivory tower at the United Nations, that this organization of 126 countries can be terribly inward looking. We have to find some windows to the external world otherwise the Development Decade and the so-called global strategy are going to be a failure, and we think that the NGOs are an institutional instrument we should like to use much more for this." (Philippe de Seynes, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. Goals for the '70s: The Second Development Decade; Global Strategy for the Decade.)

Aside from this remark and a call in the last paragraph for the "mobilization of public opinion" for which we would very much count on those assembled here who, I have no doubt, will be persuaded that this is a useful concept, a useful undertaking" there is no other reference to INGOs. All reference was to the economics of development from the UN perspective.

Copies of the United Nations Report on the International Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade are now available. We note that :

"International cooperation for development must be on a scale commensurate with that of the problem itself. Partial, sporadic and half-hearted gestures, however well intentioned, will not suffice."

and that :

"Economic and social progress is the common and shared responsibility of the entire international community".

And that:



(this space was reserved for comments on the section of the Report referring to the participation of international nongovernmental organizations; we have been reliably informed that the paragraph in question was deleted at the drafting stage)



The reference to the "international community" is unqualified. Each group is free to define it as it wishes. Governmental bodies will therefore define it as being limited to governmental bodies - the more eager nongovernmental bodies will define it to include themselves. Is their assistance wanted ?

This tendency to use umbrella terms to be interpreted by the reader has been commented on in previous articles in this journal [Who needs whom in the Second United Nations Development Decade ? International Associations, October 1969; also Planning for the 1960s in the 1970s. International Associations, March, April, June-July 1970]

On one specific point we note that INGO assistance is desired :

"Private foundations, institutions and organizations will be encouraged to provide further assistance for expanding and diversifying research activities of benefit to developing countries."

And what of the nature of "social development" which is a major concern of INGOs ?

"The ultimate objective of development must be to bring about sustained improvement in the well-being of the individual and bestow benefits on all."

The section in the Report on "human development" contains sub-sections on: population growth, employment, education for development needs, health facilities, nutrition, involving children and youth, housing and the ecological balance. There is no echo of Unesco's suggested definition of development which was communicated to the preparatory committee for the Decade, namely :

"Development is meaningful only if man who is both instrument and beneficiary is also its justification and its end. It must be integrated and harmonized; in other words, it must permit the full development of the human being on the spiritual, moral and material level, thus ensuring the dignity of man in society, through respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The tone of the Report suggests that human development means the creation of economic units with sufficient "social" benefits to keep them content. We are back with the view that

"Development is generally accepted as meaning first and foremost economic development. It implies an effort on the part of each country, where necessary with outside assistance, to take stock of its natural resources and to develop them to their fullest extent." (Mr Gabites. 16th General Conference of Unesco. -Verbatim Reports, 16 C /VR. 18 (prov.), page 26).

This is also the view which prevails in the Report of the Ecosoc Development Planning Committee (Vers un développement accéléré; propositions pour la deuxième Décénnie des Nations Unies pour le développement. New York, 1970, ST / ECA / 128).

After arguing about the importance of adequate social structures which makes any increase in production or income merely one of a number of relevant economic and social indicators, the Report notes that because many of the social indicators are lacking, social goals can only be identified qualitatively. The Report is then able to conclude that in fact economic and social questions are so closely interwoven that there is hardly any sense in making the distinction between them. The remainder of the Report identifies methods of increasing production and income, with a few undeveloped remarks such as :

''La stratégie du développement doit être foncièrement conçue pour les êtres humains; plus ils seront nombreux, plus les besoins seront grands.''

There is no mention of the collaboration of international nongovernmental organizations and the Report ends with the Conclusion :

''De I'avis du Comité, les gouvernements plutôt que d'écouter une opinion publique imprévoyante ne devraient rien négliger pour faire accepter à leurs citoyens la nécessité d'assumer cette responsabilité clans leur propre intérêt. C'est le cas de citer la fameuse maxime française: ''Gouverner c'est prévoir .. Le Comité pense que les gouvernants sauront faire accepter à leurs citoyens une stratégie bien conque du développement mondial.'' (emphasis added).

How does one ensure that a strategy is "well conceived "in a democratic society ?

Again a view such as the following, expressed by the Director General of Unesco, is totally alien to the tone of the Report and the conception of the strategy :

"The idea of development has, in fact, gradually become broader, deeper, and more varied so that going beyond the purely economic aspects of improving man's lot, it now also embraces the so-called social aspects.

... Man is the means and the end of development; he is not the one-dimensional abstraction of homo economicus, but a living reality, a human person, in the infinite variety of his needs, his potentialities and his aspirations... Even the economists now admit that development is not development unless it is total, and that it is no mere figure of speech to talk of cultural development: cultural development is part and parcel of total development." (Address to the Intergovernmental Conference on Institutional, Administrative and Financial Aspects of Cultural Policies, Venice, 1970. Paris, Unesco, p. 43)

The above Report refers only to the importance of consumer education and preparing the new generation for the tasks (defined by the old generation) which await them.


What criteria are used to determine the organizations which are not significant.for peace, development and human survival ? - who checks on the validity of the criteria ?

'.. (consultative status) involves obligations which are onerous in so far as they are taken seriously. The temptation for NGOs is to make only a nominal response to what is required of them or open to them. The temptation for the governments politically active at the UN (if not their concerted policy) is to cut out the NGOs so that they don't have to be taken into account. Here is a theatre of international politics in which what goes on has a bearing on the future of mankind if international institutions and policies are going to develop into the rudiments of a world order. That NGOs should hold on to their part and seek to enlarge its scope in these still early days may be of'first-class importance. It means faithfulness and effectiveness in rather unrewarding work. But the stake is tomorrow.' (H.J. Blackham - Humanism - Pelican Original, 1968, p. 177-8)

The means identified by both Reports for guaranteeing the success of the Decade are the "mobilization of public opinion" (see International Associations, April 1970, on this point). There is no mention whatsoever of international nongovernmental organizations in this context. Perhaps this is what the UN is aiming for :

''Pour ces auteurs, la société de masse trouve sa caractéristique dans le fait que les non-élites, atomisés, sont disponibles, c'est-à-dire ouverts à la mobilisation et à la manipulation des élites. Séparés des groupes de vie indépendants, cherchant confusément une communauté à laquelle se raccrocher, les non-élites risquent donc de glisser dans une pseudo-communauté établie par des élites ''exploitantes''.''(Jean Lohisse. La communication anonyme. Paris, Editions Universitaires, 1969, p. 26).

"In both its capitalist and communist variants ... technocratic planning is econocentric... short-range... essentially undemocratic." (Alvin Toffler. Future Shock; a study of mass bewilderment in the face of change. London, Bodley Head, 1970, p. 397-8).

Technocratic planning is essential to the survival of slow-to-adapt administrations. People survive by creating new institutional forms in response to new situations.

On this basis the Second Development Decade will not be a period in which all possible types of person and organization will work together, catalyzed by the UN, to alleviate a global crisis - it is going to be the internal programme of a modest, under-financed, overburdened, administrative apparatus determined that it knows best - quite literally it is the United Nations Organization's Second Development Decade. It has nothing to do with "We the peoples..." and participation is strictly "by invitation only".

Youth and the UN

Audience : Do you think, Mr Pearson, that there's a tremendous credibility gap between young people and the UN ? I think personally perhaps, representing the young generation more than you, that the UN as a peacemaking organization with a stress on making peace doesn't exist at all. I think this is the general feeling among young people who don't want anything to do with the UN whatsoever. I think this is crucial and I think this is also a very dangerous and regrettable development...
Lester Pearson : I don't quarrel with that assessment and I don't quarrel with the danger inherent in the alienation of most young people from organizations generally of the old type... " (Transcripts of Proceedings; Conference on Human Survival, May 1970, United Nations, New York. Charles F Kettering Foundation, 1970).

INGOs and the 25th Anniversary of the UN

The United Nations decided for the first time not to invite INGOs to its " birthday party". For eight days, during the commemoration in New York in October 1970 of the creation of the United Nations, the privileges of INGOs in consultative status with Ecosoc were withdrawn. INGO representatives were refused entrance to the Secretariat building over that period.

The reason given was that there were too many delegates in the building to accommodate the INGO representatives as well. This would appear to indicate that in future attendance at UN meetings will be governed by the facilities, rather than the facilities selected in terms of the number who could attend.

INGOs and Consultative Status with ECOSOC

"For some time it has been indicated that NGO's have felt the need that considerable thought must be given to their relationship to the UN and to the efficacy of their own work. In the January 1967 meeting of the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, statements requested by a special rapporteur from NGO's were challenged and suppressed. Two months later the "New York Times" quoted from Ramparts Magazine that certain NGO's had received money from the CIA (U.S.A.) through an elaborate arrangement of conduit foundations ... At its renewed session in January 1968, the (ECOSOC) Council Committee (on NGO's) adopted a questionnaire. The first five questions dealt with NGO budgets, contributions from governments, relationship with governments other than financial, whether an organisation had ever been reported as having been under the influence of any government or its agencies, and a breakdown of the professional character of its membership and biographical notes on principal officers. The last three questions were concerned with resolutions on questions of a political nature in the last three years, and whether in the last ten years an organisation had ever criticized a government of a state in which it had no members or had criticized the UN. The political nature of this questionnaire was obvious and as the review progressed it became clear that these questions lent themselves to a trial-like procedure without safeguards....

The review of NGO's (by the ECOSOC Council Committee) started September 1968... There was steadily growing appeal to political considerations in both questions asked and statements of disapproval of certain NGO's. It was, also, evident that some of the Council Committee either did not know or could not accept that an International NGO has constitutional limitation of its control over a national affiliate. .(Consultative Status; Recent Developments and Future Prospects. Eleventh General Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC, 11 /GC / 22, p. 1-2) Geneva, 1969.

An informal view by a United Nations official responsible for relations with NGOs was expressed as follows

''... les Nations Unies ne constituent plus l'institution qu'elles étaient lors de la rédaction de l'article 71 de la Charte. Elles ne sont plus davantage l'organisation qu'elles étaient lors de la célébration de leur vingtième Anniversaire (1966). Elles continueront d'ailleurs à se modifier avec la même rapidité que se modifient les forces en mouvement dans le monde dont elles assurent la représentation. Si les organisations non-gouvernementales désirent participer aussi aux changements qui s'opèrent, elles doivent s'éfforcer de se trouver au centre du mouvement qui s'accomplit.'' (Curtis Roosevelt. Déclaration non-officielle à la onzième conférence des organisations nongouvernementales ayant le statut consultatif auprès d'ECOSOC, Genève 1969, 11 /GC /15, p. 2).

The same official's informal views are reported more recently :

''... il souligne qu'en général, tant ses coIIègues du Secrétariat que les délégués des Etats membres sont, à quelques notables exceptions près, sinon hostiles, au moins complètement indifférents aux ONG. L'une des raisons de cette attitude est qu'un grand nombre de délégués ne comprennent ni le rôle ni la valeur des ONG ... il souligne à nouveau qu'il n'a pu se défendre de l'idée que les déclarations écrites des ONG n'ont guère d'influence, mais qu'on pourrait faire plus avec un peu plus d'imagination. Quant à la politisation des problèmes, il déclare que cela s'applique maintenant à tous les domaines et que dans ce sens, les N.U. ne font que refléter la réalité quotidienne.'' (Résumé d'une Déclaration non-officielle lors d'une réunion avec les ONG, Genève, 1970.)

INGOs and Unesco Member States

"The General Conference...

Invites the Director-General (a) to re-discuss 15 C / DR / FUT 65 in the Administrative Commission of the General Conference with a view to studying the possibility of increasing the allocations to National Commissions by finding other resources, extra-budgetary for example or transferring to National Commissions, for the conduct of certain projects, parts of the subventions budgeted for the non-governmental organizations... .(Draft Resolution submitted by the United Arab Republic to the 16th General Conference of Unesco, October 1970, 16 C/DR.82 Rev concerning Cooperation with National Commissions of Unesco.)

"After having heard the report of the Chairman of the Executive Board, the Conference noted that, in the absence of a positive recommendation from that Board and in accordance with Rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure, the international non-governmental organizations in question could not be invited to participate in the work of the session. "

(Item 6 - Admission to the session of observers from international nongovernmental organizations, on the recommendation of the Executive Board... (Summary in the Journal of the General Conference; sixteenth session. Unesco, 1970, no. 3, IV, page 2.)

"We hope that the programme on "Man and Biosphere" will be constructed along these lines so that it can draw upon the resources and enthusiasm of the scientific world and involve non -governmental organizations and governments alike in a large-scale joint venture... Unesco should take a good look at other intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, at governments and at the world of learning and research and should decide whether it is not in effect, in many fields, duplicating what is being done elsewhere, whether it is not competing instead of co-ordinating, whether it is not following instead of leading."

(Miss Meeri Kalavainen of Finland. General Policy Debate, Unesco 16th General Conference, October 1970, Verbatim Records, 16 C /VR. 7 (prov.), page 18).

A very comprehensive and heavily supported resolution with regard to Unesco and the Second Development Decade (16 C/DR/PRG/1) contains no mention of international nongovernmental organizations, the only indirect reference being

"Calls upon Member States...

To give active support to the extension and strengthening of Unesco's funds-in-trust programme ... by encouraging non-governmental support amongst business firms, professional and religious organizations, and foundations."

"It is unfortunately true that an organization whose activities and successes are known to only a few specialists simply does not exist in the mind of the public at large. Unesco in particular just cannot afford to be satisfied with recognition by an elite alone ...

In peaceful intellectual competition, we cannot afford to draw new frontiers, even where ideologies differ. It is only by appreciating one another's achievements that we can enjoy mutual respect and trust. I should therefore like to urge that Unesco in particular, as a world-wide organization, should in future make a greater effort to collect information from no matter where, and to quote all interesting sources of reference. Increased access to all information, including that of regional and sub-regional organizations, would help remove barriers and reservations and thus contribute towards peace. (Mr. Kirchschlager, Austria, 16the General Conference of Unesco, 16 C /VR. 7 (prov.), p. 4-7).


Nongovernmental organizations and peace seen through the eyes of Unesco

The 16th General Conference of Unesco (October-November 1970) has destroyed the relationship between Unesco and international nongovernmental organizations. The context was Items 9 and 10 on the Agenda. The debate in plenary centred on four topics: Unesco's contribution to peace; Unesco's tasks with respect to the elimination of colonialism; proposals for a long-term plan of integrated action for the advancement of peace and development within the field's of Unesco's competence; and the utilization of Unesco's programmes as means of strengthening cooperation between European States in the interests of peace and security in Europe.

Such was the complexity of the debate, with 6 draft resolutions and 5 amendments on the two Items combined, that a special committee was created to harmonize the texts and produce one draft plenary resolution. This committee had to meet seven times. At the conclusion of all this work INGOs are now faced with the implications of the following paragraphs in a 33 paragraph resolution approved by 68 to 1 with 28 abstentions :

"The General Conference...
Noting that international nongovernmental organizations which are associated with Unesco may play an important part in implementing the objectives of the Organization, including its policy of unremitting opposition to and elimination of colonialism and racialism; and noting further that some of these organizations have branches or affiliates in countries in which colonialism and racialism are practised...

Requests the Director-General to undertake investigations of all international non-governmental organizations enjoying relations with Unesco, which have branches, sections, affiliates or constituent parts in South Africa or Rhodesia or Portuguese-dominated African territories, with respect to the practice of racial discrimination or racial segregation in their policies, activities, or membership or their cooperation in any way with the apartheid policy of the Government of South Africa; and to report thereon to the Executive Board;

Calls upon the Executive Board to take the necessary measures, in the light of the Director-General's report, to cut off, as from 31 December 1971, all relations with those international non-governmental organizations, in respect of which it has not been established, to the satisfaction of the Executive Board, that their branches, sections, affiliates or constituent parts in South Africa, Rhodesia or Portuguese-dominated African territories neither practise racial discrimination or segregation in their policies, their activities or in their membership, nor co-operate in any way with the Government of South Africa in the latter's apartheid policy....

Invites the Director-General... to call on international nongovernmental organizations which cooperate with Unesco for the more effective implementation of the ideals of the Organization in the fields of human rights, peace and international security..." (16 C /108 Add, 14/11 /70).

One of the draft resolutions incorporated into the above had used the following terminology to make the point of the last two paragraphs :

"... as from 31 December 1970 Unesco shall have no dealings with, that is to say, shall not invite to meetings, shall not grant subventions to, shall not consult, and shall not contract out work to, any international nongovernmental organization which has branches... (in Southern Africa)... unless it can be established beyond all doubt that such branches ... do not practice or subscribe to racial segregation or discrimination in any form..." (16 C/DR/ PLEN. 4 Rev).

It should be noted that the approved resolution contains no positive references to INGOs which were not qualified by some critical or negative phrase. And yet history would seem to indicate that it has been, and continues to be, INGOs which are the key force in representing and leading public opinion to more dynamic concepts of peace.



Combat racism in Southern Africa.


1. Obtain highly confidential documentary proof in 1971, from international nongovernmental organizations in consultative status with UNESCO, concerning the degree to which their branches in Southern Africa do not practise racial discrimination.

2. Conduct highly confidential investigation of documents provided during 1971.

3. Cut off contact with all bodies providing inadequate evidence of non-discrimination - on basis of highly confidential information.

4. Publish in 1972, according to the usual procedure, the list of all international nongovernmental organizations in consultative status with UNESCO, including the "purified" list of those with branches in Southern Africa (proved, according to highly confidential information, to be effectively counteracting, clandestinely, the discriminatory laws in Southern Africa. - N.B. Any visible non-collaboration with discriminatory laws is illegal there.)


1. Published list is used in 1972 by governments of Southern Africa as perfectly adequate proof for suppressing the national sections of listed organizations (and their officers) - for clandestine activity - without said governments having to attempt to obtain the necessary highly confidential information.

2. Organizations and people combating racism are suppressed on the basis of evidence freely supplied by UNESCO.

As a note appended to this draft resolution, but equally applicable to the resolution finally voted, the Director-General gave a rough estimate of the number of international nongovernmental organizations in Category A and B consultative status with Unesco "and hence closely associated with Unesco's work" which had national sections in South Africa. This list is printed on the preceding page. (Note that the list does not include organizations with members in Portuguese territories or Rhodesia.) 77 INGOs are listed. These 77 bodies have a total of 253 links with the UN-system which are now threatened by this investigation - in particular any INGO acquiring recognition (A or B) by UNESCO automatically acquires recognition by ECOSOC. The 253 links are made up as follows: 73 with ECOSOC (3 1, 28 11, 42 Roster), 23 with ILO (1 major, 22 Special list), 17 with FAO (9 consultative status, 4 specialized, 4 liaison), 77 with UNESCO (16 A, 61 B), 13 with WHO, 3 with ICAO, 3 with ITU, 5 with WMO, 3 with IMCO, 4 with IAEA, 28 with UNICEF, 4 with UNCTAD.

A few extracts from the debate on the paragraph in question, "30(d)", are appropriate at this point (unfortunately it is impossible for us to quote from the key Russian and Arab interventions which are given in the original language in the provisional verbatim records) :

''Nous comprenons fort bien les préoccupations qui ont été formulées au sujet de la politique de ségrégation raciale...

Cependant le problème qui nous occupe est plus complexe. D'abord les organisations non gouvernementales ne sont pas I'Unesco. Ce sont des organisations précieuses certes à I'Unesco, qui gravitent autour d'elle, et en particulier celles dont il s'agit ici qui ont le Statut consultatif, elles lui sont même probablement indispensables; elles le seront plus encore dans la perspective qui nous a été tracée par le Directeur général d'une collaboration accrue entre elles et I'Unesco, mais elles ne sont pas l'Organisation. Elles bénéficient d'une certaine indépendance, d'une certaine liberté d'action qui sont en elles-mêmes de bonnes choses et doivent être sauvegardées. Pour nous, il y a donc en tout état de cause une ligne de démarcation à tracer entre ce que peuvent être nos préoccupations, même les plus légitimes, concernant des problèmes politiques de haute importante, et ce que doit être la substance des activités de ces organisations.


All international nongovernmental organizations with branches in the Republic of South Africa which are proved to be satisfactorily combating discrimination - and thus are permitted to retain their Consultative Status with UNESCO - will automatically lose their Consultative Status with ECOSOC, according to the following ECOSOC rules, which apply, since the Republic is an UN Member State :

"The consultative status of nongovernmental organizations with the Economic and Social Council and the listing of those on the Roster shall be suspended up to three years or withdrawn in the following cases :

... (b) If the organization clearly abuses its consultative status by systematically engaging in unsubstantiated or politically motivated acts against Member States of the United Nations contrary to and incompatible with the principles of the Charter.''

(ECOSOC Resolution 1296 (XLIV), 25 June 1968, para 36)

Furthermore, all international nongovernmental organizations without branches in Southern Africa should, for fear of jeopardizing their Consultative Status, refrain from criticizing the activities of the governments in question - according to the implications of the 1968 questionnaire to NGOs from the ECOSOC Council Committee on NGOs, in which it was asked whether in the last ten years the NGO had ever criticized a government of a State in which it had no members.


This is a classic 'double bind" situation but then according to UNESCO logic, the United Nations is also practising apartheid - for the UN has a member government in Southern Africa. South Africa is a Member State.

Au surplus, chacun sait que la plupart au moins de ces organisations font l'impossible, malgré des conditions souvent difficiles, pour s'adapter aux circonstances dans lesquelles elles sont amenées à oeuvrer, circonstances qui variant à l'infini suivant les pays, les régimes et les législations. Elles doivent donc, puisqu'elles y exercent des activités dont chacun s'accorde à reconnaître l'utilité et la nécessité, tenir compte de ces données de fait qu'elles ne sauraient négliger sans renoncer, dans beaucoup d'endroits, à des travaux féconds et même indispensables à la coopération internationale.

En outre, elles s'inspirent pour la plupart d'objectifs qui sont précisément ceux que nous poursuivons ici. En général elles sont donc incontestablement à l'abri de tout soupçon et constituent bien au contraire pour l'Organisation une aide précieuse. Il est possible que, dans certains cas, des défaillances existent ou des pratiques qui peuvent être considérées comme répréhensibles. On doit cependant, tout en les reconnaissant, s'efforcer de les apprécier avec circonspection, prendre le temps de les examiner, et examiner aussi les meilleures méthodes pour éliminer ces pratiques...

L'Unesco elle-même doit-elle les sanctionner ? Elle doit, certes, en tirer des conséquences, mais le mot de ''sanction'' sous une forme ou sous une autre nous parait lui aussi peu approprié. Les organisations non gouvernementales sont des institutions indépendantes: elles doivent considérer elles-mêmes les conséquences de leurs actions, mais elles n'ont pas à subir à proprement parler de sanction. Encore une fois, elles ne sont pas I'Unesco.

Ma conclusion sera brève. A notre avis, nous sommes sur le point de prendre une décision sinon grave du moins fort sérieuse, et nous estimons que les conséquences d'une erreur de tactique dans ce domaine peuvent être fort graves pour les organisations non gouvernementales elles-mêmes, pour leurs travaux, pour I'Unesco plus encore, pour son renom et pour ses conditions de travail. Déjà l'on sait que certaines organisations non gouvernementales se sont vivement émues, qu'elles nous l'ont fait savoir, qu'elles ont même envisagé de tirer certaines conclusions des décisions regrettables qui pourraient être prises dans cette enceinte ..(M. Maillard, France, 16 C /VIR.32 (prov.), p. 31-32).

"I also express gratitude to the delegate of France for the amendment which he has submitted, but I am afraid there is some misunderstanding, because we do not say in our draft that we want to break with the NGOs.

What we do say is that Unesco should not associate itself with NGOs which are active in South Africa. After all we are not the masters of the NGOs, we only associate with them and we are only suggesting that we do not associate with those NGOs which are active in South Africa, Mozambique and Rhodesia. If they also value the high values of Unesco, they can still continue to associate with us if they will cut off their affinities with those governments which are practising discrimination. I think the delegate of France has misunderstood the facts and I appeal to him to read the text again. I am sure that as he is also a lover of peace and an opponent of apartheid and all similar activities he will join with us in making some effort to try to dissociate our Organization from the people who practise apartheid. Otherwise we have nothing against NGOs. NGOs can after all take their own decisions; those which have branches in South Africa can be struck off our register. They are masters of themselves - we only suggest that we should not associate ourselves with that category: they are still free to do what they like. We simply appeal to them to dissociate themselves from those countries. (Mr Mfinanga, Tanzania, 16 C /VR. 32 (prov.), p. 34)

"It seems to my delegation, Mr President, that this draft resolution has really frightening implications for the future of our relationships with the non-governmental organizations...

Presumably, if this resolution were adopted, the Director-General would be obliged ... to address a circular to all the non-gouvernmental organizations listed in the document. He would then ask the question which is almost impossible for anyone to answer: "Are you satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that your branches, sections, affiliates or constituent parts, in the Southern African territories, do not practise or subscribe to racial segregation or discrimination in any form ?"

It is virtually impossible, Mr. President, to prove that sort of negative ..(Mr. Mathieson, UK, 16th General Conference of Unesco, 16 C /VR 27 (prov.) p. 30).

"... any attempt, I say, to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the infallibility of these organizations concerning the racial issue, will expose them to the government authorities concerned and may end up in limiting their freedom of action, thus further isolating local forces working for human rights and social justice." (Mr. Graham, U.S.A., 16th General Conference of Unesco, 16 /VR 29 (prov.) p. 6).

''D'autres réserves ont porté sur les organisations internationales non gouvernementales et sur l'insuffisance do leur représentativité internationale; certains aspects de cette insuffisance ont d'ailleurs été évoqués au cours du débat sur la paix qui va tout à I'heure reprendre. Eh bien, ces réserves me paraissent, elles aussi, justifiées et je crois qu'avant de déléguer à ces organisations (qui sont d'ailleurs très disposées à faire un effort) de plus grandes responsabilités clans la mise on oeuvre du programme international, il faut s'assurer qu'elles sont internationales dans leur composition et dans leur esprit. Sans doute, ne pourra-t-on progresser dans cette direction que graduellement, mais l'essentiel, c'est que l'on soit d'accord sur la direction. .(Directeur Général, 16e Conference Générale de I'Unesco, 16 C /VR. 28 (prov.), p. 24).

"The first observation we want to make is on the strategy proposed in regard to the location of the investment of Unesco's funds - where the money will be spent....

An Ironic Possibility on the occasion of the

International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination

Just what would happen if one international nongovernmental organization dared...

History shows that Human Rights have never been simply given to man - they have had to be demanded, taken or fought for by "fanatics" on the appropriate occasion - some would say that a man should not have rights until he has the strength to take and defend them. This is also true of the Rights of Organizations - therefore, if there is any foundation to the infringement of these Rights, as may be apparent from these pages - even if only expressed as an extension of Human Rights - then is there any thing to prevent such infringements being brought as test cases before the appropriate Commission on Human Rights ?

What sort of test case might be brought by the NGO before such bodies ? Perhaps against the :

  • United Nations Organization, by arguing that there had been discrimination against the NGO's interests - and its right through its own conception of balanced social development to ensure the furtherance of certain activities - as a result of its subtly implicit exclusion from full participation in the im plementation of the International Strategy for Development during the course of the 2nd United Nations Development Decade (1971-1980).
  • ECOSOC Council Committee on NGOs, by arguing that it had been summarily "tried" without adequate representation or safeguards during the 223rd to 144th sessions of the Committee (January-April 1968).
  • UNESCO Executive Board, by arguing that it had been accused, and <<tried >>, and/ or demoted from consultative status without adequate safeguards or representation as a result of the 1971 racism review.

(What of the rights of "freedom of association" when an NGO is forced by UNESCO to cut off relations with its South African section or lose its consultative status what if the section then attempted to get recognition of such treatment as being an infringement of its own rights ?)

There could be just sufficient evidence for an expert lawyer to build up each case - but would they be "watertight"? In the case of individuals, equivalent cases of subtle or overt infringement of human rights would appear to have been successfully argued - some against States - but would the extensions also be valid ?

How would the Commissions handle such cases - each would require very careful interpretation of the extent of the ill-defined Rights of Organizations as an extension of Human Rights.

Such test cases - between friends with the same long-term objectives - would, whether won or lost, be extremely interesting as a means of progressively defining more clearly, and in public, the Rights of Organizations - or their absence - in an international setting. They would also serve as a warning against future sweeping accusations and casual discrimination

Such an unprecedented strategy on the part of NGOs is perhaps being forced upon them by trends in the UN's mode of operation - a highly political body is not swayed by ideals or a-political issues unless they can be tied to political ends. Decisions arising from the widely recognized "politicization" of the Specialized Agencies can perhaps only be matched, in the eyes of Member States, by an appeal to international law.

... the consequences could be incalculable for international activity.

A large proportion of the activities will be contracted out to international nongovernmental organizations. The vast majority of these organizations have their headquarters sited in developed countries [N.B. All U.N Agencies have their headquarters in developed countries.]. Europe in particular, and many do not at all operate in several developing countries... I suggest...that the assistance to nongovernmental organizations be severely reduced, Unesco equipping itself to do most of the things which it now passes on to nongovernmental organizations... " (Mr. Romain, Trinidad and Tobago, 16 C/VR. 21 (prov.) -P. 10-11).

''L'action en faveur de la paix n'est pas en premier lieu une lutte contre quelque chose, mais une action en faveur de quelque chose, c'est-à-dire la dignité de la personne humaine. C'est à partir de ce principe positif qu'il faut mesurer les inégalités dans le monde; c'est ce principe qui doit commander la lutte contre l'inégalité. Quand nous luttons contre le racisme, c'est parce que ce fléau est contraire au respect de la dignité humaine.'' (M. De Hoog, Pays-Bas, 16 C /VR. 26 (prov.), p. 16).

''Ne cédons pas totalement à la tentation de vouloir tout réglementer. Il faut que les hommes puissent s'exprimer spontanément et librement. Dans le domaine des idées et dans le cadre de projets qui ont permis à I'Unesco de jouer son rôle d'animateur, les organisations non gouvernementales nous ont apporté une contribution qui est loin d'être négligeable; et leur témoignage est essentiel pour que nous soyons assures de travailler vraiment pour les hommes et pour I'homme.'' (M. Olivier Guichard, France, 16 C /VR. 6 (prov.), p. 24).,

''Monsieur le Président, maintenant que j'ai eu le temps de lire le projet d'amendement DR / PLEN / 19, permettez que je donne mon opinion. Il est dit au paragraphe (b) :

''Demande au Conseil de prendre ... toutes les mesures nécessaires pour rompre ... toutes relations avec les organisations internationales non gouvernementales à l'égard desquelles il ne serait pas établi ... que leurs branches ... ne pratiquent pas la discrimination ni la ségrégation raciale... . Autrement dit, ces organisations internationales pratiquent la discrimination raciale et doivent prouver qu'elles ne la pratiquent pas. Monsieur le Président, c'est là une proposition parfaitement inacceptable pour ma délégation et pour le sentiment du droit qui existe dans mon pays. Je voudrais que cela soit clair. On ne peut accuser quelqu'un de quelque chose qui n'a pas été prouvé et lui dire . prouvez-moi que vous n'êtes pas coupable .. C'est contraire à tout sens du droit... . (M. De Hoog, Pays-Bas, 16e Conférence Générale de l'Unesco, 16 C /VR. 34 (prov.), p. 9-10).

''Après ce que M. le délégué de la France a dit hier de l'mportance des ONG pour toute l'action de l'organisation, je n'ai pas besoin de revenir sur cet aspect de la question. ie rappellerai seulement que, ... les ONG, si elles sont indépendantes, n'en sont pas moins indispensables pour la vie de l'Unesco. Or le paragraphe 30 (d) met très sérieusement en cause leur indépendance, et il nous semble déjà, pour cette seule raison, inacceptable. De plus il donne au Directeur général une responsabilité politique très lourde que nous ne devrions pas lui imposer et qu'il lui serait difficile d'assumer. .(M. De Hoog, Pays-Bas, .16e Conférence Générale de l'Unesco, 16 C /VR. 33 (prov.) p. 10-11).

''Nous trouvons inadmissible qu'un organe gouvernemental fasse pression sur des organisations non gouvernementales privées. Nous ne pouvons approuver que l'on mette toutes les organisation non gouvernementales au banc des accusés et nous trouvons inacceptables que, contrevenant à tous les principes juridiques, on prévoie que ce sont les accusés qui auraient à prouver leur innocence.

Le paragraphe en question présente en outre un très grave danger pour I'Unesco car, s'iI était adopté, I'Unesco se trouverait peut-être dans l'obligation de rompre toutes relations avec certaines organisations qui contribuent de manière essentielle à son oeuvre. N'oublions pas que certaines des ONG les importantes, dans les domaines scientifiques, par exemple, n'ont pas besoin de I'Unesco, mais que I'Unesca ne peut atteindre ses buts sans elles.''(M. Hummel, Suisse, 16e Conférence Générale de I'Unesco, 16 C /VR. 33 (pro.v.) p. 13-14).

''Mesdames, Messieurs, vous êtes devant un problème extrèmement important et vous allez prendre une décision de haute signification et peut-être de grande conséquence... J'en arrive maintenant au paragraphe 30 (d)...

Mais toute question d'emplacement mise à part, considérons-le en lui-même et du point de vue de sa mise en oeuvre.... Il s'agit là d'un point sur lequel je dois une explication aux organisations internationales non gouvernementales.

Comme I'a rappelé hier M. le délégué de la Trinité et Tobago, on aurait d'ailleurs tort, de croire que le problème n'a pas préoccupé les organisations internationales non gouvernementales. Celles-ci - ou du moins certaines d'entre elles - ont nettement montré qu'elles étaient conscientes de l'obligation morale qu'elles avaient, dans le cadre de leur association avec I'Unesco, d'agir conformément aux règles et aux idéaux de cette organisation; et les travaux d'un groupe de travail du Comité permanent des ONG indiquent, même si la position qu'ils ont permis de prendre ne peut pas être considérée comme liant juridiquement toutes les ONG, que ces organisations ne sont nullement insensibles à ce problème et qu'elles l'ont considéré avant même qu'il ne soit évoqué ici, en fait dès 1969 et même plus tôt. Le Secrétariat dispose déjà d'assez d'éléments d'information pour savoir que, sous des formes diverses, les organisations internationales non gouvernementales ont le désir d'être en entière union avec I'Unesco sur le plan éthique aussi bien que sur le plan intellectuel et technique: si bien que, si l'enquête dont il est question au paragraphe 30 (d) m'était effectivement confiée, je n'interpréterais nullement cela comma signifiant que je dois à priori présumer la culpabilité de ces organisations: bien au contraire ! Cette enquête ne devrait en aucune manière prendre l'aspect d'un réquisitoire ou d'un interrogatoire s'adressant à de présumés coupables. Cela serait tout à fait injuste à l'égard de l'ensemble des organisations internationales non gouvernementales.''(Directeur Général, 16e Conférence Générale de I'Unesco, 16 C / VR. 33 (prov.) p. 24).

In this sort of context - where the friends of the INGOs cited above represent, for the most part, those governments whose support in a colonialism /racialism debate amounts to a "kiss of death" - what hope is there that anything meaningful could come from the following proposal, even if the Director-General so desired it :

"I have already said that the participation of the National Commissions and international nongovernmental organizations in the implementation of Unesco's programme should be increased.... The moment has therefore come, I believe, to make a thorough review of the way in which Unesco collaborates with these two categories of organization. Practices have grown up which, with the passing of time, have become mere habit. They should be revised and, if need be, dispensed with, so that a new spirit - a spirit of greater initiative and generosity - may come into relations on both sides. I said "on both sides" advisedly. The National Commissions and the nongovernmental organizations - particularly the latter - should make a greater effort to find ways of intensifying aid to Unesco, and not simply aid from Unesco. Unesco, for its part, should modify both its working methods and its approach particularly at the Secretariat level, in order to give a fresh impetus to cooperation, which too often is principally a matter of procedure and red tape, whereas its fundamental property should be to give the widest possible scope to spontaneity of mind." (Long-term outline plan for 1971-1976 presented by the Director-General, para. 85).

INGOs, privacy and national and international data banks

We are moving into the era of the international data bank and network.

"Data Exchange within a National Data Processing Network is a highlight for automation, but it produces a great problem for national and personal security and the protection of privacy.... We can think of all data of a person in one physical data record; that opens nearly unlimited possibilities of data access and exchange. On the other hand we have and we must have in future even stronger demands of security and privacy." (OECD, Directorate for Scientific Affairs. Computer Utilisation in Member Countries; Meeting of Panel on Public Data Banks and the Protection of Privacy, 1969. OECD, DAS / SPR / 69.57, p. 17).

But security for whom and privacy from whom ? The current and planned practice of focusing on the nodes or units in society in effect amounts to establishing a link initiated and controlled by the State between it and the individual or other social entity. (a "We-say, you-do" link) without any safeguards other than those approved by the State guided by its own selected advisors. The individual is therefore naked before the State. The State controls or "permits" everything. It is the implications of this thinking which we see reflected in UN thinking.

It would be interesting to speculate on whether such administrative power could be effectively and democratically used with the type of short-term thinking characteristic of government policy-making, to produce a satisfactorily developed fulfulling world society - just what new things does the State expect to do ?

Why, for example, is the emphasis not taken off the exposed social entity, treated as a naked passive unit and placed on the relationships which exist between social entities ? This would give privacy and freedom to such entities. The State still has adequate information and society documents collaboration rather than emphasizing the fragmentation of society and the atomization of the individual.

The approach being adopted is based entirely on governmental criteria and with no concept of service to the community in terms of the community's nongovernmental needs, the improvement of the democratic process and the facilitation of social change. In particular there is absolutely no realization, even within the UN, of how to use such information services to increase the freedom and social potential of the individual social entity. There is just vague recognition, used to justify immediate action in terms of "blinkered" criteria, but without specific proposals :

"Privacy is ... defined as "the voluntary withdrawal of the individual from society". Experience suggests that the opportunity of voluntary withdrawal is essential for the intellectual and spiritual health of the individual and for the well-being of the society of which he forms part. The development of mechanised data banks and the efficient storage and communication of information by computer offers the hope of society with a prosperous, fruitful and exciting future. The rewards are indeed so desirable that it is vital to ensure that their attainment is not jeopardised by disregard of the attendant dangers." (OECD, Directorate for Scientific Affairs. Computer Utilisation in Member Countries; Social Consequences of Computers - Public data banks and the protection of privacy. OECD, DAS / SPR / 69.62, p. 6)

Whilst discreetly implementing complex data networks, governments are treading hesitantly in public because of the privacy issue and the threat to human rights. Such moves are being made with the out-of-date safeguards of existing legal instruments ("In most countries the laws relating to privacy and breach of confidence are ill-defined, rarely invoked and sometimes non-existent. " OECD, DAS / SPR / 69.62). And yet we hear that :

"According to the technical possibilities all responsible authorities and organizations should participate in defining the data catalogs, solving the legal problems, and planning the step-by-step build-up of effective information systems. (OECD, DAS / SPR / 69.57, p. 16).

Who defines "responsible" and what dangers are implicit in the non-defined term "organizations" ? In a governmental context this most probably means all bodies on which government thinks it depends for assistance ("everyone" in the Jackson Report) - but not those bodies on which government depends for criticism. There is no recognition that it is by ensuring that the traditional democratic watchdogs on bureaucratic, conscious and unconscious, malpractice - namely nongovernmental organizations and concerned citizens - participate fully in the use of such systems that the feared abuse can be avoided and be seen to have been avoided. Just as workers have to learn new tasks in an automated factory, nongovernmental bodies have to learn new tasks with respect to government controlled data networks - what is government doing about the retraining - what is the UN doing - do they want nongovernmental criticism to be excluded in the new setting ?

Why has there never been any request from the UN that nongovernmental bodies should indicate how they could function within the new framework - why does the new UN information system (described in the notorious "Chapter 6" of the Jackson Report on the Capacity Study of the UN Development System) not mention the participation of nongovernmental organizations in spite of the fact that "everyone" relevant to such a system was consulted ? Why has Unesco not examined, in the design stages, the manner in which consultative status INGOs could make use of its new computer system and the pre-existing obstacles to such use ?

Once again we see government action carried out without recognition of the distorting effects on social (as opposed to "social welfare") processes - but this time the implications are more far reaching and permanent once implemented - data networks are very expensive to modify once implemented - and 1984 is not far away.

INGOs and multidisciplinary programmes

Some INGOs, and the U.I.A. in particular, have been totally frustrated when attempting to mesh their own programmes with those of the UN Agencies. If the INGO initiates the programme and seeks some form of collaboration with the Agency, unless the INGO programme can be inserted within the conceptual framework of an Agency programme, collaboration is not possible. If the INGO programme crosses agency administrative boundaries, i.e. if it is a multidisciplinary programme, UN Agencies are almost totally incapable of interacting with it. This is partly due to the organization of departments on a disciplinary basis. Much could be said on these points, but consider the following :

"Suppose that an organizational problem is completely solvable by one of the disciplines we have considered. How is the manager who controls the system to know which one ? Or, for that matter, how is a practitioner of any one discipline to know in a particular case if another discipline is better equipped to handle the problem than is his ? It would be rare indeed if a representative of any one of these disciplines did not feel that his approach to a particular organizational problem would be very fruitful, if not the most fruitful....

But, as systems analysts know, few of the problems that arise can adequately be handled within any one discipline. Such systems are not fundamentally mechanical, chemical, biological, psychological, social, economic, political, or ethical. These are merely different ways of looking at such systems. Complete understanding of such systems requires an integration of these perspectives. .(R.L. Ackoff. Systems, organizations and interdisciplinary research. General Systems Yearbook, 5, 1960, Society for General Systems Research, pp. 1-8).

"Co-operation between the disciplines is by no means an easy matter, since the various branches of learning have gradually isolated themselves, developing their own apparatus of research, and wish to keep their respective spheres free from the taint of outside influence. The process of integration has been set in motion, but it is still far from being completed."(Bert V.A. Röling. Peace research - the science of survival. Unesco Courier, November 1970, p. 32).


Here is an excerpt from a speech concerning co-operation between the UNHCR and Voluntary Agencies in Africa :

The High Commissioner stated that delays and set-backs in initiating and carrying out some UNHCR projects in Africa have resulted from the fact that there is not in Africa the same effective network of Voluntary Agencies, capable of acting as the operational partners of UNHCR, as exists in Europe.

While this is true as a generalization, subject to some outstanding exceptions in the case of a few of the larger, well-endowed Voluntary Agencies, I would suggest that it is not a surprising discovery. In fact, if my memory serves me well, it was precisely this almost total lack of indigenous organizations in many, many parts of Africa which was the reason that the UNHCR found it necessary to undertake some operational work of its own when the Committee took the plunge into Africa some four or more years ago...

I would suggest that this whole question of direct operations by the intergovernmental organizations versus an operational contractual partnership with and through the Voluntary Agencies, is one which the Committee might wish to review, in the light of the experience which is taking place in Africa. The Voluntary Agencies, needless to say, would hope to be called upon to participate in such a study, which would have important implications for them. (Statement made by Mr Garett Ackerson, UN Executive Committee of the UNHCR, 21st session, October 1970).

INGOs and international legal status or facilities

An early important step taken by The Hague Conference on Private International Law resulted in the adoption in 1956 of a Convention concerning the legal recognition of societies, associations and foreign foundations. This has only been ratified by five of the Conference's Member States. In addition it only covers recognition, not the activity of such bodies.

In an effort to improve the international status of INGOs both to facilitate their operation and to ensure recognition of their social significance, the U.I.A. after consultation with appropriate experts, submitted to the Director General of Unesco in May 1959 a "Draft Convention aiming at facilitating the work of international nongovernmental organizations". (see text in International Associations 1959, no. 7, pp. 510-511). This led to the following :

''... C'est avec le plus grand intérêt que j'ai pris connaissance, ainsi que mes collègues de cet avant-projet dont l'importance ne saurait nous échapper. Il est toutefois évident qu'un accord international de cette nature est susceptible d'intéresser, au même titre, l'Organisation des Nations Unies et d'autres institutions spécialisées; c'est pourquoi j'ai jugé nécessaire de consulter à ce sujet le Comité administratif de Coordination, dont la prochaine session se tiendra au mois d'octobre 1959 à New York. Je ne manquerai pas de vous tenir informé des suites que le Comité aura décidé de donner à votre initiative...-(René Maheu, Directeur Général par interim de I'Llnesco, 17juillet 1959).

''... le Secrétariat a procédé à I'examen des mesures particulières qui pourraient être prises en faveur des organisations non gouvernementales par l'Unesco et, éventuellement par d'autres organisations du système des Nations Unies, en vue d'apporter une solution pratique à- certains problèmes auxquels se réfère le projet de Convention de votre Union. Le Directeur général espère pouvoir présenter des propositions concrètes au Comité administratif de coordination, ... en octobre 1960.''(Extrait d'une lettre de René Maheu, Directeur Général Adjoint de I'Unesco, 17juin 1960).

''Lors de sa 31ème session (octobre 1960), le Comité a pris note d'un rapport que je lui avais soumis sur les mesures que j'envisage de mettre à l'étude en vue de favoriser l'activité des organisations non gouvernementales. A la lumière de ces informations, le Comité a estimé qu'il n'y avait pas lieu de prendre de nouvelles mesures en l'état actuel des choses.''(Extrait d'une lettre de Vittorio Veronese, Directeur Général, Unesco, 23 décembre 1960).

'' 2. Problèmes du fonctionnement des organisations internationales non gouvernementales.

(16) Ayant été saisi en 1959, Par I'Union des associations internationales, d'un projet de convention internationale visant à faciliter les activités des organisations internationales non gouvernementales, le Directeur général a procédé, après consultation du Comité administratif de coordination des Nations Unies, -a I'examen de mesures pratiques, d'une portée plus limitée, qui seraient susceptibles de favoriser le développement des activités de ces organisations. Parmi les mesures envisagées, figurent notamment I'application plus libérale de I'Accord pour l'importation d'objets de caractère éducatif, scientifique et culturel ainsi que de celui qui vise à faciliter la circulation internationale du matériel visuel et auditif de caractère éducatif, scientifique et culturel...''.(Extrait du Rapport du Directeur G6n6ral de l'Unesco sur I'Activité de l'organisation en 1960).

This resulted, by agreement with the Customs Cooperation Council, in the inclusion of certain facilities for the importation of goods destined for use in international meetings in a 1961 Convention. A significant step but on a secondary issue, namely a symptom of the malaise is treated but not the cause.

Since that time, contacts have been made with the FAO, principally via the regular Conferences of international organizations for the joint study of programme and activities in the field of agriculture in Europe (sponsored by the FAO) [G.P. Speeckaert. -Statut légal des organisations internationales non-gouvernementales. Rapport (et) Analyse des réponses faites au questionnaire. (pour la) 14e Conférence des organisations internationales pour l'étude en commun des plans d'activité clans le domaine de I'agriculture en Europe, Paris, 1968. Bruxelles, Union des Associations Internationales, 4 + 11p.]. The FAO recommended action by the Council of Europe on a regional basis. A lengthy study has been undertaken [Legal Status of international Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs); analysis of the replies given by the NGOs to the questionnaire of the Directorate of Legal Affairs. Strasbourg, Council of Europe, J /Dir (69) 1, 20 (in English and French versions).] and an interim report to the above Conference in 1969 indicated that

"... two kinds of action are in principle possible for the Council of Europe :

a) relatively short-term action consisting of the preparation of recommendations by the Committee of Ministers.... If such recommendations are made, the Governments of the Council of Europe would be requested, from time to time, how they have been implemented in their respective countries;

b) long-term action, consisting of the preparation of a European Convention ..(Legal Status of International Nongovernmental Organizations. Secretariat Note for the 15th Conference of International Organizations for the Joint Study of Programmes and Activities in the Field of Agriculture in Europe, February 1969 FAO European Commission of Agriculture, 1969.

Participants felt that both types of initiative should be undertaken in parallel, since the Convention would, if undertaken, require "8 - 10 years" to have any effect. Even this avenue has now been blocked for an unknown period, as the following letter indicates :

... j'attire votre attention sur I'état actuel de l'étude menée depuis quelques années, sur recommandation de la F.A.0. par notre Direction des Affaires juridiques concernant le statut juridique des Organisations non gouvernementales. Malgré nos espoirs, nous n'avons pas réussi à ce stade à faire adopter par le Comité des Ministres du Conseil de l'Europe une proposition tendant à- l'élaboration, sur la base des résultats de ladite étude et dans le cadre du programme de travail intergouvernemental, de recommandations en cette matière à adresser aux Gouvernements de nos Etats membres. Cette impossibilité est due au fait que, lors du récent réexamen des activités du Conseil de l'Europe dans le domaine juridique, le Comité des Ministres s'est trouvé en présence d'un très grand nombre de propositions d'activités nouvelles parmi lesquelles il lui fallait nécessairement opérer un choix selon des priorités à accorder en tenant compte des ressources disponibles pour le programme de travail de l'Organisation. Or, le problème du statut juridique des Organisations non gouvernementales n'a pas obtenu à cette occasion la priorité nécessaire pour son inscription au programme de travail intergouvernemental du Conseil de l'Europe. -(Extrait d'une lettre à I'U.A.l., octobre 1970, de Paul Heim, Cabinet du Secrétaire Général, Conseil de l'Europe)

Note that in the framework of the European Economic Community the decision has been taken to stress the problem of the business and profit multinational nongovernmental bodies separately with the object of defining a "société européenne". This will stunt the development of nonprofit bodies (including many trade associations) which should parallel that of the profit bodies [See : P. Saunders. -Société anonyme européenne; projet d'un statut d'une société anonyme européenne; textes. Bruxelles. Communauté économique européenne, 1966; also: Le projet de société commerciale européenne. Notes et études documentaires (La documentation française), 18 septembre 1970, no 3719.].

No further action has been taken by any UN Agency. In the current atmosphere such action would appear to be politically impracticable. In parallel with this there is a difference in view point between jurists on the existence, and, presumably, the significance of INGOs :

''Des associations revêtant les formes d'une organisation internationale peuvent être créées par des personnes de droit privé ou de droit public non étatiques ... Mais, n'étant pas formées par des Etats, ce ne sont pas Ià des organisations internationales au sens strict des termes.'' (W.J. Ganshof van der Meersch.-Organisations Européennes. Bruxelles, Emile Bruylant, 1966).

In this volume of 580 pages, 12 lines are devoted to nongovernmental organizations.

But consider the view of Professor G.L Morozov, Directeur du département des organisations internationales de I'lnstitut d'Economie Mondiale et des Relations Internationales (Moscou) :

''Analysant les changements intervenus dans le monde à la suite de la révolution d'octobre et des victoires du socialisme ... L.I. Brejnev remarque que ''les mouvements démocratiques auxquels participent de larges couches de la population, ont pris un élan considérable''... Nier l'importance des OING dans les relations internationales, ainsi que l'existence d'un minimum d'éléments de droit, qui donne à un grand nombre de ces organisations la possibilité d'exercer leurs activités, équivaut à ignorer les faits objectifs...

Afin que les OING puissant exercer des activités normales, il est indispensable également qu'elles puissent disposer de quelques règles de droit international. La pratique crée les formes spécifiques d'un tel minimum de règles de droit international dont le fondement réside principalement en la coopération des divers états sur le territoire desquels une OING donnée fait se tenir les assemblées de ses organes, ou d'autres de ses manifestations. Les nécessités ultérieures démontreront inévitablement qu'il est indispensable de fixer par des conventions les normes correspondantes.'' (G.I. Morozov. -Les organisations internationales non gouvernementales et le droit international. International Associations, 1969, no. 3, pp. 130-8; traduit de la revue mensuelle ''Le Droit et l'Etat Soviétique'', 1968, 4.)

And with regard to human rights and economic development we see another picture :

''Notre conclusion dès lors est que le régime des droits et devoirs de la personne morale en regard du droit international général ou particulier n'a pas trouvé une solution définitive.

L'économie mondiale devient de plus en plus complexe et les relations de plus en plus interdépendantes. Les pays exportateurs de capitaux prennent conscience de la nécessité d'aider d'autres régions moins favorisées du globe: on ne peut cependant pas leur demander d'aller jusqu'à la catastrophe et des garanties efficaces doivent leur être offertes.

D'une manière plus générale d'ailleurs dans une Société où la personne morale se voit reconnaître une existence juridique - que celle-ci soit une association, une société commerciale ou une personne publique -, il nous semble indispensable de lui attribuer certains droits et de lui imposer des obligations précises.

Pour ces motifs, il serait sans doute heureux qu'elle puisse bénéficier d'un régime juridique international distinct, propre à sa nature, et résolvant beaucoup des problèmes donnant actuellement lieu à discussion.'' (S. Marcus-Helmons, Directeur du Département des Droits de I'Homme, ''Les personnes morales et le droit international'' In Université Catholique de Louvain. Premier colloque du Département des Droits de I'Homme; les droits de I'homme et les personnes morales. Emile Bruylant, 1970, P. 80-1).

What appears to be lacking is the universal social recognition of the function of nongovernmental bodies, as such, whether profit or nonprofit oriented. For without such recognition - thought out with as much multidisciplinary care as was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - any Convention will be based on a limited (and, in view of its complexity, distorted) understanding of the significance of this social phenomenon and will merely act as a "straightjacket" for creative social development.

INGOs and human survival

The report of a May 1970 Conference on Human Survival at the United Nations Secretariat sponsored by two U.S. national nongovernmental bodies, which amongst other things debated the question of how public support could be generated for the United Nations, makes no mention of nongovernmental bodies (with the exception of multinational corporations), except in the following indicative excerpts from its Press Conference :

Third Organizational "Sex"- Non-Non-Governmental

"Audience : Considering the great proliferation of nongovernmental conferences - yours is one - do you regard this as an indication that the people should take over the running of the UN rather than the states?

Lester Pearson : Ours is not a nongovernmental conference in the sense that we represent organizations. We are just here as individuals. We are not only nongovernmental, we are even non-official in that sense. And I would like to think that perhaps the Secretary-General (of the United Nations) and those who are responsible for this meeting asked us because, though most of us had governmental experience and official experience, we were free of all governmental inhibitions and had a completely free hand to say and feel as we felt... every time I go down the hall, I run into some kind of nongovernmental meeting...".(Transcripts of Proceedings; Conference on Human Survival, May 1970, United Nations, New York. Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1970).

Given the absence of "governmental inhibitions", what of the absence of governmental prejudices ? Human survival goes beyond the survival of governments and individuals - the "quality of the life" led by the survivors, the manner in which they participate in society through groups, etc are all crucial to "acceptable" survival.

Some conclusions

We have concentrated on the relationship between the United Nations system and the 2,000 international nongovernmental organizations, of which some 500 are recognized by ECOSOC. Careful reading would seem to show an evolution in the meaning of "We the peoples... ", the understanding of the function of nongovernmental bodies, and the manner in which public opinion can be moulded by the United Nations. What conclusions can be drawn? Firstly INGOs are clearly faced with a repeat performance of the charade conducted by the Ecosoc NGO Committee which subjected INGOs in consultative status with Ecosoc to a degrading, inquisitional "grilling", preceded by a questionnaire which effectively requested INGOs to prove their innocence of the general charge of being government front organizations. Secondly, we shall undoubtedly see a repeat of this performance with respect to INGOs in consultative status with FAO, WHO, ILO, UNICEF, etc. since the two precedents now exist.

The technique adopted is certainly most effective. Member States wishing to attack INGOs merely produce a topic which a majority is against, INGOs included, and then associate condemnation of this topic with a call for "positive" action on the part of an appropriate group of INGOs.

The resolution will then be voted and the unresponsive INGOs will stand condemned until they prove their innocence to the satisfaction of the Member States. The latter being generally uninterested in INGOs, the object is achieved, One cannot object to this procedure without being labelled as objecting to the condemned topic.

The paragraph in the Unesco resolution will require a far-ranging investigation to be effective. Note first of all that in the version that first appeared it was retroactive, thus defying another principle of the Declaration of Human Rights, through the phrase in the past tense "... or to have cooperated in any way with the Government of South Africa in the latter's apartheid policy". (The ECOSOC questionnaire specified the previous ten years.) Note that secondly it covers by implication those organizations which have individual members in Southern Africa but no branches. It is impossible for an individual to live in South Africa without "cooperating" in some way with the apartheid policy - be he black, white or any other shade.

Isolating Southern Africa is one method of ensuring the introduction of human rights. It is the main strategy open to States and applies particularly to the destruction of economic links. Some INGOs may believe that dialogue is another strategy for which they are particularly qualified. But States should not condemn INGOS, for lack of anything better, because they have not been successful in applying their own strategy and have in fact been hypocritical in disguising the manner in which they break sanctions. One wonders why this approach was not taken to its logical conclusion by requesting the Director-General to determine which Member States have national organizations which have relations with INGOs with members in South Africa. The UIA hopes shortly to be able to supply a list of multinational business enterprises which have companies in both Southern Africa and in other Member States. Will Member States apply their logic to this list ?

Basic weakness of INGOs vis a vis the UN Agencies

There are many aspects to society, and the number of INGOs is evidence of this complexity. UN Agencies do not recognize the significance of all aspects. Where UN and INGO interests overlap, the INGOs affected (but not the others which remain in a legal and social "limbo") are only too anxious to support the UN Agencies in question as potentially a most important aid to the achievement of their objectives. They can then proudly wear the badge of "consultative status". The UN exploits this situation by forcing each INGO, whatever the range of its interests, to negotiate separately with each appropriate agency. In this way the UN fragments the INGO movement so that INGOs are encouraged to organize their inter-INGO activities to reflect UN imposed programme divisions. INGOs either agree with these, in many cases inappropriately, politicised programme concepts or are considered "ineffective collaborators" because of their unwillingness to work with the UN Agency. At the same time each Agency says that INGOs should work together on certain (UN) programmes. This is however token encouragement only which is a disguise for the "divide and rule" policy. A common INGO stand on any issue could not be handled by UN structures as they are currently organized and therefore must be indirectly discouraged by exploiting INGO weaknesses.

L'Unesco ne pourrait-elle devenir un vrai ''forum intellectuel''- ouvert, non seulement aux spécialistes, mais aux penseurs, a ceux qui incarnent des préoccupations effectives et morales ? Pour cela il faudrait accorder une totale liberté d'expression aux penseurs, artistes, écrivains, porte-parole du tourment et de la conscience du monde. ''Pour ma part, dit le Directeur-général, vous le savez, a regret d'ailleurs, dans le Projet de programme et de budget, je n'ai pas écouté ce chant des sirènes ! Je me suis mis volontairement de la cire dans les oreilles ! Et je me suis fait attacher an grand mat pour ne pas les rejoindre. Cependant, si vous vouliez qu'on aille vers elles, il n'est rien qui me cause plus de plaisir. Mais je vous dis par avance que ce mouvement vous entrainera vers des remous.'' (Extrait d'un résumé de la 12e Conférence Générale de I'Unesco, 1962).

The fundamental weakness is a reflection of that existing between UN Agencies themselves namely the inability and dislike of working together because of the difficulty of establishing common ground (in the face of a global crisis) or losing autonomy. The UN Agencies have rejected a structural revision as outlined by the compromise-based Jackson Report. They are disinclined to facilitate dialogue between INGOs polarized around each agency, let alone those outside the UN pall. There is no theoretical, sociological or legal framework for international non-governmental interaction - despite the de facto existence of such social processes recognized in the PR tokenism of the UN agencies. And Unesco, the responsible agency, shows no interest in establishing wide recognition of the significance of this phenomenon as a key to the achievement of its programme objectives. The administrative problem is used to disguise the social phenomenon.

INGOs in contact with the UN are therefore imprisoned and paralyzed by the ideals and objectives that they hold in common with the UN - resulting in a strange form of token collaboration, supposedly unsatisfactory to both parties, through uncoordinated channels which cripple any ability to act. In this exposed position INGOs are now being "picked off" by Member States. If it had been deliberately planned it could hardly be done better.

If this be true...

"It is quite certain that unless we can regulate our behaviour much more satisfactorily than at present, then we are going to exterminate ourselves....

Yet if nothing else, each time a new baby is born there is a possibility of reprieve. Each child is a new being, a potential prophet, a new spiritual prince, a new spark of light precipitated into the outer darkness. Who are we to decide that it is hopeless ?"(R.D. Laing. The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise. Penguin, p. 26).

... then what of the potential significance of the creation of each new group in every sector of the social process ?

"The group, considered first of all from the point of view of the experience of its own members, is not a social object out there in space. It is the quite extraordinary being formed by each person's synthesis of the same multiplicity into We, and each person's synthesis of the multiplicity of syntheses." (p. 72).

Who is to blame?

In the face of this sorry state of affairs who should be blamed ?

  • INGOs ? Perhaps for lack of effectiveness, lack of "internationality" as implied by the Unesco Director-General ? Perhaps for lack of coordination amongst themselves and an excessive desire to associate themselves with the UN Agencies rather than with one another ? Perhaps for lack of ability to see that they have a common interest and require new mechanisms through which to express it ?
  • UNESCO ? Perhaps for its "manque d'ouverture au dialogue" and its lack of interest in collective consultation as noted by M. Tolen, Chairman of the NGO Standing Committee ? Perhaps for treating NGOs as an administrative problem rather than considering them as the Unesco-oriented fragment of the international sector of a whole social universe of organizations, groups, movements, etc. of all shapes, persuasions, degrees of autonomy, etc. which, as a social phenomenon, merit the closest theoretical and administrative attention on the part of Unesco - whether or not their programmes are in line with Unesco's objectives - as cooperating systems which could constitute a ready made set of building blocks for peace and the reduction of world tensions ? Perhaps for a certain lack of consistency, giving support (not necessarily financial) with one hand, and introducing obstacles to collaboration with the other ?
  • Member States ? Perhaps for the typical governmental (disguised) contempt for anything nongovernmental ? Perhaps for the attempt to treat the individual as naked before the State, bereft of any organizational support or protection ? Perhaps for attacking other bodies for failing to do what they have not done in their own case ?
  • Peace Researchers ? Perhaps for not recognizing that their weakness lies in the implementation of what they recognize should be done although they ignore precisely those pressure group mechanisms through which society and government may be made to respond to their insights ?
  • Sociologists ? Perhaps for their traditional emphasis on the isolated organization and the lack of focus on organizational networks ?
  • International Relations Scholars ? Perhaps for the traditional political science tendency to legitimize the old nation-state system whilst ignoring the complex problems of interdependence between new types of political, social and economic units in a rapidly evolving society ? Perhaps for training the government delegates and administrators to ignore what is not directly relevant to power politics ?
  • Economists ? Perhaps for distorting "development" to mean economic development and ignoring any aspect of "social" development which does not contribute to economic ends ?
  • International legal experts ? Perhaps for thoroughly convincing wide segments of society, including government, that organizations - particularly international organizations - did not "exist" until given legal status or recognized by government, thus blinding government to the social significance of any grouping of people in a democratic society and giving governments the impression that they could "wish away" unwanted organizations by ignoring them ?

Each of these social groups has played its part in the drama. Each has sufficient built in momentum to ensure that it will continue to act in the same way for many years to come.

The important point however is that it is not any particular part of society which can carry all the blame. Each is too concerned with its own affairs to consider itself guilty of any omission with respect to society as a whole, or, it view of its ignorance outside its domain, to be found guilty by its peers. It is the interaction between the various forms of irresponsibility and ignorance which is forcing the breakdown of relations between governmental and non-governmental bodies - hopefully, from a governmental point of view, to be replaced by a direct (and easily controllable) relationship between the individual and governmental agencies through increased "youth participation".

New concepts and organizational techniques are sorely needed. This is taken up in the next issue.

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