Growth and Impact of International Associations and their Networks
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This paper, originally presented under the title "Networks of International Associations; occupational categories and world problems", was completely re-written in the light of the papers and discussion at the Conference on International Scientific and Professional Associations (ISPAs) and the International System (Philadelphia, November 1976). A more extensive draft version was distributed under the title 'Growth and Impact of International Associations and their Networks', from which part was incorporated into 'International Organization Networks' in: P Taylor and A J R Groom (eds): International Organisation: a conceptual approach (London, Frances Pinter, 1978, pp. 381-413). An abridged version (without the part so incorporated) appeared under the title Assessing the Impact of International Associations in International Associations, 30, 10, pp. 435-440.
This paper considers various aspects of the significance and nature of the impact of international associations on their environment, and particularly the impact of international scientific and professional associations on the international system. In approaching this matter, it is first useful to examine why the question of impact is important, what is meant by impact, and the questions raised by the process of proving impact. This establishes an appropriate context within which to comment on the progressive increase in the number of international associations and their interrelationships and the manner in which networks of organisations may diffuse impact and act as vehicles for its transference.
Justification for assessing impact of INGOs on IGOs
The following points indicate the major reasons for assessing impact:
Varieties of impact of INGOs on IGOs
The different types of impact can be grouped as follows:
The above grouping reflects a primarily western approach to the varieties of impact. The situation is more complex as has been remarked by authors such as Stafford Beer and J. Forrester:
Some eastern philosophies might even be described as philosophies of "non-impact". They have influenced, and continue to influence, the Gandhian non-violent approach and some aspects of the Chinese approach to social change. It should be stressed that the western perception that such attitudes constitute a form of passivity are but ill-informed simplifications, particularly since such philosophies underlie the eastern martial arts.
Such a point could well be supported with citations from Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu or similar authors. It is more appropriate however to note the study made by Scott doorman on the implications of this kind of thinking for Mao Tse Tung's revolutionary strategy (2). It could be argued that a similar approach partly underlies the evolution of the Vietnam situation and that in other arenas. Conventional billiard-ball models of impact are likely to be insensitive to such strategies. It is no coincidence that Scott Boorman himself has specialised in the study of formal social networks.(3).
The utility of the conventional approaches may also be questioned in the light of comments such as that of Peter Drucker:
And as he predicted, the meaning has again changed unexpectedly since then. This point is made even more strongly by Alvin Toffler (5).
It could be argued that many international associations function in order to change meaning, to support or facilitate any such change, or to maintain continuity through such changes. Their success in doing so is not necessarily detectable by the methods of evaluation normally recommended. Moreover alternative philosophies may well change the significance, if any, of "success" as determined in this way and the legitimacy of actions based on conclusions of "low impact".
Related to the indirect forms of impact noted above is the static impact which in its most extreme form is now termed structural violence.
This "structural impact" may also be significant in the activities of an organisation and of the international system.
Issues raised in assessing impact of INGOs on IGOs
The process of proving and assessing impact raises a number of issues which are briefly reviewed here:
Studies of association impact on the intergovernmental system raise the question as to how relevant the impact of one organisation on another is to an understanding of their separate or combined impact on the problems for which they were established The approach loses sight of the fact the society's available institutions are failing to contain the complex of problems on which they purport to focus.
It is difficult to avoid the general impression of a series of continuing sterile debates about "pseudo-issues" effectively (although not deliberately) structured to avoid converging on conclusions which could legitimate any recommendations for remedial projects to increase the value of organisations and associations separately and as linked in networks. Such issues can be termed "pseudo-issues" because, from a very realistic and practical point of view, there is little that can be done about any of them individually at this point in time. Such issues should better be seen as constraints on any action strategy, rather than the prime policy concern in connection with lNGOs, as tends to be the case in IGO, lNGO and academic circles. Hopefully many of these problems will be overcome at some stage, but it would seem to be unnecessarily shortsighted to allow them to constitute delays to effective development of the full poteltial of the INGO network. The organisational instruments for action may in many cases be imperfect, but concentrating attention on their imperfections may simply obscure the fact that they are already quite adequate for many tasks and that the specific imperfections are in large part a circumstance of the times rather than of their nature. Practical approaches to improving their ability to perform their functions may well be the quickest method of reducing their imperfections . The point made here has been explored elsewhere (7 ).
Conventional evidence for impact of INGOs on IGOs
As noted earlier, there are problems in obtaining satisfactory evidence of the impact of international associations on the intergovernmental system, particularly since within the IGO system such evaluations tend to be tied to programme themes such as development, environment, peace, human rights, etc.
The category of scientific and professional associations is not used by the IGO system, although occasional references are made to technical associations. It is interesting that probably some white collar trade unions coming within the purview of ILO could also be considered as professional associations.
There have been numerous positive statements concerning international associations in general, produced by officials from the UN Secretary-General downwards on appropriate occasions, as well as from government delegates. Official resolutions frequently call upon such bodies for some action or support. Unfortunately none of this constitutes "evidence" of impact, because such statements may always be interpreted as having a public relations component. Although if this is the case, the obligations felt by parts of the IGO system to maintain good relations with such associations may perhaps itself be considered as stronger evidence of impact. Assessments by scholars do not in general, for reasons noted earlier, provide good evidence for the presence or absence of impact, except in the case of intensive study of particular associations or groups of associations (cf. the studies of Edward Miles of space, telecommunication and sea-related bodies). IGO secretariat assessments, such as those of ECOSOC and UNESCO, of NGOs in consultative status are basically descriptive rather than eve lua live .
Thus, although it would be possible to select, sift and cite specific statemeris of positive impact, the question remains as to whether this would be considered positive proof (and by whom) or merely circumstantial evidence of little relevance to current theory in the field of political science or policy studies. Current theories are indeed indifferent to such evidence. For example, Keohane and Nye note that the impact of inter-societal interactions and transnational actors in international affairs has been ignored in both policyoriented writings and more theoretical works, and that when they have been recognized they have often been consigned to the environment of inter-state politics, and relatively little attention has been paid to them in their own right or to their connections with the inter-state system (8). Singer and Wallace are quite explicit about exclusion of NGOs from their analysis: "our interests (and, we suspect, those of most of our colleagues) are more concerned with IGOs than with nongovernmental organisations. " (9 )
Finally there is the question of what criteria to use in evaluating the evidence for possible impact of lSPAs on IGOs. Should the criteria relate purely to the transfer of scientific knowledge and considerations? Should they relate to science policy and use of resources for science? Or should they simply relate to political clout irrespective of the scientific and professional component? Curtis Roosevelt, former Chief of the NGO Section of the UN Secretariat, makes the point (10) that lGOs are political institutions and an NGO can only be effective in relation to them by relating to such bodies politically. The reality of the situation is that governmental delegates assess the potential value of an NGO primarily in terms of the political power of the constituency it represents. Scientific or professional expertise does not necessarily imply political power. Furthermore, most expertise, however technical, is now held by IGOs to have political overtones. Even NGOs concerned with astronomy, cardiology or Sanskrit literature, for example, are not effective in IGO terms unless they take positions on issues such as peace, human rights, etc. Clearly an ISPA low on expertise might therefore be perceived as having more impact than one having high expertise and little political sensitivity. What would be a good indication of political impact in this context? For example, the ability to influence the wording of a resolution is an indicator of impact, but what if the resolution is never effectively acted upon by the IGO (as can be frequently argued). The ability to influence allocations of funds is also important, but what if the resources are small relative to the expenses of the lobbying activity necessary (as is the case with many programmes of interest to ISPAs)?
The disadvantages of following this route seem clear enough, and in the light of the argument of the previous sections another approach seems more appropriate.
Characteristics of impact-oriented associations
It is perhaps useful to distinguish a category of international associations whose operations are strongly influenced by the desire to impact directly upon the intergovernmental system. Such associations tend to have characteristics such as the following:
Characteristics of non-impact-oriented associations
A category of international associations whose operations are not strongly influenced by the desire to impact directly upon the intergovernmental system may also be distinguished. Such associations tend to have characteristics such as the following:
Limited validity of conclusion from impact studies
Some studies of the impact of international associations on the intergovernmental system employ a procedure which results in misleading, if not erroneous, conclusions. An impact study may be organised in terms of one of the following, for example:
Such studies tend to have one or more of the following unstated assumptions:
(i) that because part of the intergovernmental system has given rise to an organisation, a programme or a conference to focus on a particular subject or problem, then any international association which attempts to act on that issue would want to interact with the structure in question.
(ii) that because an international association is represented at some intergovernmental organisation, programme or conference, then the association is necessarily attempting to have an impact on that intergovernmental sructure .
(iii) that because a representative emphasises the interest of his association in having impact on some intergovernmental organisation, programme or conference, that the association necessarily has such an interest or that any of its efforts at impact are related to the representative in question.
(iv) that because information or impact has been supplied by a person in one part of an association secretariat, that this necessarily reflects the official position of the association .
Thus when an intergovernmental representative complains that the associations with which he has any contact (possibly at agency-convoked meetings) are naive, he may well be correct, Agencies have set up such an unfruitful environment for contact with associations that the latter avoid contact because there are more effective forms of action. Those that do not either have special introductions to exploit (and are therefore assessed as "effective") or are in the process of learning what a waste of effort such contacts can prove to be.
Growth of INGOs and ISPAs
Quantitative increase in number of international associations
The preceding sections have drawn attention to the absence of satisfactory evidence to establish the significance or policy relevance of international associations. It is therefore appropriate to look at the quantitative increase in the number of such bodies, particularly for the sub-set of international scientific and professional associations. For although there is no consensus concerning the significance of such associations as a social phenomenon of relevance to the process of policy formulation, such bodies continue to be created and continue to attract membership.
An indication of the number of IGOs and INGOs is given in Table 1 based on data from the Yearbook of International Organizations (1977). The ISPAs, as defined by William Evan, are identified therein by ****.Table). The relatively complex form of the Table reflects the changes made by the Union of International Associations in compiling successive editions of the Yearbook. The most recent edition, completely restructured, incorporated over 2,000 additional organizations corresponding to borderline categories previously excluded ( 11 ). It should not therefore be assumed that INGOs are distinguished unambiguously from other types of organization. Nor should it be assumed that INGOs can be easily allocated to the subject categories of Table 1 . For example, should the International Federation of Catholic Pharmacists be placed under "religion, ethics" (i.e. not an ISPA) or "health, medicine" (i.e. an ISPA). To get around this difficulty, organizations are allocated to one category with secondary allocations to one or more other categories, as shown in the last line of Table 1.
Table 1 may be interpreted as indicating that ISPA's, as a sub-set of INGOs, are growing at a faster rate than the class of INGO's as a whole.
Aside from the growth in the number of international organizations, data is also available (see Table 2) on the growth in the national representation in those bodies. To the extent that each international organisation is perceived as an ordered network, this is an indication of the extent of such networks. This data is derived from work in connection with the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potentli
In attempting to establish how many "international organizations" there are, it is important to consider the data presented in Tables 3 and 4. These show the extent to which "regional" bodies are present in the data set. This is significant in that regional bodies are not always considered to be part of the community of "international" organizations.
The significance of available data on international organizations and their membership is reduced because of the lack of information on the number of organizations in each country which constitute the pools from which members are drawn or from which initiatives arise for the creation of new INGOs. As an indication of the amount of unrecognised organisation activity on which the more visible INGOs are based:
Extent of interorganizational networks
There is little available information on the extent of interorganizational networks, particularly with regard to the relationships between ISPAs and IGOs. As a by-product of the establishment of its data base on the network of world problems, the Union of International Associations indicated the existence of the following relationships between 3,300 interns tional organisations (***'L)
The same study also attempted to establish the number of intellectual disciplines and the number of international bodies with which they be linked by using the ILO International Standard Classification of Occupations . This gavet (9):
Information on the formal "consultative relationship" between some INGOs and some IGOs is regularly presented in tabular form in the Yearbook of International Organizations. In the case of the 1970-71 edition, this has been analysed and presented in Table 5. (Since some IGOs have relationships with INGOs of different degrees of intimacy, the IGO column/rows have been split in the case of ECOSOC and UNESCO.)
Thus in the case of the 175 INGOs having consultative status A or B with UNESCO, 61 (i.e. 35%) also have status I or II with ECOSOC, and 111 (i.e. 64%) have Roster status with ECOSOC. In addition, 47 (i.e. 27%) have status with ILO, 36 (21%) with FAO, 20 (11%) with WHO, 4 (2%) with ICAO, etc. This information does not, however, establish whether such status gives rise to significant impact.
Another limited study was based on a questionnaire survey of international social science organizations and attempted to establish the pattern and frequency of interactions of different types ( Diana Crane has looked closely at the networks of informal relationships between scientists which result in the formation of invisible colleges ( ) and has commented on the formalization of such colleges through the establishment of INGOs
She has not, however, looked at the networks of relationships between such INGOs. The absence of adequate information on the nature and evolution of these interorganizational networks make it difficult to determine the role they perform in distributing and focusing policy impact. The wider implications of a network focus are explored elsewhere Some implications for policy impact are explored below.
Networks as vehicles for impact
The structure of the international system of bodies impacting on one another may be described as a network of organizations and associations. Some of the bodies in the network impact directly on some of the problems in the problem complex which may also be described as a network.
In considering how impact occurs and is transferred:
To illustrate this series, consider the structures illustrated in Table 6. A particular element transferring impact may do so as follows:
Further cases are evident from Table 6.
The situation is however complicated by the fact that most of the above structures contain branches, implying a divergence of impact. But clearly if the impacts were transferred from the branches, rather than to them, there would be convergence of impact through the structures:
This therefore gives a second series of structures for transferring impact. Structures from each series may be combined:
The structures may be combined in branching or converging series, and even with loops back to an earlier structure -- thus constituting networks of varying degrees of complexity. (Note that normally a structural element can not be considered an "absolute originator" of impact nor an "absolute sink" for impact.)
Up to this point the elements making up the structures have been considered as made up entirely of organizations or entirely of problems. But impact can be transferred between organization and problem structures as noted above. In other words the structures considered above can be either organizations or problems, and they can transfer impact to organizations or problems (in similar structures).
This leads to mixed impact- transferring structural sequences of the following types:
Clearly these sequences can be further extended to cover more complex patterns of interaction between organization and problem networks. It should be stressed that the organization structure, for example, in any of the above sequences (e.g. PPOP) may itself be a complex sequence of structures as discussed earlier. To the extent that it is advisable to distinguish between intergovernmental organizations and international associations (i.e. nongovernmental structures), the organization structures must be split into two types (e.g. 0 and 0*). This approach would probably demand that the problems be also split into at least groups, those recognized by intergovernmental organizations, and those recognized by international associations (e.g. P and P*).
Combining these together would result in description of impact chains of such forms as OPO*OPOP*, etc. Whether or not this split (namely O and O*' and P and P*) is made, the real situation is probably much more complex because of the network characteristics which would give impact networks such as
Such situations are somewhat more complex than those addressed by conventional studies of impact, such as whether organization A impacts on B. Clearly organization A may not impact directly on B, but it may impact on C and D (perhaps via many intermediate bodies or problems) which then impact on B.
The social sciences are some way from being able to describe such sequences and track impact through them. It is even uncertain that there would be any consensus that such an approach is relevant to current preoccupations which depend upon simplification of complex situations to render them communicable within the political arena .
At some stage it may be possible to track the movement of impact through such structural sequences in terms of how different structural components amplify, dampen or store and release impact under different conditions. The meaning of "impact" may well be as elusive as that of "electricity", to whose movement through circuitry the above situations bear some resemblance. The question of the distinction between positive and negative impact would also have to be considered.
It is unfortunate that the process by which the social and policy sciences accord attention to organizations (or problems) in society appears to be so strongly governed by the information handling capacity of those for whom the conclusions are hopefully intended, rather than by any desire to explore the numerous existing organizations and interactions in all their rich variety. This question has been explored elsewhere in connection with the perception of world problems ( ). in attempting to articulate their dissatisfaction with current studies of international organizations in 1968, Keoham and Nye "felt that an 'Everest syndrome' prevailed. Scholars studied organizations simply because 'they are there'. We agreed that new approaches were needed." Their book is testimony to their success ( ). The remark remains valid however. Big impacts on big organizations are studied because they are so visibly there.
The reluctance to consider less visible phenomena is strengthened and supported by a posture requiring unequivocal proof that the phenomena are there before any such inquiry can be entertained. Singer and Wallace, for example, are quite explicit about exclusion of INGOs from their own analysis: "our interests (and, we suspect, those of most of our colleagues) are more concerned with IGOs than with nongovernmental organizations." ( ). It is an interesting question as to how much national and international NGO activity is required before it becomes theoretically interesting or of significance to policy formulation, and how much an adequate response to problems is delayed by such conceptual lags on the part of those who should be ensuring the necessary conceptual leads to anticipate emerging structural changes.
It is clear that intra- and inter-organizational networks are growing, multiplying and evolving in response to perceived social problems and possibilities for action. These changes are in large part unplanned (and unfinanced) from any central point and appear to be self-correcting in the" excessive' development is compensated by the emergence of counteracting networks. Little attention is given to facilitating this growth so that in some cases it may be considered dangerously spastic. Despite this the network of organizations (international, national, and local) of every kind and with every pre-occupation, represents a major unexplored resource. The (synergistic) potential of this network, if its processes were facilitated, is unknown.
These networks, and others, are not static structures. They are changing rapidly in response to pressures and opportunities perceived in very different parts of the social system ( ). As such they, and component sub-networks, are not controlled or controllable by any single body, if only because the complexity cannot be handled by any single body or group of bodies ( ).
The strategic problem therefore is how to ensure that the appropriate organizational resources emerge, and are adequately supported, in response to emerging pressures and opportunities. But it would seem that this must be achieved without organizing and planning such organized response - for to the extent that any part of the network is so organized, other parts will develop (and probably should develop) which will favour and implement alternative (and partially conflicting) approaches.
The challenge is therefore to develop the meaning and constraints of what may be termed a network strategy. This is an approach which facilitates or catalyzes (rather than organizes) the emergence, growth, development, adaptation and galvanization of organizational networks in response to problem networks, in the light of the values perceived at each particular part of the social system.
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