Growth and Impact of International Associations and their Networks
- / -
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:
1. Policy concern: In order to justify an existing policy with regard to
an international association, it is appropriate to assess the impact of the
body on its environment. Of a slightly different nature is the need for an
organisation to assess the general impact of such a body on its environment
before responding to an unprecedented attempt by such an association to influence
the organization's policy.
2 Resource allocation: To the extent that the allocation of resources in
support of project proposal of a particular association is a program rather
than a policy decision, then it may be important to evaluate the actual or
potential impact of the association on its environment.
3. Acknowledgment of recommendations: Many associations produce recommendations,
resolutions or declarations which may be directly or indirectly transmitted
to parts of the intergovernmental system. In order for IGOs to justify attention
to such recommendations, they must prove that the ssociation has adequate
political impact to give credibility to such positions, irrespective of their
4. Suspension of relationships: Under certain circumstances (e.g. ECOSOC's
positions in relation to Spain, South Africa and Taiwan and channelling of
CIA funds through INGOs), an IGO may need to prove inappropriate impact in
order to justify suspension of relationships with an INGO, or some other form
of sanction or censorship.
5 Provocation: Since there is a range of INGOs associated with the ideology
of each ma jor power bloc, the IGOs associated with a power bloc may wish
to prove the negative impact of the equivalent INGOs on any other power blocs
as a justification for some form of tacit or overt support. (Where the impact
is shown to be positive, this then becomes justification for some form of
sanction or censorship as under the previous point. )
6. Value elaboration: Where national or international associations have
built up a climate of opinion superior in some values ~ those with which the
intergovernmental system is associated, IGOs may wish to recover lost ground
by proving the positive impact of selected INGOs in order to justify binding
them into IGO programmes (the UN approach to the environment issue is a case
7. Reinforcement of constituency: Where IGO member sates have for political
reasons generated resolutions initiating programmes which alienate much of
its usual constituency, it may seek to prove the impact of INGOs on such programmes
in order that by so associating them it may establish a favourable climate
of opinion for the programmes amongst the INGOs constituencies.
8. Tradition, Prestige and Public relations: Where an IGO wishes to maintain
relations with a particular INGO for special reasons, it may prove impact
to justify such a position (the relation between the UN and the World Federation
of United Nations Associations is a case in point).
Varieties of impact of INGOs on IGOs
The different types of impact can be grouped as follows:
1. Physical, including violet demonstrations, occupation of offices, physical
damage to buildings or equipment, violence or threats of violence to personnel,
physical assistance (manpower), etc.
2 . Affective, including non-violent demonstrations, emotional propaganda,
smear or hate-campaigns, supportive campaigns, etc .
3. Procedural, including strikes, lock-outs, restraining orders, procedural
and regulatory devices (legal, administrative, financial, safety, health),
resolutions, declarations, etc.
4, Programme content, namely conceptual or information inputs contributing
to the elaboration of programme content, within its predetermined framework.
5. Organization policy, namely political, financial, statistical, conceptual
and similar inputs affecting the formulation, selection and rejection of programmes
6. Policy coordination, namely political and other considerations affecting
the coordination of programmes of semi-autonomous organisations acting on
interrela ted problem area s .
7. Research, namely conceptual and methodological advances which effectively
question the utility and significance of the problems addressed by existing
programmes and policies.
8. Socio-political, namely political, ideological and philosophical advances
which effectively question the utility and significance of: (a) the organisational
structures used to direct existing programme and policies; and (b) the research
by which the problems and remedial action are defined.
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:
"Le Chatelier's Principle: Reformers, critics of institutions, consultants
in innovation, people in short who 'want to get something done', often fail
to see this point. They cannot understand why their strictures, advice or
demands do not result in effective change. They expect either to achieve a
measure of success in their own terms or to be flung off the premises. But
an ultrastable system (like a social institution).. .has no need to react
in either of these ways, It specialises in equilibria! readjustment, which
is to the observer a secret form of change requiring no actual alteration
in the macro-systemic characteristics that he is trying to do something about.
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:
"The correct figures could perhaps have been forecast; but what today, only
ten years later, controls America's mood and shapes its policies -- not to
mention its picture of itself -- would have been quite unpredictable to any
statistical, projective method: there has been a change of meaning,
the quality, the perception of our experience. In 1959 the accent was all
on our affluence. In 1969 it is all on the poor." (4, emphasis added)
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.
"Basically, what seems to be behind it is a pattern of human interaction,
of social order that is so prevalent, so all-pervasive that it seems to be
present as an archetype at all times and all points in space. The moment one
believes a more egalitarian structure has been created the same social order
seems to come in by the back door. It seems to survive very well the changes
from a slave society, via a feudal and capitalist order, towards a socialist
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:
1 . The situations in which a demand is made for an assessment of impact
tend to be structured such that impact must effectively be proven before attention
is directed towards the bodies giving rise to the impact. The "existence"
of such bodies is deduced from the recognition of the impacts to which they
give rise. If no impact can be detected then the question of whether such
bodies exist is considered irrelevant. The convenience of this approach does
not eliminate the question of whether the organisational system has an adequate
concept of its environment, in that some impacts may be undetectable by the
methods or criteria used, and some external unrecognised bodies may suddenly
give rise to impacts for which the organisation is unprepared.
2. Related to the previous point is the assumption of absence of impact
on an organisational system unless impact can be proven. It is certainly debateable
whether this is an appropriate attitude for an organisation (as noted aboe)
or for the intellectual disciplines associated with the assessment and its
methodology. It is particularly unfortunate in that the assumption places
the burden of proving impact on the external unrecognised body (in a manner
somewhat analogous to that of a legal system in which innocence, rather than
guilt, has to be proven).
3. The demand for proof and assessment of impact places the body making
such demands in a special position in relation to those who may be perceived
as having impact. Where such bodies have a special place in the international
system (e.g. the United Nations), the conclusions of any such evaluation effectively
contribute to the definition of the reality of the international system. Those
bodies excluded from this reality by this process have no method of appeal,
since the effects of the evaluation process are not of interest to the bodies
demanding it, Such evaluations may usefully be termed "directive assessments"
because of the by-products of the evaluation process. It is important to render
explicit for whom a particular set of impacts is considered significant and
in whose interest.
4. Impact studies are organised in terms of impact on a focal organisation
or group (known as the point of anchorage in social network analysis where
it is usually taken to be some specified individual whose behaviour the observer
wishes to interpret). This raises the question of what bodies are undetected
or ignored by this approach, whether such bodies may have some indirect impact
on the focal organisation, and whether the behaviour of the whole set of bodies
in a network does not effectively result in diffusion of all impacts throughout
5. Current impact studies necessarily predefine what processes are to be
considered as conveying valid impacts. This raises the question of what other
processes are undetected or ignored by this approach and the consequences
of inability to focus on them.
6. Impact studies raise the question of how the thresholds are selected
below which impacts of a particular kind are considered insignificant. (The
physical sciences are fortunate in having established how "weak" and "strong
interactions" should be taken into consideration, thus enabling them to give
appropriate attention, for example, to the impact on an object (a) of a falling
weight, (b) of a mass any specified distance from it, and (c) of weak electromagnetic
forces such as the magnetic field of the earth. The question may be asked
whether impact studies in the social sciences are able to focus on impacts
analogous to (b) and (c) where there is no direct impact as such merely the
influence of forces, which under some conditions, in the case of physics,
may be of considerable significance aside from being necessary to any adequate
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
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:
- a relatively high proportion of resources is devoted to face-to-face contact
with government delegates and IGO secretariat officials. In addition to funds
of the association, such resources may effectively include the time of international
personalities linked to the association (but funded through other channels)
or willing to act for it in any lobbying role, whether discreet or overt.
- the people used in the lobbying role tend to have past experience as part
of the intergovernmental system, whether as diplomats, as IGO officials, or
as national government delegates or experts. Where this is not the case, the
people and the association tend to adopt an activist stance relying on their
energy, expertise, and/or ability to feed politically embarrassing information
to the media, rather than rely on the fruits of subtle lobbying.
- considerable attention may be given to actual and potential links with
the news media to maintain an image of strength with respect to the intergovernmental
system (and possibly to association membership). Such links may be based on
the release of well-researched reports of value to the media or by the ability
to generate news by triggering demonstrations. Alternatively, or possibly
in addition, links may be obtained with influential national power bases with
their own contacts to national delegations.
- considerable attention is given to the rights and procedures by which international
associations may be physically represented at intergovernmental conferences
or in IGO secretariats, particularly over matters such as the right to make
or circulate statements.
- almost by definition, the existence of such associations tends to be justified
and maintained by the existence of intergovernmental entities with which they
can interact. There is a relationship of dependency.
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:
- a relatively high proportion of resources is devoted to the activities
and programmes of the association, irrespective of how they are appreciated
by the intergovernmental system.
- the activities tend to emphasise: relationships between members, member
or association activity on identified problems, the convocation of meetings
to clarify the domain of interest to the association, or the collection or
generation of information reflecting the content of that domain. Such activities
may only incidentally involve or be of interest to the intergovernmental system.
- the attitude of members may not be oriented towards achieving or accomplishing
specific programme objectives but rather of developing a certain climate of
opinion amongst members and others, possibly including the general public.
The evaluation of the effectiveness of such activity may even be considered
destructive of its quality and as such undesirable as well as unnecessary.
Members concern for the effectiveness of the association may be limited to
its impact on themselves and those with whom they associate.
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:
- investigation at a major intergovernmental meeting (e.g. UN Environment
Conference, Stockholm 1972; UN Habitat Conference, Vancouver, 1976) of international
association action and contact with government delegates .
- investigation of those international associations having consultative status
with one or more intergovernmental bodies (e.g. Unesco, Ecosoc, ILO, etc.)
- interviews with secretariat personnel of one or more intergovernmental
bodies concerning their contact with international associations.
- investigation of field level activities of international associations and
their relation to the represents fives of one or more intergovernmental bodies
in the countries in question.
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.
This is incorrect because a significant number of international associations
may consider that the particular structure (i) can itself only be relevant
to a (possibly minor) aspect of the issue, (ii) has been prepared, or operates,
in such a way that most decisions of any significance are either taken in
advance or in other arenas, (iii) is conceived mainly as an exercise in public
relations to focus public support and the attention of some governments insensitive
to the issue, (iv) is conceived as a political compromise substituting forany
effective action on the issue.
(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 .
This is incorrect because a significant number of international associations
may consider that the structure suffers from the defects identified under
the previous point. In order to maintain a line of contact with the intergovernmental
body, whilst minimising the resources engaged, they may effectively employ
any of the following strategies: (i) ensure that any list of participants
or contacts produced by the intergovernmental body identifies the association,
even though its representative departed immediately after having accomplished
this, if it could not be done by post; (ii) allow the association to be represented
whenever necessary or convenient by whatever member happens to be living in
the area or passing through; (iii) allow the association to be represented
by any enthusiastic member interested in the activity for personal reasons
(including personal status and prestige, etc.); (iv) allow the association
to be represented by a non-member with some special interest (e.g. conducting
interviews for a research project). Some associations may only be represented
because of the convenience of the setting for maintaining contact with other
associations interested in the issue (and irrespective of the intergovernmental
activity). Note that questionnaire research is based on mailing lists of association
representatives of the type identified here.
(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.
This is incorrect because (i) the representative may sincerely believe that
the association has given him a responsible role, when it has merely responded
passively to or minimally to his availability; (ii) the representative may
feel obliged to disguise the minimal response of his association, he is aware
of it, to avoid negative consequences for his association; (iii) the association
may feel obliged to be represented to ensure that it is still recognised as
"in the game", by its peers, by any part of the intergovernmental system which
makes later use of the mailing lists, and possibly even some of its own members
or by those conducting studies of representation which may be widely distributed;
(iv) the association may participate not in an attempt to have impact on that
intergovernmental body but in order to counteract any impression of bias arising
from its special interest in interacting with some other part of the intergovernmental
system (eg . with a different ideological orients tion).
(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 .
This is incorrect because (i) the person in the secretariat may have such
responsibil ties for reasons similar to those of the external representative
identified in the previous point; (ii) the association may not have a position
on the matter as well-formed as is implied by the ability to respond to questions
about it in particular (iii) the association may not conform to a structure
and be easily comparable with its peers, namely speak on behalf of the association
as a whole; (v) that because information on impact has been supplied by a
person in one part of an intergovernmental secretariat, that this necessarily
reflects the official position of the organisation.
This is incorrect because an intergovernmental secretariat has a number of
offices (in the case of the larger agencies) or positions via which it interacts
with associations. The lack of coordination between such offices is well recognised.
Such offices may include: (i) public information office charged with mobilising
association support for agency programs, unrelated to (ii) a bureau responsible
for consultative relations with NGOs, in support of (iii) a governmental committee
defining which bodies shall be called NGOs, and defining policy on them, which
may be ignored by (iv) departments concerned with substantive programme areas
working with useful associations, irrespective of whether they are "NGOs"
or international, (v) departments emanating, receiving or exchanging information
with associations (vi) the agency conference environment in which a particular
association may get considerable air-time through several government delegates.
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
(i) David Horton Smith has estimated that for the USA there are (a) from
30 to 100 voluntary associations per 1,000 population in towns with less than
10,000 and (b) from 5 to 30 per 1,000 for larger town s (*** 3 )
(ii) Francois Bloch-Lainé notes that ***********
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)
- A a member of B 625
- B a member of A 752
- A in working relationship with B 790
- A in formal relationship with B 881
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):
Professional technial and related occupations
(i.e. ILO ISPAs)
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
(i) inferior figure at each intersect: the total number of INGOs in consultative
status with the IGO corresponding to the row which also have consultative
relations with the IGO corresponding to the column.
(ii) superior figure at each intersect: the percentage of all INGOs in consultative
status with the IGO corresponding to the row which also have consultative
relations with the IGO corresponding to the column.
(iii) along the diagonal: below the 100 per cent figure is the total number
of INGOs in consultative relationship with the IGO in question (e.g. 81 s
in relationship to WHO).
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
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:
(i) between organizations,
(ii) on to problems,
(iii) between problems, and
(iv) from problems onto organizations, a series of possibilities of increasing
structural complexity may be borne in mind.
To illustrate this series, consider the structures illustrated in Table 6.
A particular element transferring impact may do so as follows:
1. Directly onto the target structure (i.e. no branching, 1 element)
2. Via a series of intermediary elements (i.e. no branching, more than 1
3. Via two branches, both going direct to the target structure (this case
could possibly be combined with the first)
4. Via two branches, one going direct to the target structure and the second
via one intermediate element
5. Via two branches, both with more than one intermediate element.
6. Via two branches, each with one element connected to that in the other
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
|1. Organization to Organization
||1 .1 .1
|| to Organization
|| to Problem
|2. Organization to Problem
|3. Problem to Organization
|4. Problem to Problem
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.
1. Stafford Beer. The Cybernetic Cytoblast: management itself. eptember 1969 (Chairman's
Address to the International Cybernetics Congress).
2. Scott A. Boorman. The Protracted Game; a wei chi'i approach to Mao's
revolutionary strategy. Oxford University Press, 1971.
3. Scott Boorman. Outline and bibliography of approaches to the formal
study of social networks. Harvard University, 1973 (Fels Discussion Paper 87).
4. Peter Drucker. The Age of Discontinuity, guidelines to our changing
society. London Pan, P. 11.
5. Alvin Toffler. Value impact forecaster, a profession of the future.
In: Kurt Beier and N scher (Eds). Values and the Future. Free Press,
6. Johan Galtung. Feudal systems, structural violence and the structural
theory of revolutions. Proceedings of the IPRA Third Conference. Assen, van
7. Anthony Judge. Practical problems in using the potential of INGO networks.
In: The Future of Transnational Associations from the standpoint of the New
World Order. Brussels, Union of International Associations, 19 77. [text]
8. J. S. Nye and R O. Keohane. Transnational relations and world politics.
In: J S Nye Jr and R 0 Keohane (Eds). Transnational Relations and World Politics
Harvard University Press, 1972.
9. M D Wallace and J D Singer. Intergovernmental organization in the
global system, 1815-1964; a quantitative description. International Organization,
24, 2, Spring 1970, pp. 239-287.
10. Curtis Roosevelt. The political future of transnational associations;
the opportunity for effective NGO action. In: The Open Society of the Future:
report of a seminar to reflect on the network of international associations.
Brussels, Union of International Association, 1973, pp. 91-96 (Originally presented
to a Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with
ECOSOC, Geneva, 1972).
11. Union of International Associations / Mankind 2000. Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. Brussels,
Union of International Associations, 1976, (See Section P). [commentary]