1971

Summary of the Crises in Inter-Organizational Relationships at the International Level

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Part A of: Next Step in Inter-organizational Relationships. Notes on the problems associated with the current crisis in the relations between intergovernmental and nongovernmental bodies, with particular regard to the United Nations Specialized Agencies and the consultative status arrangement. Distributed by the Union of International Associations as UAI Study Papers ORG/1. Published in International Associations 24, 1972, May, pp. 287-295 [PDF version]

Relationships between INGO and IGO, particularly the UN system
Relationships between International Non-governmental Organizations (working)
Relationships between International Nongovernmental Organizations (facilities)


1. Relationships between INGO and IGO, particularly the UN system

To facilitate understanding, comments on these relationships, between international nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations are made for each intergovernmental agency, and in each case in terms of :

a) the views of INGOs b) the views of the Agency Secrétariat c) the views of the Member States

ECOSOC

(a) Views of INGOs

With regard to the revision of the consultative status arrangement in 1968

"What we are in fact concerned to know is whether this revision, the result of some 20 meetings of the Council Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, constitutes a step forward for the United Nations and for ngos.... These discussions, in which NGOs took no part, were dominated by the delegates of a few Member States openly hostile to non- governmental organizations for a variety of particular reasons. The charge that many NGOs were dominated by the West overlooks the fact that these NGOs would be only too glad to receive members from other regions. It is these States themselves which have on occasions prevented their nationals from participating in the activities of NGOs. The representatives of the other States seemed unwilling to use this forum to engage in debate. On reading the summary records of the discussions, one may wonder how many of the delegates present were really well-informed about the different forms of constructive collaboration existing between NGOs and the United Nations Secretariat. Though some interesting and valid remarks were made, the overall impression is that of an indictment against NGOs rather than an attempt to find out the most effective way for the United Nations to consult NGOs. (Editorial in International Associations, 1968, no. 9, p. 611)
-"There is widespread sentiment among NGOs active in protecting human rights that NGOs will henceforth feel inhibited and restrained in criticizing governments for departing from principles of "natural justice" lest they be embroiled in proceedings to deprive them of their consultative status." (C. S. Ascher, "Consultative Status with ecosos." International Associations, 1969, no. 10, p. 472)

General comments, many extracted from the report of a meeting in Geneva under the auspices of the Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC (July 14, 1970):

  • NGOs are often treated as defendents before a governmental tribunal when in fact it is not the NGOs which need the UN in order to survive, since they existed before the creation of the UN and will continue to survive with or without the UN
  • all initiative comes from the NGOs whereas the ECOSOC NGO section should be an active partner in the dialogue -- governments should be made aware of the potential significance of inter-NGO groupings both at the international and the national level
  • governments are not aware of the fact that the UN- oriented activities of NGOs represent only a part of each NGOs programme. (And would probably consider non-UN oriented programmes of little value, whereas it is just such programmes which may develop into UN programmes at a later point in time.)
  • government delegates, particularly from the developing countries, are not adequately instructed on the role of NGOs or the nature of NGOs. when the UN does take the initiative in a domain requiring the cooperation of the NGOs, the NGOs should be consulted before the programme is initiated and not after (e.g. the World Youth Assembly at the United Nations)
  • UN public information programmes and the "mobilization of public opinion" ignore the function of NGOs and their national branches
  • the UN system should not adopt a paternalistic approach to NGOs, but should ensure the existence of conditions permitting NGOs to accomplish their respective tasks with respect to the UN system
  • governments oither do not know or cannot accept that an international NGO has constitutional limitations on its control of a national affiliate(just as is the case with respect to the UN and Member States)
  • government delegates assume erroneously that all NGO Secretariats have full power to disclose any information requested of them by the UN without awaiting the next scheduled meeting of its plenary body
  • the Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC is not formally recognized by ECOSOC
  • government delegates are hostile to and suspicious of NGOs participation in UN affairs government delegates do not recognize the diversity of NGOs in organizational terms and the range of interests that are represented by the NGO community
  • NGOs are treated as petitioners for favors
  • government delegates in many cases receive no instructions from their governments on NGO questions and therefore act in the light of their personal views, voting with little consistency from meeting to meeting

On modifications to the NGO Conference machinery

  • "Member organizations again and again expressed their determination to maintain and exercise their status in fullest independence and voiced their apprehension at being forced into NGO groupings and thereby risking to have their freedom of action, impeded by majority decisions." (11th Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC. Review of the Aims and Objectives...by Dr. Reigner. 11/GC/ 19, p.9)

Other views

  • governments expect NGOs not to criticize the governments of countries in which they do not have members but expect NGOs to condemn the governments which they themselves condemn
  • NGOs are frowned upon for criticizing the UN or its decisions
  • governments tend to consider, that consultative relationship means that every programme of the NGO should be wholly devoted thereafter to objectives related to those of the UN, without realizing that
    • -the NGO may have programmes on problems which it considers significant, but which the UN does not yet recognize
    • -whilst the NGO may be prepared to disclose its internalfinancial records with respect to its UN-related programmes, there is no reason why its non-UN related programmes should be subject to financial scrutiny
    • -the NGO may evaluate its own programmes as being affective on purely technical criteria, and therefore justifying more resources than a related UN-programme
  • governments tend to believe that receipt of some subsidies from governments mokes the NGO the tool of the governments in question, without distinguishing between a 10%subsidy and a 90% subsidy, or understanding the many forms of assistance a government may make available without acquiring influence on the policy of the NGO
  • governments expect NGOs to be "universal" during a period when
    • -political factors prevent every country from having members in an NGO; and just as with the UN and the Peoples Republic of China, the country may not wish to be represented for some time.
    • -distance factors may preclude participation because the potential members in distant countries cannot attend meetings
    • -- potential members in some countries may be prevented from participating by inability to pay dues in a convertible currency the degree of development of a country may be such that there are no people or organizations in that country with the specialized knowledge, activities, or interests which are the concern of the NGO
    • --of the 200 intergovernmental organizations in existence, 77% are regional organizations, whereas of the 2000 international nongovernmental organizations, 50% are regional

    on the basis of 1966 figures:

    (a) States other thanWestern Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Israel accounted for 2000 government memberships (of a total of 4676) in the 179 intergovernmental organisations for which information was available (b) nongovernmental organisations and individuals in countries other than Western European, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Israel accounted for 16,900 representations of countries (of a total of 36,341) in the 1416 international ningovernmental organizations on which information was available. Furthermore, as an example based on the 1964 figures of a country which is not represented in the United Nations and yet has one quarter of the world's population, the Peoples Republic of China was represented in 3 intergovernmental organizations and in 65 international nongovernmental organizations. (Extracted from a study by Kjell Skjelsbaek. Peace and the Systems of International Organizations; Oslo, International Peace Research Institute, 1970, based on the Yearbook of International Organizations, Brussels, Union of International Associations.)
  • governments consider that NGQs are primarily "Western" institutions because the majority of their headquarters is in Europe or the U.S.A., but. ignore the possibility that the choice of geographical locations may be the result of the same forces that influence the choice of UN Agency headquarters - all of which are in Europe or the U.S.A.
  • governments and the UN criticize the divisions, concern for independence, proliferation and overlapping of NGOs as a characteristic of NGO ineffectiveness, when it is also a symptom of the times as is evident in the divisions, suspicion and overlapping between the UN Agencies, OECD, the Council of Europe and other intergovernmental bodies.

(b) Views of the ECOSOC NGO Section

  • "Those in the Secretariat responsible for working with NGOs believe that it is imperative for the Conference of NGOs to take a fresh look at itself to see if its present structure and mode of operation is the best for carrying out its purpose in light of the past two years of scrutiny given the NGOs by ECOSOC." (Informal statement by Curtis Roosevelt at the 11th Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC, 1969.11/ GC/ 15)
  • The Conference should facilitate consultations with NGO representatives
    • -- when there are communications to be sent to all members
    • - when some UN body is discussing matters which have implications for NGO participation in UN affairs
    • to develop jointly position papers on matters relating to the consultative process to gain greater understanding of the role of NGOs -- to consult on the use of ad hoc committees in substantive areas to facilitate liaison and create a more functional and effective relationship in a particular area of concern to a number of NGOs.
    • to work together to improve the représentation of NGOs at the UN, including better liaison with NGO headquarters (11/GC/15)
  • The UN must continue to change rapidly if it is truly to represent the changing forces in the world. If nongovernmental organizations are to participate actively in this process, they must exert themselves to be in the midst of the change (Informal statement by a member of the Secretariat to a meeting of ECOSSC NGOs. (11/ GC/15)
  • Officials ofthe Secretariat and delegates of Member States are, with a few noteworthy exceptions, if not hostile, at least completely indifferent to NGOs
  • NGOs should participate more actively in UN programmes at the regional level
  • NGOs should be more critical in their observations submitted to ECOSOC if they wish to be noted. Written declarations submitted by NGOs have very little influence. More could be achieved with more imagination .
  • NGOs should recognize that ideas submitted to the Secretariat do not necessarily have to reflect the unanimous viewof an NGO's members. It is the ideas which count.

(c) Views of UN/ECOSOC Member States

These may be clearly noted in the debates of the ECOSOC Council Committee on NGOs (223rd to 224 sessions, January - April, 1968.) The questions put to NGOs in the notorious 1968 questionnaire to which NGOs were to reply by return of post illustrate the nature of government delegate beliefs concerning NGOs:

  • NGOs tend to criticize the governments of countries in which they do not have any members
  • NGOs do not fully support all the political decisions of the UN and may even criticize them
  • NGOs do not have a geographically "universal" membership and do not reflect the views of all the regions represented at the United Nations.
  • NGOs are not broadly representative of major segments of population in a large number of countries

many NGOs are simply government front organizations maintained for political purposes by one or more governments. This view is supported by the number of NGOs receiving some form ofgovernment subsidy or assistance

In addition:

  • there are too many NGOs and they continue to proliferate too rapidly
  • NGOs are ineffectual

UNESCO

(a) Views of INGOs

These have been very clearly stated in an intervention made by the President of the Standing Committee of the Conference of International NGOs approved for Consultative Status with UNESCO during the 16th General Conference of UNESCO. Main points are:

  • lack of possibility of dialogue with UNESCO
  • lack of interest in both the collective and individual views of NGOs
  • tendency to avoid a certain number of questions which in the NGO view are vital for peace, cooperation and international understanding
  • NGOs are judged on their efficacity solely on the basis of their degree of acceptance of and conformity to UNESCO views
  • collective consultation is restricted to polite reference to NGOs in appropriate documents
  • NGOs cannot identify themselves with decisions taken by UNESCO without any prior discussion, and are therefore alienated
  • lack of consultation during formulation of programmes
  • UNESCO General Conference resolutions calling for the collaboration of NGOs lacked any solid foundation because many governments were unable to accept the concept of nongovernmental organization. Many tend in an increasing number of domains (youth, women, trade unions, etc.) to recognize only those organizations intimately linked to government or to the government political party organisations.
  • inability of NGOs to follow through on UNESCO resolutions at the national level when government collaboration is made extremely difficult or simply refused

Related views are given in the conclusions of an informal meeting of London-based INGOs which mot as a result of the debate in the Standing Committee of the Conference of International NGOs approved for Consultative Status with UNESCO on the failure of collective consultation and the need for new procedures:

"It has become apparent that this procedure has not worked very well and is now in danger of breaking down completely. This has been shown by the conspicuous abscence at the UNESCO/NGO Conference of a significant number of NGOs whose views would have made a valuable addition to those already expressed. Other difficulties in the consultative process are:

  • over-production, particularly of paper
  • inadequate time schemes, and late receipt of important documents
  • representative may not be closely in touch with the national or regional associations, whereas the headquarters office, which is, may not be responsible for the United Nations contacts
  • some at least of the NGOs find it difficult to
  • appoint permanent representatives at the main UN centres; all find it expensive
  • increasing problem of space and facilities for NGOs
  • consequent alienation, rather than engaging of interest, within the membership, vis à vis the United Nations work
  • growth of techniques and jargon, which the representatives feel the need to talk about and . ' . explain, instead of discussing with the members a real subject for study and action
  • too many NGO bureaux and Committees and Liaison Committees, all working separately and studying subjects, but not really producing cooperation, adequately exchanging information or dividing UN work amongst NGOs according to competence so as to avoid overlapping
  • too much amateurism, and in this sense a failure in the consultative process
  • the lines of the UN bodies cross, and subjects are dealt with by several, in turn or simultanoously
  • the major interests of individual NGOs may be
  • several, requiring a multiplicity of representatives or committees, and consequent financial burden
  • lack of reflection of NGO thinking in papers produced by UNESCO

Other views

  • the Conference of UNESCO NGOs is attended by "barely better than average ordinary meetings of the Working Parties and the Standing Committee."
  • the Conference's self-inflicted rules oblige it to go to embarrassing lengths to eliminate one candidate for the Standing Committee
  • the inadequacy of the cumbersome resolutions system when in fact the decisions taken are not binding on the individual NGOs or on the Unesco Secretariat
  • inadequacy of the treatment afforded Category C NGOs
  • The NGOs might have less and less influence as they were finding it difficult to keep up with the rapid evolution of inter-governmental organizations. A number of non-governmental organizations were influential on an individual rather than on a collective basis.
  • Before NGOs can consider further with Unesco how the Unesoo/NGO relationship can be improved, it seems imperative to study how what they do, individually, affects other areas in which they have no immediate concern but which are, in fact, "affected by what they do. At the same time, Unesco should be asked to study the effect of its actions, not only oh the traditional fields covered by Unesco, but on the dozens of inter-related spheres outside Unesco's own programme.

(b) Views of UNESCO Secretariat

In the Director General's Long-term Outline plan for 1971-1976 (16 C/4) presented to the 16th General Conference of UNESCO:

" I have already said that the participation of (UNESCO) National Commissions and international non- governmental organizations in the implementation of UNESCO's programmes should bo increased. This is necessary to lighten the burden borne by the Secretariat and so reduce the pressurethat leads to the expansion of the Secretariat and to increases in general costs, but even more so to broaden the basis of the Organization's action in Member States and among the international intellectual community.

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 non- governmental organizations - particularly the latte -- should make a greater effort to find ways of intensifying aid to Unesco, and not simply aid fromUnesco. 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 simply a matter of procedure and red tape, whereas its fundamental property should be to give the widest possible scope to spontaneity of the mind....

For my part, I have never concealed my view -- that Unesco's relation to the international non- governmental organizations should not be that of patron -- and in view of the paucity of the resources available it could only be a second- rate patron - but should take the form of cooperation founded on the complementary nature of their contrubutions to a common task, the carrying out of the programme adopted by the General Conference. Such is the recognized principle....

I am convinced that the international non- governmental organizations ... can play a much more active part in attaining the objectives of the programme. To do this they must take the initiative more and, above all, link their activities more closely with Unesco's. For this reason I think that more contracts should be concluded with these organizations for the carrying out of certain projects within their competence and capacities ... Finally, the international non- governmental organizations, or at least some of them, should stop regarding Unesco as a source of financing to which they can turn to cover their running expenses or as a mere administrative machine, which, because of its governmental character, is not qualified for intellectual work as such.

Obviously, the whale conception of collaboration as regards both international non-governmental organizations and National Commissions needs to be radically changed. This change, as I have already said, is no less imperative for Unesco itself, particularly the Secretariat. The Organizations's programme must be regarded and treated not as a set of hard and fast instructions,for which the staff of the institution, and it alone... is responsible for carrying out, but as an outline in which all the contributions and undertakings of national and international energies anxious to devote themselves to the great tasks described in it will have their place. The Secretariat's role in relation to those tasks, with the exception of the operational activities financed chiefly from extra-bugetary resources, is essentially that of stimulation, assistance and coordination rather than that of actual execution.... Above all, Unesco cannot hope to make an impact on the world unless it has a place for all the energies of a nature to associate themselves with its efforts. Its programme must be devised essentially as an appeal a guide, a focus for the mobilization of these tremendous multiform energies.... It is the international community which is asked to act in concert and to organize its activities, impelled and aided -- in such a comparatively small way - by the Director-General and the Secretariat, on Unesco's behalf, in undertakings which cannot succeed unless the community adopts them as its own". (paras. 85-91)

Other points which have been made by the Secretariat in the Sexiennial Report by the Executive Board to the General Conference on the Contribution made to UNESCO activities by International Non-governmental Organizations (Categories A and B) (16. C/22)

  • "It should also be pointed out that Unseco's consultations with the NGOs have so far been much more concerned with Unesco's program than those of the NGOs. In order that cooperation with these organizations should be fully effective, Unesco should make available to them selected information and documentation to enable them to programme those of their activities which contribute to its owm programmes."
  • lack of interest of some NGOs in collective consultation with the Director-General on the Unesco programme on the occasion of the Conference of NGOs approved for Consultative Status with UNESCO
  • the concentration of NGOs in the developed countries and the difficulties they experience in expanding into the developing countries
  • "The Board noted that Member States did not take full advantage of the experience built up by the non-governmental organizations."
  • "It is worth noting that there seems to be a correlation between a non-governmental organization's reputation for effective assistance to Unesco and the detailed information which it is milling to provide (to Unesco) relating to its (the NGO's) activities and programmes."
  • "During the period under review, many NGOs in Categories A and Bmade an extremely valuable contribution to Unesco, participating in the Organization's meetings, in the carrying out of certain projects of an operational character included in its programmes, carrying out activities on their own initiative with a view to facilitating execution of the Unesco programme, providing Unesco with consultative services in their field of competence."
  • "One of the conclusions that might be deduced from the information given in...this document is whether it would not be more appropriate if certain technicalactivities carried out by non-governmental organizations within their field of competence... were in future entrusted to them in their entirety by the Director-General..."

(c) Views of UNESCO Member States

These are extracted from the Provisional Verbatim Records of the 16th General Conference of Unesco (October - November, 1970):

  • "Unesco should take a good look at other intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, at governments and at the world of learning and research and should décida whether it is not in effect, in many fields, duplicating, what is being done elsewhere, whether it is not competing instead of coordinating, whether it is not following instead of leading." (C/VR, p. 18)
  • lack of universality of NGOs, particularly with reference to the developing countries (16 C/VR 28, p. 24)
  • "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..." (16 C/VR 21, p. 10-11)
  • We consider it inadmissable that a governmental organ should put pressure on the private nongovernmental organizations. We cannot approve that all nongovernmental organizations should be treated as guilty (of racism) and we consider it unacceptable that, contrary to all legal principles, it is expected that the accused should supply evidence of their own innocence." (16 C/VR 33, pp. 33-34)

ILO

(b) Views of the Secretariat

As an indication of the attitude of ILO to one of the main categories of nongovernmental organizations with which it is in contact, extracts from a report of the Committee on Trade Union Rights of the 1970 International Labor Conference are given:

  • "Considering that trade unions, provided they enjoy their full rights, are an essential factor for the attainment of the objective of economic, social and cultural progress stated in the Constitution of the ILO,
  • Considering that the rights of workers' and employers' organizations and of human beings in general flourish in a climate of social and economic progress,
  • Considering that the advancement of the rights of workers' and employers' organizations is linked both to national social and economic development and to national regional and international legislation."

This report does not make specific reference to international nongovernmental organizations.

FAO/ EUROPE

(a) Views of INGOs

These are extracted from the documents of the Conference of International Organizations for the Joint Study of Programs and Activities in the Field of Agriculture in Europe (every 2 years), which bring together INGOs and some IGOs outside the UN system.

  • "The Conference was concerned to ensure that the exchange of information which takesplace between the collaborating international organizations, under the auspices of the European Commission on Agriculture, should have the maximum effect."
  • "..The re-examination of the terms of reference of the Conference, as according to the view of some delegates, the danger exists that the Conference, the original aim of which was to give the participating organizations an opportunity to exchange information and coordinate their work, may slip into the role of an advisory body, which is not the intention of the majority of the participating organizations."
  • "The question of recommendations should be reconsidered as some delegates felt that they were not in a position to agree with technical recommendations in the different fields in which they have no compotence and, in any case, they must have the previous authorization of their governing bodies."
  • when several international organizations are prepared to study a specific problem in common, direct means of communication should be established between them to ensure continuity of work

(b) Views of the Secretariat (from document i0/15/69 (11))

The aim of the Conference as originally established in 1954 is:

  • to exchange information by the means of bringing up-to-date the annual list of activities and the timetable of forthcoming meetings
  • to promote cooperation by the means of meetings of discussion groups for organizations having specific interests in similar fields and in plenary sessions for problems of general interest
  • to avoid duplication and over-lapping -in the work of cooperating organizations
  • to focus attention on some problems of great actuality
  • to combine efforts in trying to salve problems of common interest
  • to be a forum where representatives of the UN Agencies, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations can meet and discuss in conditions of absolute egality problems of European agriculture

UNHCR

(a) Views of INGOs

Extracted from a statement made by Garett Ackerson at the 21st Session of the UNHCR Executive Commitee (1970):

  • "The High Commission states that delays and setbacks 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."
  • "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 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. "

Council of Europe

(b) Views of the Secretariat

These are extracted from the report on the tri-ennial examination of the NGOs in consultative status with the Council of Europe (Doc.2370 of the Assembly)

  • "During the 15 years since consultative status was introduced its working has been examined on several occasions. It has proved that cooperation is generally satisfactory where it takes place. Relations with those international non- governmental organizations that represent an organized and dynamic part of public opinion are of undoubted value to the Council of Europe."
  • "The analysis reveals that in most, cases organizations with consultative status meet their commitments to the Council of Europe satisfactorily..... On the other hand, a number of organizations do no more, once they have gained consultative status, than occasionally sand Observers to Assembly Sessions, or forward a publication."
  • "The number of new applications for consultative status led the Standing Committee of the Assembly... to consider what assistance was really given to the activities of the organs of the Council of Europe by those 100 or so organizations that have consultative status and to ask themselves whether a number of such organizations did not seek consultative status for mere reasons of prestige."
  • "The fear was expressed that consultative status would be cheapened if granted to too many ineffective organizations."
  • "Some (of the NGOs) may indeed feel that consultative status does not really fulfill the hopes. it aroused at first. Its better implementation depends as much on the organs of the Council of Europe as en the non-governmental organizations themselves. It is for the Council organs concsrneri to show those organizations that are to some degree passive the way towards more active cooperation with the Council."

2. Working Relationships between International Non-governmental Organizations (independent of their relationship to the intergovernmental system)

This question has never been examined in detail. Such relationships as exist are either:

  • long-standing bilateral working relationships between "friends"
  • ad hoc organizational relationships (e.g. joint committee) for the purposes of a short-term programme or meeting. In general the number of participating NGOs is inversely proportional to the binding power of the decisions taken by the joint body. There are few such ad hoc groupings with four or more NGOs unless participation involves only a token of moral support.
  • standing conferences of NGOs for various purposes (including consultative status)
  • NGOs grouping other international NGOs. These may be divided into:
    • NGOs grouping regional NGOs in the same subject area (27)
    • NGOs with international NGOs participating in addition to national NGOs (35)
    • NGOs with only international NGOs as members (22)

The NGO-NGO relationship within an NGO grouping is constantly threatened by the problem of guaranteeing the independence of each NGO and avoiding any possibility of majority decisions which appear to have the support of a particular NGO when the latter can only be given with the approval of its governing body or in some cases its plenary body.

This is exactly equivalent to the problem of the sovereignty of Member States with respect to decisions in the United Nations. Some NGOs even deplore this "ineffectiveness" on the part of the United Nations mechanism. Ironically it would seem that NGOs are in many cases as rigidly bound by the need for representatives to get a decision from their plenary bodies as is the United Nations,with the difference that the government decision-making system may be more accessible to the government delegate than the NGO governing body is to an NGO representative to a joint NGO meeting.

One conclusion that could be drawn is that the concept of an NGO grouping, or a "super-INGO" as it has been called, is basically inadequate to the problems and operational requirements of NGOs today. It is not that the NGOs are "obstructive" and "isolationist" but that the organizational mechanisms for collaboration with other NGOs which are open to them are too crude to be effectively used. Now approaches are required.

3. Relationships between International Nongovernmental Organizations (for the purpose of sharing facilities and equipment)

It is frequently noted, either as an accusation or an excuse, that many NGOs have to operate with very inadequate resources. It has also been noted that where NGOs possess equipment it is

  • either out of date producing low quality results and requiring much manual work or
  • modern and expensive, producing high quality results quickly, but because of its excellence remains unused for most of the working week

The logical solution to this problem is to seek some means of sharing facilities and equipment in order to benefit from the best equipment.

Such centres exist in Geneva and New York (and planned for London) where a number of organizations have offices in the same building, but there is no emphasis on shared office services. It is therefore interesting to note the following extract from "A Study into the Feasibility of Establishing an Administrative Centre for a Group of Voluntary Organisations". (November, 1970), produced under a contract to the Social Work Advisory Service in London:

  • "For a number of years a major private Foundation which has supported a wide range of voluntary charitable organisations with substantial sums of money has been becoming increasingly concerned with a failure to maximise the capital resources and income at their disposal through the use of unsatisfactory accommodation, the employment of unskilled staff in certain crucial spheres, and from ignorance or rejection of modern management concepts."
  • "The feasibility study confirms that considerable economies could be effected if a group of small to medium-sized voluntary organisations (in terms of office requirements) were to be housed centrally, sharing a number of common services. The figures based on a sample of 69 voluntary organisations (not necessarily representative of all voluntary organisations) demonstrate that sharing certain administrative staff, accommodation and equipment would all contribute to savings and increased efficiency."
  • "On the basis of a 40 hour week,between 5 and 8 organisations could share a book-keeper,and 8-16 a salaries/wages clerk. In the same way other professional staff could well be employed -by several organisations."
  • "Another possibility for dramatic savings would be on pooled use of equipment. For example, 54 of the 69 organisations in the study owned 1 or more duplicators each, whereas it would be necessary to have only 3 machines for a combination of between 14 and 30 organisations - a savings of at least 27 machines. 31 of these organisations (nearly 5%) own or hire photocopiers whereas 1 medium capacity machine, with an output of 8 copies per minute, would be sufficient for their combined uses. The same theory applies to postal franking and other machinery."
  • "Although the study was based oh a group of national organisations, the principles could equally well be applied in any major centre of population, and at a time when the local authorities are establishing their own unified personal social service departments, it is especially important for the voluntary sector to re-appraise its own organisation and structure."

These conclusions apply equally well to the offices and facilities of international nongovernmental organizations. It may be expected that NGOs receiving subventions from IGOs and foundations will at some stags be placed under pressure to group themselves physically in order to reduce their overhead costs.


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