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Summary of the Crises in Interorganizational Relationships at the International Level

Relationships between INGO and IGO (particularly the UN system)

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Previously published in International Associations, 1972, 24, May, pp. 287-296
Revised extract from: The Next Step in Inter-organizational Relationships. (1971)


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 Secretariat c) the views of the Member States


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 welt-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. n°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 ecosoc. "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) :

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

b) Views of the ECOSOC NGO Section

(c) Views of 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 :


(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 :

Other views

(b) Views of Secretariat

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

" / have already said that the participation of (UNESCO) National Commissions and international non-governmental organizations in the implementation of UNESCO's programmes should be increased. This is necessary to lighten the burden borne by the Secretariat and so reduce the pressure that 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 latter - should make a greater effort to find ways of intensifying aid to Unesco, and not simply aid from Unesco. Unesco, for its part, should modify both its working methods and its approach particularly at the Secretariat level; in order to give a fresh impetus to cooperation, which too often is 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 contributions to a common task, the carrying out of the programme adopted by the General Conference. Such is the recognized principle...

The consultative status arrangement and the conference/ bureau/secretariat/working party mechanism is being currently debated in different ways by the

It is important to recall that the conference/bureau/secretariat/ working party mechanism is entirely conceived and modifiable by NGOs, without in any way jeopardizing the consultative relationship. The following points represent different degrees of depth of inquiry from the superficial to the fundamental. None of these points affect the consultative status of individual NGOs but merely the manner in which NGOs desire to work together and organize their collective representation and joint collaboration with Agencies,

1. internal regulation of the Conferences and Bureaux 2. services provided by the individual agency 3. bilateral contact with Agency officials 4. collective representation to Agency officials 5. need for existing Bureaux, Committees 6. need for existing NGO Secretariats in Agencies 7. need for an investigation into new forms of NGO-UN system relationships, using information from 8. need for central NGO Secretariat(s) to act as clearing house(s) for all joint NGO-UN system interaction. 9. need for NGO sub-secretariats 10. need for NGO Sub-Commissions or working parties 11. need for NGO joint Conferences 12. need for consideration of views of 13. need for national NGO joint activity at country level 14. need to stimulate 15. need to consider 16. need to consider 17. need for mechanisms to facilitate initiation and submission of proposals to Agencies from NGOs which do not have intimate contact with the appropriate Agency.

NGOs are traditionally the pioneers in the introduction of new and better approaches to the solutions of the problems of man, whether concrete or idealistic. Traditionally it is NGOs which look to the possibility of a future better world. They, or their national branches, act as the necessary pressure group to stimulate government action and to provide government with a specialized source of information.

This pioneering spirit is not yet evident in the manner in which NGOs adapt the various inter-NGO mechanisms to the new problems and possibilities - there have been no changes in this mechanism comparable to those initiated in the intergovernmental mechanism over the last 25 years. How is it that NGOs are each so imaginative and forward-looking in their own spheres and yet are possibly more conservative and politically sensitive with regard to inter-NGO action than are States with regard to intergovernmental activity ? The above list is a reminder of some of the possibilities which could be considered in preparation for the next 25 years.

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 whole 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-budgetary 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 multi- form 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 Sexennial 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)

(c) Views of Member States

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


(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 :

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


(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 brings together INGOs and some IGOs outside the UN system.

(b) Views of the Secretariat (from document 10-15-69(11))

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


(a) Views of INGOs

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

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).

Working Relationships between International Nongovernmental Organizations
(independent of their relationship to the intergovernmental system).

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

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. New approaches are required.

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