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March 1976

Futures Perspectives of International Organizations

Proposed research questions for a UNESCO study

- / -


Background paper for a UNESCO / UNITAR expert meeting on the role of international organizations in the contemporary world (Geneva, 15-19 March, 1976)

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to propose "draft outline" of Part IV of the proposed Unesco Study under the title future perspectives of international organizations. Given the competence and interest of the author, this paper will focus primarily on the nongovernmental actors and international organizations in general but not on questions specific to intergovernmental organizations. These will presumably be a prime concern of others contributing to this meeting.

The sections of this outline are:

  1. Changing meaning of international organization
  2. Relationships and networks
  3. Quantitative description of future evolution of international organization
  4. Changing nature of relationships between organizations
  5. Changing nature of relationships between organizations and nation-states.
  6. Scenarios for the future of the international system
  7. Future significance for the alleviation of world problems
  8. Relevance of international bodies to developing countries
  9. Maximization of organization of organizational potential
  10. Future policies of mobilizing resources in support of programme action
  11. Future possibilities for facilitating achievement of full organizational potential
  12. Trends in organizational operations
  13. Restrictions on organizational operations.

A. Changing meaning of international organization

It is important to consider how "organization" in general and "international organization" (or variations on this term) in particular are becoming riches in meaning and diversity of structures denoted and the possibilities for new structures to which this given rise. The following dimensions may be considered:

1. Organizations and their functional substitutes

2. International, etc. as opposed to national.

3. Nongovernmental as opposed to governmental

4. Nonprofit as opposed to profit-making

5. Functional range

6. Salience

7. Duration

8.Membership

B. Relationships and networks

C. Quantitative description of future evolution of international organization

Taking into account the considerations of the previous sections:

D. Changing nature of relationships between organizations

Consideration can usefully be given to the changing nature of relationships between:

E. Changing nature of relationships between organizations and nation-states

Consideration should be given to the evolution of relationships of the following type:

F. Scenarios for the development of the system of international organizations

The following table lists a series of 16 scenarios some of which might be considered singly or in groups.

For each of the 16 cases, it may be useful to distinguish the subcase of low entropy and high entropy systems, making 32 possibilities in all

Low variety Relatively centralized

High variety Relatively centralized

IGO

Multinational corporation

NGO

Informal

1

1.1

1.2

+

+

+

+

2

2.1

2.2

+

+

+

-

3

3.1

3.2

+

+

-

+

4

4.1

4.2

+

+

-

-

5

5.1

5.2

+

+

+

+

6

6.1

6.2

+

-

+

-

7

7.1

7.2

+

-

-

+

8

8.1

8.2

+

-

-

-

9

9.1

9.2

+

+

+

+

10

10.1

10.2

-

+

+

-

11

11.1

11.2

-

+

-

+

12

12.1

12.2

-

+

-

-

13

13.1

13.2

-

-

+

+

14

14.1

14.2

-

-

+

-

15

15.1

15.2

-

-

-

+

16

16.1

16.2

-

-

-

-

G. Future significance for the alleviation of world problems

It is important to consider whether the number and variety of organizations and the manner in which they function together (whether coordinated on by some process of mutual information), be will lead to improved containment of the equivalent network of world problems

H. Relevance of international bodies to developing countries

Given that

(1) the majority of international bodies have their headquarters in developed countries.

(2) even when developing countries create their own regional bodies, the rate of creation of such bodies is less the rate of creation of equivalent bodies in developed countries.

I. Maximization of organization potential

There already is a vast network of organizations and groups in society extending from the community level to the international level. Only little is known about this network as a network, or of the number of bodies in it (possibly of the order of 10-100 million). It is not known what might be accomplished if the potential of this network those touched by it were brought to bear on world problems. Nothing is known about its synergistic potential.

To the extent that maximization the ability of individuals, and existing organizational units (of whatever kind) to:

(1) link together into larger organizational units (2) channel resources to focal points from which they may be directed to the alleviation of problems. (3) restructure existing organizational complexes in response problem configurations and priorities.

is closely related to the ability of society to survive the emerging complex of problems:

J. Future policies of mobilizing resources in support of programme action

Given the organizational potentialand the increasing criticality of world problems

K. Future possibilities for facilitating achievement of full organizational potential

Given the recognized weakness of existing approaches to mobilizing individuals and organizations in support of action to alleviate world problems(c.f. UN Secretary General's 1973 report on the matter)

L. Trends in organizational operations

Review of emerging trends in the way organizations operate with the emerge of mere sophisticated supportive technology, greater mobility, and a desire for more rapid change.

M. Restrictions on organizational operations

Review of major pressures which may very significantly diminish the ability of the majority of organizational systems to function to effectively.

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