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An Analysis


Mobilization for Alienation vs. Catalysis for Participation: choice for the United Nations system (Part #3)


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Now the question is who within the UN system is responsible for the over-use of this pattern of generalizations ? How predictable was the "closing of the gates ? Why has the "political will" been further eroded ? (W. Gibson Parker, Director, CESI/UN at expert meeting on Mobilization of Public Opinion. (Geneva,December 1972). In our 1970 critique of the CESI approach we attempted to draw attention to its defects (see extract in insert). The outof-date mentality which characterizes U.N. thinking on these matters can be illustrated by a modified version of the classic World War 1 mobilization * poster (p. 410). It can be usefully, if ironically and regretfully, contrasted with the current U.S. Army conscription poster whose new mentality theme and style illustrated by the theme: "The Army Wants to Join You Now" (The first represents "Approach 1"and the second, "Approach 3" as defined in Fig. 1.). Analysis and evidence is of course available in support of the need for this changed approach, and what else would convince U.S. Army generals to change their traditional "tough" stance to such an extent.

Comparison of marketing, command and particupative structures
Approach 1: Marketing Approach 2: Command Approach 3: Participative
Alternative approaches to leadership

And yet no equivalent analysis penetrates through to the UN Public Information sections. The most succinct version of this analysis that we have encountered may be given in diagrammatic form in Fig. 1 (Reproduced from an article on marketing in the computer business by J. Malcolm Rigby. Tempering the revolution. New Scientist. 4 June 1970, p. 4 (The commentary is an adaptation of that in the article).).

Under the heading "Avoiding disillusionment", the author notes that "Approach 1", which is the standard UN/ OPl approach, may lead to a favourable reaction by the * target > body (e.g. man-in-the-street, NGO, or a national government agency) receiving the "message", but often this reaction is incorrect due to the tendency, admitted by many producing the messages, to over-sell their product (in this case the UN development programme) to give the impression that it will solve every problem about which the target body is concerned. This approach often leads to disillusionment when recommendations become realities, and the target body realizes that the UN programmes do not cure problems but may even bring additional problems in their wake. This discovery tends to lead to conflict and alienation from the UN programmes and by association, from the programme objectives.

A second option "Approach 2", often taken when the previous approach does not work, may be described as the "command" approach. This involves arranging for a directive from a body (possibly a United Nations Association or a Unesco National Commission) on which the target body is dependent or which he or it respects, announcing that a positive response is required to the message (e.g. the UN programme). If the body has little independence then, as shown in Approach 2 (lefthand side), resentment of the approach will result in action but with alienation of those involved and a hostile attitude toward future messages. If the body is more powerful, it may be able to implement it in a counter-productive manner or ensure that it is ignored (Approach 2, right-hand side). Approach 2 probably occurs in all national government bureacracies which have to respond to the frequent and seemingly frenetic calls for UN Days, Years, and other symbolic programmes and questionnaires.

The United Nations has still to learn how to implement "Approach 3", which is a minimum response to its resource problem and the achievement of its objectives. Approach 3 is much less authoritarian. The responsible body (in this case the appropriate unit of the U.N. system) approaches the external contact (the "target body"in OPI /CESI parlance) with an offer of help, pointing out what might be achieved by the external contact's information programme in a collaborative and participative enterprise and asking for ideas and assistance from that body. This approach helps the external contact (e.g. an NGO or a national government agency) to gain a correct impression of the proposed programme and to participate in its elaboration (see feedback loop). The programme finally implemented has much greater chance of motivating the external contact and of ensuring its involvement and cooperation.

Of course UN officials regularly ask for "assistance and ideas" in such arenas as NGO briefing sessions. On closer inspection however, this is either a completely ritual gesture, or is interpreted to mean publicizing the UN programme to a wider audience. No participation or feedback is involved. Nor could it be "received"by the secretariat in many cases - there is no procedural provision for such feedback messages.

Whilst Approach 3 would represent a major step forward if meaningfully implemented, it is nevertheless excessively directive, if maximum support is to be obtained for "programmes on world problems". [An analysis of the weakness of this directive approach is given in Donald Schon. Beyond the Stable State : public and private learning in a changing society. Temple Smith, 1971 (reviewed in: Wanted; new types of social organization. International Associations. 1971, 3].The rewording is deliberate here.

The UN seeks maximum support for action in terms of "UN programme objectives" These programme objectives however presumably represent the desires of "we the peoples...". They do not belong in some mysterious, exclusive and copyrighted manner to the United Nations system as a set of institutions, as the wording would seem to imply. The UN system therefore loses nothing, and gains much, by encouraging and facilitating external bodies in the pursuit of their own programme objectives. It is really a question of whether the UN system is interested solely in its own programmes as symbols of departmental and institutional glory, or rather in the accomplishment of their objectives, by whatever channels are available. Unfortunately it usually seems to be the former, even when (as is often the case) the "programme" has only sufficient resources for one staff member plus shared secretary.

An "Approach 4" could therefore be conceived which goes beyond marketing, even of the subtlest "stimulusresponse" type as ably analyzed above by Rigby. In Approach 4 the "stimulus" would not come from only one group of bodies, namely the UN Agencies, implying that only they have seen "the truth". And the stimulus would not only be received by external bodies, implying that they are all and always "retarded" in their thinking, compared to that of the U.N. system. In Approach 4 the stimuli" would come from any active and concerned body and the "responses" would come from as many bodies as perceived the stimuli to be valid options for their own programmes. This network-oriented approach is the basis for a synergistic multiplication of resources directed toward world problems. The challenge to the U.N. system is to help give operational reality to such an approach. Studies are required to clarify it. They could well be combined in a sort of "mini-Jackson Report" to provide the missing component in the thinking of the original Jackson Report. (United Nations. Capacity Study of the United Nations Development System. New York, United Nations, 1969, 2 vols, (reviewed in International Associations, 1970, under the title Planning for the 1960s in the 1970s.)

Current governmental approach to world crisis: a World War I approach
World War I approach to world crisis:

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