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The UN System's Ivory Tower Strategy

And the death knell of INGO Consultative Status (Part #1)

Discrimination and Fragmentation in the 1970s: an organized response to global crisis (Part 1)
(Originally published in International Associations, 23, 1971, 1, pp. 28-48; PDF version)

INGOs and the Development Decade
INGOs and the 25th Anniversary of the UN
INGOs and Consultative Status with ECOSOC
INGOs and Unesco Member States
Nongovernmental organizations and peace seen through the eyes of Unesco
INGOs, privacy and national and international data banks
INGOs and multidisciplinary programmes
INGOs and international legal status or facilities
INGOs and human survival
Some conclusions
Basic weakness of INGOs vis a vis the UN Agencies
Who is to blame?

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INGOs and the Development Decade

At the annual conference in New York at which INGOs are informed of UN plans affecting them, one speaker introduced his talk with the following remarks :

"At the threshold of a new Development Decade, we are by now fully conscious that we must not stay in our ivory tower at the United Nations, that this organization of 126 countries can be terribly inward looking. We have to find some windows to the external world otherwise the Development Decade and the so-called global strategy are going to be a failure, and we think that the NGOs are an institutional instrument we should like to use much more for this." (Philippe de Seynes, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. Goals for the '70s: The Second Development Decade; Global Strategy for the Decade.)

Aside from this remark and a call in the last paragraph for the "mobilization of public opinion" for which we would very much count on those assembled here who, I have no doubt, will be persuaded that this is a useful concept, a useful undertaking" there is no other reference to INGOs. All reference was to the economics of development from the UN perspective.

Copies of the United Nations Report on the International Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade are now available. We note that :

"International cooperation for development must be on a scale commensurate with that of the problem itself. Partial, sporadic and half-hearted gestures, however well intentioned, will not suffice."

and that :

"Economic and social progress is the common and shared responsibility of the entire international community".

And that:



(this space was reserved for comments on the section of the Report referring to the participation of international nongovernmental organizations; we have been reliably informed that the paragraph in question was deleted at the drafting stage)



The reference to the "international community" is unqualified. Each group is free to define it as it wishes. Governmental bodies will therefore define it as being limited to governmental bodies - the more eager nongovernmental bodies will define it to include themselves. Is their assistance wanted ?

This tendency to use umbrella terms to be interpreted by the reader has been commented on in previous articles in this journal [Who needs whom in the Second United Nations Development Decade ? International Associations, October 1969; also Planning for the 1960s in the 1970s. International Associations, March, April, June-July 1970]

On one specific point we note that INGO assistance is desired :

"Private foundations, institutions and organizations will be encouraged to provide further assistance for expanding and diversifying research activities of benefit to developing countries."

And what of the nature of "social development" which is a major concern of INGOs ?

"The ultimate objective of development must be to bring about sustained improvement in the well-being of the individual and bestow benefits on all."

The section in the Report on "human development" contains sub-sections on: population growth, employment, education for development needs, health facilities, nutrition, involving children and youth, housing and the ecological balance. There is no echo of Unesco's suggested definition of development which was communicated to the preparatory committee for the Decade, namely :

"Development is meaningful only if man who is both instrument and beneficiary is also its justification and its end. It must be integrated and harmonized; in other words, it must permit the full development of the human being on the spiritual, moral and material level, thus ensuring the dignity of man in society, through respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

The tone of the Report suggests that human development means the creation of economic units with sufficient "social" benefits to keep them content. We are back with the view that

"Development is generally accepted as meaning first and foremost economic development. It implies an effort on the part of each country, where necessary with outside assistance, to take stock of its natural resources and to develop them to their fullest extent." (Mr Gabites. 16th General Conference of Unesco. -Verbatim Reports, 16 C /VR. 18 (prov.), page 26).

This is also the view which prevails in the Report of the Ecosoc Development Planning Committee (Vers un développement accéléré; propositions pour la deuxième Décénnie des Nations Unies pour le développement. New York, 1970, ST / ECA / 128).

After arguing about the importance of adequate social structures which makes any increase in production or income merely one of a number of relevant economic and social indicators, the Report notes that because many of the social indicators are lacking, social goals can only be identified qualitatively. The Report is then able to conclude that in fact economic and social questions are so closely interwoven that there is hardly any sense in making the distinction between them. The remainder of the Report identifies methods of increasing production and income, with a few undeveloped remarks such as :

''La stratégie du développement doit être foncièrement conçue pour les êtres humains; plus ils seront nombreux, plus les besoins seront grands.''

There is no mention of the collaboration of international nongovernmental organizations and the Report ends with the Conclusion :

''De I'avis du Comité, les gouvernements plutôt que d'écouter une opinion publique imprévoyante ne devraient rien négliger pour faire accepter à leurs citoyens la nécessité d'assumer cette responsabilité clans leur propre intérêt. C'est le cas de citer la fameuse maxime française: ''Gouverner c'est prévoir .. Le Comité pense que les gouvernants sauront faire accepter à leurs citoyens une stratégie bien conque du développement mondial.'' (emphasis added).

How does one ensure that a strategy is "well conceived "in a democratic society ?

Again a view such as the following, expressed by the Director General of Unesco, is totally alien to the tone of the Report and the conception of the strategy :

"The idea of development has, in fact, gradually become broader, deeper, and more varied so that going beyond the purely economic aspects of improving man's lot, it now also embraces the so-called social aspects.

... Man is the means and the end of development; he is not the one-dimensional abstraction of homo economicus, but a living reality, a human person, in the infinite variety of his needs, his potentialities and his aspirations... Even the economists now admit that development is not development unless it is total, and that it is no mere figure of speech to talk of cultural development: cultural development is part and parcel of total development." (Address to the Intergovernmental Conference on Institutional, Administrative and Financial Aspects of Cultural Policies, Venice, 1970. Paris, Unesco, p. 43)

The above Report refers only to the importance of consumer education and preparing the new generation for the tasks (defined by the old generation) which await them.


What criteria are used to determine the organizations which are not significant.for peace, development and human survival ? - who checks on the validity of the criteria ?

'.. (consultative status) involves obligations which are onerous in so far as they are taken seriously. The temptation for NGOs is to make only a nominal response to what is required of them or open to them. The temptation for the governments politically active at the UN (if not their concerted policy) is to cut out the NGOs so that they don't have to be taken into account. Here is a theatre of international politics in which what goes on has a bearing on the future of mankind if international institutions and policies are going to develop into the rudiments of a world order. That NGOs should hold on to their part and seek to enlarge its scope in these still early days may be of'first-class importance. It means faithfulness and effectiveness in rather unrewarding work. But the stake is tomorrow.' (H.J. Blackham - Humanism - Pelican Original, 1968, p. 177-8)

The means identified by both Reports for guaranteeing the success of the Decade are the "mobilization of public opinion" (see International Associations, April 1970, on this point). There is no mention whatsoever of international nongovernmental organizations in this context. Perhaps this is what the UN is aiming for :

''Pour ces auteurs, la société de masse trouve sa caractéristique dans le fait que les non-élites, atomisés, sont disponibles, c'est-à-dire ouverts à la mobilisation et à la manipulation des élites. Séparés des groupes de vie indépendants, cherchant confusément une communauté à laquelle se raccrocher, les non-élites risquent donc de glisser dans une pseudo-communauté établie par des élites ''exploitantes''.''(Jean Lohisse. La communication anonyme. Paris, Editions Universitaires, 1969, p. 26).

"In both its capitalist and communist variants ... technocratic planning is econocentric... short-range... essentially undemocratic." (Alvin Toffler. Future Shock; a study of mass bewilderment in the face of change. London, Bodley Head, 1970, p. 397-8).

Technocratic planning is essential to the survival of slow-to-adapt administrations. People survive by creating new institutional forms in response to new situations.

On this basis the Second Development Decade will not be a period in which all possible types of person and organization will work together, catalyzed by the UN, to alleviate a global crisis - it is going to be the internal programme of a modest, under-financed, overburdened, administrative apparatus determined that it knows best - quite literally it is the United Nations Organization's Second Development Decade. It has nothing to do with "We the peoples..." and participation is strictly "by invitation only".

Youth and the UN

Audience : Do you think, Mr Pearson, that there's a tremendous credibility gap between young people and the UN ? I think personally perhaps, representing the young generation more than you, that the UN as a peacemaking organization with a stress on making peace doesn't exist at all. I think this is the general feeling among young people who don't want anything to do with the UN whatsoever. I think this is crucial and I think this is also a very dangerous and regrettable development...
Lester Pearson : I don't quarrel with that assessment and I don't quarrel with the danger inherent in the alienation of most young people from organizations generally of the old type... " (Transcripts of Proceedings; Conference on Human Survival, May 1970, United Nations, New York. Charles F Kettering Foundation, 1970).

ited Nations, New York. Charles F Kettering Foundation, 1970).

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