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Context and concept of INGOs


The Future of Leadership: reframing the unknown (Part #2)


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In this section we want to widen the range of types of organization (rather than organizations) prior to isolating those entities that conventionally are termed INGOs. The suggestion therefore is that many statements made elsewhere in this text are also applicable to styles of organization found outside these narrow limits.

2.1. The Concept of an Organization
There are many factors which determine the manner in which different functions are associated with particular styles of organization drawn from the wide range of possibilities of kinds of organization. An attempt at isolating some different combinations is presented in Table 1, which in no way is intended to be definitive, but is really an indication of how some different styles of organization may be distinguished. One example of how a need satisfied by a conventional organization may be satisfied by a functional equivalent in the table is the case of a "subscription ship". In one setting it maybe necessary to have interaction between members via an "organization", while in another the need for such interaction may be satisfied by a journal to which individuals can subscribe. Another example is the case of an "agreement" which may be considered an hyperf ormal organization. In one setting a written or even verbal agreement may satisfactorily regulate relations between members, in another an equivalent agreement may have to be administered by a secretariat via an organization. Where formal agreement is not possible, an 15 organization" may even perform the necessary mediating or nego tiating functions between its members. A final example is the case of a meeting, and particularly large regular meetings, in a series. In terms of activity, this maybe more significant than a small normally constituted organization.

One consequence of focusing on conventional organizations only is that functional equivalents, particularly in non- Western cultures(2), are excluded from the analysis thus introducing cultural bias and jeopardizing comparative studies. Another consequence is that even within a certain culture an *organizational analysis" will exclude many styles of organization performing functions which mesh with those of the organizations we are trying to isolate for closer scrutiny in this paper, thus rendering the analysis incomplete. A complicating feature is that a conventional organization may, for example, perform functions for a "membership", but at the same time produce a periodical which serves as a focal point for a
subscri ership" which is not identical nor coterminous with the membership. A further complicating feature derives from the dynamics of a social system in that the growth or decay of a particular organization form may be accompanied by transference of functions to another organization form, for instance due to change in technology. The ability to accomplish this transference may be hindered by inertial features, such as vested interests identified with particular patterns of organization.
Finally, it is useful to consider what may be termed "potential" organization, namely the facility with which a network of interacting bodies can gel out appropriate organization forms and combinations of members in response to each new detected need. Such organizations come into existence when required but otherwise only exist potentially their potential existence obviates the need for a permanent organization in the domain in question (3).

2.2. International vs. national.
There is a series of problems connected with this dimension. Some organizations may have members from one or two nations, but financial support from one only (4). Their activities may be geared towards the international system as such, towards the domestic situation in a specified set of countries or towards one single country regardless of the structure of the membership and/or financial contributions. In addition there is a difficulty connected with the distinction between manifest and latent functions. Activities of typically national NGOs to solve national problems -for instance a strike organized by a trade union -- may very well have unintended repercussions in other nations thus affecting inter-nation relationships. Any cutting point is therefore bound to be arbitrary (see Table 2) . The conventional requirements are that an INGO must have members and financial support from at least three different countries and the intention to cover operations in as many.
There is a further problem for many organizations in that the nationality of members, funding and activity or office location may be considered of little significance to the members -- the organization is not territorially-orien ed. In such cases the term "transnational" is more appropriate (5) .

2.3. Nongovernmental vs. governmental
The concept of a "nongovernmental" organization is an extremely difficult one to handle satisfactorily. The definition at the inter national level derives from a compromise wording in the early days of the United Nations (6).
Table 3 shows some of the many borderline areas (points 2- 13) which are treated as "nongovemmental" . The current crisis in INGO-UN relations (7) is in part due to the fact that the narrow Western concept of an NGO is not re- examined. (There is also a suspicion that the prefix "non-" may translate badly into some non-Indo-European language and culture settings and give the sense of "anti-", or at least a "non-kosher" connotation.) More or less successful imitations exist as functional equivalents in non-Western societies, but frequently with a strong governmental component making them "mixed" or "intersect" organizations. (8) The government or party influenced "NGOs" in socialist countries tend to be viewed as political front organizations by the West, whereas the socialist countries tend to view Western "NGOs" as fronts for secret service activities. A more sophisticated typology is required.

2.4. Non-profit vs. Profit
Within the UN context, which originated the term NGO, there is no specific restriction on recognition of nongovernmental organizations which themselves have profit making objectives. To date however, of the 350 organizations in consultative status with ECOSOC, more have such objectives -- although some, as for example the various trade associations, are clearly attempting to facilitate profit making on the part of their members (9). Many aspects of nonprofit status are indicated in Table 4.
Tax law may further confuse the issue by recognizing some nonprofit bodies as having "charitable status" or as being "benevolent" or "philanthropic". This varies very much from country to country.

2.5. Voluntary vs. Nongovernmental

"Voluntary" is as subject to confusion as "nongovernmental". Many INGOs have "voluntary bodies" as members, and may even have programmes administered by "volunteers". But on the other hand, many differ from profit-making bodies only in the lack of a prof it- objective, and would oppose the label "voluntary". (10) There is a tend ency to treat "voluntary agencies" as a special class of INGOs with programmes for developing countries.

2.6 Legal Status
INGOs are fictional entities in terms of international law. They are international "outlaws". (11) This is true of both profit and nonprofit organizations. No international convention exists to supply either with legal status. In both cases they are treated as national organizations in the country where they are headquartered (12) and as "foreign" organizations in other countries. This situation has had a marked negative influence on the thinking of scholars unwilling to recognize any body not accorded existence by law. Even at the national level, however, many organizations remaining unincorporated for a variety of reasons -- one of which may be the illegality of their activities.

Organized crime is an important feature of the social system, at least through the influence of the "nationwide cartel and confederation", "the single loosely-knit conspiracy" operating in the United States, and most probably through other related international crime syndicates, about which information is unobtainable(*) . In some respects organized crime resembles a set of normal profit-making enterprises, although illegal; in others the underlying "family structure" (as with the Tong secret societies) are significant; or, as a totality, it may be a network loosely-knit structures, possibly with a central arbitrating "commission" International organized crime is almost entirely ignored in analyses of governmental and business systems due to its "abnormalities", but aside from thus falling into a catchall category of INGOs it may through its functions as a network of pressure groups or established structures and properties bear a strong resemblance to the legitimate network of associations (as well as infiltrating some', such as unions and trade associations) Such organization may perform some positive functions. (13)

2.7 Salience
Organizations may be distinguished by their visibility to the ublic eye. There appears to be a tendency to study the most visible. (14) The following range should however be considered:

(a) secret societies (e.g. Freemasons), organized crime (e.g. Mafia), secret services (e.g. CIA), and liberation movements.

(b) deliberately not publicized for political reasons (e.g. Bildeberg Group), for reasons of profit (e.g. certain trade associations cum cartels) .

(c) known but closed to the "nonqualified" public (e.g. certain professional association) or bodies with deliberately high entrance fees (e.g. exclusive with international reciprocity of membership) .

(d) known and open to the interested.

(e) deliberately publicized (e.g. certain mass movements and prosyletizing organizations) .

**** "Our knowledge of the structure which makes 'organized crime' organized is somewhat comparable to the knowledge of Standard Oil which could be gleaned from interviews with gasoline station attendants."

2.8. Duration

There is a a marked tendency in sociology and political science to focus on "permanent" organizations -- particularly since they are reliable generators of comparable data for diachronic studies. Organizations are, of course, not permanent and, in the case of business enterprises the average lif e may be a s low a s f ive years in the U. S. Less easily documented, for example, is the organization associated a meeting -- which may extend over five years for international meetings of 10,000 people -- but which nevertheless may substitute for a possibly ad hoc organization, as in the case of regular meeting series or a one-off meeting.

Of increasing importance are temporary bodies specially Incorporated for a specific task and generally grouping a number of permanent bodies. The most ambitious examples of these are the International Geophysical Year and the International Quiet Sun Year (15), which grouped a wide range of bodies. The boundary between such activities and international "programmes" launched, for example, by the United Nations, may be unclear. Such bodies as the United Nations Development Program gelled out of other UN programmes as an "organization only halfway through the first UN Development Decade which became its major concern. Programmes and meetings may act as functional substitutes for conventional organizations.

It is a mute point as to what degree of impermanence should be considered a cut off point. The informal temporary alliances between delegations with respect to an agenda point at an international conference can be of great significance during the hours they last. It is in this time period that much "organization" is created, modified and dissolved. A process oriented perspective would attempt to isolate any relative invariance as being significant.

2.9 Levels of Coordination
There is a prevailing assumption, particularly in UN circles, that every international NGO has national association members or branches. There is also a tendency to assume that the secretariat or executive committee has no constitutional limitation of its control over a national affiliate (16). The reality of the situation is that there are many combinations of membership and degrees of control. Of particular significance is the emergence of international NGOs which themselves group other international NGOs (e.g. the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences) . In some cases, the member international NGOs may themselves have international NGOs as members (e.g. the International Council of Scientific Unions) and the latter type may in turn be member of several general conferences of international NGOs (e.g. the Conference of Nongovernmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC) . This phenomena may repeat itself at the national level (e.g. the American Council of Learned Societies) to give a complex multi-level structure separating the ultimate member from the highest level of coordination. This structuring and the potential of this mechanism has not been subject to academic scrutiny.

2. 10. Cross -modality (17)
A given organization's Programme may be restricted to a mix of one or two concerns --- typically:

  • problem focus i.e. where solutions to real world problems is of major concern
  • discipline focus, i.e. where development of methodology, skills or theory is primary
  • profession focus, i.e. where job security, status, remuneration, or possibly ethics, is primary.

More sophisticated organizations are faced with the interaction between these concerns and their integration within a viable and socially responsible strategy. The extent of this cross-modal integration could be an important means of highlighting particularly significant bodies. Other possible modes of importance might include: policy-making, pro gramme management,. education and public information. Lack of cross-modal coordination tends to give rise to 'spastic' efforts in the social system.

2. 11 Multidiscip linarity
Organizations may also be usefully distinguished by the range of disciplines which they attempt to Work with or relate to. Many international organizations are concerned to interrelate different relevant perspectives expressed through member or sub-sections activity. To the extent that such activity is coordinated through complex multilevel structures, the integrative potential of the top most layer is high. There do, however, appear to be certain parallels between behaviour with respect to geographical and functional territor which merit study to avoid a repetition in a new domain of the existing territorial conflict. (44)

2.12. Participativeness
The participativeness of an organization is especially important in the case of nongovernmental organizations. Potential members or supporters experiencing an organization as non-part icipat ive will tend to allocate their resources to more participative groups. NGO activity as a whole may in some respect be considered a participative alternative to governmental activity -- although there is a definite bureaucratization of NGO activity which suggests that youth and volunteer movements represent a still more participative wave. There is need for measures of degree of part icipat ivenes s, for example:

  • Decisions are reached through the unanimous sense of the meeting, or in face-to-face groups.
  • Decisions are by majority vote with every facility for the expression of minority views.
  • Decisions are made by an in-group and then approved by an assembly in a democratic vote following appropriate speeches by the leaders.
  • Decisions are made by an in-group and then presented in appropriate speeches by leaders.
  • Decisions are made by a charismatic leader or dictator.

2.13. Autonomy
It is a truism that no organization exists in splendid isolation. However, the extent of organizational inter-dependence is not well recognized. This may extend to a point where the boundaries between organizations or their sub-sections are fixed arbitrarily for legal, fiscal or funding convenience but do not constitute a meaningful boundary in the working activity of most of those involved. Organizations may be conceived as embedded in a network to a degree in some cases that the links in the network between organizations are of g reater importance than the nodes, i.e. the organizations themselves. (18)

2.14. Conventional INGOs

The above paragraphs indicate the range and complexity of nongovernmental organizations in society. The UN system faced with this complexity in 1946 introduced, in Article 71 of its Charter a negative definition of NGO which in fact established no clear cut off points on any of the above dimensions. UN practice has, however, resulted in recognition as NGO of Western-style "permanent organizations" with an "established headquarter", a constitution and, where possible, members in a "substantive number" of countries.

This legalistic definition has tended to disguise the sociological reality although convenient for some practical administrative purposes. Clearly it only discloses a small proportion of the activity which would be detected with a more comprehensive acceptance of styles of social organization. The legalistic definition appears to result in embarrassment over such categories of organization as churches (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church), youth movements, "people organizations" (e.g. in the style in P.R. of China) and liberation movements. A new attitude and terminology is required. Perhaps "transnational association networks" would be better -- although to it should be added such adjectives as dynamic, evolving, adaptive, participative, and the like.

In the remainder of this article attention will be confined to conventional INGOs as recognized in the Yearbook of International Organizations. This means (i) permanent bodies with offices, officers and a constitution, (ii) not created by intergovernmental agreement, (iii) members, officers, and funds from at least 3 countries, (iv) no redistribution of profits to members, (v) non secret, (vi) democratic officers election procedure, (vii) autonomous, excluding subgroups of organizations, (viii) currently active, (ix) excluding: (non-democratic) religious orders, educational or training institutions or social and entertainment clubs. This leaves us with a total of 2281 INGOs in 1970, 288 of which were European Common Market or EFTA business and professional groups . (19)

2 .15. Some Illustrations

The 2281 organizations make up a very heterogeneous group. Among them are the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Federation of Kennel Clubs, the International Society for Plant Geography and Ecology, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the International Commission of Rules for the Approval of Electrical Equipment (CEE), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In addition, there are international trade unions, international political organizations, for instance the Socialist International, a large number of professional, commercial, agricultural and cultural organizations. Other INGOs deal with problems of health, peace, documentation and f inance. There seems to be almost no limit to the number of activities that can be and will be organized internationally.


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