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Challenges to the Action of International Nongovernmental Organizations


Originally published under the title: List of Problems Hindering INGO Action in The Future of Transnational Associations from the Standpoint of a New World Order (proceedings of a symposium, Geneva, 1976). Brussels, Union of International Associations, 1977, Appendix 4. Unfortunately, despite the elapse in time, and the cessation of the Cold War, many of the points remain relevant


1. INGO political ineffectiveness
Lack of INGO identity
INGO operational ineffectiveness
IGO divisive response to INGO action
Lack of co-ordination between INGOs
Duplication of INGO activity
Establishment-orientation of INGOs
Proliferation of INGOs
Incompatibility of functionally equivalent INGO members
Lack of awareness of inter- organizational linkages
Lack of identity of INGO network
Lack of national awareness of international linkages to INGOs
Weakness of membership link to INGOs
INGO naivety
Inadequate INGO response to IGO preoccupations
Locating fund sources for INGOs
Locating channels for distribution of INGO programme funds
INGO Fund distribution
Obstacles to lNGO fund transfers
Absence of INGO policy in regional IGOs
Non-facilitative policy of IGO secretariats
Absence of national NGOs in some countries
Diversity of INGO organizational forms and interests
Supposed similarity of INGOs to multinational corporations
Non-representativity of INGOs
Western-based INGO secretariats
INGO use of Western-based organizational models
Treatment of INGOs as an administrative problem
Inadequate facilities for INGOs
Inadequate statistical data on INGOs
Social recognition of INGOs
National legal status of INGOs
Status of INGO personnel
International legal status of INGOs

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1. INGO political ineffectiveness

Problem: IGOs (such as the United Nations) and national governments are political institutions and an INGO can only be politically effective by relating to such bodies politically. The frustrations that many INGOs experience arise, at least in part, from a failure to think and act politically and to acknowledge that the purpose of such relationships is to exchange influence. This problem is aggravated by INGO indifference to any governmental assessment of an INGO in terms of the importance of the political constituency it represents.

Remark: Most INGOs claim to be non-political organizations, in the sense that there is a basic distinction between the organization of a political party and an organization representing the particular interests of its members vocational, religious, etc. The reality of the situation is that governmental delegates assess the potential value of an INGO primarily in terms of the political power of the constituency it represents. INGOs controlled by particular national or cultural interests may be rejected for this reason. Furthermore, most expertise, however technical, is now held to have cultural overtones. Even INGOs concerned with palaeontology or sanskrit literature, for example, are expected to align themselves with majority views of the IGO community on the current major issues of peace, human rights, etc.

But what is political impact in this context ? Does it mean the ability to ensure that the wording of an intergovernmental resolution is changed or that a new programme is undertaken within an intergovernmental agency ? What is the fate of most such resolutions? (One study showed that only 3% of intergovernmental resolutions resulted in new action.) To the extent that many NGOs are working in areas not yet recognized as significant by IGOs or governments, they may be preparing the way for political impact which will be legitimated (possibly years later) by their work (e.g. the UN discovery of the environment issues in 1972).

It is ironic that such arguments concerning political impact are made by political scientists, often within the framework of some lNGO or one of its national members. It is equally ironic that remarks by government delegates on political impact are made by individuals who themselves are often members of national professional or technical associations linked to international ho} e

often members of national professional or technical associations linked to international ho} e


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