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Problems Hindering Action of International Nongovernmental Organizations

Paper presented to a panel on the evaluation and extension of public participation in international organizations at the 18th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (St Louis, USA, March 1977) under the title: Practical problems of using the potential of INGO networks as an extended version of a presentation to the UIA Geneva Symposium published under the title Pseudo-issues paralyzing transnational association action (International Associations, 28, 1976, 12, pp. 571-573). Published in: The Future of Transnational Associations from the Standpoint of a New World Order Brussels, UIA, 1977, pp. 168-205. Also distributed under the title Practical Options in Using the Potental of International NGO Networks. [NB: With changing terminology, in 2003 it would be entitled Problems Hindering Action of Global Civil Society Networks]. Reprinted in: Transnational Associations 32, 4, 1980, pp. 180-185 [PDF version]. Also a French version under the title: Les problèmes entravant l'action des organisations internationales nongouvernementales (OING)
Debate about INGOs
Problems hindering INGO action
Conclusion concerning problems
Guidelines for remedial action
Remedial action
Shared facilities in "transnational centres"
Alternative forms of organization
Alternative forms of meeting
Facilitative action by IGO secretariats
International convention on INGO legal status
Improvements in INGO information and communication
Improvements in information and communication about INGOs
Facilitation of network processes
Network organizational strategy
Network vocabulary

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The title of this paper contains an ambiguity which usefully reflects the ambiguity of the subject matter. There are in fact several conceptions of the "practical problems in using the potential of INGO networks".

These include:

1. The practical problems for an external body in making use of the INGO networks in support of its own programmes and objectives, irrespective of the programmes and concerns of the INGOs. Typically, and commonly, these are the problems for the UN system (through its Office of Public Information) in attempting to mobilize and galvanize the INGO networks in support of UN programmes (conceived as being the only programmes of satisfactory legitimacy and effectiveness).

2. The practical problems of making INGO networks function better, according to the criteria of an external body recognizing the benefits arising from the activity of such networks operating their own programmes in the light of their own objectives and priorities. Typically, although infrequently, these are the problems for a foundation concerned to increase the general operational effectiveness of INGOs as the best means (although indirect) of ensuring the achievement of its own objectives.

3. The practical problems of developing the usefulness of INGO networks for the INGOs in the networks in the light of their own criteria of how best this could be achieved.

4. The practical problems for an outside individual or group in attempting to build (membership, working, information) contacts with different INGO networks' Typically, these are the problems of the informed general public or a newly created, and enthusiastic, active group, wishing to relate to similar initiatives in other countries via the INGO network

The problems identified in this paper have not been ordered in terms of these different possible perspectives, nor in terms of their implication for: IGOs, INGOs, national governments, local groups, scholars, individuals, etc.' In fact each of the problems can usefully be examined for any such possible implications.

The paper also identifies some areas for innovative response to the complex of problems hindering full use of INGO networks. In fact examination of what can usefully be done, namely what has not yet been done, serves to highlight other aspects of such problems.

done, namely what has not yet been done, serves to highlight other aspects of such problems.

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