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Political Science
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Explain the growth and role of nongovernmental organizations in world politics.

Dec 5th, 2014

Research in the area of NGOs and UNESCO is surrounded by various ?deficiencies? of adequate literature. Firstly, theoretical works on NGOs are rare. Although NGOs as a subject of examination increasingly gained attention within the last two decades, political scientists have made a rather small contribution to their analysis (Clarke 1998:37; Gordenker/ Weiss 1995a:358). Most books or journal articles on NGOs are relatively dissatisfying. They tend to be of rather narrative character and miss out on comprehensive analysis. Literature on NGOs often merely describes a single major NGO - for example Amnesty International, the Red Cross or Greenpeace - , an individual NGO project or a particular aspect of NGO activity, such as human rights, humanitarian intervention, environment or gender. As a result, works on NGOs tend to be primarily empirical in order to describe NGO activity (Cerny 1997:14).

Of the existing theoretical works, many of the English studies are based on only a specific aspect of NGO activity, in particular, the study of environmental NGOs (Willetts 1996c; Willetts 1996d; Wapner 1995; Princen 1994; Finger 1994a). French literature tends to be more concerned with legal aspects and mainly focuses on the (non)recognition of NGOs in International Law (Beigbeder 1992; Fozein-Kwanke 1986; Bettati/Dupuy 1986).

When analysing NGOs in relation to international governmental organisations, scholars almost exclusively concentrate on the consultative status of NGOs at the United Nations Organisation. In this case, the relationship between NGOs and the ECOSOC gains the most attraction (Willetts 1996b; Hüfner 1996; Gordenker/ Weiss 1995a; Schulze 1994). Studies on particular issue-areas and the UN, again, mainly focus on environmental NGOs and the respective UN bodies (Imber 1996; Morphet 1996; Willetts 1996d;Conca 1995; Princen 1995; Finger 1994b) or human rights NGOs in the UN system (Boyle 1995; Brett 1995; Connors 1996; Cook 1996; Gaer 1995). As a result, there is no systematic study on NGO consultation at the UN (Gordenker/Weiss 1995b:555), which makes theory-building "a hazardous, if not totally nonfeasible, undertaking" (Gordenker/ Weiss 1995b:555).

Secondly, the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO has been very poorly analysed in academic research. Although many studies on NGOs at the UN mention the relationship between UNESCO and NGOs as particularly intense, none has comprehensively analysed it yet.

Transforming Relations: NGOs at UNESCO

Co-operation between NGOs and UNESCO dates back to the establishment of the intergovernmental organisation in 1945. Over the years, the working relations with NGOs increased in quality and quantity so that a sophisticated system of regulations was soon needed (Hoggart 1996:101). In 1966, UNESCO adopted supplementary "Directivesconcerning UNESCO?s relations with non-governmental organisations" (Directives 1966) which set out the statutory framework for the NGO-UNESCO relationship in more detail. In 1995, the classification of NGOs at UNESCO became re-organised andnew directives (Directives 1995)were adopted. Today, UNESCO ? by their own account ? maintains regular relations of co-operation with 588 NGOs and approximately another 1000 to 1200 co-operate with UNESCO on an ad hoc basis (Doc. 152 EX/40 1997:12; UNESCO?s New Partners 1998).

UNESCO itself in the beginning

The close relationship between UNESCO and NGOs is understandable by briefly expounding the establishment and the nature of UNESCO. It explains the reasons for the particular intense relations between UNESCO and NGOs. When UNESCO was founded in 1945, it was of great contention how much non-governmental influence should be given to the new organisation. Above all, the question of whether the organisation was to be governmental or non-governmental became an area of conflict (Hüfner/ Reuther 1996:12; Merkel 1996:94; Kotschnig 1957:551). During the preparations on the drafts, it had been widely argued that the new organisation should not necessarily be an intergovernmental body in order to protect cultural, scientific and educational issues from political and ideological considerations. Particular NGOs participating at the founding conference spoke for a non-governmental organisation such as the predecessor of UNESCO, the non-governmental International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIIC, founded in 1925).

The French draft promoted for an organisation which also includes individuals (Sewell 1975:74). In this proposal, the new organisation was supposed to have a trinomial structure with each part having the same rights: a representation of the governments, national committees and civil society (NGOs) (Goldbach 1995:36). The French proposal particularly emphasised that the organisation should encompass the intellectual élite of its member-states (Kotschnig 1957:551). However, this proposal was rejected, and the advocates for an integration of UNESCO into the intergovernmental family of the UN bodies won through, so that the governmental UNESCO replaced the non-governmental IIIC.

Another point of great controversy during the discussions on the foundation of UNESCO was the scope of activity the new organisation should encompass. Some were in favour of an organisation working on educational and cultural matters only (?UNECO?), others viewed scientific matters as necessary to be included in the new organisation. As a result, the objectives and the workload of UNESCO are extremely broad. It encompasses the three different sectors, "Education", "Science" and "Culture", which in itself surround various differentiated sectors. In this context, it had been laid down by the founding conference in London, that UNESCO could co-operate with non-governmental organisations concerned with subject matters within UNESCO?s scope of activity, particularly in technical questions, and that UNESCO might also create new organisations if necessary (Huxley 1973:17; Stosic 1964:270).

Creation and Expansion of NGOs by UNESCO

UNESCO documents describe NGOs as small-scale organisations of civil society, which become incorporated into intergovernmental organisations in order to form links to governments. The following quotations from UNESCO documents give an account of this viewpoint:

  1. "Stemming from private initiative, these organizations [NGOs] form the natural link between governments and peoples" (CPX-80/WS/8 1980:4)
  2. "Thus, right from its inception, UNESCO, as an intergovernmental institution, sought to collaborate with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These organisations are the outcome of private initiative and, as far as the fulfilment of Unesco?s purposes is concerned, they constitute a natural link between governments and peoples" (BRX/RIO.2/95/INF 1995:1; 124 EX/INF.5 1986: Annex 1)
  3. "In any case, the functioning of an organization, whether it be of the umbrella or any other type, should make it possible for the concern, options and contributions of its grass-roots members ? individuals, national sections or international associations/federations ? to reach the top" (28 C/COM I/INF.2 1995:3)

However, a closer look at the origins of NGOs associated with UNESCO reveals, that many NGOs at UNESCO are ?home-made?. This is to say, rather than ?stemming from private initiative?, many NGOs are created at the auspices of the IGO, as it had been agreed on at the founding conference of UNESCO in London. UNESCO?s creation and expansion of NGOs distinguishes the UN body from other international governmental organisations (Sur 1995:412). In this respect, UNESCO even is exceptional (Merle 1988:389). Most of these NGOs are umbrella organisations which co-ordinate national organisations. All in all, UNESCO founded 25 of these super-NGOs in the period till 1965 (Merkel 1996:95).

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