IP1 (2003)57 E
“NGOs – key players in democratic governance”
Final Report of the Citizens’ Forum by Jill Lovecy, General Rapporteur
Ülle Lepp and Tönis Lukas: Co-operation Between the Non-Profit and
Report of Workshop 2: Jean-Marie Heydt, Head of Grouping “European Social
Charter and Social Policies”
Workshop 3 – NGOs as Key Players in European/International Governance
Sonja Lokar: The Stability Pact Gender Task Force
Report of Workshop 3: Yvonne Galligan, Queen’s University, Belfast
Final Remarks from an NGO Perspective:
Anne-Marie Franchi, Vice-Chair of the Liaison Committee
APPENDIX I – PROGRAMME
“The existence of an active civil society and its NGOs is a vital component of European society and an important element of democracy. NGOs play an essential role in a pluralist democracy by contributing to checks and balances and enhancing the active participation of all citizens in the conduct of public affairs”.1
The idea of a new democratic governance involving stakeholders in a deliberative policy-making process is gradually moving from the academic debate into policy practice. In this framework, organised civil society is a key actor in ensuring government accountability. New democratic governance, having a strong deliberative component, implies the participation in collective decision making of all stakeholders who are likely to be affected by a decision.
The Objectives of the Forum were to :
This Forum has received a special grant from the government of Japan
Final Report of the Citizens’ Forum
There can be no doubting the importance of the subject of our discussions at this Forum. As we enter the twenty-first century, the ways in which our democratic institutions work and how democratic practices can be renewed and improved in the coming period are matters that occupy a prominent place on the political agenda. In the development of more effective practices of participatory democracy a crucial role can clearly be played by generalising the presence and involvement of non-governmental organisations in the policy process - in all its stages, from agenda-setting and the initial formulation of new policies through to their implementation and evaluation, and at all the different levels, local, regional, national and supranational, that are now combined in the new political and constitutional architecture of multi-tiered governance that we have constructed in Europe. As both Yves Sintomer and John Casey emphasise in the sections of this Report focusing on the roles of NGOs at the local and national levels, the contribution that NGOs make to processes of democratic governance does not only lie in their representative function, in their serving as a voice for civil society and speaking up for the diversity of interests, groupings and shared identities that make up the complex mosaic of contemporary society. They make an equally important contribution through the broader function of citizen empowerment, which they undertake by equipping wider circles of our citizenry with the practical skills, knowledge and confidence enabling them to operate effectively as active citizens.
The development of such forms of participatory democracy, alongside party-based representation anchored in competitive elections, had of course already become a notable feature of the liberal democratic states of western Europe in the course of the last century, albeit in significantly varying forms and to varying degrees, at the national, regional and local levels and also at the supranational level, through the consultative processes adopted within the European Union and the Council of Europe. Similar developments are now also beginning to be taken forward in the states of central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, but here the organisation and legitimacy of NGOs are as yet altogether less securely established. However, in looking to the contribution that NGOs can make to more participatory forms of democracy there remain challenging and difficult issues as to how the representativeness, accountability and responsiveness of such organisations can best be secured and sustained, not least because of the heterogeneity that characterises the non-governmental sector.
As has repeatedly come to the fore in our discussions over the last two days in Strasbourg, these issues are today posed in much more acute forms. In part this is because of the sheer complexity of the institutional landscape within which NGOs now have to learn to navigate, as the different levels of our new structures of multi-tiered governance are becoming increasingly intermeshed one with another. At the same time another major challenge for NGOs has emerged from the contemporary trend towards national and sub-national authorities withdrawing from areas of welfare-state provision. As a result NGOs are increasingly finding themselves drawn into the world of contractualisation and into quite new patterns of relationships with public authorities and the state, developments analysed in some detail by Helmut Anheier in his keynote contribution. Questions then arise as to how far NGOs can maintain an independent voice and undertake their representative role effectively, once their financial viability becomes dependent on sustaining such contractual relationships. And these trends are now extending beyond the changes that are taking place in welfare provision, for there seems to be a broader push by public authorities at all levels – local, national and also European – to develop contractual relations with the non-governmental sector. This challenge of contractualisation, moreover, poses especially serious problems for those actors who are seeking to develop new forms of participatory democracy and a role of partnership between government and NGOs in the states of the Baltic rim and of central, eastern and south–eastern Europe, where there is in any case no recent tradition of independent organisation.
In presenting the conclusions of the Citizens’ Forum on “NGOs as key players in democratic governance” in this final section of the Report, it is not easy to do justice to the richness and wide-ranging nature of the discussions that have been encompassed within the Forum’s proceedings. An important factor in the success of this Forum has been its gathering together of activists drawn from an enormously varied range of organisations, in terms of the diverse sectors of activity in which the Forum’s participants are involved, their contribution to policy-making at many different levels, and their experience of policy-processes that offer quite contrasting patterns of opportunity structure for NGO presence and participation. As a result, a major focus of the sessions of the three workshops has been on exploring and exchanging a variety of practical experiences. Indeed a key strength of this Forum has lain precisely in the process of learning from each other and the contacts it has promoted between those active in the different regions of Europe as well as at different levels of governance.
A first task for me as the General Rapporteur is therefore to record, on behalf of all those who have been able to participate in this Forum, our warm thanks to the Council of Europe and more especially to the Secretary General of the Council, Walter Schwimmer, and its Director General of Political Affairs, Klaus Schumann, for their initiative in convening such a broadly inclusive meeting extending over two days and therefore allowing for this kind of fruitful pooling of practical experiences.
In thanking the Council of Europe I would like to return to some of the themes developed at the opening of this Forum by the Secretary General and the Director General of Political Affairs and to draw on my own area of research specialisation to argue, moreover, that it is no accident that the Council of Europe should be willing to take such an initiative and devote its resources to holding a meeting of this kind. Any account of the place which the Council occupies within Europe’s regional institutional architecture and of the contribution which it has made to the process of building European public policies over the last fifty years would have to underline the distinctive role which the Council has secured for itself as an organisation specifically seeking to promote and act as a regional standard-setter for democratic values and practices (Lovecy 2002 and 2003). Unfortunately, however, this role of the Council is not as well known to the general public in Europe and therefore not as widely appreciated as it should be. Nor has it in recent years really received the attention it merits within the academic research communities that work on different aspects of the overall process of European integration. In some respects, it is true, the Council of Europe seems to be aligned on a more traditional model of international organisation, having been entrusted under its founding treaty, the London Statute of May 1949, with a very broad task of promoting collaboration and co-operation between the governments of its affiliated states across a wide range of policy sectors. But alongside this, the London statute established a more specific mission for the Council: that of promoting and sustaining Europe’s democratic traditions and of securing the renewal of European democracy through marrying democratic practices at the national level with some form of collective guarantee at the European level for individual human rights.
As is well known, the Council acted swiftly on this latter front, adopting the ground-breaking European Convention of Human Rights as early as November 1950. But the Council’s institutional arrangements were also unusual from the outset in that the right to initiate policy proposals within this regional organisation was not entrusted solely to its Committee of Ministers, as the representative organ of the member governments, but was to be exercised also by its Parliamentary Assembly, comprised of delegates from the national parliaments of the member states and therefore more broadly representative of Europe’s citizenry. It was this concern with opening up the work of the Council to those representing wider circles of public opinion that fed in at an unusually early date, in 1952, to the Council’s decision to formally offer consultative status to NGOs. Some twenty-five years later the Council went on to establish the Liaison Committee to co-ordinate and offer a permanent framework for the work of these NGOs; and more recently it has developed the ‘Quadrilogue’ to institutionalise the presence and involvement of NGOs within the Council’s policy-process, alongside the Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and Regions of Europe.
At the same time the deepening and extension of democratic practices within its member states have occupied a prominent place in the Council’s activities, particularly over the last thirty years when these were taken up by the Secretariat as key themes in the medium-term plans it developed for the Council in the 1970s and 1980s whilst in the course of the 1990s these issues of course provided a central focus for the specialised programmes that the Council has organised for its recent wave of new member states in central and eastern Europe and in the Baltic and Balkan regions. Here, then, the Council has been engaged in what are long-term incremental and accretive processes of standard-setting and norm-diffusion, as it has sought to identify and gain collective recognition for shared European values through the elaboration of new Conventions and other forms of solemn Declaration.
In turning to my second main task as the General Rapporteur, that of summarising the main conclusions of this Citizens’ Forum, I would like firstly to underline a point made earlier on. That is that, beyond the formal recommendations addressed to the Council of Europe as its organiser, one important outcome of this Forum has been the practical pooling of experiences, which it has made possible. As a result, the participants will be able to take back to their respective organisations new kinds of knowledge and also new contacts and networks on which the organisations represented here will be able to draw in developing their future actions. In terms of the formal recommendations coming forward from this Forum, it is not appropriate here to go over in detail the full range of proposals set out in each of the sections of this Report drawn up by the three workshop convenors. But it is perhaps worth distinguishing between two main kinds of recommendation made by the Forum.
The first of these focus on a range of ways in which the Council can offer quite practical help to NGOs. Here a whole number of proposals are concerned with actions the Council could pursue in the coming period, whose implementation would not be over-demanding in terms of the allocation of further resources and which, in some cases, the Council is already engaged in. There was, for example, the idea of establishing an inventory of NGOs in Europe and the utility of such an inventory as a practical tool for NGOs in their day-to-day work. Michael Remmert has already referred to the Council’s involvement in developing an internet-based resource of this kind. Along similar lines, there have been proposals to establish an inventory of experts who have contributed to the work of the Council in its various fields, which NGOs could draw on through an email-based ‘banque d’expertise’, and to develop manuals for NGOs with advice on best practice in relation to developing media coverage and so on. Equally the participants at this Forum have understandably sought to focus on issues of funding and particularly on the absence in Europe of a significant range of major independent foundations of the kind found in the USA, willing to offer substantial funding for specific programmes of activities by NGOs. Here, the third workshop in particular suggested that the Council of Europe may be able to play a part in identifying potential sources of funding and other co-funding arrangements for NGOs operating at the international level, where some of the more established funding opportunities that have been developed at the local and national levels are absent.
Beyond this set of more practically oriented proposals, the second main recommendation coming from this Forum concerns the Council’s broad role as a regional standard setter, focusing on the status of the Fundamental Principles on the Status of NGOs, drawn up by a committee of experts established by the Council of Europe. Here we have a proposal from the third workshop, which I would like, as General Rapporteur, to propose should now go forward from this final session as a formal recommendation from the Forum as a whole. NGOs have a particular interest in seeing this document taken forward as a formal declaration adopted by the Council of Europe. A document of this kind, once it is formally taken into the public domain, becomes a tool and a resource for NGOs at whatever level they are active, since it establishes a set of legitimising values and principles and guidelines for action, organisation and best practice which NGOs can refer to and draw on in developing their work. And this kind of resource should be especially valuable to those active in promoting a role of partnership between governments and NGOs in central, eastern and south-eastern Europe. In concluding this plenary session may I therefore formally propose on behalf of the Forum that the Fundamental Principles on the Status of NGOs should now be submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly for its endorsement and then go forward to the Committee of Ministers for adoption as a Declaration of Council of Europe policy.
More and more issues require a global approach and the contribution of all actors involved, be they governmental or non-governmental bodies.
Migration is a case in point. To find solutions, we have to engage in a dialogue and set up co-operation between origin, transit and destination States. We have to put in place a comprehensive management strategy. Migration is an issue of human rights and human dignity and integration is one of the pillars of a comprehensive migration management in receiving countries.
The Council of Europe wants to deepen and broaden its working relationship with organised civil society. This development would correspond to our vision of democracy as a continuously evolving system, capable of adapting to the challenges of modern society.
For us, NGOs are a real link with the 800 million Europeans. What has already been achieved in the 50 years of co-operation between the Council of Europe and NGOs? How are NGOs involved? What difference does it make?
I feel that young people’s participation in policy-making helps to counterbalance the widespread political apathy.
I feel this is an important contribution to strengthening democracy in our new member States.
Joining forces with the NGO leaders helped us to bring across the message that the fight against terrorism must not be lead at the expense of human rights.
Therefore we are considering at present transforming the consultative status into a participatory status.
The Citizens’ Forum will address the question of the principles on which a new working relationship with NGOs could be based in order to take the best possible advantage of their knowledge and expertise in our efforts to protect and strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The Forum will also identify innovative practices in member States that can serve as examples in inspiring new participatory policy-making processes within the Council of Europe.
I call on you to look at questions such as:
I welcome the participation of members of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in the Citizens’ Forum. They will certainly be interested in the last two questions!
I also invite you to let us know what you expect from the Council of Europe in order to further develop our co-operation with civil society in the future.
Outlook for the Forum
The nature and scope of the NGO’s involvement in the Council of Europe’s work will take different forms at the level of governments, parliaments or local and regional authorities. I look forward to the results of the three workshops on the role of NGOs in local, national and international governance.
I wish you a productive meeting with fruitful debate. I am convinced that the Forum will make a major contribution by giving us new insights as to how we can make democratic institutions work.
This Citizens’ Forum is being held only a few weeks after the fiftieth anniversary of granting international NGOs consultative status with the Council of Europe, which was celebrated here at the Palais de l’Europe on 24 September 2002 at the same time as the Liaison Committee’s 25th anniversary. On that occasion the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, the Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Lydie Polfer, expressed her support and that of all the Luxembourg authorities for the development of civil society, one of the subjects at the top of the agenda during Luxembourg’s term of office as Chair of the Committe of Ministers, which ends this week.
The Council of Europe has upheld all these things for over 50 years.
By working at local, regional and national level and in fields as critical as human rights, social welfare, the environment or culture and heritage - to name but a few – NGOs clearly reflect Europeans’ concerns. We members of parliament, local elected representatives, politicians and diplomats are also endeavouring to respond to these concerns, though we sometimes fail to hear NGO’s suggestions, not to mention their criticisms, and their representatives are often obliged to be patient and persevering if they want to make their voice heard.
The system of co-operation introduced fifty years ago in the form of consultative status has made a significant contribution to developing and strengthening co-operation between the Council of Europe, the voluntary sector and NGOs.
Fifty years of co-operation and joint action find fullest expression and relevance in the process of consultation and regular, meaningful co-operation between the NGOs, the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, which we routinely refer to as the “quadrilogue”.
The quadrilogue enables our Organisation to do three things:
The recent anniversary and today’s Citizens’ Forum are opportunities to purposefully explore new ways of involving all members of civil society in both public and political life and really make participative democracy – which we are forever talking about as the ideal – an integral part of representative democracy. This is our chance to get beyond mere statements of principle.
The Luxembourg Chair supports the current endeavours at the Council of Europe to reinforce NGOs’ status so that their active and constructive role in European democratic society and in all Council of Europe bodies and sectors is properly recognised.
The consultations currently taking place should rapidly lead to the introduction of a new status for international NGOs within the Council of Europe, qualitatively boosting their participation in the Organisation’s work. Eventually a Committee of Ministers Resolution will give legal form to this admirable co-operation between the Council of Europe and international NGOs and, last but not least, establish the quadrilogue as the embodiment of democratic pluralism and as a basic and decisive factor in developing a citizens’ Europe.
This is the subtext and context to our forum. The unequivocal aim must be to decide as soon as possible how exactly, and to what effect, the action which is basic to the international NGOs is to feed into the ongoing democratisation of our European continent and its rapidly developing societies. This forum provides a unique opportunity to take stock and consider how we want overall action by civil society in partnership with the Council of Europe to develop. We must take full advantage of an occasion that brings the key players in participative democracy together with the other members of the quadrilogue.
Thank you for your attention. I trust our discussions will be fruitful.
1. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) attaches great importance to direct dialogue with citizens in order to:
2. The Congress has a firm commitment to making participatory democracy work at local level. Activities carried out with the participation of NGOs include:
In many member states, local and regional authorities themselves have formed associations which help them to exchange information, organise discussions on issues of common concern and promote local and regional self-government. International associations of local and regional authorities holding consultative status with the Council of Europe enjoy observer status with the Congress. 18 such associations are granted observer status and participate actively in the work of the Congress.
3. The Congress supports the Council of Europe’s initiative to grant participatory status to international NGOs. It will consider pragmatically the modalities of opening up its working structures to representatives of NGOs (perhaps using modern electronic communications – teleconference etc). In addition, NGOs could be contacted more systematically by the Congress’ fact-finding, election observation and monitoring missions.
4. The Congress hopes that NGO participants in the Forum will give examples of partnerships between NGOs and local authorities which could be disseminated via the Congress’ networks. Participants should also voice ideas about NGOs’ contribution to strengthening local and regional representative democracy and introducing elements of participative democracy.
On behalf of the 374 international NGOs with consultative status, I should like to start by thanking the Council of Europe for organising these Citizens’ Forums in the context of its integrated projects. The large attendance is a sure sign of the interest they attract.
These integrated projects are useful to us in two ways. First of all, they allow us to meet as a “quadrilogue”. Secondly, the questions they deal with (“Making democratic institutions work” and “Responses to violence in everyday life in a democratic society” – responses which cannot, and must not, be solely concerned with security) have an important bearing on our daily lives.
First of all, I should like to say once again that, for us, civil society consists of local, regional, national and European elected representatives, and of NGOs too. Complementarity between the two sides is necessary. To realise it, however, we have to find a way of working together effectively and responsibly.
The Council of Europe’s way of working with the international NGOs is a “responsible” way. It involves building something together. The fiftieth anniversary of consultative status, which we are celebrating this year, is clear proof of that. But we need to stay vigilant, to keep revitalising, strengthening and developing our partnership. Participatory status, Convention 124 on the recognition of the legal personality of international NGOs (which is still too little ratified), and work on the Fundamental Principles on the status of Europe’s NGOs – all of these are challenges which encourage us to push ahead together. But the quality of the work we do must match them. As with democracy, this is an area where nothing is ever won for good, and we have to keep stepping up our efforts. The moment the democratic process relaxes, our societies start to lose ground.
People talk about new democratic governance, about sustainable development. For me, all of this depends on achieving “sustainable democracy”, and this is where the work of the Council of Europe, and above all the international NGOs (by reason of their role as schools for citizenship and democracy), becomes vital.
But Europe’s NGOs cannot develop unless certain conditions are satisfied first:
The future of relations between the international NGOs and the Council of Europe depends on mutual, responsible, complementary commitment. This is complicated by the disparity of the institutions concerned (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, Committee of Ministers, Commissioner for Human Rights, etc), each with its own priorities and approaches. Our efforts should focus on a common work plan, which must be carefully steered to ensure its effectiveness and prevent duplication. To ask the right questions and come up with the right answers, we need to try even harder to make our structures interactive.
At this point, I should like to put a proposal to you. As things stand, we have two ways of protecting the autonomy of NGOs working with public authorities, and guaranteeing the quality of their contributions – administrative regulations and moral contracts. Obviously, relations between public authorities and NGOs must be regulated by law. That was what our work on the Fundamental Principles was all about – much as we may regret having to shift a more coercive model (Charter) to a purely incentive one. But relying entirely on administrative procedures would pose certain problems in practice, and bureaucratic attitudes and corporate self-serving might interfere too. We could do equally well by adopting a contractual approach, spelling out principles and “rules of the game” for co-operation between public authorities and associations, and also the rights and duties of all those involved. We could use a Quadrilogue working party to prepare a Partnership Charter. This would set out mutual obligations, which would be clearly defined and regularly assessed, and so help us to create and maintain that mutual trust which is so vital a part of co-operation which respects the identity of everyone. Several countries (France, United Kingdom, etc) have worked on projects like these.
If we really want a new and democratic form of governance, then we have to get together and work out policies with just one focus – solving the everyday problems of our citizens as simply and as effectively as possible. And we have to make it easier for those citizens themselves to get more involved. This means making sure that their opportunities of saying what they think are not taken from them, that their views are listened to more carefully – and that they get more responsibility. Whatever the context (retirement home, hospital, local community, rented housing, school, neighbourhood) and wherever they live (North or South), old people, patients, residents, tenants, young people, etc must be helped to play a bigger part.
This is something that has to be learned. This is why schools and all the other centres of formal and informal education are so important here – and why the Council of Europe’s Education for Democratic Citizenship project was such a good idea.
At the same time, all of this calls for long-term planning and investment, and the integrated projects might provide a starting point. The stake – a more balanced, responsible and caring society – is a high one.
Solidarity is not a question of business (however much businessmen like to use the term), philanthropy or fashion. It is a question of ethics, of a duty which is – or should be – shared by everyone. We must all commit ourselves to setting up a programme and publicising the results of our discussions (the 374 international NGOs could help to do this). Above all, however, we must all have a shared long-term vision.
I wish you a successful meeting.
In the course of the last decade, most developed market economies in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific have seen a general increase in the economic importance of nonprofit organisations as provider of health, social, educational and cultural services of many kinds.3 On average, the nonprofit sector accounts for about 6% of total employment in OECD countries, or nearly 10% with volunteer work factored in (Salamon et al, 1999). While their economic function, particular in terms of welfare provision, has been a common, though often overlooked feature of nonprofits in most developed countries, the emphasis on civil society, however, is new, and reflects profound changes in the wider political environment.
The political discourse about the nonprofit sector has expanded from the welfare state paradigm that long characterised the field to include pronounced Neo-Tocquevillian elements. According to the former, nonprofits or NGOs are efficient and effective providers of social and other services government may find costlier and more ineffectual to offer itself. As a result, cooperative relations between governments and nonprofits in welfare provision have become a prominent feature in countries such as the United States (Salamon, 1995), Germany (Anheier and Seibel, 2001), France (Archambault, 1996) or the United Kingdom (Plowden, 2001; Strategy Unit, 2002).
According to Neo-Tocquevillian thinking, however, the nonprofit or voluntary sector is to form the social infrastructure of civil society. Nonprofits are to create as well as facilitate a sense of trust and social inclusion that is seen as essential for the functioning of modern societies (eg Putnam, 2000; Anheier and Kendall, 2002). The explicit or implied joint emphasis on service provision and civil society, however, brings with it many theoretical and policy-related challenges. Understanding these challenges and their policy implications from an explicitly comparative perspective is a main challenge to research in this field.
Service Provider or Civil Society Institution?
Thus two trends and accompanying policy views have taken root during the last decade:
The Rise of New Public Management
The emphasis on NGOs as service providers and instruments of privatisation casts nonprofit organisation essentially in a neo-liberal role. Example are Germany’s efforts to modernise its subsidiarity policy by introducing competitive bidding into social service contracting (Anheier and Seibel, 2001), New Labour’s Compact in the UK (Mulgan, 1999; Plowden, 2001), the various federal budget reforms in the US (Abrahamson et al, 1999), or France’s unemployment policy of ‘insertion’ (Archambault, 1996). The key here is that nonprofits are no longer seen as the poor cousin of the state or as some outmoded organisational form as conventional welfare state literature will have it (see Quadagno, 1987). To the contrary, they become instruments of welfare state reform under the heading of “less government = less bureaucracy = more flexibility = greater efficiency” (see Kettl, 2000).
The rise of quasi-markets, public-private partnerships, and new public management stress the role of nonprofits as providers of services, typically as contractors of services paid for, at least in part, by government (Ferlie, 1996; McLaughlin, Osborne, and Ferlie, 2002). As a broad label, new public management includes several related aspects that draw in the nonprofit sector specifically:
What new public management has done is to question the traditional roles of nonprofit organisations and put to the forefront if nonprofit organisations can be both efficient and effective social service providers, and agents of civil society. Specifically, Kramer (1981) differentiates four conventional roles for nonprofits, which, in one form or the other, appear to be applicable not only in the developed world, but in transitional and developing countries as well (Salamon, Hems, Chinnock, 2000; Edwards and Hume, 1996).
Service Provider Role: Since government programmes are typically large-scale and uniform, nonprofits perform various important functions in the delivery of collective goods and services, particularly for minority preferences. They can also be the primary service providers, where neither government nor businesses are either willing or able to act. They can provide services that complement the service delivery of other sectors, but differ qualitatively from it. Or they can supplement essentially similar services, where the provision of government or the market is insufficient in scope or not easily affordable.
Vanguard Role: Nonprofits innovate by experimenting with and pioneering new approaches, processes or programmes in service delivery. In their fields, they therefore serve as change agents. If innovations prove successful after being developed and tested by nonprofits, other service providers, particularly government agencies with broader reach, may adopt them.
Value Guardian Role: Governmental agencies are frequently constrained—either on constitutional grounds or by majority will—to foster and help express diverse values that various parts of the electorate may hold. Businesses similarly do not pursue the expression of values, since this is rarely profitable. Nonprofits are thus the primary mechanism to promote and guard particularistic values and allow societal groups to express and promulgate religious, ideological, political, cultural, social and other views and preferences. The resulting expressive diversity in society in turn contributes to pluralism and democratisation.
Advocacy Role: In the political process that determines the design and contours of policies, the needs of underrepresented or discriminated groups are not always taken into account. Nonprofits thus fill in to give voice to the minority and particularistic interests and values they represent and serve in turn as critics and watch-dogs of government with the aim of affecting change or improvements in social and other policies.
New public management, which privileges the service provider and vanguard roles over those of value guardian and advocacy, has four major implications for nonprofits:
Thus, while the nonprofit sector will continue to expand economically in the present policy environment, it may also become less certain about its mission and place in society.
The (Re)discovery of Civil Society
In contrast to the neo-liberal role nonprofits assume under new public management, the neo-Tocquevillian approach emphasises their social integrative function and indirect contributions, highlighting the perspective of a “strong and vibrant civil society characterised by a social infrastructure of dense networks of face-to-face relationships that cross-cut existing social cleavages such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and gender that will underpin strong and responsive democratic government” (Edwards, Foley and Diani, 2001:17). Norms of reciprocity, citizenship, and trust are embodied in networks of civic associations. The essence of the Neo-Tocquevillian approach is: civil society creates social capital, which is good for society and the economy. Thus, civil society is not only a bulwark against a state that could become too powerful, or a mechanism that creates social cohesion, it is much more than that; a general principle of societal constitution based on individualism, communal responsibility as well as self-organisation.
The genius of Putnam (2000) was to link de Tocqueville’s 19th century diagnosis (or age-old mythologies, as some would say?) to modern issues of American society. This made his work so attractive to policymakers in the US and elsewhere. It identified a problem (isolation, exclusion) and offered a solution from the past (voluntary associations, community), suggesting tradition and continuity to an unsettled presence. This connection ‘clicked’ not only in the US, but also in Britain (eg the Third Way debate; Giddens, 1999) and countries like Germany (Enquettekommission, 2002). The social capital – social trust approach has several major implications for nonprofits, and among them are:
Under what conditions can NGOs serve both goals, ie being a service provider in fields that are becoming ‘big growth industries’ increasingly populated by corporations (health, education, social services, environment), and being a bedrock of civil society and engine for the formation of social capital, trust relations, social inclusion etc? What can we say about the future trajectories of the nonprofit sector in the countries of Europe and North America?
The capacity of nonprofits to combine a value-orientation with managerial rationality has become a major theme in the literature (see Moore, 2000), and the general tenor seems to suggest that it is indeed very difficult to combine both missions equally successfully. What is more, authors like Frumkin and Andre-Clark (2000) see a differentiation in the nonprofit sector. To fully appreciate the tension between value-based organisations and efficient service provider, it is useful to follow Ryan (1999), and examine the policy context a bit more closely.
Specifically, the nonprofit sector faces a wider range of demands for its services and activities from a variety of different stakeholders. Importantly, governments are “down-sizing,” and are in a process of “off-loading” some of their traditional tasks to private nonprofit institutions and commercial providers. In an era of budget-cutting, lean management, and privatisation efforts, the nonprofit sector is confronted with great challenges and opportunities. Will the nonprofit sector be able to meet these challenges, and should it seize all opportunities created by a retreating state? While accounts differ on the extent to which they diagnose a zero-sum relationship between state and third sector (see Salamon, 1995), they are generally doubtful as to the sector’s ability to compensate for public provision beyond some level (Steuerle and Hodgkinson, 1999).
Ultimately, we need to re-examine the relationship among the four great institutional complexes of households/families, businesses, government, and associations/foundations to the public good and the collective well being in present and future societies. There are core government functions like defence, the rule of law and basic infrastructure. There are also pure private goods that are best handled by markets. In between these extremes, however, is a vast array of goods and services that are either quasi-public or quasi-private, and that is where most of the current disagreement about the meaning and culture of collective goods takes place (see Barr, 1998). Importantly, new organisational forms emerge primarily in the contested terrain, and it is also here, we suggest, that most of the growth of the nonprofit sector has occurred. It is important to keep in mind that in these fields, two and typically three organisational forms are possible, and that the nonprofit form is only one of other possibilities.
We are likely to see greater differentiation in the nonprofit sector. Some organisations will move closer to market firms, or relocate altogether. Other organisations increasingly close to governments, eg NGOs in international development finance, will become more agency-like over time and resemble public bureaucracies. Some will remain nonprofit organisations in the conventional sense. Yet we suggest that above and beyond the differentiation of the third sector, more fundamental forces will be at work once we consider that similar differentiation processes are also happening in the public and the forprofit sector.
Behind this reasoning is an insight of organisational theory, which sees organisational forms basically in more or less open competition with each other. While policies define the rules of the game, over time mismatches develop between the potentials and constraints they impose on forms, and thereby either increase or decrease their competitive edge over others. Some of the underlying forces responsible for mismatches are related to the heterogeneity and trust theories mentioned above; changes in the definition of goods and services, and changes in information asymmetries, among others.
This dynamic leads to shifts in the composition of organisational fields in terms of form. Yet where do forms come from? Organisational theory points to two basic processes that lead to the development of new forms, or speciation: recombination and refunctionality (Aldrich, 1999). Recombination involves the introduction of new elements into an existing organisational form, for example bench-marking, franchising, branding and other corporate management tools in nonprofit organisations, or corporate responsibility programmes in businesses. Refunctionality means the relocation of one form in a different context eg the migration of forprofit providers into fields previously populated primarily by nonprofits as in social services. We suggest that the two processes of recombination and refunctionality are, and have been, happening at greater rates in recent years.
The shift toward a service economy is a major driver behind these processes, which are reinforced by demographic developments. Yet not only economic and demographic reasons have lead to the increased importance of the third sector. Political and ideological changes, too, have played a significant role as well. Specifically, political frameworks and resulting legislature often decide how existing demand is channelled to the third sector. Indeed, the highest growth rates for the third sector are in those countries with policies that put in place some sort of working partnership between government and nonprofit organisations. Examples are the principle of subsidiarity in Germany, the system of 'verzuilling' in the Netherlands, the concept of third party government in the US, and, increasingly, the Compact in the UK. In essence, such a partnership means that nonprofit organisations deliver services with the help of government funds and typically as part of complex contract schemes.
Nonetheless, there is a deeper ideological reason for the growth of the third sector ie the changing role of the state itself. Even though some European countries see themselves in a different ideological tradition, the political currents of both neo liberalism and Third Way approaches imply a reallocation of responsibilities between state and society. The state, no longer so sure about its role, and without the vision that characterised the social reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, proclaims the active citizen, a citizen who assumes new and old freedoms and responsibilities in the sense of classical liberal republicanism.
Combined with economic policies that emphasise privatisation of state corporations and holdings, recent years have seen nearly global movement that puts virtually all non essential state functions and public agencies under political pressure. This includes the various Telecoms, municipal waterworks, universities, hospitals, chambers of commerce, and public savings banks. The privatisation of social security, unthinkable even a few years ago, has entered the political agenda. The political and institutional consensus of the late industrial society is breaking up.
An economic, political and social space is opening up for the third sector. Here we find traditional nonprofit and voluntary organisations but also new forms of work and organisations. Examples are the new mutualism in Britain, the social co-operatives in Italy, the search for new legal ownership structures to combine charitable and forprofit activities, and individual attempts to combine paid and unpaid work (see the Social Investment Report in the UK). All these are indicators for fundamental shifts occurring in our societies. In other words, the growth of the nonprofit sector is more than a quantitative phenomenon. It is a qualitative change as well.
The numerous government policy initiatives currently underway and being considered are therefore suggestive of this more fundamental policy shift whose ultimate objective may however not be clear. What kind of ‘society’ and what kind of ‘community’ does the current US administration, New Labour etc want? What kind of relationship between the voluntary and community sector on the one hand, and government (at various levels) do governments and civic leaders have in mind? What is the role of ‘business’ and corporate social responsibility in that regard? How do these ideas differ from that of other political parties? How do international issues figure in this context, if at all? In the US social policy context, transnational issues and globalisation rarely figure. In the UK policy debate, “Europe is the dog that did not bark” according to Plowden (2001).
But at national levels, in North America, Europe or Japan, a puzzling aspect of current policy debate about welfare and governmental reform, civil renewal and community building is the absence of a wider vision of what kind of future society we have in mind when we discuss the role of the third sector. What kind of society did the Clinton and the current Bush administrations have in mind with an emphasis on faith-based communities as part of welfare reform? What future British society does New Labour envision when it links devolution with a greater reliance on the voluntary sector? Or what future German society does the governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens have in mind as a blueprint when they discuss the renewal of civic engagement and the introduction of competitive bidding in social care markets at the same time?
In the absence of such a wider debate, or explicit policy blueprint, we suggest the following scenarios as markers to chart the deeper policy visions which government, opposition and voluntary sector representatives may have in the future (see Anheier et al 2003):
Of course, these are caricatures but each ‘vision’ rests on very different assumptions and has strikingly different implications. They are also pronounced and traded differently in the US and across Europe. For example, in contrast to the US-led debate about social capital, the French tradition as inspired by Pierre Bourdieu (1984), sees social capital as a form of inequality, not of cohesion. Social capital is not some social super glue that keeps society together, but viewed more critically as an element of social inequality that requires corrective government policies and interventions.
These four nation-state based scenarios contrast with what seems to be happening at the global, transnational level (Lindenberg and Bryant, 2001). Here we find trends similar but not yet as pronounced in their strengths. The greater use of nonprofit new public management in welfare state reform is, at the international level, complemented by the rise of NGOs in humanitarian assistance, development aid, and as a vehicle to help counteract the crisis of multilateralism. Are NGOs a constituting element of some new forms of multilateralism, part of a policy development that seems to point to a shift in international relations? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new international welfare system that includes private actors as well? The rise of interest organisations at international level, and the new anti-globalisation activism, most prominently in the form of ‘dot.causes’ seems to complement the social capital debate at the global level. A political space has opened up in recent years, aided by a drop in communication and transaction costs in particular across borders.
Indeed, we seem to witness the emergence of new ‘political fields’ or a new public sphere at the transnational level, with prominent roles allocated to third sector institutions. The issue can soon become how NGOs relate to political power. There is no equivalent to the state at the international level, with the UN system weak and without sufficient mandate and resources to command the political process and see policy developments and implementation through. The relationship between the European Union, which pushes for an active, cosmopolitan state and the US, which currently favours a minimal state guided by national interest, will become crucial in shaping the political space for NGOs.
Ultimately, the rise of NGOs and the emergence of global civil society question a kind of policy thinking that, while transcending the boundaries of the nation state in the areas of economy and polity (eg European Union) seems to use 19th century notions to capture 21st century phenomena when it comes to notions of society (see Anheier, Glasius and Kaldor, 2001). Asking about the role of NGOs and civil society institutions more generally, means asking what kind of future society policies have in mind, or ultimately aim at. Opening up this debate is a key policy challenge for this decade.
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Aldrich, H. (1999). Organisations Evolving. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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Edwards, B., Foley, M.W., & Diani, M. (2001). Beyond Tocqueville: Civil Society and the Social Capital Debate in Comparative Perspective. Hanover: University Press of New England.
Enquêtekommission des Deutschen Bundestages. (2002). Zivilgesellschaft und bürgerschaftliches Engagement. Berlin.
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Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, New York: Simon and Schuster.
H. Anheier, M. Glasius, and M. Kaldor (eds). (2001). Global Civil Society 2001
Mulgan, G. (1999). “Government and the third sector: Building a more equal partnership” Pp 17-22 in H.K. Anheier (ed.). Third Way – Third Sector. Report No. 1. Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics.
Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone. New York: Simon and Schuster, chapters 1, 22, 23.
Quadagno, J. (1990). “Theories of the Welfare State” Annual Review of Sociology 13: 109-128.
Ryan, W.P. (1999). “The new landscape for nonprofits.” Harvard Buisness Review 77 (1): 127-136.
These conclusions are set out in a document entitled “Fundamental principles on the status of non-governmental organisations in Europe”, which comprises two parts, the first consisting of the fundamental principles themselves and the other the explanatory memorandum, containing information that is important but not important enough to be included in the main body of the text.
The fundamental principles, which I shall refer to from now on as the Principles, are the culmination of the Council of Europe’s work in this field since 1996, which started with a series of multilateral, regional conferences held between 1996 and 1998. The conclusions of these conferences were set out in a document entitled “Guidelines to promote the development and strengthening of NGOs in Europe”. It is the basis of the current Principles, which could be considered as a European model for NGOs and which reflect the wishes expressed in the original document.
The text used as a basis for discussing the Principles was drafted by Professor Jeremy McBride, Director of the Human Rights Law and Practice Programme at Birmingham University. I pay tribute to his efforts during the discussions to adapt the text so that it was possible to reach a compromise.
We must not forget that this text was produced as a result of an exchange of views between representatives both of governments and of the NGO sector, whose delegates also took an active part in the discussions.
The Principles are in keeping with Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, not to mention the right to freedom of expression.
NGOs have a fundamental role in developing civil society. They make a major contribution to the establishment, development and preservation of democratic societies. Given that, in certain fields, the public authorities receive substantial ongoing support from NGOs, the latter should be considered not as competitors but as actively involved in achieving the same goal, ie the development of civil society.
The Principles therefore include a number of articles concerning the active participation of NGOs (74-78). The aim is not for NGOs to take over tasks that traditionally come within the public authorities’ remit but to involve them in decisions in fields in which they can make a contribution or which are of relevance to them. These articles are designed to encourage the authorities to co-operate with NGOs on a permanent basis without, however, allowing them to make policy choices. One need only think of labour relations: the social economy requires co-operation between employees and employers’ representatives.
States should therefore establish suitable conditions for the development of NGOs and, above all, take the necessary legislative measures to enable associations to establish themselves and have a free hand in organising their activities, while fully respecting the rule of law and therefore complying with the law.
The aim of the Principles is to serve not as a model law for NGOs but as guidelines for relevant legislation and practice in a democratic society based on the rule of law.
I would now like to take a look at the actual content of these Principles, although, given the limited amount of time at my disposal, I will not be able to explain all the nuances in the text but simply the main points.
One good thing about the Principles is that they endeavour to give a definition of the term NGO. This definition can be criticised or considered imperfect but at least an effort has been made. NGOs are essentially voluntary bodies, which are not subject to direction by public authorities. Political parties are not, however, covered by these Principles, given that they are very often subject to specific rules. One of the fundamental features of NGOs is that they are not-for-profit bodies, although they may take part in economic activities, provided that the latter are necessary to achieve the organisation’s primary aim.
The documents sets out four basic principles:
The wide range of aims pursued by NGOs reflects their diversity. In pursuing these aims they must ensure that their resources are invested in lawful objectives. Special attention is paid in the Principles to NGOs which are involved in political activities.
Any person, legal or natural, national or foreign, should be free to set up an NGO. During the discussions it was decided that, unless the NGO does not wish to secure legal personality and prefers to remain an informal organisation, there should be a minimum of two members. A higher number may be required for the granting of legal personality, but this number should not be set at a level that discourages establishment.
The members are the key element of an NGO. With the exception of some professional organisations, membership of an NGO should be voluntary. Membership should not be subject to legal restrictions but determined by the NGOs themselves. This autonomy must, however, be offset by rules to protect members from arbitrary expulsion. If there are enough members, the highest body with the power to validate decisions is the annual general meeting of members.
The word “statute” has two meanings. On the one hand, it can refer to the constitutive instrument but, in cases where a separate document exists, it can also refer to the statutes themselves, ie basic information concerning the organisation and the rules governing its operation. I refer you to the text, which has been distributed to you, and in particular to paragraph 18, which sets out the ideal content of statutes for non-governmental organisations.
NGOs can choose to acquire legal personality, which offers the advantage of ensuring that the personality of the founders or members is quite distinct from that of the organisation, which can be useful from the standpoint of the personal financial consequences for the members or founders. This separation does not, however, give the directors a free hand as they must act in accordance with the statutes.
Legal personality can be the automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO or it can be acquired through a specific procedure. At all events, the rules governing the attribution of legal personality must be clear, objective and accessible to the public and not subject to the discretion of the relevant authority.
If a procedure is provided for in the relevant legislation, the authorities should publish a guide setting out the rules or at the very least provide all the information required by applicant NGOs and give assistance where necessary.
The costs involved in setting up an NGO and, where appropriate, the deadlines for decisions should be reasonable.
Reasons must be given for refusals and it must be possible to challenge them in an independent court.
The Principles may appear to pay a great deal of attention to this aspect but it is considered to be of major importance.
If an international NGO wishes to carry out activities in a different country from the one where it has its headquarters, it may have to obtain authorisation but there should be no need to set up a new entity (ETS 124). The transfer of headquarters is, however, subject to specific rules.
As long as an NGO abides by the law, no outside body should be allowed to interfere in its internal affairs. It must however comply with legal provisions concerning staff, taxation, etc.
Now that I have explained all these rules, I would in conclusion like to turn to more practical matters. An NGO may solicit funding, or indeed contributions in kind, and such funding and contributions are usually the organisation’s main financial resource, enabling it to achieve its objectives in keeping with its statutes. The Principles set out a number of rules to protect NGOs’ assets. NGOs are also free to seek official support. As in the case of legal personality, the rules on the basis of which aid is granted must be clear and objective. Where public funds have been granted, the public has the right to monitor their use. If an NGO is involved in financial transactions, it must account for the use of the funds. NGOs should have their accounts audited by an institution or person independent of their management, although simply being a member of the NGO should not be an obstacle. It is also advisable to submit an activity report to the annual general meeting and possibly to the authorities which have provided financial support.
Finally, in the event of its termination, an NGO may designate a successor to continue its activities. The Principles also set out rules for cases of termination where no successor has been appointed or where the organisation’s activities have been found to be unlawful. You will find more details of this in the text.
I trust that I have given you some idea of these fundamental Principles. They are not binding but they will, I hope, be widely circulated and serve as a basis for future legislation, thus permitting the development of NGOs.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the members of the working group for their willingness to find a compromise and the secretariat, which immediately made the necessary amendments so that the members could give their opinion straight away on the changes.
First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Council of Europe and the Consulate General of Japan for inviting me to this conference and providing me with this opportunity to serve as a discussant at the opening session. As a Japanese participant, I wondered what contribution I could bring to this conference. As you all know, Japan differs significantly from most Western nations, and certainly from America. Historian Sheldon Garon made a clear comparison of civil society in Japan and America4 Within this study he states that, “For (Robert) Putnam, the major obstacle to a vibrant civil society in America is atomistic individualism, and he looks to both popular activism and government to rebuild local social capital. In Japan, however, the greater challenge to an independent civil society has come not from individualism, but from the state’s tendencies to create and manage local associations.” Despite the differences, however, I would like to talk about the status of the voluntary sector and current discussions on the direction that NGOs are taking in Japanese Society if I may, since the voluntary sector has grown significantly in Asia as well as in other parts of the world. I also believe that there are some commonalities between the continents as well. I hope that a non-European example can contribute to the discussions during this two-day conference.
I would like to talk about the status of non-profit organisations including some legal issues and try to outline current debates on the future direction of non-profit organisations in Japan with the four scenarios Professor Anheier introduced to us in his keynote address in mind. But before taking up these issues, I will briefly touch upon Japan’s government – NGO relationship which relates to what Sheldon Garon referred to in his study since it explains the complexity of the non-profit sector in Japan.
Historically speaking, with a highly centralised structure and powerful bureaucratic system, the Japanese government helped create societal partners, including individuals, local organisations, non-profit organisations and quasi-governmental organisations in a top-down manner to help implement policies. This type of state-society partnership is paternalistic rather than democratic and often creates what is called “bonding types of social capital” within the organisations and with other organisations. The laws that regulate non-profit organisations were designed to reflect such government policy towards non-profit organisations. The core of the laws is the non-profit public-interest corporation law which was enacted in the late 19 century that requires ‘service to the public interest” to be arbitrarily defined by bureaucrats and adequate financial assets. Thus, emerging NGOs, including community groups and civic organisations, which have become active independently of government since the 1960s, had to remain unincorporated in the legal system until the Law to Promote Non-profit Activities, or the so-called new NPO law was enacted in 1998. Thus, currently, the laws for non-profit organisations were two-tiered to reflect somehow a two-tier structure of the non-profit sector in Japan.
What is the current status of NGOs in Japan? Japan has had a rather weak private voluntary sector in modern history compared with other industrial nations. In order to build a strong non-profit sector, various initiatives by the government, by the for-profit private sector and by the non-profit sector itself have been concentrated in the last 15 years or so and these efforts have been accelerated in the past few years. Why? There are many reasons for this, but let me focus on the internal reasons for the current shift of the government’s policy towards NGOs. First, partnering with NGOs can be accelerated in line with reforms of the administration, decentralisation and privatisation (including promotion of public-private partnership) that Japan has been carrying out in recent years. Second, it has been revealed that the government with its societal partners alone is not able to effectively deal with social problems and challenges, and meet emerging needs in the increasingly complex society for the past decade or so. Third, it also seems that working exclusively with its long standing societal partners, many of which have vested interests in public policy has become extremely costly. These factors account for why the government is increasingly using NGOs as partners by introducing competitive bidding processes and contractual arrangements for the government-initiated works. It seems that these ‘new’ NGOs are gaining a support even within the government while old-type of public-interest corporations are losing ground to Japanese society, which demands that the government be more efficient than ever.
However, the legal environment under which non-profit organisations operate does not seem to have kept pace with this rapid growth of ‘new’ NGOs. The 1998 legislation of the NPO law was significant in that it has simplified the process of incorporation of organisations, which allows small, and citizen-initiated organisations to qualify and reduced scope for bureaucrats’ discretion over what constitutes ‘public policy.’ The process of the legislation was noteworthy; it was led by citizens’ organisations (headed by Coalition for Legislation to Support Citizens’ Organisation) which worked closely with nonpartisan parliamentarians and formed loose alliances with business organisations and trade unions. Granting tax privileges to certain NGOs was discussed separately from the NPO law and a new tax law finally took effect in October 2001 in a limited form. This law provides tax-deduction to donors for qualified non-profit corporations. However, requirements to satisfy in order to become a qualified non-profit corporation present formidable obstacles for most organisations. This tax law is currently being reviewed for improvement. On top of this, an overall review of the old non-profit public-interest law has just started and it is expected that the law shall be reformed in an effort to rectify the two-tier structure of the non-profit laws within three or so years
Where do NGOs go from here?
First, NGOs should bear in mind the danger of taking the “NPM Scenario” since the government has long been powerful over non-profit organisations in the provision of social services. NGOs might be fearful of being co-opted if NGOs become subcontractors of the government, which would impair the independence of NGOs from the government. (Some efforts have been made to create sound relationships between the government and NGOs. One of the examples is that several local government officials AND community-based organisations have jointly learnt from the “Compact” of U.K. to establish healthy partnership between governments and NGOs.)
Second, it may be risky for NGOs to pursue ‘commercialisation’ in order to secure funding because NGOs might lose their identity as non-profit organisations. (NGOs do not have the same capability and skills of ‘development of products’, marketing and simply doing business as successful for-profit private corporations. NGOs might either lose competition or end up with an unprofitable market which does not attract for-profit corporations and in which NGOs would not be able to successfully generate income.) If NGOs act like corporations, some privileges to be given to NGOs, such as preferential tax treatment, might become unfair to private corporations and thus might be reviewed against the interest of NGOs. (Thus, this scenario would not be supported by other ‘competitors’ in the field and perhaps the general public may raise a question as to ‘What is special about NGOs’ or ‘Are NGOs different from corporations.’)
Finally, NGOs increasingly try to strengthen their capacity to participate in policymaking to transform and improve public policy. Even some service delivery organisations have begun to make efforts to increase their leverage in policymaking through advocacy and campaigning. Since NGOs can play an essential role in a pluralist democracy, it is urgently required that the government understands this particular role of NGOs other than service delivery and thus, in cooperation with NGOs, speeds up improvements to the legal, social and political environment under which NGOs will be able to pursue their goals, namely to solve social problems, which often come from social injustice and inequality, more easily. It is necessary that NGOs set rules for themselves to increase their legitimacy and accountability to the public. In order for NGOs to efficiently pursue their goals, with whichever scenarios they want to take, a combination of two or even more, NGOs should work with their partners in the community, government, the domestic and international civil societies, academia, and business to find out and decide what kind of society should be realised for social equity, social justice, and thriving democracy and in what way.
This workshop will have to deal with four basic issues:
(1) It will sketch a typology of NGOs modes of participation in local governance in Europe, according to the relationships established between NGOs, citizens and democratic institutions. NGOs are in some cases the only official partners of local authorities; in other cases, they are considered officially as key players but have to interact strongly with non-organised citizens; finally, they have sometimes a mere informal role of mobilisation in a process that officially incorporates only citizens.
(2) It will discuss three different degrees of NGOs’ participation in the decision-making process. Does it merely consist in strengthening the communication between politicians and civil society? Does it reach a real co-decision? Is it instead a way of developing in some sectors a development managed by NGOs under control of local authorities?
(3) It will analyse the objectives that are proclaimed when NGOs are associated to local governance. Sometimes, the aim is to incorporate their competence in order to better local public management. Sometimes, the aim is mainly social, notably with the objective of fostering residents’ social capital. Finally, the aim is sometimes political, consisting in deepening local democracy. Are these aims realistic if we consider various case studies?
(4) To what extent do NGOs facilitate the participation of outsiders in local governance, i.e. of individuals and groups that are socially at the margin of social power?
In conclusion, how has the NGOs’ participation in local governance to be conceived if it is to be democratic?
Youth Cultural-Information Center – Gabrovo
In May 1998 the City Council of Gabrovo was the first in Bulgaria to pass the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Municipal and Regional Life as a main principle in its activity for the realisation of co-operation and coherence between the generations and emphasised on the abilities of young people in the solution of problems and the development of the municipality.
The process of popularisation of the principles of the European Charter on Youth in Bulgaria began with the initiative of the Youth Cultural-Information Center (YCIC) – Gabrovo in partnership with the Foundation for Local Government Reform (FLGR), the Local Government Initiative (LGI) programme and the Municipality Gabrovo. And here I’d like to emphasise on the importance of our partnership with these three organisations and their impact in this process.
The Youth Cultural-Information Center – Gabrovo was founded by the Municipality Gabrovo with the financial support of USAID and the technical help of LGI as a pilot project. Since 1999 the youth center has been registered as an NGO but realises its activities with the partnership and support of the municipality. At the beginning of our work the crew of FLGR helped us with consultations and information and our work with the consultants from LGI and especially our participation in the two seminars lead by their crew in Gabrovo in 1997 on the topic “Citizen Participation and Interaction” acquainted us with the concepts of citizen participation and gave us enough knowledge and self-confidence to undertake actions for the elaboration of a Strategy for participation of young people and the interaction with the local authorities. In the elaboration of the strategy the consultants from LGI helped us find our own integrated approach for the implementation of the tools for interaction. Our approach repeatedly contributed to the successful realisation of our initiatives. It comprises of:
First - Teamwork;
And so in the beginning of 1998 on the basis of the strategy we prepared a work programme which covered the activities that contributed as a whole to the fact that the local government in Gabrovo has accepted young people as partners by encouraging their willingness to contribute to the development of the municipality. The main goal of the programme was to popularise the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Municipal and Regional Life, the passing and implementation of its principles from the local authorities in Gabrovo.
To achieve our goal and realise the programme we undertook the following steps:
What actually happened:
A year later in July 1999 as a result of the active work of YCIC – Gabrovo the National Assembly of Republic of Bulgaria passed a Declaration related to the European Charter, in which “it encourages the executive authorities and the local governments to accept as their practice the principles of the Charter”, “as a necessity for accelerating the whole process of the integration of Bulgaria in the European structures”. As a result more then 50 municipalities in Bulgaria passed the European Charter and implement it, and over 60 municipalities (from the Danube and Rodopi region) are currently taking actions towards its passing.
The project “The Power of Partnership” is a logical sequel of the steps undertaken by YCIC – Gabrovo and Municipality Gabrovo towards creating a model for municipal youth policy and is realised on the basis of the positive results and acquired experience from successfully realised projects.
The main goal of the project was to work out a mechanism for co-operation between young people and the local authorities and reaching an agreement for its realisation.
In order to stimulate the partnership between the youth organisations and the local authorities for the successful realisation of the activities in the project, YCIC made a research through inquiries, organised trainings for young leaders with the participation of representatives of the local authorities, discussions and meetings for working out the rules and the mechanism for partnership. Within the framework of the project YCIC organised a Municipal Youth Forum for achieving an agreement and its implementation. The achieved agreement for implementing the mechanism for co-operation between the local authorities and young people was confirmed with a decision of the City Council of Gabrovo from May 2001.
The mechanism consists of: The representatives of the local authority – the Mayor, the Chairman of the City Council, the members of the Standing Committee “Youth activities and Sports” at the City Council to participate personally in youth initiatives and to meet with the youth society; to create a Council to the Mayor as a consultative body in the formation of a youth policy and a structure for mutual exchange of information and discussion of projects and programmes; to appoint an official in the municipal administration responsible for the youth policy; to create a Youth Council of Gabrovo as a form for direct dialog between the local authorities and young people; to establish a Municipal Fund for Youth initiatives. With a decision of the City Council the relationships between young people and the local authorities were institutionalised and the local authorities accepted young people and their structures as actual partners for the sustainable development of the municipality.
In 2002 the project “The Power of Partnership” was awarded with the Council of Europe Award “Young Active Citizens” and we’ll receive the award in 2 days on November 7th in Thessaloniki, Greece during the 6th Conference of the European Ministers Responsible for Youth.
The results of the project are a stable base for continuing and extending our work for creating a pattern for implementation of the principles of the European Charter and for the popularisation and multiplication of our positive experience at a regional and national level.
Since January 2002 we have been working on the project “Young People and Local Authorities – Effective Partners” in the programme Euro Practices of Open Society Foundation. The goal of the project is to elaborate the regulations for the work of the Council to the Mayor and the Youth Council of Gabrovo, as well as to form a Regional Council for Youth Policy that will work as a consultative body and support the regional government in the formation of youth policy at a regional level. Again with a decision of the City Council from July this year the rules for building the youth structures to the mayor and the City Council were passed, which will contribute to the development of a pattern for implementation of the European Youth Charter, which corresponds to the goals of our hard work in the last five years.
Since the beginning of April on the occasion of 10 years from the passing of the European Charter by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe, four years from its passing by the City Council of Gabrovo and three years from the passing of the Declaration of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, we have realised a National Campaign for popularisation of the Charter. We made an information package, which consists of a poster and brochures with our experience and spread it in all 263 municipalities in Bulgaria.
Here are a few examples of successfully realised projects and initiatives on the basis of the principles of the European Charter:
1. Since 1998 we have been hosting the monthly meetings of the youth organisations in Gabrovo for exchange of information, experience and ideas for realisation of socially important initiatives with the active participation of young people. Representatives of the municipality have regularly participated in the meetings.
2. In 1998 with the support of Municipality Gabrovo we founded a Youth Ecology Center and a municipal network of youth eco-groups and school clubs, which annually organise a municipal campaign for the Earth Day on 22 April. In 2002 more then 6000 young people participated in the campaign. A children park was repaired; the clubs maintain the parks near the schools and so on.
3. YCIC – Gabrovo has been the main initiator and organiser of the seven successive editions of the Balkan Youth Festival “The Balkan Youth” with the motto “The Balkan Youth Today – Europe’s Future Tomorrow”. The festival is the brightest example of the ‘power of partnership’ in the implementation of the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Municipal and Regional Life, because it unites the efforts of young people (more then 100 young people volunteer), the youth organisations (more then ten organisations co-operate in the co-ordination) and the local authorities.
We share all this with dignity because the results were achieved together with young people and not just for them, which corresponds to the principles of the Youth Charter.
The town of Gabrovo which I come from was born and raised in the core of the mountain which gives the name of the Balkan Peninsula. Thanks to the enterprise and talent of its citizens it is an important cultural, industrial, educational and … youth center! The last five years of hard work in the area of youth activities, partnership between the citizen sector and the public authorities give me a good reason to say that.
Before I begin I want to acknowledge I speak wearing 'two hats'. As a member of a European NGO- the Older Women's Network, Europe - where I participated in the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing and more recently at the International Assembly on Ageing in Madrid and as a local government officer working in the field of equalities.
For our presentation we want to focus on four words:
I will address the first two and my colleague Liz Hayes will say a little about the others.
Clearly ten minutes will not do justice to the work of a three-year project, however as we develop our discussions over the session I hope more of the detail will emerge.
Gender mainstreaming is ensuring that the needs of women and men are taken into account in all aspects of an organisation's work. From its policies, through service delivery to any wider role in promoting the well being of society.
The Effective Local Partnerships project was to understand and implement our learning about how women's equality can be progressed through partnership work. Recognising that women were not homogenous we also addressed other issues such as race, sexual orientation, age and disability.
Funded by the European Union's 4th Action Programme on equality between women and men, the project brought together four core partners. Each had a history of women's equality and saw the project as a way to progress that further. Our partners were:
Just as this Citizen's Forum is looking at how the quatrilogue can work more effectively, the partnership brought together at transnational level, mirrored what each organisation was struggling with at local level.
Learning from earlier European work we built in resources for on-going consultancy for developing methodology, facilitation and evaluation.
In addition, as project leader, I set up a UK based advisory steering committee with national and local representatives. They were
This linked the project into the wider national agenda to both learn from that agenda and to influence it.
Finally, the individuals we were making up this partnership were as diverse as our organisations. We ranged from those connected to the very heart of society and government, to those working with the most excluded. From those working at national and international level, to those whose expertise resonated with the voices of local women and how despite access to scarce resources could use their lobbying skills and value driven approach to influence decision makers.
Thus we were working with huge differences
I will now hand over to my colleague who will tell you how and why it worked
By way of introduction: my working life has included:
For this European Project, I acted as the external evaluator where evaluation was “formative” in that the evaluation was on-going and integral to the development of ELP. I was described as the “critical friend” who pushed for new insights and frameworks by seeking to find the right questions and challenging the partners to give meaning to their experience and articulate how their work was contributing to gender-mainstreaming
1. Partners shifted positions and mind-sets from an either/or stance to a both/and position
2. Adaptation and changing tactics
Policy by Ownership
Traditionally policies get created by “Ownership” – make the policy, get others to agree and take the action.
In year one the ELP partners were very comfortable that they were in the business of “Authorship” creating policy together with women at the heart of decision-making.
3. Lessons for supporting participative democracy
What made ELP work:
Thinking in the workshop on NGOs as key actors in local governance was that democracy is never definitively won. The view was that there had to be constant democratic innovation, constant exploration of new democratic channels so as to consolidate democracy and deepen it. That requirement must be a spur to all players in democracy at whatever level. The workshop discussions brought out players’ determination, at local level, to extend the arrangements for expression of democratic opinion, traditionally based on the representative system, by developing mechanisms for citizen participation. The aim was direct collaboration, in political decision-making below the central level, between local authorities and civil society. It was evident from the experiences described that NGOs’ contribution to establishing genuine participative democracy at the local level was crucial. Three projects - in Spain (direct citizen participation in decision-making in the municipality of Alcobena), Bulgaria (setting up and running a cultural and information centre for young people in Gabrovo) and the United Kingdom (gender mainstreaming at the local level) - showed that the most effective way of promoting participative democracy locally was partnership between NGOs and the local authorities. Underlying the apparent diversity of experiences, partnership was the genuine common denominator in Workshop No.1’s discussions.
1. Prerequisites for establishing a partnership
The case studies brought out four prerequisites.
The first relates to instigation of the co-operation. Clearly partnership implies a meeting of minds. However it is desirable that NGOs be the instigators, with the local authorities then agreeing to the initiative. In that way the partnership takes on greater democratic significance, having come from the community and being the outcome of purposeful action by civil society and of civil society’s taking a positive interest in public affairs.
The second prerequisite is that machinery has to be set up, providing structure to discussion and consultation between the partners. All the experiments described at the workshop involved setting up forums, advisory councils or committees of various kinds. Whatever body is chosen, it provides unfenced ground on which the local authorities and civil society can meet. Its legitimacy depends on its representativeness. Its make-up must reflect the whole of the community - that is, not just “institutionalised” civil society (notably NGOs, which are the main vehicle for citizen participation) but also “ordinary people” who are not members of associations (their representatives might be appointed by, say, drawing lots) and, casting the net wider still, “outsiders”, marginalised groups such as women, young people or the unemployed. The importance of heeding and reflecting the full range of opinion was repeatedly emphasised. The machinery provides a venue for airing healthy, constructive disagreement or clashes of opposing interests within civil society. The aim, on a basis of mutual respect, is to make this an “intercultural” asset - moving beyond the merely multicultural - for the benefit of local governance.
The third prerequisite relates to the purpose of the partnership. To be effective, collaboration needs to encompass the whole lifetime of an official policy, from formulation through to long-term evaluation. It is important for all the partners to be involved in every stage. The aim, in the sector or sectors covered by the partnership (youth policy, town planning, education and so on), is to develop a collective vision of political action.
The fourth and last prerequisite relates to technical and financial resources, without which partnership cannot exist. All the experiments show that it is important for the collaboration machinery to have available to it all the resources, in particular for information and communication, which the local authority has (local media, a magazine, an Internet site, etc). Operating the partnership has practical implications which will need money and facilities (for example, child-minding arrangements for women participants). Lastly there is a time cost: consultation and dialogue slow down political decision-making and the local authority has to be prepared to accept this and allow for it.
These are absolute prerequisites for establishing the partnership, whose mode of operation may vary.
2. Mode of operation
A typology of arrangements can be drawn up, but underlying the variety of mechanisms is a shared conception of democracy and of relations between the citizen and the elected representatives.
The discussions highlighted the great variety of experiments, allowing us to identify the different arrangements possible. The whole idea of partnership is involvement (to whatever degree) of civil society in political decision-making. Depending on the intensiveness of collaboration, we can point to mechanisms of varying degrees of participativeness, ranging from simple consultation to co-decision-making or even supervised self-administration. These three approaches give civil society varying involvement in the partnership: whereas, with the first approach, NGOs are mainly there to make proposals, in co-decision-making systems they have an equal say. Supervised self-administration is rarer, giving civil society extensive discretion to manage an aspect of public life (see, for example, Berlin’s neighbourhood panels, which, under a degree of political supervision, decide how to use a budget allocated to them for neighbourhood action).
Despite the differences, the basic conception of democracy is the same. All three approaches challenge the distance which representative democracy creates between the elected representative and the citizen. In representative democracy the elected representatives are an elite with the, as it were, expertise to meet the wishes of civil society by translating them into political action. Partnership, in contrast, seeks to bring the elected representative and the citizen closer to each other than in the representative system. It recognises that civil society, and more particularly NGOs, have their own “civil” expertise, a know-how acquired on the ground that political decision-making needs to harness in the interests of better local governance. This rapprochement which partnership allows, regardless of the detailed approach, involves maintaining the principles of the representative system but tempering them with the mechanisms of direct democracy.
In addition to the variety of approaches to partnership, Workshop No.1, in looking at a number of case studies, identified various factors for making a success of this collaboration.
3. Factors in making a success of active partnership
In the experiments reported on the workshop identified methods of running a partnership that were important to making a success of it. In developing the NGO role in local participative democracy it is worth taking those experiments as models. Apart from the membership of the collaboration body, which we have already dealt with, there are three lessons which can be learned.
Firstly, partnership needs to be based, from the outset, on agreement about the approach. The various speakers in the workshop pointed to the importance of drawing up precise rules as to design, operation and evaluation of the partnership. This “charter”, on which the effectiveness of NGO-local authority collaboration depends, must also have flexibility built into it.
Secondly, the case studies brought to light a variety of partnership-management approaches. One of these particularly captured the participants’ interest: the presence in the partnership of a neutral third party. The action-evaluation method seems to have played a part in the success, in the United Kingdom, of the gender-mainstreaming project. The neutral third party has three essential functions in management of the partnership. In organising exchange and dialogue between the partners, the third party handles the occasional conflict of interests. The third party is primarily a facilitator. As such, they are also in charge of logistics (using the facilities available to enable all to participate, including outsiders) and have a fundamental role in starting up the partnership. They then take on the role of evaluator. Their neutrality (which has to be made absolutely sure of when they are appointed) allows them to review objectively how the partnership is developing and the action which the partnership engages in. They can highlight the successes but also, where appropriate, any malfunctioning or failures and ask the partners to make adjustments. Lastly, the third party has expertise to offer: they are something of a resource person, whose experience enables them to offer the partners genuine training and instruction. The third party’s involvement in these three ways has a crucial bearing on the partnership’s success.
But one of the key factors, and possibly the main one, is the partners’ continuing commitment. The partnership is the outcome of a voluntary overture, so that if initial enthusiasm wears thin the collaboration is in jeopardy. There are several possible ways of keeping commitment going. In addition to the neutral third party’s role in instilling confidence and maintaining the partners’ motivation, a real communication strategy for the projects which the partnership engages in would seem essential. The aim is to ensure that the partnership’s concrete achievements are given recognition - in the local media, for example - which is rewarding and motivating. Care also has to be taken to involve all partners in all stages of the project. Excluding civil society from any stage in design or evaluation of the project is going to generate frustration and disaffection. Lastly, the concept of an NGO/local authority partnership has to be taken on board, as fundamental to political action, by all the partners. It has to become a basic principle of the new approach to local governance.
In addition to these factors, the workshop produced concrete proposals regarding the Council of Europe’s role in promoting this new democratic governance.
4. The Council of Europe’s role in developing partnerships
Workshop No.1 was agreed that the Council of Europe should be developing the means of encouraging and facilitating partnerships.
Here, consideration was given to various ways - interventionist to varying degrees - of providing partners with technical assistance. Firstly the Council should create a body of its own which would act as an interlocutor for local players involved in partnerships. In fielding their many queries, it would have an information and training role (eg development of training modules for the various partners). The discussions highlighted the need for a centralised system of expertise management covering the various fields in which the Council of Europe is active. The directory of experts this would involve would enable the Council to offer more direct assistance to some partnerships, as a mediator, by - for example - appointing the neutral third party.
Over and above this, however, the Council of Europe could publicise the success stories. By pursuing an information strategy and documenting the most successful and instructive experiments (for example, in a handbook), it could offer them as examples and encourage their development.
Workshop No.1, in exploring the concept of partnership, demonstrated that the level below central government lends itself to a developing role for NGOs - and civil society generally - in the conduct of public affairs. At the same time, while collaboration on these lines would foster new, genuinely democratic governance, there is the risk of partnership being a mere façade - of the political authority’s merely going through the motions of collaboration. From the range of experiments presented it was clear that restoring democratic validity to local authorities’ political action cannot be the sole concern. Making that the sole aim would be to assign civil society the role of merely bolstering the political authority’s position. Ultimately the aim must be to promote a new local governance, a new approach to politics and democracy based on trust and on honest dealing by committed partners.
My job in this workshop is to give some background on the issues that will determine whether NGOs are key players in national policy making. As the goals of this Forum indicate, we are seeking to understand the trend towards a greater involvement of civil society organisations in democratic policy making and explore the conditions needed to empower NGOs.
These introductory remarks constitute only 20 minutes of a total of five hours of deliberation and will set the parameters for the workshop by exploring two fundamental questions:
Note that I am talking primarily about direct participation in the policy process. I will concentrate on the role of NGOs as "players" in a negotiation process focussed on policy and politics at a national level. But keep in mind that NGOs make other indirect contributions to the policy process through the building of social capital and an informed citizenry, as well as through their influence on social discourses and policy-related beliefs.
I am also talking about national politics -- about national umbrella bodies for NGOs, peak organisations or individual NGOs that have a substantial national profile. This presentation might be very different if we were in one of the other workshops that are examining local or international issues.
There is little doubt that in all industrialised and democratic countries there has been a significant increase over the last decades in NGO activity in regard to national policy making. An international comparative project that has documented NGO activity in a wide range of countries has spoken about a "global associational revolution"5. One of the results of this revolution has been that -- as the title of this Forum demonstrates -- we no longer talk about government but about governance. Participatory governance implies greater NGO participation in all aspects of government activity and we assume this means greater and more effective participation in policy making to compensate for the “democratic deficit” that is seen to be creating a crisis for democratic governments.
Certainly much of the rhetoric we hear about NGOs suggests that they are key, and effective, participants in policy making. But does the reality match this rhetoric? To try to answer this question, we have to look at NGO participation from a number of angles:
These are three ways of viewing the same phenomena of NGO participation and by considering them together we will be in a position to try to answer the two fundamental questions I posed earlier and to make some recommendations.
2. The eras
In Western democracies there has been a quick evolution of the role of NGOs in policy making over the last three decades and we can identify four distinct eras. The dates I have given the eras are approximate, but represent when the ideas have become widely accepted. Note also that the eras overlap to indicate that while a new role was being accepted the earlier role was still very much present.
2.1. Conflict (1970-1985)
As Helumut Anheier indicated in his talk earlier in this conference, the 1970s is the period in which NGO numbers and activity started to increase. There have been NGOs in one format or another since modern industrial society was being formed, but the 1970s saw the rise of new activist organisations in Western democracies as formerly unstructured social movements gave rise to new social movement organisations and NGOs.
While there has been a long tradition of praising the role of associations in democracies since the work of De Tocqueville in that late 18th Century, the more common view in the 1970s was that the political activism by NGOs was superfluous to the democratic process and that these organisations were in conflict with democratic institutions. NGOs were seen as a disturbance to orderly policy making and that their influence was to be resisted (unless of course they were able to mobilise enough support among the citizens through demonstrations and other conflict strategies that their views had to be quickly accommodated).
2.2. Consultation (1980-1995)
By the beginning of the 1980s, the number of NGOs, and their political activism, had reached a critical mass and they could no longer be ignored by governments. In response, there was a move to incorporate the conflict created by the ever-increasing number of NGOs into the formal processes of policy making. Conflict started to give way to consultation and this was the era that saw the expansion of advisory and liaison committees as a way of formalising the relationship between NGOs and policy makers.
Most of these consultation mechanisms still exist and they continue to be controversial. Some NGOs denounce the consultation mechanisms, claiming they are not genuine forums for participation, but act more as marketing exercises that governments use to sell previously determined policies. However, consultation continues to be a central feature of current policy making and service delivery. Consultation processes have become part of the standard operating procedures of government departments and have even become enshrined in legislation.
2.3. Collaboration (1990-2005)
This is the era represented by the rise of New Public Management. The core strategies of public management now include partnerships, compacts, accords and service agreements, all of which seek to include NGOs as key collaborators in the delivery of public services. The general discourse is about "governance" and that government should "steer not row".
This is generally seen as a neo-liberal or economic rationalist agenda, but in fact it is a result of pressures from all parts of the political spectrum. While the conservatives pushed for privatisation, progressives pushed for community organisations to have a greater role in service delivery in order to provide more responsive services. While the right-wing ideologues attacked "big government" that kept control over large parts of national wealth, the left attacked "universalist government" that was unable to effectively redistribute resources to those most in need or to the full diversity of modern societies.
This new level of close collaboration between government and NGOs in service delivery has two opposing interpretations when discussing the policy process:
One view is that there is more participation by NGOs in policy making. It is argued that if service production is no longer the preserve of government then policy making can’t be either and that the level of trust that has been achieved between NGOs and government leads to a greater role for NGOs in developing public policies.
The opposite view is that the conditions put on contracts and other collaborative relationships, mean that NGOs can do little more than follow the decisions made by government. Because NGOs rely so much on government contracts they cannot afford to "bite the hand that feeds them". Also, some commentators argue that as a result of the greater complexity of the work involved in managing NGOs, there is certain "participation fatigue" and that NGO staff no longer have the time and energy to focus on that aspect of their work.
2.4. Citizenship (2000-2015)
There is an emerging tendency in which governments by-pass NGOs as representative of constituencies and seek to get input directly from the citizens themselves. The policy relationships created are directly between government to individual citizens, and NGOs no longer mediate between them. This is heralding a new era of citizenship in which governments increasingly use direct polling and direct democracy techniques such as citizen's juries, peoples' panel, and online voting.
This direct democracy seeks to exploit the possibilities offered by new survey techniques and new technologies, but it is also seen as a way of taking away power from NGOs and is a reflection of the decreasing faith in their capacity to represent citizens' interests. Because of the close relationships created by the collaborations described in the previous section and because of the complexity of the organisations needed to deliver services, many NGOs are increasingly being seen as out of touch with the needs of the broader community and as pursuing only their own commercial benefit and not the wider public interest.
To understand more about this trend, I would recommend that you read the recent OCED Public Management (PUMA) Policy Brief Engaging Citizens in Policy Making6. You will see that this document is all about direct relations with citizens, while NGOs and other citizen organisations receive little mention.
While the four eras represent different historical periods, elements of the ideas they represent continue to co-exist in current societies and form part of the internal debates within the NGO sector about the impact of consultation mechanisms and contracting on their effective participation in policy making.
These eras represent the evolution over the last decades in Western industrial democracies. In other countries, such as former of Soviet bloc of Eastern Europe, there has evidently been a different history, but we can still see many elements of these eras being part of the debates in those countries.
3. The "Models"
There are a number of ways in which we can classify NGOs by regions/cultures. Gøsta Esping Andersen spoke of "welfare regimes"7, while recent work by Helmut Anheier and Jeremy Kendall use the term “national scripts"8. For the purposes of our discussion on NGO participation in national policy making, I would like to offer the following classification of different cultural models:
These are the English-speaking organisations countries – USA, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. They are the countries that have gone furthest down the path of New Public Management and have created complex commercial relations between governments and NGOs through the contracting out of public services. Many NGOs have become large, bureaucratic organisations that are increasingly seen as distant from their original membership base. Their future is closely tied to the funding they receive from governments that impose strict guidelines, which often specify that such funding can only be used for the delivery of very specific projects or services and cannot be used for general administration or for lobbying.
In these countries, there is also a tendency to increased fragmentation of NGOs, partly as a result of the increased competition for the resources available, but also as a result of an individualist ethos and the availability of new technologies. At times it seems that every activist with a home computer and an extensive e-mail list is starting his or her own organisation.
Effective participation by NGOs in policy making in these countries is increasingly difficult because of the contractual relationship with government, the increasing complexity of the organisations, the reliance on project-based funding and fragmentation.
3.2. Continental Western Europe
In Western European countries, New Public Management has not impacted as strongly, so economic-rationalist models of funding and organisational structures are not as evident. But most importantly for our discussion in this workshop, there is also a long history of vertical integration between social structures through corporatism, pillarisation, and subsidiarity. NGOs are closely aligned with political parties, unions, and religious organisations.
Everyone knows, or think they know, the affiliation of NGOs. When I worked in Spain I was always surprised that whenever I mentioned an NGO or peak body, almost immediately someone would comment: “…but you know that they are affiliated with … [a political party]”. In Catalonia there are two co-ordinating bodies for Roma organisations: one is seen as controlled by the socialist party, while the other is close to the regional nationalist party.
Effective participation in policy making by NGOs in Western European countries is generally compromised by these affiliations. NGOs become subject to “party discipline” and find it difficult to speak with a separate voice or to have influence that is independent of previously existing interest structures.
3.3. Emerging Democracies and Developing Economies (Aid Receiving Nations)
In the context of this Forum, this classification refers primarily to Eastern Europe, but it also valid for many Latin American and African countries. These countries still have relatively weak economies, so there are only restricted funds available for NGOs from their governments and the population has limited time and income to devote to the voluntary dimension that is a defining feature of NGOs in Western democracies.
The other significant feature of the NGO sector in these countries is the economic impact of foreign donors and the subsequent political and operational consequences that flow from this international funding. NGOs in these countries receive a considerable proportion of their funds from external donors who pay in « hard » currencies, and some NGOs are in a more stable financial situation than the structures of government they deal with. NGOs in these countries are also sometimes seen as anti-government and there is a significant amount of suspicion around what is commonly characterised as foreign influence on internal issues.
NGOs in emerging democracies and developing countries have played a crucial role in building democracy and providing essential services. But unfortunately, because of the significant amount of foreign funding available to NGOs, the “dark side” of the sector has also developed and there are considerable concerns about corruption. We often don’t like to admit it, but the reality is that organised crime sometimes uses NGOs to steal foreign donations or to launder illegal income and political parties use them to illegally fund campaign activities.
It is important to acknowledge that NGOs can at times end up being barriers to effective democratic government. In some countries the sector is still on the wrong side of what is often termed the “civil society paradox”: a strong democratic civil society needs strong democratic government to function effectively.
Effective participation in policy making by NGOs is often compromised by the weakness of the sector, a lack of legitimation, and a sense that they simply act as a surrogate opposition.
4. The factors that determine participation
Before we can confirm that NGOs do effectively participate the public policy process, we have to examine a range of factors that might determine the possibilities that NGOs can influence. The following table lists the full range of factors that, according to my own research9, should be considered.
This tables provides a useful framework for an in-depth study of the reality of NGO participation in the policy process. For example, my research demonstrated that the Spanish political environment provided few opportunity structures to the fragmented network of under-resourced NGOs seeking to influence a core economic and social policy such as immigration policy. It was not surprising then to find that a process I studied, which had originally been praised as an example of how NGOs can contribute to policy making, turned out to be a case of one level of government manipulating an NGO coordinating group to present previously determined policies to another level of government that had a majority from an opposing party.
5. Do they influence?
The truth is that we don't know and we can't truly know if NGOs do in fact influence policy. There is no science that permits us to measure the power of different actors in a political process. It is as though all political actions disappear into the "black box" of back room negotiations and then emerge as policy decisions. We can't peer into this black box and we can only speculate about how decisions were made. Almost everyone involved in a political decision has some interest in misrepresenting how it was made.
I would venture to say -- perhaps I am just being provocative -- that when we are talking about national governance and national-level policies, NGOs may not be key independent players. NGOs are more likely to have influence when dealing with local and certain specific policy issues. At national level, NGOs are not leading policy actors -- they are in fact just extras.
NGOs play, at best, a supporting role and while they may be a component of the policy process that governments must work with, they are not the central players. To continue the cinema analogy, you can't have a crowd scene without the crowd, but it is the main actors that have the most important roles.
There are many players in the policy process that have greater technical and positional power than NGOs. NGOs may be allowed to participate in the policy processes to be persuaded, educated and provide some legitimation, but they are not a central part of decision making processes.
So, given the situation I have outlined in this paper, what are the enabling conditions for the participation of NGOs in democratic governance? How can we create responsive and effective mechanisms for interest articulation and interest aggregation by NGOs?
I have some general recommendations and some specific ones for both NGOs and government.
6.1. In General
There must be a continuous dialogue between the players in the policy process. Too often they work with different understandings and expectations of the policy process and participation mechanisms. Most often it is the NGOs that end up excluded from the policy process as a result of the tensions created by these misunderstandings.
Therefore, to create the conditions for more effective NGO participation all actors in the policy process must work to create:
6. 2. For NGOs
NGOs have to develop a more sophisticated understanding of their role in policy making in order to improve their performance as policy actors. For example:
6.3. For Governments
Governments must decide how they can legitimately give support to NGOs, but without using this support to excessively control NGO activities or using their funding power to stifle dissent. Clientalism -- the term used to describe how some governments support only those NGOs who are most loyal to them -- may produce some desired short-term results, but it can only lead to more cynicism about the work of both government and NGOs and an increase in the democratic deficit.
7. Final Observations
Before finishing these introductory remarks, I would like to make some final observations on the role of NGOs in democratic governance.
7.1. Increased diversity and professionalisation has advantages and disadvantages
There is little doubt that the NGO sectors in all countries are going through a period of expansion with an increase in the number and diversity of organisations and a raising of the professional standards of those who work in them. This should generally be seen as positive and an advantage for the sector. A diverse and professional NGO sector can provide a stronger platform for citizen action and a strong civil society.
At the same time, we keep in mind the negative aspects: there is an increasing fragmentation of the sector that is decreasing the possibility of acting with a unified voice; there is a real danger of falling under the control of governments and other social actors; and many of the services formerly provided by NGOs for free are becoming commercial commodities. In many countries, for example, information and education services that previously were provided for free are now being seen as sources of additional revenue.
7.2. Strengthen trust in government
While the development of NGOs and civil society is seen as an essential element of democracy, we need to keep in mind that NGOs that only serve to criticise democratic institutions, that only act in opposition to elected governments, or that seek to by-pass representative entities can in fact weaken trust in democracies. Earlier we spoke about the civil society paradox -- a strong, democratic civil society needs a strong democratic government -- and we have to avoid falling into the trap of believing that if civil society looks after itself, democratic government will be assured.
7.3. Informed, engaged, belligerence
What is the role of NGOs in governance? I will leave you with my personal philosophy of NGO participation in the policy process. After 20 years of experience in working with NGOs, I believe that they can be most effective if they are informed, engaged … and a little belligerent.
In my brief presentation, I would like to introduce the experience of Estonia in developing co-operation between the nonprofit and the public sector. In doing that, I would like to focus on the drafting process of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept - EKAK. This process was initiated by the nonprofit sector itself.
The Estonian Civil society development concept is a national document, which describes the different roles of government and nonprofit organisations in co-operation between the public sector and non-profit sector. The general purpose of this document is to prove that there is mutual understanding between government and non-profit organisations concerning their co-operation. The specific aims of EKAK are related to supporting the development of a civil society in Estonia.
The work of drawing up the drafts of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept took place from 1999 until February 2001 in the framework of the UNDP, Estonian Government and the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organisations Project “Strengthening Estonia’s NGOs’ Sustainability” managed by the Network of Estonian Non-profit Associations and Foundations.
The first draft of EKAK was put together by the co-ordinator of the UNDP’s project. The draft was based on the materials by all the working groups which worked on the concept in 1999 – 2000.
There were a number of stages in the process of drawing up the concept and many actors participated in the process. The non-profit sector has played the most active role in this process, while the representatives of political parties have been involved in only some stages of developing the concept.
In December 1999, 10 Estonian parties and 10 organisations signed a Memorandum of Co-operation between Estonian Political Parties and Non-profit Sector Umbrella Organisations. A formal decision of starting preparations for the draft of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept and the decision to present this document to the Estonian Parliament – Riigikogu was contained in the Memorandum.
From January – April 2000,
the first draft of the EKAK was developed by the working groups including the representatives of umbrella organisations and academics.
In April 2000,
this first draft was discussed at the meeting of the Cultural Committee of Riigikogu. In conclusion, the Cultural Committee required the draft document to be written anew with the help of academic experts and research, also other parliamentary committees were to be involved in the process as well.
From June - December 2000,
a research group conducted a series of open-ended individual and group interviews with 71 men and women who were classified either as academic experts, civil servants, politicians, local government officials, business people, or NGO activists.
In October 2000,
the preliminary results of the survey and the second draft of the concept were introduced to the members of parliament and to the representatives of the non-profit sector at the seminar of three parliament committees (Committee of Culture, Committee of Social Affairs and Constitutional Committee).
From October 2000 – January 2001,
the second draft of the concept was introduced at 15 regional meetings of Estonian NGOs. More than 400 people participated in these meetings representing more than 450 NGOs. In these meetings, the draft concept was introduced by the academic experts and it was well discussed with the participants. A lot of proposals and amendments were made and most of them were approved by the expert group. A new version of the EKAK was published in a national daily on 27th October 2000, and it was sent to 3,000 organisations by e-mail as well.
On 1 February 2001,
the final results of the survey were introduced to the members of parliament, the representatives of NGOs and the journalists.
On 3 February 2001,
The Roundtable of Estonian non-profit organisations was held in Tallinn where EKAK was approved.
On 23 April 2001,
the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept was presented by the representative council of the Roundtable of Estonian non-profit organisations to the Parliament for discussion and acceptance as a parliamentary document.
From October 2001 – April 2002,
EKAK was discussed by the commission of representatives of three Parliamentary Committees – those of cultural, constitutional, and social affairs and the members of the representative council.
In June 2002,
a final, several times re-drafted version of this document was presented to the Estonian Parliament for discussion and eventual adoption.
This was the three-year long birth story of EKAK. Hopefully soon it will appear on the agenda of the Estonian Parliament.
In the last part of my presentation, I would like to stress the importance the drafting of EKAK had to the non-profit sector in Estonia as a whole.
During the discussions on EKAK, the idea of an open all-Estonian forum of the non-profit organisations was born and brought to life. The first meeting of this forum, called Roundtable of Estonian Non-profit Organisations was held in February 2001. The 272 participants were divided in five chambers: registered non-profit organisations; umbrella organisations; foundations; non-registered non-profit organisations (informal partnerships); and organisations for minorities. These chambers delegated three representatives each (five from the largest chamber, that of registered non-profit organisations) to the Representative Council of the Roundtable. The Roundtable has not registered itself as a legal entity and has no fixed membership. Thus, the Representative Council is to be elected every year simply by the organisations that have sent their representatives to the Roundtable.
In the course of preparation of the Civil Society Development Concept, the Estonian NGOs produced a group of leading activists with clear ideas about the role of NGOs as elements of civil society. Through the popularisation of the EKAK by the NGO Roundtable, the idea of non-profit organisations having an important role in developing participatory democracy will continue to be spread within the sector. Thanks to the Representative Council of the Roundtable, this idea has also been noticed by the political parties who have put it as an item on their agenda.
EKAK has been a good catalyst in promoting civil society in Estonia. Besides EKAK, the non-profit sector has drafted and the Roundtable of Estonian Non-profit Organisations has approved a number of other important documents for the non-profit sector. Among them are such important documents as the Code of Ethics for Estonian Non-profit Organisations and the document on sustainability of the Estonian civil society and NPOs. Several local roundtables of NPOs have emerged and the first co-operation agreements have been concluded between the local authorities and the local
The co-operation process between the public and the nonprofit sector has been started in Estonia and is constantly spreading.
The workshop provided an opportunity for a valuable and lively discussion which it would be difficult to reproduce faithfully without running the risk of overlooking certain aspects. This report is by definition a condensed account of the ideas exchanged.
The workshop began with a statement10 by Dr John Casey (Australia) which was deliberately provocative in order to encourage discussion. He described the process whereby NGOs participate at national level, highlighting the paradox currently resulting from the new form of citizenship: people want to deal directly with those who govern them, without necessarily going through NGOs. He even thought that non-governmental organisations were sometimes seen as interfering with democracy and not as an effective relay.
In answer to the question as to whether NGOs had an influence on national policies, the speaker had no hesitation in replying that this was a black box, in that it was difficult to know what contacts there were and what issues were discussed. He thought, however, that NGOs were not key players in the debate but extras, unless they had succeeded in establishing real dialogue, with a common language, by setting themselves up as experts in a particular field in which the limits of each party’s intervention were clearly established.
His comments soon sparked off a discussion, from which the following emerged:
We agreed that it was essential to define our terminology better and specify what we meant by an NGO that could intervene at national level in order to envisage a partnership or process of co-operation with central government. To this end, we hope eventually to be able to prompt the institution of a proper European status for associations that transcend national frontiers so as to help provide a homogeneous framework for the concept of association.
Once this has been done, it will be possible to establish arrangements for joint intervention by NGOs and governments.
The example presented by Ms Ülle Lepp and Mr Tõnis Lukas from Estonia reflects this determination to take practical steps to identify potential forms of co-operation with the country’s authorities. The main difficulty lies in the failure to clarify the respective roles and the resulting relations and influences. Tension can arise between the national authorities - which have their own legitimate power, since they are elected - and NGOs, which represent part of the population. Clarification of the respective areas of responsibility and scope for action is a very important prerequisite, which Estonia seems to have met at national level, with the help of parliamentarians and academics, by producing a written document11 which sets out and clarifies, after lengthy discussion, all the aspects of such co-operation.
Fears that certain NGOs might take up too much space were voiced, but they seemed groundless. Provided they were democratically established and had a clearly and openly proclaimed aim, NGOs were examples of living democracy. Indeed, it was stressed that a strong civil society, made up of recognised, representative NGOs, was highly conducive to a state that was itself strong, for there was a relation between the two.
The participants made the point that, whatever arrangements were made, a key aspect of such co-operation was mutual respect, without which links could never lead to fruitful work, debate on an equal footing or even constructive opposition. Moreover, mutual confidence on the part of NGOs and central government was an important means of enhancing democracy.
We know that, by definition, our NGOs frequently defend the interests of a group of individuals. How can we tie in an individual interest with the general interest?
We found a plausible answer in the case study presented by Ms Anna Belia from Hungary, where the Soros Foundation intervenes to support local NGOs.
Because it does not intervene directly on the ground, but through national NGOs, the above-mentioned discrepancies between individual interests and the general interest are ironed out. The participants considered that this approach had the advantage of “depoliticising” NGOs in certain countries.
Lastly, the workshop agreed that if our NGOs want to intervene appropriately at national level, they must know how to make use of the media. This requires specific know-how, which has to be learned, so that NGOs can publicise their activities and raise issues not in individual or local terms but in general terms that are comprehensible to media professionals and politicians. This is, in a way, a means of giving NGO activities legitimacy.
In conclusion, and contrary to the assertion of Dr Casey, who considered that international NGOs were no longer key players, the workshop members were convinced that international NGOs were becoming very important talking partners for all policy-makers, for their networks and areas of intervention very often enabled them to do things that central governments or individuals could not or could no longer do.
The workshop participants nevertheless stressed that it was important for our NGOs to learn to work together and co-operate so that they could present a united front when approaching the authorities.
The new form of governance is a modern way of establishing working relations and partnerships at national level between the authorities and civil society, but it should also make for a new approach to relations between national NGOs.
First of all, I would like to thank the organisers of the Forum from the Council of Europe and Cyril Ritchie, for making my participation to this Forum possible.
In December 1999, I had the opportunity to work with Cyril Ritchie at the World Civil Society Conference (WOCSOC) held in Montreal which brought together about 400 representatives of civil society networks to propose changes and to take actions for new global governance partnerships, as well as to create a wider support for stronger United Nations.
My deep involvement at WOCSOC was published in a book “Who’s World Is It Anyway” which was a comprehensive study to examine the changing relationships of civil society and the United Nations in global governance. The book served as the background to the participants of WOCSOC. I am proud to be part of our group and to consider that we were ahead of our time. Today, governance discussion is at its peak, a priority for governments, civil society organisations and intergovernmental organisations.
Before I move on, I would like to pay tribute to the two persons who provided the vision to our book - Angus Archer and Michael McCoy - two individuals who were responsible for my involvement in development work, my friends and mentors in this thinking since I moved to New York from the Philippines in 1983. Regrettably, both of them have passed away. I am sure they are happy to see me in meetings such as today.
In my 19 years work with the UN system and with civil society organisations (CSOs), I have always been involved in the greater involvement of CSOs in democratic policy making. In the agenda of our discussions this afternoon we will propose the means of empowering NGOs, how to improve NGO access to the work of the Council of Europe institutions and the relations between international NGOs and the Council of Europe. I would like to share my perspective in the context of NGOs as key players in European and international governance.
In our discussion, I would like to ask, are we speaking of (the criteria) being “organised” NGOs in order to be able to take part in the European/International governance? If so, the term “organised” also brings about the discussion for capacity building to be able to organise themselves in order to take part in the governance discussion.
I would like to cite two scenarios from my own involvement. First, in my capacity as the Advisor to the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF). WECF (based in the Netherlands) is a women’s NGO network that is helping to build the capacity of women’s groups from Eastern Europe and CIS countries. In preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) recently held in Johannesburg, WECF organised the European Women’s Conference for a Sustainable Future held in Celakovice (Czeck Republic) in March 2002. The Conference was participated by 120 women NGO representatives from 30 countries in Western, Central and Eastern Europe and the Countries-in-Transition, including Central Asia. The outcome of the Conference was presented at the WSSD Preparatory Committee and at the WSSD. I want to quote the women from the Celakovice Conference “women are left on their own to cope with the aftermath of the war.”
My role for WECF is to help them be kept informed and to link their agenda and concerns in relevant UN initiatives and processes. For example, I have recommended WECF to FAO Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative to be the European focal point representing women’s major group. To play that focal point role entails time and capacity for WECF to follow through the processes of the FAO SARD Initiative inside its bureaucratic setting and the within the international processes of the WSSD. WECF is caught in a situation where they do not have the time nor the capacity to be involved. Why? Time and participation require resources. Balancing time and efforts between participating in processes and actual demands from projects implementation with partners have been a great challenge for WECF.
Having witnessed the processes and the Summits of the 1990s, Europe Region was always under-represented. While on the contrary, when I compare my involvement with women's groups from the United States at least they are managing to gain access in such international decision making processes. If we look at the culture of the foundation world, American NGOs can rely on them for capacity building funding, such as funds to attend conferences and follow up work.
The second scenario I would like to share is my involvement with a Filipina migrant organisation in Rome. The work of this migrant group has been very well studied and well written in many accounts, but not by the organisation itself but by others, either by a national NGO or international institutions. Why? Again, who gets access to funding? The national and international NGOs, not these migrant groups.
In citing these two scenarios, I hope that we can come up with concrete mechanisms that can enable NGOs to be more effective. Here I am not only referring to women’s groups but the civil society organisations that should be participating directly in the regional and international decision making processes.
Let us move to “global governance.” In our study (the book I mentioned earlier), we included in our definition not only the formal institutions and organisations through which rules and norms governing world order are (or are not) made -- the institutions of states, intergovernmental co-operation and so on -- and, also all those organisations and pressure groups from transnational social movements to the plethora of NGOs which pursue goals and objectives which have a bearing on transnational rule and authority systems. Likewise, addressing global governance must consider the context of globalisation, globalisation not only in its exclusive definition in economics, finance and trade, but also in the context of globalisation of social and environmental aspects, and rights-based approach.
Here, I would like to describe the processes of the WSSD which has been praised as one of the most advanced models in international decision-making and governance in all history of the UN conferences of the 90s. The UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992 paved the way for a new way of organising and presenting views in intergovernmental negotiations through the multi-stakeholder dialogue process and the introduction of the nine major groups (through identification of representatives from women, indigenous, youth, local authorities, private sector, etc). In the last 10 years, NGOs involved in the processes of sustainable development (through the works of the Commission and the Summit preparations) have learned to organise and develop their roles in this framework of the multi-stakeholder approach. This process while considered as one of the most advanced models for NGOs participation in decision-making processes also has its criticisms in its selection of representatives of the major groups. This new era and innovative process actually departed from the formal model of UN consultative status. Just like in the case of the Council of Europe where NGOs participating are categorised as those with consultative status and other informal ways of consultation. In the UN, although the ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 remains to be the highest level resolution governing NGOs involved in the UN, the last decade brought us many lessons from different alternative strategies of NGOs both having formal and informal models.
I would like to give an example of a multi-stakeholder approach in my capacity as the WSSD co-ordinator of the Popular Coalition. The Popular Coalition believes that the past tells us that government-led reforms without the involvement of civil society and civil society efforts without support and enabling policies of governments have both failed. Furthermore, there has been inadequate coherence in the assistance, technical and lending policies of international and bilateral donors. In response to these lessons, civil society, United Nations (IFAD, FAO and WFP) and international financial institutions (the World Bank) and the European Union and governments decided to forge a new coalition to unite their work to empower the rural poor through secure access to land and related productive assets and to increase the capacity of the rural poor to influence public policies and decisions affecting their livelihoods. The 1995 Conference on Hunger and Poverty sponsored by IFAD created the Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty. The Coalition established itself as a distinct mechanism with separate governance by a Coalition Executive Council comprised of seven regional civil society/NGO networks and five intergovernmental partners.
A document distributed to the participants by the organisers (two documents prepared by the Popular Coalition) explains the details of the experience of the Coalition in the past seven years. In looking at the matrix, we explained the Coalition’s perspective in democratising its work and approach. Building of trust is a first step which is the foundation of the relationship among its partners. Partners are involved in the programmes through the Agrarian Reform Network (ARnet), a knowledge and networking programme and the Community Empowerment Facility (CEF) which is a small grants programme for innovative capacity building projects. From the past seven years of working together, the Coalition and its partners learned to find new ways of working together. New practices emerged and developed in response to the challenges currently faced by the partners and the Secretariat both at country level and international levels. For example, the challenge of pushing the agenda of access to land at the highest levels - both nationally and internationally. We took advantage of the WSSD space to present a Common Platform on Access to Land based on a two year consultation process from a broad spectrum of stakeholders supporting the improvement of access to land and security of tenure. The Coalition also launched a new initiative called Land Alliances for National Development, LAND Partnerships at the WSSD. The vision is to further country-level collaboration between state, civil society, bilateral and international actors that will advance the participatory dialogues and establish future joint actions on improved access to land at all levels. The Coalition also believes that it is important to play stronger advocacy efforts and to find entry points for partner’s participation in policy formulation and decision making processes. The Coalition believes that it is important to be “inside” the process, or to take part in actual policy negotiations and to bring perspectives of those “outside” the process who are mounting demonstrations, what we call the “inside/outside” process.
In closing, I would like to pose the challenges to the discussions. We need enlightened leaders. We are witnessing that leaders and negotiators of some of the most powerful democracies have behaved to be opposing international democracy. The consistent application of the rule of law must be upheld at all times, and yet, how can we insist on compliance, transparency and accountability. What are the roles of institutions such as the Council of Europe in creating a more legitimate bottom up democratised mechanisms to ensure the voices of the people? How do we address the critical challenge of managing differences across personal (perhaps the first and foremost), organisations (the turfing issues) and national and regional boundaries in building coherent strategies at the regional and international levels? Is the Council of Europe prepared for alternative models of global governance partnerships? Finally, what are the follow up mechanisms to ensure that what will be proposed here today will be practiced --- practicing what we preach?
WOMEN NGOs AS KEY PLAYERS IN EUROPEAN POLITICS
HOW THE SP GTF CAME INTO BEING?
In 1999, more than fifty governments, including all governments from the developed Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Check Republic, Slovenia, all post armed-conflict countries of the Balkans – Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, as well as Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria, and the most important international governmental organisations, such as UN, European Commission, WB, EBRD, Council of Europe and OSCE, started the so called Stability Pact, a sort of the Marshal Plan for Southeastern Europe.
In this moment governments and international governmental organisations initiating the Stability Pact did not lack clear obligations regarding their duty to include gender equality issues as a priority and women agencies as equal partners in all their development aid and peace building operations. These obligations were clearly accepted by all of them as signatories and partners in the Convention for Eradication of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in the documents of the UN Beijing Conference on Women from 1995, in all EU and Council of Europe Directives regarding so called gender mainstreaming.
But there was and still is a big difference between the words and the deeds. For example, in the Dayton Peace Accord from 1995, there was not one word of acceptance of women’s active role in this peace process.
In 1999, even before the start of the SP, women NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina have already learned how to use international governmental organisations to help them to enact the 30% quota rule. They have already succeeded to get 27% of women in the parliaments of both entities. They have already organised massive campaigns to encourage women to vote, to stand for elections, to learn together, across all lines of ethnic, religious and political divisions, how to become politicians of the new women politics.
SP initiators did not see gender equality as one of their priorities and did not understand that women should be invited in as their crucial partners. They have seen women in this post war region only as victims - this times as victims of organised crime – of pimps and traffickers with human beings.
But this time, with the support of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, women NGO leaders in Sarajevo were able to say: Enough is enough! In less than two weeks, in July 1999, with the help of the CEE Network for Gender Issues, the Appeal asking for the formal place of women in this new international peace building initiative was signed by more than 150 women NGOs, trade union women groups, political party women groups, representatives of the gender equality governmental bodies, famous journalists, politicians, gender equality experts, from 13 countries in the SP region, as well as from the developed European countries. The first idea of the Stability Pact Gender Task Force (SP GTF) was born.
From the beginning the SP leadership looked upon this unexpected offer for partnership with women NGO movements from the South East European (SEE) region with surprise and unease – how can a serious intergovernmental institution take for a real partner an agent with such a questionable formal legitimacy?
The second crucial step in the forming of the SP GTF was again connected wit the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the CEE Network for Gender Issues support to the representatives of the signatories of the Appeal in preparing their formal request for the establishment of the SP GTF and their first Plan of Action in October 1999. A lot of lobbying from the OSCE, which became a general sponsor of the SP GTF, and from the CEE Network for Gender Issues was needed to get the approval for its formal establishment from the SP Secretariat. The SP Secretariat also found the solution for the issue of its questionable legitimacy: all governments from the beneficiary countries should be invited to nominate their representative in the SP GTF.
CATCH 22 OR HOW TO MAINSTREAM WITHOUT A STREAM?
Once when it became clear that SP would establish its Gender Task Force, there was a lot of expectations that this Task Force would work on so-called gender mainstreaming. It meant that it should bring the prospective of gender equality in each and every activity of the SP and start to do it also in each and every country/territory of the region.
For the initiators of the SP GTF it was clear from the process of the establishing of the GTF that SP structures are far from being able to open up for the serious gender mainstreaming. This fact has been confirming itself at every possible step. All SP GTF attempts to mainstream gender in the initiatives of the Working Table I and II failed. Each streamlining operation or restructuring exercise within the SP brought out the idea that gender equality is not a priority of the SP and that SP GTF should stop to exist. The funds that SP GTF was able to get from the SP donors’ network stayed in the limits of 0,03% of the first Quick Start Package money in the year 2000-2001, and doubled for the projects we applied for in 2002-2003. SP GTF could never get sustainable funding for its normal mid term functioning at the regional and national levels, but had to rely on project by project financing of its logistic and strategy regional center and national collaborators.
How to network without a shared idea of the problem, without a common strategy, without a common goal?
In all SP countries, public opinion was greatly polluted by traditionalistic and extremist religious backlash, by decade long domination of aggressive militaristic ideology of women -mothers of nation, by an incredible amount of war and domestic violence against women. Women gender equality agencies in civil society were mostly service oriented, dispersed, in many cases donors, driven and fighting each other for scarce foreign donations. Not one of the SEE countries had a nation wide gender equality NGO network, working on political and economic rights of women. The work of most of the NGOs was publicly close to invisible.
How to lobby without partners for lobbying?
Women in trade unions were only starting to get organised. Women in political parties were rather few, weakly organised, if at all. Women in elected and nominated positions were even fewer. Political tensions in the post war city councils and parliaments were so big that women from opposite parties nearly did not speak to each other. Most of women political party activists believed that their parties and themselves had much more urgent issues to solve than to stand for gender equality.
How to make governments aware of the importance of the gender equality issue?
Some of the governments in the SEE region already had small and mostly inefficient gender equality bodies (like Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Albania), Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Bulgaria and Moldova, did not have any gender equality mechanism whatsoever. Not one government in the region had a good statistic showing actual political and economic power relationships between men and women.
For the SP GTF initiators it was clear that one had to create a stream in order to be able to mainstream.
It happened for the first time in the history of the modern women’s movement that regionally connected women organisations directly asked for and succeeded to establish a gender equality mechanism within the international governmental regional peace building initiative. It means that they have invented a new form of institution. They have designed and little by little got confirmed its mandate - SP GTF got the right to sit at the SP Working Table I, to work within all Working Tables, to co-operate with all Task Forces by its choice, to be invited to the SP Regional Table meetings, to Regional Donor conferences, to the meetings of the SP Donors’ Network.
One of the most difficult passages for the women’s grass roots initiatives, especially in the conditions of transition and even more so in transition by war, is the passage from being the voice of women’s antiwar protest, opposition to acting politics or replacement of the collapsed/inefficient/insufficient welfare state, to become the conscious force of positive, affirmative action in peace building and in the democratic development process. This is the passage from the defensive and self - centered identity to the proactive and open identity. From the very beginning women organisations starting this initiative for the SP GTF were not only classical women NGOs, but also women organisations from different political parties, trade unions, parliamentarians, even from governmental gender equality bodies, from international governmental and non governmental organisations, and they were all willing to work on the principle of crossing all division lines: ethnicity, national boundaries, position-opposition, government-parliament-NGO, NGOs - trade unions - political parties, local-national-regional-international levels. This attitude led to a very specific, cross cutting organisational structure of the SP GTF. First double and from 2001 triple focal point persons coming from each country/territory of the SEE region: one from the NGO side, one nominated by the government, one nominated by the parliament. The chair came from the SEE region, and the co-chair from the European parliament. GTF has a small Advisory Board where the representatives of the international governmental and non governmental organisations are also included (OSCE, European Parliament, ODIHR, UNIFEM, UNDP, Council of Europe, CEE Network for Gender Issues, NPA, Qvinna till Kvinna, Star Network for World Learning, and the representatives of the Stability Pact Trafficking Task Force and Parliamentary Co-operation Task Force).
SP GTF succeeded to impose regional ownership of its initiative from the very beginning and to preserve it up till now. Women organisations from the region were absolutely stubborn in their decision to formulate their plan of action on their own. They are the ones to make the needs assessments at the annual regional meetings, to define the strategy, to set up priorities, to prepare regional projects, to present them directly to the SP donors’ community and to organise and lead their implementation.
Women organisations from the SEE region connected in the SP GTF showed the ability to directly interact with the most advanced world centers working for decades on gender equality issues – Scandinavian governments (Norway and Denmark became its first donors), UN (UNDP, UNIFEM), Council of Europe, European Parliament, and to get direct support from the governments of the neighboring developed countries – from Austria and Italy, from Switzerland and Canada, from Germany, and first of all from the OSCE. Unfortunately, SP GTF never got any support from the World Bank or from the European Commission. In this interaction the transfer of international experience and best practice was always at least as important as the exchange of regional experience and best solutions.
CREATING THE STREAM
Little by little in each country of the SP region the SP GTF projects led to the establishment of the nation wide crosscutting women movements for political, economic, personal and social rights of women – this was the result of the SP GTF bottom up approach.
Little by little UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, Stability Pact Working Table III started to strengthen their own gender equality strategies – the UN Security Council adopted its Resolution 1325 in 2001, international actors in the Kosovo peace building mission included gender equality mechanism in their transitional government from the very beginning and supported the establishment of the firm 30% quota, OSCE accepted its gender equality plan in 2000, ODIHR developed a gender aspect of their electoral observation operations, Council of Europe and SP GTF together and UNDP from its side, worked hard on the establishment and improvement of the gender equality mechanisms in the countries of the SEE region, action of several strong international actors to combat trafficking of women and children started to give first results – this was the result of the top down approach.
So SEE national governments got caught in between the bottom-up and the top-down approach and they started very slowly to move in the right direction.
RESULTS OR WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WOMEN GET A FORMAL SEAT AT THE BIG TABLE
1. The progress is still not sustainable. A change in international policy focus and streamlining of the SP can easily lead to the extinguishing of the Gender Task Force. A change in the political orientation of a government (Bulgaria lost already prepared Equal Opportunity Act when the new government in 2001 got the power), a small change in electoral legislation (Opening of the party lists in Bosnia and Herzegovina and from 27% of women in the parliaments of both entities, the percentage of women elected in 2002 dropped to 18 and 19 %), a raise of general political tensions in the country which pushes the gender equality issue out of the mainstream political agenda (Montenegro 2002 national elections led to the diminishing of already small percentage of women MPs from 10 to only 4,5%) can still very easily reverse positive trends.
2. Women of the region still need a regional institution for gender equality. The progress is seriously hampered by the fact that the SP GTF is still not established as a stable mid term institution with clear international mandate to serve as a regional catalyst helping in promotion of the gender equality in all the countries of the SP region. Without a strong regional gender equality center which could work as an information clearing house, think tank for gender equality policies and a training center, without small national offices with minimal but well equipped and professional staff in each country of the region, SP GTF is loosing its ability to open for co-operation with all potential partners in the region. This might lead to loosing its credibility in the region.
3. National gender equality institutions and cross cutting gender equality movements in each country of the SEE region still need stable and strong international support in know how and in funding. Without such a support the average of women serving in local and national parliaments and governments might drop back again, national governments might let their gender equality bodies under budgeted and understaffed, newly accepted gender sensitised legislation might stay only on paper.
NEW POLITICAL MOMENT
The situation in the SEE region, in European Union and in the world at the end of 2002 is very different from the one in July 1999.
In this quickly changing political environment the SP GTF again seems to be at the beginning.
But the challenge this time is not any more HOW TO START but HOW TO CONTINUE regional efforts for gender equality in the South Eastern Europe
Workshop 3: NGOs as key players in European/international governance
The workshop opened with words of welcome from the chairperson, Cyril Ritchie, who then outlined three main tasks of the workshop, drawing on the document Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe:
A timetable for the day and a work agenda was agreed by workshop participants. This was followed by an introductory statement by Jing de la Rosa of the Popular Coalition for Rural Development, a summary of which now follows.
The issue of global governance requires attention to be paid to the globalisation of economies and of trade, but also to the globalisation of social and environmental development. A multi-stakeholders dialogue on sustainable development has taken place through the UN for the last decade. Although a welcome development, it attracted criticism on the issue of how major groups were elected/selected to participate in dialogue. The Johannesburg summit on Sustainable Development (2002) was praised as a model of global governance. It departed from the usual UN consultative status model to facilitate more effective inclusion and participation of NGOs.
The inadequate coherence in policies of international donors, especially around funding, led to the establishment of the Popular Coalition to empower the rural poor and increase their participation in decision making. The Popular Coalition works to eradicate hunger and poverty and to revive support for pro-poor land policies on national and international agendas. It builds governance between and among civil society organisations and international institutions and the first step is to build trust among the partners
Informed by the results of the above two key programmes and by lessons learned from collective experiences from the past seven years, the Popular Coalition partners and secretariat have found new ways of working together at national and international levels to provide the rural poor with access to land. At the Johannesburg summit, the Popular Coalition together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a new partnership initiative, LAND (Land Alliances for National Development). The aim of LAND partnerships is to further country level collaboration between state, civil society, bilateral and international actors to further advance the dialogues and establish future joint actions on improved access to land for the rural poor.
In general, it is necessary to further advance participatory initiatives involving all stakeholders, to encourage strong advocacy roles by civil society and to develop stronger decision-making processes in order to bring outsider perspectives into policy making. These demands call for enlightened leaders. Some powerful democracies are not very helpful in adopting an inclusive decision making process. Transparency and accountability should be to the fore at all times while the critical challenge is to respect while still hearing differences and diversities. The question is how to develop follow-up mechanisms to practice what we preach.
Reflections on a regional level experience of NGOs as key players in European and international governance were presented by Sonia Lokar, chair of the Stability Pact Gender Task Force.
Ms Lokar began by noting that in July 1999 a specific regional initiative – a ‘Marshall Plan’ for southeast Europe was based on three premises:
There was no mention of the largest stakeholder group in the region – women. Women were not seen as potential actors in sustaining peace even though in theory gender equality was part of the Stability Pact obligations. Although the Stability Pact was negotiated within a framework of international and European obligations to mainstream gender, the Dayton and Kosovo Peace Accords contained few, if any, references to women’s role in bringing a sustainable peace to SEE. In practice, then, women’s groups in the region were faced with a Catch 22 situation for which creative solutions needed to be found:
The process of having women included as formally recognised participants in the reconstruction of SEE called for a two-level strategy: a bottom-up approach and a top-down one. Working on the ground, a petition was signed by 150 women activists in trade unions, political parties and civil society across 13 countries, from SEE and also from western Europe. With this petition in hand, women sought a formal place at the Stability Pact table and appealed for the establishment of a Gender Task Force. Although a place was promised, a query as to whom they were representing arose. In addressing this question, organising women developed a dual structure consisting on the one hand of representatives of NGO networks along with representatives of governments of the region while on the other hand including representatives of the international governmental organisations such as the European Parliament, OSCE, Council of Europe and UNIFEM. All contributed in different ways, enabling women from civil society to construct an extensive range of networks across formal and informal institutions resulting in the creation of the Gender Task Force as part of the Stability Pact.
In creating a ‘stream’, it was found to be essential to have a clear focus as to what was required to enable women along with their interests and contributions to come to the fore. This included awareness raising, political empowerment, electoral legislation change and the creation of national mechanisms for improvement.
The Gender Task Force (GTF) had a cross-cutting approach, working with different political affiliations, with other groups, and GTF efforts were directed at building synergies across a range of groups and interests. In addition, the efforts to create a system whereby women and their needs and interests were part of the governing structures involved the GTF in the transfer and exchange of international and regional know-how and best practices.
The efforts of the Gender Task Force NGO to build women into regional governance led to a series of tangible results - an increase in the average representation of women in parliaments of SEE from 7% in 1999 to 15% in 2002. It also saw the introduction of a quota rule in four countries where it had previously been adopted in only one country and it witnessed the enactment of equal opportunities legislation in three countries where formerly such legislation had been unknown in the region.
The lessons learned from the creation and activities of the GTF finds that progress is still not sustainable. At each change of the Stability Pact, the GTF is under threat: it must continually justify its presence in the Stability Pact. A recent evaluation gave it 40% for its work, along with the comment that the GTF was ‘a modest contribution to a marginal goal’, and thus endangering its place at the Stability Pact table in future. This is one illustration of the fact that woman-centred work is developed on shaky ground and whose results can be quickly reversed.
Sustainable regional institutions are required to open the possibility of co-operation between NGOs and governments and international governmental bodies. In addition, the institutions in SEE still need stable international funding to enable peace and democracy to take root.
Ms Lokar concluded with an overview of the new political moment facing SEE at this point in time. After September 11, after the fall of Milosevic and the explosion of armed conflict in Macedonia; before the first round of EU enlargement – these regional and international developments bring new challenges to the development of gender politics. The Stability Pact will slowly peter out and the GTF is no longer looking at the SP as direct partner and is now becoming more involved with the EU institutions and the World Bank.
In response to these two presentations, the Chairperson reminded participants to keep in perspective the key issues and problems and consider ways of improving the institutional framework. Institutional development is linked to funding: it is not an activity that stands alone – when governments speak of streamlining this can mean budget reductions. This applies to all types of networking with international institutions.
Mr Henri Rouillé d’Orfeuil, Chairman of Co-ordination South, France then addressed the workshop on the relationship between NGOs and governing institutions at global level. In summary, he opened his presentation with three remarks:
He then raised three questions:
He noted that these issues require analysis across informal and formal dimensions. The informal arena is a result of interaction of a wide range of companies and actors. In order to work efficiently in such a world to influence the decision making process, NGOs need to be well organised, build alliances with other social actors, have good working relations with the media. The debate around generic medicines for AIDS therapy, third world debt, anti-personnel mines he cited as examples of issues that did not pass through the formal system of governance. Instead they were first raised and debated among the public, and public opinion forced diplomats to take these issues on board.
In the formal arena incorporating the process of governance and governmental institutions, the main issue is about how NGOs organise and their ability to interact with formal organisations. In this regard, the question of who an NGO speaks for is raised. The NGO interaction could be a single organisation selected by an international body according to their own criteria. Thus an NGO in these circumstances can not speak on behalf of civil society but only on the basis of what they are – a single NGO. Accreditation by the EU or Council of Europe may only take account of institutional NGOs, but from where do they come? Usually from the northern half of the world and not from Africa or Asia. So they can not legitimately speak on behalf of the world.
A bottom-up approach to building NGO presence is possible in democratic countries, most particularly in Europe, so one could imagine a European confederation of NGOs to interact with the European Union, balancing national platforms and European networks. But what of other world regions? There is an NGO forum in Algeria, but not many NGOs in that region, so it is difficult to implement a national platform in conditions where governments may not be democratic and do not encourage the development of NGOs arising from civil society.
He concluded that a bottom-up structure is very possible in Europe and it is very important to reinforce national organisations to build a European constituency in parallel with how Europe is built. In order to improve the dialogue between government and NGOs we need to improve NGOs at national and European levels.
The Chairperson remarked that Mr d’Orfeuil’s presentation provided a good hook for later discussion: if one wants to influence the decision making processes we in civil society need to be better organised and work across national boundaries. He pointed to the importance of creating national and regional mechanisms across sectors – often NGOs don’t talk to one another, leading them to be vulnerable to having their representative capacity challenged, as shown in the Gender Task Force presentation. He then invited comments from participants, and dialogue between all present in the workshop.
There followed a wide-ranging discussion on many aspects of NGO international activity, their acceptance at international level and difficulties of effective NGO representation in international frameworks. It was pointed out that in eastern European countries where the NGO tradition is not particularly rooted within the political culture, networking activities can take a long time. It is difficult to lobby and to be involved in decisionmaking without external support. The example of NGO activity in Romania where the external support of the EC and UNICEF was vital in providing NGOs with lobbying power was cited to illustrate the comments.
The issue of what interests get represented in the international arena and what group or groups are given responsibility for representation at this level drew many comments. In some contributions, this key idea was broadened to address the inclusion of a wider public outside NGO networks. It was seen as important to highlight good practices in NGO inclusion, such as is practiced in the European Court of Human Rights, where NGOs can intervene in the discussion of a case under consideration by the Court. An awareness of good practices such as the above can lead to a questioning as to why other international fora do not adopt similar approaches to NGO inclusion.
Broadening this discussion, the question of how governments look at NGOs – as threats or partners – elicited considered reactions. It was observed that there are many different families of NGOs in Brussels organised in different ways. The NGOs in the Social Platform are funded by the European Commission, and this funding is reserved for European-wide NGOs, not for NGOs with a national base. The EU needed NGOs as a way of legitimising itself with civil society. Working as a Social Platform allowed funding for continuous NGO work, and all in the NGO sector appreciate the importance of continuing funding in building an empowered NGO structure as compared with working within a limited funding context. On the negative side, however, the concept of the Social Platform as an instrument of civil dialogue was not accepted by the European Parliament, to the disappointment of the Platform. The Chairperson commented on the dangers inherent in total dependency on one source of funding – be it EC, government or private funding – when it disappears there is the real danger that NGOs go out of business; thus there is a need for NGOs to plan for changes in their funding arrangements.
A specific point was raised in relation to American NGOs and their influence on US local and foreign policy. It was noted that on foreign policy issues, NGOs in the USA were not successful, with the example of the US refusing to recognise the International Criminal Court and also refusing to sign international agreements on global warming. On the other hand, the view was expressed that many NGOs in the US are working behind the scenes to change these and other policy positions and that at some point the US government will have to take their arguments on board.
Some surprise was expressed by a participant on discovering that European NGOs are not organised at international level, for instance, at the UN. Was this because the UN had no power, no resources and had unwieldy structures? On the other hand, it was recognised that the UN plays a vital role as a standard-setting organisation and that civil society has a hunge influence in UN, while many UN conventions would not exist without pressure from major civil society groups. However, the dilemma for NGOs is that the implementation of these international standards requires vigilant monitoring, and NGOs are powerless if they have no budget or work on a reduced level of funding. NGOs should be working with their governments to give the UN and the Council of Europe the funding needed to make these organisations work effectively in improving humanity.
The point was made that international organisations are a new form of state and that NGO campaigning at this level was a new competence. Furthermore, European institutions matter to individual people’s lives and within the EU, NGOs are much closer to decision making about money and power than in other international organisations.
Turning once again to the relationship between NGOs and governments, the Chairperson noted that the Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe was adopted by governments and that governments of the Council of Europe now acknowledge that competent input from the NGO sector delivers an improved output in terms of policy and decision making. The lesson here for NGOs is that the more the social sector demonstrates competence on policy issues, the more likely such NGOs will be seen as partners – while retaining the capacity to mobilise public opinion should the need arise. The experience of alliance-building and coalitions between NGOs at national, international and European levels and working with other European organisations, such as the OSCE, CIS and others should be of interest to all NGOs as much can be learned from these experiences.
Final comments from speakers developed the themes of the discussion, bringing them into clearer focus. Ms Lokar returned to the theme of inclusion through the question of how to prevent monopolisation of the civil society voice by institutional NGOs in dialogue with international bodies. She remarked that bringing new stakeholders into decision making – either the NGO sector or new NGOs – means changing priorities, values, rules and even institutions. It can no longer be ‘business as usual’, and working on these new rules is not an easy task. The Gender Task Force asked all women’s groups in the countries concerned to work with it. Resources are required for an interactive policy process to take place, and the provision of such resources is vital in influencing the power balance in South East Europe. She noted that the UN is of major importance for women, as there would be no platform for global equality if there were no UN. Therefore it was vital to strengthen the role of the UN and to put pressure on national governments to implement their UN commitments. This is an example of where national and international NGOs and organisations are linked together.
Ms de la Rosa addressed the issue of NGOs in the United States of America and observed that these groups influence government delegations in international processes. She pointed out that the US is very much behind on gender issues. In her experience of the Popular Coalition, having a large international agency supporting its work (IFAD) has assisted PC to make headway in achieving its objectives. She wondered if there were other arrangements like this known to the workshop participants.
It was noted that consultative status for civil society at the Council of Europe was now 50 years old, created when the Council of Europe was a club of western democracies. Now the Council of Europe encompasses central and eastern Europe. It organises meetings in these newer member countries as one way of establishing contact with civil society in these regions: this is important to the Council of Europe as its aim is to increase the numbers partaking in the institutionalised dialogue. It gets lots of requests for meetings and visits, but these are largely from national NGOs – there is a need to build links across national boundaries with others to become international NGOs.
The significance of funding NGO activity was again addressed with the pertinent question of how can NGOs be full partners if they do not have the means to become regular partners. Practical ways of addressing this problem were put forward, including the contribution of the Council of Europe by part-paying travel expenses. It is the intention of the Council of Europe that NGOs become a fourth pillar of the organisation alongside the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
The Chairperson concluded with two final reflections on the discussion and presentations:
First, the EU is seen by people as relevant as its decisions impact on daily lives, but the UN network, for example the ILO, also affects individuals lives on a daily basis. Secondly, it is important for NGOs to set rules of conduct for themselves: it is essential to recognise the need to strengthen insitutional capacity by developing codes of conduct before it is demanded and carried out by outside forces.
It was agreed to conclude the day’s proceedings. The following day would begin with the identification of key points for discussion on which some detailed consideration would be given in developing recommendations to the plenary session.
The main points of the discussion from day 1 of the workshop were presented to the reconvened workshop in the form of questions intended to elicit further elaboration from participants leading to the development of recommendations. They were as follows:
1. How can NGO empowerment and capacity building be supported and developed to enable them to play an effective role at international level? This included setting own codes of conduct and regulating their own affairs;
The core issue of funding was again addressed by the Chairperson, who observed that few donors want to start something new while many foundations are restrictive in their funding criteria. Foundations were more successful in maintaining their stock investments compared with individual investors. The European Foundation Centre in Brussels is an excellent source of information on private funding.
There followed an informative description of the location of NGOs in the framework of the Council of Europe. Within the Council of Europe there is a broad spectrum of international NGOs with consultative status and an invitation was extended to non-international NGOs to contact the Council of Europe with the intention of developing and expanding the international NGO component. However, the absence of consultative status does not exclude NGOs from interacting with the Council of Europe. The selection criteria used by the Council of Europe is very general, and there is a desire to translate NGO consultative status to participatory status. Within the Council of Europe the NGOs have a structure which meets once a year in plenary and decides on the orientation of its work. A liaison committee is elected at the plenary and the main work is done through ten thematic groupings. These groupings are becoming more important as policy influencers. There is also a provision for observer status and individual NGOs or Heads of groupings enjoy this status with certain Council of Europe expert or Steering Committees.
The essential link between participative democracy and funding was again reiterated and the observation was made that participative democracy is a revolution, not an old way of making policy. NGOs should not only be informed and listened to but treated as partners. Problems such as poverty cannot be tackled without the partnership of NGOs. There are advantages to the European Commission funding NGOs, as it makes the Commission have an interest in using the social sector and including it in policy discussions. An example is the European Environment Bureau, where the Commission has a structured agreement with environmental NGOs, funding them and their secretariat. Humanitarian NGOs follow another model – they have decided they will only be funded by their members, making them more independent. However, social policy NGOs need the Commission as a partner and this is a two-way relationship. There is no one way to fund NGOs to become policy partners and much depends on the sector as to the model used.
How funds are used is also important. NGOs who get funding from abroad may be obliged to earmark up to 30 per cent for taxes. Financial mechanisms need to be found to exempt NGOs from having to pay tax in order to sustain the development of civil society.
The equally relevant issue of NGO legitimacy in speaking for civil society raised many comments. A vital question was to what extent can NGOs with consultative status take a collective position which goes against the values of the international body granting that status? Another perspective suggested that having obtained consultative status with an international organisation does not automatically imply uncritical NGO allegiance to that body. Instead, it is necessary to have scope for freedom of thought and it is normal that NGOs recognise the divergent views among them accompanied by internal decision making reached through a democratic process. Often a critical stance by NGOs of a governmental body has not caused problems because the criticism is not of the body per se but of the decisions that members of that body make. Therefore, consultation should not be a restriction on expression of opinion. Goverments least friendly to civil society will always be annoyed about critical views from NGOs, but ultimately there is a need for NGOs to keep an independent perspective.
It is also necessary to have monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure that governments have open door policies. Making this mechanism transparent is a challenge. Ultimately the core value is a respect for democracy at all levels. It must first be recognised that NGOs are autonomous and independent bodies. It must then be recognised that an organisation can speak on behalf of its members, and not more. In order to speak for a larger grouping a federation is needed which in turn can speak for multiple organisations.
There is an advantage in having one collective opinion or voice emanating from agreement among multiple bodies. It strengthens the position of NGOs with respect to governments. A collective voice is needed at international level through an NGO federated committee. However, the problem is that such a collective voice can only contain those that agree on that issue, and in some areas it is hard to agree on a collective opinion. However, an inherent danger is the imposition of collective speaking by governments as an alternative to having no civil society voices recognised. This is a difficult dilemma. Many NGOs do not want to be organised by others yet this perspective needs to be counterbalanced by considerations of what is the most effective means of getting a civil society view across.
A discussion on the six points from day 1 got underway with the intention of bringing recommendations to the plenary session.
NGO empowerment and capacity building: It was seen to be important to know what information and resources are available to avoid re-invention, as capacity-building was a high priority for NGOs. In this context, additional information was supplied regarding codes of conduct. For the 1999 World Civil Society Conference in Montreal, a book on this subject for NGOs and the business world was compiled by the UN University. The Council of Europe has a number of programmes designed to assist civil society in new member states and it brings NGOs from new members to Strasbourg to participate in meetings and to learn how the Council of Europe works. These activities are seen as enabling NGOs to become more active and informed partners in dialogue fostered by the Council of Europe.
Other examples of empowerment include building national federations on a general or sectoral basis, and the journal of the Union of International Associations has many articles on this subject. There is also documentation on capacity-building in countries and regions of the southern hemisphere.
There was a suggestion that research projects on mapping NGO activity would be useful, as there is no substantial inventory of this kind and NGOs do not have the resources to engage in such a survey. Developing this point further, it was agreed that states had a duty to foster an active civil society as part of sustaining democracy, therefore governments should invest in their own society by funding functioning national NGOs. Attention was drawn to the specific paragraph in the Fundamental Principles document that referred to the duties of the state with respect to supporting the active functioning of civil society. It was also seen that there was a need for greater co-operation among and between NGOs and that a national platform would facilitate this co-operation.
It was observed that as funding is one of the basic concerns of this workshop there might be a need to create a foundation to resource capacity-building for NGOs in Europe and that this idea be explored further. The possibilities of funding as presented by taxation mechanisms was also raised, while international organisations should consider increasing their budget for NGO activity to reflect the move in status from consultative partner to participant. A simple example would be the provision of a room and computer for NGOs during meetings of the international body attended by NGO representatives. Funding issues required an exploration of alternatives in country-specific situations and it was suggested that an open recommendation be made on this issue. Again, reference was made to the Fundamental Principles document and its provisions for supporting NGOs in a transparent fashion while also consulting with NGOs on the drafting of policy and legislation on the nature of these supports.
Sustainable institutional framework: This point was seen in the context of this workshop as creating or strengthening NGO coalitions or networks in order to improve their collective functioning at national and international level. It drew many examples of effective coalition-forming among NGOs, including Ireland where a coalition of NGOs is a partner with labour and business interests and the state in developing three-year social and economic plans. The experience has shown that a pooling of NGO power delivers better results for all rather than working alone. The national child protection body in Romania, which began five years ago, is now recognised by government and plays a vital role in promoting national debates on child welfare issues in the country and is also linked into a new UNICEF network that is encouraging regional coalitions on this issue in 20 former communist countries. An initiative in the Flemish region of Belgium has grown around NGOs interested in development, resulting in co-operation across different fields and sectors that lobbies regional and national policy makers on issues common across the network. From this discussion, there emerged the importance of making linkages among the NGO sector at national, regional and international levels in order to have the maximum impact on policy. It was also recognised that European-wide coalitions were not only the sum of the national platforms but that the supra-national nature of the EU creates its own solutions (and challenges) to questions of co-operation.
Representing the voice of civil society: The matter of the scope NGOs have to express views independent of national governments was addressed again under this point. It was seen that NGOs can criticise governments in international bodies – for example the World Bank, where critical perspectives from the NGOs are necessary and an important part of their contribution. These challenging views have clearly influenced the World Bank to change its approach, and in doing so, the competence of the NGO groupings is important. This bringing of civil society voice to the economic market can in some instances be considered by policy makers as a one-time event, but NGO networks seek to continue contributions through such channels. An example of the direct access of NGO voices can be seen in the Baltic ministerial structure where initially NGOs were given a 15 minute meeting; now NGOs participate in the Northern Action Plan.
Within the Council of Europe NGOs have consultative status and there are many examples of good practice in this regard: the European Convention Against Torture came from NGO lobbying of the Council of Europe and NGO activity was also vital in contributing to other international conventions. The task of representing civil society is also related to the question of access in general: NGO coalitions provide access for the voice of civil society, but this access does not confer exclusivity on the partaking NGOs. Open, free and democratic access to international decision making is of benefit to the process as a whole. In this regard, it is important to be organised, but not crystallised. The challenge is to organise in a flexible manner – there is a danger in professionalised NGO structures where NGO workers become bureaucrats. There is not one single solution to all problems: different solutions are required for different contexts and to that end, NGO coalitions need to be fluid to facilitate forming and reforming in varying combinations. Therefore, while NGOs need a structure, they cannot form a monopoly or have an exclusive right to be representatives of civil society – the concept of ‘happy disorganisation’ comes close to describing the ideal environment for NGOs and the voices of civil society to flourish.
Smart practices: The OSCE mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina found that it could not progress the reconciliation process without the participation of women. It began working with women through the Stability Pact and NGO activity grew from this, creating a NGO movement which worked with government to create gender equality in the region. However the capacity to bring about gender equality is dependent on NGO funding from national and international sources.
A further dimension to the relationship between NGO sector and civil society is the development of multiple stake-holder dialogues where NGOs and civil society work to influence government policy with other interest representatives, eg business. This is seen in the UN system: the UN now expects stakeholders to come to them with common positions along with their individual positions – these need not always be in conflict with one another. The Council of Europe quadrilogue is an example of an approach that should be strengthened and applied in other international bodies.
Funding arrangements: The Council of Europe enables NGOs to come to the Parliamentary Assembly to meet with and lobby parliamentarians. The Committee of Ministers is bound to at least listen and react to recommendations from the Parliamentary Assembly more rapidly and comprehensively than to NGOs alone. Therefore it is very useful for NGOs to work more extensively with parliamentarians. In contrast, there is no facility for consultative status for NGOs or civil society within the European Parliament. The experience of the NGO sector in Poland was described, where intially national level decisions regarding the third sector were made without consultation with NGOs. The 2002 budget for NGOs was devised without consultation, provoking a lobbying effort from the third sector. The NGO council is now in discussions with government as to their needs, to what the sector wants from government and from the EU.
Reference was again made to the provisions for consultation with NGOs on their funding in the Fundamental Principles Document. It was noted that Council of Europe members are at different stages of development – for instance the Russian parliament is perceived as a closed institution which makes it difficult for civil society to have an influence on its deliberations. However, this situation could be influenced by the Council of Europe, especially if the Fundamental Principles document were endorsed by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
NGO participation in global governance ‘tinkering’ or offering possibility for changing values? On this point the Chairperson offered an observation endorsed by the workshop participants that human values represented by civil society organisations are so fundamental to good governance that NGOs must operate on that principle, even if the results appear minor to the governmental system. Those human values should be placed above commercial values and are the values the NGO sector wants to see accepted and implemented in national and international governance.
In concluding the proceedings, the Chairperson noted that the three tasks set for the workshop at the beginning were addressed at considerable length. The workshop closed on this point, the Chairperson extending thanks to all participants and speakers. The Chairperson and Rapporteur then began to draw up concrete recommendations from the wide and richly varied points raised in the discussion. These recommendations fell into three categories: overview recommendations (4), recommendations on funding (5) and recommendations on the strengthening of NGOs (6). In drawing up these recommendations, it was clear that the Fundamental Principles document on the Status of NGOs in Europe provided a vital framework for structuring NGO and civil society relations amongst themselves and with national and international governments and policy bodies.
1. The document Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe be endorsed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe;
The Quadrilogue does exist. It exists more and more in people’s minds, in practice and, if I dare say, is even temporarily personified behind this table. I welcome this fact and would like to join with you and help you assess what remains to be done. Indeed, there is actually still a lot to be done. The Integrated Projects have enabled the players from the four categories to work together in a climate I would describe as extremely satisfactory. I hope we will have many opportunities at the Council of Europe to do work of such quality again.
We just heard about the Committee of Ministers, and I am grateful for the information. I would add a detail, which I am sure a number of NGOs will welcome. The Education Committee recently invited the Education and Culture Grouping to attend its meetings as an observer. We are pleased about this, and it means we will have to keep on working a little harder. That will be the case as we gradually move forward.
As far as the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is concerned, I would like to have heard about Budapest. But you mentioned it. I am pleased about that and about the title chosen for the event: NGOs and local and regional democracy. I see that as being direct and practical follow-up to our two days of discussions here.
I would now like to turn to my neighbour representing the Parliamentary Assembly and mention a very promising area, where positive developments are under way. I mean the co-operation between our various NGO groupings and the corresponding parliamentary committees. Although the process is only just beginning, many groupings are already able to put across their views, exchange projects and become involved in joint activities. Of course, there is a need to take things further through political approaches, with political being understood in the true sense of the term, and also through practical proposals. The road ahead here is very promising.
The NGO Liaison Committee keeps a very close eye on the changes taking place in Europe today and all the developments concerning our continent’s future. In a way, it actually sees itself as a defender and guarantor of the Council of Europe’s achievements in the human rights field. Here I mean the continuity of rights (there is no secondary category), whether social, political or of any other type. We are very much aware both of the nature of the body of law established at the Council of Europe and of the uniqueness of the system of constraints based on the commitments made. Although the relevant evaluation machinery sometimes uses flexible measures, the focus is always on honouring the commitments made. We believe that that is extremely valuable both for Europe and for humankind as a whole. I could say so on behalf of all the NGOs that work here, but today I am speaking more specifically on behalf of the Liaison Committee. We have heard here about the work planned for January. We are going to propose a work programme that will take due account of the relevant concerns, with specific proposals on continuing co-operation with parliamentarians and also with all the players in the Quadrilogue in the spirit I have just mentioned. That will oblige the NGOs to exercise what I would call “self-critical lucidity”. We must take a closer look at the conditions for the exercise of citizenship and democratic governance and at the nature and functions of NGOs. I would make three general comments in this regard.
First of all, there is the concept of democratic governance. It has to be placed in the slightly broader context of democratic citizenship. In this room, there are three people representing the various NGOs, and all of us worked very hard under the Council of Europe’s project on education for democratic citizenship because we believed in it strongly, because we still believe in it and because the work will never be finished. Unfortunately, we sometimes limit ourselves to a single project or programme and then move on to something else. Luckily, the Integrated Projects method enables us to pick up on past achievements and adapt them so that we can continue moving forward. That reminds me of a passage in the text which tried to define the scope of democratic citizenship and which I believe is still relevant today. It said that democratic citizenship involved making a commitment for all citizens in the broadest possible field of citizenship relations. Is that not one of the objectives of Budapest?
That brings me to one of the very many definitions of voluntary associations in general and hence also of NGOs: collective bodies that generate citizenship and social bonds and are forums for anticipating social trends. That is superb and is partly true. If we want it to be totally true, we must try and look into the pitfalls and the risks, in other words, the reasons why success is not always guaranteed or why NGOs are not always able to satisfy the very many hopes that people in general and also the authorities place in them.
To this end, I will try and use the example of one of the classifications of associations, namely that related to their nature. There are three main types: groupings based on common interests, groupings based on some kind of values and groupings based on belonging to particular categories or communities. If we were not careful - although, luckily, we usually are - the first type would lead to something that was much criticised in workshop 1 this morning, in other words, the exclusion of those on the margins or perhaps a kind of corporatism that could put some people off. If we take the second type based on values (and far be it for me to reject values and ethics), there is the risk of sectarianism, absolute beliefs, rejection of people who think differently and an inability to co-operate with other groups. If we take the third type based on belonging to particular communities, there is a risk of a breakdown in the links in society.
You really must not believe that I am pessimistic about the nature and functions of NGOs. Quite the opposite, in fact, but I come back to the term of self-critical lucidity, as we cannot afford to ignore what would happen if we neglected a kind of necessary vigilance.
I now come to the last of my three comments with the question of legitimacy. Although it is widely acknowledged that NGOs have a role as intermediaries or, in some cases, mediators, what is the basis of their legitimacy? That is a question that keeps cropping up. If we had had more time, I would have made an aside about the history of the French Revolution, which is very instructive when it comes to determining the position of intermediary bodies, given the way they were first rejected, then came back in their own manner and finally ended up having reasonable and – depending on how you look at things - perhaps also unreasonable hopes placed in them.
That is like asking the eternal question of “who made you King?” Why did they do it? And what are you doing with your power? Those questions can be asked not only about NGOs but also about all types of representative, participatory or other bodies. They will always be asked. As far as NGOs are concerned, there are at least two replies that I would like to give you as food for thought and by way of conclusion.
The first is that of openness. If NGOs are inward-looking bodies fixated on their own functions and aims, then, yes, they are at risk and may also be sources of risks. However, if they are capable of opening up to partnership, listening to other people and going out into the field and coping with all the destabilising events that occur on a daily basis, then they do perform their function.
And to remain with the idea of legitimacy, I would like to echo what Daniel Zielinski said with such great impact yesterday when he talked about sustainable democracy. For my part, I would just add that perpetually challenged and shared legitimacy is a requirement for the exercise of such sustainable democracy.
Monday, 4 November
9.30 Opening of the Forum
NGO participation in the work of the Council of Europe – realities and perspectives
Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Chairperson: Klaus Schumann, Director General of Political Affairs of the Council of Europe
11.00 First plenary session: The analytical framework
Keynote speech on the state of the discussion on NGOs as a partner in governance:
Presentation of the Fundamental Principles on the status of NGOs in Europe Marc Tysebaert, Ministry of Justice, Belgium
Discussants’ interventions and debate
14.15 First workshop session
Three parallel workshops with approximately 30 participants each will be offered. The objective is to provide a forum for practice-oriented discussion along the following lines:
Workshop No. 1
Chairperson: Gianfranco Martini, Italian Association for the Council of European Communities and Regions (AICCRE), Member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
Workshop No. 2
Workshop No. 3
Chairperson: Cyril Ritchie, INTERPHIL, Head of the NGO Grouping “Civil Society in the New Europe”
Tuesday, 5 November
9.30 Second Workshop session
14.00 Second plenary session
Reporting back from the three workshops
14.45 Panel discussion: Civil society participation and the Quadrilogue at Council of Europe level
Chairperson: Jutta Gützkow, Head of the Division of NGOs and Civil Society
Chairperson: Hans de Jonge, Director of External Relations
1 From the Declaration of the Joint NGO/Parliamentarians Conference “Citizenship, solidarity: what sort of Europe do we want?”, Strasbourg, 6-7 November 2001
2 Process of consultation and co-operation between NGOs, the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
3 This paper uses the terms, nonprofit organisations, NGOs and voluntary organisation or third sector interchangeably.
4 Garon, Sheldon (2002). The Evolution of Civil Society: From Meiji to Heisei. Civil Society in the Asia-Pacific, Mongraph Series. Harvard University. Program on US – Japan Relations. P3.
5 Salamon, Lester M., Helmut K. Anheier, Regina List, Stefan Toepler, S Wojciech Sokolowski and Associates (1999). Global civil society: Dimensions of the nonprofit sector. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.
6 Available at: http://www1.oecd.org/puma/
7 Esping-Andersen, Gfsta (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
8 Anheier, Helmut and Jeremy Kendall (2001). Third sector policy at the crossroads: An international nonprofit analysis. London: Routledge.
9 Casey, John (1998). Non-government organisations as policy actors: The case of immigration policies in Spain. Doctoral Thesis, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Available online at: http://blues.uab.es/mgp/papers/casey2.html.
10 Summary: Leading actors or just ‘extras’? The factors that determine whether NGOs are key players.
11 Estonian Civil Society Development Concept, Code of Ethics for Estonian Nonprofit organisations, www.emy.ee