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NGOs and Transnational Networks

NGOs and Transnational Networks: Wild Cards in World Politics

William E. DeMars
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    NGOs and Transnational Networks
    Book Description:

    Non-Governmental Organisations and their networks are proliferating in all regions of the world. They address every transnational issue from population to peace, human rights to species rights, genocide to AIDS. Supporters claim NGOs are effective in achieving their goals, while detractors counter that NGO power is paltry compared to governments and corporations. Challenging both views, DeMars irreverently reveals the political claims implicit in every transnational NGO. They are best conceptualised, he argues, not in terms of either principles or power, but through the partners they make in transnational society and politics. NGOs and transnational networks institutionalise conflict as much as cooperation, and reshape states and societies, often inadvertently. NGOs have overthrown dictators, provided life support for collapsed states, and reengineered the family. Their historical origins contrast sharply with current realities, and show signs of radical change in the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-143-2
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-5)

    Observing world politics at the beginning of the twenty-first century, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seem to be everywhere, and they often work in mysterious ways. If omnipotence remains yet out of reach, it is not for lack of effort, since NGOs cumulatively claim to be able to do almost anything in world politics, from feeding famine victims and protecting endangered species, to eliminating nuclear weapons and AIDS, to democratizing Russia and the Arab world.

    NGOs are both prominent and obscure in world politics. They are prominent, for example, in organizing massive street protests in February 2003 against the U.S. “War...

  5. 1 Your NGO Starter Kit (pp. 6-33)

    NGOs are increasing in number and influence in all regions of the world, and across a growing roster of issue-areas.¹ The primary geopolitical focus of their normative agendas is to influence the “Third World” of former European colonies, and the “Second World” of former (and remnant) communist states. The broad turn to NGOs reflects a largely unexamined faith that they are the most effective vehicles for social and political transformation. Does NGO proliferation necessarily contribute to progressive change? This chapter examines an assortment of NGO claims and discovers some contradictions lying just beneath the surface.

    NGOs are so numerous, operate...

  6. 2 Partners in Conflict: A Structural Theory of NGOs (pp. 34-63)

    World politics has seen a proliferation of NGOs throughout the twentieth century, with an accelerated burst of growth during the 1990s.¹ Currently, the NGO bloom has three dimensions. First, NGOs are proliferating quantitatively in established issue-areas, including human rights, grassroots development, humanitarian relief, environmental protection, feminism, population control, conflict resolution and prevention, and democratization.² Second, the increase in NGO numbers is a global phenomenon affecting all regions, even Asia and the Middle East where governments have maintained relatively tight control over civil society for decades.³ Third, NGOs are also proliferating qualitatively, by taking the initiative to colonize or create new...

  7. 3 Ironic Origins of Transnational Organizing (pp. 64-89)

    The NGO world in the second half of the twentieth century simply took for granted that the public discourse of any mainstream international NGO would be secular, universalistic, and progressive. The post-World War II consensus assumed that international NGOs aresecularrather than religious,universalisticand cosmopolitan rather than particular and local, and vaguelyprogressiveor moderate left rather than either radical left or right. Given this consensus, it is ironic that many of the historical forerunners to post-World War II NGOs were deeply religious in social origin and motivation, or peculiarly American, or shockingly regressive by more recent standards....

  8. 4 NGOs versus Dictators: Argentina’s Dirty War Revisited (pp. 90-119)

    Argentina’s Dirty War, 1976 to 1983, left a long trail of dashed political hopes and ironic political consequences. A revolutionary movement joined by thousands of Argentine students mounted a powerful strategy to duplicate the Cuban Revolution in Argentina, only to be crushed and annihilated by a brutal military response. Argentine generals cleverly eluded international scrutiny of their clandestine tactics of torture and killing for a time, only to have their crimes exposed to unprecedented global reproach by a new network of human rights NGOs. The human rights network failed to restrain the abuses of the Argentine military that it exposed,...

  9. 5 Dancing in the Dark: NGOs and States in Former Yugoslavia (pp. 120-142)

    The 1990s were heady days for international NGOs, which expanded their numbers, increased their budgets, and extended their mandates into hitherto untouched areas. NGOs seemed to be rising in status and influence, taking a “place at the table” with states in international decision-making, and gaining leverage over states to make them embrace new norms.

    There was some basis in reality for this enormous investment of trust in the promise of NGOs as the prime engines of global progress. Part of the credit for the global wave of democratization in the 1980s and 1990s went to “civil society” organizations and NGOs.¹...

  10. 6 Engineering Fertility (pp. 143-161)

    No sector of global NGOs has shaped the lives and bodies of women more than the population control network. Population NGOs have forged powerful alliances with NGOs in the fields of women’s rights and environmentalism to create a “network-of-networks” that has defined the meaning of progress for poor women and the developing world as a whole. Much of this work of alliance-building culminated in the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo during September 1994.

    This chapter describes the “Cairo consensus” on women, environment, and population, as well as dissension from both feminist and religious viewpoints. It explores...

  11. 7 Changing Partners, Shaping Progress: The Future of NGOs (pp. 162-187)

    NGOs are wild cards in world politics; their form and influence are highly variable. The most important impact of NGOs and transnational networks is often an inadvertent consequence rather than either success or failure in achieving official NGO goals. Nevertheless, the plasticity of NGOs can be mapped. Each NGO is an amalgam of its transnational social and political partners. In the future, NGOs will continue to create networks by forming partnerships across nations. But which nations? And which partners? NGOs will continue to carry the latent agendas of their social and political partners. But which agendas? NGOs will continue to...

  12. Appendix: Active NGOs Discussed in This Book (pp. 188-194)
  13. Notes (pp. 195-226)
  14. Selected Bibliography (pp. 227-243)
  15. Index (pp. 244-250)