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NGOs and Libraries Why Bother? A Call to Action for Government Information Librarians GODORT Update Midwinter 2009 Saturday, January 24, 2009 ALA Midwinter Denver, CO Colorado Convention Center Korbel Ballroom 3C
“ Any international organization not established by intergovernmental agreement.”
United Nations Economic & Social Council Resolution 228
“ Includes officials, independent sector, volunteer sector, civic society, grassroots organizations, private voluntary organizations, transnational social movement organizations, grassroots social change organizations, and non-state sectors… These organizations consist of durable, bounded, voluntary, relationships among individuals to produce a particular product, using specific techniques.” 1
Gordenker, Leon and Weiss, Thomas. (1996). “Pluralizing Global Governance: Analytical Approaches and Dimensions” in Thomas G. Weiss and Leon Gordenker (eds.) NGOs, the UN and Global Governance. Boulder: Lynne Rinner, p. 17-47.
Peter Willets “ What is a non-governmental organization ? ” 2
1). Both quotes take from Civil Society in the Information Age , Introduction, Peter Hajnal, ed. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, p. 2.
2). Thanks to Kris Kasianovitz for pointing this article out to me. The link appears on the Duke University NGO Research Guide .
Public Interest Non-Governmental Organizations (PINGOs)
Government Organized NGOs (GONGOS)
Quasi Nongovernmental Organizations (QUANGOS)
Donor Organized NGOs (DONGOs)
Grassroots Organizations (GROs)
Business International NGOs (BINGOs) 3
3). Categories again derived from Civil Society in the Information Age, Peter Hajnal, ed. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, p. 3. Original quote from ‘Private in Form, Public in Purpose: NGOs in International Relations Theory,’ in Bas Arts, Math Noortmann and Bob Renalda (eds), Non-State Actors in International Relations. Non-State Actors in Internationa;l law Series. Ashgate, Aldershotp. 11-40.
“ Operational” vs. “Campaigning” NGOs
“ Advocacy” and/or “service oriented” NGOs
Tactical and/or political classifications:
Conformist, reformist, or radical
Orderly, obstructive, or destructive 4
Most NGOS are peaceful and well informed. Unfortunately a minority of destructive and/or obstructive elements (uncivil society) attract much of the media attention.
4). Categories again derived from Civil Society in the Information Age , Introduction, Peter Hajnal, ed. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, p. 6. Hajnal cites “Why did Seattle Fail? Globalization and the Politics of Trade.” Government and Opposition 35 (2), p. 131-151 as his source .
Lack of accountability
Indifference to compromise
Dissatisfaction with concessions
Non-elected nature of officers
Note: For a fascinating, thoughtful and engaging discussion of NGO strengths and short-comings I highly recommend Paul Kennedy’s The Parliament of Man: Chapter 7” “We the Peoples: Democracy, Governments and Non-Governmental Actors.” New York: Random House (2006).
WTO Seattle Protests, 1999
Jubilee Debt Campaign Human Chain: G7/G8 Summit, Birmingham 1998
NGOs and Information Technology
The growth and success of Civil Society is largely due to advances in Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
“ ICT has played a crucial role in transforming and empowering civil society. These technologies extend beyond the internet to include video-conferencing, email, mobile telephones, satellite hookups and other advances.” 5
41 NGO granted consultative status by the UN Economic & Social Council in 1946
By 1992 this number had grown to more that 700
By 2009 the number had grown to 3,187
“ If the claim is true that nongovernmental organizations allied with ‘middle power’ organizations are the new superpower, then the internet is their arsenal.” 6
5 ). Civil Society in the Information Age , Conclusion, Peter Hajnal, ed. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, p. 244
6). “The Power of Global Activism Networks: The Campaign for an International Criminal Court,” by William R. Pace & Rik Pangabiban. In Civil Society in the Information Age , Peter Hajnal, ed, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002, p. 109.
NGO Growth: Number of Organizations, 1950-2006
Source: Union of International Associations (UIA) Online . Statistics, 2007. Table 1.2.1 (b): “Growth In International Organizations, 1950-2006.” Accessed Jan. 2009
NGO Publication Figures: 2006
Total IGO Publications – 5111; Total NGO Publications – 29,481
Source: Union of International Associations (UIA) Online . Statistics, 2007. Figure 8.1.1: “Number of Publications of International Organizations by Tyoe, 2006.” Accessed Jan. 2009.
NGOs & Academics
In the Worldwide Political Science database a search for “Civil Society” returns approx. 5,800 results; “NGOs” returns about 1,900.
University of California Online catalog (Melvyl) returns over 14,000 items with a keyword search for “NGOs” or “Civil Society”
Examples of courses taught at UC Berkeley:
Letters & Sciences 150a: "Global Transformation and Cultural Change: NGOs, AIDS, and Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies 161: ”International Non-governmental Organizations.”
Personal experience: level of student interest across a wide variety of courses is intense.
UC Berkeley Government Information Web Site: Evidence From Google Analytics
NGOs and the Library Literature
The Library Literature has largely ignored this explosion of information and public/academic interest:
Search for term “civil society” in the Library Literature database returns 17 results; “NGO” returns 10 results; “NGOs” 12 results
Total of about 25 unique results (some marginally relevant).
Search for “United States Congress” returns 291 results
Search for “United Nations” returns 267 results.
Search for “George Bush” returns 109 results
Why Are NGOs Significant for Government Information Specialists?
Selected NGOs have official working relationships with Government Organizations.
NGOs are instrumental in influencing the government process and affecting government decisions
Coalition for the International Criminal Court successfully campaigned for the creation of the International Criminal Court
International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Landmine Survivors Network instrumental in the adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty
NGOs alter the outcomes of high-level intergovernmental meetings:
WTO Protests in Seattle in 1999 (50,000 protesters) leads to reform in the WTO external relations division and official dialogue with NGOs
Official Response to Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt Campaign at G7/G8 Birmingham Summit
To ignore NGOs is to ignore changing patterns in world politics and reinforce a potentially dated “state-centric paradigm.”
NGO Relations with International Governmental Organizations
NGOs work with International Organizations by attending conferences, officially partnering with the organization, or helping to disseminate information.
Official UN Secretariat relations with NGOs fall into two main categories: consultations with governments, and information servicing by the Secretariat
NGOs with Consultative Status with UN Economic & Social Council
NGO Section of the Department of Public Information
See also the ECOSOC Committee on NonGovernmental Organizations
Other International Organizations with NGO relations include (but are not limited to):
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labour Organization
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
List of UN Organization NGO “focal points ”
See also UN NGO Handbook & UN NGO Liaison Office , the Global Policy Forum and the Duke NGO Research Guide
Why Else Should Government Information Librarians Take Responsibility?
NGO Information and Government Information share many characteristics:
NGO Information is multi-disciplinary
NGO Information is primarily digital
NGO Information is poorly documented
NGO Information is difficult to acquire
NGO Information is in peril of digital demise
At most libraries no one is officially responsible for it
Practical Application: Providing Reference
NGOs publish information and criticism about Government organization structure, function, and processes:
Government Information about itself can be biased.
NGOs are often set up specifically to criticize or promote reform of government organizations and can provide clear explanations about key issues.
Examples – try finding clear information about the following from Official Government Organization Sites:
Security Council Reform from the UN Security Council
Information on Poverty Reduction Strategy Critiques from the World Bank
Reform the UN (World Federalist Movement) on UN Security Council Reform
World Development Movement for World Bank/IMF Reform
The Publishing Landscape
NGO Information is primarily digital and not widely distributed by commercial presses:
Some exceptions, e.g. Earthprint, Zed Books, Nova Publishers, Renouf
Most NGOs lack the staff and financial resources to fund a large publishing operation
Conservative (and liberal) think tank publications are widely distributed by commercial book vendors
Examples: CATO, American Enterprise Institute
Result: libraries routinely purchase from well-funded think tanks and frequently ignore the NGO literature
Print Acquisitions: Part 1
Selected International NGOs with print publications:
Human Rights Watch
International Committee for the Red Cross
Third World Network
New Economics Foundation *
World Resources Institute
*The NEF is from the UK but their reach has been global. The group started to attract attention in 1986 when they called the “Other Economic Summit” (an alternative to the G7 summit) which eventually morphed into the World Social Forum. My favorite NEF product is the “ Happy Planet Index ”. The NEF was heavily involved in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign.
International Institute for Sustainable Development
Human Rights First
World Conservation Union
International Ecotourism Society
Finding additional NGOs that sell print publications is time consuming. One process (not necessarily the best) is to go the the NGO Custom Search Engine and type “book store” “purchase publications” etc. An evaluative process of the results is obviously also required.
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
Center for Development and Population Activities
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
Digital Resources & Guides
Union of International Organizations Yearbook/Database
NGO Custom Search Engine
David Oldenkamp (Indiana University) James Jacobs (Stanford)
UN Economic & Social Council NGO Database
UN NGO Database (UN Office in Geneva)
Global Policy Forum
G8 Information Center (University of Toronto)
See especially the Civil Society and Expanded Dialogue Unit