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BIBLIO COUNTRY REPORTS RENSEIGNEMENTS SUR 01 - Learning to live with NGOs 02 LES PAYS MEMBRES 02 - The international environmental NGOs: From the revolutionary DE L'UE ET DES PAYS TIERS: alternative to the pragmatism of reform5 EXTRAITS D'ARTICLES DE 03 - The sovereign limits of global civil society. A comparison of NGO PERIODIQUES. participation in UN world conferences on the environment, human INFORMATION RELATING TO rights, and women 10 EU MEMBER STATES AND 04 - Menschenrechte als völkerrechtliche Interventionstitel 1THIRD COUNTRIES: 05 - La Corte penale intemazionale permanente delle Nazioni Unite 17 EXTRACTS FROM PERIODICAL 06 - Tackling international corruption. No longer taboo8 ARTICLES. 07 A - The impact of economic globalization on taxation 23 07 B - Tackling tax treaty tensions: Time to think about an international tax court5 08 - Sweden and the intergovernmental conference. Testing the 'Membership Diamond' 27 09 - The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the European Union 33 10 - Peace in Nothern Ireland: Why now?9 11 - Die Freizügigkeitsverordnung/EG - zum allgemeinen Aufenthaltsrecht von Unionsbürgern in Deutschland 412 - L'action populaire au Portugal8 13 - L'Italia e l'Euro ". .50 EC officials may obtain full text of 14 - Die Auswirkungen der Einführung des Euro in der Schweiz documents cited, on application to: und den USA 53 15 - L'Unione Europea e la Turchia.



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RENSEIGNEMENTS SUR 01 - Learning to live with NGOs 02
LES PAYS MEMBRES 02 - The international environmental NGOs: From the revolutionary
alternative to the pragmatism of reform5
03 - The sovereign limits of global civil society. A comparison of NGO PERIODIQUES.
participation in UN world conferences on the environment, human
INFORMATION RELATING TO rights, and women 10
EU MEMBER STATES AND 04 - Menschenrechte als völkerrechtliche Interventionstitel 1
05 - La Corte penale intemazionale permanente delle Nazioni Unite 17
06 - Tackling international corruption. No longer taboo8 ARTICLES.
07 A - The impact of economic globalization on taxation 23
07 B - Tackling tax treaty tensions:
Time to think about an international tax court5
08 - Sweden and the intergovernmental conference. Testing the
'Membership Diamond' 27
09 - The United Kingdom, the Commonwealth
and the European Union 33
10 - Peace in Nothern Ireland: Why now?9
11 - Die Freizügigkeitsverordnung/EG
- zum allgemeinen Aufenthaltsrecht von Unionsbürgern
in Deutschland 4
12 - L'action populaire au Portugal8
13 - L'Italia e l'Euro ". .50
EC officials may obtain full text of
14 - Die Auswirkungen der Einführung des Euro in der Schweiz documents cited,
on application to: und den USA 53
15 - L'Unione Europea e la Turchia. Tesi a confronto 57
Les fonctionnaires de la CE peuvent
16 - "Euro-mediterrane Partnerschaft" und Demokratisierung.
obtenir copie intégrale des
documents mentionnés Zur Maghreb-Politik der Europäischen Union 60
en s'adressant à: 17 - Hong Kong: An attachment to democracy
18 - Europa y el conflicto de Oriente Próximo5
19 - The testing of American foreign policy, 7IECL 1/50-FAX: 61149
20 - Spécialisation internationale et intégration régionale:
L'Argentine et le Mercosur
21 - Globalization and the state: A Japanese perspective 77
22 - Japon: vague à l'âme politique 82
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Learning to Live %..
with NGOs X
by P.). Simmom η
n die sumiller of1994,U.S. environmeiilal
advocacy groups were gelling ready to cele­Ibrate. The United States was about to join
almost 90 other nations in ratifying the Convenlion
on Biodiversity, which enjoyed broad support from U.S. environmen­
talists, agro­business groups, and the biotechnology sector. After hear­
ings characterized in the press as a "love fest," members of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee were almost unanimously prepared to
back the treaty. Then a group of agricultural and trade nongovernmen­
tal organizations (NGOS) previously uninvolved in the debate weighed
in, warning that ratification could, in effect, destroy U.S. agriculture. As
the Chicago Tribune reported in September 1991, evidence later suri.iced
that some of this opposition was based on a virulent misinformation
campaign claiming, among other things, that treaty advocates weie all
foes of farming, logging, and fishing. But by then, the biodiversity tieaty
had been relegated to the back of a long line of treaties competing for
congressional attention.
At a time when NGOs are celebrating their remarkable success in
achieving a ban on landmines and creating an International Criminal
Court (ice), it may seem churlish to recall a lour­year­old episode that
many would likely regard as a defeat. But amid the breathless accounts
about the growing power of NGOs, the failure of the biodiversity treaty is
a useful reminder of the complexity of the role that diese groups now
play in international affairs. Embracing a bewildering array of beliefs,
interests, and agendas, they have the potential to do asmuch harm as
good. Hailed as the exemplars of grassroots democracy in action, many
NGOs arc, in fact, decidedly undemocratic and unaccountable to the peo­
ple they claim to represent. Dedicated to promoting more openness and
participation in decision making, they can instead lapse into old­fash­
ioned interest group politics that produces gridlock on a global scale.
The question facing national governments, multilateral institutions,
and national and multinational corporations is not whether to include
NGOs in their deliberations and activities. Although many traditional
centers of power are fighting a rear­guard action against these new play­
ers, there is no real way to keep them out. Instead, the real challenge is
figuring out how to incorporate NGOs into the international system in a
way that takes account of their diversity and scope, their various strengths
and weaknesses, and their capacity to disnipt as well as to create.
P. J. SIMMONS is an ¡usociale ai lhe Carnegie Enaouinent [or international Peace and
director oj ils Managing Global Issues ¡rroject. WHY NGOS MATTER
Defining NGOs is not an exercise for the intellectually squeamish. A
1994 United Nations document, for example, describes an NGO as a
non-profit entity whose members are citizens or associations of citizens of
one or more countries and whose activities are determined by the collec­
tive will ot its members in response to the needs of the- members ol one or
more communities with which the NGO cooperates.
This formulation embraces just about every kind of group except for pri­
vate businesses, revolutionary or terrorist groups, and political parties.
Other popular substitutes for the term NGO (private voluntary organi­
zations, civil society organizations, and the independent sector) are like­
wise almost terminally vague. A better approach to understanding NGOs
and what they are would focus on their respective goals, membership,
funding sources, and other such factors (sec box, page 85).
Yet although there may be no universal agi cement on what NGOs are
exactly, there is widespread agreement that their numbers, influencé,
and reach are at unprecedented levels (see chart, page 89). In 1948, for
example, the UN listed 41 consultative groups that were formally
accredited to cooperate and consult with the UN Economic and Social
Council (ECOSOC); in 1998, there were moie than 1,500 with varying
degrees of participation and access. Until recently, NGOs clustered in
developed and democratic nations; now groups sprout up from Lima to
Beijing. They are changing societal norms, challenging national gov­
ernments, and linking up with counterparts in powerful transnational
alliances. And they are muscling their way into areas of high politics,
such as arms control, banking, and trade, that were previously domi­
nated by the state.
In general terms, NGOs affect national governments, multilateral
institutions, and national and multinational corporations in four ways:
setting agendas, negotiating outcomes, conferring legitimacy, and
implementing solutions.
* · o
Many governments and institutions—including the WTO, IMF, and sev­
eral UN bodies—will continue to resist more public participation, argu­
ing that their issues require great secrecy, hut history oilers a powerful
argument that the holdouts suffer from a failure of imagination. Half a
century ago, the architects of the postwar international trading system
did not contest NGO involvement. The pn >|K>sed charter for the Inter­
national Trade Organization (ITO) included the very same language as
the WTO charter, providing for "consultation and cooperation" with
NGOs. The ITO framers had a different ini<¡pretation than their latter-
day successors, however; they envisaged that commercial and public-
interest NGOs would maintain regular conuct with the no Secretariat,
receive unrestricted documents, propose agenda items.and participate as
observers and occasional speakers at conferences. The spirit of these pro­
posals faded away when the ITO failed in favor of an interim solution, the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT. Ironically, most mul­
tilateral institutions today face requests from NGOs that could be met by
adopting the standards for participation thai the iTO's framers proposed. The challenge facing NGOs is more subtle but no less important. As
these groups acquire the access and influence that they have long sought,
they must not lose the qualities diat have made them a source of innova­
tion and progress. Some analysts already fear that formerly independent
NGOs may become more beholden to national governments as they come
to rely more on public-sector funding—which now accounts for around 40
percent of NGO budgets versus only 1.5 percent in 1970. And many of the
schema for increasing NGO involvement may simply foster predictable and
bureaucratic behavior among civil society representatives, potentially
dulling the passion and richness of views that can emanate from narrowly
focused groups. They may also cut off NGOs from the informal channels
through which diey have traditionally been most influential.
Instead, NGOs, governments, and multilateral institutions need to
devise systems of public participation that draw on the expertise and
resources of NGOs, their grassroots connections, sense of purpose and
commitment, and freedom from bureaucratic constraints. Those NGOs
that have seen the most rapid growth in their power will have to con­
tend with inevitable limits on their influence and access. Those govern­
ments and institutions that have resisted the advance of these new
players will have to permit an unprecedented level of public scrutiny and
participation. Over time, this messy process of give-and-take promises to
transform the way that international affairs are conducted. Yet as it plays
out, both sides may realize that the new system that they have sought to
create or resist is in many respects no diffetent from the clash of com­
peting interests that has characterized democracies since their inception.
*■»» ■at
Volume 7 Autumn 1998Number 3
TheInternational EnvironmentalNGOs:
From the Revolutionary Alternative to the
Pragmatism of Reform
Pp~ 2&-m
Today's social, environmental and now transnational crisis reveals clearly
the crisis also of the nation­state. Yet governments still set the rules of the
world game, even though they cannot alone solve the environmental
problems. Thus NGOs can offer a new mode of regulation through
crystallising the aims of an international civil society. They establish a link
between local and international levels of politics and are at the core of
conflicts and power struggles that determine the outcome of human and
environmental disasters. But this definition of the situation, though now
accepted, raises problems, as major international environmental NGOs are
pushed into making arguable compomises. An analysis of the links that the
major international environmental NGOs have with certain political
institutions, together with their chief modes of action and their discourse,
reveals that they do not escape the dominant logic of capitalism. Indeed, the
structure they exhibit is one of enterprises of protest. The need that these
NGOs (such as Greenpeace or the WWF) have for continuity compels them
to accumulate capital wheh they must invest rationally in order the achieve
their intended aims. Unmindful of capitalism's nature as a dominating social
structure they are led to serve as the co­pilot of capitalism's ecological
modernisation, instead of acting for change in the social and economic
pattern of development in our societies.
There exists already a standard list of planetary questions (concerning, for
example, the environment, AIDs, debt and drugs) which unifies the world.
The social and environmental crisis is today transnational in the sense that
international relations, deliberately or not, are developed in a world space,
beyond the frame of the national state and, at least partially, outside the
control or mediated action of the state. This conception of transnationality,
formulated by B. Badie and M.C. Smouts [1995: 70], poses the fundamental
problem of scale which renders national states so powerless before this
It is indeed true that
we find a double dynamic around the state. There is a always less and
always more of it. Always less, because new intctdepcndcncies do not
cease to emerge, taking away from the domain of the state and defying
it. Always more, because the state remains the ultimate aim, the
aspiration and the objective of peoples without a state ... . The
territorial national state was neither an obligatory nor a nevjssary
development and its current fragility reminds us that it war certainly
a historical exception which became generalised in history [Durand.
Levy and Retaillé. 1993: 87].
Jean­Paul Deleage is a Professor in the University of Orleans, and lhe Director of the Graduate
School DEA­ETES (environment, time, space and society). His most recent publication was the
Preface to V. Vemadsky's La Biosphère (Paris: Diderot. 1997). Denis Chartier is completing a
doctoral thesis on International Environmental NGOs, with an emphasis on Greenpeace and the
WW?. At present, national governments are forced to act within the framework
of a global environment (especially in economic and technical terms) which
they hardly control, but which conditions to a substantial extent the options
and instruments that they have at their disposal. The example of Chernobyl
demonstrated beyond question the distance between the theoretical model
of state sovereignty, and the ecological and technological reality of the
biosphere. The problem, therefore, is not only that the classical principle of
sovereignty is incapable of offering solutions to transnational problems but,
according to J. Camilieri and J. Falk [1993], it even becomes an obstacle to
concerted ecological action and consequently constitutes a contributing
factor to thel crisis.
The Sovereignty Crisis of the Nation-State and International
Environmental NGOs
It appears that the better management of certain environmental
commitments would have to go beyond the framework of the nation-state.
However, to say that the nation-state is a political, economic and social loser
requires careful qualification since the role of states continues to be
decisive. They continue, indeed, to play a determining role, and the very
fact that they behave in a way that blocks ecological regeneration confirms
their power and influence. Actually, in spite of the stale's autonomy and
functions having been eroded through a certain number of tendencies
towards globalising, 'no other key unit [has] emerged which would be able
to replace it and give an answer to planetary alterations' [Kennedy, ¡993:
167]. It is sometimes easy for states to pretend that they no longer have the
political power to allow them to face these problems. Until there is evidence
to the contrary, nation-states remain the fulcrum of political organisation on
a world-wide scale regarding environmental legislation, ecological fiscality
and so on They still set the rules of the world game. They control political
power, even if international political structures obviously depend a good
deal on the power hierarchy with in those states and even if transnational
companies or capital markets put a heavy pressure on them.
Since nation-states play still determinant part in the political world game,
there is no doubt that many problems, particularly environmental ones, can no
longer be regulated by the sole international organisation we have, even if it
brings together all the states. It is particularly symptomatic of this reality that
the UN, which started by endorsing the idea of the absolute sovereignty of
states, ended up transgressing explicitly this principle, passing from non­
interference to the duty or the right of interference. It is necessary today to
restore the role of the state in a historical perspective but it is also necessary
to come up with a list of all the actors who will take pan in the solution of
current planetary disruptions and to specify the functions they will fulfil.
Besides international organisations, it seems that none-governmental
organisations also are able to propose a new mode of regulation by
crystallising the aspirations of civil society as it emerges on the world political
stage at this end of the century. They would therefore be the key component
in providing an answer to planetary changes - one that has built a new
connection with politics (Charles Tilly's polity [1978]) and whose purpose is
less a question of defying the nation-state than of creating spaces of autonomy
as a protection from it, reasserting the independence of private social entities
against its ascendancy. This is one of the departure processes from 'former'
social movements, symbolised by trade unionism and the labour movement,
and it is one of the features of the 'new social movements' (NSM). These non­
governmental organisations could thus suggest an outline of new forms of a
democracy that is incubating at the level of the planet.
They could constitute the leaving for a new planetary citizenship, which
would in turn be an indispensable basis for the foundation of a planetary
government. True, this idea of a world government is utopian at present, but
it is a fiction firmly grounded in reality, and sufficiently present in the
desires of our contemporaries to constitute, at least for some of the
environmental international NGOs,' an effective prospective instrument. From the galaxy of several thousand NGOs, wc have opted for a more
specific study of three international environmental NGOs,2 and have chosen
to ask a dual core questions inviting a single response. This dual question is
obviously not exhaustive but it is nevertheless very important for a good
understanding of these NGOs' role in the last decade of the twentieth
century. First, then, are the NGOs in fact, 'other voices of the planet',
contributing to a renewal of international solidarities, and to an effective
struggle against the accelerated destruction of the earth's environment? That
is, are they the crucial actors catalysing opposition to the prevailing
economic ideology? Or are they, on the contrary, only one of the most
efficient agents in the ecological modernisation of capitalism which is
dominating the destiny of our world wholesale?
β e o
NGOs Integrated into the Capitalist Process?
The NGOs are thus, at one and the same time, in continuity with and in
rupture from dominant social structures. Various forms of environmental
concern have been in the vanguard of the critique of the deleterious effects
of the evolution of industrial societies. Unlike WWF, which has a heritage
of Anglo-Saxon traditions for the protection of the flora and the fauna, FoE
and Greenpeace have, each in its own fashion, constituted an opposition to
the neo-liberal economic ideology which was already hegemonic in the
1970s. However - and this is particularly true for Greenpeace - it seems that
a rapid process of integration might be under way. In response to our
surprise at seeing the organisation work with businesses, did not the
Director of Greenpeace France herself said, in March 1997:
The organisation is evolving. And what one hears from within it today
is that, effectively, [we are not opposed to the industrial world]. We
now consider that a certain number of major changes, which could
have important repercussions on the environment, can only proceed
from technological changes being implemented by industry or
industrialists. I believe that what we are trying to prove to the
industrial world, which is a world whose first preoccupation is profit,
is that there is a possibility to continue attracting such profits while
putting on the market a certain number of products which are good for
the environment. In a certain manner, the industrialists who will
succeed or who will feel that an investment today in certain
technologies could permit them to have an additional trump card with
regard to their competitors, will be more competitive, with significant
financial repercussions.'
The evolution of this type of behaviour can also be attributed to
Melucci's idea of 'the modernising NSM ambiguity', [Melucci, 1977].
These movements owe their initial success in part to two factors. They can
be said to have found inside the state and the modernising elite channels of
influence and an acceptance of their role which contributed to the apparent
disappearance of the very reasons of their struggle. On the other hand, the
stress placed by these movements on their identity as environmental
movements and on their refusal to yield as far as the relationship to nature
is concerned has finally created markets through which the consumption of
goods and services could appear as an agreeable substitute for mobilisation.
The best illustration of this hypothesis is the massive use of'green strategy'
by advertisers, whereby products become for the consumer environmental-
friendly ecolotical and anti-imperialist. Mercedes was fighting some time
ago 'for the star we live on'. Henkel pretended to be 'more severe than the
severe eye of the law in the matter of the environment'. The French national
electricity company - the EDF - claimed itself in French national dailies as
champions in the fight against the grasshouse effect. The thinking lying at
the basis of these advertising ploys, now very numerous, is developed in a
work published in Germany [Hopfenbeck, 1990]. It underlines the environmental interest of some relevant sectors such as the motor and
chemical industries. Wc can rcsonable doubt the capacity of this
development, increasing from the beginning of the last decade, to assure a
viable and equitable handling of planetary resources. However, the NGOs'
decision makers seem to be pleased with the situation, as can be seen from
the statements of the Director of Greenpeace France. So, those
developments, resulting partially from the action of the organisations
themselves, are now dragging them down a fatal slope which leads from
violent contestation to the realism of the pressure group and lobbyist, from
the laudable willingness to relieve human pain and suffering to 'charily
business', from a critique of generalised commerce to the colonisation of
the most selfless association by the logic of the market and business.
In a world under the hegemony of the financial forms and logic of an
ever more unchecked capitalism, the NGOs have been a source of abundant
innovation, in the face of a political sphere devoid of imagination before the
environmental catastrophes. Through the 'bottom up' approach they have
constituted a real force for mobilisation through communication between
small communities as well as by generating new forms of solidarity around
projects on a human scale.
However, neither the hypothetical international civil society that they
claim to represent nor the environmental ethic that the NGOs oppose to the
inertia of political institutions and the dogma of liberalism suffice give them
legitimacy. Hence the NGOs propose a substitute ethic to the mechanisms of
national or international political leadership, which now functions as if all its
decisions were imposed by the imperatives of the all-powerful economy. But
this proposed ethical solution, essential to the life of the individual, risks being
at best, no more than a cloak to conceal the unsightly impotence of politics in
the face of ecological disaster. The ethical engagement of the NGOs is most
often simply a recourse to scientific expertise contradicting that of
governments and their international shop fronts. However, as we have seen,
such a recourse to expertise has grave contradictions.
Leaving Behind Capitalism as the Determining Factor
Our critique does not bear on the intentions of the NGOs, which arc
laudable in many ways, but on the fact that an ethical viewpoint cannot
make up for a deficit in strategic vision concerning the social interests at
play in the political sphere. This 'forgotten' side of the process of political
decision-making in a field rife with tensions between organised social and
economical interests of very unequal weight renders actions carried out in a
perspective of social justice and natural riches for all particularly fragile and
vulnerable [Chartier, 1997].
No negotiation with the industrial and financial world should disregard
its most fundamental and intimate motivations. In particular, how can the
elementary fact be ignored that every enterprise in a competitive
environment must be considered suicidal if it docs not seek to externalise its
costs by transferring them to the state, its competitors or the totality of
society and future generations. This holds so much the more given that the
conditions of valorisation and dévalorisation of capital, human beings,
geographical regions and natural resources generally, have never been so
rapid and complex as today. Two examples may illustrate the risks of
ignoring the true nature of capitalism.
The first concerns particularly the poor countries of the intertropical
zone, which hold the richest resources of biodiversity of the planet. Thus
today the African continent in its entirety, even if disconnected from the
visible system of world-wide monetary exchange, simultaneously
constitutes a market with a future, in terms of'genetic resources'. Thus and
only thus can wc understand how it comes about that conservation policy in
Africa interests equally the environmental NGOs (such as the WWF) and
the large multinationals, and why this interest is usually in contradiction
with the those of the local population, even while it seeks a legitimacy in the
so-called participation of the latter [Rodaiy, 1997 ]. The second example concerns the world sport and communication
industries. These two sectors of capitalism, in lull expansion, ' are
particularly subject to its most abject defects: drugs, speculation, corruption,
generalised insignificance and so on. From this point of view, it is
astounding that Greenpeace is proud of having been chosen as the
environmental partner in the Sydney Olympic Games, at a lime when sport
is becoming one of the most profitable sectors of the spectacular
merchandising of the human body. To pride oneself on the fact that the
athletes of the year 2000 will be 'acclaimed by a crowd of 100,000
spectators ranged in PVC-free seats', and admired by three billion viewers
de-brained by 'Ecolympia' ('the games the most respectful of the
environment in modern times' [Stoepel, 1996: 20]), is to take the risk of
introducing a new confusion about Greenpeace's main purposes. Is their
role to be the very envied co-pilot of capitalism's ecological modernisation,
or to work at an essential reform of our society's economic and social
And does not this evolution not inserted in a certain logic of things?
When marketing is a substitute for critical satire and public meetings, for
contra-expertise in the will to share knowledge, for the publicity spot for the
demonstration founded on a collective project, sponsoring for the collection
of militant contributions and lobbying for democracy, it is scarcely possible
to hope for more than an uncertain seat in the councils on planetary
environmental problems. To say this is not to belittle blows struck against
ecologically criminal projects. The three NGOs invoked in this article have
to their credit numerous advances in the matter of protection of the
environment or ecological consciousness-raising. The problem, rather, is
that an understanding of the NGOs cannot be separated from a critique of
the rhetoric of sustainable development, now integrated into the dominant
technocratic discourse.
We must also emphasise that in a world dominated by a few
superpowers, subjected to the political, military, techno-scientific and
cultural hegemony of the USA, international institutions simply act as an
ambiguous backdrop to the NGOs which play both sides of the coin,
solicitude for the most destitute and co-option by the most powerful. The
NGOs are now such a part of the decor that certain large industrial groups
adopt strategies for the circumvention of ecological problems which permit
them to carry through environmentally damaging projects, having
smothered any vague impulse towards ecological and social resistance. In
these strategies, the NGOs are certainly recognised as being potential
enemies, but their links to the state and international organisations, and their
institutionalisation, render them vulnerable to the tactics of circumvention
and to the means' for corruption employed by the industrialists.
We are not claiming here to elaborate categorical forecasts regarding the
evolution of world capitalism. We only wish to emphasise that to forget that
such a reality is a dominating social structure could lead the large NGOs
mentioned in these pages to lose the very meaning of their existence, which
is to criticise those powers and their evolution. How can one, therefore,
envisage applying a political ecology capable of making real
transformations, if it does not take into account the power and the depth of
the impact of the economic activities on nature and society?
That is why the international NGOs cannot minimise the need for an
opening (for the WWF) or for a reopening (for Foli and Greenpeace) of
reflection concerning the fundamental principles of political ecology. A
theoretical redefinition of their place in society thus reveals the risks that are
run by an apology for the 'real as rational' - that is to say, the acceptance of
a world in social and political regression, outrageously draped in the rags of
humanitarian good conscience and ecological reform.
***** κι
Vol. 51 October 1998 No. 1 X
A Comparison of NGO Participation in UN
World Conferences on the Environment,
Human Rights, and Women
HE increased visibility of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
Tand social movements at the international level invites continuing ·
evaluation of the extent and significance of the role they now play in
world politics. Competitive and complementary actors crowd states'
central position. While the presence of such new actors is easily
demonstrated, international relations scholars have debated their sig­
nificance. Realists and their intellectual allies argue that nation-states
retain their central position; NGOs are a sideshow of international poli­
tics, if considered at all. At the other extreme, the literature on transna­
tional relations asserts that global social interactions are dense and
important enough to represent a new sector of influence upon states—
a "global civil society" circumscribing states' relative autonomy.
Wc argue that the concept of a global civil society sets a more de­
manding standard for the evaluation of transnational political processes
than has been applied in prior accounts of such activity. Further, most
empirical studies of this activity have focused on a limited number of
NGOs within a single issue area. Using three recent UN world confer­
ences as examples of mutual encounters between state-dominated in­
ternational politics and global civil politics, we develop the concept of
global civil society to provide a theoretical foundation for a systematic
empirical assessment of transnational relations concerning the environ­
ment, human rights, and women at the global level.1
Theories of civil society based on domestic politics envision frequent
and dense exchange among individuals, groups, and organizations in the
public sphere, separate from state-dominated action.2 Λ well-developed
civil society potentially influences government in two ways. It enhances
political responsiveness by aggregating and expressing the wishes of the
public through a wealth of nongovernmental forms of association, and
it safeguards public freedom by limiting the government's ability to im­
pose arbitrary rule by force.1
At the international level, it is as yet unclear whether the increase in
the number of NGOs with shared transnational goals can be equated
with an emerging global civil society.'' Although NGO networks of in­
teraction that parallel or intersect the international state system may
have meaning for the participants, unless they arc focused and received