Magazine article UNESCO Courier

NGOs: Searching for Solid Ground

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

NGOs: Searching for Solid Ground

Article excerpt

The role of NGOs should be to foster the emergence of a worldwide civil society, the first step towards making globalization a more democratic affair

NGOs were not born yesterday, but the rising number of conflicts that have reverberated in recent decades around a world globalized in the neo-liberal mould has led them to multiply and diversify into highly visible bodies.

Who are the main players in this process of globalization? Governments (politics) and the market (the economy) are the twin pillars supporting the productive systems and structures of modern societies. So who has the legitimate right to change them? The societies themselves, for they alone are made up of citizens grouped together as a people, a nation or a country. The right does not belong to governments, state structures, corporate executives or markets. This is why, as NGOs, our attention is directed at civil society itself.

At the global level, our basic task is to foster the emergence of a worldwide civil society as a precondition to calling for a new style of globalization: "world governance." Our mission is to encourage the re-founding of globalization along more democratic lines by taking part in public debate and promulgating the concept of world citizenship. The political stances we take and our lobbying activities, therefore, do not come out of the blue, but are efforts to transmit the main currents and aspirations of public opinion and make this opinion stronger and clearer.

The tripartite mirage

All NGO actions are based on a obvious priority, namely that of supporting social protests and public pressure during major negotiations taking place within the main circles of power. That is why the agreements we conclude and the alliances we forge are above all else aimed at organizations and movements arising from civil society. That is also why we build forums, coalitions and networks that straddle national borders. On the basis of our approach, we can think globally, set up links between the particular and the universal, swap experiences and keep ourselves regularly informed.

Today, global power is monopolized by major multilateral organizations, and is fundamentally anti-democratic in its structure and workings. In their current form, these organizations' claims to embody democracy and universal citizenship ring hollow. In fact, their only possible claim to legitimacy is through the vote. But not all the national governments represented in international organizations have been elected by popular suffrage, and very few of them represent all the different social forces that go into making up their nations. …

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