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2001 Global Civil Society

2001 Global Civil Society



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Helmut Anheier, Marlies Glasius, and Mary Kaldor 
he words ‘global’ and ‘civil society’ have becomecommonplace during the last decade. Yet whatthey mean and how they come together aresubject to widely differing interpretations. For some,global civil society refers to the protestors in Seattleand Prague or Greenpeace’s actions against trans-national corporations: in other words, a counter-weight to global capitalism. For others, the wordshave something to do with the infrastructure that isneeded for the spread of democracy and develop-ment: the growth of professional associations,consumer organisations, and interests groups thatspan many countries. Yet others identify thephenomenon with the efforts of groups like Savethe Children or Médécins sans Frontières to providehumanitarian assistance: global solidarity with thepoor or oppressed. Or perhaps the term just refers tothe growing connectedness of citizens: Internetchatrooms, networks of peace, environmental orhuman rights activists, student exchanges, or globalmedia.It is no wonder that, apart from a few politicalactivists and policy experts, most people, includingmany social scientists, have little understanding of what global civil society means and implies. It has notyet become what sociologist Zerubavel (1991) calls an‘island of meaning’ in the conceptual landscape of modern social science and policy-making. The‘market’, the ‘state’, and, in recent years, even ‘civilsociety’ have to varying degrees become such‘conceptual islands’ that we use in everyday languageas well as for policy purposes and in social scienceanalysis. While we associate certain distinct qualitiesand characteristics with terms like the ‘market’ andthe ‘state’, and have at least some notion of thequantitative dimensions involved, no such con-ventional understanding exists for ‘global civil society’.While the ‘unfamiliar words’, as John Keane putsit in Chapter 2, may have little intuitive meaning, theysuggest at the same time, something unconventional,even dramatic. The term takes the perhaps mostimportant social science (re)discovery of the 1990s —civil society —and places it in a framework thatultimately transcends conventional social sciencecategories. The concept posits the existence of asocial sphere, a global civil society, above and beyondnational, regional, or local societies.Our aim in producing a Yearbook was to try toestablish an ‘island of meaning’. We set out to analyseand describe, to map both conceptually and empiric-ally, what we mean when we talk about ‘global civilsociety’. We hoped to be able to draw conclusions thatwould be relevant and useful to the various actorswho participate in global civil society. But inproducing the first edition of the Yearbook what wethink we have learned is where to begin ourinvestigation. Whether we are talking about thedebates about the meaning of the concept or theproblems of data collection, our end-point turns outto be our starting point. We have learned, at least tosome extent, where we need to look to find out moreabout global civil society and with whom we need toengage to develop the conceptual underpinning of the project. So we are not informing our readers aswe imagined, although we hope there is a lot to begleaned from this first Yearbook; rather we are, ineffect, asking our readers to participate in a journeyof discovery. As we see it, the Yearbook is itself apart of global civil society: a terrain for developingideas, investigating issues, and gathering informationthat does not readily fit existing categories andcannot be found in conventional sources. We inviteyour reactions, comments, and feedback.In introducing the Yearbook, we focus on fourthemes that emerge out of our first efforts. First, weset out three propositions about global civil societythat are both initial conclusions and hypotheses forfuture research. Second, we provide a thumbnailsketch of the evolution of the concept and thecompeting definitions. Third, we discuss the problemof data collection and the challenge of ‘methodo-logical nationalism’ (Beck 2000; Shaw 2000; Scholte1999). In the last section, we summarise the keyconclusions for both activists and policy-makers thatcan be drawn from the studies undertaken for theindividual chapters.
Three Propositions about GlobalCivil Society
Proposition 1:Global civil society as a reality
he first proposition is that the
spread ofthe term‘global civil society’ reflects an underlying social reality.
What we can observe in the 1990s is theemergence of a supranational sphere of social andpolitical participation in which citizens groups, socialmovements, and individuals engage in dialogue,debate, confrontation, and negotiation with eachother and with various governmental actors—inter-national, national, and local—as well as the businessworld. Of course, there have historically existedelements of a supranational non-governmental sphere.The Catholic Church or Islam have long had ‘global’aspirations and maintained far-reaching operationsfor centuries; colonial empires have come and gone;political entities like the Commonwealth, the UN, andthe European Union emerged; international non-governmental organisations like the Red Cross andRed Crescent Societies have operated above thenational level for many years, as have politicalorganisations like the Socialist International and thepeace and environmental movements. What seemsnew, however, is the sheer scale and scope thatinternational and supranational institutions andorganisations of many kinds have achieved in recentyears. The number of organisations and individualsthat are part of global civil society has probably neverbeen bigger, and the range and type of fields in whichthey operate never been wider: from UN conferencesabout social welfare or the environment to conflictsituations in Kosovo, from globalised resistance to theMutual Agreement on Investments to local humanrights activism in Mexico, Burma, or Timor, and frommedia corporations spanning the globe to indigenouspeoples’ campaigns over the Internet.
This conclusion is supported by four types of information that have been used in producing the Yearbook: data on international non-governmentalorganisations (INGOs) (see Tables 1.1–1.3 and PartIV of this Yearbook) and on parallel summits (seeChapter 7), our chronology, and the qualitativeinformation contained in the issue chapters.INGOs are autonomous organisations that arenon-governmental, that is, they are not instrument-alities of government; and non-profit, that is notdistributing revenue as income to owners; and formal,legal entities (see Salamon and Anheier 1997). ManyINGOs employ staff and are professional organisa-tions. They can include campaigning groups likeAmnesty International or Greenpeace, the famous‘brand names’ of global civil society; professionalsocieties like international employers federations ortrades unions; charities like Christian Aid or CARE;think tanks and international commissions.INGOs are not new. They date back to the nine-teenth century, but the term itself is of more recentorigins, coined during the League of Nations period.The earliest INGO is generally said to be the anti-slavery society, formed as the British and ForeignAnti-Slavery Society in 1839, although there was atransnational social movement against slavery muchearlier. The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) was founded by Henri Dunant in 1864 after hisexperiences in the Battle of Solferino. By 1874, therewere 32 registered INGOs and this number hadincreased to 1,083 by 1914 (Chatfield 1997). INGOsgrew steadily after World War II but our figures showan acceleration in the 1990s. Around one quarter of the 13,000 INGOs in existence today were createdafter 1990 (see Table R19 in Part IV). Moreover,membership by individuals or national bodies of INGOs has increased even faster; well over a third of the membership of INGOs joined after 1990. Thesefigures include only NGOs narrowly defined as‘international’; they do not include national NGOswith an international orientation.What our figures also show is that during the1990s, INGOs became much more interconnectedboth to each other and to international institutionslike the United Nations or the World Bank (see alsoTable R21). Thus, not only has the global range of INGO presence grown during the last decade, butthe networks linking these organisations arebecoming denser as well. In Held’s terms (Held
et al.
1999), our data suggest that global civil society isbecoming ‘thicker’.INGOs are, however, only one component of globalcivil society. Individuals, grass-roots groups, loosecoalitions, and networks all play a part in a globalpublic debate. Moreover, since most INGOs areorganisationally based in the northern hemispherenear international institutions and donors, the dataon INGOs exaggerates the role of northern groups.Another lens through which to view the growth of global civil society is through parallel summits. Theseare gatherings of INGOs, other groups, and individualsthat generally but not always take place in parallelto important inter-governmental meetings.
   I   N   T   R   O   D   U   C   I   N   G   G   L   O   B   A   L   C   I   V   I   L   S   O   C   I   E   T   Y   H  e   l  m  u   t   A  n   h  e   i  e  r ,   M  a  r   l   i  e  s   G   l  a  s   i  u  s ,  a  n   d   M  a  r  y   K  a   l   d  o  r
Like INGOs, parallel summits have a long history. Atthe Hague Peace Conference in 1899, non-governmental groups organised a parallel salon fordiplomats to meet with concerned citizens, variouspetitions with numerous signatures were submittedto the official conference, and an independent activistproduced a daily conference newspaper (Charnovitz1997: 196–7). Likewise, there were internationalcongresses of citizens on issues like peace or laboursolidarity throughout the nineteenth century. Buteven in the 1970s and 1980s these were exceptionalevents. It is only in the 1990s that both internationalgovernmental summits and parallel summits gatheredpace as a normal way of doing politics. Pianta showsin Chapter 7 that parallel summits increased fromaround two a year in the period 1988–91 to over 30a year in the period 2000–1. Participation in theseevents also increased. Around a third involved morethan 10,000 people and several involved tens of thousands, especially in 2000 and 2001. INGOs playan important role in the coordination of parallelsummits but, as Pianta shows, there are manydifferent types of groups and individuals alsoinvolved.Our chronology of global civil society events coversthe decade 1990–9 and we have a more detailedchronology for the year 2000 which we will bring upto date every year. Covering the past from the pointof view of global civil society is difficult becauseglobal civil society events are much less well reported
   I   N   T   R   O   D   U   C   I   N   G   G   L   O   B   A   L   C   I   V   I   L   S   O   C   I   E   T   Y   H  e   l  m  u   t   A  n   h  e   i  e  r ,   M  a  r   l   i  e  s   G   l  a  s   i  u  s ,  a  n   d   M  a  r  y   K  a   l   d  o  r
OceaniaNorthAmericaWesternEuropeJapanEast AsiaandPacificEuropeandCentralAsiaLatinAmericaandCaribbeanNorthAfricaandMiddleEastSouthAsiaSub-SaharanAfrica140,000120,000100,00080,00060,00040,00020,000019902000
Figure 1.1:Membership growth in INGOs,* 1990-2000
Table 1.1:Links between INGOs and IGOs*
Total orgs. citedas having linkswith others**Total citationsAverage citationsper org.
* International governmental organisations** See Table R21 for further information.
©Union of International Associations (1990; 2000),presenting data collected in 1989 and 1999 respectively. Datahave been restructured from more comprehensive countryand organisation coverage in the Union of InternationalAssociations
Yearbook of International Organizations.
International non-governmental organisations.
©Union of International Associations (1990; 2000), presenting data collected in 1989 and 1999 respectively. See table R20for fuller information. Data have been restructured from more comprehensive country and organisation coverage in the Unionof International Associations
Yearbook of International Organizations.

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