Diversitas.org Project

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Responsiveness of the UIA to the interests of the nonprofit community

A variety of indicators can be presented in evidence of UIA responsiveness to the interests and concerns of different constituencies in the non-commercial community over the past decades.

Statutory obligation

The UIA statutes (last modified in 1986, following transformation into an institute in 1953) specify its aims to be:

  • To contribute to a universal order based on principles of human dignity, solidarity of peoples and freedom of communication
  • To undertake and promote research and study on transnational associative networks, considered essential components of contemporary society
  • To collect and distribute the most comprehensive documentation possible on international organizations and associations, both governmental and non-governmental, and on new forms of transnational co-operation
  • To collect and distribute data on the various meetings organized by international bodies
  • To encourage and undertake all activity aimed at promoting the development and efficiency of non-governmental networks, as well as intercommunication between people working in the international framework and in inter-associative co-operation
  • To study, categorize, analyze, compare and illuminate world problems as perceived by international organizations

Proactive Engagement

It is useful to stress that the UIA is extremely proactive in its coverage of a community that may be variously described by terms such as non-profit, non-commercial, voluntary, civil society, independent sector, third sector, citizens organizations, etc. None of these terms is satisfactory, especially to bodies that may or may not wish to be labelled by them – and may in fact be hybrids of the qualities that these endeavour to imply. The UIA also profiles intergovernmental bodies many of which use the .org domain in preference to the .int domain to which they have a privileged right as bodies constituted by treaty.

The UIA is proactive in response to the community of organizations and to the concerns of its many constituencies. Unlike registries that act only in response to incoming requests, the UIA undertakes a variety of initiatives to extend the range and depth of what it registers and profiles in relation to the global community of organizations. It notably uses the network of formal contacts indicated by organizations to ensure that all bodies so indicated are registered to whatever degree is appropriate or possible. Its strongest bias might be described as an effort to profile perspectives that reflect contrasting biases.

Unique Competence of the UIA

UIA has thrived over decades through its experience in understanding the global non-commercial community and studying the diversity of these organizations. Its subsidiary Diversitas is thus well-positioned to ensure that these stakeholders will have an opportunity to participate in the development of the .org domain.

Given the unrivalled database developed by UIA of the non-commercial community, and decades spent analysing their interests and needs, Diversitas is in a unique position to help them fulfill their mission by:

  • Responding to their interests
  • Developing policies for .org
  • Developing value added Internet services

UIA has developed an extensive database of more than 50,000 international organizations worldwide that has been cross-referenced in myriad ways. This database and contact list will be harnessed to help solicit the views and opinions of these organizations. This capability is unique.

UIA maintains inter-related databases on more than 56,000 world problems, 50,000 inter-governmental and non-governmental (NGO) organizations (and their meetings), 33,000 organizational action strategies, 3,200 human values and 4,800 approaches to human development, as well as integrative concepts and metaphors of relevance to governance. Items in each database are extensively hyperlinked among themselves and to other databases. URLs are provided to more than 26,000 Internet resources of international bodies.

The chart below provides a sampling of prominent international non-profit organizations to update their profile in the UIA Yearbook of International Organizations. A more complete list appears in Indication of long-term pattern of support for UIA registry activity.

Name of international organizationMember
2001.12**1949Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences29113.ch
2001.11**1967General Association of International Sports Federations099.com
2001.09**1927International Catholic Union of the Press10341.ch
2001.12**1926International Committee of Historical Sciences5744.org
2002.03**1949International Confederation of Free Trade Unions14893.org
2002.02**1895International Cooperative Alliance9359.org
1994.11**1949International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies14848.org
2002.02**1919International Council for Science95240.org
2000.12**1962International Council of Voluntary Agencies4375.ch
2001.01**1928International Council on Social Welfare7537.org

Such resources position UIA / Diversitas extremely well in terms of gauging opinions from the international non-profit community as well as providing a communications vehicle to respond to their views.

A Consensus Driven Process

Diversitas will use a number of approaches to encourage an open, consensus-driven process, including:

  • Meetings around the world, benefiting from Internet technology, bringing together key stakeholders
  • E-mails, faxes and letters to key non-profit constituencies to gauge their perspectives
  • Setting up an interactive web site for selective polling on specific issues

Diversitas is uniquely qualified to put such communications processes in place, given UIA’s current role as registry for more than 50,000 non-profit organizations globally (most with their own organization and individual members).

Diversitas is intended to reflect the diversity of the non-profit community worldwide and those with unique expertise in this area. UIA will assist in extending its current information flows to include regular quarterly communications with thousands of non-profits, informing them of key issues, asking for their views on a wide variety of questions related to the .org domain, and offering value-added services to them so that they can better serve their constituencies.

The UIA is sensitive to the fact that there are few, if any, examples of global, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-sectoral coalitions managing a long-term project subject to the level of technical requirements and 24/7 reliability so appropriately stressed by ICANN. UIA / Diversitas Transition Team will therefore act progressively and prudently to build up a governance structure that is as responsive as possible whilst giving priority to continuity of service. The challenge is to enable experiments in governance and service facilities that do not place the basic service at risk. There seems to be a strong case for using simulation techniques for exploring the constraints and possibilities of more ambitious proposals for governance and services.

Diversitas plans to identify appropriate individuals and organizations to participate either on its Board of Directors, Policy Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee for the .org domain. In particular, there is a set of non-profit coalitions that UIA will contact to encourage their participation in the consensus-building process on questions such as:

  • How to best develop the .org domain for the non-profit community
  • How to offer the most useful value-added Internet services at the lowest cost to non-profits located around the world

As indicated above, a variety of organizations support the approach taken by UIA. They believe that both the stability of the .org domain and its continued development will be best served by a non-profit managing these functions for the global non-profit community.

There will be more opportunities for participation going forward, as we develop networked communications with thousands of non-profits globally.

As a demonstration of support for this bid, ICANN requests letters of endorsement. A number of letters of endorsement are attached. However, we believe that other indicators of support may in our case have greater relevance.

In different ways, each of the indicators below makes the point that the UIA could not provide the services it does without the long-term support of the highly disparate, multi-cultural, multi-lingual community of non-profit bodies.

Voluntary collaboration. In contrast with registries empowered by a legal (e.g., a business register) or technical (e.g., URL) obligation to which bodies are impelled to respond, the UIA registry activity is based on voluntary response. This means that the UIA has had to develop a quality of caring contact with such bodies that is minimally invasive, or politically problematic, in order to sustain the level of support.

“Thick” registry. The UIA would like to argue that the “thick registry” activity in which it has engaged with the long-term collaboration of thousands of international bodies in practice is a demonstration of support that is far more eloquent than letters of support. “Thick registry” profiles maintained with the collaboration of members of the .org community are in this sense measures of clear support for our work.

Interpretation of “representation”. Despite its name, the UIA in no way claims to “represent” the global network of civil society bodies or their interests. However, it does claim to “present” them as transparently as possible – and to a much higher degree than is possible through the filters of layers of “representative” bodies that are often obliged to present their views in competition with each other. These bodies are necessarily forced to reduce the many views of the complex variety of the millions of bodies in the .org community – through the mechanics of polling and voting systems – to their binary outcomes. In its registry activity, the UIA claims to present an ecosystem rather than be primarily responsive to temporarily dominant perspectives.

Custodial role of UIA full members. To safeguard the integrity of its registry operations, the UIA has opted for a formula in which this is guaranteed by co-opted individuals who have in different ways been associated in positions of high responsibility with respect to the international nonprofit community in all its variety. They are of necessity sensitive to its importance and needs. Many have been directly responsible for the management of one or more individual organizations, or have been sensitized to their concerns. Use of individuals with this background has enabled the UIA to avoid the problematic dynamics of the politics of a highly diverse community of organizations and agendas that is difficult to reconcile with the long-term development and maintenance of a registry capacity designed to be responsive to every organizational perspective.

UN/ECOSOC Resolution. The UIA’s work in profiling international non-profit organizations has been covered by a UN/ECOSOC Resolution since 20 July 1950 (Resolution 334B (XI)). This post-war resolution follows support by the UIA for League of Nations registry activity in the pre-war period (1921-1938), that itself was based on the UIA registry activity initiated prior to the 1914-1918 war (as acknowledged in a League Council document, A.43 (B) 1421, 5 September 1921). The UIA’s consultative relationship with the UN since 1951 is based on this activity.

UNESCO recognition. The UIA’s registry work is the basis for its formal relations with UNESCO dating back to 1952. The UIA has been involved in UNESCO efforts to evaluate non-governmental bodies, most recently in 1966 as the leading member of the exercise to assess the basis for such collaboration and to recommend a new pattern of relationships. As the intergovernmental body with the prime mandate for information content and dissemination, UNESCO has also acknowledged UIA’s role as a registry for world problems and strategies in response to them.

Profiling network of consultative relationships with intergovernmental bodies. The major UN Specialized Agencies each have relationships with networks of hundreds of international NGOs – which may each have relationships with several such agencies. Since 1951, the UIA has been the only body to document these complex networks - which it has made navigable since 1995 as hyperlinks.

Online use of the UIA registry by the UN system. 26 agencies of the UN system acquired network subscriptions as soon as this was made available online in 2000.

Response rate on UIA questionnaires. The UIA questions  some 50,000 international non-profit organizations in a two-year cycle regarding the profiles maintained on each of them. The response rate for a core 10,901 “conventional” international bodies, across all sectors, is 48% within 12 months and 63% over 24 months. Those responding within 24 months have a total of 233,466 links to 301 countries and territories (counting multiple links once only), namely 75 % of the total links to countries for all bodies in that cluster. Each such link presumably has the potential to generate web traffic – and arguably might be considered as “supporting” the UIA registry activity through the respondent parent bodies.

In the case of 9,496 national bodies with some international activity or preoccupation, the response rates are 18% and 39%, respectively. The contact also covers profiles maintained on some 25,000 future international events for which they are responsible. The questioning procedure uses an evolving mix of post, fax, e-mail and web, according to the facilities available to the organization.

Survey response rate. Independently of organization profiles, the UIA also uses a mix of e-mail, fax and web technologies to survey international non-profit bodies occasionally on issues affecting them. Most recently, this involved a survey of 8,000 such bodies with e-mail and web facilities, and organizing international events. The response rate was 10%.

Standard reference source on statistics on international meetings. The UIA is recognized as the standard source of international meeting data obtained from individual international non-profit organizations. This data is important to the billion dollar “meetings industry” involving international non-profit organizations responsible for events and the various industries servicing such events (airlines, hotels, interpreters, conference centres, etc).

Standard reference source on statistics on international civil society organizations. The UIA’s role as the most comprehensive source of data on international organizations over a century is widely acknowledged in academic studies of international relations and civil society, currently made available in the Yearbook of International Organizations (volume 5). Most recently UIA statistical data is now integrated into the new Global Civil Society Yearbook produced by the Centre for Civil Society of the London School of Economics.

Integration of UIA electronic profiles into online educational systems. Several educational systems have explored use of UIA profiles of organizations, problems or strategies (with or without permission) as part of course material. The CD variant has been used experimentally in training programs in developing countries.

Usage of UIA online databases: 48,972 registered users (access by username/password and IP recognition, both free and paying) plus about 50,000 listed organizations who all received individual special accounts allowing them to check their profiles in the UIA online databases. Percentage distribution of resolved accesses: .com = 29.38%, .net = 17.29%, .org = 12.49%, .edu = 6.00% (one year average). Distinct hosts served (one year period): 115,076.

Links to UIA site. Some 2,900 web pages point to somewhere in the UIA site (www.uia.org) of which 1,230 point directly to its profile via www.uia.org/data.htm (figures from Google).

Plagiarism as an indicator of “support”. During the period 1996-1999, when the percentage of international non-profit organizations with web sites was less than 20%, the UIA listed all such sites (and linked to them) in readily accessible pages that were widely indexed by search engines. As the percentage increased, the UIA was obliged to provide such links from a database designed to restrict abusive access.