The role of NGOs in the UNESCO System

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Kerstin Martens

By Kerstin Martens
University of Nottingham
This article was published in Transnational Associations, Issue 2/1999, 68-82. All rights reserved.
Article publié dans Associations Transnationales, Issue 2/1999, 68-82. Tous droits réservés.

Introduction 1

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (2) play an increasingly important role in world politics. International non-governmental agencies, such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International or Médecins Sans Frontières draw attention to issues of world-wide concern, they promote international co-operation and they have a significant impact on the global dissemination of ideas, values and knowledge. Using the words of the former secretary-general of the United Nations Organisation (UN), Boutros Boutros-Ghali, "[n]ongovernmental organizations are now considered full participants in international life" (1996:7).

NGOs are not a recent phenomenon; they have existed for the last two centuries. However, in recent years, particularly in the late-1980s, the number of NGOs has dramatically shot up. In 1956, the Union of International Associations (UIA) merely recorded 973 NGOs. In 1977, it registered already more than 2500 NGOs. Only five years later, the number of NGOs had again almost doubled (1997:1745). In the developing world the mushrooming of new NGOs is particularly significant. In the Philippines, a growth by 148% of all registered NGOs was noted for the period between 1984 and 1993. In Kenya, the number of NGOs even grew by 184% between 1978 and 1987 (Clarke 1998:36).

In practised international politics NGOs have official relationships only with intergovernmental organisations (IGOs). IGOs formally incorporate non-governmental organisations by granting them a legal status. For this reason, intergovernmental organisations, such as the UN, serve as the "transparent point of observation" (Gordenker/ Weiss 1995a: 357) to explore the realm of the ?phenomenon NGO?. Within the UN family, the relationship between NGOs and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has repeatedly been recognised as more sophisticated than between NGOs and any other UN body (Hüfner 1996; Hoggot 1996; Hüfner 1995; Merle 1988; Fozein-Kwanke 1986; Sewell 1975). This is so, because UNESCO?s system of classification takes into account not only the size and representative character of an NGO but also its ability to efficiently contribute to the organisation?s objectives (Feld/ Jordan 1988:217). In return, NGOs could be heavily involved in various stages of planning and execution of UNESCO programmes and may receive direct subventions from the IGO (Feld/ Jordan 1988:222).

Furthermore, UNESCO itself gained in attraction and importance. Since its reform process commenced in 1988, the IGO became more transparent in its intra-organisational structure and more efficient in the fulfilment of purpose. New working methods, improvements in administration and financial management increased the impact and significance of the organisation. Moreover, the end of the Cold War contributed to draw attention to ?low politics? issues, such as human rights, the environment, population, communications or peace education, most of which fall under the objectives of UNESCO. Consequently, countries like the UK, which had severely criticised and finally withdrew from UNESCO, re-entered the organisation after a 12-year absence.

In this article, I will explore the relationship between non-governmental and governmental actors in more detail. In the case study of NGOs and UNESCO, particular attention will be paid to the statutory framework for integrating non-governmental agencies in the UNESCO system since 1995 when new "Directives concerning the Relations with NGOs" became introduced. Leading questions are:

  1. Does the growing importance of NGOs in world politics lead to a further integration of NGOs and non-governmental policies into international governmental bodies?
  2. Since the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO has always been especially intense, does their relationship reflect the increasing influence of NGOs on world politics in particular?

It is the aim of this work to demonstrate through the case study of NGOs at UNESCO, that the integration of NGOs into intergovernmental bodies is not clear evidence of the growing importance of non-governmental agencies. The case study of NGOs at UNESCO demonstrates that the process of NGO integration into intergovernmental bodies neither necessarily continues nor do NGOs exclusively arise from outside the intergovernmental framework. On the contrary, the creation of NGOs by UNESCO (due to the nature of UNESCO itself) and the decrease in associated NGOs (due to UNESCO?s reform process) will be shown and analysed. As a result, it will be demonstrated that the nature of an NGO being associated with an intergovernmental body has to be considered in greater depth in academic research.


Challenges of Doing Research on NGOs and UNESCO

Research in the area of NGOs and UNESCO is surrounded by various ?deficiencies? of adequate literature. Firstly, theoretical works on NGOs are rare. Although NGOs as a subject of examination increasingly gained attention within the last two decades, political scientists have made a rather small contribution to their analysis (Clarke 1998:37; Gordenker/ Weiss 1995a:358). Most books or journal articles on NGOs are relatively dissatisfying. They tend to be of rather narrative character and miss out on comprehensive analysis. Literature on NGOs often merely describes a single major NGO - for example Amnesty International, the Red Cross or Greenpeace - , an individual NGO project or a particular aspect of NGO activity, such as human rights, humanitarian intervention, environment or gender. As a result, works on NGOs tend to be primarily empirical in order to describe NGO activity (Cerny 1997:14).

Of the existing theoretical works, many of the English studies are based on only a specific aspect of NGO activity, in particular, the study of environmental NGOs (Willetts 1996c; Willetts 1996d; Wapner 1995; Princen 1994; Finger 1994a). French literature tends to be more concerned with legal aspects and mainly focuses on the (non)recognition of NGOs in International Law (Beigbeder 1992; Fozein-Kwanke 1986; Bettati/Dupuy 1986).

When analysing NGOs in relation to international governmental organisations, scholars almost exclusively concentrate on the consultative status of NGOs at the United Nations Organisation. In this case, the relationship between NGOs and the ECOSOC gains the most attraction (Willetts 1996b; Hüfner 1996; Gordenker/ Weiss 1995a; Schulze 1994). Studies on particular issue-areas and the UN, again, mainly focus on environmental NGOs and the respective UN bodies (Imber 1996; Morphet 1996; Willetts 1996d;Conca 1995; Princen 1995; Finger 1994b) or human rights NGOs in the UN system (Boyle 1995; Brett 1995; Connors 1996; Cook 1996; Gaer 1995). As a result, there is no systematic study on NGO consultation at the UN (Gordenker/Weiss 1995b:555), which makes theory-building "a hazardous, if not totally nonfeasible, undertaking" (Gordenker/ Weiss 1995b:555).

Secondly, the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO has been very poorly analysed in academic research. Although many studies on NGOs at the UN mention the relationship between UNESCO and NGOs as particularly intense, none has comprehensively analysed it yet.

Transforming Relations: NGOs at UNESCO

Co-operation between NGOs and UNESCO dates back to the establishment of the intergovernmental organisation in 1945. Over the years, the working relations with NGOs increased in quality and quantity so that a sophisticated system of regulations was soon needed (Hoggart 1996:101). In 1966, UNESCO adopted supplementary "Directives concerning UNESCO?s relations with non-governmental organisations" (Directives 1966) which set out the statutory framework for the NGO-UNESCO relationship in more detail. In 1995, the classification of NGOs at UNESCO became re-organised andnew directives (Directives 1995) were adopted. Today, UNESCO ? by their own account ? maintains regular relations of co-operation with 588 NGOs and approximately another 1000 to 1200 co-operate with UNESCO on an ad hoc basis (Doc. 152 EX/40 1997:12; UNESCO?s New Partners 1998).

UNESCO itself in the beginning

The close relationship between UNESCO and NGOs is understandable by briefly expounding the establishment and the nature of UNESCO. It explains the reasons for the particular intense relations between UNESCO and NGOs. When UNESCO was founded in 1945, it was of great contention how much non-governmental influence should be given to the new organisation. Above all, the question of whether the organisation was to be governmental or non-governmental became an area of conflict (Hüfner/ Reuther 1996:12; Merkel 1996:94; Kotschnig 1957:551). During the preparations on the drafts, it had been widely argued that the new organisation should not necessarily be an intergovernmental body in order to protect cultural, scientific and educational issues from political and ideological considerations. Particular NGOs participating at the founding conference spoke for a non-governmental organisation such as the predecessor of UNESCO, the non-governmental International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIIC, founded in 1925).

The French draft promoted for an organisation which also includes individuals (Sewell 1975:74). In this proposal, the new organisation was supposed to have a trinomial structure with each part having the same rights: a representation of the governments, national committees and civil society (NGOs) (Goldbach 1995:36). The French proposal particularly emphasised that the organisation should encompass the intellectual élite of its member-states (Kotschnig 1957:551). However, this proposal was rejected, and the advocates for an integration of UNESCO into the intergovernmental family of the UN bodies won through, so that the governmental UNESCO replaced the non-governmental IIIC.

Another point of great controversy during the discussions on the foundation of UNESCO was the scope of activity the new organisation should encompass. Some were in favour of an organisation working on educational and cultural matters only (?UNECO?), others viewed scientific matters as necessary to be included in the new organisation. As a result, the objectives and the workload of UNESCO are extremely broad. It encompasses the three different sectors, "Education", "Science" and "Culture", which in itself surround various differentiated sectors. In this context, it had been laid down by the founding conference in London, that UNESCO could co-operate with non-governmental organisations concerned with subject matters within UNESCO?s scope of activity, particularly in technical questions, and that UNESCO might also create new organisations if necessary (Huxley 1973:17; Stosic 1964:270).

Creation and Expansion of NGOs by UNESCO

UNESCO documents describe NGOs as small-scale organisations of civil society, which become incorporated into intergovernmental organisations in order to form links to governments. The following quotations from UNESCO documents give an account of this viewpoint:

  1. "Stemming from private initiative, these organizations [NGOs] form the natural link between governments and peoples" (CPX-80/WS/8 1980:4)
  2. "Thus, right from its inception, UNESCO, as an intergovernmental institution, sought to collaborate with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These organisations are the outcome of private initiative and, as far as the fulfilment of Unesco?s purposes is concerned, they constitute a natural link between governments and peoples" (BRX/RIO.2/95/INF 1995:1; 124 EX/INF.5 1986: Annex 1)
  3. "In any case, the functioning of an organization, whether it be of the umbrella or any other type, should make it possible for the concern, options and contributions of its grass-roots members ? individuals, national sections or international associations/federations ? to reach the top" (28 C/COM I/INF.2 1995:3)

However, a closer look at the origins of NGOs associated with UNESCO reveals, that many NGOs at UNESCO are ?home-made?. This is to say, rather than ?stemming from private initiative?, many NGOs are created at the auspices of the IGO, as it had been agreed on at the founding conference of UNESCO in London. UNESCO?s creation and expansion of NGOs distinguishes the UN body from other international governmental organisations (Sur 1995:412). In this respect, UNESCO even is exceptional (Merle 1988:389). Most of these NGOs are umbrella organisations which co-ordinate national organisations. All in all, UNESCO founded 25 of these super-NGOs in the period till 1965 (Merkel 1996:95).

Furthermore, UNESCO?s early NGO policy demonstrates that the IGO maintained close working relations with particular NGOs in order to reduce its own areas of responsibility. Since UNESCO encompasses different sectors and it is also involved in documentation and archives, sports, communications and the international protection of human rights, it became necessary to share tasks and responsibilities with other associated organisations in order to manage the immense workload (Kotschnig 1957:560). Firstly, UNESCO created many NGOs itself in order to hand over specific tasks or whole areas of responsibility to non-governmental organisations. One of the major NGOs, which became founded by UNESCO in 1946, is the International Council of Museums (ICOM). This NGO took on the assignment of establishing and running a common Documentation Centre on museums. "UNESCO entrusted it with the task of running its [UNESCO?s] documentation centre" (Lacoste 1994:30).

Secondly, UNESCO guaranteed direct subventions to existing NGOs in order to avoid setting up UNESCO programmes in the areas in which these NGOs were already involved (Williams 1987:267). In the extreme case some NGOs simply carried out specific projects on the behalf of UNESCO (Kotschnig 1957:562). As a result, most of these NGOs became financially dependent on UNESCO, since UNESCO was the primary source of income (Kotschnig 1957:563). Some NGOs received up to 80% of their budget from UNESCO (Goldbach 1995:56). Thirdly, UNESCO simply withdrew from certain areas of activity in favour of supporting new NGOs which had similar objectives to UNESCO?s (Kotschnig 1957:579). For example, the World Wild Fund For Nature (WWF) was founded in 1961 through the initiative of another NGO with close links to UNESCO, in order to mobilise the public and raise funds for environmental questions. In the years before the establishment of the WWF, most of these tasks had been run by UNESCO itself (Morphet 1996:142).

Associated NGOs adopted and promoted UNESCO?s objectives. As the Director-General figured out, the American Commission for International Educational Reconstruction, an umbrella organisation for 200 national volunteer organisations "worked tirelessly for UNESCO?s campaign for educational, scientific and cultural reconstruction" (in: Lacoste 1994:34). Other NGOs (partly) became assistant institutions to implement UNESCO programmes. The Pacific Islands New Association (PINA) was commended for its particular work in UNESCO?s sense. A UNESCO document mentioned that "[c]o-operation between this NGO and UNESCO has existed for several years, including contractual implementation of programme activities, which was highly regarded by the Communications Sector" (Doc. 151 EX/ONG.2 Add 1997). Also various development programmes were set up and directed by UNESCO which offered close collaboration with interested NGOs (Merle 1988:402).

This implies that for UNESCO, NGOs are auxiliary bodies which exercise or implement UNESCO objectives. Documents clearly expose UNESCO?s purposes and profits of close working relations with NGOs: 1."The purpose of all these arrangements is to promote the objectives of Unesco" (CPX-80/WS/8 1980:4)

2. "Programmes and projects ... financed by the United Nations organizations include often NGOs as implementing partners" (152 EX/40 1997:v) The example of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) incorporates and reflects the variously aspects of the NGO-UNESCO relationship in particular. ICSU was founded in 1931 "to promote international scientific activity in the different branches of science and their applications for the benefit of humanity" (ICSU Yearbook 1997:1). Today, ICSU is the most important NGO in natural sciences which co-ordinates individuals, national and international NGOs. For Baker, former Executive Secretary of ICSU, this is mainly due to the creation of UNESCO and its payment of subventions (Baker 1997).

ICSU became closely linked to UNESCO in 1946. For UNESCO, the agreement with ICSU was the first with an NGO and became greatly useful for UNESCO (Reuther 1996:141). Particularly during the first years of UNESCO, ICSU gave the IGO a lot of important and valuable advice on questions in its respective fields of competence (Huxley 1973:17). With the introduction of different categories of relations with NGOs in 1960, ICSU was immediately admit to the highest category (category A); in 1995, it was admitted to the highest status of relations (Formal Associate Relations).

Since 1947, ICSU received yearly subventions from UNESCO. The first years, about 85% of ICSU?s budget came from UNESCO (Baker 1997; Michaux 1992:16). UNESCO also provided ICSU with secretarial assistance, e.g. the disposal of offices in UNESCO?s headquarters in Paris, and even undertook to pay staff salaries (Morphet 1996:118; Lacoste 1994:30). ICSU became the "major single beneficiary of UNESCO aid" (Kotschnig 1957:560). As a result, links between ICSU and UNESCO became ever closer. UNESCO enhanced close co-operation with ICSU in planning and carrying out of scientific activities (Doc. CPX-81/WS/11 1981:3; Doc. NGO/CONF.18/7 1981:3), it sponsors ICSU for more than 600 congresses and symposia each year, in which both organisations have joint programmes in various academic fields and projects (Lacoste 1994:30), and ICSU representatives and UNESCO officials even changed offices and positions (Baker 1997). In 1972, ICSU?s headquarters was shifted to Paris.

UNESCO?s subventions to ICSU "has always been used to support those activities of ICSU bodies which further UNESCO?s objectives" (ICSU Yearbook 1997:315; ICSU Partners 1998). Under the new arrangements, again, ICSU has agreed to mainly further common objectives (ICSU Yearbook 1997:315). The mutual success of such close relationship then inspired UNESCO to created other organisation under its aegis, patterned on the example of ICSU (Baker 1997).

The UNESCO Crisis in the 1980s and its Consequences

The re-arrangement of relations with NGOs in 1995 has to be seen in the broader context of the UNESCO reform process which initially started in 1988, because it reveals the motives for re-defining the relations to NGOs. Since the mid-1970s, the IGO came into such a severe crisis that even the continuance of the IGO as part of the UN system was in danger (Kittel/ Rittberger/ Schimmelfennig 1998). For some, UNESCO had always been the most politicised agency of the UN, particularly since its effects to introduce a "New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO)" (Williams 1987:62); for others it is simply the long-term extension of the different opinions of UNESCO?s purposes as exposed during the discussions of UNESCO?s foundation in London (Hüfner/ Reuther 1996:12).

One of the major fields of criticism in the 1980s had been UNESCO?s inefficiency in terms of budget management and administration (Beigbeder 1987: 26-40; Imber 1989:96-120). Western states in particular were unsatisfied with the organisation?s growing expenses, its centralised management techniques and its unclear staff recruitment methods (Kittel/ Rittberger/ Schimmelfenning 1998; Hüfner/ Reuther 1996:12). The eventual withdrawal from UNESCO by the USA and the UK in the mid-1980s heavily endangered the survival of the whole organisation, either morally and financially, since two major and founding members denied their support and reduced the organisation?s budget by almost 30% (UNESCO?s Budget and Finance 1998).

UNESCO?s reform aimed at improving the organisation?s efficacy and transparency. One of the major reform strategies was to slim down the organisation?s matters of concern to only a few, but more effective programmes and projects (UNESCO?s Programming and Evaluation 1998). Secondly, the budgetary situation was improved by the rise in extra budgetary resources. From 1995 to 1997, they increased from US$ 87.8 to 145 million. Almost 30% of these extra resources now come from other UN bodies (UNESCO?s Budget and Finance 1998). For more transparency, Field Offices and National Committees were considered more important in planning and executing UNESCO?s aims. As a result, Field Offices presently implement up to 50% of UNESCO?s programmes; National Committees receive nearly twice as much resources than in the past (UNESCO?s Decentralisation 1998).

NGOs and their Formal Status at UNESCO before and after the Crisis

The formal basis for the co-operation between UNESCO and NGOs is laid down in the Constitution of UNESCO (Greenbook). In Article XI, paragraph 4 in the UNESCO Constitution it is provided that

"[t]he United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization may make suitable arrangements for consultation and co-operation with non-governmental international organizations concerned with matters within its competence, and may invite them to undertake specific tasks. Such co-operation may also include appropriate participation by representatives of such organizations on advisory committees set up by the General Conference".

UNESCO?s directives 1995 then lay down the conditions under which NGOs are eligible for admission to two different types of relations: Formal Relations (FR), which can either be Formal Associate Relations (FAR) or Formal Consultative Relations (FCR), and Operational Relations (OR). In Formal Relations, NGOs might be invited by the Director-General to send observers to the General Assembly conferences and the commissions; in the latter they can make statements on matters within their competence. NGOs in FR are also allowed to submit written statements to the Director-General on programme matters and to receive documentation. NGOs in FAR are to be integrated "as closely and regularly as possible with the various stages of planning and execution of UNESCO?s activities" (I.8.3.(b)i). Different to other systems of consultation, NGOs in FAR at UNESCO are also provided with office accommodation (I.8.3.(b)iii).

Operational Relations are designed to "maintain flexible and dynamic partnerships with any organization of civil society" in a specific field of UNESCO?s competence. NGOs in OR might only be invited to hearings, if a significant contribution is expected; they rather participate in collective consultations such as the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations. More importantly, NGOs in Operational Relations are entitled to apply for financial support (II.4.1.(c)) and can also be considered by UNESCO for contracts, if the Director-General considers them most competent in a related UNESCO programme (II.4.2.).

Unlike other IGOs, UNESCO grants subventions to selected NGOs. Subventions are foreseen for NGOs making "a particularly valuable contribution to the achievement of Unesco?s objectives and to the implementation of an important part of its programme" (Doc. CPX-80/WS/8 1980:10). Compared to other UN bodies, UNESCO is remarkable in terms of subvention, because it also provides NGOs with funds for travel, conferences, publishing and research (Hoggart 1996:102).

Since the consultative arrangement between NGOs and UNESCO, too, had become a matter of controversy during the UNESCO crisis, it initiated several recommendations (Doc. 128 EX/8 1987; Doc. 126 EX/31 1987) and eventually became revised in 1995. The Directives 1995 have most recently been described as the "turning point" in the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO (154 EX/29 1998:1). A closer look at the contents of the Directives 1966 and the Directives 1995, reveals conceptual similarities between the two sets of directives and a number of differences due to the reform process of UNESCO.



Directives 1966


Directives 1995

Aims Advise UNESCO

Ensure UNESCO?s documentation

Give technical assistance to UNESCO

Express public opinion

Advance the purposes of UNESCO

Advise UNESCO, 

Ensure UNESCO?s documentation

Give technical assistance to UNESCO

Express public opinion

Promote emergence of NGOs in developing countries

Conditions International 

Non-governmental in origin, purpose, function and character

One or more activities in UNESCO?s fields of competence

Organisational structure (international composition, authorised representatives)



Non-governmental in origin, purpose, function and operation

Non-profit in character

One or more activities in UNESCO?s fields of competence

Able and willing to make effective contributions 

Organisational structure (regular membership, recognised legal status, established headquarters, democratic statutes)

Carrying out activities for at least 4 years

Withdrawal of CS Downgrading possible

Termination possible

Downgrading possible 

Termination possible, also automatic (after four years continuos absence)

Organisation of NGOs Collective consultation (Conference)

Standing Committee

Collective consultation (Conference)

Standing Committee



Mutual information relationship 

(Category C)

Operational Relations (OR)
Admission Any organisation fulfilling the conditions Any organisation 
Duties Exchange of information Exchange of information
Rights May be invited to meetings May send observers to certain meetings

Collective consultation



Information and consultative relations

(Category B)

Formal Consultative Relations (FCR)
Admission After effective contribution for at least two years Only international umbrella organisation
Duties + advice, provide assistance, contribute to execution of UNESCO?s programmes

+ enhance common interests

+ submit reports about activities

+ advice, provide assistance, contribute to execution of UNESCO?s programmes

+ enhance interests 

+ submit reports about activities

Rights + invitation to meetings

+ may address plenary session

+ submit written statements

+ receive documentation

+ consultation

+ may receive subvention

+ invitation to meetings

+ may address plenary session

+ submit written statements

+ receive documentation

+ consultation



Consultative and associate relations 

(Category A)

Formal AssociateRrelations (FAR)
Admission Major effective contribution to UNESCO?s work Only major international umbrella organisation
Duties + expand activities in common with UNESCO

+ promote international co-ordination

+ expand activities in common with UNESCO

+ promote international co-ordination

+ maintain effective co-ordination with UNESCO

Rights + association "as closely and regularly as possible with the various stages of the planning and execution of UNESCO activities"

+ provision of office accommodation 

+ association "as closely and regularly as possible with the various stages of the planning and execution of UNESCO activities"

+ provision of office accommodation


"+" means in addition to rights or duties in the previous category

TABLE: Consultative Status of NGOs at UNESCO in Comparison and Contrast

Similarities between the Directives 1966 and the Directives 1995: Firstly, despite the new nomenclature of relations both directives categorise NGOs hierarchically. Similar to the old system of classification (categories A, B and C), NGOs fall under three main categories in the new system. Despite the division into only two types of relations, Formal Relations and Operational Relations, the new directives actually set down three types of relations, since the category of Formal Relations is divided up into two subtypes, Formal Associate Relations (FAR) and Formal Consultative Relations (FCR). In general, FAR is comparable with the former category A, FCR shows major similarities to category B, OR strongly resembles what had formerly been category C.

Secondly, the old and the new system similarly lay down the conditions under which NGOs can seek admission. NGOs must not be established by intergovernmental agreement; their purposes, functions and operation must be without governmental aim; NGOs must have a non-profit character (Directives 1966: I.1; Directives 1995: I.2.1). Only the Directives 1995 specify the implications of international as "interregional and regional bodies, in the geographical or the cultural sense" (note 3). However, the directives do not specify any regions in this context. Concerning admission to the highest category, there is one difference between the two sets of directives. Whereas in the old system the admission to category A depended on the scope of activity and expected contribution to UNESCO?s work, the Directives 1995 admit only major umbrella organisations to FAR.

Differences between the two sets of directives: First, to improve the transparency of the UNESCO system, the IGO transferred more tasks and resources to local and regional actors. As a result, UNESCO?s relations to NGOs too became decentralised. Contrary to the old system, where relations with NGOs were restricted to international NGOs, the Directives 1995 also admits national NGOs ("any non-governmental organisation", II.1.1). National NGOs can apply for Operational Relations only, and they are supposed to conduct their links with the National Committees of the Member State, or in particular cases, with the appropriate field unit of UNESCO (and not with the headquarters in Paris).

Second, for a more effective contribution of NGOs to UNESCO?s purposes, the obligations UNESCO is posing on accredited NGOs are stricter than before (Hoggart 1996:102). UNESCO not only demands that NGOs in FAR expand their activities which fall into UNESCO?s field of competence (II,7.1(b)i), they are also encouraged to promote the formation of more umbrella organisations in their respective fields of activity (II,7.1(b)ii). In addition to the old system, FAR NGOs are asked to extend their networks on the local and regional level (II,7.1(b)iii). The new directives also foresee automatic termination, if there has been a complete absence of relations for four years.

Third, UNESCO?s strategy of reducing financial expenses becomes mirrored in the conceptual perception of relations to NGOs. In the old system the emphasis is on ?consultation and co-operation? (Hoggart 1996:101) as it is frequently mentioned in the Directives 1966 (Preamble,1.,2.,3.; II.2.,3.,4.,5.; IV.4.; V.1.). The Directives 1995, instead, stress that UNESCO can not primarily be a funding institution for NGOs. Therefore, "these relations [between NGOs and UNESCO] will be essentially of an intellectual nature" (Preamble, 3). Under the old system, the above mentioned subventions depended on the category in which the NGOs were registered. This means, subventions were foreseen for NGOs in categories A and B only. The Directives 1995, instead, restrict subventions to NGOs which are newly established or have just started to co-operate with UNESCO. As a result, the priority will be the geographical location of the NGO: NGOs in developing countries or countries in transition will be given preference. Furthermore, UNESCO particularly emphasises that financial support is not to be understood as a permanent commitment, but can only be regarded as supplementary to other incomes. Subventions are also limited to a non-renewable period of four years maximum. However, in toto subventions to NGOs amounted to merely 1% of the regular budget of UNESCO (Merkel 1996:97). Therefore, less subventions for NGOs do not seem to create a great financial release for UNESCO. Furthermore, only a small number of all accredited NGOs actually profit from substantial financial support ? a growing tendency. From 1983 to 1988 in toto $12.8 million were given to 40 major organisations (Merkel 1996:97); for the 1990-91 period, 32 NGOs of categories A and B received $3,360,700 (UNESCO Sources 1992:13); from 1988 to 1993 the sum of $10.5 million was received by 18 organisations (Merkel 1996:97; Doc. 152 EX/40 1997:13).

In addition, the Directories 1995 particularly emphasise the enforced support of new NGOs or existing NGOs in developing countries. UNESCO encourages "the emergence of new organizations that are representative of civil society in those regions of the world where such organizations, for historical, cultural or geographical reasons, are isolated or weak, and help to integrate such organizations into the network" (Preamble, 5). Furthermore, UNESCO privileges NGOs from developing countries: even if they are only in Formal Consultative Relations, they can be integrated more closely into co-operation with UNESCO than other NGOs having the same status. In this context, it is worth noting, that UNESCO also advises all accredited NGOs to support other NGOs in the developing world. This seems to imply that UNESCO wants to concentrate on less developed regions of the world rather than on particular issue-areas, what in the past created many controversies (like the NWICO).

Re-defined Relations between NGOs and UNESCO

The introduction of new directives had implications for the classification of all NGOs and hence for their opportunities for participation within the UNESCO system. The reclassification had been based on an individual evaluation of each NGO. The set of parameters can mainly be summarised as focusing on quality and regularity of co-operation with UNESCO, geographical representativeness and democratic legitimacy (Doc. 29 C/25 1997:1).

Source: Doc. BRX/RIO.2/95/INF. 1995: Annex 1.2

FIGURE 1: Growth in the number of non-governmental organisations maintaining official relations with UNESCO from 1961 (Introduction of categorised registration system, "Directives concerning UNESCO?s relations with non-governmental organisations") until 1995 (Introduction of new directives).

Sources: Doc. BRX/RIO.2/95/INF. Annex 1.2; Doc. 29 C/25 1997:4; Doc. 151 EX/ONG.2 (Part I) 1997:2

FIGURE 2: Comparison of the number of NGOs having formal relations with UNESCO under the old system of categories and the new system of relations by types of relations (Category A ? FAR; Category B ? FCR, Category C ? OR).

Two charts demonstrate the development in the accreditation of NGOs. The first chart clearly reveals the growth of NGOs accredited at UNESCO until 1995. From 1961 to 1995, in each category the number of NGOs increased by at least 150%. In category A, 22 NGOs were admitted when the system of categories became introduced to UNESCO in 1961; in 1995, 55 NGOs were registered under this category (increase by 150%). In category B, the number of NGOs increased by 155% (from 99 to 252); in category C the number of NGOs even grew by 326% (from 66 to 281). In toto, the number of admitted NGOs increased by 214% (from 187 in 1961 to 588 in 1995).The second chart reveals changes in classifications after 1995. It shows how UNESCO slimmed down on relations to NGOs in all types of relations. It particularly demonstrates that the percentage of NGOs admitted to the highest category (FAR) decreased to nearly one fourth the percentage of NGOs having had the highest status under the old system (category A). Whereas under the old system 9.4% (or 55) of all NGOs were admitted to category A, only 2.7% (or 16) gained the highest status in the new system. Such is the case also for NGOs having the second highest status (FCR or Category B). It decreased to one fourth too. In category B, there were 42.8% (252) registered, now only 10.7% (63) of all NGO are having Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO. The percentage of NGOs in the third category stayed almost the same (47.8% or 281 under the old system; 45.3% or 266 in Operational Relations). Under the new system 34.2% (or 201) of all 588 NGOs are now merely registered under so-called Informal Relations. Taking into account the low degree of co-operation between NGOs in Informal Relations and UNESCO (this status has no real framework of co-operation), this implies that almost one-third of all officially accredited NGOs fell out of the participatory framework .

Furthermore, research for this article revealed that amongst the remaining 16 NGOs in FAR are at least 12 NGOs (plus ICSU) which had been founded by UNESCO itself. Taking into account, that these NGOs highly conform to UNESCO?s objectives or in many regards simply carry out UNESCO?s responsibilities and projects, it is not surprising that these NGOs have been admitted to the highest category. Secondly, in view that NGOs in FAR are in a privileged position (as explained above), this leads to the conclusion, that UNESCO?s "own" NGOs are more influential than other NGOs at UNESCO.

Summarising on Relations between NGOs and UNESCO

This particular relationship between NGOs and UNESCO is due to the nature of UNESCO itself, and the immense workload the organisation is saddled with. As a consequence, NGOs have been incorporated into the UNESCO system since the foundation of the IGO in 1945. However, UNESCO has made clear that NGOs should be considered as associates, which implement UNESCO?s policies and objectives. For this reason, UNESCO has encouraged working relations with existing NGOs in order to hand over fields of work. More importantly, the IGO has endeavoured to create for its own purposes many of its closest-linked NGOs. The example of ICSU demonstrates the incorporation of an already existing NGO into the intergovernmental body of UNESCO. It shows motives for a close co-operation on both sides: UNESCO, on the one hand, profits from the support of the NGO, because it gains the expertise of specialists. In return, the NGO receives substantial financial and moral support, which led to its own gain in status and influence.

Compared to other IGOs, UNESCO is offering particular privileges to "its" NGOs, such as office accommodation and financial aid. However, UNESCO is also more demanding on accredited NGOs than any other IGO. UNESCO expects NGOs to enhance those of their aspects which are linked to UNESCO?s purposes and objectives.

By introducing new directives in 1995, UNESCO reformed its arrangements with NGOs. The Directives 1995 stress the intention of closer links to regional and national NGOs, and to NGOs in developing countries. Therefore, the IGO decentralised existing relations. For more efficiency, UNESCO slimmed down on the number of accredited NGOs; one third of all associated NGOs fell out of the active participatory arrangement. Furthermore, as a result of the new regulations in 1995, almost exclusively UNESCO-created NGOs remained in the highest and most privileged category of relations.

In sum, UNESCO?s relationship to NGOs shows two particularities. First, many of UNESCO?s associated NGOs do not stem from private initiative (unlike what UNESCO documents suggest), they are created by the IGO itself. Secondly, the Directives 1995 do not illustrate the global tendency of the growth of NGOs. On the contrary, the number of accredited NGOs became significantly reduced.

Concluding Remarks

The aim of this study was to make a contribution to the analysis of NGOs in international relations. Since NGOs maintain official relations with international governmental organisations, such as UNESCO, IGOs provide an accessible point to observe the ?phenomenon NGO?. The case study on the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO suggests a further exploration of IGO profits as a result of linkages between NGOs and IGOs. The particular relationship between NGOs and UNESCO is not a reflection of the growing importance of NGOs in international politics; it is rather the result of their establishment by the IGO itself and the reform process the IGO is going through in order to improve its effectiveness. Consequently, NGOs are merely in an assisting role for the IGO. That UNESCO?s new directives particularly favour their self-created NGOs supports the argument.

In conclusion, the relationship between NGOs and IGOs is multiform and needs further empirical and theoretical exploration. The findings of this work on NGOs at UNESCO demonstrate that more research has to be done on the nature of associated NGOs, their origins and individual relations to IGOs since these aspects are highly important in order to analyse the character of NGOs and their status in world politics.


*      This research has been partly made possible through the provision of the Harold Howitt Travelling Scholarship of the University of Nottingham (April?98).

1 & 2.  For the purposes of this study, NGOs will be defined as ?any non-profit-making, non-violent, organised group of people who are not seeking governmental office?(Willetts 1996a:5).

3.  Some scholars retrace the history of NGOs to the Middle Ages. For example, Bettati and Dupuy interpret religious and commercial associations, such as the Holy Order or the Han-se-atic League of Merchants as NGOs since they were not founded on any governmental ba-sis (1986:23-33); for Czempiel, the Catholic Church represents an international NGO even since the 4th century (1981:164). As the prototype of mod-ern NGOs, Williams identifies the Anti-Slavery Society (1823) (1987:260). For a comprehensive histori-cal overview on NGOs in the last two centuries, see Seary (1996); his survey reflects the development of NGOs from the congress of Vienna in 1814/15 to the founding period of the UN. For NGOs after the First World War, see also Clark (1991:34-40). Ghils summarises pre-modern transnational movements (1992:417-9).

4.  For newer, rare exceptions of analyses of other NGO aspects and UN bodies, see Willetts (1996e). This edition includes single chapters on NGOs in relation to the World Bank, NGOs and the rights of the child and Save the Children Fund and NGOs. See also Weiss/ Gordenker (1996) edition, which included chap-ters on humani-tarian intervention, women?s movement, Third World NGOs and NGOs, UN and Central America.

5.  Rare exceptions of research on NGOs and UNESCO are Papini (1976), Goldbach (1995) and Hoggart (1996). However, they do not consider the 1995 re-classification of NGOs

6.   Provisional directives were already adopted at the first session of the General Conference in 1946; they became revised in 1947. Minor changes were also made in 1960 (Directives 1960) (Goldbach 1995:36; Sto-sic 1964:268/9).

7.  Accredited NGOs are listed under UNESCO?s NGO Partners (1998).

8.  Major examples of UNESCO creations are: the International Council on Ar-chives, the World Conserva-tion Union, the Inter-national Thea-tre Institute (all created in 1948), the International Council for Philosophy and Hu-manistic Studies, the International Music Council (1949), the International Association of Universi-ties (1950), the International So-cial Science Council (1952), the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Edu-ca-tion, the International Brain Research Organisation (1960), the International Institute for Educational Plan-ning (1963), see La-coste (1994); Merkel (1996), UNESCO Sources (1996) and Kotsch-nig (1957). One of the latest examples of UNESCO?s creations is the Expert Center for Taxo-nomic Iden-tifica-tion, which became established in 1990 with support of UNESCO (Doc. 151 EX/ONG.2 Add 1997).

9.   It is worth noting, that the impact of the first Director-General of UNESCO, Julian Huxley was of highest importance for the development of the relationship between NGOs and UNESCO. Huxley favoured a role for NGOs which would heavily involve them in UNESCO?s procedures and activities, since he assumed that NGOs were less bound to bu-reau-cratic procedures than UNESCO (Hoggart 1996:105/6; Kotschnig 1957:555; Sewell 1975:89). In particular, Huxley himself created many of UNESCO?s clos-est NGOs (Sew-ell 1975:300).

10.   ICSU ? although often referred to as an NGO ? is not purely non-gov-ernmental in character. It rather en-compasses governments, governmental officials, other in-tergovernmental organisa-tions and non-govern-mental organi-sations (Morphet 1996:118). Today, its membership consists of 20 in-ternational scientific un-ions, 74 national members and 29 scientific self-governing organisations (Lacoste 1994:30).

11.   For current projects between ICSU and UNESCO, see ICSU Yearbook (1997:283).

12.  Besides, NGOs are frequently taken into account in UNESCO?s Constitution: un-der certain conditions ? mainly the requirement of a two-third majority of states present and voting ? non-governmental organisa-tions can be admitted as ob-servers at specified sessions of the General Conference (Greenbook 1996:35). They may also make statements on matters within their competence in the com-mittees, commissions or sub-sidiary organs of the Gen-eral Conference, if the Chair agrees (Greenbook 1996:51). Non-governmen-tal or-ganisa-tions at UNESCO are allowed to hold conferences (Greenbook 1996:107) and to attend inter-national congresses (Greenbook 1996:110). The Director-General might also invite non-governmen-tal or-ganisations to send observers to seminars, training, refresher courses (Greenbook 1996:116) or symposia (Greenbook 1996:119). Further-more, the Constitution advises na-tional commissions to establish consul-tative re-lations with NGOs (Greenbook 1996:122).

13.  Bibliographical indications refer to Directives 1995.

14.   The conditions for admission to Operational Relation are rather relaxed. The above men-tioned conditions (non governmental character) are not applicable for Operational Rela-tions.

15.   Geographical representativeness was measured in a complex matrix divided into six sec-tions, one for the home country where headquarters is based and five for the geographical re-gions (Africa, Asian-Pacific, Ara-bic Countries, Latin-American Countries, Europe) on the x-axis, and up to 15 indicators on the y-axis (e.g. location of headquarters, headquarters re-gion, governing body, members, statutory meetings, work-shop/seminar, field action, events, publi-cation, miscellaneous, prizes, radio, TV, grants, fellowship). Demo-cratic legitimacy was measured on the general policy, composition and rules of the governing body, funding, re-presentation arrangements with different countries. Status of co-operation with UNESCO was measured on keeping UNESCO regularly informed about the NGO?s activities, the NGO?s expertise in major fields in common with UNESCO?s interests, expected profit of future co-operation with the NGO (Doc. 151 EX/ONG.2 (Part II-Individual fact sheets); Doc. 151 EX/ONG.2. Add (Part II-Individual fact sheets)).

16.   The twelve NGOs are: the International Association of Universities, the International Council for Phi-losophy and Humanistic Studies, the International Council of Museums, the International Theatre Insti-tute, the World Conversation Union, the International Music Council, International Council of Sports and Physical Educa-tion, Interna-tional Council on Monuments and Sites, International Sci-ence Council, World Federation on UNESCO Clubs, Centers and Associations, Interna-tional Council for Engineering and Tech-nology. The re-maining 3 cases are Education Inter-na-tional, International Federation for Information and Documenta-tion, International Fed-eration of Library Associations and Institutions (Doc.: BRX-97/WS/12, An-nex II:1).


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