The Developing Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Global Policy and Law Making
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The history of international relations in the twentieth century may appear principally to be the story of the state. At the same time, the history of international relations in the twentieth century is also one of international organizations as a means to support and strengthen the state's ability to discharge its primary functions of promoting order in the international system and ensuring the security of its own citizens. An even more aggressive approach to meeting the needs of states is through aid programs like the UN Development Program. These international organizations were created by governments, usually by treaty, to address common needs and problems through common institutions and methods. States created international organizations to supplement state functions and thereby ensure their continued existence. The most dramatic example of this is the collective security provisions of the UN Charter, which provide that when one member is attacked or is a victim of aggression, all other member states are committed to come to its defense. In the late twentieth century, with the increase in transborder communication and activity, the emergence of global problems, and limited financial resources, states and the international organizations they created still appear inadequate to meet new demands. A driving force is the expressed and organized desire of individuals to exercise "greater control of decision-making in issues which directly affect their lives." This desire for direct action confronts governmental institutions and authorities which appear inadequate or unable to address various problems--environmental protection, economic and political development, human rights, for example. These are areas in which single-minded commitment to an issue, claims to moral authority, and specific expertise may be highly effective. Developments in technology and communication help by supporting far flung networks of individuals who would otherwise have difficulty staying in touch to develop common strategies and positions. Such networks now also have the financial and professional resources to further their goals. Voluntary organizations of individuals may command greater credibility in areas where governments have been discredited by their past actions; such groups may be able to extend scarce resources by organizing and mobilizing individuals on a volunteer basis, and may be more accessible and closer to the people at the community, neighborhood or village level. As a result, both states and international organizations now seek the assistance of non-governmental organizations to supplement their efforts. In this context, "NGO's are emerging as a special set of organizations that are private in form but public in their purpose." Lester Saloman writes that the NGO phenomenon is a response to a complex set of pressures: "from 'below' in the form of spontaneous grass-roots energies, from the 'outside' through the actions of various public and private institutions, and from 'above' in the form of government policies."toring compliance as a sort of new world police force." This increased role is encouraged by the nature of the issues faced by states and citizens today, issues which are not responsive to centralized decision-making and a preponderance of power, but which are long-range, open-ended and diffuse in their need for attention. The adaptability of the state to meet new situations and work with differing political structures and dynamics is indicative of its resilience and continued durability as a political concept and factor.
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