Conscience of the World: The Influence of Non-governmental Organisations in the UN System: The Influence of Nongovernmental Organizations at the United Nations

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9780815794196: Conscience of the World: The Influence of Non-governmental Organisations in the UN System: The Influence of Nongovernmental Organizations at the United Nations
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Private groups, such as Amnesty International and Save the Children Fund, have had a formal consultative status with the United Nations since its founding. Such groups--known as nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs--have come to exert considerable influence on the UN's agenda setting, decisionmaking, and policy implementation. This book examines the role of the NGOs in world politics and the accomplishments of selected groups dealing with the environment, women's rights, children's problems, human rights, and refugee and famine crises.

Although these organizations and the UN generally act as partners and collaborators, there are also some tensions, as the NGOs do not have voting status and must remain independent and innovative. In the area of human rights, in particular, the NGOs have applied slow but steady pressure to force the UN to institute real sanctions against individual governments, thus earning the title "conscience of the world."

Contributors are Seamus Cleary, formerly at the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development; Jane Connors, senior lecturer in law at London University and specialist in women's rights; Helena Cook, former legal officer of Amnesty International; Richard Hoggart, former assistant director-general of UNESCO; Michael Longford, UK representative to several international groups; Sally Morphet, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Angela Penrose, Save the Children Fund; John Sankey, former UK representative to the UN in Geneva; John Seaman, Save the Children Fund; Bill Seary, formerly at the National Council for Voluntary Organizations; Henry Steel, leader of the UK delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission; and Douglas Williams, former deputy secretary of the UK Ministry of Overseas Development.

Copublished with the David Davies Memorial Institute of International Studies Available through Brookings in North America only

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NGO activity in the 1990s is often claimed to be unprecedented, yet it is not so new. The first victory by NGOs in the UN was fifty years ago, when they obtained provision in the UN Charter for their own participation with 'consultative status'. Since then their influence has grown steadily, to cover all the work of the Economic and Social Council, along with the operational programmes in developing countries, the specialised agencies and UN conferences. They have also been important in the fields of human rights, disaster relief, development and the environment. But what is an NGO? What are the historical roots? How do NGOs gain recognition at the UN and at conferences? What rights of participation do NGOs have and how do they gain influence? All these questions are answered in this book, which should banish any idea that the UN system is simply a centre for professional diplomats. Global civil society, expressed through the NGOs, is as much a part of UN politics as pressure group activity is a part of the domestic politics of a democracy.

About the Author:

Peter Willetts is a reader in international relations at City University in London, UK.

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9780815794202: The Conscience of the World: The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations in the UN System

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