The Rising Influence of NGOs in Environmental and Human Security Policy Making Marcus P. Williamson May 2009
The establishment of public policy is shifting. Since its central development in the aftermath of the post-Westphalian feudal world, the policies employed by sovereign states are no longer the implemented opinions of the few and unelected elites protecting state sovereignty but is now forced to include the will of all interested peoples. The system of government has been replaced from the consistency of an established selective monarchy to that of liberal democracies held responsible to the subjective will of their constituents.
With this shift in authority from the ultimate right of the state to the enlightened power of the individual has arisen a new power structure. The capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop influence with none of the liability that comes with the responsibility of state government allows for single-issue actors to develop their own agendas while remaining outside of the direct influence of the nation as a whole. The premise of an NGO is simple. It is defined as an actor in public politics that is not government or state sponsored. They have no direct responsibilities to the state and its mandate to survival, and no requirements to meet the expectation to provide all levels of security to the public. These low levels of requirement to accountability allow for extreme abilities in thought and development. The inception to focus on single issues of policy can have extremely beneficial
results, and their lack of required majority public support in a liberalized democratic system enables for outlying radical and reactionary policies to be investigated and developed.
As such, non-governmental organizations have many times played themselves out of political viability in the eyes of the public. Extreme measures acted out in the name of environmental protection or animal rights have received scrutiny in the eyes of many and led to the lack of influence across political boundaries. Despite the unsuccessful development of some NGOs, there still remains the strength of others to directly impact the policy decisions of states and individuals alike. Their individual positions have received followings around the world, and crossed the boundaries of state established frontiers to unite peoples of different backgrounds to follow the policies that they have implemented and exercise. These international NGOs (INGOs) have been on the rise in recent times. Their ability to cross state boundaries to include actors and individuals that are regionally and globally based has strengthened their power and resolve. The institutions of state have had to directly engage the groups and their policies, or are potentially subject to popular disengagement.
This development of modern Sovereignty-Free Actors (SFAs) has led to direct implication in the world that we now live in1. They have brought strength to disparate viewpoints, and forced recognition for essential issues to all peoples around the world. This rise in NGO power has seen the might of a few places the issue to the many in a situation that has for centuries been the privilege of only large governments to enact. With the lack of accountability that NGOs and SFAs operate under, the shift of state power has been put into check. The ideas of public governance are once again experiencing a paradigm shift from the accountability of the state, to the ultimate influence of the state itself. 1
To understand the difference between NGOs and SFAs, Rosenau (2006) notes that NGOs typically establish single issue concerns and reactions while SFAs tend to shift their focus on various issues to meet the needs of a recognized agenda, thereby advancing their goals and desires.
With this situation on the rise around the globe, the abilities of SFA or NGO influence is on the rise in all areas of public policy. It is therefore the position of this paper that due to the rise of NGO influence and lowered state strength in international policy, a shift from the practicality of theoretical Realism is now leaving the modern world in favor of a new Postinternational system. The issues of environmental policy and human security policy are two directly comparable case studies of the power of INGOs. Their development has directly compromised the absolute authority of states as the sole actors in world politics. The investigation of each set of influences confirms the slipping power of states to institute policy making and reform, and demands that the ability of these states are subject to their growing influence and capability. The essay will then conclude with a discussion of international relations in the Post-international world in a system of rising NGO influence.
Shifting Non-state Influence on Environmental Policy
The issue of the environment, and particularly that of climate change, is one that has been growing in importance over the past 30 years. With significant changes to climatologically patterns emerging, the actual shift in regional security has been compromised. This impact has had effects in all areas of life, from economic to human security, and has elevated its importance in the arena of international public policy (Khagram and Ali 2008)2.
Khagram and Ali (Ibid) continue to investigate the system of networks that establish the shifting focus of governance from state led actors to other forms through influence within and outside of traditional government methods, noting that the agreements between NGOs and SFAs outside of state controlled regimes have added a new element to global policy development that extends beyond traditional Realist policy ideology.
Within the development of such policy, the role of international organizations has been on the rise (Porter et al. 2000). The development of global conferences and summits have brought together the leaders of all states and individual scientists to review environmental trends, as well as discuss future strategy to be implemented to keep these disastrous effects in check. The powers of NGOs are not lost in these engagements conducted by states and IOs, however. To the contrary, the impact that these organizations have on the development of policy at both the state and global level has been on the rise (Ibid.).
NGO influence at these international gatherings has demanded reflection on the development of public policy. At the Kyoto Conference surrounding the turn of the century, the impact of these groups in their ability to focus and provide research in the specific areas being attended to allowed for a much greater focus than individual states that to do not necessarily have the capacity to devote the necessary resources demanded by such a focus (Simonis and Bruhl 2002). The resulting impact is the discussion led by independent actors outside the traditional demands of sovereign states to uniquely provide education and policy initiative that can determine the outcomes of future action. If the role of a NGO at IO conferences is as such, their importance cannot be negated.
As the importance of individual NGOs on state policy through summits is so influential to the policy of a state, the ability of NGOs within a single state cannot be ignored either. With the impact of NGOs on developing political party policy, and the reaction of these parties as NGOs themselves, the increase of â€žGreen Partiesâ€&#x; into the arena of governmental electability has forced more traditional political parties to include policy similar to those of Green Parties into their platform (Carter 2001). This forced recognition in
order to maintain the voter utility function through policy and issue maintenance has shifted the actions of these partisan politicians once they have been elected to office. Their responsibility to not only their constituency, but their re-electability has drawn many into enacting pro-environmental legislation and policy. The execution of which may have some backlash with limited blocks of the public and potential fundraising efforts, but as the control of the issues game in the media fora determines the outcomes of voter utility, re-election becomes a realistic achievement (Downs 1957).
The importance of NGO actors in the developing global environmental policy is not set by the standards of states, but by independent groups operating within and between territory divides. The aspect of a global issue is not one of traditional state survival, but of personal potential. With this ability, the state is not interested in the standard Realist perspective of governmental sovereignty and control, but subject to the needs of all people around the globe. Such a determination away from the historically important role of the state provides the necessary factors for determining the lessening applicability of Realism, and the need for a different academic theory to guide the study of global politics.
Non-state Actor Influence on Human Security Policy
The aspect of human security policy may be one of the most obvious sectors of public policy that displays this new reform from the center of Realistic tendencies. With historical military might coming from predominately state actors, the current policy of political science with regard to armed conflict derives itself from late renaissance period literature as defined by the likes of Richelieu and Machiavelli. With the definition of the state as the primary actor controlling the populations of their states through a combination of hard and soft power
in the time of predominately monarchical and feudal systems, the development of democratic states and enlightened ideas have shifted the power from the governing elite, to the manipulation of that elite itself by smaller groups within populations.
Understanding the direct strength that a central government has over many aspects of their constituencies lives, the ability to enact sweeping policies that affect both domestic and foreign affairs is one that on first glance lies with the ability of this situation3. It is the situation that develops through democracies that position people in places of power with the ability to manipulate agendas through these representatives of the state that have seen the shift in central tenants of Realism to the Post-international age. The abilities of manipulation that happen within the government itself makes for a new situation that plays directly into the ideas established previously, but outside of the hierarchical systems that dominate the scene.
Beyond this idea, it is the ability of individual non-state actors to influence policy and events themselves in human security. The development of armed violent conflict since the end of the bilateral Cold War scenario has involved the SFAs to a higher level due to the lessening interest and abilities of major state powers around the world. With the end of the proxy war influence, individual groups have resorted to violence to establish their claims on various issues using a variety of techniques in order to do so. This implementation has not brought about affects on the groups who are resorting to these methods to institute change, but international groups and organizations have worked with the states directly in order to resolve these problems. Ignoring the direct causation of the conflict by instituting consequences at the state level and not local level has little effect is dissuading the aggression 3
This omits the major situation created by „failed states‟, or those without a strong central government to enforce security. These „failed states‟ are reviewed and published annually by Foreign Policy Magazine. These numbers are also evaulated by The Fund for Peace, and have been written about extensively by Chomsky (2006), Ghani and Lockhart (2008), and Hoffman (2006).
displayed by these SFAs, and will continue to do so as long as this method of policy implementation is used.
The shift in public policy establishment away from the state to other groups has forced the essential conception of engagement of human security away from the traditional definitions of warfare into a new direction. Established as Fourth Generation Warfare4, the needs of the state and individuals living within their boundaries are under pressure from a new type of security. The theory of Fourth Generation Warfare has been identified by Lind et Al. (1989) and Benbow (2008). The main points of this growing identification of warfare are the essential shifting from the strengths of state led militaries to developing a form of conflict that strikes at many different levels of the establishment. Hammes (1994) outlines the tactical traits to 4GW. He notes that 4GW tends to:
Be complex and long term;
Include elements of terrorism;
Be fought across the spectrum of political, social, economic, and military networks, particularly on that of an enemy‟s culture resulting in sophisticated psychological warfare;
Be fought in a complex arena of low-intensity conflict involving actors from all networks;
Involve a mix of national, international, transnational, and sub-national actors;
Situated with a non-national or transnational base, i.e.: highly decentralized;
The first three generations of warfare have been identified by Lind et al. (Ibid) as: 1st Generation: tactics of line and column; which developed in the age of the smoothbore musket. 2nd Generation: tactics of linear fire and movement, with reliance on indirect fire. 3rd Generation: tactics of infiltration to bypass and collapse the enemy's combat forces rather than seeking to close with and destroy them; and defense in depth.
Be fought worldwide through these networks.
With a general inability to effectively fight a war on the levels of major state powers, deflecting the focus of conflict to violent military engagement to factors more favorable to smaller actors. The development of this type of engagement will prolong the planned effects of engagement made by the major state and result in a lower estimation of a cost to benefit ratio. Making the traditional battlefield irrelevant shifts these SFAs into a stronger position, more likely to achieve their goals.
With this, groups such as the United States (US) military have made adaptations to this evolving type of warfare. Artelli and Deckro (2008) have made notice of the change in the US Doctrine for Joint Operations to re-align the timing of certain phases of the „Military Operations Other Than War‟ (MOOTW), including the essential development of defining war itself into a broader perspective that includes aspects previously described as „situations short of war that require US military forces‟. Barno (2006) realizes the challenges to future military engagements, noting the idea of a „long war‟ that will challenge the willingness of democratic actors to engage in conflict over a period of many years. This perception has been the defining component of United States foreign policy in recent years, moving in a new direction from state on state conflict, and is expected to continue well into the 21st Century.
The rise of NGO importance in these issue areas has led to the shifting of importance of state actors of the world stage. While still a necessary part of modern existence, the state‟s role has been compromised by both the level of responsibility to their citizenry and the
development of NGO and SFA capability in the modern world. This acceptance of world politics has demanded that the academic study of the relations of all groups of the globe be approached in a new light. The limitations established by Realism through states as the primary actors in modern affairs leaves gaps that provide instability and unreliable conclusions drawn from data when applied in such a format.
As such, the beginning stages of this decline in state power do seem like a pipe-dream to some. The example of the fall of the Soviet Empire without a hard power intervention from a major state to invoke governmental change and policy shifts can be taken as proof enough, and one that has the potential to be applied to the future power of other major states as well. Understanding the reforming functional ability of the state system is one that must be considered when investigating the policy implementation of actors at all angles of the global network. The stepladder approach to understanding the hierarchy of state led organizations is one that is out of date, and must be relearned as the ability for SFAs continues to further their reach in the future.
The rise of such NGOs and sovereignty-free actors has direct consequences on the way in which policy is conducted as well the necessary legislation and enforcement of laws are limited to the functioning ability of the state, but are not the only method in which wide spread change can happen. With NGOs representing the interest of groups of individuals, their continued influence should come not only by attempting to change the way that governments act, but in the method of perceived and established norms within culture and society itself. That is not to say that continued influence in government is no longer necessary, but that an added approach to the manipulation of popular belief outside of legal and government enforced policy should be contracted as well.
The combined power of versatility, focus, influence, and overall ability of NGOs has made them a dominant force in the modern world. Their specific focus onto issues of international public policy is not one that is likely to go away at any point in the near future. As new issues develop in importance to global affairs and others are resolved, the continuation of independent progression in organizational development will allow for their continued success for quite some time.
While the importance of the state will not disappear overnight, the concepts with which modern political establishments are executed through are changing. With the role of the state to provide essential services and good such as environmental protection and human security to their citizens, the ability to trust in reform to come from these NGOs and SFAs to implement and pressure policy change is a situation that must be understood. The development of communications in recent globalization allows for international public policy to be implemented without the absolute rule of a local government, and allows for the enlightened abilities of individuals to enact their own perceptions outside of their local communities with far greater effectiveness if given the ability.
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