The perception by the public, politicians or academics of the role of NGOs with regard to social policy in general, and social quality in particular, is often incoherent. Although these organisations are widely appreciated and supported, there are no clear views on their often contradictory role in the democratic process, and they are defined in narrow, yet widely differing ways. NGOs are usually not addressed in the analysis of broader approaches of social-policy arrangements, and their study is mainly concerned with organisational perspectives, sometimes viewing them as economic entities rather than as social actors. NGOs have also been largely ignored in the analysis of social quality. This is clearly shown in the first publications to come out of the 'Social Quality Initiative', in which most of the contributions fail to regard NGOs as a specific subject, and the few which do mostly look at organisational issues.
Reflections on the Perspectives of NGOs in the Process of European Intregration
A New Epoch of Cosmopolitanism for Larger Freedom?
Since the mid-1990s, the international norms for global development have been redefined under non-governmental organizations’ (NGOs) critical e-mobilizations, powered by new media. International governmental organizations (IGOs) have been forced to make policy adjustments or concessions, resulting in new IGOs-NGOs policy regimes for consultative consensus building and for protecting people’s economic, social, and cultural rights (ESC) for enhancing social quality. This paper examines the emerging cosmopolitanism in the information age, focusing on NGOs’ advocacy networks, to understand the new media-enhanced participatory regime for global governance. It also illustrates a new form of social participation, as promoted by social quality theory, in the age of e-globalization and the information society. The paper has five parts. After outlining the globalization project threatening ESC rights, the second section examines critical engagements of NGOs and IGOs for human rights promotion. Parts three and four discuss, respectively, the struggles for ESC rights in shaping new ethics and norms for global development, and the variations of new social media mobilization. The paper ends with critical remarks on the project for larger freedom and human rights for all.
A Study in Social Cohesion
This article examines willingness to join China's emerging green movement through an analysis of data from the China General Social Survey of 2006. A question asked about environmental NGO membership shows that while only 1 percent of respondents claim to be members of an environmental NGO, more than three-fifths say they would like to join one in future if there is an opportunity, slightly less than one-fifth reject the idea and the remainder are “don't knows.” The article tests explanations of willingness to join based on instrumentality, ideology, social identity and social capital networks. It finds that instrumental considerations dominate, although ideology, identity and networks contribute incrementally. The conclusion considers the usefulness of willingness to join as an indicator of social cohesion within the framework of a wider effort to evaluate social quality.
This paper examines the emergence in Sri Lanka of transcultural thinking about environmental issues as well as the activism it engenders by examining the role of the Anglophone Sri Lankan elite as the chief protagonists historically of environmentalism in the country. It also examines one of Sri Lanka's leading NGOs, Environmental Foundation Ltd. (EFL) as an example of the activism of this class. EFL's perspective on environmental issues has its origins in the transformations wrought by colonialism in the country's class structure and in the introduction of European ideas of nature to the country's newly emergent middle-class. Modelled on the Natural Resources Defense Council of the United States, EFL was a new kind of environmental organization in Sri Lanka and a response to globalization and Sri Lanka's increasing integration into the global economy. Unlike the handful of environmental NGOS that existed in the late seventies, which were essentially pressure groups, EFL was conceived, on the model of NRDC, as a public interest law firm, and drew on international models to frame its arguments about the application of the law in the cause of environmental protection. This paper examines how these various factors—the social class of the activists and the processes of institution building—shaped a cosmopolitan environmental discourse in Sri Lanka whose roots lie in urban Sri Lankan middle class culture as it emerged and was transformed during colonial rule and in the various discourses of globalization that have been drawn on by Sri Lankan activists to craft their own arguments.
Étude de cas des associations en milieu urbain
Solange Ngo Yebga
*Full article is in French
English abstract: The notion of civil society became popular and generalized in Africa during the 1990s, through the initiatives of international bodies like the World Bank and agencies for international development. In Cameroon, the economic recession caused by the deterioration of exchange rates and falling prices of agricultural raw materials (coffee, cocoa, and co on) has favored the emergence of these actors alongside the state in managing and improving the living conditions of those urban populations. In the field of reproductive health, civil society, through associations, is pursuing public orientation through services of education, promotion, and diffusion. Observing the Association for the Struggle against Violence against Women (ALFV in French) ALFV and Women, Health, and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa (FESADE in French) shows how a health policy is operationalized via endogenous initiatives. This research, which is mainly empirical, was conducted between 2006 and 2009 with institutional health managers and managers of associative structures in Yaoundé and throughout Cameroon.
Spanish abstract: La noción de sociedad civil se populariza y vulgariza en África hacia los años 90 bajo la iniciativa de instancias internacionales como el Banco Mundial y las agencias de desarrollo. En Camerún, la recesión económica debida a la caída de las tasas de cambio y a la baja en las materias primas agrícolas (café, cacao, algodón) favoreció la emergencia de dicha sociedad paralelamente al Estado en la gestión y mejoramiento de las condiciones de vida de las poblaciones urbanas. Por ejemplo, en el campo de la salud reproductiva, la sociedad civil, en la forma de asociaciones, lleva a cabo acciones públicas a través de los servicios de educación, promoción y difusión. La observación de los ejemplos de la Asociación para la Lucha contra la Violencia contra la Mujer (ALVF en francés) y de Mujer, Salud y Desarrollo en el África subsahariana (FESADE en francés) permite ver cómo se operativiza una política de salud a través de iniciativas endógenas. Esta investigación esencialmente empírica fue desarrollada entre 2006 y 2009 con los responsables institucionales de salud y con los responsables de las estructuras asociativas de Yaoundé y Camerún.
French abstract: La notion de société civile se popularise et se vulgarise en Afrique vers les années 90 à l'initiative d'instances internationales comme la Banque mondiale et des agences d'aide au développement. Au Cameroun, la récession économique due à la détérioration des termes de l'échange et à la chute des prix des matières premières agricoles (café, cacao, coton) a favorisé l'émergence de cet intervenant aux côtés de l'Etat dans la gestion et l'amélioration des conditions de vie des populations urbaines. Dans le domaine de la santé reproductive, la société civile, sous la forme d'associations par exemple, poursuit les orientations publiques à travers des services d'éducation, de promotion et de diffusion. En observant les exemples de l'ALVF et de la FESADE, nous étudions comment s'opérationnalise une politique de santé à travers des initiatives endogènes. Ce e recherche, essentiellement empirique, a été menée entre 2006 et 2009 auprès de responsables institutionnels de santé et de responsables des structures associatives à Yaoundé et dans d'autres villes du Cameroun.
How Public Anthropology Provides Guidelines for Advocacy Networks
Current transnational networks of non-governmental organizations and social movements have challenged nation-states' policy designs. Their increasing political legitimacy, however, is matched by cultural friction and misunderstandings among their members and stakeholders. This paper argues that anthropological insights may provide maps that can help shape advocacy networks' guidelines for action. Just as social analysts of past centuries provided the language and imagined forms of social organization from systematic examinations of events, anthropologists can help explain current relations and processes within fluid structures in order to improve their practices and results. This idea is illustrated by the examination of a single socio-environmental advocacy network in the Brazilian Amazon: 'Y Ikatu Xingu. This network was chosen because it brings together stakeholders from contrasting backgrounds, thus highlighting its intercultural challenges. Some members of the convening NGOs were anthropologists, whose work is focused on helping bridge understandings of environment and coexistence. The network was therefore strongly influenced by anthropological insights.
Anthropological knowledge production in question
This article draws out some of the implications of the fact that what anthropologists claim to know, or want to say, is unavoidably and in complicated ways bound by the ethics of involvement, detachment, and institutional location. I will first consider the increasingly common practice of circulating the output of anthropological research within the social context of its fieldwork, among the various research participants and interlocutors. Second, I will try to account for the sometimes negative reception of ethnographic accounts, especially where the research has focused on organizations (e.g., NGOs), activists, or others professionally concerned with public representations of their work. Third, I will reconsider the notion of “speaking truth to power” by pointing to the unacknowledged power of ethnographic description. Finally, I will suggest that ethical concerns are generated as much by the theoretical framing of research as by fieldwork practice, and that these are matters of choice rather than inherent in the ethnographic method.
Marja Spierenburg, Conrad Steenkamp and Harry Wels
The Great Limpopo is one of the largest Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in the world, encompassing vast areas in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The TFCA concept is embraced by practically all (international) conservation agencies. The rationale for the support is that the boundaries of ecosystems generally do not overlap with those of the nation-state. Their protection requires transnational cooperation. By arguing that local communities living in or close to TFCAs will participate and benefit economically, TFCA proponents claim social legitimacy for the project. However, analysis shows that communities first have to live up to rigid standards and requirements set by the international conservation authorities, before they are considered ‘fit’ to participate. Communities attempt to resist this type of marginalization by forming alliances with (inter)national development and human rights NGOs, with mixed results.
The Role of Government Agencies, NGOs, and Local Communities in Western Australia
Leonie van der Maesen and Timothy Cadman
This article details the engagement by the Department of Physical Geography of Utrecht University in the Netherlands with rural communities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to assist them in gaining a better understanding of the environmental impacts of the management practices of the governmental forest authorities of the state of Western Australia in pursuit of international timber exports. The study commences with a description of the unique characteristics of WA’s forest communities. It continues with an account of governmental international forest policy norms and the discourse of sustainable forest management (SFM). This is followed by a delineation of the interactions between the academic community and civil society in their engagement with governmental departments in arguing the case for conservation. The final section makes some concluding observations on the lessons that can be learned from the failure of the state government to ensure the sustainable management of the forests of Western Australia.
Audit cultures and the weakening of public sector health systems
Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.