The power of international NGOs (INGOs) was first visible at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, when about 2,400 representatives of NGOs came to play a significant role in the summit. The agenda of the INGOs were uniting the people across the world and working on some common concerns that could not be tackled by only one country, one government or one group of citizens.
These problems could be tackled only through common strategies, and a merging of energies. This was more than evident when global NGOs launched a campaign to pressurize governments to draft an agreement to ban the production, the stockpiling, and the export of landmines. Almost 1,000 transnational NGOs coordinated and participated in the campaign through the Internet.Even though the landmine campaign is one of the most important cases we need to look at concerning the role of civil society, there are also some other events that could be somehow evident that such a society exists.THE SEATTLE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION PROTESTSThe first example we are providing is the Seattle World Trade Organization Protests which took in 1999 and was namely called as ‘The Battle of Seattle.’ Some authors consider this event as the most dramatic manifestation of the global civil society.
(Chandhoke, 2015)According to Chandhoke, there were approximately 700 organizations, and about 40,000 students, workers, NGOs, religious groups and representatives of business and finance; however some people argue that the estimated number of protestors were somewhere in between 50.000 people to 100.000. (Shah, 2001) Even though the protest took place in Seattle, the protesters were coming from all around the world, rather than only developed countries. There were many groups such as human rights advocates, students, environmental groups, religious leaders, labor rights activists etc. who wanted a fairer trade and less exploitation. According to Shah (2001), there were even groups from right-wing protectionist groups arguing against the current free trade that was led by corporates.
The fact that World Trade Organization was to set in motion a new multilateral round of trade negotiations, these groups of people came all together. Their collective anger at the relocation of industries to the South, at the unsafe and abusive work conditions in the factories and sweatshops found there, at environmental degradation, and at widespread exploitation, which exploded in a series of angry demonstrations, brought this to a stop. These demonstrations were called by some scholars as “globalization from below” or as the herald of a new internationalism (Kaldor,2000).This event had many significant points. It was the first time single-issue groups came together and launched a broad-based movement to challenge the way the world trade and financial system was being ordered by international institutions. Secondly, they targeted global corporations and international economic institutions, came together against the intensified inequality and injustice that globalization had brought. (Chanbroke, 2005) Moreover, The Seattle WTO protests were one of the first major international mobilizationsto be coordinated via the Internet. While 400,000 people took part via the internet, more than 40,000 protesters were in Seattle to oppose everything from specific WTO policies to free trade and the human rights failures of globalization.
(Sawicki,2017)Afterwards, mass protests have become a regular feature of annual meetings of the World Economic Forum, the IMF and the World Bank, and the WTO. At the same time it has been seen that the students across university campuses demonstrating against the unethical practices of large corporations such as Nike, Reebok, the Gap, and Disney, which use cheap labour in the Third World. Novel methods and vocabularies of protests captured the attention of the international media and generated considerable excitement at the idea of renewed political activism. And the phrase ‘global civil society’ became an integral part of political, corporate, and technical vocabularies. (Chandbroke, 2005)THE INDEPENDENT EAST TIMOR RALLIESThe second event we would like to mention is the Independent East Timor rallies in 1991. When the Indonesian military had massacred more than 150 people in a funeral procession in Dili, East Timor in 1991, transnational human rights organizations got together against the political abuses of the Suharto regime. As the pressure that was put by these organizations was massive, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands froze economic aid to Indonesia, and the US, Japan, and the World Bank later threatened similar measures. In late 1997 the country was faced with an economic crisis and mass protests led to the resignation of Suharto.
Therefore, it is important as the transnational human rights organizations had managed to dismiss a regime on the ground that it was not respecting the basic rights of its people. Moreover, INGOs have established a set of compelling principles which aim to build an international consensus on how states should or should not treat their own citizens across national borders and territorially bound sovereignties. In conclusion, the event did not only concern the people of East Timor, but it had a global scene and the fact that INGOs10set principles how and how not to a state should behave, is something that does not only concern East Timor but all states in general.However, some scholars present contradictions to the global civil society, arguing whether they are really ‘global.’ Firstly, Smith (2005) states that the civil society is highly concentrated in the western countries; therefore, it does not fully represent some parts of the world. In effect, ”60% of the secretariats of NGOs are located in the European Union (EU), and 22 out of the 25 most active countries participating in NGOs can be considered western/industrialised states.
France, for instance, lodges more than 3,500 NGOs, whereas in states such as Oman and North Korea were situated in average less than 160 in 2005. ”As a counter-argument, we have collected some data from various resources. First of all, when we look at the current registered civil society actors to the United Nations from the ECOSOC database, we see that most of the organizations are firstly from Africa 10943, and followed by Asia with 9263 registered organizations. Even though the intergovernmental organizations are also concluded in the total number of civil society actors, and in this study we do not consider them as civil society actors, they only constitute 416 organizations and this number do not create a change in the majority of the organizations by region.
In other words, if we exclude intergovernmental organizations from the table, Africa is still the first region with the biggest number of registered organizations and still followed by Asia as the second region.Consequently, unlike Smith’s assumptions, actually the other regions rather than ‘the West’ (Europe America) seemed more visible in the events concerning the global civil society. In addition, if the data had proven us wrong, it still would not have mean that the global society was ‘Western.
‘ As long as there is a presence from the other groups, either physically or online, either permanent or occasional, these groups in general would constitute a society. The representation could be problematic, however it would not exclude them from the global civil society we are talking about.Visuals taken from the study of Mario Pianta, ”Parallel Summits of The Global Civil Society.
”The GLOBI survey was a project of Lunaria, a Rome-based research CSO, and of the Peace Roundtable/Tavola della Pace, a network of hundreds of Italian CSOs, which has organized global civil society events since 1995. The questionnaire was circulated among international organizations participating in a number of global civil society events, including the 2001 Genoa Social Forum in Genoa, Italy, the 2001 4thAssembly of the Peoples’ United Nations in Perugia, Italy, and the 2002 Second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. During that period, the questionnaire, which was available only in English, was also sent to about 1,000 email addresses of organizations on major NGO lists, including the NGOs represented by ECOSOC of the UN, the members of Civicus and Social Watch and other international civil society networks. A file copy of the questionnaire was available at the time on the Web sites of Lunaria and the Peace Roundtable/Tavola della Pace.13When it comes to the type of civil society actors in the events that we have mentioned, international non-governmental organizations and international networks or campaigns constitute 37% of the presence.
Therefore, if we may see these events as global civil society events, apparently the INGOs and social movements form a great part of these.Moreover, according to the alternative policy proposals of global CSOs between 1998-2002, we see that the issues represented by the global civil society were global, more than national or in the interests of a Western society. As it can be seen below, most of the proposals covered the issue of the Third World debt, and followed by the will to create a14permanent Global Civil Society Assembly.
Therefore, apparently, the civil society actors had seen themselves as the actors of global scene, and wanted a create a bigger network for all.Another criticism to the global civil society approach is that the term anti-globalisation, which is one of the main movements of GCS, is contradictory to the word global. The argument is that a civil society cannot be called global while it is composed of many anti-globalist movements.
It is ironic that most of the anti-globalisation movements around the world have global characteristics as they frequently encompass people from almost the entire world, and second because they usually take advantage of global communications and transportations in order to accomplish their aims.(Villanueva,2014)However, we disagree with this view, as these groups of people protest and work for tackling the inequalities that globalization had brought to them; thereby they do not fight15against the whole concept of globalization, but rather the disadvantagous parts that affect them. We have not seen any social movements protesting against the establishment of the internet, or how the communication technology had improved. Indeed, these groups mobilized themselves thanks to globalization.
Therefore, trying to exclude some disadvantagous parts of the globalization, does not mean that they are against the whole concept of globalization itself, and it does not make it less global.