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What is civil society?. The implications of its definition for public policy making Presentation by Judith Richter World Civil Society Forum, Geneva, 18 July 2002. Motto of this Forum.

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what is civil society

What is civil society?

The implications of its definition for public policy making

Presentation by Judith Richter

World Civil Society Forum, Geneva, 18 July 2002

motto of this forum

Motto of this Forum

“If the UN’s global agenda is to be properly addressed, a partnership with civil society is not an option; it is a necessity.”

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, 1999

is the shift in un terminology from ngos to csos to the advantage of the peoples of this world
Is the shift in UN terminology from NGOs to CSOs to the advantage of the ‘peoples’ of this world?
slide4

The definition of civil society determines whether or not this ‘partnership’ with the UN increases or rather decreases the influence of the world’s citizens on the global agenda

slide5

“In July 1997… Kofi Annan unveiled a long-awaited [UN] reform proposal that was the result of a team headed by Maurice Strong, .. former CEO of several large corporations who had headed the preparations of the Rio Conference a few years earlier[…] The report… emphasized the role of civil society not only as disseminator of information or provider of services but also as shaper of policy. Civil society referred to nongovernmental organisations, academic and research institutions, parliamentarians, and corporations….”The United Nations and Business: A Partnership Recovered Tesner (with Kell), 2000

slide6

“[T]he report stated openly that the relationship of the UN system with the business community was of ‘particular importance.’ It added that ‘it would be timely to develop better means of consultation between the United Nations and the business community.’ The secretary-general also announced that he would avail himself of the mechanisms proposed by the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum (the organizer of the annual Davos conference) to facilitate such consultation.”The United Nations and Business: A Partnership Recovered, Tesner (with Kell), 2000

implications of classifying corporations and business associations as civil society
Implications of classifying corporations and business associations as civil society
  • Distinctions and clarity are lost when business actors can use labels such as ‘civil society organisation’ (corporate ‘citizen’, ‘stakeholder’, ‘partner’, ‘major group’, or NGO)
  • Business actors gain political influence by strategically using the civil society label
  • Citizen action groups find it hard to argue for exclusion of business associations from policy debates (e.g. on international regulation of TNCs)
call on un agencies to clarify their definitions
Call on UN agencies to clarify their definitions
  • How do you define civil society organisations?
  • How do you define the private sector?
  • Do you include major corporations and their business associations in the category of civil society organisations, that of the private sector, or in both categories?
slide10
Call on UN agencies to clearly distinguish between “citizen associations” and “organisations of capital” (Krut 1997)
  • Both, NGO and CSO, classifications should exclude business associations
  • Corporations, business associations, and foundations which are led by business philosophy should be classified in the ‘private sector’ category
reinforce a civil society concept which is useful for the advocacy of public interests

Reinforce a civil society concept which is useful for the advocacy of public interests

Civil society:

neither state nor market

argue
Argue
  • Civil society organisations are composed of citizens who come together to advance various causes of citizens
  • Civil society organisations cannot be composed of corporate employees and managers who come together to advance the (enlightened) self-interests of for-profit companies
slide13

Argue: If UN agencies make no distinction between two fundamentally different categories of non-state actors

Democracy, ‘the rule by the people for the people’, will be replaced increasingly by plutocracy, ‘the rule of money’