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Critical Mass

The Emergence of Global Civil Society

Edited by James W. St.G. Walker & Andrew S. Thompson
Subjects Political Science, Globalization
Series Studies in International Governance Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554580224, 330 pages, February 2008


Excerpt from Critical Mass: The Emergence of Global Civil Society edited by James W. St. G. Walker and Andrew S. Thompson

From the Introduction by James W. St. G. Walker and Andrew S. Thompson

“Think globally, act locally” was a popular slogan some thirty years ago, meant to arouse concern and inspire participation. Today we have discovered that global is local, and the consequences can sometimes seem threatening. For many citizens of the early twenty-first century, the concept of “globalization” is discouraging rather than inspirational. An increasingly integrated global marketplace can imply the dominance of transnational corporations concerned only for their own profits, ignoring the best interests of local populations. The creation of regulatory bodies designed to facilitate economic globalization means that decisions affecting the daily lives of millions of people are made beyond the bounds of the nation state, and therefore outside the authority of national governments and unaccountable to their voters. A suspected parallel process is cultural homogenization, which could suffocate local traditions and values. And while the influence of nation states seems to decline, new global issues are proliferating: climate change, infectious diseases, violations of human security and human rights, terrorism, nuclear weapons, environmental destruction, and economic inequality. These and similar problems cannot be isolated from each other or solved individually. Locally directed action may be dismissed as futile in the face of such overwhelming and inter-territorial issues, and global action is too complex for fast and ready answers. Climate change, for example, is intimately connected to sustainable development, energy usage, technological innovation, resource management, human rights and freedoms, personal health, power relationships, job security, individual standards of living, and the industrialization of regions long kept on the periphery of the world economy. What is an individual citizen to do?

The chapters in this book identify another phenomenon occurring today that offers not solutions per se but a process for engagement with the most pressing problems of our contemporary world: the emergence of global civil society. In recent years a consciousness of a global civil society has been reaching “critical mass, “ in the sense of attracting attention and anticipating influence; it is a critical mass too in the sense that it is becoming better informed, and therefore critical, of the liabilities of globalization, and people are massing together in social movements, NGOs, and ad hoc demonstrations to confront some of the most encompassing challenges facing humanity today. Of course “civil society” as a concept has existed for centuries. The ancients wrote of a societas civilis, meaning the rule of law and active citizen participation in the public life of their societies; in the late eighteenth century, enlightenment authors distinguished civil society from the state, encouraging the awareness of a citizenry capable of mobilizing to achieve social goals and to counteract despotism and oppression. The campaign to abolish the Atlantic slave trade, launched in the 1780s, is frequently cited as an early example not only of a mass movement for social change but of its application to a transnational problem. A more formal and systematic role for civil society in international affairs accompanied the establishment of the United Nations (UN), when a group of “consultants” from civil society organizations (CSOs) attended the founding San Francisco Conference in 1945 and collaborated in drafting the UN Charter. That charter provided for a continuing relationship between the UN and civil society through the accreditation of certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Over the years this relationship strengthened, especially during the leadership of Kofi Annan. In 2003 the Secretary-General established a Panel of Eminent Persons on United NationsCivil Society Relations, chaired by Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The Cardoso Report, issued in 2004, concluded that “civil society is now so vital to the United Nations that engaging with it well is a necessity, not an option, “ and it offered a number of reform suggestions toward that objective. (1) Reflecting these solid accomplishments, and other factors to be described in succeeding chapters, there has been a virtual explosion of civil society involvement in global issues. Most noticeably, the number of CSOs dedicated to global concerns has grown exponentially, and they have expanded their scope from aiming at specific targets like slavery or prisoners of conscience to fundamental matters of global governance. The process has been dubbed “globalization from below. “(2)


Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Critical Mass: The Emergence of Global Civil Society, edited by James W. St. G. Walker and Andrew S. Thompson

List of Acronyms

Preface | John English


Introduction | James W. St. G. Walker and Andrew S. Thompson

Overview and Theory

The Globalization of Civil Society | John D. Clark

Approaching Global Civil Society | Paul van Seters

Case Studies

The Conference of NGOs (CONGO): The Story of Strengthening Civil Society Engagement with the United Nations | Renate Bloem, Isolda Agazzi Ben Attia, and Philippe Dam

Amplifying Voices from the Global South: Globalizing Civil Society | Rajesh Tandon and Mohini Kak

Facilitating NGO Participation: An Assessment of the Government-Sponsored Mechanism for the Copenhagen Summit for Social Development and the Beijing Conference on Women | Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon

The Arab NGO Network for Development: A Case Study on Interaction between Emerging Regional Networking and Global Civil Society | Ziad Abdel Samad and Kinda Mohamadieh

A Case of NGO Participation: International Criminal Court Negotiations | Gina E. Hill

Influencing the IMF | Jo Marie Griesgraber

Civil Society, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Conflict Prevention | Virginia Haufler

The FIM G8 Project, 2002-2006: A Case Analysis of a Project to Initiate Civil Society Engagement with the G8 | Nigel T. Martin

Problems and Prospects

Laying the Groundwork: Considerations for a Charter for a Proposed Global Civil Society Forum | Andrew S. Thompson

Looking to the Future: A Global Civil Society Forum? | Jan Aart Scholte

Democratizing Global Governance: Achieving Goals while Aspiring to Free and Equal Communication | Martin Albrow and Fiona Holland

Notes on the Contributors



Isolda Agazzi Ben Attia is Senior Program Officer for the Conference of NGOs (CONGO). Isolda holds a masters degree in international relations from the Graduate Institute of International Studies (IUHEI) of Geneva. She has worked for more than ten years in the field of development co-operation, for bi- and multilateral donor agencies, an academic research institute, and NGOs, in Switzerland and on the field, covering socio-economic development and good governance issues. She joined CONGO in 2002, and since 2004 she has also been a lecturer in international law at the University of Calabria (Italy).

Martin Albrow is a sociologist whose books include Max Weber’s Construction of Social Theory, Do Organizations Have Feelings, Sociology: The Basics, and the prize-winning The Global Age. Formerly he was founding editor of the journal International Sociology, president of the British Sociological Association, and chair of the Sociology Panel for the British universities’ Research Assessment Exercise. Emeritus professor of the University of Wales, he is currently a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Global Governance in London and an editor in chief of Global Civil Society, 2006/7.

Renate Bloem completed her studies in medicine, languages, and literature at the Universities of Bonn, Munich, and Columbia University and started her academic career by teaching at international schools and cultural institutions worldwide. Elected president of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO) in November 2000 and re-elected in December 2003,she has been involved in numerous UN meetings, led CONGO delegations to the World Conference against Racism, to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Through the CONGO Working Group on Asia she has organized the Asian Civil Society Forum 2002 and 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand, and, together with Latin American NGO networks, the NGO Seminar in Santiago, Chile. Most recently, together with Board member FEMNET, she organized the African Civil Society Forum in Addis Ababa. Together with the CONGO Team she has been at the forefront of guiding, supporting, and coordinating civil society in the processes of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva and Tunis.

John D. Clark has worked with development NGOs, the World Bank, United Nations, universities, and as advisor to governments on development and civil society issues. His career has focused on poverty reduction, participation, civil society, globalization, and bridging the gap between grassroots organizations and official agencies. He is currently Lead Social Development Specialist for East Asia in the World Bank. He has focused particularly on governance, poverty, and civil society issues in Cambodia and Indonesia and spent eight months in Aceh, Indonesia, working on tsunami reconstruction, especially regarding donor coordination. Before that he took a four-year absence from the World Bank, during which he worked in the United Nations Secretary-General’s office (as project director for the high-level panel on UNcivil society relations), was Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics, and served on a task force advising the British prime minister about Africa. He also wrote Worlds Apart: Civil Society and the Battle for Ethical Globalization, published by Kumarian in the US and Earthscan in the UK in 2003. He joined the World Bank in 1992 to head its NGO/Civil Society Unit–leading the Banks global strategy for collaboration and dialogue with civil society. In 1998 he moved to the East Asia region, in particular to help address the social aspects of the Asian economic crisis. Before 1992 he worked in NGOs for eighteen years, mostly with Oxfam UK, where he was head of campaigns and policy. He is the author of four other books, including Democratizing Development: The Role of Voluntary Organizations (1991).

Philippe Dam is the associate program officer for the Conference of NGOs (CONGO). Philippe studied administration and public law at Sciences-Po Rennes (France) and holds a master’s degree in international administration from the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He worked for various agencies within the UN system in Turin, Paris, and Geneva and joined CONGO in December 2004 to work on human rights and WSIS programs.

John English is the executive director of the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and University Research Professor at the University of Waterloo. He is a former president of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, past chair of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and served as a Canadian member of parliament.

Jo Marie Griesgraber is the executive director of the New Rules for Global Finance Coalition, a Washington-based international network of activists and researchers concerned with reforms of the international financial architecture. Previously, Dr. Griesgraber was the director of policy at Oxfam America, where she supervised advocacy programs on international trade, humanitarian response, global funding for basic education, and extractive industries. Before that, she directed the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project at the Centre of Concern, a Jesuit-related social justice research centre, where she worked on reform of the World Bank, regional development banks, and the International Monetary Fund. She has taught political science at Georgetown University, Goucher College, and American University, and was the deputy director of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights lobby office. She chaired Jubilee 2000/USA’s executive committee and edited, with Bernhard Gunter, the five-volume Rethinking Bretton Woods series. Ms. Griesgraber received her PhD in political science from Georgetown University and her B. A. in history from the University of Dayton, Ohio.

Virginia Haufler (PhD, Cornell, 1991) is an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. She is an expert in the fields of international relations, international political economy, and business and world politics. From 1999 to 2000, Dr. Haufler was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she directed a program on the role of the private sector in international affairs. She serves as a board member of Women in International Security (WIIS) and is on the advisory committee of the Peace Research Institute, Frankfurt. She recently co-authored the UN Global Compact report Enabling Economies of Peace: Public Policy for Corporate Conflict-Sensitive Practices. Among her other publications are A Public Role for the Private Sector: Industry Self-Regulation in a Global Economy (2001); “Is There a Role for Business in Conflict Management?” in Turbulent Peace (eds. Crocker, Hampson, and Aall, 2001); Private Authority and International Affairs (co-edited with Cutler and Port, 1999); and Dangerous Commerce: Insurance and the Management of International Risk (1997).

Gina E. Hill has been a human rights activist since 1993 and was called to the Bar in 2001. Her areas ofspecialization are international human rights and non-governmental organizations. Currently completing her LL. D. at the University of Ottawa, Ms. Hill’s research examines the cases of the Ottawa Process for a Landmines Treaty and the negotiations for the International Criminal Court. Ms. Hill is president of the board of directors of Amnesty International Canada. She has lived, studied, and worked in six countries and speaks five languages fluently.

Fiona Holland is managing editor of the Global Civil Society Yearbook at the London School of Economics’ Centre for the Study of Global Governance. Prior to joining LSE, where she completed a master’s degree in development studies in 1999, she was editor of Orbit, which in 2001 won “best magazine” in the One World Media Awards, the most respected prize for international development coverage in the UK. In addition to various editing and reporting roles in Asia and the UK, Fiona has project-managed public awareness campaigns and curated photographic exhibitions on cultural exchange, Northern perceptions and portrayals of developing countries, and the notion of global risk. Currently she is working on an exhibition of political cartoons, linked to the forthcoming publication of Global Civil Society 2007/8, and collaborating on a multi-pronged initiative exploring sexuality and intimacy.

Mohini Kak is a practitioner scholar with the experience of working on issues of local self-governance, civil society building, and women’s empowerment. She is an integral part of the Systematization of Knowledge team of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA). She holds a master’s in social work with a specialization in urban and rural community development from the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, and her first attempt at bridging the world of a practitioner and an academician came in 2006 when she presented a paper at the 4th International Conference on Citizenship and Participation in Jaipur, India, based on her experience of working on the issue of civil society and local self-governance in the State of Himachal Pradesh, India. She has also worked on issues relating to gender and development. She is co-editor of Citizen Participation and Democratic Governance: In Our Hands, published by Concept Publications in February 2007.

Nigel T. Martin is the founding president of the Montreal International Forum (FIM), an international NGO think tank based in Montreal. FIM is a global alliance of individuals and organizations with the goal of improving the influence of international civil society on the United Nations and the multilateral system. A graduate of Mount Allison University, Mr. Martin has over thirty years experience in the NGO community in Canada and elsewhere and has been the executive director of several NGOs. These include the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) in Ottawa, Euro Action Accord in London (UK), and OCSD and Oxfam-Québec in Montreal. He began his career with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 1971, where he was one of the earliest staff members of the then-fledgling NGO program. Before leaving the government in 1975 for a career in the NGO sector, he was the director of Asia programming for the CIDA NGO division. Mr. Martin was the initiator and founding co-president of the original World Bank/NGO Committee. He has served on several boards of directors and is currently on the boards of the Carold Foundation in Toronto. He is also a founding board member of The Mothers’ Trust.

Kinda Mohamadieh serves as the program manager at the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND). ANND brings together twenty-seven NGOs and seven national networks from eleven Arab countries active in the fields of social development, human rights, gender, and the environment. The network aims to develop the capacity of Arab civil society organizations and promoting democracy, human rights, participation, and good governance within civil society and among governments. The networks’ programs focus on issues of development, mainly the Millennium Development Goals; democracy and human rights; and the socio-economic impact of trade liberalization in the Arab region. Miss Mohamadieh has academic training in economics at the undergraduate level and in international development and non-profit management at the graduate level. Throughout her work at ANND, she concentrated on trade and globalization issues and capacity building of civil society organizations in relation to the work being done within the scope of the World Trade Organization, Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, bilateral free trade agreements, and regional economic integration. She participated in writing several papers concerning the role and the challenges of civil society organizations in the Arab region, particularly in the above-mentioned fields of ANND’s concern.

Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon is a professor of international relations and former chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. Her publications include five books, Canada and the Beijing Conference on Women: Governmental Politics and NGO Participation (author, 2001), The State of the United Nations, 1993: North–South Perspectives (co-author, 1993), International Relations in the Post–Cold War Era (co-editor, 1993), Canada and the International Seabed: Domestic Determinants and External Constraints (author, 1989), and The Domestic Mosaic: Interest Groups and Canadian Foreign Policy (author, 1985), as well as articles in Global Governance, the International Social Science Journal, Canadian Journal of Political Science, International Journal, Canadian Foreign Policy, Journal of Comparative and Commonwealth Politics, and Journal of Estuarine and Coastal Law. She is currently on the board of directors of the London Museum of Ontario Archaeology. She has served on the executive board of the Canadian Political Science Association (2005–2006), board of directors of the Canadian Political Science Association (2004–2006), and the editorial board of Canadian Foreign Policy (1993–2005). She was co-director of the Summer Workshop Program of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (2004–2005), chair of the Academic Committee of the Board of Directors of the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Centre (1998–2003), chair of the International Organization Section of International Studies Association (1998–2003), and vice-president of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (1991–1993).

Ziad Abdel Samad is the executive director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), based in Beirut, since 1999. ANND brings together twenty-seven NGOs and seven national networks from eleven Arab countries active in the fields of social development, human rights, gender, and the environment. The network, established in 1997, focuses on developing the capacity of Arab civil society organizations and promoting democracy, human rights, participation, and good governance in civil society and among governments. It has been an active participant in a number of United Nations conferences, WTO negotiations, and the World Social Forum. Mr. Abdel Samad is a member of the Lebanese Negotiating Committee for the accession in the WTO. He sits on the International Council of the World Social Forum and the Coordination Committee of Social Watch, an international network of citizen coalitions that monitors the implementation of the commitments made at the 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen. Mr. Abdel Samad is a member of the board of directors of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. He is a member of the UNDP CSO Advisory Committee to the Administrator. Mr. Abdel Samad is general manager of the Centre for Developmental Studies (MADA), a Lebanese centre for social and economic studies and research.

Jan Aart Scholte is professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and co-director of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick. He held previous posts at the University of Sussex, Brighton, and the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, as well as visiting positions at Cornell University, the London School of Economics, the International Monetary Fund, the Moscow School of Economics, and Gothenburg University. He is author of Globalization: A Critical Introduction (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005, 2nd edition), Civil Society and Global Democracy (Polity, forthcoming), and International Relations of Social Change (Open University Press, 1993); co-author of Contesting Global Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2000); editor of Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance (forthcoming), and Civil Society and Global Finance (Routledge, 2002); co-editor of The Encyclopaedia of Globalization (Routledge, 2006); and author of some 100 articles, chapters, and working papers. He is also an editor of the journal Global Governance. His current research focuses on questions of governing a more global world, with particular emphasis on questions of building global democracy.

Rajesh Tandon is president of PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia). He was co-founder of PRIA in 1982 following his tenure as Fellow, Public Enterprise Centre for Continuing Education, New Delhi. Over the last twenty-five years, Dr. Tandon has been a practitioner of participatory research and development and become an internationally acclaimed leader in the area. His work has been, over a wide variety of themes, to strengthen the capacities and institutional mechanisms of voluntary development organizations in India and other developing nations. He specializes in development management; training of trainers in participatory monitoring; networking, coalition and alliance building; participation and governance. He is the chair on the board of many national and international civil society organizations and part of the founding board of directors of CIVICUS. He is also chair of Montreal International Forum (FIM). He has authored many books and articles on civil society and governance. He was recently awarded a Social Justice medal by the Institute of Gender Justice and NALSA, Department of Law & Justice, Government of India, on the International Womens Day, 2007.

Andrew S. Thompson is a Special Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Canada. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Waterloo, and his areas of specialization include human rights and international governance. He has written a number of book chapters and is co-editor of Haiti: Hope for a Fragile State (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006). He has also written reports for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations University Press, the Canadian International Council, and the Centre for Foreign Policy and Federalism. Prior to pursuing his doctoral studies, he worked for Amnesty Internationals Canadian Section in Ottawa, and in 2004 he represented the organization as a member of a human rights lobbying and fact-finding mission to Haiti.

Paul van Seters studied law at Utrecht University and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. Currently he is the director of Globus and a professor of globalization and sustainable development at TiasNimbas Business School at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Previously he was a professor of legal sociology in the Faculty of Law at Tilburg University. He has published articles and books on socio-legal theory, public administration, and cultural sociology. His current research interests include law and communitarianism, corporate social responsibility, and the global civil society. He is co-editor of Globalization and Its New Divides (2003) and editor of Communitarianism in Law and Society (2006).

James W. St. G. Walker is a professor of history at the University of Waterloo, where he specializes in the history of human rights and race relations. In 2003–2004 he was the Bora Laskin National Fellow in Human Rights Research. His books include The Black Loyalists (2nd edition, 1992), and Race, Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada (Osgoode Society and Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), and he has published numerous articles and book chapters analyzing campaigns for human rights reform. Walker has himself been intimately involved with civil society over the years. In the 1960s he served as a CUSO volunteer in a Gandhian Ashram in the state of Orissa in India, where he participated in community development projects, and later worked on the CUSO national staff in Ottawa. He was a founder and teacher in the Transition Year Program for African-Canadian and First Nations students at Dalhousie University, and a founder and long-time board member of the Global Community Centre of Kitchener-Waterloo. He has served on the boards of several NGOs with an international focus, including CUSO and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.


Public concern about inequitable economic globalization has revealed the demand for citizen participation in global decision making. Civil society organizations have taken up the challenge, holding governments and corporations accountable for their decisions and actions, and developing collaborative solutions to the dominant problems of our time. Critical Mass: The Emergence of Global Civil Society offers a unique mixture of experience and analysis by the leaders of some of the most influential global civil society organizations and respected academics who specialize in this field of study.

Co-published with the Centre for International Governance Innovation


"If the ideals of worldwide justice and equity are ever to be realized, if our planet and its people are ever to be rescued from shortsightedness and greed, it will only be through the workings of a vibrant international civil society. This groundbreaking book neither exaggerates the promise of such society nor underestimates its problems. Instead, by combining the insights of academics and activists and drawing upon both theory and cases, it illuminates a field of study only beginning to be mined. Both those of us who toil in civil society organizations and those who are affected by them have reason to be grateful. "

- William F. Schulz, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, and former Executive Director, Amnesty International USA