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Is there an International or global civil society?

 

"Thus, for example, 60% of the secretariats of INGOs are based in the European Union and one third of their membership is in Western Europe.... This area is also the most densely globalised, whether we mean the concentration of global capitalism as measured by the presence of transnational corporations and the importance of trade and foreign investment. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; pp7) Looking further at the uneven spread of globalisation we can once again see how it relates to the spread and reaction to the global civil society.

 

"It is those who are denied access to the benefits of global capitalism and who remain outside the charmed circle of information and technology who are the victims of the process and who organise in reaction. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; pp7) The text book above also suggests that 'global civil society is best categorised not in terms of types of actors but in terms of positions in relation to globalisation. '7 The text then divides these positions in relation to globalisation into 4 distinct types: Supporters Rejectionists Reformists.

 

Alternatives The four distinct views on globalisation further the concept of a global civil society in each ones individual approach to the concept of globalisation. The first, obviously, support globalisation and therefore look to sustain a global civil society. The Rejectionists oppose the concept and therefore are not so keen on the idea of a global civil society. Reformists aim to 'civilise'8 globalisation but agree with a civil society with respect to enforcing international human rights. Alternatives want to opt out of the process of globalisation, but still favour civil society intervention.

 

There is a confusing issue here, that being that we cannot be sure whether or not support of a civil society will breed a support of a global civil society. This, it would appear, would not be apparent at this time. Drawing the topic of globalisation to a close in this essay is a quote from the same text that gives us insight into understanding whether or not there can truly be a global civil society: "One way of defining or understanding global civil society is as a debate about the future direction of globalisation and perhaps humankind itself. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M.Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; pp10)

 

It is now time to move on to yet another important section of the essay, one that is inherently linked to the process of a global civil society, that being both the U. N and the E. U. For a civil society to work there has to communication between citizens of that society, therefore in a global civil society there must also be communication between the citizens of the nations within the global community. Since the world is so immense there has to be a general body through which the channels of communication can be fed, in this instance we are talking about the U.N and also, closer to home, the E. U.

 

If we are looking to fit global civil society into the same mould as civil society there are certain elements that must be used to indicate that the mould is in fact working. First of all we need civil groups, or institutions that are separate from the governing body and the economic market. In the case of a global civil society these can be taken as TNCs (Trans-National Corporations), NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations), international trade organisations, etc. For the second, and most important, aspect of the civil society, the governing body, we have both the European Union and the United Nations.

 

Without a governing body there would be no chance of a global civil society. However, here we are presented with a problem, that being: can either the U. N or the E. U really be considered as governing bodies for a global civil society? It is precisely this point that we need to examine closely to determine whether or not a global or international civil society could exist. Let us start with the E. U and then move on to the U. N. The E. U encounters many problems when relating the institution with that of a normal state governing body, such as the government we have in place in Britain.

 

Perhaps it's major setback is what is known as the 'democratic deficit;' this being a lack of overriding democracy within the union. The other main problem with comparing the E. U governing body with a nations governing body is that there is such a diverse combination of ideas and political views, making it much more difficult to agree on policies. Although this also occurs in national government the problem becomes intensified because of the many nations involved within the E. U. We could take the E. U as the main governing body in this model of forming a global civil society but the formula seems weak because the union is so problematic.

 

Going on to the U. N, are we presented with a better or more suitable governing body to base global civil society on? A brief background to the U. N first of all: It was created before the end of the Second World War, and originally consisted of the major allied powers of the U. K, U. S. A and the U. S. S. R. The main aim of the U. N was, and fundamentally still is, to prevent war and the rise of one state gaining major control over other smaller weaker states. Since it was formed it has obviously undergone many changes with the addition of many other member states.

 

The U.N presents the closet example of an international governing body at present, but there will still be problems with the system, based largely upon disagreements between nations. It would appear that the U. N does present a better picture of existing as a governing body than the E. U, but perhaps not to the extent of that which we might find in a national government. Perhaps the main problem that global civil society encounters when we look at the governing bodies mentioned above is not the bodies themselves but the citizens that are involved within the global civil society.

 

Meaning that for a civil society to work well there has to be good communication between the citizens of the state. In a national environment this works well, because, in most cases, the culture of the citizens can appear to be common on at least one level. However, in a global civil society, even with the ongoing process of globalisation, there is no common culture, apart from material relations, such as McDonalds, the Internet, movies, T. V programmes, etc. What is really needed is a common cultural link on a higher level, something that everyone in the global community can really relate to.

 

The thing that can really make possible a global civil society is the fact that there are transnational companies trading, which is key to the development on any kind of civil society. The next and final part of this essay is perhaps the most crucial part with respect to answering the question set out in the essay title, that being whether or not there is an international or global civil society. Although the essay started with a brief description of what characterised a global civil society it is again necessary to reiterate what the term actually means.

 

There is much confusion here about whether people are really talking about a global civil society or just a global culture. The process of globalisation has shifted cultures together, but that is simply not enough for there to be a global civil society. Perhaps Anthony McGrew gives a more explanatory definition of the term in the text 'The Transformation of Global Democracy? ' shown below. " 'Global civil society' is a term which embrace those organisations, associations and movements which exist '... above the individual and below the state but across national boundaries' (Wapner, 1995). " (The Transformation of Global Democracy?

 

Anthony McGrew; Open University Press; 1997; (pp 13) McGrew gives examples of these organisations and movements, these being Greenpeace and Amnesty International. These two examples alone perfectly fit the mould of the national civil society, in that they 'engage in activities which bypass the state, and participate in many aspects of global governance. ' (The Transformation of Global Democracy? Anthony McGrew; Open University Press; 1997; (pp 13) If we are to try to fit the mould of a national civil society around that of a global civil society we need to once again look at what a civil society is.

 

The repeated quote below will give us a brief out line of what is required internationally if a global civil society is to function adequately. "Civil society is the realm of autonomous groups of people articulating different interests and convictions that exist outside of state institutions. Civil society is an intermediate layer between the state and the individual citizen. Within a healthy civil society human groups learn to adapt to each other's existence working out a modus vivendi upon which state authority may rest. "

 

(The Transformation of Democracy, A.McGrew, Polity Press, 1997, pp 61-62) Does the above model of civil society fit that of global civil society? Taking it line by we can examine whether or not it does fit. Obviously this isn't going to prove firmly that there is or isn't a global civil society in place today, but it will help to guide us towards a final conclusion. The first line indicates the need for institutions that involve communication between groups that act outside of the state, in the international arena we can take these to be groups such as NGOs and TNCs.

 

We also need to know whether global civil society acts as in intermediate layer between the acting international governing body and the individual. This can be said to be true with respect to the global community but we must be wary. This suggests that a global civil society already exists, a point that we are not yet completely sure of. It is the last part of the quote with which a problem arises. Can we really say that in the global community we have learnt to adapt to each other's existence, so that a way of life can be developed upon which the decisions of the governing body can rest?

 

With the inevitable continual growth of globalisation perhaps one day it might be possible to co-exist in perfect harmony with all nations of the world, but for the moment it is impossible to say this as a fact. For this reason it would appear that a global civil society cannot exist. But if globalisation is an ongoing process, which has not presently infested every corner of the globe, and it can be considered as a viable concept surely a global civil society is possible. At present there may not be a global civil society that encompasses the world as a whole but there is definitely a part of it clear to be seen.

 

Some theorists would call this phenomenon 'transnational civil society'9 and others argue that this term does not express how big this process is. A transnational civil society could simply be the crossing of a single border, yet what we have at the moment is so much bigger than that. If this were the case then we would have been experiencing a transnational civil society for many years. The reason the term global is used in the idiom 'global civil society' is perhaps not because the concept is worldwide as of yet, but it certainly has that potential.

 

We must go back to the concept of globalisation to really understand that there must be some kind of global civil society in place. The process of globalisation is undeniable, as soon as one wakes up in the morning and puts on the T. V we are experiencing the processes of globalisation. News from around the world is beamed to us live, a telephone call can connect you to someone thousands of miles away, a plane can get you across international borders in hours; minutes even. The quote below really sums up how the two concepts are inherently linked to one another. "Both (global civil society & globalisation) are just processes.

 

If formal democracy remains confined to the level of the state, while various economic, political, and cultural activities are indeed going global, then only a global civil society can call them to account. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; (pp9) ) So, is there an international or global civil society? The debate will continue to go on, just as the concept will develop itself. Civil society is an established concept already, which took many years to form and evolve into what we see it as now. Global civil society is a relatively new concept, just as globalisation is.

 

It is undeniable that there is some form of global civil society in existence at the moment, as the quote above clearly corroborates. The concept, as of yet, is not universally accepted, just as the concept of globalisation is not universally agreed upon. What is clear is that there is a global civil society and it will continue to develop so long as the process of globalisation continues.

"Thus, for example, 60% of the secretariats of INGOs are based in the European Union and one third of their membership is in Western Europe.... This area is also the most densely globalised, whether we mean the concentration of global capitalism as measured by the presence of transnational corporations and the importance of trade and foreign investment. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; pp7) Looking further at the uneven spread of globalisation we can once again see how it relates to the spread and reaction to the global civil society.

"It is those who are denied access to the benefits of global capitalism and who remain outside the charmed circle of information and technology who are the victims of the process and who organise in reaction. " (Global Civil Society 2001; H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor; Oxford University Press; 2001; pp7) The text book above also suggests that 'global civil society is best categorised not in terms of types of actors but in terms of positions in relation to globalisation. '7 The text then divides these positions in relation to globalisation into 4 distinct types: Supporters Rejectionists Reformists.

Alternatives The four distinct views on globalisation further the concept of a global civil society in each ones individual approach to the concept of globalisation. The first, obviously, support globalisation and therefore look to sustain a global civil society. The Rejectionists oppose the concept and therefore are not so keen on the idea of a global civil society. Reformists aim to 'civilise'8 globalisation but agree with a civil society with respect to enforcing international human rights. Alternatives want to opt out of the process of globalisation, but still favour civil society intervention.

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