HOW IS GLOBAL POLITICAL ACTION ORGANIZED? A LIST FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

In the age of globalization, there are two distinct ways of giving voice to, and putting a push behind, your political views. One is through the time-honoured rules of national politics – elections, polls, and petitions to government. Many of us have become disillusioned with that way of doing politics, at least in part because corporations don’t play by those rules unless it suits their convenience.
Thanks to a plethora of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, and to the ease of communication in the 21st Century, corporations, or anyone that wields serious financial power, can circumvent the old rules, by moving their activities or their money to countries more favourably inclined toward them. However, as I’ve argued in previous posts, the rest of us can play the same game.
We’ve watched as the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) failed in the face of massive demonstrations. In Europe, after storms of angry public reaction, Shell Oil backed away from plans to sink an oil storage facility into the sea and Monsanto re-thought its venture into genetically modified seeds. Noreena Hertz (cited at the end of an earlier entry) sees this kind of consumer power as a major weapon for ordinary people in countering the excesses of globally mobile corporate and financial power. I have my doubts.


The past experiences of labour and other social movements suggests that politics is not quite that easy. It seems likely that the main long-term benefit of such highly public events as the anti-MAI demonstrations will be to shape public opinion – and not necessarily always in favour of protesters. Genuine, lasting improvement in stewardship of the environment, protection of human rights, improvement of labour standards and reduction of poverty will probably require a great deal of research, networking, education, and long-term commitment.
For my money, the most likely vehicles for such political action are globally networked non-government organizations (NGOs), labour organizations, cities and communities, each pursuing a well-defined set of issues, and working out carefully-considered political strategies. Their success or failure will will turn on the quality of their research, the shrewdness of their strategies, and their ability to mobilize broad public support.
Those of us who study politics have generally looked at the work of these NGOs in a fragmented way, by issue area – environmental groups, human rights organizations, and the like – or as factors in the politics of particular countries. We need to start thinking of them collectively as components of what Ulrich Beck (cited at the end of an earlier entry) calls the second modernity, as a political force in their own right, one that operates in whole or in large part outside the arena of the nation-state.
I don’t know how many such organizations there are, but I’ve started to make a collection of the web sites of any I can think of or find out about for a course I’m teaching next term. The list is reproduced below, and this blog entry is open to comments. In the first couple of weeks, the response, both in the comments section, and by e-mail to me, has been substantial and encouraging, and has helped me to improve the list. Warm thanks to everyone who took the trouble to write.
ENVIRONMENT
David Suzuki Foundation
Climate Action Network
Diversitas
Forests without Borders
Ocean Conservancy
Natural Resources Defense Council
Slow Food International
Gene Campaign
Global Commons Institute
Basel Action Network (BAN)
Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Rescue
World Wide Fund for Nature (World Wildlife Fund)
Care for the Wild
ChevronToxico: Campaign to hold Chevron Texaco accountable for toxic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon/
Sierra Club
Wildlife Direct
Navdanya
Équiterre
Greenpeace
Sea Shepherd Society
The Nature Conservancy
Global Response
Worldwatch Institute
Friends of the Earth
IUCN (World Conservation Union)
ETC (Research and political action on biotechnology and nanotechnology issues)
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
POVERTY
Oxfam
Shining hope for communities
Medecins sans frontieres (Apologies to my Francophone readers for the absence of accents. Apparently the World Wide Web objects to them, at least in lower case.)
BRAC: Alleviation of Poverty and Empowerment of the Poor
Farm Radio International
Mennonite Central Committee
American Jewish World Service
Christian Aid
Help Lesotho
Partners in Health
Free the Children
Care Canada (Care has different web sites for different countries that, curiously, aren’t linked together. For example Care USA, which represents itself as being beyond nationality; Care UK, and Care International Deutschland.)
Grameen Foundation
CGAP: Advancing Financial Access for the World’s Poor
Micro-credit Summit Campaign
Results
Mennonite Economic Development Associates
Central Asia Institute
Turquoise Mountain
Development and Peace
Inter Pares
World Vision
Save the Children
Concern Worldwide (US)
American Refugee Committee
Habitat for Humanity
Practical Action
WOMEN’S ISSUES
Crossroads International
The Loomba Foundation
Women for Women
DAWN
SAFER: Social Aid for the Elimination of Rape
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-International
Central Asia Institute
LABOUR ISSUES
Clean Clothes Campaign
Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights
Workers Uniting
International Trade Union Confederation
Global Unions
Alta Gracia: A global company that supports fair wages and working conditions
LabourStart
Education International
Building and Wood Workers’ International
International Federation of Journalists
International Metalworkers’ Federation
International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation
International Transport Workers’ Federation
IUF (Food, farm and hotel workers)
Public Services International
Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD
UNI (Global union for skills and services)
Workers’ Rights Consortium
National Labor Committee
Sum of Us
HUMAN RIGHTS
International Crisis Group
Amnesty International
Reporters Without Borders
Under the Same Sun: Support for people with albinism
Human Rights Watch
Inuit Circumpolar Council
International Lesbian and Gay Association
ECPAT International (Action against child sexual exploitation)
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers
Disability Rights Promotion International
Project Ploughshares
Anti-Slavery International
HEALTH
Stephen Lewis Foundation: Turning the Tide of AIDS in Africa
GOOD GOVERNMENT/GOVERNANCE
Open Society Institute
Avaaz
City Mayors
Oilwatch
CorpWatch
Transparency International
International Union of Local Authorities
COMMUNITY ACTION
New Rules Project
The Urban Conservancy
Spot.Us: Community-based journalism
E-Democracy
Community Problem Solving
Working Smarter in Community Development
The Citizens’ Handbook
CONSUMER ADVOCACY
NCRC Global Fair Banking Initiative
Consumer Action
FREE/FAIR TRADE
Attac
The Fairtrade Foundation
International Network for Cultural Diversity
Bristol Fairtrade Network
Integrate This!
WTO Public Forum 2007
INTEGRATIVE (Dealing with a range of issues)
Change.org
Women for Women
Plan Canada
La Via Campesina
Greenpeace Energy Revolution Now
Global Witness
Global Development Research Centre
Policy Innovations
World Social Forum
Aga Khan Development Network
Slow Food International
American Friends Service Committee
Future Generations Canada
•••••••••••••••••••••••
Notes: The main criterion for inclusion in the list is that the organization pursue social or political (as opposed to corporate or personal) objectives as a primary focus. A second criterion is that the objectives in question must include a quest for social or political change. (For example, food banks or organizations engaging in disaster relief – however worthy – would not qualify for the list unless their activities included attempts to address the causes of the distress they worked to relieve.) Inclusion in the list doesn’t imply my endorsement. The list obviously represents a variety of points on the political spectrum, and part of its potential instructional value is that it can open discussion regarding these differences.
My list includes some faith-based NGOs, and I may have missed some of these. I would like to include any organization whose primary focus is social or political, rather than religious, regardless of whether it is backed by a religious organization. For example, I’ve included the Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee, as well as Development and Peace – which is sponsored by the Canadian Catholic Church – because I know they focus on social and political issues in a manner that is not necessarily tied in with missionary work or other purely religious pursuits. I’m open to advice on other such organizations.
A variety of unsavoury groups, such as racist organizations, also pursue social and political change. I’m not including them in a list that, for the moment, is intended primarily for instructional purposes, but, from an analytical perspective, they need to be considered.

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