‘This is a show about risk’, said the steward in a hard yellow hat. She was telling people where to stand for a firework show that was part of a cultural festival in Brighton. ‘Are you a risk-taker?’, she asked. Illuminated above the heads of the crowd was a giant figure sitting in an armchair underneath a standard lamp. As the show began, flares and sparks whistled across the sky and a disembodied voice read extracts from the UK government’s pamphlet, sent to every household in the country, about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. ‘Go in, stay in, tune in’, the voice boomed as the fireworks gathered pace and the giant figure exploded in a cascade of fire. A circular wall of fireworks surrounded the risk-takers in the park – giant Catherine wheels, Roman candles, and green flames. A lone violinist rose to the sky playing a mournful tune on a platform of silver fountains and sparklers. And when the show ended after a magnificent gold and silver, pink, green and blue display of stars and sparkles and rockets, the disembodied voice could be heard saying, ‘This can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.’
This is a yearbook about risk. What do climate change, migration, the tsunami of 26 December 2004, the terrorist threat and the fall in the dollar have in common? Ulrich Beck, one of the foremost theorists of risk, would say ‘world risk society’. Beck argues that the calculation and management of risk was part of the ‘master narrative’ of the first phase of modernity, the construction of nation-states and modern industry. The modern state was designed to protect and insure citizens against risk – the dangers posed by nature, personal risks of ill health and unemployment, as well as threats posed by foreign enemies. Civic preparedness programmes, military defence, and the welfare state are the results of the state’s response to collective risk.
Yet, as Beck and others have argued, the challenges of risk in terms of policy and risk management have changed, and no longer fit the policy blueprints of state modernity. For Beck, ‘world risk society does not mean that life has generally become more dangerous. It is not a matter of the increase, but rather of the de-bounding of uncontrollable risks. This de-bounding is three-dimensional: spatial, temporal and social’ (Beck 2002: 41). In other words, risks cross borders; they may be far into the future; and they are increasingly the cumulative outcome of the actions of many individuals.
Global civil society can be conceived as the medium through which consciousness and perceptions of risk are shaped and new methods of protection are promoted. The Brighton festival, like media stories and performances, demonstrations and protests, or meetings and conferences in other parts of the world, are all ways in which we become aware of and argue about risk, and through which we develop the global politics of risk. According to Beck, it is these new unbounded risks that give rise to new pressures for global cooperation. Some risks are real – everyday dangers faced especially by those who live on the margins of existence. Some are imagined, constructed for the purpose of political mobilisation. Global civil society is the arena where risks are enunciated, exaggerated, discounted, debunked, assessed and debated. It is an arena that encompasses information, expert knowledge and reasoned deduction as well as fear, prejudice and superstition. And it provides a forum, albeit uneven and unequal, for expressing and communicating differential knowledge about risk.
For understanding what has changed, it is useful to review developments around risk in the context of the nation state, and then explore how it differs for world risk society. We then describe the differential ways in which consciousness of risk is purveyed through global civil society. In a following section we consider the mechanisms that constitute global civil society, through which individuals have an opportunity to join in global politics and influence decision-making, and how they are relating to governmental institutions at different levels. In conclusion, we ask whether a form of global protection against risk is beginning to develop as a result of growing consciousness as well as direct pressures.
The precautionary principle and world risk society
The precautionary principle
The modern, state-centred concept of risk assumed its most developed expression in what has become known as the precautionary principle of policy-making (Lofstedt 2003; European Commission 2000). In its simplest formulation, taken from the 1992 Rio Declaration, the principle states, ‘where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.’ Subsequently, the application of the precautionary principle spread to other fields such as the chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, climate change, and even the threat of terrorism, although the term is largely used in relation to environmental risk. Indeed, it can be argued that the state’s responsibility for physical and material security – for protecting people against risks which range from nuclear war to poverty – was always an expression of the precautionary principle within the boundaries of the nation-state.
In practice, different versions of the principle have emerged, promoted by national preferences and reflecting their political cultures. According to Wiener and Rogers (2002: 230–1), there are three major versions:
Version 1: Uncertainty does not justify inaction…
Version 2: Uncertainty justifies action…
Version 3: Uncertainty requires shifting the burden and standard of proof…
The first version of the principle permits regulation in the absence of complete evidence about the particular risk scenario. The US Clean Air and Water Pollution Act of 1970 is an example of such policy-making, as is much of the Kyoto Agreement. The second version of the precautionary principle is a more aggressive approach, and demands policy action, which is reflected in the decision of some countries in the 1990s to phase out nuclear energy and the approach of the Bush administration to fighting terrorism. The third version is more far-reaching yet. It states that uncertain risk requires forbidding the potentially risky activity until the producer of the activity demonstrates that it poses no unacceptable risk. EU policy-making suggested in the Chemical White Paper (European Commission 2001: 8) is of this nature: ‘The Commission proposes to shift responsibility to enterprises for generating and assessing data and assessing the risks of the use of substances. The enterprises should also provide adequate information to downstream users.’
The precautionary principle, whose goal as a policy blueprint was to help manage risk, had a number of effects that went beyond the purpose of specific policies. It changed the relationships among stakeholders, including the general public, bringing about a new politics of risk management at the national and increasingly the regional and global levels. Importantly, it paved the way for civil society organisations to assume a greater role in the identification, handling and oversight of risk-related aspects of policy concerns such as the environment, human rights, industrial safety or transnational crime.
First, the principle generated a big increase in the amount of information about risk. Aided by advances in technology and, later, a greater use of the internet, access to information about ‘the who, the why, the how and the for what’ of risky activities by government and industry became widely available. In many cases, it revealed uncertainties and the influence of money and power in situations where the public previously may have assumed greater certainty, more neutral reasoning and less politicking. As a result, awareness about risk increased, as did public uncertainties about risk assessments. This pattern began in countries where the precautionary principle was in place first, such as the US, Germany or Sweden, but soon spread to other parts of the world
Second, more information implied a greater likelihood that faults and bad behaviours of all sorts, large and small, would become known and publicised. The greater transparency in effect decreased rather than increased public trust in regulators and industry, and, ultimately, even in science itself. The fate of the nuclear industry in the 1970s and the GM food debacle in the 1990s are cases in point that show a decline in confidence in institutions entrusted with risk assessment and risk management. Industrial disasters such as Contergan in Germany, Bhopal in India and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, and the role of transnational corporations like Nestlé in Africa, Shell in Nigeria or the tobacco industry in general added to the decline in trust in institutions responsible for assessing and managing risk.
Third, as citizens and stakeholders increasingly began to question the motives and performance of governments and industry in relation to risk, other actors entered the policy arena, in particular NGOs such as Greenpeace, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and Friends of the Earth. They benefited from the confidence gap that emerged between citizens and the conventional risk management community. They pressed for the precautionary principle to be applied to ever more policy fields, and they also became important watchdogs of policy formulation, implementation and performance.
The de-bounding of risk
NGOs usually pushed for the second and third versions of the precautionary principle, which turned out to be more complex as it became clear that many risks at the global and transnational levels were of a different quality. Whereas the principle sought to establish an explicit – if typically under-specified and yet unproven – link between cause and effect, the risks of world society are of a qualitative different nature.
The bounding efforts the precautionary principle was designed to achieve are more likely to fail in a world risk society than in national or regional risk societies and communities. Risks have become less controllable and manageable from a policy perspective even when efforts are made to build risk-management strategies on government-industry-NGO coalitions, based on principles of trust and institutional confidence. For one thing, the precautionary principle implied that those responsible for and affected by risk would have similar perceptions, interpretations or at least similar world views about it. The pioneering work by Mary Douglas (1992; Douglas and Wildavsky 1983) has shown just how much ideas about risk differ across and within cultures.
It also assumed that those exposed to risk would have equal voice to those producing it. Clearly, as the examples of industrial accidents such as Bhopal or Exxon Valdez, corporations like Nestlé, governments deregulating pensions, and episodes like mad cow disease or SARS amply demonstrate, this is often not the case, particularly in developing countries.
There is a further implication of the world risk society and the de-bounding process. Risk communities, framed largely in national and regional policy contexts, are becoming increasingly linked in ways that are frequently unknown and ill-understood. Sometimes, these risk communities are latent and defined by the possibility of a highly unlikely catastrophic event, such as afflicted the fishermen, the hotel service workers and the tourists in Thai coastal resorts in 2004 when the 26 December tsunami hit. In such cases, global civil society creates a sphere of awareness and action for the (now) manifest risk communities.
In other cases, the risks may be better understood and attributable in terms of benefits and costs, even across boundaries, time and social class, but the framework for policy action either lacks regulatory capacity in the first place or has incomplete and ineffective enforcement mechanisms. Such scenarios make the application of the precautionary principle more difficult, if not impossible. Environmental laws, the law of the sea, the Genocide Convention and a range of human rights instruments are examples that come to mind. Of course, this is precisely where risk policies confront the typical problems of a deficient global governance system.
Global civil society and the world risk society
According to Beck (2005: 17), the ‘theory of world risk society can throw considerable light on the emergence of transnational public spaces…Global risks release an element of reflexion and communication. …Acknowledged risks force people to build communicative bridges where none or almost none existed before: between monologic arenas and sectoral publics, across systemic and linguistic boundaries, beyond conflicts of opinion, interest, class, nation and denomination.’
But the process through which this happens varies according to region, culture, class and gender. Beck himself points to the gulf in risk perception between Europe and America. He argues that, in Europe, transnational campaigning groups play much a larger role in staging ‘the cultural symbols that raise the latent threat to the level of consciousness’. In America, he argues, it is the state that ‘plays the role of staging the terrorist risk in the mass media’ (2005:18). Beck also suggests that Europeans tend to be more worried about climate change whereas Americans fear the terrorist threat more (2005: 9-10). But it may be rather that Europeans and Americans worry about these risks in very different ways. According to Lofstedt (2003), Europe and the US are drifting apart in their use and interpretation of the precautionary principle when applied to environmental risk. The European Commission is the main proponent trying to maintain and strengthen it, while the current US Bush administration attempts to undermine and discredit it both domestically and internationally. Likewise, fear of terrorism in the US is used as an argument for the ‘War on Terror’ whereas, in Europe, the ‘War on Terror’ is often opposed on the grounds that it could actually increase the terrorist threat.
The role that global civil society plays as the medium through which consciousness of risk is increased and risk protection is promoted also, of course , varies widely between rich and poor regions. Risk experienced in the poorer parts of the world is much more pervasive and less amenable to control than risks in the richer parts of the world. Indeed, authors like Douglas (1992: 38–54) and Luhmann (1993: 22–3) draw a distinction between risk and danger, between uncertainties that might be averted through alternative human decision-making and immediate threats to one’s daily survival. It could therefore be argued that worrying about risk is a luxury of privileged Northerners. People in conflict zones or at the margins of survival do not attend festival performances with a ‘risk’ theme. Yet it is the privileged Northerners who dominate global civil society and who therefore have the biggest say in determining what counts as global risk.
Finally, global civil society is uneven and unequal in the gendering of risk perceptions. As Jude Howell shows in Chapter 1, the gendered nature of global civil society is ambiguous. On the one hand, civil society may be a sphere more permeable to women than the market and the state due to its roots in charity and voluntarism. On the other hand, civil society is seen by some feminists as a ‘public’ and hence historically exclusively male domain. As Howell points out, the theorists and activists who reinvigorated the concept did not problematise this heritage. Hence, risk framing in global civil society is likely to be male-dominated. Despite the campaigns on violence against women, a universal but ‘private’ risk such as rape is not likely to get the same consideration as climate change or terrorism.
One response to world risk society is the demand for a re-bounding of risk, applying the precautionary principle in national terms, and the rebuilding of protective walls around nation-states or particular groups. This is the argument for Israel’s new wall designed to exclude Palestinian suicide bombers. A different version of such attempts at re-bounding is efforts to establish quasi-markets for transnational goods and bads, such as pollutions rights and credits, even though their regulatory framework and enforceability remain unclear ((Kaul, Conceicao and Le Goulven 2003).
Likewise, re-bounding is the goal of a myriad of ethnic, religious or tribal groups that try to re-establish exclusive control over territory, or of the growing political factions in rich countries that call for tighter controls over immigration. And it is the belief in re-bounding that explains the new American global unilateralism designed to keep the terrorist threat at bay. But, of course, there are others who press for new policies at a global level – global regulations and global public goods designed to minimise, overcome or manage global risk. Current preoccupations with, for example, reform of the United Nations or a new European constitution have to do with this universalist interpretation of risk.
Consciousness of global risk
The 2004 tsunami, global poverty and Darfur
According to one set of authors, ‘the essence of risk is not that it is happening, but that it might be happening’. Moreover, most turn-of-the-century literature focuses on risk as ‘manufactured, not only through the application of technologies, but also in the making of sense’ (Adam and van Loon 2000: 2). In this sense, the tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 had nothing to do with risk. It had not been manufactured either in the technological sense or in the discursive sense. Instead, it came as a complete surprise, and afterwards it was no longer a risk but a reality.
Nonetheless, it bears a relation to risk in the way it entered the global collective imagination. Many people across the globe knew one or more people who might be affected, and so the brief period of uncertainty and information-seeking that usually follows a disaster affected millions rather than thousands of people. Moreover, there was a real sense that this particular disaster could have happened to each and any of us. It was felt from Somalia and the Maldives to Burma and Indonesia, and emotionally felt far beyond the Indian Ocean.
The disaster itself was indiscriminate, hitting poor fishermen and rich holidaymakers alike, but the responses to it were more complicated. From the outset, there was a disproportionate attention in the western media to the plight of the relatively small number of tourists who had been affected, particularly in Thailand. But, paradoxically, this attention to the ‘recognisable’ victim may have increased the sense of a ‘global imagined community’, and consequently contributed to the huge sums of money raised for the tsunami victims.
The tsunami will live on in the global collective consciousness in many ways. For the direct victims and to a lesser extent for others, it will live on as a risk, something that ‘might happen again’. Governments have also gone into classic risk-management mode, designing monitoring and warning systems after the event while squabbling over coordination (Tarrant 2005; Cumming-Bruce 2005; IOC url). For some of those who have given money, especially people who do not usually make donations to international causes, it may foster a more lasting interest in the regions where their money is being spent. On one reading, the unprecedented response to the tsunami could be considered as proof of a greater global connectedness, global solidarity, global civil society in the 21st century.
In this light, many global civil society actors saw it as an opportunity. In the first place, it was a financial opportunity. Large international NGOs saw their coffers filled beyond their capacity to spend in the disaster-stricken areas, and had to find ethically acceptable ways of diverting the money to more structural problems. Local groups sprang up or changed gear to take part in the tsunami bonanza (Frerks and Klem 2005: 20–2; Box 1.1). But the tsunami effect was appropriated in other ways, too.
In response to the public outpouring of generosity, the Paris Club of major donors offered to suspend payments from the countries affected. But some, such as Thailand, did not take up the offer because it would turn their country into ‘a credit risk’, and NGOs characterised the step as inadequate (Oxfam 2005; Jubilee Debt Campaign and World Development Movement 2005). Thus, the tsunami has helped to reopen the discussion on debt relief.
‘Other tsunamis’ were discovered in the form of the war in Iraq (Monbiot 2005), the Aids/HIV epidemic, the ‘24,000 deaths every day from poverty and debt and division that are the products of a supercult called neoliberalism’ (Pilger 2005), and the consequences of climate change (Guardian 2004; Christian Today 2005), which would leave some of the coastal areas affected by the tsunami permanently submerged. These attempts to apply the successful ‘tsunami risk frame’ to other areas did not always succeed in galvanising the global imagination.
On the one hand, according to British journalist Andrew Gilligan, the tsunami ‘lowered the bar to get development stories on TV’ (Gilligan 2005). The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), initiated at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January 2005, built up a rapid momentum in the first six months of the year, with groups in more than 60 countries calling for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The focus was the G8 meeting in Scotland. The Make Poverty History campaign, with the Live 8 concerts and the white armbands, mobilised millions of people around the slogan ‘Justice not Charity’ (see Box 1.2). On the other hand, the situation in Darfur, where tens of thousands have died as a result of violence, hunger or disease, has not entered the global imagination as something that could happen to any of us or as something we can all help alleviate. It may spark feelings of compassion but also alienation and apathy. This is happening only to them, and will probably continue to do so.
The responses to the tsunami and to Darfur would suggest that shared risk perceptions on a global scale are possible, but only in very particular circumstances. Literally, the tsunami was a danger, not a risk, but the response to it has been to that of a risk: imaginable to us all, and fixable at least in its consequences by human agency. The Darfur crisis, on the other hand, was and is conceived as a danger: deplorable, inevitable, but not something we can internalise as a risk to us all that we must try to avert. This response is all the more paradoxical as in fact the Darfur crisis was man-made, whereas the tsunami was the natural disaster. It would suggest that the tsunami was a ‘one-off’ in global empathy, and in fact global civil society has a long way to go in representing environmental destruction, conflicts, hunger and disease as ‘other tsunamis’ or ‘global risks’ that could even hypothetically affect us all.
One of Ulrich Beck’s major theses about the risk society, or world risk society, is that it has superseded the class society. In his seminal Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (1992), Beck predicted that the problematic of scarcity and distribution would increasingly give way to that of risk and safety. In 2000, Ruth Levitas still confirmed that, in her students’ annual essays on utopia ‘The question of safety (and hence of risk) has been increasingly present … and the question of economic equality less so’ (Levitas 2000: 203).
But there was always a tension between the global aspirations of the ‘risk society’ as proclaimed by Beck (1992) and Giddens (1990), and the recognition that the shift from class to risk preoccupations would occur only ‘where and to the extent that genuine material need can be objectively reduced and socially isolated through the development of human and technological productivity, as well as through legal and welfare state protections and regulations’ (Beck 1992: 19). Hence one of their friendly critics warned that ‘as the fault lines of risk expand, we must not lose sight of society’s oldest burden, the crushing weight of poverty’ (Mythen 2004: 185).
The research in this series would suggest that, after the advent of the anti-capitalist movement, the idea that equality discourse has been replaced by risk discourse is no longer tenable. Instead, the two are increasingly linked by global civil society actors. New connections are being made, with class framed in a new, more global way that focuses on gender and ethnic dimensions as much as income distribution.
To begin with, various critics have pointed out that Beck’s ‘democratisation of risk’ is predicated on a reliance on ‘worst case scenarios’: disasters of at least the magnitude and globalising tendency of the tsunami. More conventional risks of famines, war or even pollution continue to affect people unevenly according to class (Scott 2000). The worst-case effects of climate change would presumably be in the ‘ultimate catastrophe’ category.
But Peter Newell shows in Chapter 3 in this yearbook that, in fact, global civil society actors are now busy reconnecting class to risk even with respect to climate change, not just between but within societies. Since 2002, a self-styled ‘climate justice’ movement has joined the more conventional Northern-based environmental NGOs. It is not just more global and more radical, but also more holistic in its analysis than the old actors, who would not have connected greenhouse effects to either social justice or human rights.
Newell also cites the recent foundation, in the US, of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, which advocates ‘the fair treatment of people of all races, tribes and economic groups in the implementation and enforcement of environmental protection laws’ in the light of the ‘disproportionate impacts from climate change [which] might accrue to these groups because, for example, 80 per cent of people of colour and indigenous people in the US live in coastal regions.’ In response, a coal lobby group has published a report arguing that ratification of the Kyoto Protocol would ‘disproportionately threaten the well-being of Blacks and Hispanics in the United States’ (Newell, Chapter 3).
Similar social justice arguments are being made in other classic ‘risk’ domains, such as GM foods. In Europe the debate has focused mainly on whether the risks are acceptable. But in the developing world there are further divisions between those, like ISAAA (url) and the Biotechnology Information Centres (BIC url; MABIC url; Safetybio url), which argue that, if carefully managed, biotechnology can be helpful to poor farmers, and those, including GRAIN (url) and Pesticide Action Network (url), which consider the global experiment with GM technology a risk to food and income security for the poor because the power concentration involved means that small farmers are at risk of being driven out of business by transnational agribusiness corporations.
The Bhopal campaign has also been revitalised as it lends itself very well to a holistic analysis, having environmental, social justice and human rights aspects as well as a corporate villain (Jain 2003). In 2004, the campaign made various advances in both Indian and US courts, it presented its case in workshops at the World Social Forum, and two core campaigners won the prestigious Goldman Prize (Kuruganthi 2004).
At a meeting organised by the Club of Madrid, the club of 140 former presidents and prime ministers, on the first anniversary of the 2004 Madrid bombings, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, called for a more active role for global civil society in countering terrorism:
Not only political leaders, but civil society and religious leaders should clearly denounce terrorist tactics as criminal and inexcusable. Civil society has already conducted magnificent campaigns against landmines, against the recruitment of children as soldiers, and against allowing war crimes to go unpunished. I should like to see an equally strong global campaign against terrorism. . . . We must pay more attention to the victims of terrorism, and make sure their voices can be heard. (Annan 2005)
As Figure 1.1 shows, deaths and injuries from terrorist incidents have greatly increased since 2000. But the way in which terrorism is perceived varies greatly in different regions. Indeed, perhaps more than any other risk, terrorism is subject to manipulation, instrumentalisation, and reinterpretation. The figures in the chart, which comes from a US funded source, refer only to non-state terrorism. This reflects the dominant perception in the US, where terrorism is seen as a threat to the US, akin to a foreign enemy like the Soviet Union or Germany. This is partly to be explained by the shock of 9/11, when more people were killed than at Pearl Harbour in 1941, which marked the start of US involvement in the Second World War. But it can also be understood in terms of the way this perception of terrorism chimes with a narrative about the role of the US in promoting and defending freedom – a narrative that is deeply embedded in the structures of government and is narrative, moreover, widely purveyed by the American media.
In fact, the majority of incidents included in the Figure 1.1 art took place in the Middle East. There, more civilian deaths have resulted from state violence than from non-state violence. In other words, the figure shows only a minority of civilian deaths resulting from political violence. In Iraq, the best estimates suggest that around 25,000 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the war in March 2003; the majority are the result of American attacks, even though in recent months the share claimed by insurgent incidents has been increasing. In Palestine, more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli forces than Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. In much of the Middle East and beyond, it is the policies of the United States and Israel that are seen as the major threat. Although the majority condemn jihadists or suicide bombers, especially in Iraq, these are seen as lesser or equal evils.
 These figures come from Iraqbodycount.org. The other source is the painstaking study reported in the British medical journal The Lancet. This study was based on sampling of clusters of households in all the governorates of Iraq. Excluding the Fallujah cluster, which had much higher casualties than elsewhere (accounting for two-thirds of violent deaths) the study found the rate of casualties much higher than actually reported to the press. The study estimated an additional 98,000 deaths, excluding Fallujah, throughout Iraq, compared with a similar period before the war. The biggest cause of death was violent incidents accounting for some 24 per cent of the total; of these the majority were caused by American air strikes. See Roberts et al. (‘’2004).
 According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem (Human Rights Watch, 2005), between the beginning of the Intifada and the end of November 2004, 3,040 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, including 606 children, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to their investigations at least 1,661 of those killed (including 531 children under the age of 18) were not involved in hostilities when they were killed. According to the Israeli-based International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism (URL), between the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and May 2003, Palestinians had been responsible for the deaths of 700 Israelis, 546 of whom were non-combatants. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (URL), which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, between 29 September 2000 and 13 May 2005, 3,607 Palestinians had died and 28,695 been injured.
Indeed, in much of the world the word ‘terrorism’ is rejected because of the way it has been politicised and captured by the rhetoric of the Bush administration and its allies. The word seems to be used to emphasise threats to Western citizens and to downplay the kind of political, criminal or just senseless violence that is the daily experience of many Colombian or Congolese citizens, for instance.
In Europe, the perception that terrorism is a crime that has no political rationality competes with the perception that the risk of terrorism has increased as a result of Western foreign policies. In Spain, it was the latter perception that predominated. The Madrid bombings of 11 March 2005 led to a popular mobilisation because the government had tried to attribute responsibility for the bombings to Basque separatists, in the knowledge that the attacks would be linked to Spain’s involvement in Iraq. The government was subsequently defeated at a general election, and Spain immediately announced its withdrawal from Iraq.
A year later, the bombings in London on 7 July and 21 July were universally condemned, as in Madrid. Initially, it was the former perception that terrorism is a crime that has no political rationality, which predominated. The attacks were seen as a crime not against Britain but against multicultural London. According to London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone:
This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever. That isn’t an ideology, it isn’t even a perverted faith – it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder. (London Homepage 2005)
But it was not long before the issue of the war in Iraq began to be raised. The bombastic Respect MP George Galloway was widely criticized for blaming Britain’s involvement in the war in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. But the criticism was as much about the tasteless timing as about the content of the argument. Members of the Muslim Community condemned the attacks but nevertheless insisted that the war in Iraq and the double standards vis-à-vis Israel has alienated many young Muslims. The Mayor of London made a similar argument, and a poll undertaken by the Guardian newspaper showed that two-thirds of the British public felt the government had some responsibility for the attacks because of the war in Iraq. An even stronger report from the Royal Institute for International Affairs (2005) published shortly after the attacks suggested that the war in Iraq had increased the risk of terrorism. The government, of course, strongly denied any link, arguing that the attackers were under the sway of an ‘evil ideology’ that long predated Iraq.
Some authors have doubted whether this potential is actually being fulfilled, pointing out that ‘subpolitical groups are susceptible to engulfment by the formal process’ (Mythen 2004: 173), and further that ‘discourses about risk are socially constructed narratives’ (Culpitt 1999: 13) which can be used for hegemonic as much as for counter-hegemonic projects.
This becomes more obvious as one moves beyond the field of late modern technology, on which most risk theorists focus, to review discourses which relate to globalisation more generally (see also Beck 2005). In the case of technology, it is easy to paint a picture of David-like social movement activists armed with emotional and moral arguments pitted against the Goliath of corporate and state-led technologists armed with outdated rationality models. But when one surveys the debates on migration, the picture becomes more mixed.
It is often the case that those who are attracted to extremist ideologies that are associated with terrorism are migrants, either from countryside to town or across borders (see Kaldor and Muro 2003). In Chapter 4, Meghnad Desai discusses how old social-democratic concerns with welfare and distribution combine messily with communitarian cultural arguments about identity, security obsessions and plain racism to portray immigration as a risk to host societies, while neo-liberal economic arguments combine with a celebration of cultural diversity and support for the human right to move in favour of immigration. Both sides use combinations of economic reasoning and moral and emotional appeals. In the sending societies, concerns about heavy brain drain and again human rights concerns relating to the treatment of the migrants compete with the advantages of remittances in public discourse and government policy. Desai argues that anti-immigration lobbies have dominated the debate within global civil society and that those who favour the right to free movement need to be less defensive and to put their reasonable case to the test of public debate. In particular, the anti-capitalist movement has not been vocal on this issue, and advocacy of the pro-migrant position within anti-capitalist circles has been largely confined to a few peripheral anarchist and human rights groups.
The lack of voice on the issue of migration reflects what seems to be an increasing divergence between social justice and civil liberties. Security fears tend to be used to marginalise the case for civil liberties but they often help the case for social justice. During the cold war, civil liberties were often curtailed but pro-social justice groups were much stronger. Then in the 1990s, a period of neo-liberalism, the human rights movement was able to strengthen the global human rights regime in significant ways. In the aftermath of 9/11 the social justice agenda seems to have acquired a new lease of life but terrorism is being used to legitimise all kinds of restrictions on civil liberties. The debate about migration may be a casualty of this trend. Security and domestic welfare concerns have been allowed to override the human rights and global welfare case for migration.
Democratisation and instrumentalisation
Where are the spaces in which global civil society communicates and argues about risk? How are individual concerns about risk translated into political decision-making? In this yearbook we discuss four such forms. First of all, for many people the national level remains important. National governments are key participants in global negotiations and are often the first target of civil society action. To an extent that was hardly thinkable during the first phase of modernity, civil society activists can use global links to expand the space for democratic participation. The latest wave of democratisation in post-Soviet republics and in the Middle East illustrates this global dynamic of democratisation. Second, international organisations are under increasing pressure to make more meaningful arrangements for citizen participation. In Chapter 5, Richard Falk discusses the UN’s efforts to come to terms with the challenge of opening up access for global civil society. We suggest below that the series of ‘no’s’ to the European Union’s draft Constitution may also be related to issues of access and participation. Third, the new phenomenon of Social Forums is, at least in aspirational terms, about creating new mechanisms for political participation. And finally, a new medium for global civil society is the rash of reports, study groups, and commissions initiated by global leaders and carried out by independent experts.
Mobilisation for democracy
In the opening chapter of the 2004/5 yearbook, we noticed a trend of renewed civil society interest in mobilising for national elections. We and others had earlier noted a shift in the recent decades away from public participation in political parties and from civil society interest in national politics. Since the turn of the century, however, there appears to be a renewed interest in national politics, but not in the form of renewed political party activism. Instead, civil society mobilises on a more occasional basis against authoritarianism, rigged elections, lying politicians, and corruption.
Chapter 8, by Castells et al., brings out how these forms of mobilisation are different from older forms of national mobilisation. First, and most eye-catchingly, there is the use of new information and communications technology (ICT). Where earlier work by Castells and others has concentrated on the transformative features of the internet, this introduction focuses on mobilisation by mobile phone. Like the internet, it can have the function of breaking into information oligarchies. New ICTs became so important in the Korean, the Spanish, and perhaps also the Philippine cases because the old media was, for whatever reason, on the side of the establishment. But the speed with which mobile phones can spread information greatly surpasses that of the internet, although, as the authors point out, texting is great for mobilisation but much less so for deliberation.
Second, while all the case studies describe national politics, none of the mobilisations was exclusively national in its concerns. Iraq binds the Spanish, the US and to some extent the Korean cases together as a global preoccupation impinging on national politics. In the Spanish case global communications technology provided a clear anti-censorship factor in the sense that, astoundingly after 30 years of democracy, people went to foreign websites for trustworthy information. In the Philippines case the ‘global element’ was more ambiguous as the wealthy diaspora helped to replace a populist with a neo-liberal regime.
The trend for civil society mobilisation to democratise national politics seems to be continuing in 2005, making inroads into remaining bastions of authoritarianism in the former Soviet Union (Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan) and the Middle East (Lebanon). While the first two were about election-rigging, Lebanon uniquely concerned foreign occupation (see Box I.3). The Ukrainian and Lebanese events in particular show very similar features, and raise similar questions, to those described in Chapter 8.
In both the Ukrainian and the Lebanese revolutions, text messaging again played an important role in mobilising especially young people (Koprowski 2004; Quilty 2005). There seems to be clear evidence of transnational contagion and imitation in these ‘colour-coordinated’ revolutions. While the Ukrainian revolution looked the most heroic in braving the bitter cold, the Lebanese one put on the best display:
Pieces of cardboard (coloured red, white or green on one side and black on the other) were distributed to the 10,000 people assembled in the adjacent Martyrs’ Square. On cue, the demonstrators flipped their cardboard to form a 3,800-square-metre flag (when the speaker demanded to know the truth about Hariri’s killing) or a black rectangle of the same size (in reference to the opposition’s enemies). (Quilty 2005)
But it has been questioned whether the global element in all these revolutions was just a matter of horizontal contagion or whether there was deliberate foreign manipulation. Both the Bush administration and the financier-philanthropist George Soros have been named as fomenters of the revolution, usually with sinister intent. Soros did indeed quite openly support the democratic revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, financially and strategically, and the Bush administration has welcomed all the recent mobilisations, and may also have given prior support – although it must be pointed out that is due to Soros’s attempts at regime change.
Very similar dynamics operated in Ukraine and in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Jim Quilty (2005) writes of a smaller counter-demonstration by Hizbollah that:
the most striking difference between these demonstrators and the 70,000 or so anti-regime activists who gathered at Martyrs’ Square the night before was class. Though sometimes evident in matters of dress or manner, this difference was mostly registered in means of transportation – Hezbollah supporters travelling by bus or foot rather than the fleets of Mercedes, SUVs and Hummers used by opposition supporters. There was a very strong sense that the Martyrs’ Square rallies were demonstrations of privilege whereas this was one of the dispossessed – albeit a dispossessed being instrumentalised by Hezbollah.
Government reform and civil society: the risk of instrumentalisation
Not all encounters between civil society and the state are dramatic tales of miraculous victory or bloody defeat. Global civil society also faces more conventional risks, such as being instrumentalised by governments and international organisations. For example, heads of state at the Sixth Global Forum in Reinventing Government, held in Seoul, 23–27 May 2005, and attended by several thousand representatives from 140 countries, made repeated calls for governments to work with civil society in meeting the growing gap between social needs and public resources. In an address delivered by Undersecretary Moreno, Kofi Annan called for a global government-civil society consensus on development as part of a ‘system-wide exercise’; the Prime Minister of Korea stressed the link between civil society and governmental reform and accountability; the President of Brazil emphasised that civil society and engaged citizens were at the centre of policy action locally as well as globally; and leading government officials from countries and organisations as diverse as Tanzania, Thailand, Iran, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Italy, South Africa, the European Union and the OECD stressed the role of civil society in forging efficient systems of public-private partnerships in service delivery, the contribution of civil society to greater transparency and accountability, and greater social inclusion. While many scholars are beginning to problematise the idea of civil society as a panacea (Chandhoke 2005), diverse government leaders continue to be all the more enamoured of the concept.
The change in terminology that has occurred over recent years is remarkable. Whereas until the late 1990s ‘NGO’ was the term most commonly used in such international gatherings, the term ‘civil society’ has gained much currency. Increasingly, ‘NGOs’ and ‘civil society’ are being used interchangeably, and civil society has become reified as an actor similar to ‘the state’ and ‘the market’. For one thing, that policymakers have begun to ascribe agency to civil society reflects a limited understanding of its nature and function, transforms civil society into an organisational, even sectoral, phenomenon, and paints over diversity and complexity in favour of finding a convenient ‘conceptual handle’ on a par with ‘the state’ and ‘the market’.
Making the equation of NGOs and non-profit organisations with civil society is also part of a process of instrumentalisation by national governments and international organisations that are in search of greater legitimacy, and eager to try out seemingly new ways towards overdue public sector reform. The statements and proceedings of the Sixth Global Forum on Reinventing Government, mentioned above, the UN’s High Level Panel on Civil Society (see below), the World Bank’s projects on social accountability and civic engagement, or the EU’s attempts to ‘reach out to civil society’, are examples of this instrumentalisation.
Top-down views of the functions of civil society include three broad perspectives that have become prominent in recent years. First, NGOs have become part of new public management and mixed ‘economies of welfare’ that involve public and private providers. New public management approaches see NGOs as closely linked to welfare state reform or welfare state alternatives. Second, civil society is seen as central to ‘civil society-social capital’ approaches, specifically the neo-Tocquevillian emphasis on the nexus between social capital and participation in voluntary associations of many kinds. Third, from a wider social accountability perspective, civil society is an instrument for achieving greater transparency, heightened accountability and improved governance of public institutions. The ‘other genealogy’ of civil society, that which describes its functions in terms of counter-hegemony and contestation (Howell and Pearce 2002: 31-38; Kaldor 2003), is left firmly out of the picture.
Apart from the discounting of more confrontational notions, civil society is also ‘domesticated’ in another sense. Quite against the recent history of actually existing organisations, movements and networks, much government rhetoric (less so that of international institutions) treats civil society as a national phenomenon. As such, it can conveniently be cast in a role of ‘junior partner’ to government. Such typecasting masks the fact that it is precisely the transcending of boundaries that has made global civil society a force to be reckoned with (whether governments like it or not).
The first of the three approaches set out above sees NGOs as service providers within public-private partnerships under the rubric of new public management and the rise of markets and quasi-markets in areas that have hitherto been part of the welfare state. The assumption is that NGOs are more efficient providers than governments. The second approach – the discovery of civil society as a source of social capital – is based on the growing awareness among policy-makers and scholars that the very social fabric of society is changing. The assumption here is that civil society is key to social trust and cohesion. In the developed world, the decline of traditional membership organisations such as unions, political parties and churches, alleged erosions in social capital and interpersonal as well as institutional trust, and other factors bring with them a profound awareness of uncertainty and a concern about social stability. In the developing world, debate about social exclusion, failing states and social disintegration raises similar expectations whereby civil society is to serve as the panacea to counteract social isolation and the negative impact of individualism on social cohesion. The third approach – social accountability – sees governance as a combined effort that includes civil society actors and business as well as government. The assumption in this case is that civil society enhances accountability and transparency. It is about affirming and operationalising direct accountability relationships between citizens and the state. It includes efforts by citizens and civil society organisations to hold the state to account as well as actions on the part of government, civil society, the media and other actors to promote or facilitate greater accountability.
The combination of these three, somewhat contradictory, perspectives could be seen as a kind of merger of neo-liberal policies of welfare state reform with ‘third way’ approaches. Whereas neo-liberal policies stress smaller governments overall, greater fiscal accountability and individual responsibility, the third way calls for decentralised forms of government based on transparency and accountability, efficient administration, more opportunities for direct democracy, social inclusion, and an environmentally friendly economy.
There was always a technocratic overlap between new public management and decentralisation; but they differed in terms of civil engagement and empowerment. Initially, the third way foresaw a reorganisation of the state that required an activation of civil society and social participation, the encouragement of social entrepreneurship, and new approaches to public-private partnerships in the provision of public goods and services. Specifically, the framework involved a renewal of political institutions to encourage greater citizen participation; a new relationship between government and civil society with an engaged government and a vibrant set of voluntary associations of many kinds; a wider role for businesses as socially and environmentally responsible institutions; and a structural reform of the welfare state away from ‘entitlement’ towards risk management (Giddens 1998; 2000; The White House, 1999).
Yet, in the course of less than a decade, the ideological foundations of a renewal of government have been cleansed of the ideology of empowerment in favour of technocratic approaches that essentially incorporate NGOs in the project to achieve greater public sector efficiency. New public management and not civic renewal dominates, and the government-civil society dialogue is increasingly top-down, paying lip service to social accountability and self-organisation.
Instrumentalisation of civil society rhetoric for essentially neo-liberal policies has allowed governments with very different political ideologies and varied human rights backgrounds to make claims on what they term ‘civil society’ but mean privatised governmental functions under state tutelage. And yet the rhetoric of civil society, which has proved surprisingly durable since the early 1990s, opens opportunities for civil society leaders to respond to the apolitical and top-down view of civil society, and to correct both terminology and agenda by engaging the new public management dialogue more forcefully. The UN’s recent interest in civil society may offer a platform in this respect for what we see as a need to counteract the top-down and instrumentalist view of government organisations vis-à-vis civil society. More doubtfully, the rejection of the European Union’s draft Constitution in a series of referenda may also offer such an opportunity.
The UN and global civil society
In 2004/5 we wrote that ‘if key decisions are taken at the global level, there have to be mechanisms for increasing the responsiveness of global institutions to the demands of individual citizens’ (Kaldor, Anheier and Glasius 2005: 16). This question has taken centre stage at the United Nations in 2005, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan commissioned two High-Level Panels to advise on the UN’s relation with global civil society on the one hand, and its arrangements on governance of global security on the other hand. As Richard Falk describes in Chapter 5, both panels have made some useful practical suggestions, but neither lives up to the Secretary-General’s dramatic announcement that the UN has reached ‘a fork in the road’ and needs ‘a hard look at fundamental issues’, leading to ‘structural changes’ (see Chapter 5).
The Panel on UN-Civil Society Relations stakes a major claim for global civil society by titling its report We the Peoples: the United Nations, Civil Society and Global Governance (UN 2004). It has often been remarked that the United Nations does not in fact represent ‘peoples’ or ‘nations’, but states. By its choice of title, the panel appears to suggest that civil society represents ‘the peoples’ instead. It draws inspiration from ideas about participatory or deliberative democracy to argue that, through the mediation of global civil society, ‘anyone can enter the debates that most interest them, through advocacy, protest, and in other ways’ (UN 2004: para. 13). These are radical claims, which are valid in principle but are extremely difficult to apply in practice (see also Glasius 2005; Kaldor 2003). But the Panel’s concrete recommendations are hardly in keeping with such an optimistic view of civil society’s role in global governance. As Richard Falk notes in Chapter 5, the report engages in ‘soft advocacy’, proposing primarily to maintain the concessions global civil society has won over the decades through sustained pressure, rather than to specifying a structural role for civic participation.
Moreover, the panel appears to show a tendency to want to ‘streamline’ and homogenise civil society views. To this end, it proposes ‘disciplined networking and peer review processes of the constituencies’ (UN 2004: para. 26). But does not this run counter to the aspiration of democratising the United Nations through global civil society participation? As Iris Marion Young (1997: 401) puts it, deliberative democracy should not be ‘a comfortable place of conversation among those who share language, assumptions, and ways of looking at issues’. The emphasis on ‘disciplined networking and peer review’ could have the effect of brushing out differences within global civil society. This may make ‘consultation’ more convenient and speedy for international institutions, but it has negative consequences for the legitimacy and creativity of global civil society, and hence for its influence in the long term. It would also be a strategic mistake for the United Nations. Procedures to invite and manage different and even opposing perspectives are not only a requirement for having serious democratic debate. It would be a victory for the United Nations and for multilateralism if groups which are sceptical and suspicious of international institutions devote energy to participating in its debates, rather than fighting the organisation from the outside.
Despite the caution of the panel, Falk predicts that ‘a campaign on behalf of some institutional presence for global civil society within the structure of the United Nations is likely to build momentum and generate worldwide excitement’ (Chapter 5). There are various developments that would back up this forecast: the self-styled ‘World Forum of Civil Society Networks’ Ubuntu launched a campaign to reform international institutions, beginning with the United Nations, in 2002 (Reform Campaign url), and the Italian Tavola della Pace followed suit with an ambitious event in Padua in 2004 (Tavola della Pace url).
Many proposals for UN reform go in the direction of some kind of global civil society assembly, sometimes alongside an assembly of parliamentarians, to supplement or replace the existing General Assembly (Falk, Chapter 5; Van Rooy 2004: 134). But the fundamental flaw of all these proposals is that they try to push civil society into the straitjacket of representative democracy. As we and others have argued before, representation in the elective sense is not what global civil society does (Edwards 2003; Van Rooy 2004: 62–76; Anderson and Rieff 2004: 29–31). We believe the claims, and hence also the structures, for democratising the United Nations through global civil society should be more imaginative.
Civil society participation can aid the transparency of decision-making through calling states to account and monitoring state behaviour. It can contribute – although not inevitably – to levelling the playing field between states. It can introduce new viewpoints into discussions and spark more substantial deliberation, not just predicated on putative state interest. And it can inject arguments based on (contestable) ethical claims regarding the global common good (Glasius 2005; Van Rooy 2004; Scholte 2001). Thinking about how such ‘supplementary democracy’ (Van Rooy 2004: 137) through global civil society can be strengthened is both more creative and more realistic than proposals that would make a set of international NGOs represent global civil society, which would in turn represent the global demos.
Even so, the upsurge of interest from within global civil society to radically democratise the United Nations and other international institutions, not incrementally, but as a campaign in itself, may revitalise a rather tired debate. As Hagai Katz and Helmut Anheier write in Chapter 7 of this volume, ‘in light of the deepening weakness of the UN system . . . global governance actors lack any motivation to act and often prefer to free ride’, and, as Falk discusses at length in Chapter 5, there are many barriers to innovation. A new campaign may put sufficient pressure on states and on the institution itself to accept some changes. At least, it may help to prevent a simultaneous rollback of the power of global civil society within international institutions, and of international institutions within global governance.
The EU Constitution and citizen participation
The European project is in trouble as the EU’s draft constitution is the subject of a series of referenda. At the time of writing, Spain and Luxembourg have voted ‘yes’, the former with a record low turnout, whereas France and the Netherlands have voted ‘no’, and it is not clear whether other planned referenda in Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom will go ahead. Some of these countries are expected to be Euro-sceptic, but how did the citizens of two of the founding members of the EU, with a history of Euro-enthusiasm, come to turn against the Constitution?
In both the Netherlands and France, there has emerged in recent years a general mood of distrust of establishment politicians, as evidenced by the breakthrough of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front, to the final round of the 2002 French presidential elections and the spectacular if short-lived success of the Pim Fortuyn List in the 2002 Dutch parliamentary election. Part of the reason for the ‘no’ vote clearly lay in the desire to punish the main parties (including in both cases the socialist opposition), which advocated a ‘yes’ vote.
But there was a wider problem with the way in which the Constitution had come about and the way it was communicated to the European public. A constitution is an emotive document, and could be considered as nothing less than a covenant between a community of citizens, establishing not just the rules of how they are to be governed but also the values they share. The US Constitution is a prime example of such a text, but even the Charter of the World Social Forum could be considered akin to constitutions as a foundational statement (see Glasius and Timms, Chapter 6). But the European Constitution is a bureaucratic document, negotiated between politicians and former politicians, with little attempt at resonance with the people of Europe. Indeed, politicians did not make a sufficient effort to explain what was in the constitution and why it was important. In the Netherlands, ‘lack of information’ was one of the main reasons for voting no (De Volkskrant 2005). The same explanation was given for the abstention by many Spanish voters, where the vote was ‘yes’, but with a turnout of only 42 per cent (Shields 2005).
Thus, the rejection of the constitution reflected the growing distance between the European political class and the citizens. For the ‘man in the street’ interviewed on television, the rejection was a chance to express disaffection with the political process. It was a response to decades of decision-making by the European elites behind closed doors. There is no ‘face’ of Europe, no obvious address to which request, objections, ideas, or proposals can be sent. Yet Europe is often used as an excuse for not responding to requests, objections, ideas and proposals sent to a national address. Europe seems to most people to be a set of buildings in Brussels. The constitution became a symbol of distrust and frustration with the opaque character of decision-making in a global era.
Opposition to the constitution came from both left and right. The left voted against the content of the constitution, particularly the neo-liberalism of the constitution, the clauses incorporating wholesale the Thatcher-era provisions for the single market originally contained in the Maastricht Treaty. The right were voting against Europe. It was both a debate about what kind of Europe and a debate about the French and Dutch relationships to Europe. And this was one of the big problems with the referenda. Because they took place in separate countries, they became pro- or anti-Europe debates, debates about national identity, debates about ‘in’ or ‘out’, rather than debates about the future of Europe.
There is no question that EU reform is necessary, and many of the provisions in the constitution would have made the organisation more effective, particularly in the area of foreign policy. But the rejection could be taken by the politicians of Europe as an opportunity to rectify the mistake they made in foisting a ‘constitution’ upon their citizens without consulting them. This could be a chance to have really open Union-wide discussions about what people like, and dislike, about ‘being European’; whether they feel in need of a constitution; and what should be in it. In such a process, which could include town hall meetings, school assemblies and online discussion forums, the people of Europe could define for themselves to what extent they actually have a common identity. If a real constitution can be forged out of such discussions and consultations, the process and text itself could actually be drivers of a common European spirit, as defined by the people themselves.
Social Forums and interconnectedness
Two chapters in this yearbook discuss directly the matter of global civil society’s infrastructure: how global it is in terms of actual on-the-ground presence and connectedness rather than rhetoric. The conclusions of Katz and Anheier’s chapter on international NGOs give a bleak response to this question. While international NGOs are nearly all connected to each other in one huge inclusive network, there is a ‘pronounced centre-periphery structure’. Moreover, the biggest clusters of INGOs mirror the centres of corporate and governmental power: New York, London, Washington, DC and Brussels. Hence, the network reproduces rather than counteracts the amplification of Northern over Southern voices.
The debate in Chapter 2, between three thinkers deeply invested in the World Social Forum (WSF), including two of its founder members, focuses on the difference between a movement and a space. For Chico Whitaker, the WSF is a space where myriad individuals and organisations can come together to meet, debate, argue, and plan campaigns. Such a space can stimulate campaigns or movements; indeed, the march against the war in Iraq on 15 February 2003 and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, which came out of the 2005 WSF, are two such examples. But to be effective in developing and purveying shared bottom-up analyses of global risks and injustices, the forum needs to retain its horizontal networking character. In contrast, Bernard Cassen and Sousa Santos warn against the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’ and argue that WSF needs more transparent organisational rules in order to be able to build on its strength to put forward concrete proposals for opposing neo-liberalism. They find the social forums too amorphous, and hark back to earlier movements with more clearly circumscribed mandates and a clear leadership. In particular, they defend the ‘Manifesto of the Old Men’, launched in 2005 with very little fanfare. Among the young activists of the social forums, however, the Whitaker view seems to be in the ascendant.
An optimistic conclusion from these chapters could therefore be that an INGO contingent within global civil society, focused on lobbying work in the corridors of power, is complemented by a more dispersed, more militant as well as more self-reflexive contingent of social forums. But the question arises to what extent and in what manner the get-on-with-it culture of the relatively powerful INGOs interacts with the more contentious, chaotic and creative social forum culture. Further research might provide a fuller picture of whether these two worlds are fairly separate or intimately linked, and whether relations are cordial, antagonistic, or creatively contentious.
The year of the reports
Starting with the Brandt Commission in 1980, a phenomenon that has become an important component of global civil society is the plethora of commissions, study groups or task forces set up by governments of international institutions to bring together expert opinion on specific global issues. The reports of these international bodies can be viewed as a sort of filter between civil society groups and the institutions of global governance. They are a way of drawing attention to global issues, both for the public and for decision-makers. They can be both ‘top-down’, in the sense that they are generally commissioned by political institutions and are often regarded as mechanisms for mobilisation, and at the same time ‘bottom-up’, in so far as they take evidence from citizens and civil society groups and offer a form of access. Whether they represent democratisation or instrumentalisation, therefore, remains a question to be researched.
The past year has been the year of reports (see Box 1.4), particularly for the United Nations and the European Union. A number of reports were commissioned in the aftermath of the crises in both institutions as a result of the war in Iraq. The profound divisions over the war immobilised the institutions and represented a profound crisis of multilateralism and global governance. The reports can be viewed as proposals for overcoming these crises and reinvigorating efforts to apply the precautionary principle at a global level. Some of these reports are listed in Box 1.4, with further discussion of some in Richard Falk’s chapter.
The central concerns of the 2005 reports are poverty and security. Their key conclusions are summarised in the Box 1.4. Perhaps the most significant idea that comes out of the all the reports is the connection between poverty and security, between – to use the language of this introduction – dangers and risks. Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are presented, in these reports, as ‘other tsunami’ in the sense that they are represented as a potential risk to us all. As in the case of climate change, connections are made between terrorism and inequality. But here the dominant argument is not that terrorism would hit the poor harder, but rather that inequality itself increases the risk of terrorism. Thus, the connection becomes one of self-interest, and is not the preserve of a radical social justice movement. It has become common ground, at least in the rhetoric if not in the policy of Western states, and expressed in these reports, that poverty and inequality are security risks, and poverty alleviation can therefore be a form of anti-terrorist policy.
This year’s reports have engendered a mixed response. Within decision-making circles, the reports have been welcomed as bringing together and taking forward a range of proposals on the global and European agenda. Among campaigning groups and NGOs, many have expressed scepticism that the reports are too moderate and that, by focusing on what is perceived to be politically possible, they have failed to shift the global consensus in a more radical direction. Reports are, of course, a form of deliberation. The question is whether the proposals contained in the report can be translated into global decision-making, whether moderation was the appropriate strategy or whether action requires more widespread pressure.
At the 2005 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, French President Jacques Chirac endorsed the idea of an ‘international solidarity levy’ to fight HIV/AIDS; British Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed a doubling of aid to Africa and debt relief; and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called for an end to ‘developed world agriculture and export subsidies, punitive customs and excise duties’ (WEF 2005). It is uncertain to what extent this increased social justice agenda can be attributed to the activities of the restyled global social justice movement or to the desire to assuage the ‘global rancour’ of potential future terrorists. Nor is it yet clear whether any of these proposals will make it to the implementation stage. The G8 summit has been predictably modest in its decisions, but at least it was discussing issues such as trade subsidies or climate change, which would not previously have been on its agenda.
The G8 campaigners have pledged to maintain the pressure on political leaders, who will meet again at the UN Millennium + 5 Summit in New York in September 2005, to review progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals, which were intended to address the worst offences of poverty by 2015. As Kofi Annan said at a public event in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral on the eve of the G8: ‘We cannot win overnight. Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between now and the deadline  . . . This is why the mass mobilization we are seeing now is so important’ (UNIS 2005).
Conclusion: risk and human security
The past year has been a roller coaster year for global civil society. Events like the tsunami or the London bombings have exposed the meaning of world risk society. Global civil society action, ranging from respectable reports to anarchic demonstrations, can be understood as attempts to portray both everyday dangers faced by millions of people in the poorer and more violent parts of the world and their translation into risks faced by people living in the richer, supposedly more secure parts of the world.
One concept that brings together many of these concerns is that of ‘human security’. The term has been popularised by yet another report, that of the Commission on Human Security (2003), and is applied in the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. But although the term is beginning to be used in development discourse, its potential may not yet be fully realised. It is a term with which global civil society activists can confront the current preoccupation of governments and public opinion with terrorism, entering the security debate with strategies that go beyond repression. This could be more realistic and productive than just lamenting the current security paradigm.
On the one hand, it involves accepting that security is not just an obsession of controlling governments, it is a deeply felt concern by people all over the world. On the other hand, the term ‘human security’ suggests that security policies must go well beyond securing metropolitan populations against terrorist attacks. Everyone has a right to feel secure, which means to be free from fear and free from want. Yet, as the Commission on Human Security makes clear, it is not a good that can be delivered to passive subjects; it also involves an element of emancipation.
Finally, the concept refers to the security of individuals and communities rather than states, whether we are talking about state borders or the protection of the state apparatus, and is thus connected to human rights as well as human development, civil liberties as well as social justice. In the case of security, this is particularly important because it strips it from its historic connection with the state, and the state’s prerogative to decide what constitutes a threat to security and what does not. The human security frame acknowledges that the security of citizens is not always bound up with the security of the state; sometimes it is the state itself that most threatens its citizens. On the other hand, it also acknowledges that in the 21st century the state may not always be able to keep its citizens secure, and other actors, at the local, regional and global levels, should share responsibility for human security.
This is where global civil society comes in. The idea of human security can connect many of the global civil society activities described in this introduction, from social justice and climate change campaigns to disaster relief and campaigns against political violence. Because the concept applies to the community of human beings, it offers the potential for expressing a global precautionary principle. In Global Civil Society 2004/5 we redefined global civil society as the medium through which one or more social contracts are negotiated by individual citizens and the various institutions of global governance (national, international and local) (Kaldor, Anheier and Glasius, 2004/5:2; Held 2004) This is an ongoing process involving debate, argument, campaigning, struggle, pressure, information, and a wide range of groups and individuals. One scenario is the further instrumentalisation of global civil society as a partner in a top-down effort to contain risk. The alternative scenario is a combined effort to confront everyday dangers of poverty, insecurity and environmental degradation. Human security could be a powerful framework for global civil society in framing these risks in transformative ways.
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