非政府組織的軟權力
The conscience of humanity

日期: 2004-06-28
作者:Joseph Nye
出處:Kennedy School of Government

Reprinted from the South China Morning Post

When Human Rights Watch declared last January that the war in Iraq did not qualify as a humanitarian intervention, the international media took notice. According to the internet database Factiva, 43 news articles mentioned the report. Similarly, after the abuses of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison were disclosed, the views of Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross put pressure on the Bush administration both at home and abroad.

As these examples suggest, today's information age has been marked by the growing role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the international stage. Modern communications have led to a dramatic increase in scale, with the number of NGOs jumping from 6,000 to approximately 26,000 during the 1990s alone.

Many NGOs claim they act as a global conscience, representing broad public interests beyond the purview of individual states. NGOs do not have coercive "hard" power, but they often enjoy considerable "soft" power - the ability to get the outcomes they want through attraction rather than compulsion.

A rough way to gauge the increasing importance of transnational organisations is to count how many times they are mentioned in mainstream media publications. The use of the term "NGO" has increased 17-fold since 1992. By this measure, the biggest NGOs have become established players in the battle for the attention of influential editors. NGOs played key roles in the disruption of the World Trade Organisation summit in 1999, the passage of the Landmines Treaty and the ratification of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Similarly, transnational corporations are often targets of NGO campaigns to "name and shame" companies.

Royal Dutch Shell, for example, announced last year that it would not drill in any locations designated by Unesco as World Heritage sites. This decision came two years after the company acceded to pressure from environmentalists and scrapped plans to drill in a World Heritage site in Bangladesh. Similar campaigns have affected the investment and employment patterns of Mattel, Nike and a host of other companies.

NGOs vary enormously in their organisation, budgets, accountability and sense of responsibility for the accuracy of their claims.

Governments remain the major actors in world politics, but they now must share the stage with many more competitors for attention. Non-governmental actors are changing world politics. After Abu Ghraib, even US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must take notice.

Joseph Nye is dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

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