University of Earth


within a strategic reframing of the Union of International Associations (2005)

[reframe index]


Within its constrained resource framework, the Secretariat has tended to focus on ways of "representing" through its self-funded core documentary activities -- rather than through separate activities for which specific funding had to be found. It is through its information activity that the UIA "represents" all international nonprofit bodies, and their concerns, in a more comprehensive, detailed and unbiased manner than is possible in any other mode of activity.

Promoting recognition

In the light of the information maintained on international organizations and their preoccupations, the promotes understanding of how such bodies represent valid interests in every field of human activity or belief, whether scientific, religious, artistic, commercial, educational, professional or political. A special focus is given to the recognition of non-governmental bodies by intergovernmental institutions and the need to overcome the legal and administrative obstacles currently preventing the effective use of the full potential of the inter-organizational network.

Promotion of an international convention on the legal status of international associations is an active concern, currently focused on publication of a collection of statutes of international associations. This concern has led to the adoption by the Council of Europe of the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-governmental Organizations.

Community building

This strategy implies a radical shift from a "registry" mindset to a "community" mindset. "Community" is an easy word to use. In practice, however, it has multiple meanings and associations. For some it is perfectly adequate as a loose term to apply to a pattern of undefined associations that individuals and groups activate and enhance through "networking". The telephone system and e-mail are ideal technologies to support community. Services to the civil society  community can indeed limit themselves to focusing on web equivalents. The notion of "community" by its very nature tends to focus on, and assume, a degree of consensus. It ignores the basic fact that for many bodies in civil society  their main concern is to counteract and oppose the initiatives of other bodies in that same domain. Such opposition may be basic to their sense of distinct identity and the prime reason for their distinct existence and expression on the web.

There may indeed be a recognition of shared membership in community in the most abstract sense, and shared interest with regard to freedom of expression, but the lack of consensus across sectors and ideologies is a fundamental issue in responding to the realities of the dynamics within that "community". In confronting the realities of these dynamics, the challenge will be to respond creatively to the variety of "divides" (as noted earlier) that fragment the community of non-profit bodies, including especially : · The digital divide · The cultural divide between the dominant western style, and its association with elites in many developing countries, and the variety of alternative styles, the sectoral divide, and the styles of thinking and activity associated with each the linguistic The challenge is also to give meaningful expression to this more ecological sense of community. The civil society community is not only about agreement, but also about the disagreements that are fundamental to the vitality of democratic society. It is unacceptable to develop a marketing strategy based on the assumption that the civil society community is composed of those who agree with a set of principles selected by a particular coalition - and that all who do not agree with them should be encouraged to move elsewhere. The civil society community is not homogenous. It might be better understood as made up of "communities" with different identities and operating mindsets - often valiantly struggling to sustain their uniqueness and resist its dilution by other cultural forces.

Image building

Implicit in many of the above strategic elements are social challenges that face-to-face communication has not yet resolved between sectors of society, notably in the case of: o belief systems and their agendas (whether ideological or religious), o inter-organization political processes, and o lifestyle and cultural preferences. It will not be assumed, as part of the marketing and branding initiative, or the provision of any web services, that these societal issues will be readily resolved and "magicked away" through computer-mediated communication. Imposition of any one creative dialogue model is not a feature of the strategy advocated. There are many such models - and their number and the fervour of their respective advocates has only served to exemplify the problem of the failure of such models to resolve the bloodiest real-world conflicts. Nor will it be assumed that, deliberately or inadvertently, efforts may be made to replicate such dynamics in the electronic context to the advantage of some and to the disadvantage of many. ????
includes imagery consistent with the idea of contrasting and complementary communities which constitute a larger community The goal would be to provide services that honour such practical lived realities of organizational life and to show how these two complementary forces enable the emergence of a larger, more coherent, superordinate structure beyond the preoccupations of individual organizations and sectors. A key factor in responding creatively to the destructive dynamics that renders coalitions unsustainable would be to enable self-organizing dynamics that use such complementarity to avoid the need for any central organization to hold the community together.


UIA does not claim or seek to represent international organizations in articulating its own policies, rather it endeavours to represent the full range of their policy interests, concerns and activities through its comprehensive information activities. Membership is designed to ensure the good operation and independence of its information services and not to pursue any particular political agenda. Bodies profiled are not full members of UIA; the aim is to be as comprehensive as is possible in coverage of such bodies -- and this precludes any exercises in membership which would distort the information collection process. Most international organizations have no desire to perceive themselves as members of other bodies or to be represented by them.

Catalytic role

Whilst explicitly recognizing in its statutes the merit in principle of "activating" the nonprofit community as a whole, the UIA is especially sensitive to the fact that relatively few organizations - except on a symbolic basis - wish to be in any way conscripted in practice into "membership" of larger communities that qualify or distort their individual sense of identity and promote policies over which their own membership has relatively little control. It is for such reasons that the UIA has long downplayed its institutional role in maintaining such registries. It has instead promoted the registry itself - notably the Yearbook of International Organizations (now in its 39th edition). This avoids any socio-political issues associated with a non-information relationship of individual registrants to the UIA.

Interactive participation

Participative knowledge-base development: The data is provided by organizations from around the world. From January 1999, individuals and groups have become active participants in the interactive knowledge building processes associated with the development-oriented databases. The organization of the data allows users to improve the quality of the knowledge bases: feeding in or amending information, to comment in their own terms (positively or negatively) on existing information and linkages, and to offer alternative (integrative) hyperlink access maps to portions of the data. This facility is being integrated with electronic dialogue environments referencing the content.