Proliferation and duplication of intergovernmental organizations and coordination bodies

There is widespread concern in both intergovernmental organizations and in governments at the haphazard proliferation of the former and of their activities. This concern arises from the increasing burden placed upon governments, particularly the smaller ones, by the multiplicity of intergovernmental organizations and their expanding activities; and from indications that amidst the present confusion the results achieved are neither commensurate with the effort involved, nor sufficiently productive.

In addition to the commitment of governments in financing these organizations, there exists the further burden of financing their participation, and the complex business of providing permanent or temporary missions, delegations to conferences, teams of specialists and experts to attend committees often of a highly technical nature, and of maintaining political control over all of this governmental supporting activity. In this process is involved the need to provide within the governmental machine, the machinery for briefing for all of these activities and the complex business of coordinating the activities of different departments of government. The providing of these services is an expense which, unlike direct contributions to budgets, cannot be scaled down and which thus weighs disproportionately upon the smaller governments.

However, more important for all governments than the financial burden is the difficulty of finding the necessary skilled and expert manpower (diplomatic, administrative or specialist) to perform such manifold tasks. In this respect, a majority of governments have already reached the limits of their capacity in an area where they themselves are in need of such people for their own internal purposes, and only the very largest are able to make the necessary provisions without difficulty.

An understanding of the problems which lie concealed behind the word 'cooperation', as applied to intergovernmental organizations is fundamental to any understanding of the problems which beset governments in an attempt to use a number of such bodies in an efficient manner. It is perhaps more accurate to assume that one intergovernmental organization as such cannot by its nature have any meaningful relationship with another, and to refer instead to relations between their secretariats within the limited range of the secretariats' functions and competence. Such cooperation between secretariats is certainly of value, though it is not an end in itself, but only an assistance to governments in the decision-making process. Though such cooperation is thus useful, experience shows that the results to be obtained from it are very limited.
1. Both in finance and in qualified manpower, the rapid and uncontrolled growth of intergovernmental organizations tends to widen, rather than to narrow, the gap between the performance of the larger and the smaller governments, and the latter tend to be less and less able to participate effectively in intergovernmental work. This is precisely the opposite of what ought to be the case; multilateral organization ought to be one of the means by which smaller governments can increase their participation in the life of the international community; the present situation makes it increasingly difficult for them to do this, while it leaves the largest governments little affected.

2. At the highest policy level, the largely obsolete and overlapping bodies such as the G-7 group, the OECD, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Council of Europe should be placed by a single body, possibly with the G-7 acting as a form of security council.

3. The charge so often levelled against intergovernmental organizations by governments and others, that they 'duplicate' one another's work is in fact only a negative way of approaching the problem of cooperation. If two secretariats are frank with one another, then information can be put before the relevant intergovernmental organs of the bodies concerned which, theoretically, should enable to governments constituting them to take decisions which would avoid 'duplication' of effort. All experience shows, however, that under present conditions governments are unlikely to act in this way.

True 'duplication' of the kind for which no excuse could be found, that is to say two organizations being engaged in carrying out precisely similar projects in identical groups with identical objectives, is so rare as to be almost unheard-of. The same subject matter may be dealt with in one organization from a legal standpoint, in another from a financial one and in a third from a technical one, and the boundaries of these activities will inevitably overlap and will be difficult to define. Alternatively it may be alleged that whereas organization 'A' is dealing with many member states with widely varying interests and therefore in rather general terms, organization 'B', with a much smaller and more homogeneous group of Member States, is studying it in depth. All of these differentiating factors may be perfectly valid.
(E) Emanations of other problems