Although the role of NGOs in global governance is often linked to their work on environmental protection or human rights (Ruhlman 2019), from the outset they have also been closely involved in difficult security issues, such as warfare and weapon restrictions or forbidden. This article briefly looks at the far-reaching contributions that NGOs have made in this area: from facilitating war-zone and post-conflict relief, advocating disarmament, adopting international legal norms to resolve armed conflict, providing legal expertise and drafting treaty texts to monitor compliance with specified standards by state and non-state actors. For a detailed overview of the role of NGOs in disarmament see Petrova (2019), “NGOs and Peace” in Thomas Davies (ed.) Routledge Handbook for NGOs and International Relations.
In 1863, Henry Dunant, who a few years earlier had witnessed the terrible suffering of wounded soldiers, many of whom were killed after the Battle of Solferino due to lack of medical care, founded the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as an organization to coordinate the Medical Care Facilitated by voluntary national societies and endorsement of a treaty that would allow members of the Red Cross to provide medical assistance on the battlefield (Finnemore 1996; Forsythe 2005). Over time, the ICRC has expanded its work to include humanitarian aid and the protection of victims of international and internal armed conflict, most recently focusing on situations of urban violence (Forsythe & Rieffer-Flanagan 2007; Bradley 2016, 2020). In the 20thth In the 19th century, more medical aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World emerged, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a variety of NGOs were created specifically dedicated to mine clearance and rehabilitation of mine victims from conflicts in Angola, Cambodia, Mozambique and Colombia (Rutherford 2011).
In other areas, such as development aid, NGOs have traditionally focused on providing aid and channeling funds from donor states to populations in need. Only recently have they turned to the legal profession and tackled the causes of poverty (Schmitz 2020). In contrast, the relief efforts during the war were largely accompanied by advocacy campaigns to set new normative standards. This was partly due to functional needs – non-state actors could not operate on the battlefield without the consent of the warring parties, but also to the recognition that measures to alleviate the suffering were insufficient and that the causes also had to be addressed. However, NGOs have only been partially successful in their efforts to contain armaments and end violence in war. As in other areas, the success of advocacy depends on a variety of factors, such as: B. Opportunities to form coalitions, available resources, state interests and, last but not least, the type of problem and the solution offered. It can be argued that where more radical attempts at disarmament and the abolition of war have failed, progress has been made in regulating warfare and limiting its worst effects on the vulnerable.
In the 19thth In the 19th century, the Russian Tsar Nicolas II decided to convene a peace conference to restrict armaments and to ban the progressive development of new weapons. While most of the other great powers were skeptical of the initiative at the time, a wave of support from NGOs, various groups of peace societies, women’s organizations and religious organizations kept it alive. Under public pressure to make progress on the peace initiative, diplomats agreed to participate in and ultimately take certain actions. While disarmament, the most ambitious issue strongly advocated by NGOs, had failed, peace advocates made some progress in international arbitration for peaceful settlement between states. States also agreed to ban the expansion of bullets that cause severe wounds, as well as the temporary ban on the use of asphyxiating gases and the throwing of projectiles from balloons (Tuchman 1966; Abbenhuis 2018).
Other moderate ICRC initiatives to protect sick and wounded soldiers and later prisoners of war have also been successful (Forsythe 2005). During and after World War I, the ICRC called for the non-use of chemical weapons after World War II to protect war victims and the civilian population under occupation, which led to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, followed by a number of initiatives to ban and protect nuclear weapons indiscriminate warfare of the civilian population (Mathur 2017; Forsythe 2005). These developments ultimately contributed to the adoption of the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, which for the first time contractually laid down the principle of civil immunity (Geiß, Zimmermann and Haumer 2017; Bothe 2017; Heinsch 2017). While the ICRC had limited most of its activities to discreet lobbying in states and the provision of legal expertise in the development of international humanitarian law until the mid-1990s, it then increasingly campaigned for the public, initially for a ban on anti-persons -Landmines and later nuclear weapons for cluster munitions.
Other organizations such as the Federation of American Scientists, Pugwash and later the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War were among the many NGOs behind the development of standards against the use of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. They also contributed to the adoption of some specific contracts, such as the Treaty on the Partial Ban on Tests and the INF Treaty, by working both domestically in Western countries (Tannenwald 2005, 2007; Wittner 1992, 1997, 2003) as were also in contact with their Soviet colleagues across borders (Adler 1992; Evalngelista 1999). However, they missed the goal of nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
At the end of the Cold War, new NGOs emerged, pushing for new norms that strengthened civil protection by banning certain types of weapons such as land mines (Price 1998; Rutherford 2000, 2011) and cluster munitions (Petrova 2018), as well as establishing the International Criminal Court to Prosecute (and Prevention) of war crimes (Glasius 2006; Struett 2008). These treaties were characterized by the lack of support from the great power, in particular from the USA, the previously liberal hegemon behind the international legal order after World War II. Such legal norms without the hegemon (Brem and Stiles 2009) were made possible by NGO campaigns that mobilized public and state support for the new norms by reformulating humanitarian issues, praising state leadership in norm-setting and their opponents ashamed (Price 1998; Petrova) 2016, 2019a). The conviction of states to part with the traditional consensus decision was the key to advancing the normative agenda (Deitelhoff 2009; Coleman 2013). While it cannot be said that NGOs have shifted the balance of power away from states, their campaigns have managed to overturn it in favor of small and medium-sized states at the expense of the great powers.
NGOs have forged new partnerships with like-minded governments and international institutions to pursue bold measures to contain weapons and protect civilians (Rutherford, Brem and Matthew 2003). While in the past few decades NGOs have often been outsiders and exerted public pressure to influence state policy, there has been a trend since the 1990s towards more elite lobbying and active participation in the drafting of contracts. Under pressure from NGOs, the negotiating forums have become more open to NGOs, especially gatekeeper organizations who set not only the NGO agenda but also global responses to it (Carpenter 2011, 2014). This involvement of NGOs in global governance has led to arguments that NGOs have become more elitist and professional (Ottaway 2001); Global players who, due to their ability to mobilize public support and give legitimacy to states and international institutions, take on new responsibilities and become important partners for governments (Sending and Neumann 2006).
The general impact of NGOs on security governance is controversial. Some writers view them as trivial while others legitimize high-tech military violence. Her role was arguably somewhere between these two extremes – she pushed for a gradual change towards weapon restrictions and civil defense. For example, while nuclear disarmament campaigns have stalled in the past, the bans on landmines and cluster munitions have paved the way for the prosecution and final adoption of a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons (Petrova 2018). The path to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) of 2017 largely followed the template for humanitarian disarmament set out in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Mines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Borrie 2014; Gibbons 2018). NGOs acted together and mobilized small and medium-sized states against powerful opposition not only from the superpowers but also from their allies, who benefited from an expanded nuclear deterrent. Despite the fierce struggle to universalize the treaty still ahead, 50 states have already ratified the TPNW, which will trigger its entry into force in January 2021, while the first signs are showing that some NATO states are weakening their relentless opposition to the treaty (Sauer and Nardon 2020).
The ICRC has traditionally acted as the “guardian” of international humanitarian law (IHL), not only developing but also disseminating the IHL rules and informing the armed forces about them. A number of organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have recently expanded their mandates to monitor compliance with the IHL and publicize its violations. After the adoption of specific contracts, NGOs have set themselves the goal of stigmatizing states that remain outside the legal regulations and of monitoring compliance with the established norms. As a result, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munitions Coalition published annual surveillance reports on government policies and practices related to each weapon. Over time, NGOs have succeeded in reshaping the legal discourse on weapons and binding the US to actual compliance with treaty provisions by setting the new norms, advancing, shaming and argumentative with states that opposed the treaties exchanged (Prize 2004; Petrova 2018; Bower 2015, 2017).
The goals of NGOs working for the universalization of standards are not restricted to states, but extend to a range of non-state actors. Similar to the tactics of NGOs towards states, NGOs have dealt with naming and shaming non-state actors, but also naming and praising them. On the one hand, in strengthening compliance, NGOs have urged controversial weapons manufacturers to end it, while also pressuring financial institutions to part with weapons manufacturers (see Stopping Explosive Investments; Don’t Go For Bombs; Acheson 2018). On the other hand, NGOs have turned to non-governmental armed groups, for example to prevent them from using anti-personnel landmines or child soldiers (Hofmann 2006; Bongard and Somer 2011; Bongard and Heffes 2019) and, more generally, to curb violence in conflict (Jo and Bryant 2013; hall 2014). NGOs have also set themselves the goal of obtaining support from cities for the new nuclear weapons ban. Such efforts show the growing importance of private governance, in which both the observers and the targets are non-state or sub-national actors. Such an exercise of private authority is important in itself, but aims to indirectly restrict the freedom of action of states and to spread the acceptance of norms from the bottom up.
NGOs are not only agenda-setters who work through states and international institutions to create norms, but also active actors in security governance. While relief efforts during conflict and the advocacy of norms to limit weapons and violence in war have often been linked in the past, in recent years NGOs have embraced new issues and started engaging with non-state actors. Questions remain about the impact of professionalising NGOs and specific gun bans on the ability of NGOs and civil society at large to pursue a radical disarmament agenda, ensure human security during a conflict and self-contain the use of force.
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