Burkhard Gnärig

12 December, 2017

When civil society organisations (CSOs) speak about power they usually refer to the power of others, and they refer to power in negative terms: power is used to oppress and exploit, power corrupts. However, such a simplistic and prejudiced understanding of power is an obstacle to CSOs’ endeavours to achieve their missions. Our sector needs to change its understanding of power in order to increase its effectiveness.

Embracing POWER as a positive concept

When looking up the definition of power in a dictionary we find that power is simply “the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way”[1]. Power as such is neither positive nor negative. It is necessary in order “to do something”, be it good or bad. This means CSOs need power to achieve the positive aims they are working for. They are part of the eternal power struggle between good and bad, egotism and altruism, short-term gains and long-term sustainability, etc. In this context it is not only necessary for CSOs to strive for maximum power, it is ethically desirable, as long as CSOs use their power consistently and effectively to attain their mission. MORE

Burkhard Gnärig

13 October, 2015

The world has several million civil society organisations, from local self-help groups to large national organisations, and from volunteer-based outfits to highly professional specialist agencies. However, there are only about 50 international civil society organisations (ICSOs) which are active around the globe. About half of these carry widely known and respected names such as Amnesty International, Oxfam or WWF. At a time when more and more of the challenges humanity is confronted with can only be successfully addressed at a global level these organisations carry a special responsibility.

Whether we look at climate change or migration, the pollution of the oceans or the destruction of tropical forests, the control of weapons of mass destruction or the fight against international crime: success can only be achieved by approaches which include many, if not all, of the countries and regions of our planet. But while a rapidly growing number of our challenges are global the world is still organised in national terms. MORE