Changing Civil Society Structures to Meet New and Future Challenges in Maritime Peace and Security and the Sustainable Management of Nature's Renewable Resources by Alberto A. Encomienda and Peter Flewwelling
Many civil societies initially formed due to dissatisfaction with the decisions, political partisanship, lack of transparency and lack of timely action by governments, these decisions often seen as being salted with the stain of corruption and self-seeking aggrandizement. In essence intelligent people were fed up with the arrogance and incompetence of government. The lethargy of the formal, Track I government mechanisms to meet demands for effective governance and the rise of civil societies were caused by several factors, including but not limited to:
Concerned, albeit less proactive citizens who were also dissatisfied with government action or lack thereof contributed through financial donations to keep their views in the forefront through social activism. These donations, however, served to pervert some civil societies as some changed their focus from taking the moral high ground to demand better government, to a new fiscal emphasis based on sensationalism and media prominence to seek ever more funding. The media profile for increased funding led in some cases to more fanatical actions and dangerous media stunts. The cycle grew as new NGOs/civil societies saw these tactics as a ‘road to fortune’ thus denigrating and further suppressing the initial good intent of many of the older civil societies. These actions threw a shroud over the responsible civil societies that maintained their link and focus on original goals – that of demanding better governance. The rise of popularity of forceful, aggressive, high profile activities seeking media recognition during this time closely mirrored the same growth in popularity, and later the eventual demise of the union movement in its initial days of demanding change through confrontation and very aggressive action as their operational strategy. BUT, these actions were successful in raising the global awareness of the issues of the day with respect to abuse of nature’s renewable resources.
The result of the initial efforts and the focus of civil societies tended towards a structure of local units to address local programmes with high media competition between units for fund raising and media profile – these local units were then supported by a central headquarters for more intensive lobbying pressure on central governments. The result became the championing of the local/national civil society leaders who were more aggressive, achieved highest media and public profile that generated more funding for their causes. An unfortunate result was that some of the more dogmatic, nationally focused civil societies became similar in nature to the same arrogant government leaders that they despised in earlier times. The structure of a central body with local champions’ profiles built on the varying levels of ability to raise funding for the ‘organization’, has its fund-raising benefits, but may prejudice overall organizational progress and opportunities from wider regional initiatives that are now emerging as governments bond together to exert more leverage to achieve their wishes, e.g., regional ocean governance.
Track 1 structures in most cases are hamstrung by stringent funding allocations, corruption, and lack of cooperation due to power struggles, both internal and external, which threaten open and transparent dialogue and progress thus resulting in under-performance and in critical deficiencies in the provision of required and appropriate services. Track I structures and approaches need a boost. They need a spark that can come from an outside mechanism, the Track 2, philanthropic, corporate social responsibility approach which brings many strengths to the table, including the welcome additional funding and flexible operating processes.
Civil Society Structures
Many civil society organizational structures and processes have not evolved in parallel with Track 1 structures that are now taking advantage of the benefits of regional cooperation and networking. It is natural that a civil society would continue with an organizational structure that has proven successful in the past and therefore be resistant to change, even if such a change could achieve wider geographic impacts. The evolving process of governments merging efforts has demonstrated that one size does not fit all, and differing regional coordination mechanisms are needed, so civil societies can benefit from such lessons. But, the recent successes in regional networking have demonstrated that this regional networking is the path to tread in the future for maritime peace and security as well as sustainable management of the nature’s renewable resources – for both government processes (Track 1) and the corporate social responsibility approaches through civil societies (Track 2).
Unfortunately, in many cases, development of regional organizational structures has not been embraced by civil societies in their internal organizational structures. Some civil societies have remained focused on the central structure and smaller more local units for their work. Others have largely remained trapped in the policy of one-upmanship instead of exploring the benefits of cooperation and networking between civil societies. This can reduce the potential strength, leverage and influence they could achieve by collectively addressing wider regional issues in support of regional government organizations.
The continuation of the national focus without regional coordination mechanisms hampers change, hinders the flexibility to meet the changing government challenges at the regional level. The challenge will be the insertion of a regional coordinating mechanism within the current national focus. There will be the perception of loss of national authority and control, or alternatively, the suppression of regional initiatives. The sensitivity will need to be addressed delicately and merged with the idea that wider regional coordination mechanisms will greatly enhance the role for civil societies and expand the opportunities for involvement of civil societies in the emerging environment of regional cooperation.
In the ocean sector for example, governments are forming regional organizations for peace and security of sea trade, for sustainable management of renewable ocean resources, and for environmental cooperation. This realization of the connectivity of regional seas and the parallel imperative of regional cooperation to enable States to meet the challenges arising therefrom has fostered intergovernmental cooperation for effective ocean and renewable resource management. There is a need for civil societies to move in a parallel path to create a regional focus, both internally in their organizations and within the network of civil societies themselves – an approach similar to that being adopted by national governments to create greater leverage and promote their collective interests.
An emerging operational structure one could propose for civil societies to take advantage of the opportunities from the emerging regionalization of the Track I formal government structures could be built on the existing civil society structures. The central, global structure sets ‘umbrella’ policies and these could then be coordinated in their implementation at the regional level to meet regional issues and nationally to ensure compatibility of effort at the national level. Civil societies would then be in a better position to consider the efficiencies, strengths and leverage that could be gained through the networking of the new civil society regional structures building on the strengths of each society. This civil society networking could result in an even higher profile and role of civil societies in the growing world requirements for Track1/Track 2 partnerships to address the complex regional and global issues. Such networking and positive results as a Track 2 support to Track 1 processes, a soft support and shepherding of positive regional initiatives, could become a model for future regional cooperation. The dual ring of networks - a formal Track 1 regional network, supported and buffered by a civil society network for informal communications, breaking of blocks in dialogue and conflict resolution could prove a very useful mechanism to reduce conflicts, reduce formal dialogue jams and provide a road to more timely progress in regional and global maritime peace and security and sustainable renewable resource management.
The potential of the Track 1/Track 2 cooperation and interaction to build the synergies with a conscious recognition of the benefits evolving from the merging of strengths of each, can create a symbiotic relationship resulting in a dynamic win-win model of complementary, supportive interaction to bring the benefits of regional cooperation to the forefront for maritime peace and security as well as sustainable renewable resource management.
This is the objective of this exercise, to propose a change in the organizational structure within some civil societies to enable them to create a parallel mechanism for Track 1 dialogue, strongly supported by a Track 2 network approach to create this win-win model for regional cooperation.
Happily, one has seen a major change in operational strategies in several responsible civil societies from that of confrontation to that of working alongside governments and regional organizations. Civil societies can use their unique communications, media and operational channels and informal approaches to ‘support’ and ‘encourage’ better governance from these formal Track I approaches by governments towards the use of regional organizations. This does not mean the change is globally accepted, but it is rapidly moving in that direction. It also does not mean that civil societies will no longer use aggressive tactics and strategies to move things forward, and the fact that they have proven their willingness to use this operational strategy makes governments and regional organizations more willing to listen, perhaps not fully accept, but at least listen more closely and consider alternative solutions proposed by these civil societies. The history of actions of civil societies has become the incentive for formal management organizations to listen and work with the ‘new’ civil societies and recognize the benefits of so doing.
The challenge however, for the new civil society strategy is to have the organizational structure to be able to embrace the opportunities evolving from the trend of governments to regional cooperation. This is not to say that national programmes will not continue, they are a base for civil societies, but the growth of the civil societies’ role in the changing world demands a wider regional coordination structure to take advantage of, and build on regional initiatives as well as national programmes.
The New Role for Civil Societies in Maritime Peace and Security and Sustainable Renewable Ocean Resources Management:
So what is this new role? What are the strengths and benefits to formal governing structures that can come from a closer association and working relationship with the ‘new’ changing civil societies? What are the changes these civil societies need to make to better adapt to this changing role?
The formal government structures have found that successful management of regional and global natural resources often requires cooperation amongst the States that host the environment of those resources (the Track I approach), for poor governance and poor management in one area can have significant negative impacts on another. In areas such as fisheries, environment, and the also the area of sea trade, governments have found the benefits of alliances and regional organizations to enable them to appropriately address issues of management, control, sustainability and safety. The formation of regional organizations has become the mechanism for this cooperation, and resulting development and implementation of mutually agreed management and control measures.
balikBalangay has found that in the ocean sector, where such Track I regional cooperation mechanisms for management of ocean resources do not exist or are faltering, it is often due to the disconnect in law/policy and science-based conservation measures and lack of agreement on common approaches to re-connect these components. This disconnect is especially evident in the case of ocean conservation characterized in the broader scenario on the scientific side with regard to overall ocean connectivity, but also recognizing special cases, e.g., coral triangle, fisheries, and enclosed and semi-enclosed seas.
Where there are no regional structures and the maritime peace and security and sustainable renewable resource management issues are left individual States according to the international principles established in UNCLOS and UNSFA, processes inevitably lead to tensions between States, political influence that usually results in over-exploitation of the resource base, conflict between stakeholders and the eventual destruction of our natural resource base through the ‘tragedy of the commons’. As noted earlier in this exposé – governments are better known for their inability to move quickly, and without cooperation amongst all stakeholders at a wider, regional level, resource bases collapse and peace and security is threatened in the ensuring tensions.
Establishment of internal regional structures and networking of civil societies (Track 2) is therefore the emerging opportunity for civil societies to respond rapidly and effectively to the challenges of these new regional government organizations. Not only is there a growing need for the networking of civil societies, this is a path and opportunity for the future.
Growth of Civil Society Opportunities
balikBalangay has found that where formal inter-government processes (Track I) do not work, collapse, or in some cases result in a stalemate or open conflict such as one can see at this time in the South China Sea, there is this new challenge, role and opportunity for civil societies. Formal government and inter/intra-governmental practices make it difficult to explore avenues for cooperation once the formal processes have locked down, usually resulting in heightened tensions. The new role for civil societies using the Track 2 networking approach – the shepherding of difficult processes suffering the disconnect noted earlier, or blocked by formal agenda and processes through the more flexible, informal communications networks to bridge the gaps in processes and continue the dialogue.
Instead of the ‘them and us’ strategies of the past, the new ‘support approach’ of civil societies gives them have a great advantage if they are regionally or globally networked whereby, aside from using a proactive stance to move issues forward, they can become recognized ‘facilitators’ using their more flexible and informal processes which they can mobilize in a timely manner. They can serve as the ‘unofficial’ communications linkage or bridge between parties. They can provide timely and professional advice on a wide variety of subjects where they have expertise in the sector. A network of credible civil societies that cooperates in this process can enhance their individual strengths, maximize their leverage and influence at a wider regional level. As noted above, civil societies have the informal communications and operations mechanisms that can assist as ‘regional arbitrators/facilitators’ in the process to find ways and means to break deadlocks between governments, reduce tensions and bring parties back to the table for more productive management discussions and decisions .
As Governments become more familiar and accepting of the changing civil society strategies from the older ‘confrontation/them and us’ approaches, to one of ‘support, facilitation, shepherding advice, capacity building and joint involvement in management’ processes, the role and demand for civil society linkages will increase.
As civil societies further mature and accept the potential role they have, or should have as advisors, conduits for information and ideas-sharing in support of inter-agency liaison both at the individual government and regional level, the partnership between formal government structures and civil societies will become stronger. Further, networking of civil societies at a regional or global level to utilize their individual strengths can serve to maximize their future leverage and influence, and enhance their role in inter-governmental affairs. Civil societies can become the ‘backstage’ developers and coordinators for sustainable regional management planning and implementation mechanisms. In the not too distant future, one can expect to see governments seeking more information, assistance and support from civil societies to provide data, research, and informal – ‘outside the box’ ideas for better internal and progressive regional governance.
balikBalangay is pursuing steps along the above lines towards building greater efficiency, comprehensive civil society involvement in wider ocean affairs, through the development of a unified database on ocean matters and renewable ocean resource management. These efforts also include fostering of regional cooperation and information sharing for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to overcome national jurisdictional issues that work against the desired ocean governance parameters of maritime peace and security and sustainable renewable resource management, especially in the law/policy components and creation of secure scientific foundations upon which to build this cooperation on a regional scale.