Introduction: Gorillas, Ants, Elephants, Canaries

Part of the Palgrave Texts in International Political Economy book series (PTIPE)


At a Northern government workshop in the mid-1990s, one experienced official described nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as the elephants of international relations. ‘We deal with them because they are like elephants in your living room; you cannot but deal with them.’ Later in his talk, warming to the zoological theme, he also compared NGOs to gorillas. ‘It helps,’ he said, ‘to have an 800-pound gorilla with you when you are negotiating — someone to apply a little “reasonable” persuasion’ in cases where the government and NGOs see eye-to-eye in opposition to some joint enemy. Even if they are not accountable (‘Whom do they represent?’ he asked rhetorically, voicing the usual question), government had to come up with a strategy for managing its interactions with this phenomenal force. There were, not surprisingly, irritated rumblings from the activists in the room.


Civil Society World Trade Organization International Relation Nongovernmental Organization Global Governance 
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© Alison Van Rooy 2004

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