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Accepted Paper:

"Back to the future": a meeting of an intergovernmental organisation's council  
Sara Arko (Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

Part of an “insider ethnography”, the paper explores the dynamic entanglement and disentanglement of past and present relationships between member states of an intergovernmental organisation on the verge of failure, as they were played out in a single meeting of its Council.

Paper long abstract:

Two elements signal the continuing existence of an intergovernmental organisation called ICPE: annual meetings of its Council and documents, produced by its members. Established in 1974 in Ljubljana as the International Center for Public Enterprises in Developing Countries, this once exciting organisation lost much of its past glory and immediate relevance. As Yugoslavia collapsed, ICPE found itself in midst of radically changed policies and priorities of its new host country, Slovenia, while at the same time its membership was rapidly declining. If three decades ago, over 30 member countries and observers attended ICPE's Council meetings, painstaking efforts were needed after 2010 to gather only four.

In the paper, I analyse one particular ICPE Council session as part of my PhD "insider ethnography" (Mosse 2006), where the member countries placed a dusty document - ICPE's Statute - in the centre of attention, challenging the basic premises of the organisation. I explore the entangled power dynamics between the delegates at the meeting, drawing on a number of past relationships, which were brought to the fore and contested with the intention of influencing ICPE's uncertain future. I argue that the Council meeting provided an especially potent entry into the dynamic relationships between member countries of the intergovernmental organisation and their representatives, including those that were absent, as well as the divergent policies, suddenly confronted within a single room. I explain how my dual role of researcher-insider enabled me to "study through" (Wright and Reinhold 2011) while also posing a number of methodological and ethical questions.

Panel P106
Meetings: the 'infrastructure' of work in local and global settings
  Session 1