Saturday, April 21, 2012

Borders among Activists

International Law blog points us to Borders among Activists: International NGOs in the United States, Britain, and France, by Sarah S. Stroup (Cornell Univ. Press 2012).  Abstract:

In Borders among Activists, Sarah S. Stroup challenges the notion that political activism has gone beyond borders and created a global or transnational civil society. Instead, at the most globally active, purportedly cosmopolitan groups in the world—international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs)—organizational practices are deeply tied to national environments, creating great diversity in the way these groups organize themselves, engage in advocacy, and deliver services. 
Stroup offers detailed profiles of these "varieties of activism" in the United States, Britain, and France. These three countries are the most popular bases for INGOs, but each provides a very different environment for charitable organizations due to differences in legal regulations, political opportunities, resources, and patterns of social networks. Stroup's comparisons of leading American, British, and French INGOs—Care, Oxfam, Médecins sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and FIDH—reveal strong national patterns in INGO practices, including advocacy, fund-raising, and professionalization. These differences are quite pronounced among INGOs in the humanitarian relief sector, and are observable, though less marked, among human rights INGOs. 
Stroup finds that national origin helps account for variation in the "transnational advocacy networks" that have received so much attention in international relations. For practitioners, national origin offers an alternative explanation for the frequently lamented failures of INGOs in the field: INGOs are not inherently dysfunctional, but instead remain disconnected because of their strong roots in very different national environments.
She also contributed a chapter entitled "National Origin and Transnational Activism" to Power and Transnational Activism, which compares US, French, and Japanese NGOs and concludes that their home state policies and practices shape their ability to be influential on a global scale; she also has a paper up on SSRN from a couple of years ago that I managed to miss, and that I am reading right now, called There’s No Place Like Home: National Origin, Networking, and Advocacy at International NGOs, with a short and sweet abstract:
"It is amazing to witness the number and scope of organizations today that claim to be “without borders.” Doctors, reporters, architects, lawyers, librarians, mothers, chemists, clowns, acupuncturists, and even bees now have organizations that claim be with “without borders” or “sans frontières.” This enthusiasm for expressing global sympathies and taking global action has also taken hold in the academic community. The vast and growing literature on international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) reveals that these organizations can change state policy and shape social practice in many places around the globe."
 Fascinating body of work she's developing.

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