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Can NGOs Enhance the Effectiveness of International Negotiation?

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This article discusses when and how NGOs succeed in making positive contributions to international negotiations, in ways that governments are not able or willing to do as well alone. Among the factors favoring substantial NGO involvement are appeal to the interests of participating governments, possession of needed expertise, effective lobbying, framing of issues as wider global or human concerns and public mobilization over these, and plentiful funding. Seven types of NGO activities relating to negotiation are identified: problem definition, agenda setting, and goal setting; enforcement of principles and norms; provision of information and expertise; public advocacy and mobilization; lobbying; direct participation in the formulation of international agreements; and monitoring and other assistance with compliance. Despite the increased presence and activism of NGOs on the international stage, however, their participation in negotiating fora remains largely unofficial, ad hoc, or subjected to the preferences of national governments. A principled and cautious expansion of the opportunities for NGOs to participate in international negotiations could enhance the effectiveness and legitimacy of their outcomes.

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of European and International Studies, Department of Politics, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AA, United Kingdom


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