Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics

Chapter 1: TransnationalAdvocacy Networks in International Politics: Introduction
A transnationa ladvocacy network includes those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound to gether by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services.
What is novel in these networks is the ability of nontraditional international actors to mobilize information strategically to help create new issues and categories and to persuade, pressure, and gain leverage over much more powerful organizations and governments.
Their goal is to change the behavior of states and of international organizations. Simultaneously principled and strategic actors, they ‘frame’ issues to make them comprehensible to target audiences, to attract attention and encourage action, and to ‘fit’ with favorable institutional venues.
Networks use norms to describe collective expectations for the proper behavior of actors with a given identity. In some situations norms operate like rules that define the identity of an actor, thus having ‘constitutive effects’ that specify what actions will cause relevant others to recognize a particular identity (Katzenstein 1966).
Networks are forms of organization characterized by voluntary, reciprocal, and horizontal patterns of communication and exchange.
Besides sharing information, groups in networks create categories or frames within which to generate and organize information on which to base their campaigns. Their ability to generate information quickly and accurately, and deploy it effectively, is their most valuable currency.
Transnational advocacy networks (TAN) appear most likely to emerge around those issues where
1. Channels between domestic groups and their governments are blocked or hampered or where such channels are ineffective for resolving a conflict, setting into motion the “boomerang” pattern of influence characteristic of these networks
2. Activists or ‘political entrepreneurs’ believe that networking will further their missions and campaigns, and actively promote networks; and
3. Conferences and other forms of international contact create arenas for forming and strengthening networks
Boomerang strategies are most common in campaigns where the target is a state’s domestic policies or behavior.
On other issues where governments are inaccessible or deaf to groups whose claims may nonetheless resonate elsewhere, international contacts can amplify the demands of domestic groups, open space for new issues, and then echo back these demands into the domestic arena.
Factors behind the growth of TANs;
1) With significant decline in airfares, foreign travel ceased to be an exclusive privilege.
2) Students participated in exchange programs.
3) The peace corps and lay missionary programs
4) Political exiles from Latin America taught in U.S and European countries.
TANs in the north function in a cultural milieu of internationalism that is generally optimistic about the promise and possibilities of international networking. For network members in developing countries, however, justifying external intervention or pressure in domestic affairs is a much trickier business, except when lives are at stake.
Linkages with northern networks require high levels of trust. Such linkage can trigger ingrained nationalism as well as memories of colonial and neocolonial relations.
How TANs work;
1) Information politics: ability to quickly and credibly generate politically usable information and move it to where it will have the most impact.
2) Symbolic politics: the ability to call upon symbols, actions, or stories that make sense of a situation for an audience that is frequently far away.
3) Leverage politics: the ability to call upon powerful actors to affect a situation where weaker members of a network are unlikely to have influence
4) Accountability politics: the effort to hold powerful actors to their previously stated policies or principles.
In the 1970s and 1980s many states decided for the first time that promotion of human rights in other countries was a legitimate foreign policy goal.
Authors argue that this change is not the victory of morality over self-interest, but a transformed understanding of national interest.
TANs provide information that would not otherwise be available, from sources that might not otherwise be heard, and they must make this information comprehensible and useful to activists and publics who may be geographically and/or socially distant.
Once a government has publicly committed itself to a principle, networks can use those positions, and their command of information to expose the distance between discourse and practice. This is embarrassing to many governments which may try to save face by closing that distance.
Authors believe that increased attention, followed by changes in discursive positions, make governments more vulnerable to the claims that networks raise. A government that claims to be protecting indigenous areas or ecological reserves is potentially more vulnerable to charges that such areas are endangered than one that makes no such claims