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Borders among Activists

Borders among Activists: International NGOs in the United States, Britain, and France

Sarah S. Stroup
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Borders among Activists
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6425-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Where Have All the Borders Gone?
    (pp. 1-28)

    On January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people, opening a devastating new chapter in the troubled nation’s history. As often happens after such tragedies, developed nations and international organizations convened a donor conference a few months later to discuss Haiti’s reconstruction and development. Among those that sought to shape the debates were major private relief and development organizations that had long experience in fragile states like Haiti. But they did not all say the same thing, nor did they say it in similar ways. The medical relief organization Médecins Sans Frontières...

  6. 1 Varieties of Activism in Three Countries
    (pp. 29-70)

    Upon arriving in Paris in early 2007, I was greeted by a vivid illustration of French civil society in action. Blocks away from my apartment, lining the canal Saint-Martin, two neat columns of bright red tents had been set up by an organization calling itself “the Children of Don Quixote.” The organization had created this “sleep-in” in to demonstrate solidarity with France’s homeless population. Given the relatively small number of homeless in France relative to the United States, I was struck by the vibrancy of this public protest and by the fact that it was an INGO, Médecins du Monde,...

  7. 2 Humanitarian INGOs
    (pp. 71-134)

    Humanitarians attempt to improve the lives of those affected by war or natural disaster. The “humanitarian imperative” has driven major relief efforts from Biafra to Bali to Bosnia, and the impulse is an inherently universalistic project to alleviate the suffering of individuals anywhere in the world. Humanitarian organizations face this daunting task with limited resources and a wide array of possible strategies. How, then, do they choose particular practices? There is really very little information available on this question. There are many organizational histories and practitioner journals, but these offer largely descriptive and often uncritical accounts of different organizations’ practices....

  8. 3 Human Rights INGOs
    (pp. 135-188)

    The concept of human rights is an explicitly universalist one, and human rights activists seek to transcend cultural and political boundaries to protect the rights of all humanity. In practice, of course, each human rights INGO can only address a bounded set of issues given limited time and resources. How can we explain the process by which human rights INGOs select arsenals of strategies and structures? One critique emanating from the global South is that the leading human rights INGOs only address those human rights claims related to classic Western liberal values. Here I explore how the national origin of...

  9. 4 Reconciling Global and Local
    (pp. 189-214)

    Against those who would argue that INGOs have developed shared practices and norms through participation a global community of humanitarian or human right activism, the preceding case studies have revealed marked divergence in the core strategies and structures of some of the largest and most transnationally active organizations. National origin plays a critical role in determining how INGOs raise funds, embrace professionalism, engage in advocacy, relate to governments, and choose issues. In short, national origin determines how INGOs approach the work of human rights activism and humanitarian relief. Globalization may have increased the frequency of interaction among these organizations, but...

  10. Appendix A: Case Selection
    (pp. 215-220)
  11. Appendix B: Interviews Conducted
    (pp. 221-224)
  12. References
    (pp. 225-240)
  13. Index
    (pp. 241-246)