Agenda Setting, the UN, and NGOs

Agenda Setting, the UN, and NGOs: Gender Violence and Reproductive Rights

Jutta M. Joachim
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Agenda Setting, the UN, and NGOs
    Book Description:

    In the mid-1990s, when the United Nations adopted positions affirming a woman's right to be free from bodily harm and to control her own reproductive health, it was both a coup for the international women's rights movement and an instructive moment for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to influence UN decision making. Prior to the UN General Assembly's 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women and the 1994 decision by the UN's Conference on Population and Development to vault women's reproductive rights and health to the forefront of its global population growth management program, there was little consensus among governments as to what constituted violence against women and how much control a woman should have over reproduction. Jutta Joachim tells the story of how, in the years leading up to these decisions, women's organizations got savvy-framing the issues strategically, seizing political opportunities in the international environment, and taking advantage of mobilizing structures-and overcame the cultural opposition of many UN-member states to broadly define the two issues and ultimately cement women's rights as an international cause. Joachim's deft examination of the documents, proceedings, and actions of the UN and women's advocacy NGOs-supplemented by interviews with key players from concerned parties, and her own participant-observation-reveals flaws in state-centered international relations theories as applied to UN policy, details the tactics and methods that NGOs can employ in order to push rights issues onto the UN agenda, and offers insights into the factors that affect NGO influence. In so doing, Agenda Setting, the UN, and NGOs departs from conventional international relations theory by drawing on social movement literature to illustrate how rights groups can motivate change at the international level.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-233-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: From the Margins to the Center—Women’s Rights, NGOs, and the United Nations
    (pp. 1-14)

    On December 20, 1993, the UN General Assembly in New York adopted with unanimous consent the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women, condemning gender violence within both the private and the public spheres as a violation of human rights (United Nations 1993a; also reprinted as the appendix to this book). Only a year later, on September 13, 1994, at the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, government delegates approved a program of action on population that placed women’s reproductive rights and health instead of demographic targets at the center of the management...

  5. 1 NGOs and UN Agenda Setting: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Framing Strategies
    (pp. 15-40)

    Over the course of the past decade, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have played an increasingly important role in defining the agendas of UN organizations.¹ A glance at UN specialized conferences illustrates how NGOs have played a crucial role in winning international recognition among governments for issues that once were considered low politics and exclusively domestic concerns, including the environment, human rights, women’s rights, development, and refugees.²

    Despite the growing importance of NGOs in UN agenda setting, however, their role and influence have been insufficiently theorized, and many questions remain unanswered. How do NGOs influence the agendas of UN organizations? Why do...

  6. 2 Rallying for Peace and Equal Nationality Rights: Women’s Organizations between 1915 and 1945
    (pp. 41-72)

    This chapter is devoted to the first wave of the women’s movement. It traces women’s international organizing at the turn of the nineteenth century, which has thus far received little scholarly attention.¹ Two of the most prominent issue campaigns will be of particular interest: peace and equal nationality rights. The first evolved around the First International Women’s Congress in The Hague in 1915, which women organized in response to World War I, and the second, spanning the period 1920 to 1935, was aimed at the League of Nations and the Pan-American conferences.

    The two campaigns are particularly interesting because they...

  7. 3 Equality, Development, and Peace: The UN Decade for Women, 1975–1985
    (pp. 73-102)

    In response to the pressure exerted by women’s organizations, particularly the Women’s International Democratic Federation, and following a resolution of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN declared 1975–85 as the Decade for Women (United Nations 1972) and organized three World Conferences for Women during it: the first during the International Women’s Year (IWY) in Mexico City in 1975, the second in Copenhagen in 1980, and the third in Nairobi in 1985. These conferences were important symbolic events. They replaced the previously accepted equality frame with one centered on women in development (WID). Moreover, the conferences...

  8. 4 Women’s Rights as Human Rights: The Case of Violence against Women
    (pp. 103-132)

    Violence against women has been a global problem for millennia. Throughout the world, women have been battered, abused, tortured, raped, and even killed simply because they are women. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime, and among women age fifteen to forty-four years, gender-based violence accounts for more death and disability among women than the combined effects of cancer, malaria, traffic injuries, and war (UNIFEM 2006b).

    Only the types of violence to which women are subjected vary across regions and countries. In...

  9. 5 Reproductive Rights and Health: Women’s Organizations and the Population Establishment
    (pp. 133-162)

    The international campaign on reproductive rights and health, culminating in the inclusion of the issue at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 1994, exhibits similar patterns as that regarding violence against women: In the mid-1980s, Northern and Southern women conducted an international tribunal protesting against existing population control programs and calling for greater attention to women’s reproductive rights and health; during the late 1980s, women’s health activists engaged in a dialogue with members of the population establishment to develop more women-centered population policies; and in the 1990s, women’s organizations politicized the issue of reproduction at the Cairo...

  10. 6 NGOs and International Organizations
    (pp. 163-184)

    How, why, and under what conditions can nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) influence the agendas of international organizations? Conceiving of conventional international relations approaches as insufficient for answering this question, this book draws on various elements of the social movement literature to develop an alternative theoretical framework. I suggest that, given that they tend to be short of material resources, NGOs exert influence by strategically framing their issues. Whether the respective frames resonate with those whose support NGOs seek to enlist depends on their empirical credibility and ideational commensurability.

    The credibility and commensurability of NGOs, in turn, are contingent on the dynamic...

  11. Appendix: UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women
    (pp. 185-192)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-204)
  13. References
    (pp. 205-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-244)