Business insiders and environmental outsiders? Advocacy strategies in international climate change negotiations
Institute of Development Policy and Management
Interest groups & advocacy. - Basingstoke, 2012, currens
, p. 302-322
While non-governmental organisations (NGOs) do not formally have a voice in intergovernmental negotiations, such as the climate change negotiations, they resort to a range of activities to make their voice heard, including direct contacts with government negotiators, side events, media contacts or demonstrations. These diverse activities are typically classified as belonging to either an inside strategy or an outside strategy, depending on whether they aim at influencing politics directly or whether they seek to exert influence from the outside, via the media and the general public. What explains variation in the use of these two advocacy strategies? The strategies of interest groups in domestic politics have been studied extensively; the activities of groups in multilateral negotiations have so far mainly been looked at in qualitative case studies. This article therefore applies insights and methods from the study of domestic interest groups to groups active in the global climate change negotiations. Three reasons for specialisation in an inside or an outside strategy are put forward. First, the goals of non-governmental participation namely, to provide accountability and to improve the negotiation process are potentially conflicting. Second, groups differ in the degree of access to policymakers; if they lack access, they are unable to engage in inside advocacy. Third, groups do not only seek to influence policy, for which inside advocacy is presumably more suitable; they are also interested in their survival as organisations, for which outside advocacy seems more appropriate. These explanations lead to expectations that different types of groups employ different advocacy strategies. In particular, environmental organisations are thought to engage in more outside advocacy, compared with business groups that should rely to a greater extent on inside advocacy. Yet, if we find advocacy differences across group types, we cannot be sure whether these are due to differences in access, or because different groups accord differing priorities to influencing policy and organisational survival. By further analysing the effect of group characteristics, specifically expertise and membership type, this article seeks to disentangle the motivations for opting for a given advocacy strategy. Empirically, the article uses novel data from a survey conducted among organisations active in international climate politics. Over 200 fully completed questionnaires were returned and provided information on the frequency with which organisations engage in a range of inside and outside advocacy activities. A statistical analysis of the data provides evidence for differences across group types. Business groups use more inside advocacy; environmental organisations tend towards an outside strategy. Over and above group type, however, the data also indicate that experience increases the use of inside advocacy: across all group types, the longer a group has been involved in climate change negotiations, the more it uses inside advocacy. In contrast, membership type has, according to the analysis, no effect on advocacy behaviour.The article contributes to the literature on interest group strategies by looking at strategies at the international level. By comparing the advocacy behaviour of different groups active in the climate change negotiations, it also helps understand the role and influence of these different groups in the negotiations. If we assume that advocacy activities differ in their effectiveness, it is important to take into account variation in the use of advocacy strategies. As the value of non-state participation in intergovernmental negotiations stems from the diversity of views and ideas that different stakeholders can bring to the process, we need to ask whether all views and ideas have the same chance of being heard. The findings here are hence relevant for debates on the legitimacy of the negotiations, as well as, more generally, on the role of civil society in environmental governance.