Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice, State University of New York (SUNY) / Plattsburgh

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Assistant Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice, State University of New York (SUNY) / Plattsburgh
Civil Society in Global Environmental Governance: A Comparative Analysis of NGO Participation in UN Environmental Policy Debates

This project is designed to be the first empirical study that compares the experiences of members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as they participate in deliberations associated with the following three Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs): (1) The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), (2) The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and (3) The United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). While all three of the processes (UNFCCC, CBD, and UNFF) have engaged members of civil society in negotiations in various ways, civil society representatives report more positive experiences in certain portions of the policy-making processes than in others. This study proposes to gather empirical data on the experiences of members of civil society engaged in these processes with the objective of developing an analysis as to why nongovernmental representatives have more positive experiences in some arenas than in others. Additionally, the study will engage larger questions regarding participation of civil society in global governance. Recent decades have seen an increase in scholarship related to civil society participation in global governance, as both scholars and civil society actors alike have raised concerns regarding the transparency of international and multilateral policy-making forums. These are indeed important questions to engage in light of dynamics associated with economic globalization and transformations in the role of the nation state. However, the majority of this scholarship emanates from fields such as International Relations and Political Science. As a result, the debates are generally organized around the theoretical frameworks of these disciplines. While there is much to be learned from extant scholarship, this study proposes to contribute a fresh theoretical and methodological approach to these timely debates. The case-study, ethnographic nature of the proposed project is designed to gather data on the actual activities of members of civil society as they engage in the work of negotiating policy. Thus, it will make key links between theory and practice. While ethnographic work, both within Sociology and Anthropology, was once thought to be single-site specific, ethnographic methods are increasingly being used to specify and concretize global phenomena (Amit 2000; Burawoy et al. 2000; Collins 2003; Gille and O Riain 2002; Hine 2007; Peltonen 2007). As CSOs become more prominent players in UN-based deliberations, and as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are proliferating at accelerating rates, the inclusion and institutionalization of civil society in global governance merits empirical examination. Since the mid-1980s, scholars have exhibited an intense interest in international environmental policy-making (see, for example, Betsill and Bulkeley 2004; Conca and Lipschutz 1997; Lipschutz and Conca 1993; Hall and Biersteker 2002; Humphreys 1996, 2004; Jasanoff and Martello 2004; Kuehls 1996; Litfin 1998; Miller and Edwards 2001; Paterson 1996, 199a, 199b; Young 1997, 1999). However, even though many of these works engage larger questions regarding the participation of NGOs in multilateral negotiations, there has been a dearth of research that focuses on the actual work of members of CSOs in these arenas. The Abe fellowship project proposed here is designed to help fill this void.