Determining the Success of a Transnational Social Movement:

Evaluating the Global Call to

Action Against Poverty Coalition

Allison D. Sephton

The recent emergence of the Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign on the international scene has garnered much attention. The global movement (under the Global Call to Action Against Poverty [GCAP] coalition) has been joining domestic MPH movements to pressure national governments and international institutions (specifically, members of the G8 and the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) to essentially eradicate global poverty by changing their policies to cancel the debts owed by heavily-indebted poor countries (HIPCs), to increase and ameliorate aid, to achieve trade justice, and by living up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations (UN) in 2001. Each national GCAP campaign has a huge umbrella of member organizations, including existing coalitions, community groups, trade unions, individuals, religious and faith groups, campaigners, celebrities, etc. The campaign has gained substantial international media attention through its protests, mega-concerts, and celebrity endorsements, and links individuals across the globe with trademark white bracelets. The leaders of the G8 and representatives at the UN paid lip-service to supporting GCAP’s goals, but it has yet to be seen if these policy changes will lead to substantial policy implementation.

However, after the G8 commitment made in July 2005, the World Bank and IMF recently announced that they will cancel the external debt of the world’s 18 most heavily-indebted poor countries. Were these actions a result of GCAP’s pressure, and do these actions constitute GCAP’s success?

To answer this question, a key question must be asked – what factors or determinants lead to the success of a social movement, and how can success be measured? This paper will draw on sociological and international relations literature on transnational politics to assemble criteria in order to determine the level of success achieved thus far by GCAP, and to predict the future success (or failure) of the movement. The criteria will be grouped under five broad categories. Because the campaign is so new, it has proven difficult to evaluate its success. At the present time, the conclusion can be drawn that the GCAP campaign has had limited success in changing the policies of states and international financial institutions, but it remains to be seen if this will translate into changes in state and institutional behaviour. Furthermore, while the GCAP coalition and campaign itself might not survive in the long-term, the broader anti-poverty network underpinning it is well-established, and will continue to push for change as time goes on and as the anti-poverty norm becomes stronger.[1]

Defining GCAP

Before this discussion begins, the nature of GCAP must be determined – is it a transnational advocacy network, a transnational coalition, or a transnational social movement? While trying to categorize the campaign might seem irrelevant, especially since GCAP contains elements of each, determining the nature of the campaign will help to look for the appropriate and expected factors of its success.

Above all, no matter the specific typology, transnational civil society movements aim to set the international agenda, by identifying a problem of international concern and producing information; to develop solutions to the problem, by creating norms or recommending policy change; to build networks and coalitions of allies; and to implement solutions by employing tactics of persuasion and pressure to either change the target actor’s practices and/or to encourage compliance with norms.[2] Tarrow argues that “mass-based transnational social movements are hard to construct, are difficult to maintain, and have very different relations to states and international institutions than more routinized international NGOs or activist networks.”[3] He defines transnational contention as “the coordinated struggle of actors and organizations from more than one society against a state,

international economic actors, or international institutions.”[4]

A transnational advocacy network is best described by Keck and Sikkink as “those actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information.”[5] Transnational coalitions are defined by Tarrow as “collaborative, means-oriented arrangements that permit distinct entities to pool resources in order to effect change,” and frequently form around short-term threats and opportunities.[6] Tarrow stresses the importance of building alliances and coalitions in creating and sustaining transnational contention, especially when transnational actors come from a plethora of political, cultural, and religious backgrounds and might not necessarily share the common identity needed for group cohesion.[7] Coalitions can be seen as a precursor to (but do not necessarily lead to) social movements, evolving when opportunities and threats persist and result in strong underlying identities.[8] Lastly, transnational social movements, as defined by Khagram, Riker and Sikkink, are “sets of actors with common purposes and solidarities linked across country boundaries that have the capacity to generate coordinated and sustained social mobilization in more than one country to publicly influence social change.”[9]

Based on these definitions, GCAP can be best described as a transnational coalition, since it formally links a pre-existing network of actors with new actors for the specific purpose of “making poverty history” in 2005. It has clearly defined goals and missions. However, GCAP also displays social movement qualities, as it encourages actors to mobilize and participate in contentions action, and its nationally-based campaigns organize events for mobilization such as concerts, protests and awareness days. GCAP cannot yet be fully considered a transnational social movement because it has yet to be seen for how long the coalition will last, and it is unclear if participants truly share common purposes and solidarities.

In his book The New Transnational Activism, Tarrow lays out four specific types of coalitions. Deciding the coalition type of GCAP can help us to better evaluate its level of cooperation and success. Among Tarrow’s coalitions are instrumental and event coalitions (which are short-term), and federated and campaign coalitions (which are long-term). Event coalitions are short-term in duration and have a high degree of involvement, with the potential for future collaboration and a recognition of shared identities. They “form to mount international protest events, but their dependence on opportunities offered by international institutions puts them at the mercy of changes in international politics.”[10] Since the GCAP coalition originally formed to make 2005 a year of change based on the political events that would occur (G8 summit, UN World Summit, etc), it is best categorized as an event coalition. It is also similar in nature to other event coalitions, such as the 1995 Seattle protests and the Jubilee 2000 campaign which preceded it. GCAP cannot yet be considered a long-term campaign coalition.

Background of GCAP

Before evaluating the success of GCAP, it seems appropriate to discuss why such a movement has arisen, to look at its historical predecessors, and to examine the current relationship between transnational civil society, multilateral institutions, and the inter-state system.

While the majority of scholars agree that states are still the key actors on the international stage, many recognize that in our increasingly globalized world, international governmental and financial institutions, non-state actors and civil society also play an important role in global governance. Keohane and Nye were among the first to give credit to this relationship, naming it “complex interdependence.”[11] O’Brien, Goetz, Scholte and Williams use the term “complex multilateralism” to describe the transformation in the specific relationship between multilateral economic institutions (MEIs) and global social movements – civil society interaction and the public interest is increasingly factoring in to MEI governance.[12] This recognition is significant, for it has a great impact on the success of transnational social movements such as GCAP and the anti-poverty movement at changing the policies and behaviours of MEIs.

Rucht reminds us that the anti-globalization and anti-poverty movements against international institutions are not anything new (there have been protests surrounding G7 and G8, WTO, World Bank and IMF summits since Seattle, and other campaigns were predecessors to GCAP), and that most of the groups who are participating were already active in prior contentious activities; none of the arguments raised were new.[13] It seems as if GCAP is just reframing an old package, but the fact that the anti-poverty norm has already been on the international agenda for a while can help explain its relative success.

The anti-poverty movement fighting for debt relief actually began as early as the 1970s, when mainly church groups were lobbying and raising awareness locally. The movement grew in the 1980s, being picked up by larger social groups and national (and eventually international) NGOs, and evolved into a functioning transnational network in the early 1990s.[14] In its infancy, the network was relatively weak due its complex, technically difficult, and geographically diffuse nature. But with events like the “Fifty Years is Enough” campaign in 1994, the Battle of Seattle in 1995[15] and the Jubilee 2000 campaign (which were anti-globalization and anti-World Bank and IMF policy campaigns fighting for debt relief, fair trade, and the reform of Structural Adjustment Policies and the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiatives), the network gained concessions from the G8, WTO, World Bank and IMF, as well as from individual states, and momentum for the movement grew.[16] However, activists felt that the concessions gained were still insufficient – they demanded more aid, more debt relief to more countries, more policy reforms, and more civil society consultation and input.[17] Thus the movement continued.

During this time, the number of transnational social movement organizations and NGOs also proliferated (first in the North, then in the South), making communication and coordination between the North and South easier.[18] The anti-poverty movement was dominated by Northern NGOs and civil society groups in the beginning and tensions sometimes inhibited the South from becoming involved. However, over time more Southern voices have been incorporated.[19] After all, the very impetus for the anti-poverty campaign came from the problems experienced by the South, so it is only appropriate that the movement includes the actors it is fighting for. It will be discussed later as to whether or not imbalanced power relations persist in the movement.

Today’s GCAP coalition is said to involve around 30 million participants from more than 200 countries.[20] The platform of GCAP calls for more and better aid, trade justice, debt cancellation, and national-level action, as well as making world leaders live up to their promises. National campaigns under the GCAP umbrella incorporate these tenets, as well as adding some of their own, to help make their campaigns more relative to their constituents. For example, MPH in Canada has a focus on ending child poverty in Canada, and the ONE Campaign in the US puts an emphasis on the HIV/AIDS crisis.[21] GCAP relies on its national and local partners to mobilize individuals by urging them to join local groups who are part of the campaign, to wear the trademark white bracelet, to attend the organized awareness and protest events, and to sign online petitions and send emails to policy makers, among other things. GCAP’s strategies will be evaluated in the following section.

Determinants of Success

This paper will now critically examine the GCAP campaign to determine its level of success, using a collection of criteria and determinants for success as identified in the literature. The criteria will be organized under five broad categories: questions of collective identity formation and the framing of collective action; strength, density, institutionalization, and internal resources of the network; mobilizing structures; political opportunity structures and institutions; and arena of struggle and influence – changes in policy-making vs. policy-implementation.

I. Questions of collective identity formation and the framing of collective action

For a movement to be successful, it must be able to mobilize a large group of individuals. Some form of collective identity or purpose must be fostered among the group that will prompt them to act collectively. An “attribution of similarity,” is needed, described by McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly as “the mutual identification of actors in different sites as being sufficiently similar to justify common action.”[22]

But collective identities are hard to coordinate at best – trying to foster transnational collective identities is even more difficult. Transnational movements need a wide geographic representation if they are going to be effective in multilateral politics today, so there must be a dialogue to come up with common goals and identities, and relationships of trust must be built for ongoing cooperation among actors.[23] Snow highlights the importance of framing in identity formation. He defines a frame as a “schemata of interpretation” that allows individuals to “locate, perceive, identify, and label” events; “by rendering events or occurrences meaningful, frames function to organize experience and guide action, whether individual or collective.”[24]

In our case, borrowing from Taylor, the collective identity for members of the anti-poverty movement stems from a framed collective sense of injustice; poverty is framed in such a way that individuals across the globe can agree that it is inherently wrong and something which must be fought.[25] Keck and Sikkink discuss the importance of issue resonance in a society, as well as within existing national and institutional agendas, as we will see later on.[26] Norms pushed by transnational movements are more likely to be successful to the extent that they “fit” or are framed within cultural contexts, or can be broad enough to be applied universally.[27]

Looking at the manifestos of some of the national campaigns under GCAP, anti-poverty is clearly the norm being framed to foster a collective identity. It is common for the issue of poverty to be framed as something that affects the vulnerable; highlighted are the plight of women and children.[28] Keck and Sikkink believe that some of the most successful issues fought for are those involving bodily harm to vulnerable individuals[29]; in our case, the disease and death caused by poverty to vulnerable sectors of the population makes for a cause worth fighting for. Catchy TV advertisements shown in the UK and Canada involve celebrities snapping their fingers every three seconds, to represent the death of a child from poverty. Poverty is also framed as a “violation of human rights on a massive scale.”[30] These frames make it hard for the general public to deny that this campaign is something worth fighting for, and it is an easy, relatively non-contentious frame to relate to.

Since it is very difficult to construct a collective identity on a transnational level, national identities and concerns are appealed to for leverage by individual national campaigns. In the Canadian MPH platform, readers are reminded of the incredible outpouring of aid they gave to victims of the Asian tsunami, showing that Canadians care deeply about humanitarian crises; it is implied that involvement in the anti-poverty campaign should be natural. The national interest card is played in the American ONE Campaign, as citizens are shown how poverty is a threat to their national security, since impoverished countries are breeding grounds for terrorists.[31] It is very strategic of the campaigns to call on these feelings of national identity and security to get citizens on board.

While GCAP has successfully used the media and its national campaigns to frame poverty in such a way that will mobilize the masses, it is hard to tell if GCAP has successfully built a strong transnational collective identity. Individuals might be told that they are acting in solidarity with other activists across the globe, but in speaking to the everyday individual wearing a white bracelet, most are unaware of the transnational campaign to which they belong, and are unlikely to identify with actors in the South, for example.

II. Strength, density, institutionalization, and internal resources of the network

Networks and coalitions function best when they are dense, with many actors, strong connections among groups and individuals in the network, and reliable flows of information.[32] Risse-Kappen reminds us that easy access to governments and institutions does not guarantee policy impact – a transnational movement must be able to form a “winning coalition,” both within target countries and on the international scene.[33] But Keck and Sikkink are quick to reassure us that network density and quality are hard to measure.[34] By looking at the websites of GCAP and its national campaigns, we see that hundreds of thousands of individuals, civil society groups and NGOs are part of the network – but it is difficult to evaluate how strong and meaningful the linkages and information exchanges are between them.

Transnational coalitions must have a perception of authority and legitimacy in order to influence both target actors and the general public to join their cause. This authority can be derived from expertise, moral influence, and a claim to political legitimacy.[35] Moral principles can even be considered a form of power.[36] A transnational movement’s moral authority is linked to its claim that it somehow represents the “public interest” or the “common good.”[37] Transnational coalitions also claim legitimacy and gain leverage from their ability to represent affected communities, such as the South in GCAP’s case.[38] To reaffirm its legitimacy and authority, GCAP highlights the fact that it has support from many Southern leaders and NGOs, and that it is the largest transnational coalition of its kind in existence.[39]

Just as civil society movements are trying to account for the democratic deficit in global governance, they themselves must also be accountable, transparent and democratic – especially when they are transnational – and must incorporate Southern and non-capitalist voices. They should also try to maximize public participation and education.[40] Tarrow reminds us that maintaining transnational coalitions is difficult, and only those with a degree of institutionalization and capacity to socialize participants will outlast the issue that brought them together one it is gone.[41] Beyond institutionalization and centralization, coalitions move from being short-term to long-term when they are able to seize and create new opportunities (as opposed to relying on them), and once they can socialize their participants from the local level to “rooted cosmopolitans.”[42] It is for this reason that Tarrow would say that GCAP needs to move from an event coalition to a long-term campaign coalition.[43]

In this second category, it is harder to evaluate the success of GCAP. It is not very transparent – the information on its website does not discuss how and by whom it is run and organized – and from where it receives its funding. It is hard to determine if the network’s inner workings are egalitarian and if unequal power relations between Northern and Southern actors prevail. It can be assumed that the sheer size of the coalition and the fact that it does include Southern groups means that it should bear weight against states and international institutions, but this impact is hard to measure. The fact that GCAP holds little material or serious political threat weakens its leverage against states and international institutions. Because the coalition is only about a year old, it is hard to measure its degree of institutionalization. Since it is so focused on a specific goal and centres its activities around high-profile events, it doesn’t seem likely that it will turn into a long-term campaign. While it has strong mobilizing tactics (which will be discussed next) and it has tried to build a collective anti-poverty identity, it seems too broad and relies too much on diverse local organizations to be effective at socializing participants – beyond the fact that they all wear white bracelets.

III. Mobilizing structures

McAdam, McCarthy and Zald define mobilizing structures as “those collective vehicles, informal as well as formal, through which people mobilize and engage in collective action.”[44] According to McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly, “people do not protest in response to threat alone: mobilization depends on social networks, mobilizing frames, and on at least the attribution of opportunity.”[45]

Many scholars tell us how the strength of a transnational network depends very much on the nonformal, “indigenous” interpersonal networks of friends, family and coworkers in local areas who spread information about the campaign through informal channels.[46] Transnational campaigns will also rely heavily on “intra-national bloc recruitment” because of proximity and network effects.[47] It must be remembered that not everyone will be part of one of the larger NGOs partnered to the transnational campaign, so informal networks and more local-based recruitment are necessary for mobilization. Groups such as local churches, community organizations, trade unions, and student groups are vital for recruiting members to the movement, engaging in local campaigns and activities, and providing resources for the movement.[48] GCAP and its national affiliates promote the fact that they are largely comprised of such groups who promote the campaign on very local levels, alongside larger NGOs at the more national level (who perform much more of the promotional, educational and lobbying activities, and who have more routine transnational ties). McCarthy says that routine contacts between these groups and the broader society promote wider participation and legitimacy for the social movement or coalition.[49] Keck and Sikkink attest that some of a campaign’s most important type of impact comes in the form of grassroots education and network building, which GCAP certainly has done.[50]

Numerous authors have recognized the huge positive impact that the internet and other advances in communication and travel have had on the organization and facilitation of transnational networks and campaigns.[51] According to Tarrow, the internet can “leapfrog over the organizational deficits that plague social movement organizations, as well as strain towards goal displacement that affects large bureaucratic organizations.”[52] To appeal to individuals, GCAP, its national campaigns, and partner NGOs rely heavily on the internet as a means of communication and recruitment. Participation is made as simple and non-committal as going online and signing a petition or adding one’s name to a pledge or email distribution list. Individuals are kept involved through informative emails sent periodically. Incidentally, GCAP was recently awarded the Inter Press Service’s 2005 International Achievement Award for Excellence in Communication.[53] But some scholars point out that while the internet is helpful for transnational networks where participants do not necessarily know or have contact with each other, it has not replaced interpersonal networking. Bennett warns that the medium can affect the message – internet-based networks may lack the capacity to develop clear ideologies and decision-making coherence, and the movement message is harder to monitor and turn off.[54]

Again, framing, and the use of the media and celebrities is crucial to GCAP in mobilizing support, especially in the Northern states. Celebrities and events such as the Live8 mega-concerts are especially important for mobilizing the younger generation. Critics, however, are wary about the short life span of media agendas, and recognize that celebrities can only push an issue so far. But, the use of the media and celebrities are a good jump-off point for most campaigns, and once campaigns gain momentum (and if the celebrity endorsements continue), they have a better chance at making their movements sustainable.[55] Trendy items like the trademark white bracelets are also used to link individuals across the globe and to raise awareness about the campaign.

GCAP relies heavily on tactics such as the mega Live8 concerts, protests at summits, and the awareness days it organizes. These activities are great for gaining awareness, encouraging sympathizers, mobilizing action, and disseminating information about the coalition to the general public, but it is still questionable if people “get the point.” These types of activities also rely heavily on the media, and the amount of coverage these events receive can make or break their success. Protests are no longer as successful as they used to be, because they have become “normalized” in the collective action repertoire. Security officials and summit organizers are more prepared for protesters, and plan accordingly by either prohibiting protesting near the summit location, or moving the summit to an out-of-the-way locale.[56] This is true now: the G8 summit was held at a remote golf resort in Gleneagles, Scotland, and the upcoming WTO Ministerial summit is in Hong Kong – far away from most Western protesters.

It is questionable whether GCAP’s tactics of relying on local groups, concert and protest events, trendy white bracelets and the internet for mobilization create a sufficient link between individuals and the transnational coalition to which they belong, and if transnational identities are truly being fostered. Do people really realize what they are a part of? While these tactics might mobilize individuals to attend a concert, wear a white bracelet, or visit a website, do they mobilize individuals enough to participate in protests and to actually go out and lobby their governments? It is doubtful whether GCAP’s tactics mobilize individuals to leave their computer desks and to take to the streets.

IV. Political opportunity structures and institutions

McAdam, McCarthy and Zald explain how social movements are shaped by the wider set of political constraints and opportunities unique to the national (and international) context in which they are embedded.[57] International opportunities can include international events, allied states, and international institutions. The structure and openness of target states and institutions is relevant for a movement’s success. The dominance of liberalism in the international system gives activists many openings to pressure states and institutions, and to expose the gap between discourse and practice.[58]

On the matter of states as allies, many international campaigns such as GCAP seek to change international policy by trying to shape the decisions of individual states by urging participants to target their own (or other) states’ domestic policies. This is certainly evidenced by the efforts to influence the G8 policies, since the G8 is simply the world’s eight most powerful states. GCAP national movements in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, France and Italy most definitely focused their efforts at getting individuals to pressure their own governments, through means such as emails, letter-writing, and postcard sending.[59] The fact that the domestic politics in the UK were focused at he time on debt relief and relieving poverty in Africa made the British government an “ally” (or sympathizer, or accessible target, however one wants to look at it) for GCAP; it must be remembered that the Make Poverty History began in the UK.

But for any of this to be effective, government leaders must be sensitive about their own reputations, as well as the reputation of the state. The target actors must be persuaded that the costs of violating norms are unacceptably high or that their actions are intolerably wrong.[60] Again, we see the importance of targeting states whose domestic politics are favourable to the movement’s position, and targeting leaders who might be in vulnerable political situations or who could be seeking re-election (such as the UK’s Tony Blair and Canada’s Paul Martin).

International institutions were also the main targets of this campaign. O’Brien and others say that “international institutions not only provide an opportunity structure for contention but provide unifying themes and identities for those who oppose them – despite their significant differences.”[61] Tarrow uses the analogy of a “coral reef” to describe how international institutions help to create horizontal connections among activists with similar claims across borders.[62] The limited support for demands gained at the international financial institutions by the anti-poverty network in earlier campaigns were a political opportunity that GCAP could build on.[63] In GCAP’s case, there were several international events (such as the G8 summit and the Live8 concerts), which GCAP capitalized on to give activists from all over the world an opportunity to come together to lobby these institutions. But O’Brien and others remind us how multilateral economic institutions might not always be open to civil society pressure, since their ultimate goal is to maintain their existing policy directions and facilitate smoother operation, and their aim is to improve policy implementation – not to consult with civil society groups.[64] They also remind us that some institutions, such as the United Nations, are better at engaging civil society and incorporating their concerns into its policies and structure than the international financial institutions (although among these, the World Bank is better than the rest). [65] The fact that these institutions are more receptive to civil society now is a result of the 25 years of lobbying that civil society has done to gain access to these institutions. However, in the end, activists argue that they still hold very little influence. This is why social movements must engage in “contentious politics”[66] to bring about change within these institutions.

As this paper has shown, the anti-poverty movement has gained more access and influence to international institutions over time, providing the political opportunity needed for the current GCAP coalition to make an impact on G8, World Bank, IMF and UN policies. But will the opportunities disappear once the big flashy conferences end? And for how long will this movement’s objectives coincide with state interests? Will governments lose interest in the anti-poverty agenda soon? The fact that GCAP relies so heavily on ephemeral opportunity structures such as concerts and the media could lead to its downfall. However, the opportunity structures within international institutions are well-established, and they will always hold conferences at which coalitions like GCAP can lobby. GCAP’s long-term success will rely more on its internal organization and its mobilizing structures.

V.Arena of struggle and influence – changes in policy-making vs. policy-implementation

As stated before, Keck and Sikkink state that some of the most important goals and areas of influence of transnational movements are to get an issue on the international agenda, to get international actors to change their discursive positions and institutional procedures, and to influence policy change and actor behaviour.[67] But they warn that while “explicit policy shifts seem to denote success…we must take care to distinguish between policy change and change in behaviour.”[68]

Movements are more likely to be successful at developing and implementing new norms to the extent that they can be attached to previously accepted norms.[69] As the background of the anti-poverty movement has shown, GCAP is building on the anti-poverty norm that has been developing since the early 1980s, and the progress that previous activists made at having their voices heard at multilateral institutions. It is because of this that the G8, World Bank and IMF so “easily” agreed to the debt relief proposal, as “weak” as it still seems.

A movement’s success also depends on the tactics used to influence the policies and behaviours of target actors. GCAP uses several tactics outlined by Keck and Sikkink, including shaming and accountability politics. Accountability politics involve obliging powerful actors to act on vaguer policies or principles they formally endorsed.[70] One of the largest frames GCAP used to pressure state and international institutions into practice was the fact that the G8 countries had all signed on to the UN’s Millenium Development goals in 2000 (which aim at reducing poverty by 2015), and had pledged to relieve debt, but so far have failed to substantially live up to these commitments.

Overwhelmingly, critics and members of the GCAP coalition alike feel that the recent concessions made by the World Bank, IMF, and the G8 are a step in the right direction, but are not enough. Many still feel that the external debt of all countries (not just the HIPC countries) should be cancelled, and that the conditionalities to achieving debt relief should also be loosened or abolished.[71] Some critics, such as Donnelly, also feel that while state-society-institution relations are being configured in a positive way, the interaction between civil society and these institutions is also enhancing the IMF and World Bank’s influence over the debt-relief process and through the conditionalities of domestic policy change required for debt relief.[72]

Even though the establishment of weak agreements or rhetorical commitments might seem disappointing at first, it is important to remember that these are important steps in the process of norm implementation and internalization.[73] But at this stage, it is too early to determine whether or not policy implementation and substantial action on the part of the UN and international financial institutions will occur.

Conclusion

Based on the criteria outlines in this paper, the success of GCAP can be looked at in two ways: culturally and materially. Tarrow has observed a complex political process that intervenes between a movement’s resources and goals, and its success or failure. Movements realize that there is a trade-off between what they hope to achieve and what they will actually achieve given the state and international politics. The end result can mean a compromise between the achievement of rhetorical and actual goals.[74]

Culturally, while GCAP has managed to mobilize millions of actors across the globe, it does not seem like it has the potential to build a strong transnational collective identity that will carry the coalition well into the future. While it may have created a media frenzy, it is hard to tell if its internal structure is institutionalized enough and representative enough of all global actors to be sustainable. Its reliance on media opportunities also makes it more vulnerable to external political opportunities, rather than being able to create its own. But it has been recognized that GCAP is not a new phenomenon. Rather, it has built on a pre-existing anti-poverty network that has been active for over 25 years in attempts to get the poverty norm on the international agenda, and in influencing states and international institutions to change their policies. States and the UN have also been “broken in” to listening to civil society. While the GCAP coalition itself might not last, it is likely that the anti-poverty network and social movement will remain until it has achieved its ultimate goals.

In material terms, GCAP has been successful at convincing the G8 countries and the World Bank and IMF to change their policies. But it is only that – policy change. It has yet to be seen if the policy rhetoric will translate into policy implementation and substantial action on behalf of states to eradicate poverty. It should also be noted that GCAP’s demand of trade justice has not been dealt with at all thus far. GCAP activists are also still heavily criticizing the World Bank and IMF policies that have been changed, arguing that the concessions simply are not enough, and that more debt cancellation and more aid is needed if poverty is ever going to be made history.

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O’Brien, Robert, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte and Marc Williams. “Complex Multilateralism: MEIs and GSMs.” In Contesting Global Goverance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements, O’Brien, Robert, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte, and Marc Williams, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 206-34.

TheONE Campaign, USA, www.one.org.

Price, Richard. “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics.” World Politics 55 (July 2003): 579-606.

Risse, T. “The Power of Norms versus the Norms of Power: Transnational Civil Society and Human Rights.” In The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society, Ann M. Florini, ed. Tokyo and Washington, DC: Japan Centre for International Exchange and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000.

Risse-Kappen, Thomas. “Bringing Transnational relations back in: Introduction.” In Bringing Transnational Relations Back in: Non-state actors, domestic structures and international institutions, Thomas Risse-Kappen, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, 3-33.

Rucht, Dieter. “Social Movements Challenging Neo-liberal Globalization.” in Social Movements and Democracy, Pedro Ibarra (ed.) New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003., 211-229.

Scholte, Jan Aart. “Civil Society and democracy in global governance.” Global Governance 8, 2 (2002), 281-304.

Smith, Jackie. “Globalizing Resistance: The Battle of Seattle and the Future of Social Movements.” Mobilization: An International Journal, 1994.

Snow, David A. et al. “Frame Alignment Processes, micromobilization, and movement participation.” American Sociological review 51, 4 (August 1986), 464-481.

Tarrow, Sidney. “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science 4 (2001), 1-20.

Tarrow, Sidney. The New Transnational Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Tarrow, Sidney. “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” paper prepared for presentation at the panel on “Social Movements and Transnational Social Movements,” APSA Annual Meeting, August 31, 2002, Chicago.

Taylor, Verta. “Mobilizing for Change in a Social Movement Society.” Contemporary Sociology 29, 1 (Jan 2000), 219-230.


[1] Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink define a norm as “a standard of appropriate behaviour for actors with a given identity.” In Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change,” International Organization 52, 4 (1998): 891.

[2] Richard Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” World Politics 55 (July 2003): 584.

[3] Sidney Tarrow, “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics,” Annual Review of Political Science 4 (2001), 1-20.

[4] Sidney Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” paper prepared for presentation at the panel on “Social Movements and Transnational Social Movements,” APSA Annual Meeting, August 31, 2002, Chicago.

[5] Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, “Transnational advocacy networks in international and regional politics,” International Social Science Journal 51, 1 (March 1999): 89.

[6] Sidney Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) 163.

[7] Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” 18.

[8] Donatella della Porta and Mario Diani, Social Movements (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing 1999), in Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, 165.

[9] Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, “From Santiago to Seattle: Transnational Advocacy Groups Restructuring World Politics,” in Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms, Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 8.

[10] Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, 166-8.

[11] Robert Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977).

[12] Robert O’Brien, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte and Marc Williams, “Complex Multilateralism: MEIs and GSMs.” In Contesting Global Goverance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements, O’Brien, Robert, Anne Marie Goetz, Jan Aart Scholte, and Marc Williams, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 206-34.

[13] Dieter Rucht, “Social Movements Challenging Neo-liberal Globalization,” in Pedro Ibarra (ed.) Social Movements and Democracy, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.), 211-229.

[14] Elizabeth A. Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee: The Debt and Structural Adjustment Network,” in, Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks and Norms, Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 156.

[15] The “Battle of Seattle” in 1995, which was a large anti-globalization protest against the WTO Ministerial Summit in Seattle, built on this activism from the 1980s and 1990s, and utilized the many “local, national and transnational popular mobilizations around the world that have opposed regional and bilateral trade liberalization agreements, the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and the failures of nation-states to protect human rights.” See Jackie Smith, “Globalizing Resistance: The Battle of Seattle and the Future of Social Movements,” Mobilization: An International Journal, 1994.

[16] Elizabeth A. Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee: The Debt and Structural Adjustment Network,” in Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks and Norms, Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002): 156-160.

[17] Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee,” 165-166.

[18] Smith, “Globalizing Resistance,”5

[19] Paul J. Nelson, “Agendas, Accountability, and Legitimacy among Transnational Networks Lobbying the World Bank,” and Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee,” in Khagram, Riker and Sikkink, Restructuring World Politics.

[20] GCAP, http://www.whiteband.org

[21] Please refer to Make Poverty History Canada (www.makepovertyhistory.ca) and the US’s ONE campaign (www.one.org)

[22] D. McAdam, S. Tarrow and C. Tilly, Dynamics of Contention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) in Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” 29.

[23] Smith, “Globalizing Resistance,” 6; see also Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms.”

[24] David A. Snow et al, “Frame Alignment Processes, micromobilization, and movement participation,” American Sociological review 51, 4 (August 1986), 464.

[25] Verta Taylor, “Mobilizing for Change in a Social Movement Society,” Contemporary Sociology 29, 1 (2000), 222.

[26] Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1998), 26.

[27] Richard Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” World Politics 55 (July 2003), 596.

[28] For example, please refer to the platforms and manifestos of Canada’s Make Poverty History campaign, the US’s ONE campaign, the UK’s Make Poverty History campaign, and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign itself.

[29] Keck and Sikkink, Activists beyond Border, 204.

[30] Make Poverty History Canada – platform. Available online from http://www.makepovertyhistory.ca.

[31] US ONE platform, http://www.one.org.

[32] Keck and Sikkink, Activists beyond borders, 28.

[33] Thomas Risse-Kappen, “Bringing Transnational relations back in: Introduction,” in Bringing Transnational Relations Back in: Non-state actors, domestic structures and international institutions, Thomas Risse-Kappen, ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 25-6.

[34] Risse-Kappen, “Bringing Transnational Relations back in: Introduction,” 29.

[35] Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” 587.

[36] Ann Florini, The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society, (Tokyo and Washington, DC: Japan Centre for International Exchange and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000), 10.

[37] T. Risse, “The Power of Norms versus the Norms of Power: Transnational Civil Society and Human Rights,” in Florini, The Third Force: The Rise of Transnational Civil Society, 186.

[38] Nelson, “Agendas, Accountability and Legitimacy among Transnational Networks Lobbying the World Bank.”

[39] GCAP, http://www.whiteband.org

[40] Jan Aart Scholte, “Civil Society and democracy in global governance,” Global Governance 8, 2 (2002), 298-300.

[41] Tarrow, The New Transnational Activism, 163.

[42] Ibid, 175-8. Tarrow defines “rooted cosmopolitans” as “people and groups who are rooted in specific national contexts, but who emerge in contentious political activities that involve them in transnational networks of contacts and conflicts.” (Ibid, 29).

[43] Ibid 179.

[44] Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, “Introduction: Opportunities, mobilizing structures, and framing processes,” in Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements, Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, eds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 3.

[45] McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly, Dynamics of Contention, in Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms.” 19

[46] Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms.” 12; Verta Taylor, “Mobilizing for Change in a Social Movement Society,” Contemporary Sociology 29, 1 (Jan 2000), 222; Susan Burgerman, Moral Victories: How Activists Provoke Multilateral Action (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001), 16-18; Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” 594-6.

[47] Ibid 13

[48] Smith, “Globalizing Resistance,” 2.

[49] John D. McCarthy, “Mobilizing Structures: Constraints and Opportunities in Adopting, Adapting and Inventing,” in Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures and Framing: Social Movement Dynamics in Cross-National Perspective, D. McAdam, J. McCarthy and M. Zald, eds (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996) in Smith, “Globalizing Resistance,” 5.

[50] Keck and Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders, 20.

[51] See Tarrow, “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics;” Taylor, “Mobilizing for Change in a Social Movement Society;” Smith, “Globalizing Resistance;” Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee.”

[52] Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” 14.

[53] GCAP, http://www.whiteband.org

[54] W. Lance Bennett, “Communicating Global Activism: Some Strengths and Vulnerabilities of Networked Politics.” Presented at the Pacific Sociological Association Meetings, Vancouver, BC. “Consumerism and Global Citizenship: Lifestyle Politics, Logo Campaigns, and International Regimes of Democratic Accountability.” Unpublished Paper. University of Washington, 2002, in Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanims,” 17.

[55] Stefania Bianchi, “Africa: If Music be the food of development, play on,” Global Information Network (New York: June 10, 2005).

[56] Rucht, “Social Movements Challenging Neo-liberal Globalization,” 15.

[57] McAdam, McCarthy, Zald, “Introduction: Opportunities, mobilizing structures, and framing processes,” 3.

[58] Keck and Sikkink, Activists beyond borders, 206.

[59] Please consult the individual websites, through the links on the GCAP website, http://www.whiteband.org.

[60] Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” 587.

[61] O’Brien et al, Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Institutions and Global Social Movements, in Tarrow, “The New Transnational Contention: Organizations, Coalitions, Mechanisms,” 29.

[62] Tarrow, “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics,” 15

[63] Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee,” 167.

[64] O’Brien et al, “Complex Multilateralism: MEIs and GSMs”

[65] O’Brien et al, “Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements,” Rucht, “Social Movements Challenging Neo-liberal Globalization,” 17.

[66] Sidney Tarrow defines contentious politics as “episodic, collective interaction among makers of claims and their objects when a) at least one government is a claimant, an object of claims, or a party to the claims and b) the claims would, if realized, affect the interests of at least one of the claimants.” (McAdam et al 2001 in Tarrow 2001)

[67] Keck and Sikkink, Activists beyond Borders, 25.

[68] Ibid, 26.

[69] Price, “Transnational Civil Society and Advocacy in World Politics,” 585

[70] Keck and Sikkink, “Transnational Advocacy Networks in international and regional politics,” 95.

[71] Susanna Mitchell, “Can ‘Make Poverty History’ really make poverty history?” Jubilee Research UK 2005; Jubilee Research, “G8 Debt Relief Proposals: a first step in the right direction – and a long way to go.”; Jubilee Research, “World Bank and IMF endorse G8 debt deal – but what does it mean? And where does it leave us?”

[72] Nelson, “Agendas, Accountability, and Legitimacy among Transnational Networks Lobbying the World Bank,” 149; Donnelly, “Proclaiming Jubilee,” 166.

[73] Burgerman, Moral Victories: How Activists Provoke Multilateral Action, 22-3.

[74] Tarrow (1994, 171) in Thomas Legler, “Chapter One: The Politics of Economic Restructuring in Rural Mexico: A Theoretical Overview,” Doctoral Dissertation Thesis, 44.

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