NGO participation in global governance institutions: international and domestic drivers of engagement

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Global governance institutions (GGIs) increasingly rely upon NGO involvement for expertise, promotion of rules and standards, and democratic legitimacy. Yet NGO participation in GGIs is unevenly distributed by country of origin. This paper examines patterns of NGO participation in GGIs, and how participation is shaped by incentives and pressures at global and national levels. First, we map NGO participation by country of origin across 42 GGIs based on the roles that GGIs grant to NGOs and by variations in domestic conditions of income level and political regime type. Second, to delve more deeply into domestic factors, we provide an exploratory statistical regression based on NGO participation in two major GGIs, the UN Global Compact on corporate social responsibility and the UNFCCC Conferences of Parties on climate change. We find evidence that participation patterns reflect both the varying institutional design of GGIs and NGO capacity linked to domestic conditions. We observe that NGOs with constrained capacity due to domestic factors gravitate toward GGIs that offer the most significant roles for NGOs, with the greatest opportunity to influence policy. We suggest that domestic civil society factors beyond level of economic development and regime type shape NGO participation at the global level. Analysis of this wide-ranging set of GGIs provides more general confirmation of patterns of NGO engagement in global governance previously identified in studies limited to particular issue sectors or cases.

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