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Back | Programme Area: Civil Society and Social Movements

Transnational Civil Society Movements: The State of Anticorruption Efforts



Over the past several years there has been increasingly heated debate on issues of global concern, such as corruption. Corruption as a local and national problem has jumped out of these arenas and permeated the international arena as a result of transnational civil society actors. Global civil society organizations (CSOs) provide much of the impetus for the debate on corruption. A growing body of literature focusing on the emergence and mechanisms employed by transnational CSOs is emerging and provides a veritable mine of how they formulate alternative world views.

The paper reviews the anticorruption efforts pursued by transnational CSOs, what these organizations are, their structures and how they are evolving. It seeks to capture the activities and functions of the movement and the kind of methods they employ to achieve their goals. The paper identifies the following areas of tension: (i) issues of legitimacy and representation among transnational CSOs; (ii) the grey areas in the notion of global civil society; (iii) the North-South divide; (iv) the composition and membership of transnational civil society movements; (v) the movements’ increasing use of new technology; and (vi) fallibility as an emerging concern of civil society. From these tensions arises an agenda for further research and advocacy, which includes (i) rethinking civil society, state and market boundaries, especially in the promotion of global transnational movements; (ii) legitimization of global civil society; (iii) internal assessments; (iv) problem of transnationalization; and (v) “downstreaming” of transnational movements.

The paper concludes that anticorruption movements appear to be adequate in terms of programmes, strategies and techniques. What remains to be established is the capacity of these movements to create long-term impact of reducing country-level corruption. However, civil society groups adopt different paths in their campaigns against corruption. They appear effective in forging broad alliances and coalitions with state and market institutions, thereby diluting conventional civil society boundaries.

This offers a new challenge since corruption is an issue that trespasses on different boundaries and arenas. To mount a serious anticorruption campaign thus compels social actors to go beyond the conventions of civil society, state and market boundaries. The boundaries do not just imply physical and organizational parameters, but also and, more importantly, the adjustment of approaches and strategies.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Aug 2006
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8178
    From: UNRISD