1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Civil Society and Social Movements

Methodological Workshop on Global Civil Society Movements: Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation

Date: 25 - 26 Nov 2004



In early 2004, The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) launched a major research project, Global Civil Social Movements: Dynamics in International Campaigns and National Implementation, to examine the strengths and weaknesses of civil society movements and networks related to debt relief, international trade rules, global taxation, anticorruption and fair trade/solidarity economy.

A major contribution of the research will be an assessment of how global civil society movements actually fare in national and local contexts. For this purpose, in-depth country studies are being carried out in Argentina, Bolivia, the Philippines, Senegal and Turkey. These countries have high levels of public debt, suffer unfavourable conditions in international trade, have experienced major financial crises, and face problems of corruption in both the public and private sectors. However, they have also been the scenes of important civil society initiatives.

This project workshop, co-hosted with the Institute of Economic and Social Development, brought together the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) research coordinator, national researchers and other invitees. The researchers presented the outlines of their studies, and this was followed by detailed discussion of the theoretical foundations of the project, definitions of key concepts, and relations between the national and international levels of analysis.

Participants agreed on the following broad goals for the national-level research:

· to clarify the meanings of the term “social movement” in different country contexts, highlighting the key actors engaged at local and national levels, as well as their linkages with regional and international movements and networks;
· to examine the forms of contention and institutionalization, including the question of why certain issues attract more popular mobilization than others;
· to analyse the impacts of social movements on local livelihoods, civil society structure, public opinion and national development debates; and
· to draw wider policy conclusions on the developmental implications of social movements, including the issue of how constructive dialogue and cooperation might be promoted between social movements and national and international institutions, the academic community, NGOs, the media and other actors.

The studies will also seek to evaluate whether the social forces associated with the selected movements are accepted and viable actors in national contexts, and the extent to which they are able to make significant policy impacts.

On the methodological side, the studies are using a common framework that ensures consistency while allowing for the diversity of cases. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was decided on, including surveys, interviews, case studies, and the extensive use of secondary documentation and primary sources. Participants in the project workshop also discussed publication and dissemination plans, including the organization of a stakeholder meeting in each of the countries that would bring together civil society actors, relevant government departments, academics and the media to consider the principal research findings.