Defining civil society coalitions


There is a great deal of academic literature related to the emergence of what has been called the ‘global civil society’ or ‘transnational civil society’ along with ‘transnational advocacy networks’. Coalitions of the type we are focusing on in this report have been situated by some alongside ‘loose networks’ and broader ‘social movements’.

When discussing a global civil society coalition in this book, we mean a group of separate NGOs, working together in multiple countries in a coordinated way as members of an identified coalition on the basis of a common purpose and seeking changes to government policies and practices or to international laws.

Mass membership organisations (such as Amnesty International), NGOs with affiliates in different countries (such as Oxfam) and political parties or trade unions are not considered global civil society coalitions for the purposes of this book. We are also not talking about organisations like AVAAZ, which are able to mobilise massive numbers of individuals to take online actions such as signing a petition or sending an email.1 Yet all of these types of organisation may play important roles within coalitions.

Similarly, this book does not analyse the broader social or political initiatives of which coalitions are themselves a part. For example, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a global civil society coalition, but it is situated within a broader political movement to ban landmines that includes international organisations such as the UN and ICRC, parliamentarians, governments, academics, and others from outside the ICBL itself.

“By building new links among actors in civil societies, states and international organisations, [civil society coalitions] multiply the opportunities for dialogue and exchange. In issue areas such as the environment and human rights, they also make international resources available to new actors in domestic political and social struggles. By blurring the boundaries between a state’s relations with its own nationals and the recourse both citizens and states have to the international system, advocacy networks are helping to transform the practice of national sovereignty.”

Transnational advocacy networks in international and regional politics, Margaret E. Keck, Kathryn Sikkink, International Social Science Journal, Volume 51, Issue 159, pages 89–101, March 1999 

  1. See About Us page on AVAAZ had over nine million members in 193 countries in July 2011.


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