Global Civil Society: International Voice Without an International Venue

to appear in Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

Kristen Magis

Published: October 2006

Keywords: globalization, globalisation, governance, civil society, ngo, igo, Civil Society


Civil Society Conference Waterloo, Ontario October 17-19, 2006

Global civil society (GCS) occupies a unique position in the international system. It does not have the formal power or position within international governance organizations (IGOs) as do states. Neither does it have the resources of the business sector that promise an attentive ear of government. It has neither place nor privilege in global policy-making milieus. As such, it carries no formal legitimacy. Civil society must, rather, gain access through informal and 'backdoor' strategies that may not be protected by formal rules and policies. Further, in some countries, civil society's very existence is challenged by their own government. These structural disadvantages make GCS vulnerable, exposing it to powerful and sometimes antagonistic political and economic forces and threatening to minimize, if not silence its voice. The inclusion of GCS in policy-making processes, however, contributes to more effective and viable decisions and policies. The effectiveness and legitimacy of international governance will improve if GCS is afforded an institutionally legitimated place at the table.
The purpose of the University of Victoria project, 'the Voice of Global Civil Society', is to examine various options and processes through which members of GCS can give voice to their interests in global policy-making milieus. In this paper, the reasoning for the need for such processes is explored. To honor conference participants' valuable time and expertise on this topic, this piece is written as a précis, purposefully omitting evidence to substantiate various points. The original work is extensively referenced; however the references are not included herein in the interest of space. Those interested in the references may inquire with the Centre for Global Studies.

Disciplines: Governance

Publication: Background-Paper_Magis.pdf