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Borders among Activists

International NGOs in the United States, Britain, and France

by Sarah S. Stroup

Publication Year: 2012

In Borders among Activists, Sarah S. Stroup challenges the notion that political activism has gone beyond borders and created a global or transnational civil society. Instead, at the most globally active, purportedly cosmopolitan groups in the world-international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs)-organizational practices are deeply tied to national environments, creating great diversity in the way these groups organize themselves, engage in advocacy, and deliver services.

Stroup offers detailed profiles of these "varieties of activism" in the United States, Britain, and France. These three countries are the most popular bases for INGOs, but each provides a very different environment for charitable organizations due to differences in legal regulations, political opportunities, resources, and patterns of social networks. Stroup's comparisons of leading American, British, and French INGOs-Care, Oxfam, Médicins sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and FIDH-reveal strong national patterns in INGO practices, including advocacy, fund-raising, and professionalization. These differences are quite pronounced among INGOs in the humanitarian relief sector, and are observable, though less marked, among human rights INGOs.

Stroup finds that national origin helps account for variation in the "transnational advocacy networks" that have received so much attention in international relations. For practitioners, national origin offers an alternative explanation for the frequently lamented failures of INGOs in the field: INGOs are not inherently dysfunctional, but instead remain disconnected because of their strong roots in very different national environments.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

My words of thanks are insufficient payment to the many people who have made this book possible. Most immediately, my work was made possible by generous and honest activists and analysts in the humanitarian and human rights fields. They remain anonymous, and I remain grateful for...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Where Have All the Borders Gone?

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pp. 1-28

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people, opening a devastating new chapter in the troubled nation’s history. As often happens after such tragedies, developed nations and international organizations convened a donor conference a few...

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1. Varieties of Activism in Three Countries

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pp. 29-70

Upon arriving in Paris in early 2007, I was greeted by a vivid illustration of French civil society in action. Blocks away from my apartment, lining the canal Saint-Martin, two neat columns of bright red tents had been set up by an organization calling itself “the Children of Don Quixote.” The...

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2. Humanitarian INGOs

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pp. 71-134

Humanitarians attempt to improve the lives of those affected by war or natural disaster. The “humanitarian imperative” has driven major relief efforts from Biafra to Bali to Bosnia, and the impulse is an inherently universalistic project to alleviate the suffering of individuals anywhere in...

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3. Human Rights INGOs

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pp. 135-188

The concept of human rights is an explicitly universalist one, and human rights activists seek to transcend cultural and political boundaries to protect the rights of all humanity. In practice, of course, each human rights INGO can only address a bounded set of issues given limited time...

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4. Reconciling Global and Local

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pp. 189-214

Against those who would argue that INGOs have developed shared practices and norms through participation a global community of humanitarian or human right activism, the preceding case studies have revealed marked divergence in the core strategies and structures of some of the largest...

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Appendix A: Case Selection

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pp. 215-219

These few pages give a more detailed elaboration of my case selection method, regarding both the choice of countries and of particular INGOs and also the extent to which the selection allows for testing alternative explanations of INGO practices....

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Appendix B: Interviews Conducted

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pp. 221-223

The list below identifies the organizations and agencies at which I conducted interviews. Most of the over seventy interviews were conducted between February 2006 and May 2007 in the United States, Britain, and France. These semistructured interviews averaged an hour in...


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pp. 225-239


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pp. 241-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780801464256
E-ISBN-10: 0801464250
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450730
Print-ISBN-10: 080145073X

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1