The increased visibility of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements at the international level invites continuing evaluation of the extent and significance of the role they now play in world politics. While the presence of such new actors is easily demonstrated, international relations scholars have debated their significance. The authors argue that the concept of global civil society sets a more demanding standard for the evaluation of transnational political processes than has been applied in prior accounts of transnational activity. Further, most empirical studies of this activity have focused on a limited number of NGOs within a single issue-area. Using three recent UN world conferences as examples of mutual encounters between state-dominated international politics and global civic politics, the authors develop the concept of global civil society to provide a theoretical foundation for a systematic empirical assessment of transnational relations concerning the environment, human rights, and women at the global level.