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Reviewed by:
  • Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics: The Construction of Global Governance
  • Mariya Y. Omelicheva, Assistant Professor of Political Science (bio)
Peter Willetts , Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics: The Construction of Global Governance (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011), 224 224 pages, ISBN 9780415381253.

"Global associational revolution" of the late twentieth century precipitated momentous changes in the landscape of global politics.1 Different types of associations: nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), social movements, and advocacy networks exercise an unmistakable impact on the framing of global issues, formulation of political agendas, and construction of global norms. The broad participation of non-state actors in various domains of global politics posed an empirical challenge to the state-centric model of governance of the modern world and invited scholars' attention to these new types of interactions and actors at the global level.

Non-Governmental Organizations in World Politics: The Construction of Global Governance by Peter Willetts is the forty-seventh volume in the Routledge series on Global Institutions edited by Thomas G. Weiss and Rorden Wilkinson and a useful addition to the sizable body of literature on non-state actors and contemporary global governance.2 The book cogently depicts the modern system of multi-centric global governance, in which governments, NGOs, international organizations, and other transnational actors interact and influence each others' practices, views, and behavior. The kernel of Peter Willetts' argument developed throughout the book is that NGOs have played an instrumental role in the creation of the structures of contemporary global governance through their active participation in the politics of international organizations, attainment of the international legal status with corresponding rights and obligations, and contributions to the spread of global communications and development of the Internet.3

Although, the idea about the growing prominence of non-state actors in global politics and their contributions to global governance is not new, in Willetts' volume, it is presented through a compelling reasoning. Wherein each logical step discussing the ways in which NGOs have projected their influence on global politics is examined through historical and conceptual/theoretical lenses, and defended on empirical grounds. Notably, the argument about NGOs roles in global politics is not limited to their causal influence on the practices of governments and inter-governmental institutions. It is implied, through references to the theoretical insights of constructivism, that NGOs have had a constitutive impact on the structures and normative dimensions of global governance. NGOs have brought about a normative shift in global politics, and the modern multi-centric world reflects their own views and values of transparency and participation. To argue the NGOs role in the construction of global governance, the author shows through the chapters of the book how NGOs have initiated and facilitated changes in the direction of broader participation and recognition [End Page 300] of non-state actors in global political, legal and communication systems.4 In addition, several sections of the book reviewing NGOs' participation in global policy making and implementation in such domains as population policy, development, women's issues and human rights, environmental change, and arms control, attest to the NGOs role in shaping the ideational content of global governance through re-framing debates about these and other global issues.

The publisher's blurb for Peter Willetts' book promises the reader an informative, accessible, and comprehensive text. Overall, this is an accurate assessment of the volume. The author strives for greater comprehensiveness of the dense material presented in the book by dedicating a full chapter to conceptual definitions of NGOs, global politics, civil society, and social movements and clarifying the relationship among them. Other terms are usually defined when there are introduced in the text for the first time, and chronological progression of the analyses of how NGOs have been able to influence outcomes in various domains of global politics eases the comprehension of the material.

A definite strength of the book is the wealth of information on international organizations, NGOs, and their practices packed into this very short volume. The author, a veteran researcher of NGOs in world politics, has attempted to convey in a lucid manner his knowledge of the roles of non-state actors in global governance acquired during thirty years of studying NGOs.5...


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pp. 300-303
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