We examine the effects of domestic and international environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on pro-environmental policy adoption using cross-national data. We address three views: (1) a bottom-up perspective, prioritizing the role of domestic NGOs; (2) an interaction imagery, stressing alliances or reinforcing pressures between domestic and international NGOs; (3) a top-down view, emphasizing the part of international NGOs. We use event history analysis to model the cross-national adoption of three major pro-environmental policy reforms between 1970 and 2010: omnibus environmental laws, environmental impact assessment reporting requirements, and national environmental ministries. Results show that international NGOs are strongly associated with pro-environmental reforms, with very large effects. By contrast, domestic NGOs are generally not associated with policy adoption in global analyses. In a subsample of democratic countries, we find smaller effects of domestic NGOs for some outcomes. We find no evidence that international NGOs amplify the effects of domestic ones. While there are compelling historical examples of bottom-up and interaction processes, the broad pattern of environmental policy adoption across the world is better explained by global rather than domestic organizational dynamics.


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pp. 1743-1768
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