Civil Society Influence on International Organizations: Theorizing the State Channel

Christopher L Pallas, Anders Uhlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The literature on transnational civil society tends to treat civil society organizations CSOs) as independent actors, accomplishing policy change largely through moral force or popular pressure. However, a significant portion of CSO successes in policy advocacy actually utilizes alliances with state actors. To understand the implications of this ‘state channel’ of CSO influence, we develop a new model of CSO use of state influence. We identify four factors that
determine whether the state channel is accessible for CSOs to use and is likely to produce more effective CSO influence than direct CSO engagement with the international organization (IO): the porousness of the targeted states and IOs, the availability of contacts, the possibility for alignment of interests, and the relative power of aligned state and IO contacts. We illustrate this theory using four case studies of civil society engagement: two case studies involving the World Bank and two involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Our analysis suggests that the factors determining CSOs’ successful use of the state channel currently tend to favour a small
number of well-resourced, reformist CSOs from porous and powerful states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalJournal of Civil Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • Civil society organizations
  • states
  • international organizations
  • global governance
  • democracy
  • policy-making
  • advocacy
  • World Bank


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