Developing Capacities for Sustained Transnational Environmental Activism

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Magnus BOSTRÖM , Örebro University, Sweden
Romina RODELA , Södertörn University, Sweden
Most environmental problems are extremely long term and have cross-border implications. For environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) to achieve significant impact on environmental governance cross-border and sustained activities are required. The purpose of the paper is to identify key barriers and possible pathways to develop sustained and transnational environmental activism among ENGOs operating in strikingly different political contexts.  

Our analysis is based on qualitative methodology and empirical analyses of ENGOs in six countries (Sweden, Germany, Poland, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia) and two regional contexts, the Baltic Sea and the Adriatic Sea regions. The study is based on document analyses and semi-structured interviews with representatives from 4-6 key ENGOs in each country. The theoretical framework departs primarily from social movement theory.

The paper reveals intriguing similarities and differences between the countries regarding ENGOs' abilities to develop sustained and cross-border activism. We pay particular attention to differences in opportunity structures for resource mobilization. The last decades, the European Union (EU) has emerged as a key opportunity structure that in various ways facilitate cross-border collaboration and capacity building among ENGOs, particularly in Central and Eastern European (CEE) Countries. However, the EU also considerably shapes the conditions for ENGOs to set independent long-term agendas. With the exception of Germany and Sweden, ENGOs rely heavily on their ability to develop a "project mind-set", which in turn requires fund-raising skills and procedures. Also ENGOs in Germany and Sweden make use of public grants. However, the fact that they historically have been able to mobilize huge number of members/supporters –which is still extremely difficult particularly in post-communist countries - have profound implications for abilities to develop transnational and sustained environmental activism. We discuss the role of (dis)trust (institutional vs. family-based trust), political culture and historical legacies to analyze these remarkably different conditions for resource mobilization.