Transnational Civil Society Activism and International Security Politics: From Landmines to Global Zero

Effective civil society activism in the high politics realm of international peace and security has not received sustained scholarly attention, and, at least until recently, was considered a ‘hard case,’ compared to other issue areas. This article reviews recent civil society efforts and assesses, in a preliminary fashion, some of the preconditions and constraints on transnational civil society activism in a range of security issues, from antipersonnel landmines to antinuclear campaigns. It concludes that high levels of policy uncertainty, the possibility of issue reframing, significant resources, and strategic partnerships are all key ingredients for effective civil society engagement. Conversely, vague or diffuse goals, the absence of state engagement, and policy stovepipes, all stand as obstacles to transnational activism

Civil society actors in the security arena are usually only effective in partnership with ‘like-minded’ governments, and must cultivate (and catalyze) political constituencies in these states.
Expertise is a prerequisite for effective NGO engagement on security issues, but traditional advocacy (pressure, coalition building, lobbying) is also crucial for sustained support from civil society and governments.
So-called small and middle powers should recognize the ‘force multiplier’ value of working with transnational NGOs on nontraditional security issues, and create ways to support their parallel efforts.