The Making of International Trade Policy
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The Making of International Trade Policy

NGOs, Agenda-Setting and the WTO

Hannah Murphy

This book investigates the contributions of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to policymaking at the WTO, challenging the idea that NGOs can be narrowly understood as potential ‘democratic antidotes’ to the imperfections of Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGOs).
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Chapter 3: Conceptualizing NGO Activity in the WTO Context

Hannah Murphy


INTRODUCTION The increasing number of NGO campaigns on international trade issues, coupled with the number of NGOs attending WTO ministerial conferences, suggests that NGO activity in relation to the WTO has increased over the past decade in line with the international expansion of the NGO sector more generally (Boli and Thomas 1997, 1999; Katz 2008; Union of International Associations 2008–9). This has occurred despite the fact that the WTO does not allow NGOs to formally participate at the WTO and is unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. Given that they cannot formally contribute to WTO decision-making, this raises some important questions: (1) What strategies or tactics do NGOs employ in contesting international trade issues and WTO decision-making? (2) What roles do NGOs fulfil in the international trade regime? This chapter outlines the methodological framework for the study to ensure that evidence and assessment of NGO activity in relation to the WTO is dealt with in a systematic manner. This is an essential requirement for any examination of NGOs because, as Betsill and Corell make clear, there is an unfortunate tendency in this area of scholarship to ‘look for any possible sign that NGOs made a difference in a given political process while ignoring evidence suggesting that NGOs had little effect’ (2001: 69). In navigating these difficulties, I employ a comparative case study research design, drawing upon the insights of Alexander L. George (1979). In the first part of the chapter, I establish the scope of the study...

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