Alana Mann


Setting the Human Rights Agenda: Issue Emergence within Transnational Advocacy Networks



‘Transnational advocacy networks’, characterised by voluntary and reciprocal patterns of communication and exchange, are made up of groups united by a centrality of principled ideas or values that motivate their formation. In such networks NGOs work with partners including research and advocacy groups, government bodies, local social movements and the media in bringing transformative and mobilising ideas to the global sphere – ideas that enforce international norms and influence domestic policy in targeted nations.

This study will explore the construction and acceptance of specific causes as international issues within transnational advocacy networks. This will be done through an analysis of the origins of campaigns that networks have waged in the area of human rights.

Campaigns, as processes of issue construction, strategically link network members, developing explicit ties and mutually recognised roles in pursuit of a common goal, often against a common target. How these goals and targets are agreed upon within ‘mixed actor’ networks is the primary focus of this research, which will also draw conclusions regarding the strategic portrayal of issues for different actors and stakeholders based on selected case studies.

Case studies include campaigns conducted by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF and Oxfam.

Key questions:

  • What roles do individual agents and organisations within transnational advocacy networks play in setting agendas? What power relationships and tensions exist between these actors?
  • What issues have achieved salience in the transnational sphere? What are the characteristics of these issues?
  • What conditions are required for issues to gain entry to a network’s discursive state, thereby entering the agenda?
  • How do networks establish “a common frame of meaning” across global boundaries in relation to these issues?

How do network actors employ information politics to leverage more powerful organisations and governments in setting international agendas?