Civil Society and Global Governance: Advancing Citizen Participation in Global Politics

Submitting Institution

University of Warwick

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law

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Summary of the impact

Global rules and regulatory institutions have major and ever-growing importance in contemporary governance. However, connections between global governance and citizens are often weak, compromising effectiveness and legitimacy. Civil society organisations (CSOs - including Non- Governmental Organisations, business forums, trade unions, think tanks and social movements) offer major potential to link global governance institutions (GGIs) with affected publics. Professor Scholte's sustained programme of research in this area, and related provision of resources and training to international beneficiaries such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has had significant social impact in raising both the quantity and the quality of GGI-CSO relations.

Underpinning research

Scholte's research on civil society and global governance spans two decades. Relevant projects include `Global Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements' (1996-9), `Civil Society and Global Finance' (1999-2002), `Civil Society and Democracy in Global Economic Governance' (2001-5), `Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance' (2006-10), `Civil Society and the International Monetary Fund: Progress towards Global Accountability?' (2007-9), `Building Global Democracy' (2008-12) and `Explorations in Global Democracy' (2012-13). Scholte has been sole Principal Investigator (PI) in the last five projects and joint PI in the first two. The 6 outputs listed in Section 3 are a selection of the 7 books, 14 articles, 22 book chapters and 8 policy reports that Scholte has written on the subject since 1998.

The underpinning research has involved extensive fieldwork, including Scholte's personal interviews with over 900 officials and activists in 34 countries on 6 continents. The main GGIs addressed include the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with secondary attention to the Commonwealth, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and several United Nations (UN) agencies. The hundreds of participating CSOs range from well-known bodies such as Oxfam to highly marginalised constituencies such as indigenous peoples associations in Amazonia.

One important result of this research has been to identify where civil society is and is not engaged with global governance. Comparatively, some CSOs and some GGIs pursue more mutual connections than others. The research has ascribed these differences in levels of interaction to several conditions of the actors involved, including competences, resources, incentives, policymaking procedures and institutional cultures. In addition, a heritage of state-centric world order has often militated against greater GGI-CSO relations, while other deeper structural forces related to capitalist production and modern-rationalist knowledge have shaped the relative levels of access to global governance for different kinds of CSOs.

Scholte's research has also demonstrated significant benefits from civil society to global governance, so that increases in the quantity and quality of GGI-CSO interchanges are worth pursuing. In particular, the findings of his research suggest that CSOs can: (a) contribute information and advice not available from official sources; (b) raise important alternative issues and perspectives; (c) cultivate sensitivity to context and suitable policy adaptations in this regard; (d) sharpen policy analysis with challenges and debate; (e) provide pressure for the adoption and implementation of needed policies; and (f) bolster the accountability and legitimacy of global governance. To help realise such potential, Scholte's research has diagnosed various aspects of process that affect the quality of GGI-CSO interaction. The preparation, execution and follow-up of dialogue have often been wanting. Shortcomings related to timing, participation, substance and style of interchanges frequently detract from their outcomes. More recently, Scholte's findings have highlighted issues of accountability in GGI-CSO relations. A study he coordinated of 13 global governance mechanisms showed that CSOs can significantly increase transparency, consultation, monitoring and redress in respect of GGIs. However, much more could be achieved and the research has elaborated suggestions for improvement in respect of personal qualities, institutional conditions and deeper structures of world order.

References to the research

1. J.A. Scholte (2012) `A More Inclusive Global Governance? The IMF and Civil Society in Africa', Global Governance, 18(2), pp. 185-206. [2012 impact factor: 0.617]. Peer-reviewed journal article.

2. J.A. Scholte (2011) (ed.), Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peer-reviewed edited volume.


3. J.A. Scholte (2000 and 2005) Globalization: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2,506 Google Scholar citations (July 2013). Peer-reviewed research monograph.

4. J.A. Scholte (2004) `Civil Society and Democratically Accountable Global Governance', Government and Opposition, 39(2), pp. 211-33. [2012 impact factor: 0.8]. 214 Google Scholar citations (July 2013). Peer-reviewed journal article.


5. J.A. Scholte (2002) `Civil Society and Democracy in Global Governance', Global Governance, 8(3), pp. 281-304. [2012 impact factor: 0.617]. 287 Google Scholar citations 258 (July 2013). Peer-reviewed journal article.

6. R. O'Brien, A. Goetz, J.A. Scholte and M. Williams (2000) Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 990 Google Scholar citations (July 2013). Peer-reviewed co-authored volume.


Associated grants

1. J.A. Scholte, `Explorations in Global Democracy', Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen, 2012-13, €84,143.

2. J.A. Scholte, `Building Global Democracy', Ford Foundation, 2008-12, US$1,025,000; Oxfam Novib, 2009-10, €30,000; World Vision Australia, 2010, A$15,000; Van Leer Foundation, 2011, US$20,000.

3. J.A. Scholte, `Civil Society and the International Monetary Fund: Progress towards Global Accountability?' Nuffield Foundation, 2007-9, £7,495.

4. J.A. Scholte, `Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance', 2006-9, Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, £16,000; United Nations University, US$20,000; Ford Foundation, US$15,000; Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SEK 80,000.

5. J.A. Scholte, `Civil Society and Democracy in Global Economic Governance', Ford Foundation, 2001-5, US$240,000.

6. J.A. Scholte and A. Schnabel, `Civil Society and Global Finance', Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation and United Nations University, 1999-2002, US$49,000.

7. R. O'Brien, A. Goetz, J.A. Scholte and M. Williams, `Global Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements', Economic and Social Research Council, 1996-9, £56,707.

Details of the impact

Institutional capacity development: providing resources for practitioners

Scholte's engagements with GGI and CSO practitioners have helped raise the quantity and quality of their interactions. A concrete example relates to the IMF, where in 2003 Scholte drafted the institution's `Staff Guide for Relations with Civil Society Organizations', described by the Managing Director as "a framework for IMF staff to understand and contribute to the expanding dialogue and therefore make it more productive" (source 1). Specifically mandated by the IMF Executive Board, the guide was circulated to all staff. The IMF also routinely distributes the guide to its CSO interlocutors. A testimonial from the Director of External Relations at the IMF can corroborate Scholte's on-going impact (source 8). He is currently advising the IMF on the guide's revision, and presented suggested amendments in view of lessons learned from his underpinning research at the institution's annual meeting in Tokyo in 2012. There he convened a workshop with CSOs and IMF/World Bank officials to discuss possible policy revisions, and wrote an informal report afterwards for IMF civil society liaison officers (source 8).

In 2008-9 Scholte provided more specific advice to the IMF African Department, consisting of 6 country reports based on fresh fieldwork, an internally circulated paper `IMF Relations with Civil Society in Africa: "Quick-Win" Steps to Improved Engagement', and a seminar at IMF headquarters for leads of African country teams. As a direct result of Scholte's country visits, IMF representatives in Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria upgraded their relations with CSOs. At headquarters, the African Department designated a senior official for outreach and created an Africa Regional Advisory Group including several CSO members. In 2009 the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF commissioned Scholte to undertake a comprehensive review of IMF-CSO relations (source 2). His resulting report has encouraged IMF initiatives such as a substantial (and very well received) programme to sponsor CSOs from poor countries to attend the institution's Annual and Spring Meetings, as well as plans to develop staff training on relations with CSOs (source 2).

Scholte has also given advice on upgrading relations with CSOs to the Commonwealth (public seminar, 2011), ICANN (advice to its Vice President, 2011), UN Secretariat (public seminar, 2008), World Bank (staff seminars, 2008, 2011) and WTO (staff seminar, 2011) (sources 3 and 7). In 2011 he prepared the background paper on civil society and governance for a future Global Fund for Young Children that the World Bank is currently exploring together with leading international child welfare foundations. In addition, Scholte has provided inputs on CSO relations to the European Commission (presentation of research results, 2010), the Haidian District People's Political Consultative Committee, Beijing (two-hour meeting with its leadership, 2008), the Mexico City Government (staff training seminar, 2012), the Netherlands Government Commission on Modernising Diplomacy (two-hour testimony, 2012) and the UK Foreign Office (audience with Foreign Secretary David Miliband 2008, Wilton Park briefing 2011).

Workshops of the Ford Foundation funded Building Global Democracy (BGD) programme coordinated by Scholte between 2007 and 12 have involved several dozen CSOs together with officials from the Arab League, Commonwealth, FAO, Global Fund, ICANN, OECD, IMF, UNECA, UNESCO, UNICEF, UN NGLS, UNRCPD, the World Bank and WTO. At these workshops GGI officials and CSO actors from around the world become acquainted, learn from each other, and deepen trust that promotes substantive exchanges over policy and projects (source 6). Feedback from participants shows that they consider these events to have been informative, stimulating new ideas and leading to new connections between organisations. BGD has also produced practitioner- oriented booklets and toolkits to advance CSO inclusion in global governance (sources 4 and 5). Over 3,000 hard copies of the toolkits have circulated (including in training seminars) and hundreds more practitioners have accessed online versions on the BGD website (source 9).

Scholte has also advised the following foundations on their programmes concerning civil society and global governance (sources 4, 5 and 6): the Carnegie UK Trust (2008, 2012-13), Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation (2009), Ford Foundation (2009), and Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2010). Foundation support to NGOs is vital in sustaining CSO engagement of global governance. Scholte also advises the One World Trust on its widely consulted Global Accountability Project (since 2004) and CIVICUS on its Global Civil Society Report (since 2011).

Scholte has contributed dozens of capacity-building sessions on GGI engagement with CSOs as varied as the Tomorrow Project, London (2008), the Congolese Coalition on External Debt, Kinshasa (2009), the Global Policy Forum, Bonn (2010), the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Geneva (2011), the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Belfast (2012) and Eurodad (2013). CSOs also continually seek Scholte's ad hoc advice on when, where and through whom they can best access global governance (sources 4, 5 and 6). He also constantly connects relevant persons across these circles to further GGI-CSO relations (e.g. when CSOs in 2012 launched a global network on IMF advocacy).

Enhancing public awareness of global governance issues and informing debate

Scholte's research-based public engagement work has widely raised awareness of the possibilities of citizen engagement of global governance, in order to promote the benefits identified in Section 2 above. His 51 presentations to audiences including policy-makers, NGOs, trade unions, social movements, think tanks, faith-based groups, journalists and the general public in 23 countries during the REF reporting period reached over 2,000 people. His talk at Occupy London in 2011 attracted 23,000 followers on Twitter. The BGD quarterly newsletter with regular items on GGI- CSO relations circulated to 6,600 recipients in 162 countries. The BGD website attracted over 60,000 visits since its 2009 launch, from an average of 114 countries per month in 2012. The BGD Facebook page launched in 2010 drew nearly 1,000 `friends'. A public meeting round the BGD workshop in Delhi drew over 200 participants, and the BGD workshop in Rio was covered in 70 media outlets (source 10). Scholte has also shaped media coverage of civil society in global politics via outlets such as the BBC World Service (2010) and Financial Times (2011).

Sources to corroborate the impact

Evidence of impact on practitioners:
  1. International Monetary Fund, `Staff Guide for Relations with Civil Society Organizations'. The Guide demonstrates the uptake of Scholte's research findings by the IMF in their staff training guide for working with CSOs. On-going impact of Staff Guide since 2008 corroborated by source 8. Available on request and online:
  2. Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the IMF, `IMF Interactions with Member Countries'. This 2009 Report provides evidence of Scholte's input into the review of the effectiveness of IMF interactions with Member Countries at the request of the IEO (see pp. viii, 96 and 107). Available on request and online:
  3. International Monetary Fund, `Filling accountability gaps through civil society engagement'. This Report is a record of Scholte's briefing on 18 November 2008 to the IMF and World Bank on the accountability of international financial institutions. Available on request and online:
  4. Executive Director, New Rules for Global Finance. In her testimonial (available on request) the source writes: "Scholte helped the IMF to see civil society as at least neutral and, in time, as making positive contributions to the Fund's mission, legitimacy and effectiveness".
  5. Executive Director, INTRAC; former Executive Director, One World Trust. In his testimonial (available on request), the source writes: "The One World Trust Global Accountability project has benefited from Scholte's input in particular with regards to methodological guidance to assure the academic rigour of the framework, and quality assurance on publications".
  6. Executive Director, Bernard Van Leer Foundation; former Deputy Director, Governance and Global Civil Society, Ford Foundation. In her testimonial (available on request), the source writes: "Scholte is a world leader in bringing research to practice on civil society relations with global governance. He has prepared influential policy inputs for the IMF and made significant contributions to capacity development on the side of civil society groups. [...] Very few scholars have had that kind of impact".
  7. Head of External Relations, World Trade Organisation. In his testimonial (available on request), the source writes: "Scholte's research has been very useful to WTO's efforts to increase and improve its relations with NGOs and other civil society groups. His work has enriched internal debates about the institution's attitudes and practices [...] and improved public understanding of trade issues".
  8. Director, External Relations Department, International Monetary Fund. The source is responsible for IMF relations with civil society, and he can corroborate Scholte's on-going impact with particular regards to the revision of the IMF's staff guide.
  9. Evidence of impact on public awareness and debate:
  10. Participant evaluations of workshops discussed under impacts 1 and 2. Available on request and online: (Gothenburg workshop) (Cairo workshop) (Delhi workshop) (Rio workshop)
  11. Media coverage of workshop in Rio de Janeiro, list of 49 mentions, including national Brazilian outlets Jornal do Commercio, Canal Futuro TV, O Globo and Radiobrás. See for example article based on the `Building Global Democracy' project in O Globo. Available on request and online: