Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

NGO Influence in International Organizations: Information, Access and Exchange


While there is broad consensus that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) sometimes succeed in influencing policy making within international organizations (IOs), there is much less agreement on the factors that make NGO lobbying effective. This article makes two contributions to this debate. First, the determinants of influence among NGOs active in different IOs, issue areas and policy phases are examined. The analysis builds on original survey data of more than 400 NGOs involved in five different IOs, complemented by elite interviews with IO and state officials. Secondly, the article advances a specific argument about how the strategic exchange of information and access between NGOs and IOs increases NGO influence in IOs. This argument, derived from theories of lobbying in American and European politics, is contrasted with three alternative explanations of NGO influence, privileging material resources, transnational networks and public opinion mobilization, and the broader implications of these results for research on NGOs in global governance are explored.

Hide All

Department of Political Science, Stockholm University (emails:;;; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University (email: Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Joint Sessions of the ECPR, Antwerp, 10–15 April 2012; the Joint Sessions of the ECPR, Mainz, 11–16 March 2013; the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, 3–6 April 2013; and the Annual Meeting of the Swedish Political Science Association, Stockholm, 2–4 October 2013; as well as workshops and seminars organized by Copenhagen Business School, European University Institute, Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionales, Lund University, Stockholm University and Zeppelin University. For helpful comments and suggestions, we are particularly grateful to Jan Beyers, Elisabeth Bloodgood, Thomas Conzelmann, Dirk De Bièvre, Andreas Dür, Liesbet Hooghe, Thomas Risse, Theresa Squatrito, Jens Steffek, Robert Thomson, Anders Uhlin, and to the editor and three anonymous reviewers of BJPolS. The research for this article was funded by the European Research Council (Grant 200971-DII) and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Grant M2007-0399:1-PK). Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Kenneth Anderson . 2000. The Ottawa Convention Banning Landmines, the Role of International Non-Governmental Organizations and the Idea of International Civil Society. European Journal of International Law 11 (1):91120.

David Austen-Smith . 1993. Information and Influence: Lobbying for Agendas and Votes. American Journal of Political Science 37 (3):799833.

Frank R. Baumgartner , Jeffrey M. Berry , Marie Hojnacki , David C. Kimball , and Beth Leech . 2009. Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

W. Lance Bennett , and Alexandra Segerberg . 2013. The Logic of Connective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jan Beyers , and Bart Kerremans . 2007. Critical Resource Dependencies and the Europeanization of Domestic Interest Groups. Journal of European Public Policy 14 (3):460481.

Anne Binderkrantz . 2005. Interest Group Strategies: Navigating Between Privileged Access and Strategies of Pressure. Political Studies 53 (4):694715.

Elisabeth Bloodgood . 2010. The Interest Group Analogy: International Non-Governmental Advocacy Organizations in International Politics. Review of International Studies 37 (1):93120.

Pieter Bouwen . 2002. Corporate Lobbying in the European Union: The Logic of Access. Journal of European Public Policy 9 (3):365390.

L. David Brown , Alnoor Ebrahim , and Srilata Batliwala . 2012. Governing International Advocacy NGOs. World Development 40 (6):10981108.

Joshua Busby . 2010. Moral Movements and Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Adam W Chalmers . 2013. Trading Information for Access: Informational Lobbying Strategies and Interest Group Access to the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 20 (1):3958.

Ann M Clark . 2001. Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Alexander Cooley , and James Ron . 2002. The NGO Scramble: Organizational Insecurity and the Political Economy of Transnational Action. International Security 27 (1):539.

Christoph Crombez . 2002. Information, Lobbying and the Legislative Process in the European Union. European Union Politics 3 (1):732.

Andreas Dür . 2008. Measuring Interest Group Influence in the EU: A Note on Methodology. European Union Politics 9 (4):559576.

Andreas Dür , and Gemma Mateo . 2013. Gaining Access or Going Public? Interest Group Strategies in Five European Countries. European Journal of Political Research 52 (5):660686.

Jessica F Green . 2010. Private Authority on the Rise: A Century of Delegation in Multilateral Environmental Agreements. In Transnational Actors in Global Governance: Patterns, Explanations and Implications, edited by Christer Jönsson and Jonas Tallberg, 155176. London: Routledge.

Lars H. Gulbrandsen , and Stein Andresen . 2004. NGO Influence in the Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol: Compliance, Flexibility Mechanisms, and Sinks. Global Environmental Politics 4 (4):5475.

Marcel Hanegraaff , Jan Beyers , and Ceelesta Braun . 2011. Open the Door to More of the Same? The Development of Interest Group Representation at the WTO. World Trade Review 10 (4):126.

Helene Helboe Pedersen . 2013. Is Measuring Interest Group Influence a Mission Impossible? The Case of Interest Group Influence in the Danish Parliament. Interest Groups and Advocacy 2 (1):2747.

David C. Kimball Hojnacki Marie , Frank R. Baumgartner , Jeffrey M. Berry , and Beth M. Leech . 2012. Studying Organizational Advocacy and Influence: Reexamining Interest Group Research. Annual Review of Political Science 15 (9):379399.

Jutta Joachim . 2003. Framing Issues and Seizing Opportunities: The UN, NGOs, and Women’s Rights. International Studies Quarterly 47:247274.

Margaret E. Keck , and Kathryn Sikkink . 2002. Transnational Advocacy Networks in International and Regional Politics. International Social Science Journal 51 (159):89101.

Gary King , Michael Tomz , and Jason Wittenberg . 2000. Making the Most out of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):341355.

Heike Klüver . 2012. Informational Lobbying in the European Union: The Effect of Organisational Characteristics. West European Politics 35 (3):491510.

Heike Klüver . 2013. Lobbying in the European Union: Interest Groups, Lobbying Coalitions and Policy Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Andrea Liese . 2010. Explaining Varying Degrees of Openness in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In Transnational Actors in Global Governance: Patterns, Explanations, and Implications, edited by Christer Jönsson and Jonas Tallberg, 88109. London: Routledge.

David Lowery , Caelesta Poppelaars , and Joost Berkhout . 2008. The European Union Interest System in Comparative Perspective: A Bridge Too Far? West European Politics 31 (6):12311252.

David Lowery , and Virginia Gray . 2004. Bias in the Heavenly Chorus: Interests in Society and Before Government. Journal of Theoretical Politics 16 (1):530.

Peter Mayer . 2008. Civil Society Participation in International Security Organizations: The Cases of NATO and the OSCE. In Civil Society Participation in European and Global Governance: A Cure for the Democratic Deficit?, edited by Jens Steffek, Claudia Kissling and Patrizia Nanz, 116139. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

John D. McCarthy , and Mayer N. Zald . 1977. Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Analysis. American Journal of Sociology 82 (6):12121241.

Amy McKay . 2012. Buying Policy? The Effects of Lobbyists’ Resources on their Policy Success. Political Research Quarterly 65 (4):908923.

Amanda M. Murdie , and David R. Davis . 2012. Shaming and Blaming: Using Events Data to Assess the Impact of Human Rights NGOs. International Studies Quarterly 56 (1):115.

Robert O’Brien , Anne-Marie Goetz , Jan Aart Scholte , and Michael Williams . 2000. Contesting Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aseem Prakash , and M. Kay Gugerty , eds. 2010. Advocacy Organizations and Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kal Raustiala . 1997. States, NGOs, and International Environmental Institutions. International Studies Quarterly 41 (4):719740.

Steven G. Rogelberg , James M. Conway , Matthew W. Sederburg , Christiane Spitzmüller , Shanaz Aziz , and William E. Knight . 2003. Profiling Active and Passive Nonrespondents to an Organizational Survey. Journal of Applied Psychology 88 (6):11041114.

Donald B Rubin . 1976. Inference and Missing Data. Biometrika 63 (3):581592.

Susan K. Sell , and Aseem Prakash . 2004. Using Ideas Strategically: The Contest Between Business and NGO Networks in Intellectual Property Rights. International Studies Quarterly 48 (1):143175.

Jens Steffek , and Patrizia Nanz . 2008. Emergent Patterns of Civil Society Participation in Global and European Governance. In Civil Society Participation in European and Global Governance: A Cure for the Democratic Deficit?, edited by Jens Steffek, Claudia Kissling and Patrizia Nanz, 129. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jonas Tallberg , Thomas Sommerer , Theresa Squatrito , and Christer Jönsson . 2013. The Opening Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sidney Tarrow . 2005. The New Transnational Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Andreas Nordang Uhre . 2014. Exploring the Diversity of Transnational Actors in Global Environmental Governance. Interest Groups & Advocacy 3:5978.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Tallberg supplementary material

 PDF (106 KB)
106 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 47
Total number of PDF views: 284 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 826 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.