UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Activists across issues : forum multiplying and the new climate change activism Allan, Jen Iris


To a growing class of climate change activists, climate change is not only an environmental issue – it is a labour, gender, justice, indigenous rights, and faith (to name a few) issue. All starting at roughly the same time, an influx of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made social claims on an environmental issue and changed the politics of climate governance. Their participation to advance these social claims is costly: staff retrained; information researched, analyzed, and disseminated; and relationship building undertaken. All these costs served a new frame, linking the NGOs’ social issue to climate change. This sustained mobilization of a network of NGOs in a regime that is not their own is called forum multiplying. NGOs are surprisingly mobile, as environmentalists campaign on free trade and development issues, and unions and children’s advocates work in the context of human rights. Drawing on 72 interviews, seven social network analyses, and three years of participant observation, this research investigates the politics of forum multiplying as NGOs seek recognition within a new area of global governance. NGO networks engage in forum multiplying to contribute to solutions, recruit new allies to their cause, and avoid becoming mired in stalemates that characterize other areas of global governance. Motivation is insufficient to mobilize a network toward a collective end. I posit that two mechanisms help explain why some NGO networks undertake forum multiplying strategies and others do not. First, the ability of NGOs to capitalize on the authority that they hold in their traditional forum, and to bring that authority into the new forum helps them secure recognition for their claims. Second, NGOs’ identification of strategic entry points in the rules and norms of the new regime facilitates forum multiplying. The rules and norms of a regime can provide a discursive “hook” for the NGOs’ claims that their issue is linked to the issues of their targeted regime, showing that they belong. Forum multiplying pollinates new ideas into old regimes, potentially bringing the “all hands on deck” approach necessary to mobilize a sufficient response to global climate change.

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