global civil society Research Essay

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Numerous organizations that function internationally and are frequently regarded as existing outside the purview of national governments' control and regulation make up the global civil society. These organizations are primarily seen as the byproducts of the globalized, liberalized society, whose members' requirements transcend national boundaries. There are generally trends where members of civil society organizations reject the state system and ally themselves with the broader global civil society. Global civil society is less susceptible to interference from local, state, and federal governments than the state structure is. The global civil society is made up of a large network consisting of artists, academics, businesses, non-profit organizations, linguistic and ethnic groups, individuals, social movements among others. These groups and individuals often come together in an effort to reconcile the needs and lives of individuals across the national borders. Therefore, the universality of these aspects is what makes them a society. The global civil society is an evolving unit, especially due to its open-ended feature that enables every willing individual or organization to become part and try to resonate with the needs of the others. The society is under pressure to become more democratic and consider universal values as more stakeholders become part of it.

The Global Civil Society

Globalization has promoted inclusivity of more stakeholders in international affairs. It links distant individuals, communities and jurisdictions and incorporates more social actors in key issues affecting people across the world. Non-governmental actors that have interest in public issues have vastly utilized the wave of globalization to go beyond the challenges initially presented through their confinement within state boundaries. Colas (2013) defines the civil society as a place where individuals pursue common interest without the influence of the government and family systems. The necessity of civil societies on the international scale has increased over time. The civil society has set various agenda, participated in the process of making and applying international law and initiated diplomatic relations between international actors.

Some of the key issues that have brought together the global civil society include governance, human rights, environment, peace and the need for availability of information to the masses. International relations have been boosted by the actions of the civil society. These societies have received the greatest support from liberals. They view them as being very effective and legitimate (Lecture 10). Some realists have viewed civil society as a tool used by the powerful nations to advance their interests abroad. The argument by realists contrasts the definition of civil societies (Donnelly, 2000). For an entity to be considered part of the civil society, it should be distinct and independent of the state.

Resolutions made at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Brazil promoted the transnational activism being practiced by civil societies. It created means for groups spread across the world to converge and create networks and platforms to promote their joint interests (Gemmill & Bamidele-Izu, 2002). Other regional blocs such as the EU copied this example and integrated civil society organizations within their jurisdiction. Globalization has promoted a common sense of purpose among members of civil society. Australian civil society organizations have undergone internal unification as a way of bracing themselves to gain the attention of the rest of the global civil society (Schmidt, 2013).

Technology has had a great impact towards the unification of national civil societies at the global level. The internet has facilitated faster spread of information. Civil society groups from different continents have shared information on realities across the world, organizations with similar views and various alternatives that can be exploited to resolve existing issues. The global civil society has increased its knowledge and enhanced its ability to join other organizations in addressing issues of common concern (Lecture 12).

The Australian system of government has provided a conducive environment for the development of the civil society in Australia and its ability to link to its counterparts operating on a global scale. The ability to join the transnational network has promoted the Australian civil society’s capacity to achieve notable results (Salamon et al., 2003). A transnational network refers to the permanent ability to coordinate civil society activities on the global scale. The international community supported the activities of the global civil society as a way of overcoming transnational exclusion.

According to (Salamon et al., 2003) ttraditional institutions lack the ability to effectively and legitimately respond to various global issues such as financial stability, climate change, intercultural standoffs, disease and inequality. The world started drawing its attention to these issues in the recent past. There were no mechanisms in the traditional form of governance to deal with them. Therefore, having more recent entities to push stakeholders towards giving more attention to these issues has borne positive results. The integration of the Australian civil society with its global counterparts has created a multi-level system of alternative governance to address the shortcomings of traditional institutions.

The contemporary civil society movement has been theorized by some academics as being predominantly founded on political frameworks that are guided by democratic accountability. Despite the existence of this accountability, the system has been unable to solve some of the contemporary issues facing humanity. The civil society lacks the traditional accountability frameworks like what exists in most states (Gemmill & Bamidele-Izu, 2002). For instance, there are no non-partisan courts that can arbitrate on disputes, a democratically elected legislature and popular leadership that can coordinate the activities of the society. It is evident that the global civil society has accountability deficits due to lack of these traditional mechanisms that are important in formally applying the due process. Therefore, these two systems complement each other and they should combine and work together to solve issues facing the people.

The civil society has been working closely with global political entities such as UN agencies. This relationship is mainly consultative in order to avoid the perception that they have political leanings. The political organizations have warmly received the intention by the global civil societies to get involved in key issues affecting humanity (Gemmill & Bamidele-Izu, 2002). For instance, the UN has reserved various vacancies in the Committee on World Food Security within FAO for a number of NGOs, private sector organizations, social movements, philanthropic associations and research centres. The civil society organizations that fill these vacancies mainly work on a consultative status.

There has been a need to obtain a balance between the legitimacy of the global civil society and to make a greater impact on the global community (Colas, 2013). Both the Australian and global civil societies have had pressure to react to the political demands of the respective communities. The reaction to this pressure has seen civil societies seek more access to the process of setting and implementing international agenda. However, the civil society has not been fully integrated in both national and global governance issues yet. There is need for institutional structures to integrate the civil society. This integration should take place with caution to ensure that the civil society maintains the perception of neutrality and its legitimacy.

Both the Australian and global civil society has been making steps towards influencing the legitimate interpretation of the respective national and global issues under their jurisdiction (Lecture 12; Colas, 2013). The public should view the civil society as problem-solvers rather than champions of interests of certain parties. The global civil society has a major challenge of influencing normative battles towards the right perception of pertinent issues. Cross-border mobilization of civil society organizations is more challenging than at the national level. Arriving at a common resolution by the Australian civil society is easier than at the global level. Organizations and individuals within the national society are more likely to have common beliefs and value systems on which they base their solutions. On the global scale, civil society organizations have to reconcile their views before they reach a consensus.

The civil society has a responsibility of depicting itself as an advocate of the general interest of the public (Lecture 12). The transnational network created by the global civil society has a greater challenge in presenting the interests of the whole world rather than the small group. However, it is important to appreciate that consensus on some of the issues such as feminism has been easily found. Once this consensus is established, the global civil society can then move ahead to mobilize the masses and political entities to build networks.

National conditions are key in the success of the interests of the global civil society (Lecture 10). As part of the larger movement, the Australian civil society has the responsibility of assessing the national conditions and determining whether they are conducive for the implementation of the global agenda. Civil society organizations at the national level are based on a number of social relations that emanate from common identities. Some political systems constrain the ability of civil organizations to mobilize resources. There are instances when this may be perceived negatively. However, it promotes neutrality and the ability of the civil society to focus on the needs of the people rather than financiers. There are fewer regulations for civil society groups that act on a global scale. Most democratic political systems allow their civil society groups to practice activism. These organizations can access resources and the people. However, their ability to penetrate other countries and influence issues is usually limited. Strong transnational networks can overcome such limitations.

Some of the key challenges facing the relationship between the states and the citizens emanate from the wave of globalization (Lecture 10). They include increased economic integration, movement of the people and the rise in supranational organizations. Most of the traditional state systems did not have mechanisms to deal with these rising issues. The new social and political demands that are based on identity. Meeting these demands require close collaboration between governments and the citizens. Not all citizens can get involved in the process of governance. Therefore, civil society groups play a key role in championing the interests of all the citizens on their behalf.


The complex patterns within the nation-state structure has placed pressure on individuals to live lives that are stretched beyond the national borders. This has come with new realities and political demands that require unification with those of other people across the border. The civil society groups play a key role in overcoming the challenges that exist within the nation-state system to activate individuals’ ability to meet their needs without limitation of the national borders.


Colas, A. (2013). International civil society: social movements in world politics. John Wiley & Sons.

Donnelly, J. (2000). Realism and international relations. Cambridge University Press.

Gemmill, B., & Bamidele-Izu, A. (2002). The role of NGOs and civil society in global environmental governance. Global environmental governance: Options and opportunities, 77-100.

Lecture 10. Complex Citizenship.

Lecture 12. Global Civil Society – Dream or Reality.

Salamon, L. M., Sokolowski, S. W., & List, R. (2003). Global civil society. Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

Schmidt, V. A. (2013). Democracy and legitimacy in the European Union revisited: Input, output and ‘throughput’. Political Studies, 61(1), 2-22.

July 15, 2023

Political Science

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