Transnational Social Movement Organizations in the Global Political Arena

Document Type


Publication Date



Peace and Conflict Studies | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The post-Cold War period has been a time of rapid change in the international system. One major shift is a dramatic increase in the demands placed upon the United Nations. This increased reliance on the UN suggests that there may be a shift in opportunities for this and other international institutions to have a greater effect on the dynamics of global politics than was possible under the bi-polar system of the past. What are the implications of these changes for nongovernmental actors in the global system? We focus on a subset of international non-governmental organisations called transnational social movement organisations (TSMOs), and begin to document their forms and activities in the global arena. In what ways are TSMOs similar to or different from national social movement organisations, and how do TSMOs organise to engage in transnational political efforts? How do TSMOs interact with international institutions? Our analysis consists of detailed, systematic comparisons among seven TSMOs in the human rights, environmental, peace and development issue arenas, including: Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Oxfam, Peace Brigades International and War Resisters International. We examine five dimensions of variation: founding and mission; leadership structure; membership; resources; and tactics. This work builds on the earlier work of Dennis Young (1992) and helps to inform future research in this area.