South-North Non-governmental Networks

Aims and Objectives

The aim of the research is to understand how non-governmental public actors (NGPAs) engage with multi-level policy processes which bridge Southern and Northern contexts, and to investigate the impacts and outcomes of those engagements. The main objectives are:

  • to develop an analytical framework for identifying the key factors which explain variations in the degree of effectiveness with which NGPAs participate in multi-level policy processes.
  • to contribute to the development of applied policy and practice models which will be of use to non-governmental actors and other development policy practitioners.

Definition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)

For the purpose of this study, CSOs are defined as associations of a voluntary nature which stand between the state and the household, and with significant autonomy from the State.

Key research questions and methods

How effective are NGPAs at changing policy agendas, influencing policy outcomes and developing sustained engagement with policy implementation? And what explains variations in the relative effectiveness of NGPAs, especially Southern-based ones? Why is it that some achieve practical results whilst others fail?

These questions will be addressed through a comparative study of six ‘matched pairs’ of mainly Southern-based NGPAs which bridge North-South arenas of action in three issue areas: human rights, human development and human security. The matched pairs illustrate a range of policy engagements and degrees of effectiveness, including both ‘normative’ transnational advocacy networks and socially embedded groups pursuing particular interests. The cases range from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Partnership Africa- Canada or the Small Island Developing States Network at the international level, to the Sisters in Islam campaign in Malaysia, Ghanaian and Indian diaspora associations in the UK, NGO associations in Ghana and India, and land reform campaigns in Rwanda.

The IDS component of this project is being run by James Manor. This study compares civil society organisations (CSOs) in two less developed countries. The first is India, where one CSO is examined: PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia ). The second is Ghana where three CSOs are examined because no single CSO performs all of the tasks addressed by PRIA. The three are: GAPVOD (Ghana Association of Private Voluntary Organisations in Development), ISODEC (Integrated Social Development Centre) and CDD (Centre for Democracy and Development). In India , PRIA’s efforts in two contrasting states in the federal system (Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) are considered – since Indian states are closer to Ghana in size.

This study analyses these CSOs’ links to and activities at the international, national, intermediate and local levels. It seeks to understand how much influence they exercise on policy formulation, policy implementation and policy outcomes – and how they do so or are prevented from doing so. Both Ghana and India can be seen as genuine democracies – the two political systems differ in degree rather than in kind. But in Ghana and the two Indian states, the executive has maintained very considerable control over the policy process.

Key contacts

Project details

start date
24 December 2005
end date
24 September 2007


About this project


Richard Crook

Emeritus Fellow