Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science, International Politics

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kenneth P. Thomas, Ph.D.


David Kimball

Nancy Kinney

David Roberston


In recent decades, global civil society (GCS) actors have emerged as important players in global governance. Global civil society organizations have elevated the policy agenda profile of human rights, women’s rights, and environmental concerns. Global civil society has overcome the objections of powerful countries to establish the International Criminal Court and the Mine Ban Treaty and successfully opposed the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and WTO’s Doha Development Round. These notable successes demonstrate the need for a better understanding of global civil society’s motives and its role in international public policy. This dissertation, uses a 29-year panel regression of 122 countries to test four widespread explanations for the dynamic growth in number and influence of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs). This dissertation addresses a gap in the literature by assessing how well explanations based on democratic expansion, political integration, economic integration, and national capacity predict the distribution of INGOs globally. While all four theories receive some support from the analysis, the political integration explanation and economic integration explanation generate the most interesting findings. Political integration has an overwhelming influence on the number of INGOs active in a country. Increased political integration brings with it increased administrative responsibility; countries must figure out how to implement and comply with increasing international commitments. Often, INGOs partner with national governments to meet this administrative demand. This finding can be interpreted positively – INGOs mitigate bureaucratic constraints; making programs more responsive to the needs of the beneficiaries. It can also be interpreted from a negatively – INGOs are drawn by available funding; raising fears that these organizations are more accountable to donor demands than the needs of their clients. The economic integration explanation is at the heart of the anti-globalization movement, which triggered important procedural changes at the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. This study finds that economic integration explanation does not effectively predict global civil society distribution and that national income levels further modify its effectiveness. Both the political integration and economic integration findings encourage healthy skepticism about global civil society’s ability to democratize international public policy.

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