Ecuador, with Colombia and Peru, has been negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement for the Andes countries with the United States since 2004. While draft texts are secret, Ecuadorian civil society groups have been particularly concerned about a clause on intellectual property rights, which could block access to cheap generic drugs. In July 2004, the president tried to smooth the negotiations with a decree on intellectual property that would have the same effect. The Centro de Derechos Economicos y Sociales (CDES), an offshoot of CESR in New York, wrote to the government, citing pronouncements by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to demonstrate that the decree was contrary to the right to health. Within two weeks, Ecuador’s head negotiator wrote back, agreeing that the draft decree was unconstitutional and in violation of the right to health, endangering access to affordable medicine. The decree was not passed, and Ecuador’s trade team has begun using human rights language in the negotiations, which at the time of writing are ongoing (‘Ecuador’ 2004; CDES URL).
But the UN is only one arena for this transnational gun activism. Like IANSA, the NRA scours the world for gun–related issues to use in its fundraising and policymaking efforts. In this integrated global struggle, everything from a school shooting in Pennsylvania, and a paramilitary massacre in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, to the Holocaust is likely to turn up in the contending networks’ campaigns. Reciprocally, local groups facing gun control threats at home regularly seek NRA and WFSA aid, just as those suffering gun violence often turn to IANSA. The Brazilian referendum was only a recent example of a pattern visible also in places as far–flung as South Africa, Japan, and Great Britain.
The Olympic Games, and in particular the 2008 Olympics, are an important example of this phenomenon, offering opportunities for alliances among disparate groups that make up global civil society to alter allegiances. China is using the Games to influence public opinion at home and abroad; at the same time, environmental and human rights groups, both inside China and internationally, are using the occasion to alter this official representation (and, as a result, policies in China).
Historically, rules, practices and other decisions, both legitimate and arbitrary, and often arguments based on scarcity, have blocked avenues for certain civil society groups (both homegrown and foreign) in specific markets for loyalties. In particular, access by controversial civil society groups to platforms presented by traditional media has often been made difficult, if not impossible. Important advocates in global civil society will often hold views that are unpopular in the target society they are trying to penetrate. Those in authority will (and in some instances should) characterise those views as undermining national security or identity, as opposed to longstanding and significant cultural norms, and as inconsistent with the views of dominant economic and political actors. Indeed, the very motive for organising transnationally may be to alter attitudes among specific publics. Transnational sellers, linked to minority local counterparts, often argue for ethical and legal outcomes that deserve to be heard but are out of synch with prevailing mores. In this context, global strategies can offer what Keck and Sikkink describe as a ‘boomerang effect,’ allowing groups to circumvent domestic indifference or pressure by transferring debate to the international level (Keck and Sikkink 1998: 12; Della Porta and Tarrow 2004). Positing this kind of restricted market and suggesting these limitations on some players only raises the questions of what techniques are available to civil society groups that wish to expand their capacity to reach audiences globally: what they do, in fact, to break cartels or otherwise increase their capacity to be effective.
The typical approach of Western activists was to support local civil society groups – the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, human rights groups in Latin America, groups like Solidarity or Charter 77 in Central Europe – both morally and materially, helping with literature and campaign materials, publicising their cause, protecting local dissidents through public disclosure, demonstrating or travelling to the region in solidarity. The debates with local groups led to the development of joint strategies including pressure on Western governments to use various instruments to oppose repression and dictatorship. Hence the sanctions on South Africa, the human rights legislation introduced in Congress in relation to Latin America, and the insistence on respect for the Helsinki Final Act in Europe. These were all examples of what Keck and Sikkink (1998) call the ‘boomerang effect’.
At the same time globality does not merely undermine liberal democracy in nation states. Kaldor and Kostovica in Chapter 5 show how illiberal regimes are equally vulnerable to global connections. In their responses to the pressures of globalisation, most of these regimes have moved far away from the monolithic Orwellian ideal type. Instead of aspiring to eliminate civil society and monopolise communication, which is simply no longer possible, they tolerate some forms of civil society organisation as well as some forms of transnational communication. They either try to contain and control civil society, relegating it to the role of social policy sub-contractor, or found their own organisations, but without the old aspiration to a complete monopoly. In the realm of communications, Iran, Saudi Arabia or China now try to ‘get the message out’, becoming, in Monroe Price’s term, sellers in the market for loyalties (see Chapter 3). These changed parameters may also have consequences for the old debate as to whether to isolate or engage rogue states. The 2008 Beijing Olympics, for instance, has become an occasion for bringing attention to a plethora of human rights violating aspects of Chinese domestic and foreign policy (see Box 5.1 in Chapter 5).