10 April 2019 By Publikasi IIS

Non-State Actors in Transnational Activism

Non-State Actors in Transnational Activism

In the traditional sense of International Relations studies, states play a central role in influencing the dynamics of international politics. Nowadays, the role of non-state actors such as multinational companies, non-government organizations (NGO), civil societies, and individuals increasingly show their significance. This is especially apparent as seen from the intensification of non-state actors’ activities beyond concept of state sovereignty. Those interactions between non-state actors are then known as ‘transnational relations.’ This begs the question, what exactly is transnationalism? In what way and how can non-stars actors influence global politics constellation?

Those questions are attempted to be answered by the Transnationalism: The Role of Non-State Actors in International Relations book discussed by Institute of International Studies (IIS) Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) collaborating with Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia on Thursday (4/4) in Faculty of Social and Political Sciences UGM. This book discussion also brought forward Dr. Ani W. Soetjipto as the author of the book, a lecturer in International Relations Universitas Indonesia (UI), as well as Siti Daulah Khoiriati, M.A., a lecturer in International Relations UGM as discussant.

The Transnationalism: The Role of Non-State Actors in International Relations book contains 3 case studies of transnational advocacy by civil organizations in Indonesia—the Timor Timur self-determination, the  Anti Reclamation Bali, and the International Peoples Tribunal 1965Comparative Perspectives try to compare the success factors of transnational advocacies by 3 actors, which are WSPA that campaigned for animal welfare issues; Greenpeace with its anti-water pollution campaign in China; as well as transnational traditional farmers organization La Via Campesina in fighting for farmers’ rights. There is also one specific article that discussed the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) during Egyptian Revolution 2011.

Ani Soetjipto herself wrote the introductory chapter of this book to give the framework in understanding transnationalism, especially how non-state actors conduct transnational relations in advocating their interests. She mentioned that the point of departure in understanding transnationalism could be seen from the writing of Nye and Keohane in Transnational Relations and World Politics (1971), where transnational relations are understood as the movement of objects and services across states’ borders, where at least one of the actors is not a state actor or an international governmental organization. They maintained the belief that state is the main actor and that non-state actors work horizontally parallel in “inter-national” relations (between nation states).

As for the references regarding the significance of non-state actors, it began to surface after the Cold War. IR scholars started to correlate transnational relations of advocacy groups (NGOs, mass medias, religious groups, diaspora, etc) campaigning for domestic issues through cross-country networks with studies of social movements and advocacy networks. Transnationalism studies in contemporary IR is then familiarized with the term transnational social movement (TSM) and transnational advocacy network (TAN). One of the keys that differentiate TAN and TSM with social movements or advocacy networks in general is how these advocacy groups frame domestic issues being campaigned in international norms. This will pressure states or international regimes to comply with what the groups advocate.

Siti Daulah Khoiriati offered her view on the book as a lecturer of “Transnationalism in World Politics” class, explaining that transnational relations were conceptualized when multinational companies (MNC) are considered to have power equal to states’. This is exampled by how although China and Japan are politically ‘unfriendly,’ the intensity of market relations between the MNCs in the two countries managed to prevent them from engaging in a war since the end of World War II.

However, in line with the book, the Transnationalism in World Politics class also established the discourse of transnationalism in the framework of transnational activism. According to Siti Daulah, researches about Transnationalism not only enrich IR studies through the increasingly diverse topics, but also show how IR graduates possess practical skills that opens up their career orientations to options other than diplomats—for example activists, journalists, humanitarian workers, and MNC employees.

This event was concluded by a discussion session that offered platform for critical perspectives towards transnationalism in IR. For example, Muhadi Sugoiono (IR UGM Lecturer) argued that transnationalism up until now is only seen as a phenomenon—which means maintaining the IR status quo that state is the main actor and that non-state relations are anomalous. Transnationalism has yet to be seen as a perspective that will bring about theoretical implications in IR study itself. Another interesting point being discussed was the main obstacle towards the success of TAN and TSM: the overwhelming amount of involved actors that spark off conflict of interests and even segregation in the coalition.


Penulis: Alifiandi Rahman Yusuf
Editor: Ilham Adamy
Translator: Heidira Witri Hadayani