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Environmental Communication by NGOs

Environmental Communication by NGOs. Media, Politics and the E nvironment March 14, 2012 Miklos Sukosd. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs belong to civil society: democratic citizens different from the state and the economy (business)

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Environmental Communication by NGOs

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  1. Environmental Communication by NGOs Media, Politics and the Environment March 14, 2012 Miklos Sukosd

  2. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) • NGOs belong to civil society: democratic citizens different from the state and the economy (business) • Third sector of society (non-governmental, non-profit) • NGOs often relate to social movements: collective actions for social (political, cultural, environmental, economic) change • Local, national, international (INGOS) NGOs • Differences in membership, autonomy from the state and business, organization, professionalism, resources, goals • Environmental NGOs: raise awareness, change consumer behavior, citizens’ public opinion and policy-making process

  3. When are NGOs and social movements successful? Social movement theory: 1.          If they have political opportunities 2.          If they can mobilize and organize successfully 3.          If they can frame their issues successfully

  4. 1.      Political opportunities • Political opportunity structures: spaces for action • The same NGO action may have different chances for success dependent on political opportunity • Institutional structures and informal power relations in different political systems • Different national contexts: democratic vs. authoritarian systems • Openness or closure of political system   • Stability of elite alignments • The presence of elite allies • The state capacity for repression • Example: coalition governments; local environmental conflict in China

  5. 2.      Mobilizing structures • Informal and formal vehicles for collective action and organize successfully • Resources of NGOs: groups, organizations, communities, networks, membership, leadership, sponsors, supporters (donations, membership fees) • Civil rights movement (US): churches, colleges • Feminist movements: informal friendship networks • Social media: support networks for publicity and mobilization • Traditional media: involving new supporters, larger networks (membership), setting agendas, changing public opinion

  6. 3.      Framing processes • The power of ideas, concepts, frames, moral evaluations • Frames define grievances, possible solutions, and optimistic action • Cognitive dimension of NGOs and social movements: cognitive liberation • New paradigms (including environmental concepts ) • New measures (including ecological or carbon foorprint) • Cultural identity of NGOs: non-materials demands, “post-material” social movements • Frames and ideas may also create political opportunities and effective organizations • Interrelationship of 3 factors of efficiency

  7. NGO environmental media actions • Greenpeace videos on site actions • Goal: to call attention to environmental issues • Focus and influence public opinion to influence policy process • Serve footage for global television and photo opportunities for press photographers

  8. Exploring Greenpeace media actions • Dramatic visuals (dangerous, even life-threatening action; symbolic [handcuffed to nuclear plant fences]) • Professional, well-done (GP camera people) • Symbolic law-breaking (newsworthy; civil disobedience: break the law in the name of higher ideals) • Rehearsed action by professional movement members (no mass membership demonstrations) • Moral judgment: good guys vs. bad guys • David against Goliath (visual symbolism)

  9. Criticisms of Greenpeace media actions – and answers • No real membership; professional elite actions; too much hierarchy • Self-perpetuating organization for donations • Answers to criticism: division of labour among environmental NGOs and other stakeholders • Greenpeace role with media actions: setting environmental policy agendas • Efficient organization, professional realization  • Other roles: think tank (scientific research and evaluation, conferences, policy proposals)

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