Policy Advocacy and the Media in Non-Democracies

Event Information

Heidelberg University
End Date
Max Grömping, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University

In advanced democracies, where press freedom is guaranteed and electoral mechanisms motivate and constrain policymakers, certain assumptions of advocacy by interest organizations - such as trade unions, business lobbyists, professional associations, social movements, NGOs, or citizen groups – are often met. Most critically, that the media are permeable to the articulation of diverse societal voices and thereby serve as an open arena for issue proponents. And second, that inside actors in the policy process, such as legislators or bureaucrats, are amenable to information provided by outside sources – either information about constituent interests or expert knowledge about policy issues.

Moreover advocacy by interest organizations have long been considered a crucial ‘transmission’ belt connecting citizens to political elites and policymaking. To achieve influence, advocates may combine the pursuit of direct interactions with policymakers (‘inside lobbying’) with the mobilization of public opinion via news media and public actions (‘outside lobbying’) in complementary ways. The pluralist view of the political process holds that this group-media-policy interface serves to translate citizen wishes into government action.

Yet, almost half of the countries today are under non-democratic political regimes, where elections are either severely curtailed or no multi-party competition takes place at all, and where liberal practices such as freedom of the press are disregarded. It is highly questionable whether the basic assumptions of a transmission belt for outside voices hold in such contexts. While a policy process does certainly exist in non-democracies, priorities are formulated, options weighed, decisions made, and policies implemented, what role – if any – does policy advocacy by interest organizations play in this process? To date, we know little about this simple question. While scholarly research on advocacy in established democracies abounds – examining, for instance, when and why groups form, what strategies they choose, how they use the media, or under which conditions they achieve policy success – research on policy advocacy under authoritarianism not only lacks a cohesive story, but also remains disjointed and under-theorized.

The aim of this workshop is to connect the disparate research programs on interest intermediation and on comparative authoritarianism to address a central puzzle: Under what conditions is policy advocacy by civil society pressure groups successful under non-democratic political regimes? In answering this question, a particular focus will be placed on advocacy activities via the media (‘outside lobbying’).

The workshop welcomes paper proposals using multiple methods and approaches which seek to tackle several related questions:
1. Why and how do pressure groups form and organize in non-democracies? (group ecology and group strategies)
2. What drives public attention to pressure groups in non-democracies? (media agenda)
3. Under what conditions do pressure groups gain access to policymakers or bureaucracies in non-democracies? (political agenda)
4. How do international influences affect policy advocacy in non-democracies? (transnational advocacy networks and policy diffusion)
5. What structures institutional openings or restrictions for policy advocacy in non-democracies? (legitimation, co-optation, and repression)

Paper proposals should include the name(s) and institutional affiliation(s) of authors, the title and a short (200 word) synopsis. Proposals should be submitted online by the deadline of 04 May 2019 via the online form. Selected paper proposals will be notified of their inclusion in the program by 11 May 2019. Final papers should be roughly 8,000-9,000 words in length and delivered to the workshop coordinator by 18 July 2019 for circulation.

All papers will be reviewed for possible publication in an edited volume after the event. Colleagues are also welcome to volunteer their services as chairs and discussants, as well as paper-givers.

Logistical arrangements
There is no registration fee and paper-givers will be offered refreshments and dinner. A limited number of travel awards (EUR 300) are available to offset the costs of travel and accommodation. Preference  will be given to graduate students and participants from developing countries. Please indicate when submitting your proposal whether you would like to be considered for a travel award.

Please direct any queries to max.groemping@ipw.uni-heidelberg.de