In whose name? Global civil society and the representation of the “Bottom Billion”

Led by Carole-Anne Sénit & Frank Biermann

Global civil society is often uncritically recognized as a democratic force in global governance. Global civil society organizations aim to hold states and intergovernmental institutions accountable and channel the voices of what would otherwise be the Forgotten Billion – the world’s poorest people – in policymaking. Yet to what extent do they succeed in performing that role?

This study will assess the representation of the global poor in global civil society during the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from 2012-2015, a process hailed by the United Nations as the most inclusive and democratic ever organized.

We will perform our analysis at three levels. First, we will quantitatively assess the participation of people from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) or LDC-based civil society organizations in selected UN consultations on the SDGs. Second, we will carry out a quantitative-qualitative analysis of whether and how the global poor is involved in selected internationally-operating NGOs working on social and environmental justice issues and who participated to the SDGs negotiations. Third, we will qualitatively evaluate how those organizations (mis)represent the interests of the global poor. This will eventually allow us to evaluate the degree to which the Bottom Billion is either integrated in or marginalized from global policymaking on sustainability.