The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 121–144 | Cite as

Transnational advocacy and domestic law: International NGOs and the design of freedom of information laws

  • Daniel BerlinerEmail author


Can international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) influence domestic policy? This paper offers new quantitative evidence of the impact of INGOs in one specific policy area—Freedom of Information (FOI) laws—as well as highlighting an under-studied mechanism of INGO influence on the design of domestic laws. I test this argument by examining the effect of legal analyses of draft FOI legislation published by the INGO Article 19. These analyses provide expert legal assessments and make normative evaluations—both information politics and symbolic politics. I find that in countries in which Article 19 conducted legal analyses, the design of the subsequently passed FOI laws was significantly stronger than in countries that were not subject to such analyses. I demonstrate that this finding is not an artifact of Article 19’s selection process. I also present suggestive evidence that highlights symbolic politics, not information politics, as the more salient mechanism. Finally, I examine the process of FOI drafting and adoption in Serbia to illustrate the argument and specific mechanisms at work.


International NGOs Transnational advocacy Freedom of information Transparency Policy design 



The author wishes to thank Katherine Banks, Tanja Börzel, James Caporaso, Kendra Dupuy, Aseem Prakash, Thomas Risse, Kathryn Sikkink, Joannie Tremblay-Boire, and the editor and anonymous referees for helpful feedback and comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2012 International Studies Association Annual Convention in San Diego, CA. This article results in part from research conducted at the Kolleg-Forschergruppe (KFG) “The Transformative Power of Europe” hosted at the Freie Universität Berlin, as well as from research supported by the University of Washington European Union Center of Excellence.

Ethical Statement


This study was supported by the University of Washington European Union Center of Excellence, and the Kolleg-Forschergruppe (KFG) “The Transformative Power of Europe” hosted at Freie Universität Berlin.

Interviews were conducted according to Exempt Status Determination #42082, University of Washington Human Subjects Division.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics and Global StudiesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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