Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 356–375 | Cite as

Taking control of regulations: how international advocacy NGOs shape the regulatory environments of their target countries

  • Andrew HeissEmail author
Original Article


A wave of legislative and regulatory crackdown on international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) has constricted the legal environment for foreign advocacy groups interested in influencing domestic and global policy. Although the legal space for advocacy is shrinking, many INGOs have continued their work and found creative ways to adapt to these restrictions, sometimes even reshaping the regulatory environments of their target countries in their favor. In this article, I explore what enables INGOs to cope with and reshape their regulatory environments. I bridge international relations and interest group studies to examine the interaction between INGO resource configurations and institutional arrangements. I argue that the interaction between resources and institutions provide organizations with ‘programmatic flexibility’ that enables them to adjust their strategies without changing their core mission. I illustrate this argument with case studies of Article 19 and AMERA International, and demonstrate how organizations with high programmatic flexibility can navigate regulations and shape policy in their target country, while those without this flexibility are shut out of policy discussions and often the target country itself. I conclude by exploring how the interaction between internal characteristics and institutional environments shapes and constrains the effects of interest groups in global governance.


International nongovernmental organizations Civil society regulations Freedom of expression Refugees Resource configurations Institutional arrangements 



I thank Elizabeth Bloodgood and Lisa Dellmuth for their invaluable editorial and theoretical suggestions, Nina Hall, Laura Henry, and Lisa Sundstrom for their insightful comments, and the participants of the ‘Interest Groups, International Organizations, and Global Problem-Solving Capacity’ workshop held at Stockholm University in June 2018 for their support and assistance.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Management and Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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