A global view of protest, advocacy, and how government responds


Dr. Ulla Pape


At the ISTR 2022 conference, a session on protest, adovacy, and government response took a global view.

Kathy Brock of Queen’s University started with a comparative study on the protest movements in the United States and Canada. Protests are considered a legitimate tool in democratic societies. This raises the question of when protest movements are considered legitimized and when they are seen to transgress boundaries of legitimate political action. Focusing on the different protest movements, including the black-lives-matter movements, indigenous protest and the MeToo! movement and Covid-19 protests, Kathy concluded that there remain different traditions of understanding social protests in the United States and Canada.

The session’s second presentation was given by Ruth Phillips of the University of Sydney and Ian Murray of the University of Western Australia. Phillips and Murray focused on the third sector and democracy in Australia. Phillips showed that neoliberal governance has resulted in repression of advocacy from civic movements. The presentation provided a political analysis of the effects of regulation on spaces of advocacy. Phillips explained that pluralism ensures that diverse groups of citizens have opportunities to be heard, have influence and be accommodated in their interests by the state. The research is based on a qualitative analysis of the government discourses, focusing on the concept of ‘trust’ and ‘public trust’. Authoritarian and democratic political regimes differ in their relation to the third sector. The presenters focused on government regulations on TSOs in Australia and found several attempts of the government to curtail TSO advocacy.

The third presentation was given by Pierre Hamel of the University of Montreal and Anna Domaradzka of the University of Warsaw discussed urban social movements which are part of an effort to produce a Handbook of Urban Social Movements. Domaradzka emphasized that the concept of intersectionality is key for understanding urban social movements, as the movements differ significantly in terms of scale, mobilization repertoires and topical areas. Domaradzka concluded that the main topics that emerged in the analysis were related to the general social problems in the city, including housing, different forms of political engagements and urban policy. Hamel showed that urban movements have become less homogenous and are no longer perceived as uniform actors. Therefore, most urban remain weak actors, but one needs to better understand why this is the case.

The discussion following the three presentations centred on political strategies of governments, e.g. strategies of the Trudeau government to communicate a positive image in dealing with indigenous communities and to demonize political opponents, and the impact of a political narrative that delegitimizes or weakens specific civil society actors.

Dr. Ulla Pape Otto, Suhr Institute of Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin

Tagged in: #ISTR2022

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