Challenging Restrictive Governance: Transnational Environmental NGOs in China and Turkey

Ceren Çevik

As climate change becomes one of the most pressing issues faced by humanity, transnational linkages and understanding the role of different types of actors are becoming increasingly important. While the literature has produced many insights into environmental NGOs (ENGOs) and their role in environmental politics, there is still much to discover when it comes to the factors affecting interactions among NGOs and between NGOs and other stakeholders in contexts in which their operations are heavily monitored and regulated by authoritarian institutions. Focusing on transnational ENGOs (tENGOs) and their relationship with local ENGOs in authoritarian regimes, the dissertation project seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how domestic institutional structures and regulations develop and change under authoritarian regimes, which can create or destroy opportunity structures for transnational environmental activism. The research compares the strategies and tactics of tENGOs in China and Turkey based on qualitative interviews conducted in 2023 with tENGO-affiliated actors in both countries, laws and regulations, and NGO reports. It aims to bring together the literature on social movement studies, international relations, and organizational studies to offer a comprehensive understanding of state–society relations within restrictive contexts on the very nuanced topic of the environment. As its overarching research question, the project asks how (t)ENGOs continue to operate under authoritarian regimes that have strict regulations on NGOs.

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