Thesis subject

Civil society advocacy and its contribution to implemention of the Paris Agreement

A common challenge following international agreements like the Paris Agreement on climate change is implementation. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are agents that may be in an excellent position to support this implementation at country-level in different ways, including by awareness raising, supporting and holding governments and other actors to account.

Background information

Issue and policy expertise, connections with government, international institutions and other CSOs, contextual knowledge and independence from political parties and government may allow CSOs to monitor and support government and if deemed needed, expose actions and inactions. At the same time, this possibility does not necessarily materialize. Lack of capacity or resources, lack of popular interest or support, competing issues, lack of civic space and other challenges may hamper both CSOs’ taking on this role and being able to have real influence. A question that emerges is how CSOs active in specific countries perceive these roles at national and subnational levels, to what extent CSOs take up these roles, and how, what barriers and opportunities they face, and how these could be addressed.

A related question concerns the role of international NGOs (INGOs) compared to/in relation to the efforts of CSOs at country level. For decades, INGOs had a leading role in advocacy on international agreements, given their presence at international arenas, connections with powerful Northern/donor states who were seen has having the main responsibility for action on e.g. climate change, and resources available to contribute to policy processes through research, advocacy at meetings and other efforts. Southern CSO often had roles providing input and evidence to these internationally-led efforts. Much of international advocacy has been centred on agenda setting and monitoring of developed country commitments. Two developments raises questions on what (changing) role INGOs may have for implementation in Southern countries: the obligation of climate action under the Paris Agreement encompassing also Southern countries; and Southern CSOs becoming increasingly able to advocate independent from INGOs, and seeking other connections (Pallas and Goodblood 2022).

Case: Kenya

Kenya is a country that has been in the lead, among African countries, developing climate change policies. It is also a country with a vibrant civil society, comprising of social movements, networks, county-level and local NGOs and community-based organizations, and also partnerships and alliances involving Kenyan and international NGOs. Many of them address issues connected with climate, and some also have a distinct climate focus. At the same time, there are signs that implementation of climate policy is behind what was planned, and in any case running far short of what is needed to secure such central development objectives as food security. The question comes up then, what the role is of CSOs in Kenya to monitor and support the Kenyan government and Kenyan society addressing climate change? How do CSOs see the possibilities for that, looking into awareness raising, setting agendas, informing government and holding government and other actors to account? To what extent and how do their perspectives on this translate into action, and why? What is the role then of diverse types of Kenya-based and international CSOs? What is the relative role of international, national and county-local level political processes? Researching this dynamic the coming year will be opportune, given the ongoing Global Stocktake (establishing progress), for the Paris Agreement, creating a moment in which action at national level is assessed in the context of the Paris Agreement.

Practical information

Starting date: Flexible
Preferred language: English
Location/country: Kenya - alternatives can be discussed
Supervisor(s)/contact person: Margit van Wessel (COM). Co-supervisor is
Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (PAP)

Research question

A broadly formulated set of research questions has been developed, and these could be taken up for different countries. For this specific project we propose Kenya, but other countries can be considered.

How do civil society organizations (CSOs) active in specific countries on climate perceive their roles at national and subnational levels when it comes to implementation of the Paris agreement? To what extent CSOs take up these roles, and how? What barriers and opportunities do they face, how these could be addressed.

A related question concerns the role of international NGOs (INGOs) compared to/in relation to the efforts of CSOs at country level.

Type of research activities

Deskresearch and fieldwork in Kenya, involving Interviews, document analysis and participant observation.

What kind of student are we looking for?

Background, MID, MDR, COM.
Affinity with climate change policy and civil society.