Conference on Risks and Opportunities in the Civil Society – Public Institutions Relationship

International conference

Risks and Opportunities in the Civil Society – Public Institutions Relationship

A Re-Assessment of the EU and Global Policy Process

 LUISS University – School of Government and Department of Political Science

May 7-9 2015

Rome, Italy

Conference programme (pdf)

Call for papers


The aim of the conference is discuss the different and many faces of the relationship between civil society actors and public institutions, both governmental and intergovernmental ones. The conference goals is to gather both scholars and practitioners in a single dialogue inclusive but larger than the mainstream western narrative. It is in fact a firm assumption of the conference that the civil society-public institutions dynamics is politically significant in all areas of the world. Both sides of the coin of the public/private relationship will be addressed: Presentations will deal with both the cooperative and the competitive/contentious relationship between governmental and non-governmental organizations in all the different phases of the policy process. Also, both legal and covered activities will be discussed.

In scholarly terms, the conference aims to build bridges between different strands of academic and policy research that have looked at these actors under the differing lens of security, aid and development, public policy, global governance, contentious politics, democratization, human rights and democracy promotion, religious mobilizations, or public diplomacy.

Invited speakers: Clifford Bob (Duquesne University); Philip G. Cerny (Rutgers University); Lorenzo Fioramonti (University of Pretoria); Deng Guosheng (Tsinghua University); Richard Youngs (Fride); Marina Lebedeva (MGIMO); Heba Raouf Ezzat (Cairo University).

In the complex system of global politics, the relationship between governmental and non-governmental actors is more and more central. In the last decades, global governance has provided civil society organizations with new opportunities to influence public decisions at the international level. Civil society actors are present in different forms in all the phases of the international policy process: in the agenda setting, in the policy decision, implementation, monitoring, and finally in the policy evaluation. From the preliminary consultations of think tanks and interest groups in the agenda setting of many issues in the EU governance to the participation of indigenous and peasant groups to the revised Food Security Committee at FAO. As experts in different private standard setting bodies such as ICANN, and as stakeholders in hybrid global initiative such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that includes philanthropic foundations, grassroots organizations and firms. In the implementation of so many international public services, often through the formula of Private-Public Partenership (PPP), from disaster relief to development aid and democracy promotion, as well as in the monitoring and assessment of many international public policies such as those on human rights. Last but not least in political significance, in less formalized contexts, the relationship between governments and non-governmental actors is equally very intense. Suffice to think about the Syrian or the Ukrainian conflicts and the role of rebel, combatant, and terrorist groups in it, often with strong identitarian or religious connotations. “Civil” and “uncivil” society is ubiquitous, and at time decisive, though its participation remains often very controversial.

Civil society has long been an object of study. Labelled differently as civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, non-state actors, social movements, interest groups, third sector or the like, what has been a common theme underpinning all these approaches has been the tension with public institutions. Such relationship has at times been overlooked, but always remained important in analytical terms. Both as cooperation and as competition, the relationship between public and private actor is crucial in order to understand many of the political dynamics occurring in today’s global politics.

Practitioners, public officials, policy analysts, activists, and scholars of civil society, social movements, religious organizations, NGOs, interest groups, and transnational networks and campaigns are all invited to submit a paper proposal for this conference.

Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words), a short bio of the author/s, and should be sent to Raffaele Marchetti at

The deadline for the submission of the paper proposal is December 14 2014

All proposal will undergo peer review and notifications of acceptance will be sent out by January 10 2014.

Full papers are expected to be pre-circulated at the latest two weeks before the conference.

Conference attendance for both speakers and audience will be free.

A selection of the papers will be collected in an edited volume published by an international publisher.

Travel and accommodation costs should be privately covered. The conference organization will provide lunches and a social dinner on Friday.

We would be grateful if you could circulate this call as widely as possible.

The conference is partly funded by the European Commission, EACEA, under the Jean Monnet Module on EU’s Engagement with Civil Society hold by prof. Raffaele Marchetti.

Further financial support is generously provided by the US Embassy in Italy, the LUISS Department of Political Science, and LUISS School of Government.

The conference is organized under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.