Boomerang or Buckshot? Blame Diffusion in International Anti-Hunger Campaigns Open Access
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The transnational advocacy literature in field of international relations focuses almost exclusively on cases of civil and political rights campaigns. And yet, many of today's largest and most pressing campaigns center not on civil and political rights but on economic, social, and cultural rights. This dissertation focuses attention on one such right: the right to food, and asks: What explains how international anti-hunger organizations construct their campaigns and whom they decide to target in these campaigns? I argue that existing models in the literature, namely Keck and Sikkink's (1998) "boomerang model" and Risse, Ropp, and Sikkink's (1999, 2013) "spiral model," are unable to explain the behavior of international anti-hunger campaigns. These models function on the basis of a common (essential) assumption---that activists can agree on a singular actor as "to blame" for a given violation and effectively partner together to focus pressure on a target actor to compel change. Yet, whom do activists blame for hunger? I interviewed and surveyed executive and senior staff at top international anti-hunger organizations and documented the diffusion of blame by activists. I develop an alternative model to the "boomerang" and "spiral" models, called the "buckshot model," which I argue is better able to explain the behavior of transnational advocacy in the hunger issue area. Instead of focused pressure by activists onto a singular target state, the "buckshot model" shows the "buckshot" of blame across multiple targets, linking to diverse causal frames and proposed solutions to the problem. How is it possible that international anti-hunger campaigns would behave differently from civil and political rights campaigns already documented in the literature? I argue that anti-hunger activists are working in an environment without a prescriptive norm around hunger. This lack of a norm is both constitutive of the diffusion of blame in this issue space but also makes less possible certain campaign outcomes (namely centralized pressure on one target actor). Why does hunger lack a prescriptive norm? First, hunger is at once both a development problem and a human rights issue. The legacy of competing analytic frameworks around the problem (development vs. human rights) makes the construction of such a prescriptive norm difficult. Second, while traditional human rights frameworks would ascribe responsibility to national governments for hunger within their borders, anti-hunger organizations with in-country missions have strong incentives not to blame national governments for fear of jeopardizing the safety and security of staff and active programs. Third, international human rights law does not provide a prescriptive norm in this issue space. While in the case of civil and political rights campaigns, activists often leverage international human rights law to focus campaigns on a single target actor (national governments who signed onto the specific human rights treaty in question), international human rights law is leveraged far less often in the case of the right to food, despite the fact that nearly all states have ratified at least one legally binding treaty attributing responsibility to national governments for the right to food within their borders.