Disrupting Global Governance: Protest at Environmental Conferences from 1972 to 2012

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Disruptive protest by nonstate actors often accompanies global governance conferences, but little analysis has been devoted to disaggregating its diverse forms. This article identifies four types of disruptive protest— symbolic, procedural, coercive, and evasive—and illustrates them with examples from UN environmental conferences in Stockholm (1972), Rio de Janeiro (1992), Johannesburg (2002), and Rio de Janeiro (2012). Symbolic disruption in Stockholm contributed to the production of new discourses; procedural disruption in Rio in 1992 introduced new actors and texts; some protestors sought to directly and coercively disrupt the summit in Johannesburg; and protests in Rio in 2012 illustrate disruption through evasion and exit. Understanding the form and power of such disruptive protests is crucial for studies of global governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-598
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Governance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • protest, summits, resistance, power, civil society


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