Global Civil Society and the Egyptian 2011 Uprising: Assessing the Boomerang Effect

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Contemporary scholarship on the external dimension of the Egyptian January 2011 uprising has focused almost exclusively on the roles of great powers, particularly the United States and Europe, in the outbreak of the uprising and its subsequent developments. This traditional state-centric view fits within the broad framework of the realist International Relations (IR) perspective. It links the politics of democratization to the power politics tradition in IR, and conceptualizes democratic transition as a state-centered and rational process of inter-state bargaining about interests and power on the basis of cost-benefit calculations by the involved actors. This perspective, however, has overlooked the role of global civil society actors with a democratizing effect. According to the liberal school of IR, these actors have recently emerged as important players in the international system, affecting state interests and policies at the both external and domestic levels. This is particularly the case with the advent of the era of globalization where global civil society actors have moved to the forefront of campaigns to promote democracy and check the abuse of human and political rights in many countries of the world. These actors are predominantly international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) majoring in the field of democracy and human rights. This article seeks to examine the role of global civil society, with an emphasis on human rights INGOs, in the lead up to the Egyptian January 2011 uprising.