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The Effects of Using Security Frames on Global Agenda Setting and Policy Making

Why do transnational advocacy campaigns on environmental, health, human rights or humanitarian causes sometimes (but not always) frame these problems as security issues? This is an important question because there is an under-analyzed assumption made by some transnational advocacy networks (TANs) and securitization studies scholars that framing an issue as a security threat has an overall positive effect on convincing states to take actions in addressing transnational social problems. The lack of systematic comparison across cases limits our ability to reveal the advocates’ motivations in adopting security frames and the contrasting effects that securitization might have at various stages of advocacy campaigns. It is crucial to address this question as it will help us better understand the sources of transnational advocacy campaigns’ influence over states as well as the inner dynamics of advocacy strategies. The study conducts a systematic comparative analysis of thirty-eight transnational advocacy campaigns to test whether the assumed correlation between using security frames and reaching advocacy success would hold when analyzed comparatively. The study then takes a closer look at the question by conducting a comparative analysis of nine cases and an illustrative analysis of a securitized campaign (Conflict Diamonds) to address the similarities between securitization and other acts of framing as well as to shed light onto the inner dynamics of securitization. Based on this analysis, the study argues that rather than being unique and correlated to transnational advocacy success, as argued by the literature, security frames operate like any other frame, and in order for such framing decisions to translate into advocacy success they need to coexist with an enabling strategic environment. The study also provides insights into the conditions that shape advocates’ framing choices. In addition to the widely cited role of the broader political context, the study also finds the advocacy networks’ own dynamics as well as the advocates’ previous experiences and their fields of expertise to be important in shaping their framing choices. The study also argues that advocates engage in multivocalization, which refers to the inclination of the advocates to invoke multiple frames simultaneously to reach out not only to targets of influence but also to potential allies with the goal of strengthening their networks. The analysis also reveals that the motivations behind adopting security frames are more complex than appreciated by the securitization literature in two ways: (i) a security frame does not have to be tailored toward states or security organizations, it can also be crafted to get the attention and the cooperation of non-state actors; and (ii) a security frame might appeal to an audience not necessarily because of the security threat it voices but because of the non-security concerns it silences.
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