Gaining Rights through Agenda Setting

By Andrew Leber, Charlotte Lysa,
Submitted to Session P5908 (The Fixed and the Changing: From Social Movements to Public Policies Across the MENA Region, 2020 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Arabian Peninsula;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
How do social movements achieve policy victories under authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa? While existing work has focused on the whether nonviolent social movements can bring about regime change or secure direct concessions from authoritarian regimes, they can also place particular issues or social concerns on the political agenda for a given country - rendering them susceptible to foreign pressure or providing an opportunity for entrepreneurial political elites to curry favor with a particular constituency. In this paper, we focus on the ability of social movements to secure indirect concessions in two cases: Kuwait activists' efforts to secure women the right to vote and and Saudi activists efforts to secure women the right to drive. In both cases, we utilize process tracing to argue that social movements were necessary, albeit not sufficient, conditions for policy change to occur.