The Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable world. For nearly 50 years, TNI has served as a unique nexus between social movements, engaged scholars and policy makers.

TNI has a reputation for well researched analysis on key global issues long before they become mainstream concerns. As a non-sectarian institute made up of researchers, scholar-activists and movement-builders, TNI uniquely combines a ‘big picture’ analysis with proposals and solutions that are both just and pragmatic. Our capacity to build long-term respectful mutual relationships with strategic social movements is helping put radical ideas into movement. 


How we work

Read more about how we work:


Stories of transformation

Exposing ISDS

Do you think citizens have the right in a democracy to curb nuclear power or require ‘plain packaging’ for cigarettes to protect people’s health? Probably yes. But most people don’t know that these actions have led to states being sued in secretive investment courts for billions of dollars by global corporations. TNI’s investigative work has exposed this unjust corporate protection system and forced changes in policy.


Proposing drug policy solutions

TNI has emerged as one of the world’s leading institutes on drug policy reform – unique for our technical and policy expertise and for our pioneering proposals related to farmer participation, harm reduction on the supply side and regulation of markets for cannabis and mild stimulants. Our work has contributed to breaking the deadlock on prohibitionist drug policy that has dominated in the last decades.

Partnering with organisations in Myanmar

TNI’s staff and researchers’ intimate knowledge of the country and its people has played an important role in supporting emerging social movements, brokering dialogues, providing information and analysis, and sensitising international players to the dynamics of Burma’s transition from military dictatorship.

Sharing public water best practices

TNI has been at the heart of the global movement against water privatisation, bringing together activists, researchers, trade unionists and public water utility managers to develop effective and just public utilities that deliver access to water for all.

What they say about us

“Your rich network of scholars, researchers and journalists helped to create the intellectual frame for the most important movements of my lifetime. I cannot describe how much I have learned from you, and relied upon you, over the years. Thank you for continuing to push yourselves, and all of us, to keep digging deeper.” Naomi Klein, Author of 'The Shock Doctrine' and 'No Logo'.

“Few organisations manage to straddle as effectively the diverse worlds of social movements, academia and policy domains. TNI's efficacy is partly because it always works in partnerships, and seems adept at forging the right ones, magnifying and globalising its impact.” Ruth Hall, Institute for Poverty, Land & Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

TNI brings an impressive amount of information and analysis to the drug policy debate, as well as an intimate understanding of the international drug control regime. And of particular significance, TNI always seeks to have the voices of those impacted by punitive drug control policies – such as coca growers and drug users – heard at the national, regional and international level.” Coletta Youngers, Senior Fellow, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

“TNI has been a constant partner and pillar of trade and investment campaigns across the region. A partner in the truest sense of the word – generous in sharing critical information and on the spot analysis, providing guidance and leadership in paving unchartered terrain, and most importantly helping create and broaden spaces for creative thinking and progressive action.” Joseph Purugganan on behalf of the EU-ASEAN Network.

“TNI is a great partner because they write a lot very good reports that are very useful. They manage to pick out the right topics that are very useful for debates in parliament and at home.”Anne-Marie Mineur, MEP for Dutch Socialist Party, Netherlands.

“The community of those who will forever seek to change the world for the better and never be content with the status quo, has been immeasurably strengthened and enriched by TNI.” Patrick Costello - Chef de Cabinet, Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission.

Impact and success

TNI has few resources and limited staff, but through our strategic alliances with social movements has a history of making a difference. These are some of the major victories and achievements that TNI has contributed towards in the last decade:

  • Exposed the injustices of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) that allows corporations to sue states for regulations that affect their profits. Our strategic research and expertise has turned this hitherto unknown core element in free trade agreements into the ‘most toxic acronym in Europe’ (according to EU’s lead trade negotiator) and led to a serious crisis of legitimacy for transnational corporate ‘free trade’ agreements.
  • Emerged as one of the leading international watchdogs on drug policy, helping build a movement of affected communities, experts and decision-makers in favour of reform. This has led to important breakthroughs in laws approving evidence-based harm reduction approaches to drugs in the Americas and elsewhere
  • Built an international movement to challenge corporate impunity that has led the UN Human Rights Council to set up an intergovernmental group that is working on a binding legal mechanism proposal to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses.

  • Supported an international wave of more than 240 cities and communities that have brought failing privatised water services back under public control with resources, analysis and best practice. TNI has also actively facilitated partnerships between public water utilities and with public service unions to build.

  • Supported, trained and worked with peasant and landless movements in many countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe to use international UN instruments (eg CFS Tenure Guidelines) to challenge landgrabbing and land concentration and regain control over territories and resources.

TNI is also a member of Partos and subscribes to its code of conduct