Civil Society Under Assault

An excellent overview by Doug Rutzen, president of the International Center for Non-Profit Law (ICNL, documenting steps taken in the last decade to restrict actions and freedoms of organizations of civil society. Published in the Journal of Democracy Volume 26, Number 4 October 2015, page 28.


Several recent studies examining constraints on international funding and the political environments in which they arise support the UN Special Rapporteur’s (UNSR’s) assertions. One study found that in most countries where political opposition is unhindered and voting is conducted in a “free and fair” manner, international funding restrictions generally are not imposed on CSOs. By contrast, in countries where election manipulation takes place, governments tend to restrict CSO access to foreign support, fearing that well-funded CSOs could contribute to their defeat at the polls.  In other words, vulnerable regimes hoping to cling to power sometimes restrict international funding in order to weaken the opposition.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many countries saw the importance of defending civil society. Today, however, many countries are de-funding civil society. Using all sorts of pretexts, governments that feel threatened by such organizations impose restrictions on them. These governments are able to do so in part because the cornerstone concepts of civil society are still being developed, debated, and—at times—violently contested. The outcome of this debate will shape the future of civil society for decades to come.

2015_10_AuthoritarianismGoes Global-2_CivilSocietyUnderAssault-ICNL_Pres_Doug_Rutzen

About Bruce

Work for sustainable development of small islands and the Chesapeake Bay; ex-Peace Corps (Volunteer and staff) in LA & Caribbean; cruised Caribbean on S/Y Meander for three years; like small tropical islands, French canals, Umbria, Tasmania, and NZ. Married 52 years to the late Kincey Burdett Potter (see President of the now-sunsetting Island Resources Foundation.
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