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Reclaiming Political Terrain: The Regulatory Crackdown on Overseas Funding for NGOs

56 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013  

Kendra Dupuy

University of Washington - Department of Political Science

James Ron

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities; Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) - Division of International Studies

Aseem Prakash

University of Washington - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

How do public regulations shape the composition and behavior of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? Because many NGOs advocate for liberal causes such as human rights, democracy, and gender equality, they upset the political status quo. At the same time, a large number of NGOs operating in the Global South rely on international funding. This sometimes disconnects from local publics and leads to the proliferation of sham or “briefcase” NGOs. Seeking to rein in the politically inconvenient NGO sector, governments exploit the role of international funding and make the case for restricting the influence of NGOs which serve as foreign agents. To pursue this objective, states worldwide are enacting laws to restrict NGOs’ access to foreign funding. We examine this regulatory offensive through an Ethiopian case study, where recent legislation prohibits foreign-funded NGOs from working on politically sensitive issues. We find that most briefcase NGOs and local human rights groups in Ethiopia have disappeared, while survivors have either “rebranded” or switched their work from proscribed areas. This research note highlights how government can and do shape the population ecology of the non-governmental sector. Because NGOs seek legitimacy via their claims of grassroots support, a reliance of external funding makes them politically vulnerable. Any study of the NGO sector must include governments as the key component of NGOs’ institutional environment.

Keywords: NGOs, Africa, foreign funding, human rights

Suggested Citation

Dupuy, Kendra and Ron, James and Prakash, Aseem, Reclaiming Political Terrain: The Regulatory Crackdown on Overseas Funding for NGOs (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2299732

Kendra Dupuy (Contact Author)

University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

James Ron

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

Minneapolis, MN
United States

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) - Division of International Studies ( email )

Mexico City
Mexico

Aseem Prakash

University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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