The Backlash against U.S. Smart Power? Restricting Foreign Aid to Domestic NGOs
1 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
Why have countries enacted laws to restrict foreign funding of domestic NGOs? We suggest that these restrictions should be understood as a pushback against US hegemony which seeks to project its soft or smart power via the agency of NGOs and not as countries' opposition to NGOs per se, or to Western efforts to support the domestic NGO sector. We test our argument using an original dataset that codes laws regulating foreign funding flows to domestically operating NGOs across 192 countries. Using an event history approach, we examine the onset of restrictive laws for the period 1993-2012. We find that US aid is associated with an increased “risk” of a country adopting restrictive laws. In contrast, overall development aid is not a statistically significant predictor, suggesting that governments are responding to US support of their civil society sectors and not to international support per se. We further examine domestic conditions in recipient countries that might condition the effect of US aid. We find that competitive elections in interaction with US aid increase the risk of the onset of restrictive laws.
Keywords: NGOs, human rights, foreign funding, civil society, laws
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