Global Policy Forum

NGOs and States

This section examines the relationship between NGOs and states. NGOs do not have a single type of relationship with states.  Some NGOs are created or funded by state governments, or have very close government ties. Other times, States actively try to undermine NGO activity by imposing severe restrictions curtailing their activities. This section analyzes the often complicated relationship between NGOs and States.


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Statement: Bahraini Human Rights Organizations Need Support (August 6, 2013)

As the Bahraini society is preparing for mass protests on the 14 August, the human rights situation in the country deteriorates, says a statement of six human rights organizations active in Bahrain published on the website of Social Watch, an international network of citizen’s organizations. The statement calls for international human rights organizations as well as journalists to come to Bahrain to monitor the situation, support the local organizations and report on the situation. The organizations also ask the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama to end their active support to the government of Bahrain. (Social Watch)


New Russian Bill Aims to Brand NGOs as "Foreign Agents" (July 2, 2012)

The ruling United Russia party has submitted a bill which aims to brand foreign funded nongovernmental organizations in Russia as “foreign agents.” The authors of the bill intend to stop the NGOs from “conspiring” and force them to admit that they are the agents of foreign governments. Rights activists accuse the Kremlin of seeking to discredit civil rights groups that oppose to the regime. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

"NGO": The Guise of Innocence (March, 2012)

In December, Egyptian police raided the offices of several foreign “NGOs” leading to much Western press criticism. But the Western media has not investigated the history of the organizations and the nature of the charges. In fact, many of the groups are government sponsored organizations, receiving majority of their funding from the US National Endowment for Democracy which was formed to legally channel US government funds to opposition groups. By using the term NGO, the groups hide behind the illusion of innocent philanthropists, but if China or Cuba were funding opposition groups with a stated goal of regime change in the US, those involved would be facing much harsher consequences. (Irish Foreign Affairs)


US Somalis Can’t Support Families During Famine, Thanks to Anti-Terror Laws (December 16, 2011)

Due to US anti-terror laws, many US citizens face severe restrictions when attempting to directly send money to Somali Famine victims. Somalia has not has a stable government or central banking system for the past 20 years. As a result, Somalis have created hawalas, or money transfer companies that relay money through a neighboring country’s bank. The system worked well before 9/11, but since then, sending money to hawalas has been classified as “financing” the terrorist group, al-Shabab, preventing individual citizens from sending crucial aid. (Colorlines)

A Firewall Should be Built Between USAid and the Defence Department (November 21, 2011)

In this Guardian opinion piece, William Easterly argues that US foreign aid should be re-imagined as poverty relief, not part of a defence or “nation-building” strategy. Easterly states that over the past ten years (under both the Bush and Obama Administration), aid has increasingly become inextricably linked to US Defense strategy. Though US aid is used as a political tool, it is imperative that the US acknowledge the need for poverty relief, separate from defense-building, in the wake of massive US budget cuts. (Guardian)

Development Aid in Afghanistan: The Country Where Hope Goes to Die (October 20, 2011)

Western aid workers in Afghanistan operate in dangerous conditions and face severe lack of funding. Many aid workers have reported that their efforts have been ineffective because of corruption, failed policies and pressure from Western and the Karzai administration Afghani governments. According to one aid worker, the biggest mistake is linking development aid with military assistance, which muddies the relationship between aid workers and citizens in host countries. (Spiegel Online)

The Self-Inflicted Wound of US Foreign Aid Cuts (October 14, 2011)

This Guardian opinion piece criticizes the US’s recent decision to cut foreign aid spending, arguing that this “short-sighted” effort will negatively impact both foreign recipients as well as the United States. Though the author argues that foreign aid is an investment, rather than charity, it is important that the US look at ways to ensure that the investment is not tainted by the US’s political motives. (Guardian)

Flood Impact to Worsen Unless Aid Increases (October 13, 2011)

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that there not enough money or interest in the recent devastating floods in Pakistan. An official from International Federal of the Red Cross believes that the lack of donations is linked to the bad press Pakistan has received, particularly for its reputation for as a haven for armed groups. (IRIN)

Rich States Accused of Blocking UN Climate Talks Over Finance (October 6, 2011)

Several Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have accused the United States and Japan of  blocking funding for vulnerable countries to address climate change, even though they asked the LCDs to implement specific climate change initiatives. Though rich nations committed to provide $100 billion in climate finance by 2020, they failed to agree on ways to donate or distribute the money. (AlertNet)

General Disassembly (October 4, 2011)

As promised in July 2011, the US Congress froze the $200 million in Palestinian aid in retaliation for its statehood bid at the United Nations. This is the latest example of how the US privileges its geopolitical interests over its supposed commitment to humanitarian relief.  Several Republican Congressman have proposed additional legislation to severe the relationship between the US and the UN, despite domestic support for increasing the US-UN relationship and for the US paying its full dues to the UN. (Foreign Policy)

Foreign Aid Set to Take a Hit in US Budget Crisis (October 3, 2011)

Legislators have begun proposing deeper cuts to desperate humanitarian crises in Africa, Pakistan and Japan. NGOs fear that important US foreign aid programs will be eliminated in favour of American national security initiatives. (New York Times)

Swaziland Mulls Multi-Million Dollar Bailout (September 26, 2011)

South Africa has granted a $350 million bailout to financially-starved Swaziland. However, King Mswati III of Swaziland  is hesitant to sign the loan, as the conditions of the loan are unspecified. Swaziland has historically been hesitant to accept aid from outside parties, including the IMF. While Swaziland’s doubts may be justified, the worsening social and economic problems of the nation require immediate action. (IRIN)

Lives Before Politics (September 21, 2011)

A group of twenty NGOs have issued an open letter to the international community pleading that the lives of Somali famine victims must come before government politics. They state that due to lack of proper planning by aid agencies and constant movement of famine victims, only a portion of aid is being effectively delivered. The letter urges the “international community” to change its approach by “enhance[ing] its diplomatic engagement” with various political groups in Somalia in order to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered. (IRIN)

Moving Aid from Fire-Fighting to Long-Term Results (September 23, 2011)

During an Oxfam International event at the World Bank’s annual Fall meeting, a group of NGOs  argued that investing in preventive measures is more effective than responding after a crisis has begun. As the cost and frequency of global crises--- from earthquakes to famines--- increases, many countries can no longer afford to repeatedly pay for short-term disaster relief. Donor countries must invest more in preventative measures. (IPS Terraviva)

Evidence of Serious Human Rights Abuses Fails to Halt Flow of Aid (September 8, 2011)

Though the Ethiopian government has been accused of ethnic cleansing, widespread torture, and extra-judicial killings, the US, UK and EU continue to donate billions of dollars in development aid. The BBC News and the Bureau have documented several instances where the Ethiopian government has used this foreign aid as a means of political oppression, by creating “capacity-building programs” to promote its own political agenda and silence dissenters. Continuing to donate money to Ethiopia shows that the US, UK and EU values promoting their geopolitical interests, rather than a “humanitarian” agenda. (Alternet)

Donor Government Asked to Review Cambodia Aid if NGO Law is Passed (August 26, 2011)

Foreign NGOs in Cambodia have called upon donor governments, such as the US, UK and Australia, to “reassess” their aid packages if Cambodia passes a controversial law curtailing NGO operations. NGOs in Cambodia have expressed concern that the law will prevent various organizations from representing and protecting marginalized Cambodians, such as farmers and the disabled. As more states begin to regulate NGO activities, it is important that changes are made for legitimate reasons, not political purposes. (Guardian)

Contractors are Accused in Large-Scale Theft of Food Aid in Somalia (August 16, 2011)

The UN World Food Program (WFP) is investigating allegations that corrupt contractors have stolen thousands of sacks of grain and other supplies intended for Somalian famine victims.  Food theft has occurred in Somalia since the early 90s, causing aid workers to coin the term “traditional distribution” to describe when food aid is stolen to be sold on the black market.  Though this New York Times article largely criticizes al-Shabab and the new Somalian transitional government for active participation (and failed prevention) in this large scale food theft, this is only a part of the picture. The root causes of the famine are largely geopolitical, as the Somali people have been made vulnerable to exhausted food resources due to continuous military and political interventions in the region (particularly by Ethiopia, the AU, and the US).

Aid Alone Won’t Help the Desperate Palestinians (August 24, 2011)

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has released a report directly linking Palestine’s “dire” economic and social situation to Israeli occupation. Although Palestine is the 10th largest recipient of aid worldwide, the report highlights that foreign aid does little to improve the situation in Palestine because of Israeli trade barriers and restrictions. This Guardian article asserts that these aid packages mask the “inaction” of countries that how Israel’s systematically prevents the Palestinian economy from being wholly self-sufficient. Donor states must take active measures to challenge the Israeli occupation, or else their aid will continue to be squandered on ineffective economic and development packages.

Third Draft of Cambodia’s Associations and NGO Law Overlooks Key Concerns (August 12, 2011)

Cambodia has released the third draft of a proposed law that would curtail NGO operations and prevent NGOs from providing crucial humanitarian assistance in Cambodia. NGOs fear that the latest draft of this law undermines the relationship between the Cambodia government and Civil Society, and would prevent various NGOs from representing and protecting “marginalized” Cambodians, such as farmers and the disabled. As more states begin to regulate NGO activities, it is important that changes are made for legitimate reasons, such as holding NGOs accountable for their actions, rather than for political purposes. (Guardian)

US Must Learn from Britain and Not Cut Foreign Aid (August 1, 2011)

NGOs fear that US foreign aid programs will be eliminated during the highly controversial and partisan 2012 budget talks. Currently, US foreign aid funding is considered “discretionary spending,” and some worry that it will be cut as a short-term effort to reduce the federal deficit. This Guardian article warns that these short term fixes will cost more in the long-term and lead to security, humanitarian, and global health problems. Cutting these aid initiatives would show that the US values its geopolitical interests over its humanitarian interests. It would be a shame if US with $14.6 tn GDP could not afford to contribute a small fraction of its GDP to help the rest of the world.

Maternal Death Focus Harsh Light on Uganda (July 29, 2011)

The death of Jennifer Anguka, a Ugandan elected official, calls attention to Uganda’s inability to pay for its public health system even as it spends a half of billion dollars on its military. This New York Times article notes the perverse effects Close of foreign aid: African governments increasingly receive more money to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases they spend less money on public health care and shift their revenues to other priorities.  Nations must continue to support and fund domestic institutions and not depend solely on foreign aid for essential public services.

US Foreign Aid 'Needs Greater Coherence,' Report Says (July 29, 2011)

Following the 2011 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peer review, the OECD issued a report card stating that the US should improve coordination among its more than twenty-four governmental departments to better ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid.  The DAC also calls on the US to reduce the amount of aid that is required to be invested in US companies and products.  The report card lacks the necessary criticism of where aid is directed and how it is delivered, ignoring cases such as the use of aid to further US political interests.  However, the report did not address more contentious issues, such as who benefits from US aid, and how the US uses aid money to further its political interests. (Guardian)

US-Pakistan Spy Wars Hit Flood Relief and Aid Workers Get Caught In Dragnet (July 26, 2011)

Strained US-Pakistan relations over the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and the discovery of CIA-sponsored fake vaccination programs are hampering aid efforts to assist the millions of Pakistanis that are still affected by last summer’s devastating floods. Several western aid organizations have reported stricter visa regulations and restrictions on where western aid organizations can work are increasing the costs and delivery of aid to areas hit by the floods. As monsoon season approaches, it is important that US and Pakistan do not “politicize” aid efforts, and allow humanitarian assistance to be delivered. (Guardian)

Al-Shabab Reasserts Foreign Aid Ban (July 22, 2011)

Al-Shabib, a Somalian opposition group,  has announced that it will continue the ban on foreign aid groups working in Somalia, despite prior announcements to lift the ban. Al-Shabib has rejected UN claims about the Somalia famine and requests to bring aid to the region, arguing that these claims are laden with hidden political agendas.  However, Somalia has been most strongly affected by the drought in Horn of Africa region and refugees are fleeing the country. While aid is often politicized, Al-Shabib should allow necessary humanitarian assistance, such as food and water supplies. (Al Jazeera)

NGOs in Standoff over Hamas Audit Demand (July 19, 2011)

International NGOs working in the occupied Palestine territory have questioned the “motive” behind the Hamas government’s audit request. These NGOs are concerned that the audit will “jeopardize vital operations,” particularly for smaller NGOs who do not have the money or resources to conduct an extensive audit. While NGOs must be held accountable for their daily operations, it must be done for legitimate reasons. Aid policies should not be used to promote a political agenda or prevent the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance or services.  (Al Jazeera)

Stronger Civil Society Means More Power for the Weak( July 7, 2011)

A group of international NGOs, including CIVICUS, Asian Forum for Human Rights, and Freedom House, have created the “Embattled NGO Assistance Fund” (ENA) to help international NGO workers resist government crackdowns and pressure.  While there are an increasing number of draft laws prohibiting international NGO activity that make aid work particularly necessary, particularly in places where NGOs have challenged government human rights violations, this Guardian article cautions against the “soft power” associated with the majority of foreign aid. Many NGOs, like Freedom House, are primarily funded by governments and use their aid work to promote a specific political agenda. It is important that the ENA fund be used for legitimate, rather than political, humanitarian purposes. (Guardian)

Draft NGO Law Withheld (June 1, 2011)

Cambodia has restricted public access to a proposed law curtailing NGO operations. NGOs fear that the law will be used to ban NGOs that oppose government policies, preventing legitimate NGOs from providing crucial humanitarian assistance. As more states begin to regulate NGO activities, it is important that changes are made for legitimate reasons, such as holding NGOs accountable for their actions, rather than for political purposes. (Radio Free Asia)

Disquiet Over New NGO Law (May 13, 2011)

A draft NGO law in Somaliland threatens the sustainability of NGO operations by increasing transaction costs and reducing the capacity of organizations to act independently of the government.  As the size and influence of the NGO sector grows, Somaliland and other states are moving to regulate the activities of these organizations.  While regulation is not of itself problematic, it must be done for legitimate reasons, and should not hamper the delivery of humanitarian assistance or be a mechanism to suppress opposition. (IRIN)

Israel Aiming Punitive Measures at Soft Targets (April 5, 2011)

Israel is increasingly moving to suppress internal dissent as a rebuke to international criticism of its occupation in the Palestinian West Bank. In early 2011, legislation was passed in the Knesset to establish a commission to investigate the finances of NGOs. Later, Israel-Arab politician, Haneen Zoab, had her parliamentary privileges revoked for participating in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza.  Additionally, non-violent Israeli activists have been beaten, arrested and subjected to surveillance, for protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. (IPS Terraviva)

Sri Lanka: NGOs Face Funding Gap and Government Scrutiny (March 15, 2011)

The NGO community in Sri Lanka is being assailed by the government, which purportedly sees these organizations as its opposition in governance.  The state is particularly concerned about funding of local NGOs by foreign governments.  These NGOs are viewed as the tools by which foreign powers are able to influence internal political affairs.  The obscured influence of foreign governments through NGOs is a legitimate concern.  However, this should not be used as an excuse for suppression of valid critics and opposition movements. (IPS Terraviva)

Sudan Governor Expels French Aid Group from Darfur (February 14, 2011)

Médecins du Monde, a French humanitarian NGO, has been expelled from Darfur and 12 of its workers have been arrested.  Sudanese authorities accuse the group of undermining the government and providing support to rebels.  Médecins du Monde was one of the last groups operating in a region of Darfur under rebel control.  The crackdown demonstrates the difficulty faced by organizations giving humanitarian aid to people living under the control of anti-government forces.  Governments often equate aid to direct support of these forces, putting NGO operations in jeopardy. (Reuters Africa)

The Fate of Dr Binayak Sen will Help to Show the Real India (February 8, 2011)

Dr Binayak Sen, the founder of Indian NGO Rupantar and prominent human rights activist, has had his application for bail refused by the Indian Supreme Court.  Sen is serving a life sentence for allegedly supporting Maoist rebels and is charged under the same legislation used to incarcerate Ghandi.  Sen has been critical of the government and his work has focused on providing basic services to people the state ignores, including those in Maoist regions.  Sen has already been jailed for over two years without any evidence to support the accusations against him.  The government has repeatedly denied justice to Sen, attracting widespread condemnation in India and internationally. (Amnesty International)

Ban on Foreign Funding Leaves Venezuelan Activists in Limbo about Whether they are Targets (January 30, 2011)

Venezuela has introduced a law curtailing NGO operations - joining Israel and Cambodia which have both recently done the same.  The law prevents NGOs from accepting foreign funding and penalizes "opinions that offend state institutions."  As in Israel and Cambodia, the Venezuelan government apparently wants to weaken foreign-backed opposition.  Many NGOs in Venezuela depend on foreign financial support and will struggle to maintain their operations without this funding. (Associated Press)

Iraeli Parliament Backs 'McCarthyite' Investigation Into Human Rights Groups (January 6, 2011)

Israel's parliament has passed a proposal to investigate human rights NGOs.  The right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party justifies the proposal by claiming the activities of human rights groups are "delegitimising" Israel's military.  These groups, however, say the proposal is akin to McCarthyism in the US and view it as an attempt to quash internal criticism in Israel. (The Independent)

Hun Sen Focuses Ire on NGO Law Critics (January 5, 2011)

A draft law threatens to significantly restrict the operations of NGOs in Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen says that NGOs in Cambodia are demanding too many rights. In its current form, the law will constrain freedom of association, including limiting founding members of NGOs to Cambodian nationals, prohibiting activities by non-registered NGOs and requiring foreign NGOs to collaborate with the Cambodian government. This is an example of a wider movement among states to implement or amend laws to control NGO operations (Phnom Penh Post)


Afghanistan Shuts down 150 Afghan, Foreign Aid Groups (November 9, 2010)

Around 150 aid groups, including four foreign organizations, have been forced to shut down by a government-backed commission in Afghanistan. The commission was established by President Hamid Karzai as part of his anti-corruption drive and his suspicion of foreign organizations in Afghanistan. According to Afghan law, NGOs are required to submit reports every six months detailing their funding and activities. None of the NGOs ordered to end operations submitted the reports despite warning letters. This ruling follows a similar one in May where the commission shut down 172 NGOs, including 20 foreign groups, for the same reason. (Reuters)

Foreign Policy: Cooperating With The Taliban (August 26, 2010)

Rabkin suggests that following the murder of IAM staff in Afghanistan, aid workers and the Taliban will be forced to cooperate. Humanitarian groups have historically had to strike a delicate balance of distance and cooperation with the Taliban to negotiate for their safety. Whilst aid workers' safety has improved through such communication with the Taliban, a conflict persists because the military insists on NGO cooperation, so NGO's can become identified with the foreign enemies. (NPR)

The Harper Government, Women's Rights and the Cost of Speaking Out (June 4, 2010)

The Harper administration is reversing the traditional policy under which Canadian governments have provided funding to NGOs and civil-society groups, including those which oppose government policies. The hardest hit groups have been those working for women's rights - funding for groups such as International Planned Parenthood has already been cut and the Canadian International Development Agency has warned NGOs to omit phrases like "gender equality" from future proposals to have a chance at funding. Meanwhile international development assistance for projects dedicated to promoting gender equality in Pakistan and Kenya has also been considerably reduced. (The Globe and the Mail)

China's Government's Ambivalence Toward NGOs (May 24, 2010)

Increasing prosperity in China has been accompanied by the growth of an active civil society and an increasing number of NGOs. However, recent reports from China suggest that the government is placing restrictions, such as complex registration procedures and a required approval process for large grants, on NGOs that are speaking up against the government's actions. Furthermore, NGOs receiving foreign funding are being viewed with skepticism and in some cases, facing sanctions. Such intimidation tactics are often successful, as reflected by the appeasing tone of some NGOs' mission statements. Meanwhile there is a growing trend of unregistered grassroots organizations as an alternative to registered, and consequentially government regulated, NGOs. The tenuous relationship between the government and civil society actors is thus shaping the form that civil society action takes in China. (Wall Street Journal)

Afghan Umbrella Bodies Deem NGO Clean-up "fair" (May 13, 2010)

Several NGO coordination bodies in Afghanistan have declared that the Afghan government's decision to ban 152 local and 20 foreign NGOs was a fair one. Most of the dissolved NGOs had failed to comply with the Ministry of Economy regulations; others had simply closed operations and left the country without notice, while some were deemed to have activity levels that were "too low." However, NGOs are providing critical services to the Afghan population, and while some monitoring may be necessary, it is also important to hold the work of the government, donors and private contractors up to the same standards. (IRIN)

Chinese AIDS Activist Flees to US After Harrassment (May 10, 2010)

Wan YanHai - former Chinese Health Ministry Official and prominent leader of a Chinese AIDS advocacy group - has fled China, following repeated harrassment by government authorities. Despite acknowledging the spread of HIV and AIDS as a pressing national health concern, the Chinese government - which recently tightened its regulations on foreign donations to local NGOs - is distrustful and suspicious towards independent groups and activists, whom it views as potential threats to its sovereignty and authority. (The Associated Press)

5 NGOS Dole Out $33M in State Grants (May 10, 2010)

The Russian government has recently announced its 2010 budget to fund local NGOs. 1 billion rubles - $33 million equivalent - will be distributed to the NGO community through five Moscow based organizations which all possess intimate relations with the ruling United Russia party. Such channeling of funds has been criticized by members of civil society as lacking in accountability and transparency. Yelena Panfilova of Transparency International says that allocation of funds by the five appointed organizations has frequently been questioned. (The Moscow Times)

Italian NGO Saga Continues to Make Waves (May 4, 2010)

Nine employees of Emergency - an Afghanistan based Italian aid NGO - were charged for hospital killings and plotting to assassinate an Afghan governor. All accusations have since been dropped, yet controversies continue to surround the humanitarian NGO. Emergency recently admitted to having acted on the Italian Foreign Ministry's instructions when it brokered an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban in 2007 to "swap" five Taliban prisoners for the release of kidnapped Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Should humanitarian NGOs negotiate and mediate on behalf of belligerent parties, especially when it claims to act in "good faith," and where human life is at risk? (IRIN)

Frozen Aid, Little NGO Contact Create New "Dynamic" (April 28, 2010)

More than 60 civil society representatives met with Canadian government officials in a symposium at Vancouver on April 16 - a week prior to the G8 international development conference in Halifax. While the Canada government – which currently chairs the G8 – actively consults large-scale NGOs such as CARE, UNICEF and World Vision on maternal and child health issues, smaller-scale members of civil society struggle to secure constructive dialogue with government officials for their advocacy efforts. (

NGOs and Their Quest for Legitimacy in Africa (April 9, 2010)

Until the 1980s, many failed to appreciate the role of NGOs in influencing and implementing development policy in Africa. This article argues that NGOs are a growing presence in modern Africa and that African states often fail to contribute to development due to their lack of capacity, accountability and transparency. While most governments acknowledge NGOs as valuable assets, many remain wary and consider the rapid expansion of NGO networks as challenges to "state autonomy, legitimacy, revenue and territorial hegemony." (Institute for Security Studies)

Israeli Rights Groups View Themselves as Under Siege (April 5, 2010)

Release of the Goldstone report has led to tightening pressure on Israeli human rights NGOs as the Israeli government takes extreme measures to defend itself against war crimes accusations. Rights advocates now face increasing scrutiny, and are frequently attacked by critics who accuse their work as "endangering the country." This situation is worrying, as a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed in a recent interview that Israel will "dedicate time and manpower to combat human rights groups" which challenge the legitimacy of the Israeli government's human rights practices. (New York Times)

Egypt's Government to Restrict NGO Vote Monitoring (March 22, 2010)

The Egyptian government has recently introduced new draft legislation which requires NGOs and advocacy groups to become members of a government-controlled federation. The federation manages NGO permits, work and funding. Thirty-sex local NGOs have since launched a protest, alleging that the new legislation's underlying purpose is to prevent civil society from monitoring upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. (Guardian)

New Finance Rules Add to Squeeze on China NGOs (March 12, 2010)

China has tightened its rules on foreign donations to local NGOs - a move civil society groups regard as open to abuse by states officials wanting to exercise greater control. From March 1 onwards, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange does not only demand foreign donations to go into "special foreign exchange bank accounts," it also requires the donations to be accompanied by translated agreement and registration documents by donors. Despite material concerns on legitimacy of NGO funding sources, many argue that new funding regualtions do more harm than good by causing further constraints on the work of "well-intended" NGOs. (Reuters)

Israel's NGOs Must Operate Freely (26 February, 2010)

Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor - a web-based project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - claims that European-funded human rights NGOs constitute "grotesque distortion" of democracy in Israel due to their criticisms of Israel's human rights record. This article by contrast attributes the nation's worsening democratic deficit to a bill recently introduced by the Israeli legislature. The author argues that the bill - which constraints funding as well as freedom of speech among civil society organizations - legitimizes assaults on human rights organizations that work within occupied Palestinian territories. (Guardian)

Embedding the War on Terror: State and Civil Society Relations (January 2010)

One of the main effects of the war against terrorism has been the diversion of development assistance to front-line states, very often to the detriment of NGOs which address global poverty and worsening income inequalities. Most aid disbursements for "advancing human security" can be viewed as aid disbursements for protecting northern national security interests. This article explores the impact of anti-terror measures on civil society, and is based on eight policy dialogue workshops held over two years by the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRACT). It argues that broad anti-terror laws hinder and sometimes, even "criminalize" humanitarian efforts of NGOs in certain areas of the world. (Development and Change: International Institute of Social Studies)

Israel's NGO Crackdown Spells Trouble (January 25, 2010)

NGOs including Oxfam, Save the Children and Doctors without Borders will now face restrictions in their work to serve the needs of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This is due to Israel's new policy of issuing NGO employees with tourist visas instead of work visas. Such repressive policies could only lead to "more hostility, more suspicion and more recriminations." (Guardian)

Zimbabwe: Government is Unable to Manage NGO Funds (January 7, 2010)

The Global Political Agreement (GPA) - signed by three political parties in Zimbabwe - has led to the channeling of all aid and assistance through the Zimbabwean government. This awards the government the right to determine allocation of resources for humanitarian purposes. Zimbabwean political science lecturer Simon Badza supports centralized control of NGO finances, and asserts that "all sovereign states may want to monitor the operations of NGOs to see if they are operating within the parameters of the law." Government control of NGO funds can lead to further strains on NGO work, and it will create unnecessary delays for pressing needs. (All Africa)


Civil Society Participation and China-Africa Cooperation (December 3, 2009)

Recently, China has sought to improve its relations with civil society in Africa. In general, Western states view civil society as a government watchdog and a tool to promote democracy. In China, the role of civil society is more concerned with filling the holes in state support of welfare. China's involvement in Africa has sparked criticism from Western states, who charge that China's support for African NGOs will reverse progress made in fighting corruption and improving governance in the region. (Pambazuka News)

Afghanistan: USAID Rejects NGO Concerns over Aid Militarization (December 2, 2009)

NGOs have accused major donors - including the Canadian and US government - of distributing aid through military channels for counterinsurgency purposes and to areas where donors have troops. Wael Haj Ibrahim, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan, argued that despite political considerations "aid must be apolitical and entirely needs-based." In response to concerns about politicization and militarization of aid, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that counterinsurgency operations are essential to aid effectiveness and to NGO operations in Afghanistan. (IRIN)

Russian Leader Expresses Support for Nonprofits (November 23, 2009)

President Dmitri A. Medvedev calls for tax incentives and other measures to assist Russian NGOs. In recent years, the government has sought to have more control over civil society, fearing that the organizations were tools used by the West to interfere in Russian politics. Currently, there are still many laws controlling civil society and NGOs are far from having the freedom necessary to carry out their work as successfully. (New York Times)

Afghan Health NGOs - A Mixed Blessing? (October 12, 2009)

The role of NGOs in the health sector is controversial in Afghanistan. Afghan medical experts claim that NGOs only provide short-term solutions and lack a long-term vision for the country's health care system. However, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health has imposed many constraints in its contracts with NGOs, which may have created difficulties. NGOs say that they are ready for a long-term partnership if the Afghan government offers one. (IRIN)

Fake Aid (September 2009)

This paper claims that the UK Department for International Development is supporting policy and educational work by NGOs and thus monitoring and shaping an overtly political agenda. The authors argue that the NGOs spend the funds on lobbying activities and the promotion of ideology instead of improving the lives of the poor. Though issued by a conservative think tank hostile to development aid, the paper raises interesting questions about the cozy, dependent relations between major UK NGOs and this influential government department. (International Policy Network)

World Bank, NGOs Exhort G20 Not to Forget the Poorest (September 16, 2009)

Major NGOs are seeking to influence the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. They seek pledges from G20 members to increase current development aid budgets. Many NGOs urge the group to focus on the poorest of the poor, who suffer from a severe food crisis worsened by the global financial crisis. With several hot topics such as Afghanistan and nuclear programs dominating the agenda, some fear that the G20 will only give limited attention to development issues. (IPS Terraviva)

NGOs Tread Lightly on China's Turf (September 12, 2009)

The Chinese Government is nervous about NGOs and fearful of the political challenge they may pose, so it tends to be directly involved with most NGOs in the country. Government restraints weaken NGO independence and creativity. Scholars suggest that it would be more appropriate to define the NGOs in China as GONGOs (Government Organized Non-Governmental Organization). (Asia Times)

The Trauma of Civil Society in the Middle East and North Africa (August 2009)

Civil Society in the Middle East and North Africa is strictly constrained by government policies and practices that restrict freedom of expression. The government often controls the media to avoid political dissent, which means that discussions and initiatives leading to a policy reform are rare. An effective civil society is important in the process of democratization in the Middle East and Northern Africa. (The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law)

An Uncivil Approach to Civil Society (June, 2009)

Many Russian NGOs are restricted by severe government control, according to this report by Human Rights Watch. The election of President Dmitirv Medvedev brought optimism among the NGO community, but the strict NGO laws enacted under former President Putin still exist. Human Rights Watch concludes that heavy bureaucracy and regulatory laws have created financial problems for Russian NGOs receiving foreign donations. (Human Rights Watch)

A Policy Blueprint for Better Collaboration between the U.S. Government, Business and Civil Society (May, 2009)

According to Jane Nelson and Noam Unger, the US government should position itself better in the new development scene, consisting of a varied mix of NGOs, corporations, faith-based organizations, etc. The authors recommend a more effective "dialogue" between the US government and these global development actors to ensure innovation and effectiveness. In the light of climate change and the global economic crisis, an improvement in these partnerships is needed more than ever. (Brookings Institute)

Freedoms of Association and Civil Society in Egypt (April 2009)

Egyptian NGOs are working under a demanding pressure from the government with laws limiting the funding and the space in which civil society is able to operate. The law forbids NGOs from engaging in "political" activities and having affiliation with foreign organizations. To avoid the strict regulations, many Egyptian NGOs often register as a law firm, non-profit company or research centre, risking severe penalties if discovered by the authorities. (Fride)

Caught in the Conflict - Civilians and the International Security Strategy in Afghanistan (April 3, 2009)

A large portion of international aid resources for Afghanistan go to Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT). These teams carry out development aid in spite of only being mandated to improve security and are led by foreign military forces. In such operations, US, Spanish and French forces use white unmarked vehicles, which humanitarian organizations conventionally use, even though international humanitarian law requires that combatants distinguish themselves from civilians in conflict. Countries that direct resources to PRTs undermine the development of governance and civil society. The indistinguishable link between military and aid projects has resulted in attacks against NGO workers as well as the military aid projects.(ReliefWeb)

Still Bad News from Darfur (March 10, 2009)

This Nigerian Guardian article describes the predictable effects of Sudan's decision to expel 13 major humanitarian organizations from Darfur, which will deprive millions of persons of potable water, healthcare and food. The decision was announced shortly after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. A Sudan expert says this was not surprising given the government's previous treatment of NGOs in Darfur. (Nigerian Guardian)

UN Panel Deadlocks Over Taking Any Action on Sudan (March 6, 2009)

The UN Security Council (SC) held a meeting to discuss a proposed statement condemning the decision of Sudan to expel 13 humanitarian organizations from Darfur. However, the permanent members clashed over a reference to the possible suspension of the decision by the International Criminal Court to indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In the end, the SC failed to condemn the expulsion all together. The African Union and the Arab League are expected to request the SC to defer the indictment for one year, which according to the Libyan SC President would "calm the situation"? (New York Times)

Global Trends in NGO Law (March 2009)

Some governments use NGO framework laws as a subtle way to restrict democracy, human rights and civil society groups in lieu of more direct repression. This report exposes a trend in 2008 where governments limit and control foreign funding for NGOs. Regardless of alleged justifications, such as preventing terrorist financing, these rules can threaten the existence and independence of NGOs. Russia has established a "white list" with certain foreign organizations that can give donations that are tax exempt. This illustrates how governments use the sophisticated method of creating tax incentives to control the funding sources of NGOs. Governments that try to cut costs because of the economic crisis could also be tempted to reduce the positive tax incentives to donate to NGOs, as is the case with the US stimulus plan. (International Centre for Not-For-Profit Law)

Myanmar: NGOs Cut Smoother Path in the Delta, But Challenges Remain (February 11, 2009)

The government of Myanmar has granted better access for NGOs into areas affected by cyclone Nargis than before the catastrophe in 2008. The Tripartite Core Group, which consists of the Myanmar government, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN, has negotiated the conditions that govern NGO access. Will the government of Myanmar continue this policy and apply it in other areas of the country after the Tripartite Core Group ceases to exist? If so, this might prove to be a method for handling future humanitarian disasters. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)



Analysing Threats to Civil Society around the World (November 7, 2008)

Many countries place restrictive laws on NGOs to limit their activities and citizens working to improve human rights in different countries are harassed by governments. The author suggests that NGOs and other actors should monitor government actions, educate governments and NGOs about how to cooperate, as well take legal action at an international level against governments when they violate the rights of NGOs. (CIVICUS)

Promotion of Democracy Banned (September 2, 2008)

On June 3 2008, the government of Zimbabwe banned non-governmental organizations from working in the country. Three months later, the government permitted NGOs that work with humanitarian food aid to enter the country. But, the government accuses many NGOs of cooperating with the opposition and has said it will keep them under strict surveillance. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Zimbabwe Tells All Aid Groups to Halt Efforts (June 6, 2008)

Zimbabwe's government suspended all non-governmental organizations' activity in the country, accusing the groups of siding with the opposition party. Aid workers say the ruling party is ensuring that there are no witnesses to its campaign of intimidation, aimed at weakening the opposition party before the presidential elections. Relief agencies estimate that the measures will deprive two million people of food aid and other basic assistance. (New York Times)

Give Civil Societies Aid Watchdog Role (May 25, 2008)

The Arab Non-Governmental Organization Network for Development urges Arab NGOs to demand a bigger role in monitoring how their governments use international aid funds. A "part of any aid should go directly to civil societies" argues Abulnabi Al Ekry the Bahraini representative for the NGO Network, noting that this is not the case in many countries. Al Ekry stresses the need for independent bodies to monitor the distribution and allocation of aid money in order to ensure effective spending and avoid governmental misuse of funds. (Gulf Daily News)

Trials of Muslim Charities Likened to a Witch-Hunt (April 21, 2008)

This article argues that the US government has undermined charity work through a tactic of guilt by association to target NGOs it suspects finance terrorism. US law criminalizes organizations that provide support for specially designated terrorists; yet federal statutes do not define this term. Therefore, the government may freeze the operations of whichever organizations it chooses, and treats these NGOs as guilty until they prove their innocence. (Inter Press Service)

Civil Society Development Important for a Nation (March 19, 2008)

NGOs across the developing world unite scattered individuals to pressure for tangible government reform. In Rwanda, for example, NGOs have helped spread democratic principles in the wake of conflict. This article describes how groups traditionally skeptical of non-state organizations, like Muslim communities of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, are engaging in pro-democracy activism thanks to the mediation of NGOs. (New Times)

The Global Links Initiative Story (March 11, 2008)

There are numerous NGOs in urban areas in China, but none can acquire non-profit status due to the lack of a legal framework. Without access to domestic funding, Chinese NGOs must rely on international aid. But as the Chinese economy develops, donor countries and foundations are decreasing their financial support. The absence of NGO help during the heavy 2008 snow storms in Southern China is a tragic consequence. This article by the executive director of Global Links Initiative looks to the emerging class of new rich Chinese philanthropists to remedy the domestic funding dilemma. (Policy Innovations)

Haiti's Catch-22 (February 27, 2008)

NGOs and foreign charities provide 85 percent of services in Haiti. No wonder, argues political activist Patrick Elie in Dominion, that NGOs slowly remove all the flesh from the state. In a country brutalized by successive coups and grinding poverty, foreign aid institutions control the machinery that should be in the hands of the state. Elie concludes a plague of NGOs has eroded Haitian sovereignty.

Defending Civil Society: A Report of the World Movement for Democracy (February 2008)

This International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) report looks at the dangers facing NGO activists, such as imprisonment, disappearances and "quasi-legal" obstacles like barriers of entry. Governments often justify their infringements on NGOs as attempts to enhance NGOs' "accountability" and "transparency." The report looks at international norms and conventions that protect NGOs from government intrusion, such as the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference. The ICNL calls upon international organizations and governments to monitor the enforcement of these principles in order to ensure safe conditions for NGO workers.


US Counterterrorism Developments Impacting Charities (December 2007)

US counterterrorism policies have placed severe restrictions on the NGO sector, with the Treasury freezing funds of NGOs with Islamic links. The FBI has used anti-terrorism resources to track groups that object to the government's policies and courts have closed NGOs after one-sided hearings. However, NGOs can push for positive reform. NGOs should collectively pressure the administration to use the frozen funds for charitable purposes and oversee non profits according to transparent rules, the author urges. (International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law)

Don't Cramp the NGO's Style (August 8, 2007)

This Mail & Guardian article argues that some governments use regulatory constraints on NGOs in order to achieve political ends. The author states that governments will often applaud NGOs when they provide humanitarian services but then condemn or restrict them when they advocate for improved policies and "demand accountability from the state." The Zambian government, for example, has introduced a bill that would give the government authority over the NGO sector.

What Happens to Governments When Aid Agencies Are Around? (April 12, 2007)

This AlertNet opinion piece points out the dilemma that arises when NGOs appear to compete with the governments of poor countries. The author argues that, by dominating the delivery of social services “widely considered the government's responsibility“ NGOs risk "creating a negligent state." The article highlights the need for countries to coordinate with the NGO sector so as to provide the best assistance to those who need it most.

NGOs in China: Development Dynamics and Challenges (April 2007)

Chinese law bans social groups like migrant laborers and laid-off workers from forming NGOs. Government officials also disband NGOs they claim duplicate the work of others. Disabled people, for example, cannot form NGOs because of a government-initiated Disabled Persons' Federation, even though a number of families in this study feel the Federation does not represent their interests. When individuals criticize restrictions on NGOs, the government appeases them with pay or silences them with threats. This paper argues that the state-society relationship in China wrecks the social utility of NGOs. (University of Nottingham China Policy Institute)


Democratisation, NGOs and "Colour Revolutions" (January 19, 2006)

This essay describes how NGOs sometimes serve as tools for US geopolitical interests. By mobilizing support for government change, NGOs can provide a more legitimate means for the US government to directly support the opposition in a country. Examples from Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan illustrate how NGOs can organize protests that receive much media attention and lead to changes in government. But, in countries such as Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, NGOs do not receive the same support by the US, since their governments are more loyal to US government interests. (OpenDemocracy)

Foreign NGOs Suspend Work in Russia (October 19, 2006)

Several foreign NGOs working in Russia, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, had to discontinue their activities after failing to meet a registration deadline. The cumbersome process included demands for NGOs to submit names, passport details and phone numbers of all Russian-based employees as well as a detailed work plan for 2007. Though Russia's President Vladimir Putin has defended the controversial NGO law as a matter of national security, it clearly demonstrates the Russian government's desire for control over such basic freedoms. (Reuters)

Foreign NGOs Rush to Beat Registration Deadline (October 16, 2006)

In June 2006, the Russian government imposed an October 18, 2006 deadline for all foreign NGOs operating in the country to 'reregister or close down'. The impending deadline has forced groups to divert a considerable amount of time and resources from their regular activities to the overly bureaucratic registration process. These new regulations reflect Moscow's attempts to clamp down on organizations which challenge its policies on human rights and press freedom. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Civil Society Feels Conservatives' Wrath (July 3, 2006)

Since Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, conservatives have tried to reverse the previous government's liberal trends by suppressing NGOs, journalists, women's groups and other activists. Iranian NGOs fear that the Ahmadinejad Administration seeks to create "counterfeit" NGOs that support the government's official viewpoints rather than voice society's interests. However, given the growing media focus on Iran, the government cannot use direct measures to control NGOs without attracting international criticism. (IPS Terraviva)

Chinamasa Attacks Civil Society at UN Human Rights Council Inauguration (June 22, 2006)

Zimbabwe's Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, berated local NGOs, charging that Western nations use them to cause political unrest "against the popularly elected government." A spokesman for the National Association of NGOs (NANGO) dismissed Chinamasa's scathing comments as unsubstantiated, saying that NGOs have stepped in to help the once-prosperous society where the government has failed. Formerly a member of the UN Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe stands accused of human rights violations. (SW Radio Africa)

All (Reasonably) Quiet on NGO Front- For Now (June 21, 2006)

The NGO community in South Africa fears that Pretoria's threat to introduce laws to prevent whistleblowing will discourage NGOs from voicing their concerns about government policies. NGOs that actively lobby for policy change also tend to receive less funding than NGOs which only provide services. This TerraViva article draws attention to the limits that financing problems and conservative legislation can impose on NGOs' activities. (IPS Terraviva)

Civil Society's Policy-Making Role a Work In Progress (June 19, 2006)

NGO representatives in Kenya complain that the government often does not consult with their groups beyond the primary stages of public policymaking. They charge that the government approaches NGOs to "rubberstamp what it has already decided on." Seeking to improve the democratic system, NGOs launched a campaign to educate citizens about a Nairobi-backed constitution, ultimately rejected, that would have given more power to the president. (IPS Terraviva)

Why NGOs Will Never Change the World (April 14, 2006)

The nature of the relationship between NGOs and governments can limit NGO development initiatives, especially when governments view NGOs as their competitors. The author of this article rejects the notion that NGOs operating in Africa avoid political affiliations. He argues that while giving NGOs the opportunity to work in a country, establishing a good rapport with the local government also compromises the NGOs' accountability to the people they intend to help. (Arusha Times)

Chinese Turn to Civic Power as New Tool (April 11, 2006)

The New York Times reports that the Chinese government faces growing pressure from an increasing number of NGOs and civil society advocates. Although police still attempt to hinder NGO action, many Chinese authorities now recognize the limitation of government action in many areas and the value of NGOs' contribution. Chinese advocates stated that previously "if you raised issues, the government basically ignored you," but that "nowadays, there will be feedback."

NGOs Losing Privileged Status (January 31, 2006)

NGOs are facing increased regulation by governments such as Russia and bodies such as the the European Commission. As governments increasingly rely on NGOs for information and analysis, they want to further regulate and monitor NGO activities that impact on decision making, as well as NGOs that have differing political objectives. Some NGOs choose to work with governments and participatory processes and funding has been established, however other NGOs express concern that such relationships compromise independence. (Epoch Times)

Putin Signs Restrictive NGO Bill (January 17, 2006)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill aimed at regulating the work of NGOs, in particular those that are focused on an independent media and freedom of the press. This coupled with the closing of two British and German NGOs in the Republic of Ingushetia (Russian territory) for engaging in unspecified "unlawful" activities signifies a worrying trend of state regulation over NGO operations. (Committee to Protect Journalists)




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