GP_SI Introduction


 Restricting NGOs: From Pushback to Accommodation

Kendra Dupuy, Luc Fransen & Aseem Prakash (2021)

Special Issue Introduction In: Global Policy

Civil society organizations (CSOs), also known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or nonprofits, are facing difficult times. Since the mid-2000s, scholars, policy makers, and activists have been sounding alarm bells over the growing tendency of governments around the globe to restrict the ability of civil society groups to form, operate, advocate for particular causes, receive and use resources, and network with other actors. Different labels have been ascribed to this phenomenon, including ‘shrinking civic space’, ‘closing civic space’, and ‘closing civil society space’ (Brechenmacher and Carothers, 2019; Buyse, 2018; Malena, 2015; van der Borgh and Terwindt, 2012). While these labels vary in their meaning, clarity, and usefulness, what does seem to be clear is that there has been a significant and negative global shift in state-civil society relations since the turn of the millennium, with organizations increasingly unable to operate as freely as they could in earlier periods.

The contributions in this special issue add to this growing literature, examining trends in the clampdown on CSOs, how particular types of organizations are impacted (including the ways in which restrictions impact on organizational operations), how restrictions can change the balance between civil society actors with rival ideological perspectives, how restrictions can enable the rise of new civil society actors attacking existing CSOs, and how restrictions can shape popular attitudes and donor funds. Importantly, the contributions in this issue shed light on how organizations respond to restrictions and attempt to push back against states. Finally, several papers widen the analytical lens beyond the organization and examine the impact of closing civil society space on larger social, political, and economic outcomes.



Kendra Dupuy

Affiliated Researcher,
Chr. Michelsen Institute