Tempering Transnational Advocacy? The Effect of Repression and Regulatory Restriction on Transnational NGO Collaborations
Special Issue Article In: Global Policy
This paper examines through qualitative study the effect of government regulatory restriction and repression on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in transnational advocacy. The focus is on NGO’s advocacy activities, in the realm of human rights, environment, labor and development in particular, using illustrations from Bangladesh and Zambia. It finds that next to some NGOs disbanding and moving towards service activities, many NGOs shift in terms of substantive advocacy and form of organizational collaboration. To continue cross-border interactions with their foreign partners, many NGOs adjust to circumvent or compensate for restrictions and repression. Because of this, transnational advocacy can be said to continue, but repression and restrictions have significant substantive and organizational effects for the collaborations studied, and cross-border NGO collaborations in our sample are increasingly fragile and their advocacy more tempered.
Policy makers should take note that as a result of repressions and restrictions, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) devoted to labor and human rights, are disbanding, reducing and/or ceasing transnational advocacy activity.
Policy makers should note that as a result of repression and restrictions, NGOs committed to labor, human rights, development and environmental themes are creating a more tempered form of transnational advocacy, that adjusts for the targets, issue and language of advocacy, with significant implications for the role that transnational NGO advocacy plays in domestic and international politics.
Policy makers should note that as a result of repression and restrictions, NGOs are creating a more opaque, secretive and improvised type of cross-border collaboration, rendering those collaborations more fragile and cumbersome.
Donors supporting NGO programs, should take into account the changes in advocacy as a result of repression and restrictions, and consider flexible types of support that accommodate NGO concerns and allow for agency of NGOs in restrictive and repressive regimes.
Chr. Michelsen Institute
Director of Research and Programs,
Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR)