The global war against NGOs

By Editorial Board, Washington Post

IN THE early 1990s, foundations supported by the billionaire George Soros extended grants to teachers, scientists and others set adrift by the Soviet collapse, supporting projects such as writing honest history textbooks, assuring the survival of Russia’s thick literary journals and connecting universities to the Internet. Now, in an act of supreme ingratitude, Russia under President Vladi­mir Putin has blacklisted the Soros foundations as “undesirable” organizations, effectively forcing them to halt grant-making.

In Uganda, legislation has just been approved giving the authorities sweeping powers to control nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including a vague provision barring any activity “prejudicial to the dignity of the people of Uganda.” China is drafting a law on NGOs that would not allow foreign funding and impose other restrictions. Egypt has dissolved hundreds of NGOs, many connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and those that remain are under close scrutiny and often harassed. Burundi, which has been wracked by violent political turmoil this year, has shut down a number of NGOs, accusing them of “insurrection” against the government.

This is all part of a determined war against NGOs by authoritarian regimes, and it is accelerating. The work of these organizations was never easy, saving lives and protecting rights in the most inhospitable environments, but increasingly, autocrats and their state machinery are erecting permanent barriers to funding, operations and freedoms.

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