What drives the crackdown on NGOs, and how can it be stopped?

From 1993 to 2012, 39 of the world’s 153 low and middle-income countries enacted restrictive laws on foreign funding to civil society organizations, both domestic and international. In some cases, these governments banned overseas funding for local actors outright, while in other instances, they imposed new rules restricting which locally-operating NGOs could receive aid, and for what purpose.

Both activists and experts have been sounding the alarm about efforts to roll back civil society. New research, recently published in the journal World Development, sheds light on the crackdown’s triggers and possible remedies. Using original data on the new laws, our statistical analysis suggests that higher levels of foreign aid inflows are associated with higher chance of legal crackdowns. Moreover, the risk of a crackdown increases when the country faces nationally competitive elections.

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