ICNL logo

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 14, Issue 1-2, April 2012

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Financial Action Task Force

Counter-Terrorism, "Policy Laundering", and the FATF: Legalizing Surveillance, Regulating Civil Society
Ben Hayes

Articles

Practice Note: Egypt and the Catalyst of Constraint
Douglas Rutzen

Azerbaijani NGO Support Council: Overview of Three Years of Activity
Mahammad Guluzade and Natalia Bourjaily

Can Lead Directors Help Improve Not-For-Profit Board Performance?
Eugene H. Fram

Freedom of Association in Finland
Matti Muukkonen

- - - - - - - - - -

PDF Download this issue (PDF)

Editorial Board

Practice Note: Egypt and the Catalyst of Constraint

Douglas Rutzen 1

In the past few years, more than 50 countries have considered or enacted restrictions on civil society. The first wave of constraints occurred after the “color revolutions” in Central Europe. The second wave occurred in the wake of the Arab Spring. In their current manifestation, constraints target: (1) the freedom of assembly, (2) the formation and operation of civil society organizations (“CSOs”), and (3) the foreign funding of CSOs.

Since Egypt’s recent crackdown on civil society, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe are a few of the countries that have considered or enacted restrictions on civil society. We avoid imputing causation, recognizing that constraints are rooted in the context of each country. But when globally significant countries impose constraints, a contagion effect often follows. Accordingly, there is concern that Egypt’s crackdown will embolden additional governments to adopt restrictive measures, just as Russia’s restrictive CSO Law added momentum to the first wave of civil society legal constraints several years ago.

I. Typologies of Constraint

Civil society is confronted with a disabling legal environment in scores of countries.2 As a threshold matter, in many countries the law impedes the ability to form CSOs. For example:

Governments also employ registration laws to constrain civil society:

Even when CSOs manage to register, governments often impose limitations on their activities:

Countries also seek to impede foreign funding and international contact:

II. Recent Developments

Since 2011, countries have imposed restrictions in three general areas. First, many countries have restricted the freedom of assembly. For example:

Second, a number of countries have considered or enacted restrictive legislation burdening the formation and activities of CSOs. For example:

The third, and perhaps most common, trend relates to constraints on foreign funding. Egypt reflects the zeitgeist of constraint, but Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Venezuela, and Ecuador are a few of the other countries that have considered or adopted foreign funding restrictions. Among other examples:

In summary, recent months have marked a continuation of the “associational counter-revolution” that began in the last decade. While there has been progress in some countries, in many others, restrictive laws have been considered or enacted. In response, ICNL is engaged with country partners and the international community to help preserve safe legal space for civil society. For further information, please see www.icnl.org.

1 Douglas Rutzen is President and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

2 For a more comprehensive summary of constraints, please see the report “Defending Civil Society,” which ICNL drafted in conjunction with the World Movement for Democracy Secretariat at the NED.

 

Copyright © 2012 The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL)
ISSN: 1556-5157