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How State Restrictions are Reshaping Civic Space Around the World

Courtesy of Thomas Hawk/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 May 2017.

In April 2017, the Russian Ministry of Justice designated the Kola Ecological Center, a small environmental group in Russia’s Murmansk region, a “foreign agent.” The organization’s offense? It had advised regional authorities on nuclear waste handling and opposed plans to extend the run time of a local nuclear power plant—and, importantly, it had accepted Norwegian funding in the past. It now joins more than 150 Russian NGOs for whom the foreign agent label has led to crippling fines, onerous lawsuits, and, in the most extreme cases, liquidation.

Russia is not an isolated case. Governments around the world are cracking down on civil society activism. Pointing to threats of terrorism or the need to protect national sovereignty, they are erecting new barriers to the operations and funding of NGOs, harassing and demonizing civic activists, and criminalizing dissent through expansive anti-terrorism laws. Between 2014 and 2016, more than 60 countries restricted citizens’ freedom of assembly and civil society’s ability to access funding.

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Proposal of a Dignity Scale for Sustainable Governance

Image: stokpic/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the Journal of Public Policy on 29 November, 2015.

In October 2005, two North African teenagers died of electrocution in one of the banlieues of Paris as they were running from the police through a dangerous power substation. An inquiry later established the teens were innocent, and the incident sparked some of the worst unrest seen in France over the past 40 years.  The riots brought about much debate over the tense relationship between immigrant youth and the state, the recurring problems of “fracture sociale,” and a perceived lack of social justice. Above all, the protests were an expression of acute feelings of alienation experienced by a large section of society. The banlieues have been a breeding ground for deep frustration, maintaining a distinctly poor and marginalized status for decades. Unemployment is common and 36% of the banlieu residents are estimated to live below the poverty line—three times the national average. » More

The Upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Belgrade: No Reason to Celebrate

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

This article was originally published by Security and Human Rights, formerly Helsinki Monitor, on 30 November 2015.

The 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council (MC) will meet on 3 and 4 December in Belgrade, Serbia. The MC meeting, which takes place once a year in the country holding the OSCE Chairmanship, is attended by foreign ministers or their representatives from the 57 OSCE participating States as well as from the 11 Partners for Co-operation.

The Belgrade MC meeting was originally supposed to be a significant meeting at which OSCE participating States had hoped to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act with the successful conclusion of the so-called Helsinki+40 process and the adoption of a landmark OSCE document. OSCE states had planned to adopt a document that would provide strategic guidance for the Organization’s future role and for the setting up of a “common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community”, a vision that OSCE Heads of State had agreed to by consensus at the 2010 OSCE Astana Summit. » More

Benny Wenda: “West Papuans Are Living in a Prison”

This article was originally published by Contributoria.com on 1 September 2014.


Last month, as Indonesians prepared to vote for a new president, dozens of West Papuan activists were reportedly attacked by security forces for urging local people to boycott the elections. Mischa Wilmers speaks to the exiled leader of the Free West Papua movement, Benny Wenda, about his lifelong struggle for justice and asks why nobody is talking about the territory he calls ‘little South Africa.’ » More

How Qatar’s Hand Casts Syrian Shadows

Images of the crown prince and the Emir of Qatar.

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

This article was originally published by openSecurity on 1 August 2014.

The asymmetrical proxy conflict currently being fought in Syria has many interested state parties and Qatar has taken a prominent, multi-track approach to influence the outcome. The Qataris have met with Assad, armed rebels, provided facilities for the US to train militants, paid defectors and–employing a novel methodology– used the trappings of civil society in the form of a ‘report’ on torture and the coverage provided by a ‘free press’. Qatar’s participation raises some interesting questions: What is the goal of this geopolitical manoeuvring? Are they using a civil society façade to achieve  state goals? » More

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