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Civil Society under Government Regulation of Foreign Funding: Cases of Russia and Hungary

Student: Ekaterina Gapon

Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences

Educational Programme: Political Analysis and Public Policy (Master)

Year of Graduation: 2021

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are believed to increase their role in improving the quality of life in the countries in which they are based by addressing social problems and carrying out a variety of socially useful activities. NGOs are an essential and integral part of civil society on an equal footing with voluntary organizations, knowledge producers and consumers, multi-stakeholder, and other organizations beyond state and business. In recent years we have seen the introduction of various laws restricting the activities of non-profit and non-governmental organizations and affecting civil society sector in general. In this study, we will focus on the different types of foreign funding regulations, which are called differently in different countries and vary in the degree and types of restrictions. This study attempts to answer the question of what are specifics of the political process, which allows democratic countries impose restrictions on the work of civil society organisations similar to those imposed by authoritarian countries. The empirical part of this paper is based on interviews with Russian and Hungarian experts, who are part of relevant organizations in the field of human rights protection. Applying the policy cycle theory and network theory the author has identified specifics of the political process that leads to restrictive policies towards NGOs and highlight how the affected NGOs address the restrictions. The author concluded, inside initiation models of agenda-setting, limited engagement of knowledge-based policy communities’ members that are outside the government, and inexplicably hurried manner of legislation passing stand behind the adoption of regulations that negatively affect civil society in both authoritarian regimes and partially democratic ones. The research findings show that governments tend to cut or even halt foreign funding for civil society in countries where there has been a gradual deterioration in human rights for at least 5-7 years. As a response to the restrictive policy of the states, NGOs joined subnetworks that formed out of a large civil society network.

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