U.S. Democracy Promotion Efforts Face New Resistance

02.01.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

U.S. Government-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work to advance civil society in developing countries are encountering new obstacles that impede their progress, according to a recent staff study for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Increasingly, governments around the world have tightened their controls on foreign NGOs by passing laws to restrict their ability to work independently from government approval,” wrote Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) in a transmittal letter.

There is a “backlash against democracy assistance,” as the National Endowment for Democracy put it in another study, which is appended to the pdf version of the Senate report.

“In extreme cases, democracy promoters are being harassed by authorities. In some nations governments have been able to persuade their citizens that the work of NGOs and the financial assistance provided to them by the USG is a form of American interventionism,” Sen. Lugar observed.

“Thus, in some countries opposition to pro-democracy NGOs is cast as a reaffirmation of sovereignty,” he wrote.

The new Senate study assessed the current status of programs in Africa, Asia, Central Europe and Latin America, and proposed principles and recommendations to guide further work of this kind.

See “Nongovernmental Organizations and Democracy Promotion,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff report, December 22, 2006.