Distract, Divide, Detach - Using Transparency and Accountability to Justify Regulation of Civil Society Organizations

2018/01/04

This resource from Transparency and Accountability Initiative, examines an aspect of the global trend of shrinking civic space in which governments invoke transparency and accountability to justify restrictions on CSOs that are active in politics and advocacy.

This paper includes an overview of recent legal initiatives against civil society, such as minimum requirements on access to finances, penalties for membership in unauthorized CSOs, and government approval to join international networks. The resource also outlines three arguments governments invoke to regulate CSOs, which are transparency of funding, especially foreign funding; asset and income disclosure for CSO leaders; and detailed accountability requirements. Though such regulations appear reasonable, in practice they impose intrusive requirements and overreaching enforcement mechanisms on CSOs that can obstruct or halt their activities. By using transparency and accountability to frame regulations, governments place CSOs on the defensive, marking them as privileged foreign entities that lack broad local constituencies.

Section 3 provides eighteen clear recommendations for both donors and CSOs to undertake in the short, mid and long term to improve CSO resilience in contexts of closing civic space, while continuing to promote transparency and accountability in governance.

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