Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Anti-NGO legislation increases across the globe

Civil Society Squeezed On All Sides

Non-Government Development Aid organizations are seeing more and more restrictions put against them by governments across the globe. Often the restrictions come from countries that claim to be democracies. Carey Biron of the Inter Press Service attended a panel discussion in Washington that focused on the issue.

 A year and a half after the international wake-up call of the Arab Spring uprisings, the room for civil society organisations is being increasingly constricted across the globe, experts in Washington warned on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the trends have been against democracy, against expansion of that space of civil society,” Maina Kiai, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of assembly, told a panel discussion here.
“With more and more restrictions coming up to take away these rights, we are at a point where we have begun the fight again. This time it’s much more subtle, much more ‘rule by law’ than ‘rule of law’, and it’s very scary.”
Kiai highlighted anti-NGO legislation currently pending or recently passed in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Russia and elsewhere.

Kiai says that international donors are not only failing to ensure that democratic gains are strengthened in several quasi-democracies but, in some cases, are actively exacerbating existing problems.
“Globally, donor countries are beginning to move towards accepting the Chinese model of development,” Kiai says. “Recently, the poster children for development have been Ethiopia and Rwanda – countries that do not have democracy but where the rates of development are going up.”
During the Arab Spring, he says, Tunisia showed that a country can have strong development figures but still have “an anger in society” that needs to be addressed.
“For some reason, the lessons of the Arab Spring are not moving across the world – the understanding that you cannot have sustainable development without democracy,” Kiai notes. “Everybody’s fawning over Ethiopia, but why are we doing this without trying to understand the sustainability of that assistance?”
While Ethiopia today is regularly touted for its sparkling new airport and highway system, the government under the two-decade-plus rule of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has increasingly cracked down on civil rights, including the recent jailing of two dozen journalists and opposition figures under highly contested anti-terrorism laws.

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