Panel discussion

Shrinking Spaces for NGOs: How Should We Deal with the Rise of Authoritarian Practices?

As part of its dissemination strategy, IDCAR hosted a panel discussion about the shrinking spaces for NGOs currently occurring alongside the rise of authoritarian practices around the world on 15 November 2017 at the Leibniz Association in Berlin. Panelists Dr Thomas Richter from GIGA (Hamburg), Saskia Brechenmacher from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington D.C., USA) and Dr Julia Duchrow from Brot für die Welt (Berlin) each presented and then discussed the topic from different angles, ranging from global and regional trends, to the different repressive and exclusionary strategies and tactics to possible counter-measures. The panel was moderated by Dr Julia Grauvogel from GIGA (Hamburg).

The roundtable highlighted the disconnect between the foreign policy decisions of Western governments that support authoritarian regimes and Western support for NGOs targeted by the same regimes. Other factors such as increased corruption and the risk averse nature of donors were also noted as reasons for shrinking spaces for NGOs during this era of worldwide democratic backslide. It was generally agreed that Western democracies need to engage more with NGOs in authoritarian regimes and provide them with short term flexible funding responses.

The panelists engaged in a vivid discussion with the audience representing the wide spectrum of the policy community, with many participants from political foundations which are especially affected by the shrinking spaces phenomenon.