chapter  28
Dealing with authoritarian regimes
ByOliver Walton
Pages 12

While much of the recent humanitarian literature has focused on the challenges of working in weak or ‘fragile’ states, providing assistance in the context of authoritarian rule throws up distinct and equally testing challenges for humanitarian agencies. As the quotations above illustrate, humanitarian NGOs operating in these environments are often required not only to anticipate the actions of opaque and unpredictable regimes, but also to interpret the demands of populations who may be prevented from expressing their true needs. NGOs are confronted by a range of questions in these contexts: whether they can they operate in authoritarian countries without strengthening the regime; how and under what circumstances they should ‘speak out’ against state violence or abuse in these contexts; what functions their presence may perform for authoritarian regimes; and how working with local groups may help to challenge or undermine these functions.