chapter  38
16 Pages

NGOs and authoritarianism

WithAndrew Heiss

This chapter examines the theories about and the experiences of domestic and international non-governmental organizations (NGO) working in authoritarian countries. It deals with suggestions for future research on NGOs and their relationship with and role in authoritarian regimes. China’s anti-NGO law is part of a larger global trend of closing civic space in authoritarian regimes. Despite the popular image of all-powerful dictators who exert total control over their countries, authoritarians are often precariously positioned and run the risk of regime collapse or overthrow. Political institutions lie at the core of modern authoritarianism and autocracy. NGOs and other civil society organizations have become yet another democratic-appearing institution that authoritarians can use to enhance regime stability, and associational life has become a common feature of autocratic rule. NGOs frequently support and reinforce authoritarian state power in more overt ways, with civil society organizations providing governments with technical and political expertise.