Jonas Wolff | 2018

The Delegitimization of Civil society Organizations. Thoughts on Strategic Responses to the “Foreign Agent” Charge

in: César Rodríguz-Garavito/Krizna Gomez (eds.): Rising to the Populist Challenge. A New Playbook for Human Rights Actors, Bogotá: Dejusticia, 129–137.

The phenomenon of closing civic space essentially reflects a political struggle over the legitimate role of civil society organizations in public affairs as well as over the legitimate role of the state in regulating such civil society activities. The public sphere is a key site in which this struggle is waged. In general, in the context of closing spaces, governments publicly define increasingly narrow limits as to what kinds of civil society organizations and activities are to be considered appropriate. Based on such a definition of standards of appropriateness, governments may then publicly criticize individual civil society organizations (CSOs) with a view to designating them as, in one way or another, outside the realm of legitimate civic behavior.

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