Foreign Government Support for Threatened Civil Societies: Helpful or Harmful?

  • Clifford Bob
Part of the International Series on Public Policy book series (ISPP)


In recent years, the United States and other democracies have developed new programmes to support civil society in other countries. These programmes are often justified by real threats that independent non-governmental organizations, civic associations, and social movements face from authoritarian governments. However, little effort has gone into analysing whether external aid helps or harms local civil societies. This chapter explores and critiques American programmes that support threatened civil society abroad. In the light of current knowledge about how civil societies function and flourish, the chapter questions both the practical impact of these programmes and the justifications offered for them. It also tackles the important policy issue that remains: when governments threaten political and religious groups in other countries, what is the most helpful response that foreign governments can make?


Civil Society Foreign Policy External Support Civil Society Organization Authoritarian Government 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clifford Bob
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political Science and Graduate Center for Social and Public PolicyDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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