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Title: The Closing Space for Civil Society: Exploring a Global Trend Through India
Authors: Paine, Annelies
Advisors: Barton, Rick
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: On June 3rd 2014, new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was presented with an Indian Intelligence Bureau report on threats posed by civil society organizations, particularly those funded by foreign donors and foundations. The report accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of hurting India’s economy, delaying development projects, and posing a threat to national security. Over the next year organizations such as Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation saw their assets frozen, their names added to watch lists, or were no longer able to receive foreign funds for violations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). In total, over 9,000 NGOs in India faced violations under the FCRA. India became part of the global crackdown on civil society. NGO leaders and donors were left asking the question, why is the space for civil society closing in India? What can and should be done about it? This thesis answers these policy questions. Through a critical examination of government, NGO, and foundation documents, as well as news stories and interviews with experts, several explanations for this phenomenon emerge. First, India reflects broader global trends that contribute to the global crackdown on civil society: rising nationalism, the questioning of Western powers, the rise of technology and social media, and the global war on terror. Second, the crackdown on civil society in India has been largely directed at environmental and climate NGOs that stage protests against Indian development projects and receive funding from foreign sources. The government sees these groups as a threat to its economic goals, and uses the FCRA to limit their actions. Third, organizations that represent political opposition to the governing party or specific politicians are targeted under the FCRA. Foreign donors that work with these activists have also found themselves in hot water for funding dissent. Finally, some organizations are restricted for other reasons, such as falling out of favor with a specific bureaucrat or not filing the proper paperwork. This thesis proposes policy recommendations to the relevant stakeholders based upon the explanations for why the space for civil society is closing in India. These stakeholders include the U.S. government, the Indian government, NGOs that work in India, and foreign donors and foundations. Hopefully this thesis can begin a larger discussion on a developing and understudied phenomenon.
Extent: 106 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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