By Monica O’Hearn
Overall, 2017 was a poor year for safeguarding the rights of civil society organizations (CSOs). Several countries passed draconian legislation designed to attack and stifle civil society by delegitimizing CSOs. Restrictions on civil society, which represents the collective interests of citizens, ultimately leads to a poor enabling environment for citizen engagement, one where the linkages between civil society and the State are weak and provide little or no monitoring and advocacy functions.
In June, Hungary’s parliament passed a law that required organizations receiving more than 24,000 euros ($29,500) from foreign sources to disclose their funding sources or risk being shut down. Between March and July, Ukraine proposed a number of reforms, spearheaded by President Petro Poroshenko, demanding any organization with annual budgets over approximately $18,500 to disclose its funding sources online; the rationale for the reforms was “to ensure public transparency of the financing.” And in Egypt, President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi ratified legislation in May required pre-approval of donations above 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($550) to any non-governmental organization (NGO), and restricted donations related to “political activity.”