News & Updates

What Are Foreign-Agent Laws? And Why Georgia Has Erupted in Protest.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s Parliament passed a controversial new law that would brand NGOs and media organizations receiving foreign funding as “foreign agents.” The bill, known as “Russia’s law” for its similarities to Putin’s own version of this repressive tool, represents a turn away from Europe and Western democracy. Tens of thousands of Georgians have been in the streets protesting the bill ­— before and after its passage — and met with violent police crackdowns. The strength and resolve of Georgia’s civil society, argues Ghia Nodia in a new Journal of Democracy online exclusive, is the country’s only hope for safeguarding its democratic freedoms.

Countries across the globe are following the Russian model and painting liberal-democratic values as malign foreign interference. The following Journal of Democracy essays reveal the strategies autocrats are devising to repress civil society and stifle dissent.

Why Georgia Has Erupted in Protest
The country is at risk of collapsing into a full Russian autocracy, and Georgians understand it as a make-or-break moment. The strength and resolve of the country’s civil society will decide the outcome.
Ghia Nodia

Putin versus Civil Society: Outlawing the Opposition
The Putin regime, having faced its first real challenge in the form of mass protests after the 2011 Duma elections, is responding with a series of laws intended to intimidate its civil society opposition, if not stamp it out altogether.
Miriam Lanskoy and Elspeth Suthers

Viktor Orbán’s Newest Tool for Crushing Dissent
He has created a new office with massive investigatory powers that are vaguely defined and leave everyone on edge. In other words, it’s classic Orbán.
Sándor Ésik

Authoritarianism Goes Global (II): Civil Society Under Assault
Once widely celebrated, civil society today is regarded as a threat by many governments, leading them to restrict its funding and activities.
Douglas Rutzen

Authoritarianism Goes Global: Countering Democratic Norms
Favored by global conditions that lean their way, authoritarians have been busy over the last decade coming up with new and inventive ways to thwart the global advance of democracy and human rights.
Alexander Cooley

Defunding Dissent: Restrictions on Aid to NGOs
A number of countries including Russia and post-Mubarak Egypt are taking aggressive steps to limit or stop foreign funds from flowing to domestic NGOs that promote human rights and democracy. What is driving this trend, how far will it go, and what can be done to counter it?
Darin Christensen and Jeremy M. Weinstein

China at the UN: Choking Civil Society
Beijing is using red tape, procedural rules, and a little help from its authoritarian allies to strangle NGOs seeking to participate in the world body.
Rana Siu Inboden

Is Central America Doomed?
Of course not. But the region’s democratic hopes are fighting an uphill battle against corruption, crime, and a violent past.
Mateo Jarquín, Rachel A. Schwartz, and Kai M. Thaler

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Image Credit: GIORGI ARJEVANIDZE/AFP via Getty Images