The Power and Limits of NGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

The Power and Limits of NGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

The Power and Limits of NGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

The Power and Limits of NGOs: A Critical Look at Building Democracy in Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Synopsis

Since the end of the Cold War, a virtual army of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from the United States, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe have flocked to Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. These NGOs are working on such diverse tasks as helping to establish competitive political parties, elections, and independent media, as well as trying to reduce ethnic conflict. This important book is among the few efforts to assess the impact of these international efforts to build democratic institutions. The case studies presented here provide a portrait of the mechanisms by which ideas commonly associated with democratic states have evolved in formerly communist states, revealing conditions that help as well as hurt the process.

Excerpt

In an effort to promote democracy in East-Central Europe, numerous international actors focused their energies on helping women in the region respond to the challenges posed by the transition to democracy and the market. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) saw democracy assistance to women's advocacy groups as a way to counter trends that were threatening the status of women and to promote the development of independent women's movements throughout the region. This assistance has undeniably shaped the institutions, ideas, and actors in this sector, but it would be incorrect to suggest that international actors have been the sole driving force in the development of women's advocacy groups. In fact, international involvement has had a paradoxical effect on the development of women's NGOs in postcommunist countries. While international involvement has sped up the process of building a nascent women's lobby and promoted the development of a feminist consciousness, it has simultaneously resulted in the marginalization of women's NGOs that neither depend on nor seek to maintain the support of local actors or national governments.

I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Open Society Institute of New York and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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