Whom do international donors support in the name of civil society?
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JournalDevelopment in Practice
Document typeJournal article
DescriptionInternational funding of civil society organisations within the framework of support for democratisation processes has increased significantly in recent years. Yet this raises a set of questions quite apart from the effectiveness of the activities of the recipient organisations. Who are these groups? Whom do they represent? What effect does international funding have on their organisational workings and their rootedness in their local societies and political systems? This article presents the results of a survey that examined the sources of financing, level of organisation, domestic constituencies, and relationships to political parties of 16 civil society groups in Latin America that received support from the National Endowment for Democracy in 1999. It finds that while the groups demonstrate a remarkable diversity in their sources of funding, all of them receive the lion's share of financing from international donors. The author argues, however, that given the scant possibilities for domestically generated funding, this dependence is to be expected. The article concludes with a series of questions about the meaning of international support for local groups in developing democracies and the potential effects it may have on de-linking such groups from their broader political and party system.