Non-governmental organizations, or N-G-Os, play an essential role in the development of democracy. But a growing number of governments are placing burdensome restrictions on N-G-Os.
Russia is a case in point. The government there recently passed a law that could cripple the work of many N-G-Os and retard Russia’s democratic development. The law imposes on foreign N-G-Os extensive reporting requirements, including quarterly financial reports and annual reports on planned activities. Officials have the authority to order foreign N-G-Os to cease funding for a particular program or to shut the organization down entirely. The U.S. is urging Russia not to hinder the vital work of N-G-Os.
Non-governmental organizations also face serious challenges in Belarus. The government of President Alexander Lukashenko uses tax inspections and registration requirements to complicate or deny the ability of N-G-Os, independent media, political parties, and religious groups to operate legally. All but a handful of human rights N-G-Os have been denied registration.
In Uzbekistan, the government engages in persecution to suppress the work of N-G-Os. Since the May 2005 uprising in Andijan, the government has harassed, beaten, or jailed dozens of human rights activists, civil society activists, and independent journalists, many of them associated with N-G-Os. The government has also forced domestic and international N-G-Os, including Freedom House, to close down.
Non-governmental organizations are critical to the development of civil society. Restricting the work of N-G-Os only limits a society’s political and economic growth. Barry Lowenkron is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He said, “A state that tries to control everything from the center becomes brittle. A society that allows broad participation by its citizens in national life is a society that will flourish from the contributions of its own people.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.