Hivos International

Hivos, AFA and FRIDE Launch Project Foreign Funding in the Arab World: Myth and Reality of a Political Tool

Project's One-Pager

The issue of ‘foreign funding’ to local civil and political society, and the political agendas associated with it, remain a highly sensitive issue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) following the ‘Arab Spring’. By mid-2012, it has become clear that the ouster of aging dictators has not abolished either their regimes or their practices. Branding civil society activists and organisations who receive foreign funding as agents of the West aiming at regime change is a common tactic that contributes to perceptions of a presumed ‘conspiracy’ behind foreign funding. The recent campaign against local and international NGOs in Egypt illustrates how the notorious ‘foreign funding dilemma’ retains a sadly pressing relevance. Perceptions vary according to the type, origin, destination and stated purpose of foreign funds. Publicly debated perceptions and actual facts and figures on foreign funding flows differ greatly. Moreover, debates on foreign funding are typically focused on Western support for local democracy and human rights activists, while neglecting alternative channels in which money flows across borders and may attempt to influence domestic political developments.  Finally, the motivations of both domestic and international actors to use funding – or the perceptions thereof – as a tool to advance their political agendas, is often poorly understood.

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