Hivos International


In Libya, political civil society is a novelty. Mostly banned under Muammar Gaddafi, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have mushroomed in post-2011 Libya thanks to newly acquired freedoms. The influx of foreign donors to the previously isolated country, providing technical and financial assistance, has contributed to building up the capacities of the Libyan NGO sector.

During the last decade, Iran has witnessed a modest revival of labour activism. Not a week goes by without reports of demonstrations, strikes or other forms of protest against lay-offs, low or non-payment of wages, hazardous working conditions and so on. At the same time, labour  activists are subjected to arrest and violence, while independent trade unions are banned. Thus, the issues of labour activism and democracy are tightly connected. This working paper aims to analyze the development of labour activism in Iran and its relationship with the wider struggles for democratic transformation.

Working paper 3 discusses Civil Society en Democratization in Yemen. One part describes and analyzes the persistence in Yemen of what could be called a traditional civil society comprising of tribal and religious actors, who traditional as they may be, are also engaged in modernization processes. The second section will highlight the emergence of more modern actors since unification who, often benefiting from foreign support, are developing a new agenda and, in their own way, are responding to a specific framing of issues (development, Human rights, gender) produced internationally. Finally, the focus will shift to the different challenges and prospects facing the various civil society actors and how these often limit their capacity to take an active part in the democratization process.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.

Many articles have been written on democratization. The focus often lies on the ‘pluralist’ notion, in which civil society is believed to be the most important stimulus for democratization. Much less, though increasing, attention is paid to the ‘critical’ notion, in which political society is considered to be the main driver of democratic reform. Recently however, scholars have come to understand that both notions, in which concepts are studied isolated, fall short in explaining democratic transition. Following that insight, researchers have begun to focus on the link between civil and political society within the democratization process. The relation between both concepts is the core of the ‘hybrid’ notion.

Working paper 5 is the result of a review of the work of IKV Pax Christi in Morocco in the period 2007 – 2009. The review is commissioned by IKV Pax Christi to the University of Amsterdam and conducted by Dr. Francesco Cavatorta. IKV Pax Christi has co-organized a series of debates between Islamists and secularists in Morocco as part of a programme with Press Now entitled ‘Democratization through the media’. In these debates, participants discussed about various actual political problems in Morocco.

This publication studies how the relationship between the state and the business community in Morocco has changed over the past two decades. Recent scholarship by social scientists on political change in the Middle East and North Africa has mostly focused on civil society. Relatively less attention has been paid to the role of business associations.

This paper provides an analysis of the state of civil society and democratization in Jordan. It analyzes the nature of the governing system and its institutions, examines the state of democracy in the kingdom, the nature of the regime and the ruling elite (including key ethnic components), the status of economic liberalization, the role of religion in political life, the nature of political opposition and the question of deliberalization.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.

This paper focuses on those countries in Eastern Europe and South America where civil society emerged as a cause celebre in the successful transition to democracy: Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.It offers a theoretical analysis of precisely how civil society was conceptualized by its protagonists in their pre-democratic contexts by studying their writings from the pre-democratic period. The latter have been largely ignored in later narratives which chart a linear progression from brave western-oriented dissidents to mass mobilization to liberal democracy. Studying the original documents may provide new clues as to how these ‘dissidents’, for want of a better word, saw the nature of the regime, how they conceptualized civil society and the sources of its power, and what exactly their democratic aspirations where.

Democracy promotion has had a tough decade, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. In Working Paper 12 Steven Heydemann reviews the policy paper Beyond Orthodox Approaches: Assessing Opportunities for Democracy Support in the Middle East and North Africa.

Looking at historical facts, it becomes clear that non-democratic government has been the norm for most of human history. Nevertheless, much of the existing (western-oriented) literature focuses on ideals of democracy and on democratization-issues. Besides being the historical dominant political system, there are more reasons to study non-democratic regimes. It highlights the moral ambiguities and contrasts involved in government and politics, it illustrates differences of the structural behavior of different types of non-democratic rule and it offers a comparative perspective on democracy.

This paper analyzes non-democratic regimes and introduces a general model, in which (de)stabilizing factors/influences on non-democratic regimes are combined. This model can be used as a toolbox in order to analyze non-democratic regime stability in specific cases.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.