Hivos International


What we see in global civil society depends on what value lens we use to define it. The trend towards networked organisation may have emancipatory effects, but may also obscure inequalities and clashing values. Working Paper 14 systematically describes the different expectations people have of global civil society. Each of us, Marlies Glasius suggests, carries a slightly different picture of the concept in our head. She describes the different normative connotations, normative ideal types, the new actors (or not so new actors) and the trends in global civil society.

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

Literature on democratization rarely gives attention to the ‘big picture’. More often, scholars select one (or a few) key factors which are supposedly essential for democratization to take place or for a democracy to maintain its vibrancy.As a result, many blank spots within research on democratization remain existent.

This paper goes beyond such approaches. Democratization is a highly complex matter. A holistic framework is needed and, therefore, within this paper the concepts of democracy, democratization, and democracy promotion/assistance will be dealt with in relation to each other. The main goal is to reveal those factors that are most relevant considering prospects for democratization in general - that is, those factors that have a strong positive or negative influences on the realization of democratization.These factors are inserted into a model, which can be used as a toolbox in order to analyze prospects for democratization in specific cases.

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

In this Working Paper on the state of civil society in Iran, Sohrab Razzaghi makes a number of claims and offers recommendations for bolstering independent civil society in Iran. Two of the most thought-provoking points concern the role of the UN in propping up state-sponsored and dependent civil society as opposed to independent civil society and the influx of former political insiders into independent civil society. Razzaghi writes: At present, and for the first time, an opposition has emerged from within the regime which none of the suppressive measures are able to drive into the margins. This opposition is getting increasingly stronger and has created splits among Iranian society, the clerical establishment, the government, and the people.

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

This paper analyzes the role of the judiciary in Syria’s strongly authoritarian setting wherein ‘the rule by law’ serves as a tool of repression; qualities that have far-reaching implications for foreign assistance programs on judicial reform, the rule of law and reform generally.

This paper assesses the so-called ‘first lady phenomenon’ in (semi) authoritarian context. More specifically it discusses to what extent organizations in which Queen Rania is involved affect the development of a truly independent organizational life in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Queen Rania Al Abdullah is known for her extensive list of public activities. She is founder of several Jordanian organizations, ‘NGOs’ in the Kingdom’s terminology, as well as an active lobbyist and member of several large international organizations. However, one has only to consider the fact that the Hashemite dynasty by no means has a purely ceremonial function like other royal families have. The Jordanian royal family is in fact not that different from the ‘Jordanian regime’, which makes the first lady phenomenon ambiguous at least.

This paper offers an analysis of Iran’s hardline narrative about the 2009 events in general and the Green Movement in particular. This narrative dismisses domestic challenges to the regime as a product of Western interference. The paper shows that this narrative is a product not of simple paranoia, but an inherently consistent and thought through narrative based in existing understanding of Western meddling. 

Nairobi graffiti mobilizes Kenyans for change – or not…

Gregg Mwenda & Ute Seela

Kenyans these days wake up to biting graffiti about the country’s corrupt politicians. Largely anonymous artists are calling on the people to use their vote in the next elections to bring about change. Kenyans talk about it, on the street, on the internet, radio and on TV. But Kenyans always talk, talk, talk.  Will the citizen led “WanjikũRevolution” (through the ballot) finally challenge ‘The Way Things Have Always Been Done Around Here’?

This paper comprises four case studies of communities in different parts of Uganda. All four examine how local communities deal with issues of human rights and justice, accountability, access to resources and conflict resolution. They illustrate how ‘community governance’, ‘culture’ and the State interplay when it comes to access to land, as in one of the examples.

Weak State Helps Extremism in Indonesia

Article by Pluralism Programme associate Mohammad Iqbal Ahnaf, originally published on

What can the Indonesian state do to counter radicalization? The government does not have to return to the past authoritarianism by banning radical organizations. What matters more for a strong state is consistent law enforcement against extreme activities. These include both physical activities such as violence against minorities and non-physical activities such as speeches or publications that fuel sectarian hatred.

The Supreme Court of India had to address, among others, issues of secularism from the very beginning of the independent constitution. Justice Alam’s perceptive and insightful paper lucidly presents this long history of judicial engagement regarding questions of secularism as they emerged over time in India. Although the paper primarily draws from the judgements of the Supreme Court of India, it also provides a larger analytical grid when referring to decisions of the Apex Court on minority issues.