Civil Society Organizations, Law & Democracy
My primary research project at the moment is my dissertation, which is on the spread of undemocratic civil society laws in democratic states. It’s tentative, ever- changing title is: The Associational Counter-Revolution:The Rise & Spread of Undemocratic Civil Society Laws in Democratic States.
My dissertation asks: Why are an increasing number of democratic states, including long-standing, consolidated democracies, traditionally the champions and funders of civil society, adopting laws that reduce civil society organizations’ (CSOs) autonomy from the state?
This perplexing phenomenon is part of a broader global trend to subject CSOs to greater government control, which began in earnest at the turn of the 21st century and has been gaining momentum and intensity ever since. A variety of illegal and extralegal tactics are used by states to minimize the influence and independence of CSOs around the globe, but the modern tool of choice appears to be the law. In an increasing number of states, representing all regime types, in all regions, with all levels of economic and military strength, civil society’s autonomy is being slowly chipped, and in some cases entirely stripped, away through the passage of specific types of laws: law restricting CSOs’ ability to form, operate, assemble, receive tax benefits, and access funding, particularly foreign funding.
Interestingly, these laws seem to be contagious: they are not only slipping across borders, but leaping across regions and transcending continents, to influence the legal contents of laws in far flung countries. They are not only appearing in authoritarian countries, but (increasingly) in democratic states too, including fully consolidated democracies: India, New Zealand, Spain, Israel, Hungary and Poland, just to name a few. While their appearance in authoritarian countries is predictable, their passage in democratic states is puzzling.
Based on an original dataset compiling all laws impacting CSOs in all democratic states from 1990-2018, my dissertation will trace the rise, spread, and extent of restrictive CSO legislation in democratic states throughout the globe. In addition to creating a novel way of coding laws based on their level of restrictiveness, my dissertation will also attempt to isolate the triggering factors that compel states to adopt such laws, evaluating whether domestic or international-level factors, or some combination of both, can explain (and therefore predict) their existence. In the course of assessing this global phenomenon, I hope to highlight the important roles played by CSOs in world politics and contemporary international relations.
The Role of Cities in International Relations
I am the principal investigator on a project entitled City Networks, Global Governance, and the Global Parliament of Mayors.
The Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) convenes for the annual summit in Bristol, UK in November, 2018. During this summit city network leaders will gather to discuss shared priorities and strategies for maximizing their effectiveness on the global stage. This project is designed to assist the GPM to prepare for this historic gathering, to facilitate a productive conversation among network leaders, and to and scope out a plan of action for more cooperation and collaboration among networks. The project will culminate in a joint White Paper between Georgetown and the GPM.
This research project has many exciting components. The key ones include: Mapping the scale and breadth of issues covered by existing city-to-city networks, providing a visual overview of the “city network landscape,” and completing a white paper that analyzes the different functions these networks play in global governance.