Value Clash: Civil Society, Foreign Funding, and National Sovereignty

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For centuries, the principles of national sovereignty and noninterference in internal affairs that arose in Western Europe were central to international relations. Recently, however, this framework has been weaked considerably through a number of mechanisms and practices, including international institutions and allied nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Furthermore, while NGOs are formally independent actors as reflected in their self-descriptions, the boundaries have become blurred, and favored advocacy groups are often closely connected to governments, including as recipients of funding provided to influence the policies and politics of other states. In many Western countries, millions of dollars, pounds, and euros are allocated annually directly to advocacy NGOs active in other countries, or indirectly for distribution to NGOs via international organizations such as by various UN agencies.

Many of the recipients are global actors such as Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières, which possess substantial resources. These groups openly seek to influence the policies of governments and international institutions such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the late twentieth century, international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in particular gained standing to participate in the deliberations and activities of international organizations, and their influence has been significant.

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About the Authors

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald Steinberg is founder and president of NGO Monitor and professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University. He is the founder of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University. His research focuses on the changing nature of power in international relations, as reflected in Middle East Diplomacy and Security, The Politics of Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Israeli Politics and Arms Control.

Becca Wertman