The enthusiasm for civil society that emerged in the late 1980s and 1990s with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the spread of democratic regimes has been replaced in recent years by a backlash against civil society on many levels and fronts. This has particularly intensified since the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the ensuing global war on terror. This article examines the causes of this backlash within the context of the ‘Long War on Terror’, describes the overt and implicit manifestations of the backlash, and reflects upon the implications for the future. It considers how the growing prominence of concerns about security and the concomitant expansion of counter-terrorist measures across the world threaten the spaces for civil society to flourish and act. It argues that while the manifestations of the backlash, such as the crackdown on NGOs in Russia and the taming of NGOs by bilateral and multilateral agencies, may appear to be disparate, unconnected phenomena, on closer inspection it is clear that they are intricately intertwined.
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