June 18, 2009

A Crackdown on Philanthropy Overseas?

Proposed new regulations in the central Asian country of Azerbaijan could greatly hinder charities and international aid groups and could be part of a growing crackdown on foreign philanthropy by authoritarian governments.

According to EurasiaNet, a Web site supported by the Open Society Institute that provides news about Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Azerbaijan parliament is considering rules that would ban nonprofit groups that received more than half of their support from foreign sources and prohibit foreigners from creating charities.

The government says the regulations would not cause problems for nonprofit groups, but charity leaders and others argue that they would hobble the development of democracy and human rights.

Azerbaijan is not alone in its effort to change rules governing charities. Belarus, Ethiopia, and other nations have sought to impose similar restrictions this year.

In a Chronicle article about how the recession is hindering global philanthropy, Douglas Rutzen, president of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, in Washington, said that the financial crisis may push some countries to “close civic space” because of concerns about economic unrest. (A paid subscription or free temporary pass is required to view the article.)

What do you think? Does the slowdown in the global economy contribute to efforts by foreign governments to limit the role of nonprofit groups? What other factors are involved in these policies? Click on the comment button below to share your views.