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24 Apr 2018

First victims or last guardians?

The consequences of rule of law backsliding for NGOs - Case studies of Hungary and Poland

Małgorzata Szuleka

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The rule of law crisis, which evolved into a detrimental to democratic standards process of changing the entire system of the state, has also deeply influenced the condition and functioning of the civil society sector. The gradual erosion of the checks and balances system accelerates the process of limiting the operational space and independence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This paper focuses on NGOs perceived as organisations independent from the state, working at the national or local levels in the public purpose, and whose role is to monitor the actions of the state (also known as watchdog organisations). The paper focuses on the effects of rule of law backsliding on the NGOs’ scope and methods of work, at the same time it shows how civil society organisations try to adjust to the changing reality.

This publication has been carried out within the framework of the ENGAGE Fellowship Programme. The Fellowship Programme counts with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE). It is a tailor-made Programme that connects academic, civil society and think tank actors from Central and Eastern European and Western Balkans countries with EU-level policy debates. It consists of a one-year programme providing a set of trainings, study visits, public events and a policy brief writing exercise. The ENGAGE Fellowship takes a Rule of Law approach to the policy domains of Rights, Security and Economics.

Malgorzata Szuleka is a Lawyer and Researcher at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, Poland.

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