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Opening Civil Society Space in Ukraine and Belarus. Do Neighbors Matter?

Citizenship
Civil Society
Democratisation
Social Capital
Paulina Pospieszna
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan
Paulina Pospieszna
Collegium Polonicum

Abstract

It is well established in democratization literature of comparative politics and international relations that vibrant civil society is one of the pillars of successful democratic transition. However, nowadays the civil society has to face the global trend of “authoritarianism staging a comeback” (Burrows and Stephan 2015), resulting in the reduction of freedom and space for democratic activities (Carothers and Brechenmacher 2014). The main purpose of this paper is to analyse the response of civil society organizations in the neighboring democratic countries to the pushback, and to demonstrate efforts of civil activists in authoritarian and democratizing countries to widen democratic space through their connection with civil society representatives in neighboring democratic countries. The paper shows ways of NGOs from new EU member states to mobilize and stimulate society members to become more socially and politically active citizens. A special attention will be given to citizenship education programs with aim to evaluate their impact and to demonstrate the major differences in efforts to open the civil society space in Belarus, an authoritarian regime, and in Ukraine, a democratizing country.