Promoting Sustainable Civic Activism or a “Divided Civil Society”? Western Strategies of Supporting Civil Society in Ukraine

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
JWS - Room J10 (J355) (University of Glasgow)
Susann Worschech , European Studies, European University Viadrina
Sustainability and transformation are key words referred to in debates and policies of external democracy promotion in post-socialist countries. In particular, a strong and 'sustainable' civil society is still regarded as a crucial precondition for successful and – again – sustainable democratisation processes. Besides the EU and other multilateral organisations, development agencies and foundations, many embassies of European and other western countries do play a key role in providing grants and promoting ideas of civic activism. But despite the ambitious goals of democracy promotion, in many post-socialist societies, polarised or even 'divided' civil societies did emerge. Based on empirical evidence from Ukraine, I argue that whether and why civil society becomes either vibrant and diverse or polarized and divided is depending on the strategies of external democracy assistance.

Following Charles Tilly, civil society contributes to democratic transformations by altering the relations between citizens and government. My paper examines the different approaches of external civil society assistance in Ukraine and presents a typology of donor strategies. Based on detailed empirical analyses of interaction networks, I show how the strategies of empowering Ukrainian civil society became aligned and influenced action repertoires and foci of civic organizations, and how civil society actors manage to deal with the plurality of their supporters' approaches and aims. Finally, not only a divided civil society emerges on the basis of external support. It becomes obvious that what empowers civil society to actively contribute to democratisation are rather unintended than intended effects of external support.

  • Worschech_Promoting sustainable civic activism.pdf (980.1 kB)