K4D Helpdesk Report

Civil Society in Authoritarian Regimes

Published on 24 January 2018

This rapid review synthesises findings from rigorous academic, practitioner, and policy
references on the role of civil society in promoting social accountability in authoritarian regimes
and the ways donors can support them. The main geographic focus of this report is East Africa,
with a secondary focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. In the African context civil society is best defined
as ‘a public sphere of formal or informal, collective activity autonomous from but recognizing the
legitimate existence of the state’ (Orvis, 2001: 20). Whereas social accountability is best defined
as ‘an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, i.e., in which it is
ordinary citizens and/or civil society organizations who participate directly or indirectly in exacting
accountability’ (Malena, Forster and Singh, 2004: 1).

Cite this publication

O’Driscoll, D. (2018). Civil Society in Authoritarian Regimes. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies

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published by
Institute of Development Studies
O'Driscoll, Dylan


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