Civil Society in Authoritarian Regimes


What ways have civil society effectively promoted domestic social accountability, including holding executive to account in contexts of increased shrinkage of both civic and democratic space? What approaches have donors used to better support civil society to promote domestic social accountability in these similar contexts, without doing more harm?


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).


Suggested citation

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