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Conference: Civil society, International Aid and the State: Exploring Social and Political Change in Former Socialist Spaces after 1991, Tallinn, 31 August-1 September 2012‏

Civil Society, International Aid and the State:

Exploring Social and Political Change in Former Socialist Spaces after 1991

International Workshop, Tallinn University, Estonia

31 August - 1 September 2012

For more than two decades now, civil society promotion has been on the agendas of international aid organizations. Starting from the assumption that a vibrant civil society is positively correlated with democratic improvements, country assistance programmes from government and international agencies have progressively concentrated on civil society as a primary agent of change. This has had two main effects. On the one hand, it undoubtedly transformed the nature of domestic civil societies and played an important role in a number of transformation processes, such as the so-called “colour” revolutions. On the other hand, the considerable resources invested in civil society promotion have received considerable criticism - and even overt backlashes. Despite the emphasis on the role of civil society in political change witnessed in the former USSR (and, more recently, in the Middle East and North Africa), civil society has often been considered in isolation from other social forces as a stand-alone instrument. The vast literature on civil society, especially that generated in the aftermath of the colour revolutions, too frequently fails to explore the complex interplay between civil society and the other social and political dynamics. This workshop wants to fill this gap in the literature and study the interaction between civil society and the political forces operating at different levels of the state. In this respect our research aims at re-charting the relationships between civil society, international donors and the state in order to explore three questions:

1) What are the limits of international forces in democracy promotion strategies that target civil society as the main actor in the socio-political transition of a country?

2) What are the factors that allow civil society to play a role in the effective pluralisation and democratization of a country?

3) Is there any mechanism diffusing those factors across regions and continents and what are the reasons for a successful export of factors and strategies? Conversely what factors have been the most important in limiting this diffusion?

Technical details

This workshop is part of the Marie Curie Project (PIRSES-GA-2011-295232): Transition versus Transformation: comparing paths to democratic change in the former USSR using case study based evidence from civil society, international aid and domestic politics

We will have participants from all our partner institutions but we would be happy to hear from scholars outside the network who would like to present their research and to network with the prospect of a follow-up project in the coming years.

There is no registration fee; we are unable to cover travel costs but we can cover accommodation for some speakers from outside the network (those we can't cover, be aware that prices in Tallinn are very reasonable and we can help arranging a cheap accommodation).

Confirmed presenters include:

Prof Raivo Vetik, Tallinn University (Estonia)

Dr Donnacha Ó Beacháin, Dublin City University (Ireland)

Prof Erhan Dogan, Marmara University (Turkey)

Dr Rajan Kumar, JNU University (India)

Prof Oxana Kharitanova, Higher School of Economics (Russia)

Mr David Jijelava GeoWel Research (Georgia)

If you want to participate please contact Abel at<>


* for speakers who need accommodation: 15 July (we do not guarantee that we can accommodate everyone but will try)

* for speakers who can cover their own accommodation: 31 July

* for those willing to attend without presenting: 20 August