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Deadline : 15 Nov 2020

EuroMed Rights is seeking to recruit a research consultant to carry out a study on governments’ tactics by using government-organised non-governmental organisations (GoNGOs), their impact and spread in the Euro-Mediterranean region, assessing how they affect open civic space and the work of legitimate, independent civil society organisations in the region (further details below)  

Project description and methodology 

EuroMed Rights would like to investigate the phenomenon of GoNGOs in the EuroMed region, with a specific geographical focus on Egypt, Turkey, Algeria. We are particularly interested in the various tactics used by governments to present a human rights “façade” by promoting (and funding) GoNGOs and (public) independent human rights institutions. Also, we would like to find out more about the extent to which GoNGOs are spread and grow across the region, as well as their impact on civic space and the work of legitimate, independent civil society organisations, including independent trade unions, both in terms of visibility and external support. 

The study should include case studies, and draw on interviews with CSOs and academics in the region. It should also develop a set of targeted recommendations aimed at EU decision-makers.  

Research Index 

To be further discussed and agreed with the researcher 

  • GoNGOs and independent CSOs 
  • International framework  
  • Case studies (including national framework on laws on association): 
    • Egypt 
    • Algeria 
    • Turkey 
  • Recommendations to UN, OSCE, and EU 


Both qualitative and quantitative including: 

  • Desk research, including national framework of selected countries 
  • Interviews with representatives of independent CSOs of the selected countries (trade unionists, activists, HRDs and practitioners, academics)  

An executive summary should be provided alongside the full report. 

The target audience of the study will be civil society, human rights defenders and academics in the EuroMediterranean region more broadly 

The study will be conducted in close coordination and agreement with the MENA Programme Officer in regular consultation with member organisations.  


  • 05 November 2020: publication of terms of reference  
  • 15 November 2020: deadline for applications 
  • 22 November 2020: contract signed 
  • End of December 2020: submission of draft study, followed by comments and adjustments 
  • End of January 2021: submission and approval of final study, followed by translation and publication 

Practical information 

The researcher is expected to work independently and to closely coordinate with the EuroMed Rights MENA Programme Officer. S/he will be working remotely; there won’t be any travel required. S/he should be able to work in English/Arabic or English/French in order to be able to access information and communicate with stakeholders from all focus countries. 

The study should be written in English or French and not exceed 10 000 words.  

Please submit your application, including your CV, an outline/ skeleton structure of the study and a proposed budget, to by 15 November 2020. Applications will be scored according to proven expertise on the subject matter as well as on the geographical scope, and strong research, analytical, writing and editing skills, and experience in drafting advocacy-oriented reports. 


Civil society clearly has a key role to play in monitoring and supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels. Sustainable Development Goal 17 of the 2030 Agenda establishes a central role for civil society during implementation, follow up and review activities, as part of a renewed “Global Partnership”. A vibrant and independent civil society is vital for an open civic space, a healthy democracy and social justice as it allows people to organise themselves, amplify their voices and be heard at local, national and supranational levels. Also the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 underlines the importance of strengthening the civil space. It commits to developing “tools to detect and respond to early signs of closing civic space and space for civil society” as well as “tools to monitor opportunities of opening civic space”. In its 2012 Communication on engagement with civil society in external relations, the European Commission explicitly spells out that, for a policy process to be credible, “CSOs must be independent, representative and competent”.1 

The terms ‘civil society organisations’ (CSOs) and ‘nongovernmental organisations’ (NGOs) are often used interchangeably to identify the key collective actors in civil society. The activities in which CSOs typically engage in, are essential to the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda. These may include informing and raising public awareness, enabling public dialogue and communication, and organising and mobilising people to work together. CSOs also often design and deliver services to groups or areas that do not have access to public services. They also convey common concerns and positions in consultations and public debates while trying to inform and shape political decision-making. They defend human rights, scrutinize and monitor the effects of public policy, hold public authorities to account for their actions. CSOs have also been described as “change agents” who develop and promote new ideas and strategies to address challenges. This catalysing role for civil society as promoters of change in their societies is crucial in all stages of social, political and economic development and is particularly relevant for the ambitious and universal 2030 Agenda.  

The closing space2 for civil society in the MENA region has been well documented,3 and equally affects independent trade unions in the region.4 ‘Modern’ autocrats have also found other ways to manipulate civic space rather than to close it. Contemporary authoritarian regimes are refining a decades-old technique: the use of state-supported, state-friendly organisations to co-opt and crowd-out genuinely independent civil society. 

Such government-sponsored non-governmental organisations are commonly referred to as ‘government-organised non-governmental organisations’ (GoNGOs). Behind this term lies an important and growing global trend that deserves more scrutiny: governments funding and controlling NGOs, often stealthily. Some GONGOs are benign, others irrelevant. But many are harmful to enabling and opening civic spaces, and threatening to independent CSOs in terms of access to funding and to advocacy opportunities as a supposed conveyor of concerns and messages from civil society. Some act as the thuggish arm of repressive governments. Others use the practices of democracy to subtly undermine democracy at home. Abroad, the GoNGOs of repressive regimes lobby the United Nations and other international institutions, often posing as legitimate representatives of citizen groups with lofty aims when, in fact, they are nothing but agents of the governments that fund them. Some governments embed their GoNGOs deep in the societies of other countries and use them to advance their interests abroad. 

The most dangerous GoNGOs grow at home, not abroad. They have become the tool of undemocratic governments to spread their messages and policies under the guise of democracy. Governments’ wider effort to stifle independent civil society, including  laws restricting the operation of foreign NGOs and requiring them to register under national laws, funding from foreign donors, etc., is explained by governments’ attitude on cracking down on civil society actors: authoritarian regimes and “state managed” civil society; in most countries the allocation of state funds is not transparent and state grants are distributed among government-organised NGOs or so-called GoNGOs.  

In several countries of the MENA region, governments have established GoNGOs with the aim of monitoring and limiting the activities of independent CSOs, providing them with even a sharper weapon to be deployed against independent CSOs: while narrowing the space for legitimate NGOs’ work, their existence also creates a false veneer that  governments are consulting with organisations representativve of their citizens. For instance, representatives of the GONGOs reportedly attend conferences and other events and transmit intelligence to the government regarding other CSOs. The aim of the governments is to discredit CSO voices in multilateral fora like the UN Human Rights Council. GONGOs defend countries’ policies, attempt to delegitimise genuine civil society voices, and consume time, space, and other limited resources.  

About EuroMed Rights 

EuroMed Rights was founded in January 1997 in response to the Barcelona Declaration of November 1995 and the establishment of the Euro Mediterranean Partnership. It is the coordinating body of about 80 human rights organisations and institutions as well as individuals from over 30 countries. EuroMed Rights’ organisational structure is built on a general assembly, an executive committee, working groups and a secretariat. 

Rooted in civil society, EuroMed Rights seeks to develop and strengthen partnerships between NGOs in the EuroMed region, i.e. networking aimed at strengthening the capacity of members to act and interact within the context of the region and the Barcelona process and other EU-Arab cooperation frameworks. The EuroMed Rights head office is situated in Copenhagen; we also have offices in Brussels and Tunis. 

EuroMed Rights aims to ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, gender, marital status, caring responsibilities, sexual orientation, disability or chronic illness. 


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