Parties and Interest Associations


To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
Iceland has many active, non-economic interest organizations in various fields. Although many have a reasonable level of prominence, only a few have the capacity and competence to exert significant influence on public policy. The largest are the Organization of Disabled in Iceland (Öryrkjabandalagið), with 41 associated organizations and a staff of 13, and the Consumers’ Association of Iceland (Neytendasamtökin), with a staff of 7 and 7,300 members. The Nature and Wildlife Conservation Organization (Náttúruverndarsamtök Íslands), with one staff member, is also influential. This group has managed to feature prominently in public debates about hydro and geothermal power plants, and expressed reservations about further construction of aluminum smelters around the country. Landvernd, the Icelandic Environmental Association, also has some influence. Its CEO, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson (2011-2017), was appointed extra-parliamentary minister of the environment and natural resources in 2017.

Neytendasamtökin. Skýrsla um starfið 2014 - 2016.
The government and the opposition parties listen carefully to the opinions expressed by business, farm-sector and union leaders. Intellectuals and academics also receive attention. Environmental groups have a substantial influence on environmental policy. The large organizations are professional in communicating their messages to politicians and to the public, and are sometimes able to set the political agenda.

In addition, there are numerous formal arenas for routine consultation between governments and various kinds of interest organizations. In many areas, such consultations are formalized and have become a routine mode of policy formulation.
For non-economic interest associations, their capacity to conduct analysis and produce relevant policy proposals varies significantly depending on their size.

For instance, in the environmental policy field, the major interest organizations have large staff that conduct high-quality studies and present highly relevant policy proposals. In other policy fields, small interest associations do not have the staff to produce high-quality policy proposals. Yet, if we assess the quality of non-economic interest associations over the very broad range of all Swedish interest associations, most of them produce high-quality policy proposals.
Svensson, T. and P-O.Öberg (2010),“Does Power Drive out Trust? Relations between Labor Market Actors in Sweden,” Political Studies 58:143-166.

Öberg, P-O, S. Oskarsson and T. Svensson (2011),“Similarity versus Homogeniety: Contextual Effects in Explaining Trust,” European Political Science Review 3:345-369.
Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
A number of social interest groups, environmental groups and religious groups take responsible and well-considered positions and are, therefore, taken very seriously by government, although there are also groups that take extreme positions. The extent to which the proposals are well thought-out and feasible varies considerably. In general, the proposals from mainstream interest groups are of high quality in part because many elected representatives are drawn from these groups, or have had considerable contact with them prior to their election. The proposals also tend to be of high quality because of the expertise of the groups themselves and their narrow (often single-issue) interest, which means the groups can focus exclusively on a single problem and the ways in which it can be resolved.
There is a long corporatist tradition in Denmark, which includes non-economic interest associations. The major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions preparing legislation. They provide information for the government and legitimacy for the policies adopted, thereby facilitating implementation. Some civil society organizations may find it more difficult than business organizations to get access to the government.

Despite occasional criticism of the role of experts and commissions, they remain important.

When laws are passed without having been prepared through corporatist committees, the interest organizations have to lobby more – by making direct contact with civil servants and politicians – so as to influence policies, possibly arranging demonstrations. The fact remains, however, that the administration needs input from outside when legislation is prepared. In other words, there is a common interest in continuous dialog.
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det Demokratiske system. 4. udg. 2016.
Most associations’ policy-relevant positions are based on expert knowledge and feasibility analyses. In this sense, associations clearly contribute to the general quality of decision-making. True, exaggeration and one-sided arguments are in the very nature of interest organizations and the ensuing negotiation process, but the prevailing style of policymaking grants access to various and often competing interests. The contribution of interest associations’ expert knowledge is therefore on the whole a valuable asset that enhances the quality of policymaking. Interest associations also have a high profile in public discourse, and often help shape public opinion. The fact remains, however, that the function of interest associations is to promote certain interests at the potential expense of others.
As of May 2017, the government’s official list contained 2,325 registered associations (Bundestag 2017), which marked another increase. One-third of those can be considered non-economic interest associations. Within the process of policy formulation, interest-group expertise plays a key role in providing ministerial officials with in-depth information necessary to make decisions. Citizen groups, social movements and grassroots lobbying organizations are increasingly influential actors, particularly at the local level. Policy proposals produced by non-economic interest groups can be described as reasonable, but their suggestions often appear.
Interest groups have and can have an important impact on policymaking. However, drawing on academic knowledge within Luxembourg is limited. Some larger non-governmental organizations maintain small research departments and propagate their opinions through publications (Caritas, Mouvement Écologique, CEFIS, SOLEP, MECO, etc.) and conferences, by offering comments on draft bills, or by proposing policies. Voluntary working groups that act essentially as think tanks, have become more popular during the review period and many have chosen the future of Luxembourg as their focus; these groups include La Société Luxembourgeoise de l’Evaluation et de la Prospective (SOLEP), Luxembourg 2030, and 5 vir 12. These groups have considerable impact, considering the government’s practice of consulting all social partners and the overall small size of Luxembourg.
Citations:, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Centre d’étude et de formation interculturelles et sociales, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Luxemburg.” Verbände und Interessengruppen in den Ländern der Europäischen Union, edited by Werner Reutter, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2012, pp. 417 – 444.

Mouvement Ecologique, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Société Luxembourgeoise de l’Evaluation et de la Prospective, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Sozialalmanach.”, Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.
New Zealand
There is a rich tradition of consultation with societal groups during policy formulation. The degree of consultation with groups and individuals and the way in which their proposals have been dealt with is reported in regulatory impact statements. Recent such statements claim that consultation has had a substantive impact in several cases. Still, resource shortages prevent some interest associations from developing specialist policy know-how that would give them durable impact in the consultation process.
Regulatory Impact Statement Information Release: (accessed November 30, 2015).
Slovakia has a vibrant third sector and many competent interest associations whose analyses and proposals have featured prominently in the media. Think tanks are an integral part of civil society, feature close links to academia and other experts and profoundly influence public discourse. They often serve as a substitute for political opposition. Following the 2012 change in government, many experts from the Radičová government became active in NGOs or have cooperated with them, thereby providing important policy knowledge. Some of them now cooperate with Most-Híd.
Slovenia’s vibrant third sector has been quite active in monitoring government activities. Despite a decline in public funding, most interest associations have considerable policy knowledge, and many can rely on think tanks that involve various experts from the universities and research institutes in their work. Policy proposals developed by interest associations, although not numerous, have been featured prominently in the media.
Non-economic interest associations have always been relatively weak in Spain, and it has been difficult for them to influence political decision-making with relevant policy proposals. Furthermore, the lack of a strong, organized civil society is a disincentive for the government to take these associations’ views into account during policy formulation (since the process would become much more complex, without necessarily adding social legitimacy as a compensation). Thus, there is no virtuous circle encouraging social, environmental and religious groups to improve their policy competence.
Even the strong Catholic Church lacks a research unit capable of formulating policies, although it remains influential on education and moral issues. Leading environmental groups (e.g., Ecologistas en Acción or Greenpeace España) and some NGOs devoted to human rights (such as Amnesty International) or development aid (Intermón Oxfam and other Spanish groups that benefited from the larger budgets in this area in the late 2000s) have gained technical competence, and increasingly rely on academic expertise and specialized publications to influence public opinion and policymakers within their areas of interest. Women’s associations are weak as autonomous organizations, but influential within the political parties (especially in the PSOE). The LGBT movement has successfully defended homosexuals’ rights.

Finally, social protests triggered by the crisis have made a mark in recent years, though this is increasingly less the case as the crisis wanes. Platforms and networks have been able to gain media attention and even shape public policy by demanding more transparency, better regulation of mortgages, and changes in areas such as health and education. Social movements promoting (or in some cases opposing) Catalonia’s right to become an independent state also have experts that conduct research on issues related to independence.
November 2017, Ecologistas en Acción: “Caminar sobre el abismo de los límites” iewerng/viewer?url=https://www.ecol -abismo-limites.pdf

September 2015, Societat Civil Catalana: “Dèficits de qualitat democràtica a Catalunya”
http://www.societatcivi ocs/Deficits-qualitat-democratica-C atalunya%20.pdf
Policymaking in the Netherlands has a strong neo-corporatist (“poldering”) tradition that systematically involves all kinds of interest associations – not just business and labor – in the early stages of the policymaking process. Owing to their well-established positions, associations such as the consumer association, all kinds of environmental NGOs, religious associations, municipal (Vereniging voor Nederlandse Gemeenten) and provincial interests (InterProvinciaal Overleg), and medical and other professional associations (e.g., teachers, universities, legal professions) can influence policymaking through the existing consensus-seeking structures. Trade-offs are actively negotiated with ministries, other involved governments, stakeholder organizations and even NGOs. Furthermore, non-economic interest organizations react to policy proposals by ministries and have a role in amending and changing the proposals in the early stages of the policymaking process. They may also become involved at a later stage, as policies are implemented.

During the cabinet formation process from April to October 2017, many non-economic associations – representing the arts, education, the elderly and the care sector – inundated negotiators with policy memos and demands. For example, the citizen initiative led by Hugo Borst and Carin Greamers contained 10 policy recommendations, and was later underwritten by practically all relevant stakeholder associations and received support in parliament.
F. Hendriks and Th. Toonen (eds), Schikken plooien. De stroperige staat bij nader inzien, Assen, Van Gorcum, 1998

J. Woldendorp, The Polder Model: From Disease to Miracle? Dutch Neo-Corporatism 1965-2000, Free University Amsterdam, 2005

Woldendorp, J.J. (2014). Blijvend succes voor het poldermodel? Hoe een klein land met een kleine economie probeert te overleven op de wereldmarkt. In F.H. Becker & M. Hurenkamp (Eds.), De gelukkige onderneming. Arbeidsverhoudingen voor de 21ste eeuw (Jaarboek voor de sociaal-democratie, 2014) (pp. 211-227). Amsterdam: Wiardi Beckman Stichting/Uitgeverij Van Gennep.

Actiz, Oproep Agenda voor Zorg aan het nieuwe kabinet:investeer in vernieuwende zorg? (, consulted 3 November 2017)

Hugo Borst and Carin Geamers, “Manifest :Scherp op ouderenzorg,” (, consulted 3 November 2017)
The United Kingdom has a tradition of close scrutiny of policy proposals. The quality and realism of policy proposals determines the degree to which any interest group is taken seriously in the country’s national political discourse and there are many NGOs that have had a tangible impact on policy thinking. Green interest groups in particular have helped to shape the policies of successive governments. There are vocal campaigners for rural interests, while both sides of the migration debate have been nourished by interest groups.

There is an abundance of NGOs with often-narrow policy agendas that tend to be pushed forward without much consideration of the wider ramifications of the pursuit of their issue. By the same token, the diversity of such bodies allows a wide range of proposals to obtain a hearing.
Public-interest or civil society associations’ competence in proposing reasonable policy initiatives is unusually high in the United States. This high level of competence is in part due to associations’ ability to attract highly qualified professional staff, and in part due to their media and communication skills. This holds true for groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Common Cause and the National Taxpayers’ Union. From the standpoint of developing credible policies, these associations have the advantage of focusing on broad interests, rather than self-interested ones, as their central mission. However, they are subject to ideological biases and membership demands that tend to favor extreme views. Citizens’ groups do not receive public support for their policy development or representational activities.
There is a wide range of civil society groups with influence on policy formation in Europe, and Belgium performs well in this regard. A number of noneconomic interest associations receive state funding, including environmental, cultural, religious/philosophical, sports/leisure and minority (such as individuals with handicaps) groups.

The largest groups can both make proposals and influence policy. Consociationalism also implies that some socially important decisions are made smoothly. The decisions to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003 and euthanasia in 2002 followed intense but quite dispassionate debates. The contrast with France or the United States over similar issues is all the more striking.

The main reason why this can happen is again related to the predominance of political parties. Some groups and associations that receive funding either initially have, or subsequently develop, preferential political relationships with political parties and/or government actors. This means that social groups, associations and (to some extent) publicly funded schools often have long-standing ties to a political group. It implies that there is a strong incentive for noneconomic interest associations to propose policies, and further to ensure that these proposals are well founded, as there is a high probability that the proposals will be debated in parliament.

Obviously, the negative aspect of this structure is dependence on public funding. On the positive side, some groups are able to coalesce into broader umbrella organizations (such as around environmental protection) that are able to hire stable staff with policy expertise.
Many social-interest groups, environmental groups and religious communities develop policy proposals that identify problems’ causes, make use of scholarly research to support their analysis, propose technically feasible measures to attain policy objectives, take account of long-term interests, and anticipate policy effects. However, as these groups have fewer resources than economic-interest groups, they generally do a somewhat less competent job in proposing reasonable policies. A 2011 report prepared for the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) found that for many civil-society organizations, broad policy ideas are not always translated into concrete proposals due to a lack of expertise. While some coalitions, such as the Americas Policy Group (APG); the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN); the Climate Action Network (CAN); the Policy Working Group on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; and the Global Call Against Poverty/Making Poverty History, among others, have a strong record with respect to governmental relations (political and legislative), they represent a minority in this regard.
A Map of Canadian Civil Society Organization Coalitions’ Governance, Capacity and Agendas: Common Challenges, Shortfalls and their Implications, report prepared for The Canadian Council for International Co‐operation (CCIC), 2011.
A substantial number of autonomous, self-organized groups, associations and organizations exist in Chile. Civil society’s organizational landscape has become increasingly differentiated since the return to democracy. Religious, environmental and social organizations, as well as NGOs, academic groups and professional associations often present substantive policy-reform proposals that contribute positively to policy discussions and government reforms and take long-term perspectives into account. Various political foundations and think tanks play a decisive role as formulators of relevant policies. On the other hand, there are great disparities in the durability and organizational strength of associations, mostly as a result of social inequalities. In addition, numerous think tanks are directly connected to economic interest groups.
Czech Rep.
Interest associations have grown considerably in the Czech Republic since 1990. As of April 2017, there are over 129,947 autonomous, self-organized groups, associations, foundations and organizations registered in the country, although not all of them are active. Between 2011 and 2017, new NGOs emerged focusing on areas such as corruption, city planning, LGBT rights, food safety and participatory budgeting on the local level. Many of them have the resources and expertise to formulate relevant policy proposals.
Noneconomic associations and NGOs have become increasingly influential in recent years, with over 39,000 nonprofit organizations registered with the Ministry of Justice. Along with professional consultancy firms, they fill the gap left by state’s privatization policies. Both social and environmental interest groups often formulate relevant policies and cooperate with government and academic bodies. The majority of organizations are focused on religious matters (24%), education (19%), culture (16%) and welfare (15%). The civil society sector in Israel is one of the biggest in the world (in a relative sense), accounting for 5.5% of GDP and 13.6% of the jobs in Israel.

In 2014, the Ministry of the Interior advocated the removal of four representatives of civic and environmental bodies that traditionally sit on a supreme national planning committee. Following widespread protest, two representatives were reinstated, including one from the environmental lobby. While social and environmental organizations tend to advocate policy by publishing reports and policy papers, religious organizations are less prone to the regular formulation of policy recommendations on general social issues.

The Knesset recently passed highly controversial legislation that requires non-governmental organizations to publicly declare their foreign government funding. Left-wing and civil rights groups have argued that the so-called NGO transparency bill is harming organizations that promote democracy and democratic worldviews. The bill is regarded as part of a growing trend of legislative attempts to erode the strength of democratic institutions in Israel.
ACRI. Anti-NGO Legislation in the Israeli Knesset. February 2016,

“Collaborative discourse in the Civil Society” March 2016, Civic Leadership in Israel, (Hebrew)

Kalian, Gil “The non-profit sector in Israel is smaller than thought,” Calcalist 16/3/2016,,7340,L-3683649,00.html (Hebrew)

Nisan, Limor, “Civil society and the third sector in Israel,” IDI paper for the 10th Caesarea conference, June 2010:

“The transparency law has passed finally” Knesset website 12.7.2016, (Hebrew)
Along with economic interest groups, organized religious communities, particularly the officially recognized denominations, have a formalized role within the decision-making process. Like the economic interest groups, they are consulted before the cabinet approves the draft of a law. This is a critical stage of the process, as most cabinet-approved drafts are also approved by parliament.

It must be emphasized, however, that not all draft proposals are subject to consultation procedures. A ruling majority can push a legislative agenda through its members in parliament, without formal consultations with interest groups. This happens from time to time when the government is in a hurry to pass a bill.

A number of other groups occasionally exert notable influence, including the physicians’ chamber, various environmental groups (such as Greenpeace) and some human rights organizations (such as Amnesty International).
Many social-interest organizations in Croatia have the capacity to propose relevant policy proposals. For instance, experts from Citizens Organize to Oversee Voting (Građani organizirano nadgledaju glasanje, GONG), an association of various organizations for the protection and promotion of human rights originally formed in 1997, have participated in the process of drafting various laws on lobbying and elections. Green Action (Zelena Akcija) is another example of a social-interest organization with strong analytical capacity and the ability to promote its issues in the media.
The policy-formulation capacity of non-economic interest groups varies across fields of interest and with the scope of the intended impact. Most civil-society associations are small and possess limited financial and human resources. Therefore, their in-house capacity is very low, and most analyses have been carried out as single projects on a contractual basis. The level of capacity also depends on the formal policy agenda, as it is easier to add a new proposal to the existing agenda than to set the agenda. Therefore, social-interest groups lobbying on issues such as better socialization and care for disabled people or same-sex marriage have been quite good at formulating policy proposals, since relevant draft laws were already being considered by the parliament. Environmental groups are mainly local, but their actions can have a nationwide impact on transport and industrial policy. Religious groups are not active in domestic politics or policymaking efforts.
The number of, and membership in, non-business associations has been increasing. If the phenomenon of dependency on the financial support of public authorities exists, especially at the local level, there are non-economic associations that are combining pluralistic approaches, long-term perspectives and a public perspective. This can be seen in fields such as urban policy (where national programs and local public actors rely on the expertise and commitment of associations dealing with local issues), environmental policy or social policy (aid to people with different social problems or handicaps).

This being said, only a few associations are equipped with the capacity to make relevant and credible proposals. Some groups (such as environmental groups and social workers) have a real proactive strategy; however, most associations are reactive and prefer to object rather than suggest.
Greek civil society is relatively underdeveloped. However, the receding welfare state encouraged civil society engagement and mobilized citizens. The number of volunteers increased, new organizations were formed, and older organizations became more active in providing social services to impoverished Greeks and migrants. Also, new movements and organizations with politicized agendas appeared.

Most non-economic interest associations do not have the resources to become involved in policy formulation and the Greek state does not usually invite them to do so – though there has been some improvement. There are however exceptions regarding religious matters and migration matters.

The Greek Orthodox Church plays a preponderant role in formulating ecclesiastical matters and (to some extent) matters of education. For instance, religion is a compulsory subject in all grades of primary school and high school. Greece’s constitution grants the Greek Orthodox Church a privileged position among all churches and dogmas, and the Greek Orthodox Church enjoys a tailor-made taxation regime which allows it to sustain a large amount of property.

Finally, there is a vast array of small and medium-sized NGOs which are active in providing social protection and legal assistance to refugees and migrants. NGOs are located in major cities and on the Greek islands of the Aegean where refugees and migrants continue to land. In the period under review, their role was enhanced with regard to implementing migration policy, as central and local authorities proved unable or unwilling to manage the inflow of migrants and refugee.
The provisions of the Constitution of Greece on the Greek Orthodox Church can be found in article 3 of the Constitution.
There is a strong tradition of interest associations and advocacy groups in Ireland, especially in the areas of health and social policy. While their influence was diminished by the financial constraints of the last six years, they continue to have an impact on policies relating to issues such as drug abuse, provision for people with disabilities, homelessness, asylum-seekers, and perceived inequalities and injustices in Irish society. While many of these associations prepare relevant policy proposals, their emphasis is on advocacy rather than analysis. The most influential of these associations, Social Justice Ireland, evolved from an association of members of Roman Catholic religious orders.
For Social Justice Ireland, see
The landscape of non-economic interest organizations is increasingly rich and diversified. But only few of them are able to formulate articulated policy proposals and most operate in a reactive mode instead. Among the most professional associations, some religious ones (such as Caritas, which deals among other things with immigration policies, Comunità di S. Egidio), humanitarian (such as Emergency) and environmental groups (such as Legambiente and WWF) deserve special mention, and are able to provide well-articulated, expert analysis. An increasing number of single-issue movements are gaining ground in Italy and are contributing to policymaking in their respective areas.

There are also a series of foundations and think tanks in the field of international affairs (IAI, ISPI), social and economic problems (Censis, Eurispes) producing critical studies and conducting oversight activities. But their infrastructures, resources and personnel are in general limited.
Malta has a large number of non-economic interest associations. Though typically short on resources, they access external support through international membership or regional federations, which helps them, on occasion, to formulate extremely well-informed policy papers. EU funds and other structures (e.g., the internship programs) have also helped them improve their policy capacities. Few organizations employ full-time staff, but many have academics as part of their leadership structure, thereby utilizing their expertise. In some cases, organizations are able to attract research support on a voluntary basis from like-minded academics and other volunteers. Nonetheless, many of them still need to become proactive, rather than reactive to events or government proposals. Having said that, these organizations often provide government with expert support and at times provide resources, support and direction for policy areas for which the government has little input. A case in point is that of support for policies associated with migration, asylum and the politics of integration.
Against the background of corporatist authoritarianism in 20th century Mexico, economic interest groups in democratic Mexico could draw on many associational experiences. Moreover, since the early 2000s, there has been a considerable increase in the quantity and the sophistication of non-economic interest groups in Mexican civil society. Many talented graduates have found positions in NGOs and they are working to influence policy in Mexico via advocacy-oriented NGOs. Several tertiary-education institutes (e.g., ITAM, Colmex, CIDE) both teach and conduct public-policy research, and some are highly influential in the political sphere as think tanks and/or advocacy institutions. Furthermore, there has been an increase in the number of national and international advocacy NGOs that, depending on the sector and the government in place, are also relevant in the agenda-setting process. Moreover, many grassroots organizations founded in the last ten years are aim to influence local and regional policymaking. Finally, the degree of movement of personnel between NGOs, think tanks and government is high compared to other OECD countries. While the capacity of most of these organizations to propose policy reforms in complex policy settings is rather restricted, it has been growing steadily and their role influencing public opinion is more relevant every year. Examples of these associations include IMCO, Mexico Evalua and Mexicanos Primero, which have been able to affect the policy agenda of the government in the last two years on issues related to transparency, accountability and development effectiveness.
Poland has a large number of interest associations beyond business associations and trade unions. However, compared to other countries, there are comparatively few environmental groups. Most non-governmental organizations are relatively small, and there are only a few interest associations that focus on, and are capable of, developing full-blown policy proposals. The Catholic Church, still the most influential interest group in Poland, pursues relatively narrow interests and is largely preoccupied with stabilizing its influence within an increasingly secular society. It currently has good access to the new government, but also asked for more national solidarity, peaceful cooperation and a friendlier approach toward refugees. A new social movement that managed to unite many Poles opposed to government efforts to dismantle democracy and judicial independence is the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (Komitet Obrony Democracji, KOD) which has organized public protests and large demonstrations in several Polish cities since December 2015. New organizations have come into existence since 2016 and especially young people are increasingly attending demonstrations.
NGOs have significant analytical capacities, especially in areas such as environmental policy and social protection. However, many NGOs have suffered from a lack of resources and have been dependent on international financing. The Romanian Orthodox Church, which represents as much as 85% of the population, has been a powerful actor, but has promoted a relatively narrow agenda. When the amendment to the fiscal code in 2015 renewed public debate on the many tax exemptions and subsidies the church enjoys, the church used its political influence to defend its privileges.
Noneconomic interest groups are very heterogeneous in Switzerland. Some, such as environmental groups, undertake cooperative efforts with academic bodies, offer reasonable proposals and feature considerable capacity for political mobilization.
Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
The capacity of nonacademic interest associations to formulate well-crafted and relevant policy proposals varies by group. Most lack skilled staff members and do not engage in cooperation with academic bodies or individual experts. Moreover, the lawmaking and regulatory impact assessment processes do not sufficiently ensure the participation of relevant stakeholders. Business interest groups tend to have stronger abilities to formulate policies than do social or environmental groups. The Lithuanian Catholic Church is an important player in Lithuanian politics, with its influence typically focused on a small number of policy issues. However, this interest group unsuccessfully lobbied the president to veto legislation designed to make it easier for families to access assisted insemination services. The Non-Governmental Organizations’ Information and Support Center facilitates cooperation between NGOs as they seek to represent their interests.
Despite the alleviation of austerity and initial signs of economic recovery, non-economic interest associations continue to have little impact. The focus in recent years on economic issues means that proposals by established groups engaged with other issues attract less visibility than before Portugal’s bailout (e.g., proposals by the environmental group Quercus). Interaction with associations appeared to be largely instrumental and related to political or group objectives rather than policy-based.
South Korea
The rise of civil-society organizations has been one of the last decade’s most important political trends in South Korea. The massive peaceful protests against President Park were largely organized by civil-society groups that have proven their ability to mobilize the public and their competence in organizing peaceful protests on a massive scale. Some of the largest NGOs, such as the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, the Citizen Coalition for Economic Justice and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, have built up considerable expertise in specialized fields such as environmental policies, electoral reform, corporate reform, welfare policies or human rights. They provide reasonable policy proposals and are supported by a large group of academics and professionals. They also provide a pool of experts for the government. President Moon has appointed several former members of civil-society groups to government positions.
The majority of small NGOs remain focused on service provision and do not develop policy proposals. Previously, civil society and NGOs – especially those to the left of center – found it difficult to have any appreciable influence on decision-making under either the Lee and Park administrations. NGOs are expected to regain some of their previous influence under the Moon government.
The most active non-economic interest groups in Bulgaria are largely engaged in four fields: education (especially parents’ associations), health (patients’ organizations), minorities and the environment. While there are many associations and they often act in accord, they seem more activist than analytical in their efforts. Their proposals are rarely accompanied by attempts to encompass the relevant issues fully, assess potential impacts comprehensively, or argue in favor of or against specific proposals on analytical grounds. The religious communities in Bulgaria have their channels of political influence, but are not broadly active in the public sphere. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church takes public positions only on rare occasions, as in the introduction of religious classes at school.
Civil society has an increasing role as an independent power actor in formulating proposals. From the late 1980s, when environmental groups defended specific causes much has changed. Funding from European and other programs helped in strengthening a civil society movement. New associations are gaining their footing, conducting research and studies and formulating policy proposals on a variety of issues. They aim at good governance.

A number of groups with a focus on politics, the crisis and associated issues have emerged since 2011. Some are connected with international associations and benefit from their knowledge and experience. These groups are putting forward proposals and lobbying on a variety of issues, including on hydrocarbon use, how to promote transparency and combat corruption, transparency in political-party financing, electoral system amendments, and transparency in lobbying. Their appeal is gaining momentum. Their noteworthy activity and the quality of their proposals have attracted media attention and are having an impact.

The Church of Cyprus, through its financial and organizational capacity, continues to play a role in society. It addresses all kinds of issues, including education and the island’s division. Its present financial difficulties and frequent negative views may be factors limiting its influence.
1. Road safety NGO criticises Cyprus lack of motorway toilets, Cyprus Mail, 18 May 2017,
2. Commitment against corruption by candidates to the parliament 2016 (in Greek)
Civil society organizations with a public-policy focus are rare in Japan. The Non-Profit Organization Law of 1998 made the incorporation of such associations easier but many bureaucratic and financial challenges remain. With a few sectoral exceptions, the depth and breadth of such organizations in Japan thus remains limited. Japan has only few well-resourced public-policy-oriented think tanks. Some non-profit organizations are used by the government bureaucracy as auxiliary mechanisms in areas where it cannot or does not want to become directly involved.

Following the 3/11 disasters, and more recently in the context of the controversy over the government’s security-law extension, civil society groups have taken an increased role in expressing public concerns and organizing mass rallies. High levels of engagement on the part of activists notwithstanding, it is difficult for such actors to create professionally operating, sustainable organizations. As a case in point, the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) group gained considerable attention during the 2014 – 2015 protests against a reinterpretation of the constitution’s so-called peace clause, but has since disbanded.
Susanne Brucksch, Japan’s Civil Society and its Fight against Nuclear Energy, Sustainable Governance Indicators Website, 09.04.2014, society-and-its-fight-against-nuclear-energy/

N. N., After creating new waves in Japan’s civil movement, SEALDs dissolved, The Mainichi, 15 August 2016,
A number of environmental interest groups have the capacity to propose concrete policy measures and provide capable analysis of policy effects, often in cooperation their international networks or academic bodies. Environmental organizations engage in structured policy dialog with the relevant ministries, which supports sustained involvement in decision-making and has contributed to further capacity development.

Social interest groups are very diverse. However, most lack the capacity to propose concrete policy measures or analyze likely policy outcomes. While the government consults regularly with some social interest groups, such as the Pensioners’ Federation, these groups do not produce high-quality policy analysis. Groups representing patients’ rights or reproductive health interests are skilled at producing policy proposals, but most lack the resources to engage in sustained advocacy or policy development.

Religious communities have largely remained outside of the public-policy development process. The notable exception has been conservative groups advocating for “traditional Christian values.” These groups have sought to limit LGBT and reproductive rights and influence the school system. They have gained ground by changing their modus operandi from protest activities to active advocacy at the parliamentary level. In 2015, they secured a controversial change to the Law on Education, leaving schools vulnerable to charges of ethical breaches in teaching.

The Civic Alliance is an umbrella group of NGOs that serves as a platform for common issues. In 2017, the alliance galvanized a group of influential NGOs to call for increased transparency and participatory opportunities for NGOs in the government’s budget planning process. The NGOs are demanding the type of access and consultation already in place for other social partners, such as the National Tripartite Cooperation Council (NTSP).
The Orbán government has created a big, lavishly financed pro-government network of fake civil society associations and foundations. In public life they have figured allegedly as independent and autonomous organizations, although they clearly support government positions and provide it a democratic façade. A series of scandals have arisen as it has become clear that these organizations have received financing from state-owned enterprise, but only some illegal-indirect party financing has become public. Szerencsejáték Zrt (Gambling or Gaming) has been the main sponsor, but the latest scandals have been around the Hungarian Electricity Works (MVM), which has given HUF 508 million to CÖF (Civil Union Forum), and HungaroControl has given HUF 320 million to the Unions for the Nation Foundation (Szövetség a Nemzetért Alapítvány), which in turn supports the House of Citizens (Polgárok Háza), itself a common venue for Fidesz events, including Prime Minister Orbán’s annual address to the nation. By contrast, Hungary’s genuine civil society has suffered from decreasing financial support and the pressures of legislative limitations. This has clearly infringed upon their capacity to formulate relevant policies.
The number of non-economic civil society organizations has increased in the last decade, indicating a growing degree of public engagement within many segments of Turkish society. In November 2017, 104,174 associations with more than 10 million members were active. Most are professional, sport or religious organizations. A total of 5,054 foundations are active nationwide. Most foundations are social solidarity organizations, 22 are foreign foundations and 167 are religious organizations. Among others, TESEV, TESAV, TEPAV, SETA, ASAM can be regarded as semi-professional think-tanks which conduct research and publish reports on various policy issues. SETA is a very influential pro-government policy research organization.

Most civil society organizations are not professionally organized, and lack financial and human resources. The number of pro-government and pseudo-CSOs (i.e., GONGOs) benefiting from public and EU funding has increased recently. Several CSOs lack the staff, resources and visibility to carry out face-to-face fundraising. Turkey ranked 128 out of 135 countries in the World Giving Index 2014 (WGI), but has not been included in subsequent indexes. The government has excluded opponents from government decision-making processes. Instead, the government has created its own loyal civil society groups, such as TÜRGEV – a foundation led by President Erdoğan’s son, which has gained political influence in the executive and expanded its financial resources.

Local and global environmental pressure groups such as Greenpeace have increasingly demonstrated against dam and hydroelectric-energy projects throughout Turkey, but their protests are regularly suppressed by the security forces and subjected to criminal investigations. The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitat (TEMA) is the most established environmental organization in Turkey with 500,000 volunteers.

The Association for Support of Women Candidates (KA.DER) has for years promoted the equal representation of women and men in all walks of life. KA.DER sees equal representation as a condition for democracy and calls for equal representation in all elected and appointed decision-making positions. It conducts several EU- and UNDP-sponsored projects and advocate its objectives.

The initiave Oy ve Ötesi Girişimi (Vote and Beyond) in collaboration with the Unions of Bars of Turkey, several bars and the Checks and Balances Network monitored the local and presidential elections in 2014 and two parliamentary elections in 2015 with tens of thousands of volunteers spanning the spectrum of political affiliations and ideological backgrounds. Upon receiving training, these volunteers acted as independent election observers and reported the accuracy of the official election results.

In the wake of the failed coup in July 2016 and the government’s declaration of the state of emergency, hundreds of foundations and CSOs that were allegedly part of the Gülenist movement were shut down, their assets confiscated and their members detained. Arguably, some religious orders and communities have replaced the Gülenist movement, and extended their own networks under the name of various solidarity associations. The state of emergency has extremely diminished the influence of civil society on governmental actions.
“Yıllara, Nevilere ve İllere Göre Dernek ve Üye Sayısı,” (accessed 1 November 2017)
“VAKIFLARIN TÜRLERİNE GÖRE DAĞILIMI (28.07.2017),” (accessed 1 November 2017)
“TEMA Vakfı 2016 yılının çevre olaylarını değerlendirdi,” 4 January 2017, (accessed 1 November 2017)
“Türkiye’deki Düşünce Kuruluşları,” (accessed 1 November 2017)
CIVICUS, State of Civil Society Report 2016, (accessed 1 November 2016)
Oy ve Ötesi Derneği, Seçim Sonuçları Değerlendirmesi 2015,
Ka.Der, Projects,
Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
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