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, noneconomic 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 19, and the Consumers’ Association of Iceland (Neytendasamtökin), with a staff of six today and 7,300 members in 2018 (more recent information is not accessible). The Nature and Wildlife Conservation Organization (Náttúruverndarsamtök Íslands), which had 1,400 members and one member of staff in 2018, is also influential. This group has managed to feature prominently in public debates about hydro and geothermal power plants, and has expressed reservations about further construction of aluminum smelters around the country. Landvernd, the Icelandic Environmental Association with 6,000 members and 16 employees, also has influence.
Landvernd, Accessed 20th October 2019.

Consumers’ Association of Iceland (Neytendasamtökin), Accessed 22 December 2018.

The Organisation of Disabled in Iceland (Öryrkjabandalagið), Accessed 20th October 2019.
The government and the opposition parties listen carefully to the opinions expressed by business, farmers and union leaders. Intellectuals and academics also receive significant 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 noneconomic 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 noneconomic interest associations over the very broad range of all Swedish interest associations, most of them produce high-quality policy proposals (Pierre, 2016).
Pierre, Jon. (ed.) 2016. “Oxford Handbook of Swedish Politics.” Oxford University Press.
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.
Interest groups and social movements are influential in shaping public policy in Canada. In some policy sectors, like the environment and climate change, they put forward concrete policy proposals backed up by costs/benefits analysis. In other areas, they work to put issues onto the political and policy agenda, and they propose principles upon which reforms can be based.

Some of the most influential noneconomic interest associations include Greenpeace Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation, which have been pushing for the federal government to adopt ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets (in 2021, the federal government committed to Canada reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 40%-45% below 2005 levels by 2030); the National Council of Women of Canada, a long-standing organization advocating on women’s issues; EGALE, a prominent association advocating for members of the LGTBQ+ community; Black Lives Matter Canada, a deconcentrated platform mobilized to struggle for racial minority rights; and religious-based organizations such as Focus on the Family Canada and Real Women of Canada, which have promoted socially-conservative positions like restrictions on abortion.

In addition to these associations, there are several influential think tanks, for example, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Fraser Institute, the CD Howe Institute, and Pembina Institute.
In accordance with the corporatist tradition, major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions tasked with 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 the larger labor market organizations to get access to the government. Despite occasional criticism of the role of experts and commissions, they remain important.
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 July 2021, the government’s official list contained 2,297 registered associations (Bundestag 2021), which marks a slight decline in numbers relative to 2019. One-third of those can be considered noneconomic 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 noneconomic interest groups can be described as reasonable, but their suggestions sometimes appear unrealistic.
Bundestag (2021): Bekanntmachung der öffentlichen Liste über die Registrierung von Verbänden und deren Vertretern vom 8. Juni 2021, (accessed: 15 July 2022).
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 (e.g., Caritas, Mouvement Écologique, CEFIS, SOLEP, IDEA Fondation, the Consumers Protection Association) and conferences, by offering comments on draft bills, or by proposing policies.

Interest group communications are often made via social media, as well as through other communication channels. For younger voters, important issues include refugee aid, the lack of affordable housing (i.e., the vacancy report project, “Leerstandsmelder”), heritage protection (including the “Mouvement patrimonial” association) and environmental protection (e.g., refill initiatives). In addition, the Zentrum fir politesch Bildung, together with national and/or international bodies, organizes awareness-raising campaigns for children, parents, professionals and the general public an a wide range of topics (democracy, citizenship, political behavior, etc.). However, public participation in traditional organizations is on the decline.
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 (RIS). Recent RISs claim that consultation has had a substantive impact in several cases. Still, societal groups differ significantly in their organizational resources and thus in their ability to make an impact on policy consultation processes. For example, the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) is an advisory body to the Ministry for Women, and comprises five cross-sectoral women’s organizations, including the Māori Women’s Welfare League and Pacifica. Input is provided to the ministry on a quarterly basis. The Zero Carbon Act that was passed in early November 2019 is a case in point. While the consultation process received around 15,000 submissions – including those from environmental organizations and Māori groups – the law has been criticized for giving undue benefits to dairy industry lobby groups: the law stipulates a reduction of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, with the exception of methane from meat and dairy herds – New Zealand’s largest greenhouse gas emission (the target for methane is a cut between 24%-47% from 2017 levels).
Regulatory Impact Statement Information Release: (accessed November 30, 2015).
Dunlop (2019) “Māori seek direct input into govt’s climate change policy.” Radio New Zealand (
Toop (2019) “Agriculture’s role in getting to Zero Carbon.” Stuff (
Slovakia has a vibrant third sector and many competent interest associations whose analyses and proposals have featured prominently in the media. Slovakia has a strategy on civil society development, including a legislative and information portal, Slov-Lex, which allows the public to take an active role in the lawmaking process. 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. The election of former civil society activist Zuzana Čaputová as the first female president of Slovakia in 2019 represents a meaningful signal. Čaputová previously worked as a lawyer for the NGO-watchdog VIA IURIS, which focuses on improving the rule of law and judicial system. After the murder of Kuciak, VIA IURIS played an important role in informing the public and advocating for more integrity and transparency in the political sphere.
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. There is also a rich variety of think tanks able to feed ideas and specific proposals into policymaking, facilitated by the cultivation of links with decision-makers.
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 broad diversity of noneconomic interest associations, at all levels from local to national, 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) some leaders and cadres of publicly funded educational institutions often have long-standing ties to a given political party. 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 somehow enter into the parliamentary debates. In addition, many civil society groups attempt to influence policy via the (all important) ministerial cabinets; this may be efficient in terms of exerting influence over policy formulation, especially when some interpersonal and partisan ties exist.

Obviously, the negative aspect of this structure is its dependence on public funding. On the positive side, some groups are able to coalesce into broader umbrella organizations (e.g., around environmental protection), which are able to hire stable staff with policy expertise and are thus able to intervene in policy debates.
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.
Interest associations have grown considerably in Czechia since 1990. As of March 2020, over 135,000 autonomous, self-organized groups, associations, foundations and organizations were registered in the country, although not all of them were active. Over the last decade, many new NGOs have emerged with a focus on areas such as corruption, city planning, LGBTQ+ rights, food safety, and participatory budgeting on the local level. Many of these have the resources and expertise to formulate relevant policy proposals. For example, in the 2021 general elections, two groups were visible, namely We are Fair (JsmeFer), which harnessed support for candidates committed to supporting same-sex marriage, and Circle a Woman (Zakrouzkuj zenu), which asked voters to give preferential votes to female candidates. The latter might have contributed to a significant increase of women among newly elected members of parliament. The biggest impact was from the movement Million Moments for Democracy (MMD), which formed in January 2018 with the aim of collecting one million signatures opposing Babiš as prime minister in view of accusations of his corrupt practices. In 2019, it claimed to have collected 420,000 signatures and held mass public demonstrations, which continued during the pandemic, that criticized the government’s alleged incompetence and poor communication. MMD probably contributed to uniting part of the opposition to Babiš and to the five percentage point increase in turnout in the 2021 parliamentary election.
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
Noneconomic associations and NGOs have become increasingly influential in recent years, with over 47,000 non-profit 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, and many of these groups have legal and research teams that support their policy engagement.
ACRI. Anti-NGO Legislation in the Israeli Knesset. February 2016,

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

Guidestar, the NGOs’ website of Israel. By the Ministry of Justice. (Hebrew). Last seen: October 31st, 2018.

HCJ 3646/18 Yedid Centers of Rights in the Community V the Minister of Justice (Hebrew)

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

Madhala, Shavit, et al. Israeli Welfare Organizations: A Snapshot. Policy Paper 03.2018. Internet Edition. Jerusalem: the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 2018.

Memorandum of Ordinances of Courts (Fees) (Representative Action), 2017. (Hebrew). Full text:

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

Regulations of Courts (Fees), 2007 (Hebrew)

Shamai, Barkat. “Starting Today: Significant Fees on Submission of Representative Actions.” In Globes website. May 8th, 2018. (Hebrew).

The Associations Act, 1980 (Hebrew)

“The Clinic for Representation Populations from the Periphery Presented a Lawsuit Against the Ordinances Dictating for the First Time a High Fee at the Time of Submitting a Request for the Approval of Representative Action.” In the Center for Clinical Legal Education’s website. Last seen: November 4th, 2018. (Hebrew). [Here the statement of claim can be found]

The Obligation to Reveal as to Who is Supported by Foreign Statal Entity Act, 2011 (Hebrew)

“The transparency law has passed finally” Knesset website 12.7.2016, (Hebrew)
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. During the period under review, interest associations have been heavily involved in three major political issues: the environmental impact of frequent fires that have taken place at waste-management plants, the new legislation on waterside areas and various infrastructure projects (e.g., the second railway to the port of Koper and the Karavanke tunnel). Within the growing political polarization in Slovenia, political pressure from the government on NGOs has increased, and NGOs have become less independent and have in some cases become very political in their activities.
Policymaking in the Netherlands has a strong neo-corporatist (“poldering”) tradition that systematically involves all kinds of interest associations in the policymaking process – not just with regard to business and labor issues, but also in the education, care, culture, sports and health sectors. Owing to their well-established positions, associations such as the consumer association; the associations for home-owners, for car owners or for bikers and cyclists; 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. Tradeoffs are actively negotiated with ministries, other involved governments, stakeholder organizations and even NGOs. Furthermore, noneconomic interest organizations react to policy proposals by ministries and have a role in amending and changing the proposals in the early stages of the cabinet formation and regular policymaking process. During the 2021 cabinet-formation process, many noneconomic associations – representing, for example, the arts, education, the elderly and the care sector – inundated negotiators with policy memos and demands. Of course, they are also involved again at a later stage, during implementation processes. Sometimes, as in the Lelystad airport noise case, truly spontaneous citizen activist groups may be successful in penetrating official policymaking.

Recent research by investigative journalists has unearthed serious evidence that there are systematic links between political parties and more informal sources of influence through jobs and positions in noneconomic and non-political associations. For example, the American tactic of shadow-lobbying – big corporations hiring ostensibly neutral research bodies as indirect sources, above suspicion, that then criticize government policy initiatives – is also practiced in the Netherlands. More important, political parties, especially VVD, D66, PvdA and CDA, are successfully pushing party members that leave formal political positions into high-level leadership and administrative positions in the non-political and noneconomic associations that make up the third sector or civil society – like chairperson positions in the Dutch Association of Local Governments (VNG), the Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NWO), the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), health insurance companies, the National Railway system (NS), etc. Of course, a considerable number of politicians also leave political jobs to go to more lucrative lobbying jobs in business or to prominent civil society organizations. The most recent case is that of the minister of infrastructure and water management leaving her position in the Rutte III caretaker government for a position as chair of Energie Nederland, the umbrella organization for energy companies.
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.

NRC Next, 25 juni 2019. ‘Maatschappelijke kosten Lelystad Airport onderschat.’NRC,

Meeus, 20 November 2021 Heeft de Amerikaanse methode van ‘schaduwlobbyen’ Den Haag bereikt?

Groene Amterdammer, 22 February, 2021. Keken and Wittman, Baantjes in de polder. Hoe Nederland liberaal-blauw kleurde.

Montesquieu Instituut, 2 September 2021. Democratie op Donderdag: afkoelingperiode bewinsdpersonen
Alongside economic interest groups, organized religious communities, particularly the officially recognized denominations, have a formalized role within the decision-making process. The peculiar Austrian institution of “officially recognized religious denomination” institutionalizes the participation of major religious groups within policymaking. Like the economic interest groups, they are – often, though not always- 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.

A number of other groups occasionally exert notable influence, including the physicians’ chamber, various environmental groups (e.g., Greenpeace) and some human rights organizations (e.g., Amnesty International).

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

The capability of noneconomic groups to formulate policies is, overall, considerably more limited than that of economic interest groups, particularly professional associations.
A number of 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. Recently, the NGO Franak has played a very important role in gathering debtors and former debtors in order to sue foreign banks for alleged malpractices in issuing CHF loans since 2005.
The policy-formulation capacity of noneconomic 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. Environmental groups are mainly local, but their actions can have a nationwide impact on transport and industrial policy. Religious groups are sporadically, though increasingly active in domestic politics. In recent years, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and several civil society groups (e.g., Foundation for Protection of Family and Traditions, SAPTK) have actively criticized the legalization of same-sex marriages and abortion rights, among other things. An attempt by SAPTK and Estonia’s conservative parties (IL and EKRE) to organize a public referendum to change the Estonian constitution failed in January 2021.
The number of non-business associations has been increasing in recent years, and member figures have been rising. In many cases, especially at the local level, such organizations are dependent on the financial support of public authorities. Moreover, most associations are reactive, preferring to object rather than make their own proposals. Nonetheless, there are a number of noneconomic associations that combine pluralistic approaches, long-term views 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) or social policy (aid to people with different social problems or handicaps). Furthermore, many associations addressing the issues of the environment, climate change and anti-corruption policies have acquired or significantly increased their competencies, and enhanced the quality of their policy oversight and advice. This development has resulted from a combination of political activism and new legal instruments provided to associations, in particular before the courts. A similar evolution can be observed in the field of economic/fiscal policy, thanks to the creation of new think tanks.
The landscape of non-economic interest organizations is increasingly rich and diversified. But only few of them are able to formulate articulated policy proposals. Most operate in a reactive mode instead. Among the most professional associations, some religious (e.g., Caritas or Comunità di S. Egidio, which deal mainly with poverty and immigration policies), humanitarian (e.g., Emergency) and environmental groups (e.g., Legambiente, FAI 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 or Fondazione Agnelli) producing critical studies and conducting oversight activities. With COVID-19, medical field foundations have increased their activity and visibility. Their infrastructure, resources and personnel are in general limited.
Malta has a large number of noneconomic 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. In the recent budget, the government earmarked financial support for NGOs. A number of NGOs have worked proactively in various policy areas, such as rent reform, transport reform, prison reform and constitutional reform. 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. Partisan NGOs at times muddy the waters. However, the majority of NGOs campaign on specific issues, with environmental groups being a classic case of dispassionate campaigning.
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 noneconomic interest groups in Mexican civil society. Many talented graduates have found positions in domestic and international NGOs, and work to influence policy in Mexico via advocacy-oriented strategies. 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, often through the personal linkages to the government and its administration. 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 10 years 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 years on issues related to transparency, accountability and development effectiveness.

The record of the new government of President López Obrador and his party MORENA toward social movements and NGOs has been mixed so far. On the one hand, MORENA is associated with social movements and is trying to establish a new style in Mexican politics, away from traditional vested interests. On the other hand, the government’s austerity measures have cut state subsidies for NGOS, for which NGOs have heavily criticized the government. Moreover, the populist legacy of the current government also indicates tensions between “popular consultation” on the one hand and top-down, populist decision-making on the other. Mexico nonetheless has a very lively civil society.
El Universal (2018). Mexican NGOs to keep working on the development of civil society.
Poland has many interest associations beyond business associations and trade unions. However, compared to other countries, there are comparatively few environmental groups. However, the existing groups have become more important in the current discourse on how to mediate the effects of climate change. Most independent non-governmental organizations are relatively small and do not benefit from the funds distributed by the National Freedom Institute, the official organization in charge of helping NGOs with capacity-building. However, many NGOs have good international contacts, can rely on academic expertise, and can thus develop full-blown policy proposals. The Catholic Church, still the most influential interest group in Poland, pursues relatively narrow interests, and is primarily preoccupied with stabilizing its influence within an increasingly secular society and has to deal with cases of sexual abuse. It currently has good access to the new government, but some of its priests also asked for more national solidarity, peaceful cooperation and a friendlier approach toward refugees. In recent times, some interest groups have become more publicly outspoken. The Polish Doctors’ Council frequently complains about the government’s actions and that their expertise is not being heard. Similarly, the judges’ associations Iustitia and Themis opposed changes to the judiciary and court system. The All-Polish Women’s Strike (Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet, OSK) has become very vocal against the abortion law, and in general about women’s rights and PiS’s illiberalism.
While many NGOs have suffered from a lack of resources, quite a number of them have significant analytical capacities, especially in areas such as environmental policy and social protections. Many NGOs have benefited from international funding. The Romanian Orthodox Church, which represents as much as 85% of the population, has been a powerful actor, but has promoted a relatively narrow and conservative agenda.
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. Unfortunately, this increased level of influence has to some extent undermined their ability to criticize the government. For example, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy has lost some of its independence, acting to suppress internal criticism of key former members who had become members of the government, such as former Blue House Secretary and Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Highly competent international NGOs such as Transparency International, Amnesty International and Save the Children are also playing an increasingly prominent role in their respective fields.
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.

Recent research emphasizes the growing importance of citizen groups such as the WWF (Ecihenberger 2020; Mach et al. 2020).
EICHENBERGER, S. 2020. The Rise of Citizen Groups within the Administration and Parliament in Switzerland. Swiss Political Science Review, 26, 206-227.

MACH, A., VARONE, F. & EICHENBERGER, S. 2020. Transformations of Swiss neo-corporatism: From pre-parliamentary negotiations toward privileged pluralism in the parliamentary venue. In: CAREJA, R., EMMENEGGER, P. & GIGER, N. (eds.) The European Social Model under Pressure. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden,
Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
Greek civil society is relatively underdeveloped. Civil society associations can press the government on government policy choices, but rarely do they contribute to policymaking in a proactive manner. Most non-economic interest associations do not have the resources to become involved in policy formulation. There are, however, exceptions regarding religious 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 landed property. This pattern of heavy church influence on policy formulation has been preserved, regardless of the political profile (right-wing, centrist or left-wing) of the governing party or parties in power.

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 in the field. 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, the role of NGOs
probably declined, as the Greek state was preoccupied with the management of COVID-19. The state also took it upon itself to manage reception and identification centers (RICs) on several islands and the mainland of Greece, rather than leaving the task to NGOs.
The provisions of the constitution of Greece on the Greek Orthodox Church can be found in article 3 of the constitution.
The capacity of noneconomic 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.
Noneconomic 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 groups Zero and Quercus). The same is true of religious communities and social interest groups. Interaction with associations appeared to be largely instrumental and related to political or group objectives rather than policy-driven. Few associations have the ability to formulate policy proposals, while those that are able to formulate policy proposals tend to have very limited resources, often relying on the voluntary contribution of qualified members to formulate policy. Within this landscape, it is worth mentioning the emergence of new social movements focusing on issues including the environment, racial justice and women’s rights, such as Greve Climática Estudantil (School Strike for Climate) and Rede 8 de Março (March 8th Network). These typically involve comparatively youthful activists, and tend to rely on direct action in defending their proposals.
Noneconomic interest associations are relatively weak, 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 as it formulates policy (since the process would then become much more complex without necessarily adding social legitimacy as a compensation). 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 and some NGOs devoted to human rights (such as Amnesty International) or development aid 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 an exception in this portrait. Although they are also weak as autonomous organizations, they have become increasingly influential within the political parties (especially in the PSOE). The LGBTQ+ movement has successfully defended homosexuals’ rights. 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 healthcare and education. Over the course of the last several years, pensioners have staged several large protests to demand fairer pensions for themselves and for future generations. Social movements promoting or opposing the Catalan government’s bid for independence also have experts that conduct research on issues related to independence.
The most active noneconomic 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, which 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.
A proliferation of civil society groups is connected, among other factors, with funding opportunities from EU and other organizations. Many are subject-oriented associations, with limited capacity to formulate policy proposals.

The momentum gained in recent years by some groups active and interested in politics, the economy, and social and environmental issues has slowed down. Issues such as promoting transparency and combating corruption, electoral system reform, and protecting the rights of minority groups have received limited response. Despite media attention and quality proposals on such significant subjects, political forces choose to promote sectoral interests, mostly counting on votes. In the last two years, government officials have targeted NGOs and groups supporting migrants’ rights with unsubstantiated accusations.

The activities of associations and in particular of the bicommunal civil society organizations that create spaces for dialogue between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities have been affected by restrictions on movement introduced to tackle COVID-19. The Church of Cyprus continues to assert its presence in society and is promoted by public service television. Its influence has not receded, despite conservative statements and actions by its leadership that do not comply with the spirit of Christianity.
1. Bird groups say illegal shooting in Cyprus must stop, Cyprus Mail, 27 September 2019,
Civil society organizations with a public-policy focus are rare in Japan. With few exceptions, such organizations in Japan have limited depth and breadth. Japan has only a 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 on 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. Among the general population, the idea of NPOs does not enjoy strong support.
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/

U.S.-Japan Council, Japan’s NPO Sector Today, Summary of a breakout session of the 2018 Annual Conference,
A number of environmental interest groups have the capacity to propose concrete policy measures and provide capable analysis of policy effects, often in cooperation with their international networks or academic bodies. Environmental organizations engage in structured policy dialogue 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 until recently remained largely outside of the public-policy development process, but have now become more vocal in their defense of “traditional Christian values,” especially in the context of LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights.

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). Unlike the social dialogue process, civic dialogue in Latvia has no official status and does not receive special support from the state or the EU structural forums. As a result, the vast majority of organizations participate in structures such as the Memorandum Council in their spare time, without remuneration. There is therefore an imbalance in the decision-making process, with local and economic lobbies participating in the process actively, but civil society organizations only occasionally.
The Orbán governments have created a big, lavishly financed pro-government network of fake civil society associations and foundations. In public life they have presented themselves as independent and autonomous organizations, although they clearly support government positions and provide a democratic façade for the government. A series of scandals have arisen as it has become clear that these organizations have received financing from state-owned enterprises. By contrast, Hungary’s genuine civil society has suffered from decreasing financial support and increasing legal restrictions. This has clearly infringed upon their capacity to formulate relevant policies. Nonetheless, a number of interest associations with extensive expertise exist.
During its tenure in power, the government has created its own set of loyal civil society groups. One such group is TÜRGEV, a foundation led by President Erdoğan’s son, which has gained political influence in the executive and has expanded its financial resources. A pro-government research establishment, SETA, conducts research projects on current political, economic and social issues, with the goal of providing policy recommendations. Similarly, KADEM (Women and Democracy Association) was founded with the patronage of Erdoğan’s family members and is used as a social policy instrument.

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 subject to criminal investigation. The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitat (TEMA) has remained the most well-established environmental organization in Turkey, with 500,000 volunteers.

Various resources, especially land allocation and financial support, have been provided by municipalities to foundations that support the government. Although Ensar Vaqf and other religious foundations have been in the public spotlight due to child abuse scandals, the government has continued to support these organizations. However, most pro-government organizations’ resources were cut off, especially after the opposition captured the Istanbul and Ankara metropolitan municipalities in the 2019 local polls.

Cumhuriyet. “AKP’nin çocuk istismaları ile sınavı… Erdoğan Ensar ve Adıyaman Gerger ile yüzleşecek mi? February 20, 2018.
Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
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