Comparative European Politics

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 761–780 | Cite as

Determinants of civil society influence: The case of international development and humanitarian NGOs in the Czech Republic and Hungary

  • Balázs Szent-Iványi
  • Simon Lightfoot
Original Article


Accession to the EU has had ambiguous effects on civil society organizations (CSOs) in the East Central European countries. A general observation is that accession has not led to the systematic empowerment of CSOs in terms of growing influence on national policy making. This article investigates the determinants of successful CSO advocacy by looking at international development and humanitarian NGOs (NGDOs) in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Reforms in the past decade in the Czech Republic have created an international development policy largely in line with NGDO interests, while Hungary’s ministry of foreign affairs seems to have been unresponsive to reform demands from civil society. The article argues that there is clear evidence of NGDO influence in the Czech Republic on international development policy, which is because of the fact that Czech NGDOs have been able solve problems of collective actions, while the Hungarian NGDO sector remains fragmented. They also have relatively stronger capacities, can rely on greater public support and can thus present more legitimate demands towards their government.


foreign aid civil society organizations NGDOs development policy new member states EU accession 



The writing of this paper was supported by the EU’s FP7 Marie Curie Programme (project INTDEPNEW). The authors are grateful to all the government, EU officials and NGO representatives who agreed to be interviewed. Charlie Burns and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful and insightful comments and the paper is much improved as a result. The editors at CEP provided excellent editorial guidance. The views expressed here are our own, as are any mistakes.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston UniversityBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Department of World Economy, Corvinus University of BudapestBudapestHungary
  3. 3.School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of LeedsLeedsUK

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