The Politics of NGO Registration in International Protectorates: the Cases of Bosnia and Iraq

Following international interventions in Bosnia-Herzegovina1 and Iraq, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have played a central role in delivering humanitarian relief, encouraging participation in new systems of government, and advocating on behalf of marginalised groups. Although intervening agencies have framed such autonomous organisations as unquestionably virtuous, scholars have increasingly questioned the agency of NGOs, pointing to the constraining effects of funding and regulatory mechanisms. This paper contributes to this body of work by offering a detailed examination of legislation requiring NGOs to register with nascent state institutions. Drawing on case study material from Bosnia and Iraq, it argues that NGO registration should not be dismissed as a technical or legal matter, but that it should be embraced as a significant political practice embedded in relations of power.