The ways in which authoritarian regimes learn from each other and collaborate to develop repressive practices is outlined in Sharing worst practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, a new report from the UK-based Foreign Policy Center.
- The regional political atmosphere is shaped by what Dr David Lewis describes as the ‘Moscow Consensus’, an approach supporting ideas of national sovereignty, defending the stability of fellow regimes, pushing back against western influence and alternative sources of power by heavily ‘managing’ civil society, coopting business, and enhancing security service cooperation. The focus on sovereignty, stability and security of existing regimes is being buttressed by the growing influence of China as seen through the Shanghai Coooperation Organisation. US and Western policy as part of the ‘War on terror’ has also helped facilitate and excuse torture, kidnapping and other abuses by local security services, undermining credibility of international criticism on human rights abuse.
- The region is also impacted by emerging, if sometimes ad hoc, attempts to promote socially conservative ‘traditional’ values to counteract Western liberal ideas and efforts at European integration. Often originating in Russia, these messages are then echoed and adapted for local audiences by anti-Western forces within the societies of the region to underpin attacks on NGOs and minority groups.
- Bad legislation and practices have several roots including the shared Soviet heritage, regional structures that foster the development of repressive rules and norms of behaviour, and bilateral influence, most notably from Russia, to put pressure on civil society and shut down voices perceived as pro-Western. Fundamentally, however, authoritarian states in the region need little encouragement to find ways to repress their own people and are actively looking to learn from each other’s experiences to strengthen their control.