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Between Collaboration and Securitization. State and Non-State Actors in Russian Anti-Drug Policy

Fri, July 13, 9:00 to 10:30am, Room, 5A 33


The Western public debate has come to discuss the Russian regime’s attitudes towards NGOs as being predominantly hostile and suppressive. Since about 2005, however, restrictive policies against NGOs with foreign connections have been deliberately combined with attempts of the Russian government to develop a constructive and loyal, albeit not necessarily obedient domestic civil society. Due to its limited state capacity, the regime strongly depends on the resources of non-state actors, among others mainly on their expertise, coordinative capacities as well as on NGOs’ easier access to hard-to-reach groups. In order to give these interdependencies a formal and predictable frame, governance networks have been institutionalized in various policy areas. Unsurprisingly, most governance networks are dominated by the state, but participating in forums, platforms etc. allows non-state actors to get some access to policymaking and to adjust official policies to regional and local problems. Accordingly, case studies revealed remarkable cross-sectoral and inter-regional differences in how regime and non-state actors collaborate.
Conceptually, this article adapts network governance theory and meta-governance to the characteristics of the Russian hybrid regime. Empirically, it draws on the case of anti-drug policy, which is especially suitable to study the Janus-faced collaboration of the Russian regime with non-state actors under the conditions of an increasingly authoritarian regime. Anti-drug policy cuts across various sectoral policies, such as health and security, and involve different, sometimes competing actors attached to the state and non-state organizations. Depending on whether the issue is framed as a health or security problem, various actors come into play. While the drug control authorities (formerly FSKN) dominate the scene, other state (e.g. medical institutions, regional AIDS centres) and non-state (e.g. NGOs, private drug rehabilitation centres, and the Russian-Orthodox Church) actors are also involved and perform different tasks. A special role of coordination is designated to the anti-drugs commissions replicated at various levels of government and represented by all of the mentioned actors.
The case studies were conducted in Samara and St. Petersburg, both being federal subjects that are among Russia’s highest in terms of drug use in the population. However, whereas St. Petersburg has a wide number of non-state actors that collaborate with the state on anti-drug policy, Samara’s civil society landscape on this issue is much more limited. The data was gathered by using method triangulation. It comprises 27 semi-structured interviews with government officials and policy-makers, representatives of professional groups, civil society organizations (mostly NGOs), as well as with independent stakeholders who work in the field of anti-drug policy. Besides, the researchers conducted observations of five network meetings as well as document analyses.
Linking the results to theories on ‘new’ authoritarianism, our analysis reveals that the Russian state does not appear as a unitary actor. However, the more securitized the specific policy issue at stake is, the less the drug authorities are willing to provide a space for other actors in policy development and implementation.