Andrew Firman

1 May, 2018

In the face of rising restrictions and brazen attacks on fundamental freedoms, citizens across the globe are responding with resolute resistance, in creative, and powerful ways.

This is the main takeaway of CIVICUS’ 2018 State of Civil Society Report.  Findings from the report identified 10 key trends. Notable among these is a spurring of peaceful resistance by active citizens and civil society against unjust actions. The report points out that almost everywhere we look, we see signs of citizens organising and mobilising in new and creative ways to defend civic freedoms, fight for social justice and equality, and push back on populism. This trend is most exemplified in the spotlight that has been shone on patriarchy, sexual harassment, gender and power imbalances, thanks to the #MeToo and Times Up movements. MORE

Ellie Stephens and Katie Mattern

2 May, 2017

We’ve all heard it repeated multiple times in our lives:  we all work better together. The work we do is greater than one individual, and together we can solve the challenges our world and communities face. We’ve also heard this refrain multiple times in our sector, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it’s one that’s seemingly harder and harder to take ownership of in our work.

This adage has never been more important than it is today, as civil society faces an increasing challenge of legitimacy in an evolving world too often dominated by political and financial elites. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, only 3 percent of the world currently lives in countries where fundamental civic rights are respected and enforced, leaving 6 billion people living in countries where freedom of association, assembly, and speech are curtailed. MORE

Mandeep Tiwana

29 March, 2016

A vibrant and empowered civil society is an essential component of a functioning and accountable state. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called civil society, the “oxygen of democracy” and applauded the sector’s role as a “catalyst for social progress and economic growth.” Yet, there is ample evidence to show that civil society space is rapidly shrinking.

Just in the month of March 2016: environmental and land rights activists have been assassinated in Honduras and South Africa; a prominent woman human rights defender has been arbitrarily detained along-with her 15 month old son for demanding democratic rights in Bahrain; an activist opposing the proposed construction of a hydropower dam in Cambodia has received a suspended sentence; staff of several CSOs have been judicially harassed in Egypt to prevent them from receiving vital funding from international sources; and a draft law placing arbitrary conditions on the formation of CSOs in Jordan has come to light.

Students'_mass_protest_in_Taiwan_to_end_occupation_of_legislatureLast year, CIVICUS reported substantial threats to core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly in 96 countries. Our preliminary findings for this year put the number at over hundred countries.  These trends spanning both democratic and authoritarian states heighten the urgency to inform public opinion about how attacks on civil society activists and organisations are chipping away at citizen rights and undermining participatory democracy. Effective mobilisations to influence hearts and minds of the global public will be key to reversing negative trends. MORE

Danny Sriskandarajah

11 August, 2015

If you are visiting Disrupt&Innovate, I assume you are (like me) interested in how to ensure that civil society remains a powerful force for good. You are also probably worried about the growing threats to civil society actors across the world. Indeed, you are probably from and/or work in one of the 96 countries where there were serious threats to civic freedoms in 2014. In fact, you are almost certainly from one of these countries because 67 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 6 out of 7 people live in a country where these civic rights are under threat.

Assuming the above, I wanted to share two emerging observations from having been in numerous conversations about what to do to resist attacks on civic space.

The first is that civic space cannot be ‘saved’; it has to be fought for, constantly. MORE