The vicious spirit is out of the box. By now we – those of us who read this blog – all recognise that countries will not stop imposing restrictions on civil society in the foreseeable future; to the contrary, those restrictions are growing by the year. Just in 2015, over 30 countries proposed or passed 45 laws to constrain civil society organisations (CSOs) and rights of CSOs and activists have been violated in over 100 countries.
But what is this ‘vicious spirit’ and who let it out? Who’s to blame? Is it the newly budding populist and authoritarian leaders of this century? Or the masses of voters who elect such leaders and agree with their worldviews, including those on civil society? Democracies that weaken under the threats of terrorism, war and humanitarian crisis?
It is all of those and more; the phenomenon of shrinking civic space is complex and its root causes are difficult to tackle. As the problem has grown, more and more players became aware and got on board to address it: over the past couple of years, several dozen CSOs, donors, networks and international organisations launched ‘civic space’ projects, strategies and initiatives at the country, regional and global levels. Yet the negative trend remains. What are we doing wrong? MORE