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Closing space for civil society? Analyzing the drivers and responses

Civil society organizations (CSOs) worldwide are under significant pressure as restrictions on foreign funding, barriers to registration, intervention in CSOs’ internal affairs, and other forms of harassment have proliferated. The debate will examine the evidence and experience of closing space in different contexts and sectors. It will also identify the innovative responses that have allowed CSOs to continue their crucial work and thrive in many countries, despite growing pressures.

Taking the battle for civic space online

As online spaces become increasingly restricted, human rights activists must stay aware of the risks and benefits of technological developments. Español.


Introducing openGlobalRights’ newest debate: ‘closing space for civil society’ – analyzing the drivers and responses

Civil society organizations (CSOs) worldwide are under significant pressure. Questions abound about whether current trends indicate a permanent setback for civil society, or rather are indicative of shifts in the way that civil society operates. openGlobalRights launches a new, multilingual debate on 'closing space for civil society'.


Under threat: five countries in which civic space is rapidly closing

Restricted freedoms and intensifying governmental control raise the risk for social and geopolitical conflict.


From funding projects to funding struggles: Reimagining the role of donors

While donors partner with civil society to counter shrinking civic space, their rigid funding systems can undermine progress. Español 


How to pay for legal empowerment: alternative structures and sources

Taking a hybrid approach to legal funding recognizes that different issues require different types of funding. EspañolFrançais


The old world of civic participation is being replaced

Traditional politicians and traditional CSOs are part of an old world that is being replaced by very different forms of civic participation.  Español


To preserve human rights, organizational models must change

The current human rights business model is not keeping up with trends in technology, philanthropy, business and society that could improve global results. EspañolFrançais


Closing space in Hungary with a Russian cookbook

Hungary is using Russia’s playbook to close down civil society space, and many Western allies are hardly even noticing. 


Development banks and the silencing of dissent

By ignoring community concerns around development projects, multilateral institutions can become complicit in human rights violations and closing space. EspañolFrançais


Opening up civic space requires creativity and careful navigation

Even where civil society space is constrained, local organisations can create positive relationships with state and external actors. Ру́сскийالعربية


In Venezuela, data is power

Venezuela’s lack of reliable data on socio-economic metrics poses both challenges and opportunities for human rights advocates. Español


To implement Agenda 2030 in Africa, people must be at the centre

Increasing threats to citizens’ freedoms will derail the sustainable development goals.


For sexual minorities, “closing space” for civil society means losing access to critical services

Closing space for African sexual and gender minority groups is about far more than advocacy—it is about accessing critical services that no one else provides. Français


In Asia, freedom of speech is critical in the fight for human rights

Protecting freedom of speech, assembly and association in Asia is the lynchpin to protecting all human rights.


Local funding is not always the answer

In some countries, relying on local funding gives human rights defenders even less freedom.  Españolالعربية


The Trans-Pacific Partnership: a missed opportunity for civil society?

Civil society could have played a key role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership—why were they left out? Español


No middle ground: the risks of being a human rights defender in India

Volunteers in India are banding together to form a network that protects human rights defenders.


Does “de-Kirchnerizing” Argentina mean dismantling human rights policies?

A key concern for many Argentinians, among the numerous changes Mauricio Macri’s government has implemented, is the dismantling of hard-won human rights gains. Español


Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative

As local rights groups seek alternative funding sources, the closing space for civil society makes this even more imperative.


Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

In this climate of closing space, we have an imperative to rethink the business models for protecting human rights. 


Violent groups aggravate government crackdowns on civil society

Armed non-state actors, criminal elements and violent extremists—not just governments—are responsible for the increasing crackdown on civil society. Français


What drives the crackdown on NGOs, and how can it be stopped

Foreign aid is always political, and elevates the risk of a government crackdown on NGOs. Español


In for the long haul: a creative fight for space in Kenya

What started as a “one time” reform exercise has turned into a long-term battle for Kenyan civil society. Français


In the name of security: when silencing active citizens creates even greater problems

Silencing activists in the name of security can stifle actors most likely to challenge extremist ideologies, making insecurity worse. Español


Foreign funding restrictions: far more than just “an illegitimate excuse”

Those that justify restrictions on foreign funding for civil society have strong normative arguments that cannot be dismissed lightly. Français, EspañolDuetsche, العربية


Civil society in the post-Soviet space: fighting for the “End of History”

“Partly free” countries in the post-Soviet space must fight even harder now to protect growing civil societies. Ру́сский


Reclaiming space through UN-supported litigation

Working together, the UN and civil society are using innovative legal action to protect fundamental human rights and re-open lost civic spaces. Español


Are we being innovative in protecting civic space?

Taking lessons from history’s best dissenters, civil society is finding new ways to make cracks in shrinking spaces. Español


Missing: an international response to the rising tide of impunity

Civil society organisations are targeted because political elites know they have power. But where is the international backup? Español


Adapt or perish: the new normal for civil society

As space for civil society closes, donors and civil society leaders are realizing they cannot take public support for granted. Español


Rethinking progressive NGO funding in Israel

Marked as traitors by the dominant Right for relying on foreign aid, Israeli liberal NGOs need a wider base of local donors. Español


Grounds for (a little) optimism? Russian public opinion on human rights

Despite Putin’s clampdown on Russian civil society, public opinion trends point to growing support for civil liberties. EspañolРу́сский


Crushing dissent: NGOs under threat in India

Can NGOs and India’s political opposition stop Modi’s civil society clampdown?


Data-driven optimism for global rights activists

Opinion polls across four world regions suggest that human rights activists can be cautiously optimistic—the public likes and trusts them. EspañolFrançais, العربية


Government repression and bureaucratic hoops spell gloom for rights groups in Bangladesh

Amidst tighter donor budgets for human rights, NGOs in Bangladesh are also grappling with increasingly intrusive governments. বাংলা (Bengali)


Disputes over foreign funding in Israel mask much deeper issues

If Israeli human rights groups are labeled fronts for foreign interests due to their funding, what does that make Israel itself? A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on Funding for Human Rights. العربية  עברית


Pure hypocrisy: India’s fear of foreign funding for NGOs

The Indian state aggressively promotes foreign investment in all sectors but civil society. 


In for a bumpy ride: international aid and the closing space for domestic NGOs

The global pushback against domestic NGOs has arrived. International donors must learn to cope, but it won’t be easy. EspañolFrançaisالعربية


The hypocrisy of foreign funding laws in Ethiopia

In the constantly shrinking space for civil society around the world, Ethiopia faces some enormous challenges in generating local support. Largely due to the country’s new CSO Proclamation, which severely restricts foreign funding of rights groups, human rights work in the country has nearly shut down. But can local donors pick up the slack?


Anti-ngo legislation in Israel: a first step toward silencing dissent

Ultra-nationalist political parties are yet again trying to crack down on dissenting Israeli NGOs. This is the latest in a longer series of efforts to fundamentally re-define Israel as the “state of the Jews,” rather than a state of all its citizens.


In Kenya, averting a move to strangle civil society with the financial noose

In October Kenya introduced legislation capping foreign funding to NGOs and requiring that money be channeled through a government body. Though narrowly defeated, the law looked to be a death-knell for a vibrant civil society sector. But Kenya – and the region – is not out of the woods yet. Français


All articles in date order:

Taking the battle for civic space online

As online spaces become increasingly restricted, human rights activists must stay aware of the risks and benefits of technological developments. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ closing space for civil society debate. Español.

Llevemos la batalla por el espacio cívico a Internet

Conforme los espacios en línea están cada vez más restringidos, los activistas de derechos humanos tienen que mantenerse al tanto de los riesgos y los beneficios de los desarrollos tecnológicos. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios para la sociedad civil. English

Under threat: five countries in which civic space is rapidly closing

Restricted freedoms and intensifying governmental control raise the risk for social and geopolitical conflict. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.

Closing space in Hungary with a Russian cookbook

Hungary is using Russia’s playbook to close down civil society space, and many Western allies are hardly even noticing. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.

Les banques de développement et l'étouffement de la contestation

En ne tenant aucun compte des préoccupations des communautés concernant les projets de développement, les institutions multilatérales peuvent devenir complices de violations des droits humains et du rétrécissement de l’espace de la société civile. Une contribution au débat d’openGlobalRights sur le rétrécissement de l’espace de la société civile. EnglishEspañol

Los bancos de desarrollo y el silenciamiento de la disidencia

Al ignorar las inquietudes de la comunidad en torno a los proyectos de desarrollo, las instituciones multilaterales pueden convertirse en cómplices de las violaciones de derechos humanos y la reducción de espacios. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios para la sociedad civil. EnglishFrançais

Development banks and the silencing of dissent

By ignoring community concerns around development projects, multilateral institutions can become complicit in human rights violations and closing space. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.  EspañolFrançais

Opening up civic space requires creativity and careful navigation

Even where civil society space is constrained, local organisations can create positive relationships with state and external actors. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil societyРу́сскийالعربية

Открытие гражданского пространства требует креативного подхода и тщательной навигации

Даже там, где пространство гражданского общества ограничено, местные организации могут создавать позитивные отношения с государственными и внешними субъектами. Вклад в обсуждение openGlobalRights о закрытии пространства для гражданского обществаEnglishالعربية.

توسيع مجال العمل المدني يستلزم الإبداع والإدارة الرشيدة

وبالرغم من تقييد مجال عمل المجتمع المدني في بعض الدول، إلا أن المنظمات المحلية لايزال بإمكانها إنشاء علاقات إيجابية بين الدولة والجهات الفعّالة الخارجية. مساهمة من الجدل المطروح على موقع openGlobalRights حول تضييق خناق العمل المدني. EnglishРу́сский

Es hora de que los bancos de desarrollo comiencen a escuchar

La comunidad de asistencia ignora frecuentemente los deseos de las personas a las que se supone que está ayudando. El mundo necesita un enfoque más participativo sobre el desarrollo. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios para la sociedad civil. English

It’s time for development banks to start listening

The aid community often ignores the wishes of the very people it’s supposed to be helping. The world needs a more bottom-up approach to development. A contribution to openGlobalRights’ closing space for civil society debate. Español

Las estadísticas son poderosas en Venezuela

La falta de estadísticas e investigación de confianza en temas socio-económicos conlleva problemas y oportunidades para los defensores de los derechos humanos en Venezuela. Esta es una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de los espacios para la sociedad civil. English

In Venezuela, data is power

Venezuela’s lack of reliable data on socio-economic metrics poses both challenges and opportunities for human rights advocates. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society. Español

To implement Agenda 2030 in Africa, people must be at the centre

Increasing threats to citizens’ freedoms will derail the sustainable development goals. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.

In Asia, freedom of speech is critical in the fight for human rights

Protecting freedom of speech, assembly and association in Asia is the lynchpin to protecting all human rights. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.

Pour les minorités sexuelles, la « fermeture de l’espace » pour la société civile revient à perdre l’accès aux services vitaux

La fermeture de l’espace pour les minorités sexuelles africaines va bien au-delà des actions de plaidoyer et concerne l’accès aux services vitaux qui ne sont fournis par personne d’autre. Une contribution au débat d’openGlobalRights sur la fermeture de l'espace pour la société civile. English

For sexual minorities, “closing space” for civil society means losing access to critical services

Closing space for African sexual and gender minority groups is about far more than advocacy—it is about accessing critical services that no one else provides. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil societyFrançais

Acuerdo Transpacífico de Cooperación Económica: una oportunidad perdida para la sociedad civil?

La sociedad civil podría haber jugado un papel clave en el Acuerdo Transpacífico, ¿Por qué fueron excluidos? Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre el cierre de espacios para la sociedad civil. English

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: a missed opportunity for civil society?

Civil society could have played a key role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership—why were they left out? A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.  Español

No middle ground: the risks of being a human rights defender in India

Volunteers in India are banding together to form a network that protects human rights defenders. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society.

Does “de-Kirchnerizing” Argentina mean dismantling human rights policies?

A key concern for many Argentinians, among the numerous changes Mauricio Macri’s government has implemented, is the dismantling of hard-won human rights gains. A contribution to openGlobalRights closing space debate. Español

¿“Deskirchnerizar” Argentina significa desmantelar las políticas de derechos humanos?

Entre los varios cambios generados por el gobierno del nuevo presidente Mauricio Macri, el desmantelamiento en los avances de las políticas de derechos humanos conseguidos con grandes esfuerzos es una de las preocupaciones principales. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios. English

Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative

As local rights groups seek alternative funding sources, the closing space for civil society makes this even more imperative. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debates on closing space for civil society and funding for human rights.

Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

In this climate of closing space, we have an imperative to rethink the business models for protecting human rights. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debates on closing space for civil society and funding for human rights.

Des groupes violents aggravent la répression des gouvernements à l’égard de la société civile

Les responsables de l’intensification de la répression à l’encontre de la société civile ne sont pas seulement les gouvernements, mais aussi les groupes armés non étatiques, les éléments criminels et les extrémistes violents. Une contribution au débat d’openGlobalRights sur un espace de plus en plus fermé pour la société civile. English

Violent groups aggravate government crackdowns on civil society

Armed non-state actors, criminal elements and violent extremists—not just governments—are responsible for the increasing crackdown on civil society. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society. Français

¿Qué impulsa la campaña de represión contra las ONG y cómo ponerle fin?

La ayuda extranjera siempre es política, y eleva el riesgo de que los gobiernos tomen medidas represivas contra las ONG. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios para la sociedad civil. English

What drives the crackdown on NGOs, and how can it be stopped?

Foreign aid is always political, and elevates the risk of a government crackdown on NGOs. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society. Español

In for the long haul: a creative fight for space in Kenya

What started as a “one time” reform exercise has turned into a long-term battle for Kenyan civil society. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society. Français

Un effort de longue haleine : une lutte créative pour ouvrir l’espace au Kenya

Ce qui avait commencé comme un processus de réforme limité dans le temps s’est transformé en un long combat pour la société civile kenyane. Une contribution au débat d’openGlobalRights sur un espace de plus en plus fermé pour la société civile. English

En nombre de la seguridad: cuando silenciar a los ciudadanos activos crea problemas incluso mayores

Silenciar a los activistas en nombre de la seguridad puede constreñir a los actores con más probabilidades de desafiar las ideologías extremistas, y así empeorar la inseguridad. Una contribución al debate de openGlobalRights sobre la reducción de espacios para la sociedad civil. English

In the name of security: when silencing active citizens creates even greater problems

Silencing activists in the name of security can stifle actors most likely to challenge extremist ideologies, making insecurity worse. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on closing space for civil society. Español

القيود المفروضة علي التمويل الأجنبي: أكثرمن مجرد "ذريعة غير شرعية"

التعريف بالمقال: المؤيدون لفرض القيود علي التمويل الأجنبي لمؤسسات المجتمع المدني لديهم أسباب معيارية لا يمكن الاستخفاف بها. مساهمة من الجدل المطروح على موقع openGlobalRights حول تضييق الخناق علي المجتمع المدني.  EnglishFrançaisEspañolDuetsche

Гражданское общество на постсоветском пространстве: борьба за «конец истории»

«Частично свободные» страны постсоветского пространства должны сейчас еще активнее бороться,  защищая растущее гражданское общество. Материал для форума openGlobalRights по вопросам сжимания пространства для гражданского общества. English

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