Why the Space for Civic Engagement Is Shrinking

All around the world, active citizenship is under attack and the space for civic engagement is closing—not just in countries that have struggled under repressive or autocratic governments, but also in democracies with longstanding traditions of supporting freedom of expression. There are many different reasons for this shrinking of the public space.

In some countries, especially newer democracies or countries undergoing political transitions, those in power are fearful of civic activism. Seeing its power, officials in governments with no previous experience regulating political protests or public debates have come down with a heavy hand, erring on the side of preventing change rather than encouraging it.

In other countries, including France and the United States—partly in response to the fear of terrorism—well-established civil liberties have been suspended or cast aside in the name of security. Such measures, from mass surveillance to martial law, reduce the space for civic life, the space where citizens do the work of improving our communities and societies.

Civil society is enormous in its size and diversity. We are members of the media, for-profit businesses, volunteer associations, political parties, trade unions, faith communities, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations. If we are united at all, we are united by our work outside of government and the state to advance the common good—even though we have different ideas of what that looks like.

Because the space we need for this work is closing, we must come together, understand our mutual dependence and interrelatedness, and support each other in this work. We must forge a new solidarity.



Fight for ever for the human rights

Yes! "First they came for the .....and I did not speak out.... " we need to be very careful not to forget history thatb has annihilated millions in the name of nothing ethical or wholesome

utopian ideals as a drive to action - I'm in!

I will use my voice to oppose your movement - EVIL - for who can oppose social justice. Stay out of my country you manipulating evil group. Go back to your own country and save YOUR country. By the way - UTOPIA is an imaginative place where things are perfect - Power corrupts and there is no way utopia will exist. Manipulation Marxist machine.

I have been working for a civil society organisation in Slovenia for 30 years. We have never experienced such an ignorant attitude, such a neglecting attitude in spite of the fact that we have done so much for our society on all levels. Democracy of opinion is getting to be less and less present.We have to strive together against this trend..!

Try a courthouse

we'll fight against the dictators. the condition in ethiopia is the worest of all.we have to write on it.i have a paper on it.i'll post it in the near future .

Part of sustaining lasting change into the future is thinking and acting with and for our children. What would we be doing when we are initiating our children within a secular - multi-cultural rite of passage to transmit values and ethics of caring and compassion? Find out at: www.rope.org

i like too be part..

Yes to freedom and the strength of civil society in all homelands

Freedom for civil liberties

I sincerely appreciate much your comment.

We must defend freedom under any circumstance. Remember the high resolve of all those who died so that we may talk and walk free.

I am pro open socity foundation activities.

Open use of the practices and protocol for spaces is a preposition of time and motion, giving substance life and vigor to humanity. With forms of cause we are effected as herds without concerted acts of self involvement. Through experience of life we must aquire some reverance for human feelings and retain a tenderness toward full spectrum of people. Lives matter and use of their time moving through space continually writes the human constitution of personal existance. This must be done not simply for the pleasure of the those administering technical letter of the law, but to make it tolarable for those who live the text of the book in a good way.

I applaud Open Society's efforts to keep civic space open. Without the opportunity to speak out, there can be no democracy.

Please do not use social security and social order as excuses to oppress us!

The U.S. operates now, in my view, as a racist police state. Big Brother does not exercise control over every TV screen yet, but Christian and Jewish Zionists cannot see, hear, or comprehend anything other than the "truths" Big Brother (the clergy and political leaders) announce in their churches, their synagogues, or through the MSM.

Totally agree.
I'm sad and worried about the future of our world.
But I won't give up.
Thanks you very much for what you are doing for all of us. It's a wonderful work.

Thanks very much for your video clip . Indeed civil society are finding it hard to mobilize ,organise and agitate for a free space to express their rights . From Cape Town , Paris , New York, London to Burkina Faso people are pushing back .

It happens all around the world. Un México, there is a strong battle too!

Open spaces for assembly and free speech are central components of democracies and of rights based societies. Keep them open and open all borders

As a Moor/Black/African American/Negro not only in the United States...all over the world...We have been oppressed for years....We know...that this is not inclusive. As we are continually oppressed others will be added...ex the working poor, other ethnicities, classes even persons and their individual differences...Those in power we gave them power...ALWAYS FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE...UNITED WE STAND...!!!

In Mexico, the space for civil society organizations is also shrinking. Besides the pressure from federal and state authorities who sometimes are accomplices of organized crime, the latter exerts violence and threats against those who oppose their criminal activities. In the field where I work, migration and migrant workers' rights, criminal bands take down whoever opposes their business of kidnapping, human trafficking and forced slavery. They have targeted journalists, civic leaders and human rights activists alike. I fully endorse this effort to come together and support each other in our work.

We must claim and reclaim the commons, physical, cultural, social and political public spaces. There is an ongoing attack on higher education and its public space mission. The Humanities and the Social Sciences are increasingly seen as irrelevant.

People's Participation- an NGO working on right based approach in a Province in India ; now facing many legal problems and constraints to work freely imposed by Govts.

It's important that government in countries around the world understand, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt sums it up more succinctly: "The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.”

The situation of closing the society's voice is now takiking place in Tanzania after the general election. The police force decided to voide any public meeting done by the leaders of CHADEMA party which is the major opposition party while CCM leaders are conducting their meetings without any limitations.Surely this situation need strong force to fight against.

Public space on the ground is being taken next the air with restrictions on drones!drones can provide aero media "media from above".

The role of civil cociety is enormous, especially for the developing countries. So, they shouldn't be closed...

An excellent and timely write up by the President of OSF. Shrinking space of the civil society is really a cause for concern. The conservative bureaucracy in countries like Nepal and India and other south Asian countries perceive civil society as threat to their hegemony. It is high time civil society echos a collective voice and tell them that we are here to protect , preserve and promote human values and individual freedom.

We demand open space for Civil Societies!

Yes, repressive governments in countries like Ethiopia are not in a position to open the space wide for the operation of civic engagement fearing that the people's awareness will be raised so that the public can challenge their power. The Ethiopian government issued a terrorism law that prohibits every journalist, activist and individuals not to positively impact the civic life of the community. Most IMPORTANTLY, the gov't issued CSO's law in 2009 that limit their scope of intervention and their access to finance from foreign donors. Free press is in grave danger in Ethiopia.

in Swaziland the situation is so bad, civic activism is repressed in such a manner that even faith communities are coerced not to tell the truth, news are all about the government and authorities nothing about the citizens that are suffering due to poverty and hunger. corruption has been institutionalized! parliaments are told point blank not to utter a word on certain issues.

South Africa - no exception

Everting is rights

We are NGO supported and product of your program, the all worbs is very clear mesage for institutions, people to be more active in practical live for rigts for all people.

Hello all,
In my opinion is a strongly idea, that freedom, peace and human rights need in to protect anytime and anywhere.
Dr.Sherif Mucalla

Freedom, the basis of human development

I add my voice to fight for civic engagement space. I believe that together we can win and with a united voice, we can make the world a better place for everyone regardless of race, creed, gender or where we live. Our common destiny as human family should urge us to work for freedom, justice and transparent leadership.

Yes it may be shrinking but it is a matter of time with the vibrat social media, governments are no longer able to lie for long before being discovered by their electorates. Infact, in Africa what i seem to observe is that many leaders are often explaining why this and that has not been done. or why it was done. What remains to be done is the electorates translating the questions into a game changer.

By the end of the 1990s civil society was seen less as a panacea amid the growth of the anti-globalization movement and the transition of many countries to democracy; instead, civil society was increasingly called on to justify its legitimacy and democratic credentials. This led to the creation by the UN of a high level panel on civil society.[40] However, in the 1990s with the emergence of the nongovernmental organizations and the new social movements (NSMs) on a global scale, civil society as a third sector became treated as a key terrain of strategic action to construct ‘an alternative social and world order.’ Post-modern civil society theory has now largely returned to a more neutral stance, but with marked differences between the study of the phenomena in richer societies and writing on civil society in developing states.

I will ALWAYS stand with all of you doing this vital work at Open Society both at home and abroad! God bless everyone involved for all the noble work that you do!!

Political correctness is debasing the language and eroding freedom of speech. Any opinion outside the narrow parameters of established wisdom is deemed hate crime, unless perpetrated by a favoured minority. This is a perilous, tyrranical state of affairs. I do not agree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it.

Poverty breeds violence. With economy not doing good and people not having jobs makes them restless and insecure. People then become intolerant and agitated. Give everyone a chance to follow "Work is worship" then there would be more peace around the world.

No restrictions, more civic space are needed.

Seen from a global perspective, society has never been as open and liberal as now. With progress in education and technology, particularly the expansion of free access to knowledge (beyond propaganda), citizens are becoming increasingly autonomous in co-determining the way they want to live. What we are seeing now in the World is probably one of the last struggles of authoritarianism to prevail as a mainstream ideology of governance. Authoritarianism will never be overcome completely - there will always be people, who wish to monopolize power and dictate how other people shall live. However, in many countries of the World, a critical, open culture of thinking has become the mainstream. Authoritarian politicians are challenged and ridiculed. The trend is going global. Well-informed and educated citizens, who form the basis of a competitive economy, simply don't favor dictatorship, but prefer living in an open society in a self-determined way. I hope that we succeed in overcoming authoritarianism in the next decades and that this struggle is won with as little violence as possible. I hope that at least some authoritarian leaders can be convinced to progressively reform their governance.

I am with you

It is very sad for countries to discriminate against the activities of civic society foundations

I think the UN should act now, by prosecuting nations that are discriminating the works of civic society foundation.
Thank you.


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