A new report from the European Foundation Centre and the Funders Initiative for Civil Society examines how the trend of shrinking civil society space affects development funders and actors. The report, Why Shrinking Civil Society Space Matters, is intended to develop better insight into the issue and to increase awareness of the threats to civil society and to discuss approaches that can enable a more effective response to reverse this trend.
According to the report, a healthy civil society is key to increasing equality and reducing poverty in development work. The disturbing trend in restrictions on civil society's ability to operate, especially in developing countries, stems from a range of government measures, including constraints on freedom of assembly to imposing excessive red tape and limitations on foreign sources of funding. This can stifle the ability of INGOs to support local organizations, engage in advocacy work and carry out programs.
Only a few philanthropic development organizations engage in advocacy around this issue. The report's authors assert that conciliatory actions aimed at respecting increased regulatory demands in order to maintain access to a country "may seem sensible, .... [but] can do the reverse and in fact harm development's aims." The report examines more strategic, cross sector ways forward.