What Is the State of Civil Society?

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Date: 
March 12, 2018

For civil society, the past year has been "one of resolute resistance against the rising tide of restrictions on fundamental freedoms and democratic values," according to CIVICUS’ 2018 State of Civil Society Report. Sobering data from the CIVICUS Monitor reveals serious systemic problems with civic space in 109 out of 195 countries covered, it notes. At the same time, "there are also numerous examples of civil society successfully advocating for progressive new laws on women’s rights, access to information and protection of human rights defenders."

Findings from the report point to 10 key trends impacting civil society in 2017. There are increasing instances of personal rule by political leaders replacing the rule of law and undermining democratic institutions in many countries. Polarizing politics and unjust economic systems propelled by cronyism are dividing societies and reducing the international community’s ability to address key global challenges such as violent conflict, inequality and climate change. Read more

The report makes several recommendations for active citizens, democratic governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, media and academia, including:  

  • Active citizens should connect with each other locally, nationally and internationally on social justice causes and speak out and mobilize in different ways such as volunteering and offering financial and in-kind contributions;  
  • Democratic governments should model the deepening of democratic practice by enabling spaces for discussion, dissent and dialogue at all levels and also resist moves to weaken human rights standards at the multilateral level.
  • Multilateral institutions should reinforce the primacy of civil society participation in decision making and find new ways to open up spaces for public participation in their activities.
  • Private sector, media and academia should make common cause with civil society in the defense of human rights by forming new alliances, sharing platforms and by developing and partnering in joint campaigns.

Read the full report