“Development Needs Civil Society: The Implications of Civic Society for the Sustainable Development Goals,” by the ACT Alliance and Institute for Development Studies, examines the consequences of closing civic space on civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media and other groups that bridge the public and private sectors. It includes a literature review and 16 case studies, (12 desk-based and four field-based). The report concludes that, while the effects of closing civic space vary widely due to the diverse cultures studied, all of the effects reverse or halt the progress of “reducing inequality, insuring inclusion and improving sustainability”; that is, closing civic space has both direct and indirect effects on how, if at all and to what degree the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are implemented.
Taking a “political economy approach to the analysis, tracing impacts on the work of civil society through an analysis of the development outcomes,” the report cautions that there is not enough data to “make robust cross-national measures of the relationship between changing civic space and the SDG.s. However, the authors do recommend that any governments that legitimately want to implement the SDGs review restrictions on CSOs and actively defend them from attacks meant to close civic space. Not only does this aid the SDGs and those who would benefit from them, but maintaining a robust civic society is a worthy goal in and of itself.