knowledge & analysis

  • Civic Pulse

    CIVICUS Civic Pulse

    Civic Pulse is a regular panel survey of a cross section of civil society leaders from around the world mapping their views on the conditions for civil society in their country, and to gauge their confidence to create social change. While the tool will produce results of interest for researchers and academics, its use is designed primarily for civil society activists and organisations themselves to make the case for improved conditions for civil society organisations, human rights defenders and activists in their country and globally. The Civic Pulse is active currently in ten countries and the global coverage will expand to twenty countries by June 2016.

    Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Civic Space Initiative

    CIVICUS Civic Space Initiative

    CIVICUS has partnered with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), ARTICLE 19, and the World Movement for Democracy to undertake a three year project aimed at protecting and expanding civic space by fostering an enabling legal environment for civil society.  The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) focuses on civil society legal initiatives at the global, regional, and national levels. Support for the CSI is provided by the Government of Sweden. CIVICUS is responsible four main arms of the project focusing on an international campaign on civil space and the Universal Periodic Review at a global level, the Enabling Environment National Assessments and the New Social Contract at a national level.

    The role of CIVICUS

    Governments across the globe are increasingly seeking to impose legislative and extra-legal barriers to the full realisation of the rights fundamental to the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society. In its 2013 report, “Global trends on civil society restrictions”, CIVICUS tracked 413 threats to civil society in 87 countries since the beginning of 2012. In an apparent attempt to suppress the influence and impact of independent civil society groups, governments are   imposing unwarranted legal restrictions on civil society, including laws criminalising access to foreign funding and unduly limiting the scope of their permissible activities. Civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders are further facing escalating intimidation, harassment and reprisals, including imprisonment, for undertaking their legitimate activities.

    The Universal Periodic Rreview

    As a result of these and other restrictions on civil society at the national level, intergovernmental processes, including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and Universal Periodic Review (UPR), are emerging as imperative platforms to advocate for key reforms to ensure the creation of an enabling environment for civil society. However, limited access to financial and informational resources continues to hamper robust civil society engagement with the UNHRC.  CIVICUS, through its CSI UPR activities, including the development of joint UPR submissions, coordinating national post-UPR consultations, and facilitating the attendance of civil society activists at UNHRC sessions, has sought to empower human rights defenders operating in restrictive environments to take part in UNHRC processes to ensure that it addresses unwarranted restrictions on civil society. The civil society discourse at the UNHRC is largely dominated by large international human rights groups and prominent national civil society groups from the capitals. However, under the CSI UPR work stream, CIVICUS been able to significantly expand the number and scope of civil society organization that are able to effectively inform UNHRC discussions on civil society space.

    As a result of CIVICUS’ joint UPR submissions on restrictions on the rights to association, assembly and expression, threats to civil society space are routinely addressed by governments during UPR examinations. At the national level, the post-UPR consultations provide an indispensable and protected space to discuss and create advocacy campaigns to address the deteriorating environment for civil society. A number of CIVICUS’ partners have reported an increased awareness of UNHRC processes among a wide spectrum of civil society and sustained advocacy projects on civil society space emanating from the post-UPR consultations. Finally, CIVICUS’ support for national civil society activists to take part in UNHRC and UPR sessions, including through holding parallel UNHRC side events, organizing high-level meeting with relevant government and OHCHR stakeholders, and supporting the composition and delivery of oral and written statements and press releases, continues to provide an essential ingress for national civil society activists to provide crucial first-hand information on pressing human rights concerns.

    The Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is a participatory research initiative aimed at creating an evidence-base for advocating for an enabling environment for civil society on a national scale. The research is focused at the legal, regulatory and policy environment for national civil society.  EENAs take place in countries where civil society has experienced threats or challenges in their legal, regulatory and policy environment. Another criterion for the choice of country is that there needs to be a reasonable chance of impact of an EENA on the enabling environment.

    Threats in the eight countries that carried out the first round of EENAs include: restrictive laws on NGOs (Zambia, Cambodia, Uganda); anti-cyber laws that affect the freedom of online speech (Cambodia); draft laws that affect the freedom of association (Burkina Faso), peaceful assembly (Cambodia, Uganda), or the freedom of association and expression of sexual minority groups (Uganda); taxation laws and laws that threaten the funding environment for CSOs (Bolivia, India); challenges in the relations between government and CSOs (Cambodia, Bolivia, Uganda, India); and non-legal threats that affect the environment of CSO’s such as corruption (Cambodia, Lebanon, Uganda, Zambia) and drug trafficking (Mexico). The EENAs provide an evidence-base and action plan for advocacy aimed at addressing these threats and challenges. Furthermore, the ENNAs have raised the awareness of participating civil society organisations on their legal, regulatory and policy environment, and built national consensus on how best to collectively address challenges and threats through multi-stakeholder dialogue.

    The Public Awareness Campaign

    In many places around the world civic space is under threat. Governments have passed laws that restrict civic freedoms or make operations or financing for civil society groups difficult; in some cases they have increased the surveillance of ordinary citizens, activists and civil society organisations, and in others there has been direct repression and arrests. Civil society also faces threats from non-state actors, including powerful corporate entities, extremist right-wing and fundamentalist groups. The Be the Change online platform and the Global Day of Citizen Action allow individuals and organisations around the world to raise awareness, discuss and celebrate 'civic space'. The main goal of these initiatives is to raise awareness about the importance of 'civic space' and why we must make greater efforts to monitor and protect it. Awareness activities associated with these platforms have reached 743,112 actors through social media, direct mailers and targeted posts, and engaged 21,365 individuals in actions aimed at protecting civic space.

    Due to restrictive political environments, some organisations were unable to raise awareness on the streets during the Global Day of Citizen Action. Instead, we mobilized global solidarity for citizens in repressive countries and provided materials and supplies that allowed groups like Action for Human Rights and Education Initiative in Uganda to hold events indoors - in schools and churches - that resulted in more than 400 people attending and discussing their civic and political rights to speak out, organise and take action within their community.

    The New Social Contract:The world is facing unprecedented divides and underlying systemic disconnects that have contributed to our current ecological and socio-economic crisis and “led us into a state of organised irresponsibility, collectively creating results that nobody wants” (Scharmer and Kaufer 2013).  We believe that there is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against the urgent and complex problems of our time, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of engaging across different sectors. The New Social Contract (NSC) work stream is helping define the terms of citizens’ engagements in governance processes that affect citizens’ lives by promoting and analysing new forms of collaboration around crucial economic, social and environmental challenges. CIVICUS developed a short methodology on multi-sector engagement to be tested through locally-initiated dialogues. The dialogues have been conceived as an empirical and innovative way of assessing and comparing local patterns of civic engagement taking place around the world. Through a global call for expressions of interest, over 940 applications were reviewed, eight partners were selected and throughout 2014 seven of them successfully organised dialogues around crucial challenges experienced within their communities. 

    As a result, over 400 stakeholders representing government, civil society, private sector and scientific community engaged in these processes; and a number of agreements and action plans were endorsed by participants to address local challenges in a new and more participatory fashion. From the analysis of all the evaluation sheets completed by the participants it seems that there was a strong appreciation for this initiative: overall, the majority of participants to the seven dialogues indicated that they were satisfied with the organisation of the dialogues, that through the processes they gained insight into the main challenges at stake and that they have been able to strengthen their network for further engagement. Moreover, the majority of the participants are willing to take action on the basis of what they learned and what was agreed. The lessons learned through the local dialogues shall later inform a toolkit on multi-stakeholder engagement as well as other knowledge products for dissemination within the CIVICUS constituency and more widely. The participatory research process gave voice to hundreds of citizens engaged in the above-mentioned dialogues and shall inform the recommendations included in the toolkit.

    For more infromation about the initiative, please visit ICNL's project page

  • CIVICUS Monitor

    CIVICUS Monitor: Tracking Civic Space

    In 2016, CIVICUS will launch its next generation tool to map, track and analyse civic space trends. The CIVICUS Monitor web platform, due to go live in October 2016, uses multiple information streams to track developments related to civic space in each country around the world, communicating analysis and updates in as close to real time as possible. The Monitor will be a source of valuable information and analysis to underpin fact-based advocacy on civic space at the national, regional and global levels.


    The CIVICUS Monitor is designed to provide civil society with reliable information on civic space trends on a global scale. As a global alliance, we know that measures of democracy, civil society and human rights are often distrusted, criticised as biased or disregarded because of a lack of connection to the experiences of citizens and CSOs. We see an opportunity to change this:

    Prioritise local voices through multiple sources

    The CIVICUS Monitor triangulates multiple sources of information on civic space, while also prioritising the voices of local civil society groups and actors. Eight distinct information streams – both quantitative and qualitative data – will be fed into a central system at CIVICUS, resulting in more representative and nuanced perspectives.

    Ratings and country-focused pages

    This data will inform our rating of each country’s civic space either as CLOSED, REPRESSED, OBSTRUCTED, NARROWED or OPEN. The data streams will also feed into individual country pages, which will provide a variety of rich information on civic space.

    Real-time, nuanced information

    Our members often tell us that indexes and measures of civil society should be more nuanced and more closely reflect shifting local dynamics. The CIVICUS Monitor will provide continual updates that are as near to real time as possible, so that it accurately conveys a picture of the rapidly changing conditions on the ground

    Civic Pulse

    As one of the data inputs to the CIVICUS Monitor, the Civic Pulse aims to track conditions for civil society and the confidence of key civil society leaders to create change. As a tool for civil society, by civil society, it periodically engages key voices for social change in collaborative and crosscutting research. Working with our network of partners, CIVICUS aims to build and maintain opinion panels of 300 – 500 key voices in civil society in each country.


    Want to find out more?

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean under threat

    Restrictions on civic space rising despite prevalence of democracy

    Click hereto read a Spanish language version of this release

    Civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean is coming under increasing pressure despite the prevalence of electoral democracy in the region, says a new reportreleased today by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

    While the core civil society freedoms of association, assembly and expression are constitutionally recognised in most countries, legal, administrative and de facto barriers to the exercise of these freedoms have risen throughout the continent. These restrictions are appearing after an upsurge of citizens’ protests over entrenched issues of inequality, corruption and abuses of political power.

  • Civil Society Index

    CIVICUS Civil Society Index

    The Civil Society Rapid Assessment (CSI-RA)

    Informed by our findings from the previous Civil Society Index (CSI) phase, CIVICUS sees that in many countries, civil society organisations (CSOs) exist today in a state of heightened volatility, flux and disconnect. There is a pressing need to continue to take a fresh look at what civil society is and does, and to adapt measurement tools more to local contexts in order to capture better the changing nature of civil society.

    Based on this understanding, CIVICUS now offers an additional and new civil society rapid assessment (CSI-RA) tool, based on a more flexible and adaptable methodology to help civil society better assess its strengths, challenges, potentials and needs in a range of different situations and contexts. The CSI-RA can also help to promote cooperation and networking within civil society and with other stakeholders, improve CSOs’ credibility towards their constituencies, monitor and assess the environment in which civil society operates and inform alternatives for improving CSOs’ planning and performance.

    The flexibility of the CSI-RA allows the project’s partners to decide on what their most important expected result is and adapt the methodology accordingly, focusing on one or more dimensions of the civil society reality in order to deliver the best value towards the most important process or desired change.

    CIVICUS is currently piloting this new methodology in the Gambia, Sierra Leone and Tunisia, with the support of the Commonwealth Foundation, IBIS and the United Nations Development Programme, and we seek to offer additional pilots in different regions of the world, working with partners to fundraise, apply, monitor and evaluate the methodology. If you are interested in additional information about the CSI-RA, including in applying it in your context, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    The classic Civil Society Index (CSI):

    The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is a participatory needs assessment and action-planning tool for civil society, which has the aim of creating a knowledge base and momentum for civil society strengthening initiatives. The classic CSI has been implemented over the past ten years in more than 75 countries.

    Compared to the new CSI-RA, the classic CSI has a more fixed methodology and requires more time and resources, as it attempts to assess the entire spectrum of civil society experience across five dimensions: the organisational structure of civil society, civic engagement, perception of impact, practice of values and the enabling environment. It also seeks to enable international comparisons between the state of civil society in different countries.

    The CSI is initiated and implemented by, and for, civil society organisations at the country level, and actively involves, and disseminates its findings to, a broad range of stakeholders, including government, donors, academics and the public. The two primary goals of the CSI are to enhance the strength and sustainability of civil society, and to strengthen civil society’s contribution to positive social change.

    The classic CSI is still available for those partners that seek to have a fully comprehensive look at civil society focussing on the five dimensions mentioned above.

    For more information about the classic CSI please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


  • Civil Society Watch

    CIVICUS Civil Society Watch (CSW)

    The Civil Society Watch (CSW) project advocates for the protection and expansion of space for civil society to operate freely with a focus on threats to civil society at the local level. CSW aims to lead and support timely, principled and effective responses to situations that threaten the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

    Civil society across the world is continuously facing real threats ranging from attacks on human rights defenders to changes in legislation. CSW seeks to protect and strengthen civil society by working toward four core objectives:

    • Expand and strengthen strategic partnerships for sustained advocacy with local civil society
    • Build Civil Society Watch Online to be a platform for local and international civil society to monitor threats, share information, and take action
    • Lead and support joint advocacy initiatives to increase local impact
    • Monitor and analyze information about civil society existence, expression and engagement in order to identify regional and global trends

    CSW Online is the project’s principle platform for monitoring threats to civil society around the world and coordinating joint action with local activists. It arises from the previous Early Warning System. Visit CSW Online to stay informed and find out how you can take action.

    Civil Society Behind Bars campaign is a joint initiative with local civil society partners to advocates for the release of imprisoned civil society activist. You can help, take action today.


  • DataShift

    CIVICUS DataShift

    DataShift is an initiative that builds the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use citizen generated data to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change. This global movement is empowering a broad, multi stakeholder platform through sharing skills, strategies and technologies to identify and document existing citizen reporting mechanisms, data gaps and perceived needs. Ultimately, our vision is a world where people-powered accountability drives progress on sustainable development.

    Why DataShift?

    There is an urgent need to build the capacity of civil society in the global South and around the world to produce, analyse and use citizen-generated data in a systematic way. Sustained support and development of these mechanisms encourages responsiveness to local contexts, facilitates sharing and uptake between groups, and builds a scalable methodology for mobilising citizen monitoring resources. There is also a need to promote the comparability of citizen-generated data across issues and countries, as well as help citizens and their organisations access and adopt more rigorous methodologies for collection and use, to build the credibility of citizen-generated data. By addressing the challenges of coverage and comparability, powerful new tools for monitoring progress can be deployed.

    Key Activities

    In 2015-16, DataShift is working in three locations: Argentina, Nepal and East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). DataShift is working in five key activity areas in an effort to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of citizen-generated data initiatives:

    The Learning Zone

    A learning Zone provides citizens and civil society organisations with online, user-friendly and accessible information and resources on generating and using data.

    Direct Support Activities

    Carried out by DataShift Ambassadors, direct support activities are building in-country capacity on citizen-generated data in DataShift pilot countries through technical support and convening multi stakeholder dialogues to foster collaboration.

    Thematic Forums

    These include events, consultations and online exchanges on citizen generated data to facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration on citizen-generated data, including enhancing complementarity between citizen generated data and other data sources, enhancing comparability of citizen generated data between and within countries and harmonising shadow SDG reporting.

    DataShift Fund

    A demand-led mechanism to channel financial and technical assistance to civil society actors in pilot countries who want to build their capacity, experiment and innovate with citizen-generated data.

    The Dashboard

    A DataShift Dashboard uses citizen-generated data to monitor the SDGs. Why? Citizen-generated data has the potential to be a powerful, alternative source of data on development progress that can support the accountability and campaigning efforts of civil society and the decision making of governments.


    DataShift is currently midway through the second year of an initial pilot phase, primarily working in four pilot countries: Argentina, Nepal, Kenya and Tanzania. In 2016, we have:

    • Continued to provided technical and strategic support to a number of organisations and projects in our pilot countries working on a broad range of thematic issues to support improved data collection, analysis, responsible management and visualisation for campaigning
    • Created a DataShift Community with 30+ members and counting, which has already had its first in-person event and collaborated with key CGD partners such as the Global Partnership for Social Accountability to host webinars and skill-shares
    • Engaged hundreds of civil society organisations and activists on DataShift and CGD at International Civil Society Week 2016 in Bogotá, Colombia 
    • Published new research, case studies and other resources on citizen-generated data in our online Learning Zone that provides citizens and civil society organisations with online, user-friendly and accessible information and resources on generating and using data
    • Re-launched an interactive citizen-generated data project network visualisation which maps these against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
    • Supported the development of the new Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and helped to ensure strong civil society participation and voice in the initiative
    • Helped to establish a Monitoring and Accountability Working Group in the new global civil society initiative Action for Sustainable Development


    Stay up to date on the work we’re doing and what we’re learning by subscribing to our newsletter!

    Partners: CIVICUS, the Engine Room, Wingu and the Open Institute

    Countries: Argentina, Nepal and East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania)

  • Enabling Environment

    CIVICUS Enabling Environment

    CIVICUS has long used a working definition of civil society as being "the arena, outside of the family, the state, and the market, which is created by individual and collective actions, organisations and institutions to advance shared interests.

    The enabling environment refers to the conditions within which civil society operates: if civil society is an arena, the environment is made up of the forces that shape and influence the size, extent and functioning of that arena.

    CIVICUS has been involved in the discussions around the enabling environment for civil society, and has taken efforts in the measurement of the enabling environment of civil society. The Enabling Environment Index (EEI) is a composite index and ranks 109 countries on the conditions for civil society. Given the limited data available on the legal and regulatory environment for civil society, the Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is an attempt by CIVICUS and ICNL to develop a more in-depth national level monitoring framework that complements the EEI.

    The Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA) is an action-oriented research tool designed to assess the legal, regulatory and policy environment for civil society in national contexts. Locally-owned, rooted in primary data collected at the grassroots level, and validated by a consensus based, multi-stakeholder process has as its purpose the strengthening of the capacity of civil society to advocate for an enabling environment.
    The Enabling Environment index (EEI) examines the conditions within which civil society work. Using secondary statistical data, it ranks the governance, socio-cultural and socio-economic environments for civil society in 109 countries. The EEI is the first index that attempts to measure the long-term conditions that affect the potential of citizens to participate in civil society.
  • La sociedad civil en América Latina y el Caribe bajo amenaza

    Aumentan las restricciones pese al predominio de la democracia

    En América Latina y el Caribe la sociedad civil está bajo creciente presión a pesar de la prevalencia de la democracia en la región, afirma un nuevo informe publicado hoy por la alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS.

    Si bien en la mayor parte de los países las libertades fundamentales que componen el espacio cívico –las de asociación, reunión y expresión- tienen reconocimiento constitucional, las barreras legales, administrativas y de hecho que limitan su ejercicio han aumentado en todo el continente. Estas restricciones han resurgido tras una nueva ola de protestas ciudadanas en torno de problemas profundamente arraigados en la región: la desigualdad, la corrupción y los abusos del poder político.



25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Johannesburg, 2092
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997


11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435


355 Lexington Ave
New York
NY 10017


Unit 60
Eurolink Business Centre
49 Effra Road
SW2 1BZ, London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7733 9696