The special issue of the FACTS Report titled, “Stories of innovative democracy at local level: enhancing participation, activism and social change across the world”, compiles ideas, stories, project evaluations and research from CIVICUS members and partners and beyond. From participatory budgeting (Lisbon, Nigeria, India, China) to local development initiatives (Niger), distribution of public services (Madagascar, India) and improving the dialogue between government authorities with citizens (Oregon, France, Argentina), these 14 articles tackle key issues for democracy such as government transparency and accountability, to make government institutions more receptive to citizens’ voices and demands.
“From Europe to Latin America, from Asia to Africa, and across the Arab world, the news is full of examples of disconnect between governments and citizens. Public institutions are not meeting—or are no longer meeting— the needs and expectations of the population.
A vibrant civil society contributes significantly to a living democracy, social cohesion and social innovation. Civil society organizations (CSOs) provide important services. Especially in times of crisis, they can help to improve living conditions for many people.
Appropriate framework conditions are a prerequisite if the potentials of civil society are to be developed and exploited in an effective way. While this has been known to scholars and experts for some time, politicians are now becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities which may arise from creating favourable conditions for civil society.
The Civil Society Index – Rapid Assessment (CSI–RA), therefore, examines the general climate and framework conditions for civil society initiatives and organizations in Austria. Using the internationally tested CSI-RA tool, supporting as well as limiting factors were identified and assessed from the point of view of experts and social stakeholders. The ultimate aim of this report is to provide a basis for the creation of a beneficial environment for Austrian civil society.
As part of its work to monitor civic space, from time to time CIVICUS produces Policy Action Briefs on countries where civil society is under increasing and or dire threat. As part of this work, we have produced a Policy Action Brief on Cambodia which highlights the following:
•Increasing attacks on protestors
•Intimidation and harassment of civil society members
•Drawing up of restrictive legislation to quell dissenting voices
The Brief is particularly relevant as Cambodia has recently completed its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council while rejecting some recommendations to protect civil society freedoms.
Public dissatisfaction at the manipulation of democracy by members of the ruling political elite has led to a brutal response by the Cambodian state. The brief also sheds light on attacks on human rights activists, environmental and land rights defenders in Cambodia. Finally, it highlights the multiple challenges that the country’s vibrant civil society faces and makes several recommendations in the wake of the increasingly disenabling environment for civil society and citizen participation in the country.
The CIVICUS Civil Society Index‐Rapid Assessment (CSI‐RA) project in West Africa was initiated in 2013 with financial support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and CIVICUS, and in partnership with the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI). The ultimate goal of the project was to generate local knowledge by civil society and develop actionable recommendations that can promote civil society’s role and capacity to foster democracy and citizen’s participation in Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
It engaged civil society partners in these countries in developing and implementing a self‐assessment tool that contributes to evidence‐based civil society strengthening at the country level. Because the CSI-RA offers a more flexible methodology that is designed to be highly adaptable to any context, including sub-national, sectoral or thematic contexts; the different country partners chose, in consultation with a wide range of CSOs, different areas of assessment depending on their needs and prioritization.
The Advocacy Toolkit: Influencing the post-2015 Development Agenda is for civil society and other stakeholder organisations, coalitions and individuals that wish to influence the post-2015 development agenda, including the design of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It aims to equip you with relevant information and tools to enable you to develop and implement an effective post-2015 advocacy strategy. You can either follow its step-by-step approach or simply consult the tips, tools and case studies most relevant to your existing activities. Engaging with the media, is a companion to the toolkit which provides a guide to the strategic use of the media and social media in the context of post-2015 advocacy.
On 13 November 2013, CIVICUS and Gender Links convened a workshop in Johannesburg to discuss challenges faced by Gender and LGBTI activists in East and Southern Africa and identify ways in which activists can work together to address these challenges.
The workshop brought together 40 Gender and LGBTI activists from Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Somaliland, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and included representatives from the facilitating organizations, CIVICUS and Gender Links. This report summarises the discussions, key concerns raised and recommendations made during the workshop.
CIVICUS is proud to announce the publication of its guide to help civil society organisations’ regulate their practices and operations with respect to a variety of governance issues.
The CIVICUS Self-Regulation Guide, a new addition to our Legitimacy, Transparency and Accountability (LTA) programme, is the result of research conducted by CIVICUS and its members and partners. It features more than 20 case studies from around the world, lessons learnt, innovations and practical advice.
As part of CIVICUS’ work to promote and protect the enabling environment for civil society in the Asia-Pacific region, CIVICUS provided Carine Jaquet from the Research Institute on Contemporary South-East Asia (IRASEC) with technical and financial support to conduct research on the changing environment for civil society in Myanmar.
Civil society in Myanmar was virtually non-existent in the late 1990s due to the tight political control exercised by the military juntas from 1962 to 2010. It gradually re-emerged in the early 2000s and made exponential progress following the large-scale response to the devastation caused by the Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Since then, the installation of a new, quasi-civilian, government in November 2010, led to a more favourable environment for civil society organisations (CSOs) to operate. As a result of rapid political changes, Myanmar civil society has been expanding and exploring new issues.
Jaquet’s report highlights that civil society has been able to benefit from expanding space, thanks mostly to political changes at the highest levels of government. This enabled - still incomplete - regulatory and legal reform, leading to noticeable increases in freedom of expression, association and assembly. Issues, once considered taboo, can increasingly be discussed by CSOs. Nonetheless, some significant restrictions remain that hinder civic space. The post-2010 reforms are based on a top-down centralised democratisation process, leaving many remote and marginalised groups – mainly ethnic minorities – behind. In spite of some noticeable improvement in local governance, state representatives at the lowest levels often continue to operate as they did under the former junta. However, some issues are still taboo, especially those related to government and private sector control of resources. The recent advances in freedom of expression need to be supported to promote a better understanding of minority-related issues and to avoid fuelling conflict in a still fragile political transition process.
The full report is accessible here.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and RESOCIDE jointly organised a workshop on enhancing the capacity of human rights defenders to respond to threats in West Africa in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from 2 to 3 July 2012. The workshop which brought together participants from Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and the USA, aimed at identifying specific threats faced by civil society and human rights activists in West Africa and creating a network to facilitate timely and proactive responses to these threats. At the close of the meeting, particpants agreed to create a West African Network for human rights defenders which they named Africa Rights Defenders. The meeting was made possible by the financial support of Irish Aid.
At the start of the workshop, participants presented country experiences on human rights issues. It was clear that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders continue to work in restricted spaces despite improved legal frameworks for democratic governance and different levels of political transitions experienced by countries in the region. Even though the constitutions of most West African countries make provisions for the respect and protection of human rights, and countries are signatories to or have ratified several regional and international human rights conventions, governments often lack the will to implement these commitments.
Most country experiences indicate that human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists are often victims of physical assaults, kidnappings, enforced disappearances, torture, judicial harassments and pre-trial detentions. Family members of and lawyers for activists are regularly threatened while some human rights defenders have been assassinated in the line of duty. In Senegal for example, close to 20 activists died in prison during the tenure of the former president while citizens and human rights defenders were attacked, harassed and tortured as they led protests against attempts by the president to amend the constitution to extend his stay in office.
Voluntary citizen participation is an essential part of civil society, which in turn is a key contributor to sustainable development, human rights, good governance and social justice. 2011, the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, saw an upsurge of such action in different forms in many countries around the world.Looking back on 2011, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and United Nations Volunteers have combined to analyse contemporary trends in voluntary action and make recommendations for policy-makers, civil society, and volunteer involving organisations, in our new publication, Broadening Civic Space through Voluntary Action.
Under the auspices of the project Strengthening Civil Society Engagement with the United Nations: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, CIVICUS engaged two activists and two regional specialists in learning exchanges with CIVICUS’ Geneva Office from November-December 2011. Participants conducted outreach with civil society in the region to encourage interfacing with United Nations Special Procedures and produced reports to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In addition, participants produced and disseminated a bi-lingual guide on how civil society can interface with UN Special Procedures. CIVICUS members and partners can download Reporting Human Rights Violations to UN Special Procedures: An Introductory Guide in English and Russian.
An analysis of the CIVICUS Civil Society Index 2008-2011 findings on volunteerism
The recently completed 2008-2011 CIVICUS Civil Society Index, a comprehensive analysis of civil society in 35 countries, offers an opportunity to assess the health of people’s participation and activism. The level of volunteering is one key indicator of the state and level of participation in a society.
Looking specifically at voluntary action and trends in nine African countries – Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia - the CSI findings present a picture of volunteering that is shaped by cultural, historical, socio-economic and political dynamics. Even though Africa is not a homogeneous entity, across countries and cultures, patterns of volunteering are quite similar. With limited documentation to date specifically on volunteer trends in Africa, these findings have brought to light the value of volunteering in building social capital, its potential to encourage civic activism, and the heavy reliance of organised civil society on voluntary work.
This report provides the first description of the quantitative data from the second implementation phase (2008 to 2011) of CIVICUS' Civil Society Index, bringing together the information from a set of 25 countries for which the data was finalised at the time of writing. This presentation of the data intends to invite an interested audience of academics and practitioners alike to work further with the data in order to deepen the understanding of civil society around the world and thus to enhance the potential forcitizens’ participation for positive social change.
Click here to download (PDF, 3.6MB)
This new Civil Society Organisation in Situations of Conflict report authored by CIVICUS in partnership with the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness summarises working conditions in more than 46 countries worldwide. It illustrates the specific dynamics, needs and challenges of CSOs working in situations of conflict and analyses how governments, international community and donors can ensure their policies adequately empower citizens and CSOs in all stages of peace building and development.
At the time of writing, more than thirty countries were embroiled in violent conflict. At this time of increasing violence, creating situations of instability and fragility, freedoms and the fulfillment of political, social and economic rights are not protected. Development actors and citizens face significant challenges not only to their effectiveness, but also to their safety, sustainability and livelihoods.
In this report, CIVICUS reviews the status of women in civil society in Africa. The report lists key concerns and challenges for women human rights defenders on the continent. It calls upon African governments, regional bodies, the international community and civil society to act in earnest to protect these women. The report's conclusion argues that while advancements have been made in acknowledging the role and rights of women in recent years, there remain deeply rooted cultural, religious and patriarchal perceptions that continue to inhibit the work of women human rights defenders across the continent.
CIVICUS has developed several initiatives to equip CSOs to move from legitimacy, accountability and transparency (LTA) principles to practices in their organisations and networks. Besides this resource centre which spots LTA resources from a myriad civil society institutions from all over the world, the CIVICUS LTA team has put together a guideline to assist CSOs implement LTA.
The compendium is an important reference document for advocacy groups while framing their demands for the protection and expansion of civil society space. Other tools and resources for civil society activists can be accessed here. This version was updated in January 2014.
A paper presented at the 8th conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain, 9-12 July 2008.
This book provides a comprehensive and flexible framework for the definition, measurement, analysis and interpretation of civil society based on the innovative 'Civil Society Diamond'.
This report provides a detailed account of the project approach, conceptual and analytical framework and research methodology of the innovative CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) Project.
This report reviews CSI country data from 2003-2007 to analyse threats to civil society around the world.
The last decade, and especially 2009 and 2010, have been particularly hard for civil society and human rights defenders. Negative global trends that began soon after 9/11 have come to a head as governments have continued to encroach on fundamental freedoms. CIVICUS has put together a synthesis report highlighting these trends.