An upcoming global event will seek to engage citizens around the world on a set of human rights we don’t often hear much about: “civic space”. The ‘Global Day of Citizen Action’, to be held on Saturday 16 May 2015, will ask citizens whether they feel free to speak out, organise and take action, a group of rights that collectively may be called “civic space”.

“In many parts of the world, freedom of expression, association and assembly, or more simply - the rights to speak out, organise and take action - are under threat,” said Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. “The Global Day of Citizen Action therefore seeks to ask ordinary citizens what they think about their rights in their country and, in so doing, to help create awareness about the idea of `civic space’,” Sayed said.

During the last few years, many countries have passed laws that restrict citizen freedoms or make operations or financing for civil society groups difficult; in some cases they’ve increased the surveillance of ordinary citizens, activists and civil society organisations; and in others there’s 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 Global Day of Citizen Action was started last year in response to the growing threats faced by civil society and saw more than 20 000 people participate - across 26 countries through 48 events.

“At the moment we’ve already exceeded last year’s numbers in terms of registered events, with 65 events in 35 countries, and more events being created every day,” stated Sayed. There’s still time to host events or sign up to attend, and on the day people will also be able to participate online,” Sayed said.

Organisations and individuals are welcome to create events, and materials needed to run events are available to download free of charge from the CIVICUS website (http://civicus.org/bethechange/gdca/). More information about the day, its importance and what participation actually looks like can be found by watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJipEwGQTLw

For those who can’t physically attend events, they can still make their voices heard by visiting the site on the day and ‘voting’ on what they think about their rights in their country. And, if you’re on Twitter, you can follow proceedings by searching for posts with the hashtag #CivicSpace.

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