State of Civil Society

  • A new way of doing business

    In times of democratic crisis, the growing influence of business over commercial, political and social spheres can play a key role in safeguarding civic freedoms says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS’ 2017 report.

    The 2017 State of Civil Society Report highlights a global emergency on civic space as democracy is being undermined by right-wing populist and neo-fascist leaders even as the power of businesses continues to grow. Business, particularly transnational corporations, have a greater impact on all spheres of life than ever before – most of the world’s 100 biggest economic entities by revenue are companies, not governments.

    It is also a time when just 3% of the world’s population live in countries with “open” civic space, meaning that the exercise of their freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly is not being unduly restricted.

    The CIVICUS State of Civil Society 2017 report further notes:

    • There is a strong business case for protection of civic space, as social risk can add 10% on average to business operating costs, bribery which civil society helps prevent is estimated to account for around US$1 trillion a year
    • Ongoing concerns over harmful business practices resulting in attacks on rights defenders, land grabs, displacement and environmental harm; and
    • Acknowledgement of the role of businesses in Agenda 2030 should not be seen an avenue for profit making by a few transnational corporations but rather as an opportunity for businesses to contribute to the well-being of communities.

    The report also points out that forces of globalisation and neo-liberal economic orthodoxy are fuelling inequality, and sparking citizen anger. For civil society, it is a matter of urgency to pay attention to the private sector and find new ways of engaging with it.

    “Too often business as usual can result in human rights abuses, leading to land grabs affecting indigenous people, the killing of human rights defenders, low wages and attacks on workers rights. Massive global tax avoidance continues to lead to cuts in public spending and is driving global inequality,” says CIVICUS Secretary General Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah. CIVICUS supports the move towards an international legally binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights in the report.

    The report also highlights that the private sector is playing a major role in delivering Agenda 2030, with businesses increasingly drawing development resources. Due to increased focus on public-private partnerships, civil society organisations (CSOs) are having to compete with profit focused private sector contractors to deliver public services in a development market structured more around questionable efficiency concerns than values. The risk is that sustainable development becomes less about realising rights than receiving corporate charity.


    The report identifies several areas of partnership for positive social change between business and civil society. It highlights the need for business to adopt a ‘first do no harm’ approach and then go beyond that by demonstrating an active commitment to protecting civic freedoms.

    Nicolas Patrick of global law firm, DLA Piper which is part of a business network on human rights defenders insists that businesses can only succeed where there is strong rule of law. His company sees civil society as an indicator and facilitator of the rule of law. It supports civil society organisations by providing them with strategic advice in obtaining registration in high risk jurisdictions and support in instances of arbitrary detention.

    Bill Anderson of the Adidas Group points to his company’s long track record working with several civil society groups to guarantee worker’s rights and better occupational health and safety conditions as part of global supply chains. He believes that open and tolerant societies, where civil society thrives, are also pre-conditions for the long-term success of business.

    These initiatives show how, at its best, the private sector can help tackle the biggest issues we face from climate change to economic inequality, and the current crisis of democracy.

    UN Global Compact research suggests that poor governance and corruption – which an empowered civil society offers a bulwark against – add on average 10 per cent to the cost of conducting business. The difference between operating in a low corruption climate versus one with higher levels of corruption can be 20 percent of profit. Research puts the economic cost of internet shutdowns, as experienced in Anglophone region of Cameroon this year, at US$2.4billion. This puts a clear price on the failure to defend online civic space.


    Notes to Editors

    For the full State of Civil Society Report 2017 click here.

    About the State of Civil Society Report 2017

    Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. Part one of our report reviews the past year, focusing on the space for civil society and the impact of a resurgence of right-wing populist politics; the right to express dissent; protest movements; and civil society’s international-level actions. Part two of our report has the special theme of civil society and the private sector.

    Our report is of, from and for civil society, drawing from a wide range of interviews with people close to the major stories of the day, a survey of members of our network of national and regional civil society coordination and membership bodies - the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) - and 27 specially-commissioned guest articles on different aspects of the theme of civil society and the private sector. Most of our inputs come from civil society, but we also sought the views of people working in government and the private sector.

    Our report also draws from CIVICUS’ ongoing programme of research and analysis into the conditions for civil society. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our new online platform that tracks the space for civil society - civic space - in every country, and the Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA), a civil society-led analysis of legal, regulatory and policy environments.

    For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff and contributors please contact


  • Big business and activists finally agree. On this one issue

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    With some of the world’s biggest economies now companies, not states, the benefits for civil society of working more closely with business are clear. Yet, perhaps less well understood, are the benefits for business of defending civic space – the freedom of citizens to organise, speak up and protest governance failings and corruption. The good news is that in one area at least, businesses and civil society are increasingly seeing eye to eye.

    Read on:World Economic Forum

  • BRAZIL: ‘This is a moment of fragility for civil society’

    Pedro StrozenbergCIVICUS speaks with Pedro Strozenberg, Ombudsman of Rio de Janeiro, about the situation of human rights and the regression of space for civil society in Brazil. The Ombudsman's Office is a public body that functions as a link between the state and civil society. Pedro Strozenberg is a lawyer specialising in conflict mediation who defines himself as an activist in matters of public safety, an area in which his office works to defend the rights of citizens against police abuse and brutality.

    You come from civil society. How did you become the Ombudsman, and what kind of work do you do?

    All my career has been in civil society. I am a lawyer specialising in conflict mediation within the framework of public security. I consider myself an activist in the field of security. For 15 years I worked in a civil society organisation (CSO), Viva Río, on issues of youth, rights, public safety, drugs and police. And for the past 10 years I have worked with the Institute for Religion Studies, an organisation more focused on research and with a strong component of public policy advocacy.

    My role at the head of the Ombudsman's Office is a temporary function that derives from my work in civil society. Under a federal law passed in 2009, the Ombudsman’s position must be occupied by someone coming from civil society. In each state, the office holder is picked by the members of the Superior Council of the Public Defender's Office out of a list of three names submitted by civil society. This federal law has been in force for 10 years, but the system is being established at variable paces and with a lot of delays. To date, only 14 offices have been created; there seems to be strong resistance by the justice system to this element of external control. In Rio de Janeiro the mechanism was established in 2015 and I was elected in 2016. In 2017 I was re-elected, and as soon as my term ends, I will go back to civil society.

    What are the main human rights challenges that you have faced at the Ombudsman’s Office?

    Rio is a very complex city and experiences pronounced oscillations. When I started getting involved in these issues, in the second half of the 1990s, we were going through a situation similar to today’s: a context of high insecurity, economic crisis and very high levels of police violence. Between the decades of 2000 and 2010 there was an important innovative agenda, with a focus on prevention, which produced a temporary reduction in the levels of lethal violence in Rio. Unfortunately, over the past 30 years Brazil has maintained very high levels of lethal violence, which certainly vary from one place to the next, but overall present unacceptable patterns of violence. While for a decade the numbers of victims of lethal violence decreased in Rio, in other cities - especially in the northeast and the north of Brazil - the levels rose a lot, and the baseline remained between 50,000 and 60,000 people killed every year. Today we have surpassed 60,000. The widespread presence of firearms and disputes over the control of territories are important causes of this lethality.

    In recent years, Rio experienced a frightening growth in deaths caused by state security forces, and more precisely by the police. This is the most emblematic trademark of the last period. In places like Rio and São Paulo, almost a third of the deaths are the result of police intervention.

    We have a police force that is absolutely lethal, and what is most dramatic is that this is provided legitimacy by the political orientation of the state and federal governments, which is based on the logic of confrontation and the exchange of bullets. We are living through a dramatic period marked by narrative disputes. These police practices are not based on the law, which is much more restrictive, but on the political discourse of the incumbent rulers.

    My role in the Ombudsman's Office includes upholding the pre-eminence of the law and acting as guarantor of people’s rights, in such a way that the law embodies protection for the people, rather than a threat to the poorest part of the population. It is necessary to follow legal processes, comply with legal requirements and guarantee everybody their right to defence, to freedom of expression, to the protection of life. Unfortunately, in many cases the understanding that institutions should be guided by the principles of the democratic rule of law does not prevail, and interpretation and scope vary according to territorial, ethnic and gender criteria. We all live in the same society, but not under the same legal guarantees. Today, we experience a time of legal instability, where the irresponsible and prejudiced discourse of Brazil’s rulers and of an important section of the legal system disrespects the National Constitution on a daily basis, introducing legal setbacks that in the near future will increase even more the number of deaths and the prison population. We need a narrative that takes the law as a point of reference, rather than the will of a punitive and exclusionary elite.

    Do you think that the strong-arm discourse against crime disseminated from the top has resonated in Rio?

    This discourse has indeed resonated, and that is because we live in a time of hopelessness in terms of public security policies, and unfortunately it is only natural for people to seek radical and immediate solutions, becoming vulnerable to emotional appeals that rarely entail genuine solutions. Electoral discourses rely heavily on emotional and inconsequential appeals. Many people want to hear something that, although not true, might create expectations that the situation will improve. And what’s dramatic is that many times it is the poorest population - the most affected by strong-arm discourse, in the sense that it is the part of the population where most of the victims come from - that most easily accepts the logic that the harshest the state action, the safer we will be. We believe the exact opposite: that the more rights we have, the more capable we will be of producing a culture of nonviolence.

    Unfortunately, the electoral manipulation of fear and insecurity is part of the world that we live in. It is only one phase of the cycle, but a phase in which the poorest people are indeed supporting strong-arm policies, even if they are applied against them. The situation is quite surprising, not to say frustrating

    Do you think that the dominant narrative has encouraged further police violence?

    I would rather say that the logic of the election emboldened people who believe in violence as a way to confront violence. In Brazil there is a strong culture that encourages people to follow a reference of brutality rather than a reference of legality. The more brutal an effort to build a security policy, the more recognition it will gain.

    A recent case clearly illustrates the moment we live in. Two favelas were involved in a full-blown territorial dispute, creating a situation that was quite dramatic for their inhabitants. The police decided to intervene. It was what they were supposed to do, since that is their role. But while in three days of fighting no deaths had occurred, the three-hour-long police operation led to 13 deaths, to which two more were added later. An operation causing 15 deaths cannot be considered successful in any way and must be the object of an investigation. Many residents said that several of the people who ended up dead had already surrendered and were in fact executed by the police. We are monitoring the investigation of the case, and there are reasons to think that the evidence was manipulated. Despite having caused so many deaths, the police operation still received the approval of part of the population. People say: ‘they were not citizens, they were thugs’. We are losing our humanity, our capacity for empathy and compassion.

    Let me provide another example of the effects of this narrative. In his eagerness to make the headlines, the governor of Rio said that if someone threatens a police officer or is armed, the police should "point to the head and shoot." A governor should not be able to say something like that. Incredible as it may seem, soon afterwards it was reported that in Manginhos, a rather violent favela in Rio that is located near a police station, five people had been killed over the course of a few months - two so far this year. Although investigations to find out where the shots came from are ongoing, residents claim - and it is very likely that this is the case - that police officers made holes for machine guns in the tower of an old factory that is now converted to police offices and shot passers-by through them. One of those killed was a worker from a nearby university, and his death caused great commotion. If the one dying is a black boy who lives in the favela and is perceived as close to drug traffickers, discourse prevails that he was just a black man from the favela. But if it is a worker with a respectable job, death becomes unacceptable. For us at Ombudsman's Office, the idea that the police can climb up a tower to shoot and kill people is dramatic.

    This is the model promoted by the state government: a model that leaves a trail of dead people and indelible pain. The dispute of narratives is very important for those who live in the favelas and for those who believe in human rights.

    Generally speaking, what is the state of civil society freedoms in Brazil?

    While we live in a democracy, within a democratic and legal institutional setting, in practice it is difficult for CSOs to have a voice and express themselves freely, autonomously and sustainably. First of all, economic sustainability is failing us. There are no public, transparent and accessible funds for the strengthening of civil society. For reasons of funding, structure and advocacy capacity, civil society is quite weak. There are no interlocutors in the state. This is a moment of fragility for civil society, so it is important that we manage to reinforce it.

    Second, although strictly speaking there is no official censorship, there is an atmosphere of fear that restricts the freedom of expression, as there are lots of investigations of human rights defenders and civil society activists. The president's discourse, which depicts activists as communists threatening the Brazilian social system, aims to eliminate activism. There are very strong signs of political control, which were clearly expressed in the decision to put a military minister in control of CSOs. We live in a democracy, but not quite.

    Third, there are risks and physical threats to activists. We really do not know to what extent it is currently safe to work on rights issues in Brazil.

    What risks do civil society activists and human rights defenders face, and what can be done to mitigate them?

    We defenders are fewer than we should be, but even so we are enough. However, the March 2018 assassination of Marielle Franco caused fear and led to the withdrawal of many activists from the favelas, notably black and women activists. The case of Marielle was at the same time representative of the context we live often, and also very particular. Marielle was a very visible person - she was one of the representatives in Rio who received the highest numbers of votes - and her murder, which took place in the city centre, was a real attack on democracy. It was not personal; it was a reaction to her political activity. Brazil does not have a tradition of politically motivated attacks. On the other hand, the case was typical because she was a black, bisexual woman from the favela. She belonged to a whole series of categories of very vulnerable and threatened people, who are often targeted not because of their political actions, but because of their identity, their practices and ideologies.

    Marielle’s murder occurred when Rio was under federal and military intervention, and now it is known who her executors were: they belong to a group of for-hire assassins linked to the militias and formed by former police officers. However, we still do not know who ordered her killing or why. The case has not been solved and meanwhile impunity and fear prevail.

    What support does rights-oriented civil society need in Brazil?

    First and foremost, we must be vigilant and provide visibility to situations of rights violations. For this it is very important to speak with the international media and international organisations.

    Second, international cooperation between CSOs is very important. In this context it is particularly important that organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and CIVICUS put Brazil in the forefront.

    Finally, it is also important to strengthen public organisations so that they liaise with civil society. In this sense, ombudspeople are particularly important, since they are, among the arms of the state, the most capable of supporting social movements in various spheres. In Rio, at least, we are trying to do so in different ways. For instance, we carry out an activity called ‘favela journey for rights’, in which we listen to the concerns of favela inhabitants on issues of rights violations. Each week a group of 15 to 20 people - public defenders, CSOs, academics, public administrators - go to a different favela and walk through it while listening to people tell their stories of rights violations. We systematise the stories and use them to try to exert influence on the police so that they pay attention to the ways they operate in the favelas. As part of the state, we work from within to turn this into a key issue and make sure the rights of the population are respected.

    Civil space in Brazil is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Ombudsman’s Office of Rio de Janeiro through its website,YouTube channel and Facebook page.

  • Civil society in a world of crisis: 2023 CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report


    Civil society faces a world of challenges in 2023. Multiple conflicts and crises – including economic strife and severe setbacks in democratic institutions – are intensifying threats to human rights. The agenda for civil society is huge.

    This is the world as captured by the 2023 State of Civil Society Report.


    Vast-scale human rights abuses are being committed in Ukraine, women’s rights have been trampled on in Afghanistan and LGBTQI+ people’s rights are under assault in Uganda, along with several other African countries. Military rule has been normalised in countries such as Mali, Myanmar and Sudan, and democracy undermined by autocratic leaders in El Salvador, India and Tunisia, among others. Even supposedly democratic states such as Australia and the UK are undermining the vital right to protest.

    But civil society continues to strive to make a crucial difference to people’s lives. It’s the force behind a wave of breakthroughs in respecting abortion rights in Latin America, most recently in Colombia, and in making advances in LGBTQI+ rights in countries as diverse as Barbados, Mexico and Switzerland. Mass protests in response to the high cost of living have won concessions on economic policy in countries including Ecuador and Panama, while union organising has gained further momentum in holding big-brand companies such as Amazon and Starbucks to account. Progress on financing for the loss and damage caused by climate change came after extensive civil society advocacy. The events of the past year show that civil society – and the space for civil society to act – are needed more than ever.

    Key findings

    Civil society is playing a key role in responding to conflicts and humanitarian crises – and facing retaliation

    Civil society is playing a vital role in conflict and crisis settings – including in conflicts in Ethiopia, Syria and Ukraine – providing essential services, helping and advocating for victims, monitoring human rights and collecting evidence of violations to hold those responsible to account. But for doing this, civil society is coming under attack.

    Catastrophic global governance failures highlight the urgency of reform

    Too often in the face of the conflicts and crises that have marked the world over the past year, platitudes are all international institutions have had to offer. Multilateral institutions have been left exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s time to take civil society’s proposals to make the United Nations more democratic seriously – starting with the appointment of a civil society champion.

    People are mobilising in great numbers in response to economic shock – and exposing deeper problems in the process.

    As it drove a surge in fuel and food prices, Russia’s war on Ukraine became a key driver of a global cost of living crisis. This triggered a mass wave of protests in at least 133 countries – from Argentina to Indonesia and from Ghana to Kazakhstan – demanding economic justice. Civil society is putting forward progressive economic ideas, connecting with other struggles for rights, including for climate, gender, racial and social justice.

    The right to protest is under attack – even in longstanding democracies

    Many states, unwilling or unable to concede the deeper demands of protests have responded with violence, including in Iran, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. The right to protest is under attack all over the world, including when people are mobilising to seek economic justice, democracy, human rights and environmental action. Civil society groups are striving to defend protest rights.

    Democracy is being eroded in multiple ways – including from within by elected leaders

    Economic strife and insecurity are providing fertile ground for the emergence of authoritarian leaders. In more democratic contexts, there are distinct trends of a further embrace of far-right extremism, and of the rejection of incumbency. In volatile conditions, civil society is working to resist regression and keep making the case for inclusive, pluralist and participatory democracy.

    Disinformation is skewing public discourse, undermining democracy and fuelling hate

    Disinformation is being mobilised, particularly in conflicts and during elections, to sow polarisation, normalise extremism and attack rights. Powerful authoritarian states and far-right groups are key sources, and social media companies are doing nothing to challenge a problem that’s good for their business model. Civil society needs to forge a joined-up, multifaceted global effort to counter disinformation.

    Movements for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights are making gains against the odds

    In the face of difficult odds, civil society continues to drive progress on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. But breakthroughs have made civil society the target of a ferocious backlash. Civil society is working to resist attempts to reverse gains and build public support to ensure that legal changes are backed by shifts in attitudes.

    Civil society is the major force behind the push for climate action

    Civil society continues to be the force sounding the alarm on the triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Civil society is urging action using every tactic available, from street protest and direct action to litigation and advocacy in national and global arenas. But the power of the fossil fuel lobby remains undimmed and restrictions on climate protests are burgeoning. Civil society is striving to find new ways to communicate the urgent need for action.

    Civil society is reinventing itself to adapt to a changing world

    In the context of pressures on civic space and huge global challenges, civil society is growing, diversifying and widening its repertoire of tactics. Drawing on its special strengths of diversity, adaptability and creativity, civil society continues to evolve. Much of civil society’s radical energy is coming from small, informal groups, often formed and led by women, young people and Indigenous people. There is a need to support and nurture these.

    About this report

    This is the 12th report in our annually published series, exploring trends in civil society action at every level and in every arena. It builds on our ongoing analysis initiative, CIVICUS Lens, launched in January 2022. It is directly informed by the voices of civil society affected by and responding to the major issues and challenges of the day, drawing from over 180 civil society interviews published throughout the year. 

    About CIVICUS

    CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society activists and organisations dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS has over 153000  members in over 189 countries across the globe.

  • Civil society tackling global challenges with ‘resolute resistance,’ says new report

    As 2017 gave way to 2018, many in civil society found renewed purpose in striving to make democracy real, and demanding human dignity and justice.

    Even as attacks on civil society have become more brazen, the story of the past year was 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, released 6 March 2018. Sobering data from the CIVICUS Monitor reveals serious systemic problems with civic space in 109 out of 195 countries covered. However, 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.

  • Civil Society, Resolute Resistance and Renewed Purpose

    By Mandeep Tiwana

    Each year, CIVICUS publishes the State of Civil Society Report, which chronicles major global developments and key trends impacting civil society. The report draws from interviews with civil society leaders at the forefront of social change from around the world and CIVICUS’ ongoing research initiatives. This year it reaches an important conclusion: even as fundamental freedoms and democratic values are being encroached upon, peaceful acts of resolute resistance by civil society give us reasons for hope.

    Read on:  International Institute for Sustainable Development 

  • Emergencia global en el espacio cívico

    Según el Informe 2017 de la alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS, el mundo se enfrenta a una crisis democrática sin precedentes debido a las restricciones que están sufriendo las libertades de expresión, asociación y reunión pacífica, generando una situación de emergencia global.

    El Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil 2017 pone de relieve cómo cada vez es más peligroso desafiar al poder en todo el mundo, y el riesgo a sufrir represalias que ello conlleva. En diversos países, los líderes populistas y neofascistas de derechas han adquirido importancia alcanzando el apoyo necesario para impulsar sus ideas en el debate público e incluso, en algunos casos, ganando las elecciones. Su visión política y global se opone frontalmente a la sociedad civil que busca promover los derechos humanos, la cohesión social y el internacionalismo progresista.

    Los puntos clave del Informe incluyen:

    * El aumento del número de ataques a activistas y a organizaciones de la sociedad civil por parte del aparato represivo de Estados, fuerzas extremistas y corporaciones, sobre todo en el sector extractivo, (un fenómeno, este último, especialmente visible en América Latina);

    * Solo el 3% de la población mundial vive en países con un espacio cívico "abierto";

    * Más de la mitad de la población de las Américas vive en países con un espacio cívico obstruido (32%) o represivo (21%);

    * El profundo descontento de la ciudadanía frente al impacto de la globalización sobre sus vidas ha sido aprovechado por los populistas de derechas, tal como se observa en pronunciamientos populares tan diversos como el Brexit y el referendo sobre la paz en Colombia;

    * Más que ignorar ese descontento, la sociedad civil debe hacer frente al desafío de construir un movimiento alternativo de esperanza, sin miedo y respetuoso de los derechos humanos.

    El Informe indica que para los nuevos populistas de derechas, la esfera internacional supone una peligrosa fuente de valores progresistas que desafían sus estrechas nociones de soberanía. Las instituciones internacionales, así como los valores de derechos humanos que representan, los consideran intrusivos. El Acuerdo de París sobre el cambio climático, por ejemplo, ha sido definido como un elemento que limita el crecimiento económico y se encuentra en peligro por la actitud del actual gobierno de Estados Unidos. Los líderes de Israel, Filipinas y Estados Unidos también han atacado a la ONU. Los gobiernos de Burundi y Sudáfrica han amenazado este último año con retirarse de la Corte Penal Internacional. En ningún lugar es más evidente el fracaso del multilateralismo como en la crisis siria, que ha costado medio millón de vidas y ha desplazado a la mitad de la población del país, donde se está normalizando la impunidad frente a los crímenes de guerra.

    El secretario general de la ONU, Antonio Guterres, definió el desprecio actual por los derechos humanos, alimentado por el creciente populismo y extremismo, como una "enfermedad que se está propagando". En Filipinas más de 7000 personas han muerto como consecuencia de la violencia fomentada por el presidente Rodrigo Duterte. En Turquía, tras el intento de golpe de Estado, se han implantado restricciones a las libertades fundamentales y a la sociedad civil: unos 195 medios de comunicación han sido cerrados, 80 periodistas han sido encarcelados junto con miles de académicos y ciudadanos considerados disidentes.

    El informe desarrolla en profundidad algunos casos de América Latina, enfatizando tanto los desafíos que enfrenta la sociedad civil por efecto de las restricciones del espacio cívico como la creatividad de sus estrategias para enfrentarlos, así como sus redoblados esfuerzos de movilización a la hora de defender y promover derechos. Así, por ejemplo, el informe trata, entre otros puntos centrales para la región, los desafíos de la construcción de la paz en Colombia, la situación de impunidad por la violación de los derechos humanos en México, los aprendizajes y desafíos de las movilizaciones estudiantiles en Chile y por los derechos de las mujeres en Argentina, así como los factores subyacentes a la criminalización de la opinión y la violencia física ejercida con intensidad creciente contra activistas ambientalistas y defensores de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y del derecho a la tierra en Honduras, Nicaragua y Brasil, entre otros países.

    Acerca del Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil 2017

    Cada año, el Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil de CIVICUS analiza los principales acontecimientos que afectan a la sociedad civil en todo el mundo. La primera parte de nuestro informe hace un resumen del año pasado, centrándose en los espacios para la sociedad civil y en el impacto del resurgimiento de las políticas populistas de derechas; el derecho a disentir; los movimientos de protesta, y las acciones que realiza la sociedad civil a nivel internacional. La segunda parte de nuestro Informe trata específicamente la relación entre sociedad civil y sector privado.

    Nuestro Informe es de la sociedad civil y está hecho por y para la sociedad civil. Se alimenta de una serie de entrevistas con personas involucradas en las principales historias del momento y de los resultados de nuestra encuesta anual a los miembros de las redes nacionales y regionales de la sociedad civil que integran nuestro Grupo de Afinidad de Asociaciones Nacionales (AGNA), así como de 27 artículos encargados a una serie de invitados especiales que tratan diferentes aspectos sobre el tema de la relación entre sociedad civil y sector privado. La mayoría de nuestros aportes proceden de la sociedad civil, aunque también recogemos las opiniones de personas que trabajan en el gobierno y en el sector privado.

    Nuestro Informe también se basa en los datos sobre las condiciones de la sociedad civil proporcionados por el CIVICUS Monitor, nuestra nueva plataforma en línea que monitorea el espacio cívico en todos los países del mundo.

    También se basa en los hallazgos de las Evaluaciones Nacionales sobre el Ambiente Habilitante (ENAH), que es una herramienta de análisis promovida por la sociedad civil para evaluar el entorno legal, reglamentario y político de la sociedad civil.

    Para obtener más información o para solicitar una entrevista con el personal de CIVICUS y/o con sus colaboradores, comuníquese con Abajo encontrará los enlaces al informe.

  • Grassroots Organising Points the way in Fight Against Rising Repression

    By Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which will be the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), scheduled to take place in Belgrade, April 8-12. 

    “I never thought it would get so big and I think it is amazing.”

    The words of a 16-year-old Swedish teenager who skipped school to protest outside her government’s inaction on climate change. Greta Thunberg is marvelling at how, in just a few short months, her solitary protests outside Sweden’s parliament, have inspired and united hundreds of thousands of young people and others across the globe into a powerful, growing grassroots movement for climate change action.

    Read on: Inter Press Service

  • It is #TimesUp for sexual harassment, including within civil society

    This is a significant time to be calling for greater progress in the fight against gender inequality and sexual abuse.

  • Looking ahead: Expanding our efforts to protect civic space

    SG DECEMBER update 2 1A message from Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS

    Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

    We were excited to host the CIVICUS Board and representatives from our key networks – Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) and the Youth Action Team (YAT) – in Johannesburg this November! It is the first time we have met together in South Africa since the start of the pandemic. On 30 November, we hosted our online Annual General Body Meeting (AGM) and launched a series of events to mark our very first ‘Membership Engagement Month’. Our annual report for 2021/22, which is available in three languages, was also adopted in this period and provides an excellent summary of our achievements and challenges in the past year.

    We expect 2023 to be an exciting year for the CIVICUS alliance! Our flagship reports – the State of Civil Society and People Power Under Attack – will be published in the first half of the year. Together, these will provide a refreshed range of evidence and resources for activists and networks defending civic space and advocating for civil society.

    In keeping with the key shifts outlined in CIVICUS’ Strategic Plan for 2022-27, the Secretariat will make a deliberate effort to ensure that the intersection between civic space restrictions and structural forms of discrimination is the focus of our actions and investments at all levels.  We will continue to invest in strengthening the freedom of peaceful assembly and creating better protection mechanisms for human rights defenders through a combination of advocacy and solidarity efforts, and expect to initiate an exciting range of initiatives program on digital freedoms with a number of global and regional partners.

    2023 will also be a moment to mark three decades of our own existence. We will coordinate a series of campaign actions to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. We anticipate working closely with CIVICUS members and allies to amplify issues that need public and political attention in this period, and invite you to discuss opportunities for collaboration with our teams.

    Finally, as many of you know, recent events related to an unfortunate accident have caused considerable shock and distress to staff, partners and allies who have been connected to our colleague, Mandeep Tiwana’s work. A number of processes to respond to the event are underway, this includes coordinating with Mandeep and his family to support his recovery and phased return to work. Our Board and staff have been an immense source of wisdom in this period, and we are working closely together to put in place measures for additional capacity. We wish him much strength and thank all of you, our members and allies, for your compassion and support.

    CIVICUS offices will close on 21 December and re-open on 3 January. We look forward to connecting and co-creating with you again next year.

    In solidarity,

    Lysa John

  • Perspectivas de futuro: Ampliar nuestros esfuerzos para proteger el espacio cívico

    Mensaje de Lysa John, secretaria general de CIVICUS  

    Estimada membresía de CIVICUS y aliados,

    En noviembre tuvimos el placer de recibir en Johannesburgo a la Junta Directiva de CIVICUS y a representantes de nuestras principales redes: el Grupo de Afinidad de Asociaciones Nacionales (AGNA) y el Equipo de Acción Juvenil (YAT). Es la primera vez que nos reunimos en Sudáfrica desde el inicio de la pandemia. El 30 de noviembre, celebramos nuestra reunión anual en línea y pusimos en marcha una serie de eventos para conmemorar nuestro primer "Mes del compromiso con la membresía". Nuestro informe anual para 2021/22, disponible en tres idiomas, también se aprobó en este periodo y ofrece un excelente resumen de nuestros logros y retos en el último año.

    Esperamos que 2023 sea un año apasionante para la alianza CIVICUS. Nuestros informes más representativos -El estado de la sociedad civil y El poder ciudadano bajo ataque- se publicarán en el primer semestre del año. Estos informes, en conjunto, brindarán una serie de evidencias y recursos actualizados para los activistas y las redes que defienden el espacio cívico y que trabajan por la sociedad civil.

    En concordancia con los principales cambios esbozados en el Plan Estratégico de CIVICUS para 2022-27, el secretariado hará un esfuerzo consciente para garantizar que la intersección entre las restricciones del espacio cívico y las formas estructurales de discriminación sea el centro de nuestras acciones e iniciativas a todos los niveles. Seguiremos apostando por el fortalecimiento de la libertad de reunión pacífica y la creación de mejores mecanismos de protección para quienes defienden los derechos humanos aunando esfuerzos en materia de incidencia política y solidaridad, y esperamos poner en marcha un interesante programa de iniciativas sobre libertades digitales con una serie de socios mundiales y regionales.

    2023 será también un momento para conmemorar tres décadas de nuestra propia existencia. Coordinaremos una serie de acciones de campaña para conmemorar el 75 aniversario de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos y el 25 aniversario de la Declaración de la ONU sobre los Defensores de los Derechos Humanos. Prevemos trabajar en estrecha colaboración con organizaciones miembros y aliadas de CIVICUS para amplificar las cuestiones que requieren atención pública y política en este periodo, y les invitamos a debatir las oportunidades de colaboración con nuestros equipos.

    Por último, como muchos de ustedes saben, recientemente se ha producido un desafortunado accidente que ha conmocionado y angustiado considerablemente al personal, a los socios y a los aliados relacionados con el trabajo de nuestro colega Mandeep Tiwana. Ya se han puesto en marcha una serie de medidas para hacer frente a la situación, entre ellas la coordinación con Mandeep y su familia para facilitar su recuperación y su reincorporación gradual al trabajo. Nuestra junta directiva y nuestro personal nos han ayudado mucho en este periodo, y estamos colaborando estrechamente para poner en marcha medidas que nos permitan disponer de capacidad adicional. Esperamos que se recupere y agradecemos a todos ustedes, nuestros miembros y aliados, su compasión y apoyo.

    Nuestras oficinas permanecerán cerradas desde el 21 de diciembre hasta el 3 de enero. Esperamos volver a conectar y co-crear con ustedes nuevamente el próximo año.

    En solidaridad,

    Lysa John

  • Perspectives d'avenir : intensifier nos efforts pour protéger l'espace civique

    Message de Lysa John, secrétaire générale de CIVICUS  

    Chers membres et alliés de CIVICUS,  

    En novembre, nous avons eu le plaisir d'accueillir le conseil d'administration de CIVICUS et les représentants de nos principaux réseaux - le Groupe d'affinité des associations nationales (AGNA) et l’Équipe d'action jeunesse (YAT) - à Johannesburg. C'est la première fois que nous nous rencontrons en Afrique du Sud depuis le début de la pandémie. Le 30 novembre, nous avons tenu notre réunion annuelle en ligne et lancé une série d'événements pour marquer notre premier "mois d'engagement des membres". Notre rapport annuel pour 2021/22, disponible en trois langues, a également été approuvé au cours de cette période et fournit un excellent résumé de nos réalisations et de nos défis au cours de l'année écoulée.

    Nous espérons que 2023 sera une année passionnante pour l'alliance CIVICUS. Nos rapports de référence - L'état de la société civile et Le pouvoir du peuple sous attaque- seront publiés au cours du premier semestre de l'année. Ces deux rapports constitueront un ensemble actualisé de données et de ressources pour les militants et les réseaux qui défendent l'espace civique et travaillent pour la société civile.

    Conformément aux changements majeurs décrits dans le plan stratégique 2022-27 de CIVICUS, le secrétariat fera un effort conscient pour s'assurer que l'intersection entre les contraintes d'espace civique et les formes structurelles de discrimination soit au centre de nos actions et initiatives à tous les niveaux. Nous continuerons à nous concentrer sur le renforcement de la liberté de réunion pacifique et la création de meilleurs mécanismes de protection pour les défenseurs des droits humains en joignant nos efforts de plaidoyer et de solidarité, et nous sommes heureux de lancer un programme passionnant d'initiatives sur les libertés numériques avec une série de partenaires mondiaux et régionaux.

    L'année 2023 sera également l'occasion de marquer les trois décennies de notre propre existence. Nous coordonnerons une série d'actions de campagne pour marquer le 75e anniversaire de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme et le 25e anniversaire de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les défenseurs des droits de l'homme. Nous prévoyons de travailler en étroite collaboration avec les organisations membres et les alliés de CIVICUS pour amplifier les questions qui requièrent l'attention du public et des politiques dans cette période, et nous vous invitons à discuter des possibilités de collaboration avec nos équipes.

    Enfin, comme beaucoup d'entre vous le savent, un accident malheureux a récemment eu lieu qui a fortement choqué et bouleversé le personnel, les partenaires et les alliés associés au travail de notre collègue Mandeep Tiwana. Un certain nombre de mesures ont déjà été mises en place pour faire face à la situation, notamment une coordination avec Mandeep et sa famille pour faciliter son rétablissement et son retour progressif au travail. Notre conseil d'administration et notre personnel ont été très coopératifs pendant cette période, et nous travaillons en étroite collaboration pour mettre en place des mesures visant à fournir des capacités supplémentaires. Nous lui souhaitons un prompt rétablissement et nous vous remercions tous, nos membres et alliés, pour votre compassion et votre soutien.

    Nos bureaux seront fermés du 21 décembre au 3 janvier. Nous sommes impatients de reprendre contact et de co-créer avec vous l'année prochaine.

    En toute solidarité,  

    Lysa John

  • Restrictions on Civic Space: A Global Emergency

    The world is facing a democratic crisis through unprecedented restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly which constitute a global emergency says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS’ 2017 report.

    The 2017 State of Civil Society Report highlights that around the world it is becoming increasingly dangerous to challenge power, and to do so risks reprisals. In several countries, right-wing populist and neo-fascist leaders have gained prominence by winning elections or commanding enough support to push their ideas into the mainstream. Their politics and worldview are fundamentally opposed to civil society seeking to promote human rights, social cohesion and progressive internationalism.

    Key points from the report, include:

    • Increasing attacks on civil society activists and organisations from repressive state apparatuses, extremist forces and criminal elements linked to businesses;
    • Just 3% of the world’s population lives in countries with ‘open’ civic space;
    • Recent political shifts indicate genuine anger from citizens about the impact of globalisation on their lives that have been harnessed by right wing populists; and
    • The challenge for civil society is not to dismiss that anger and but to build an alternative movement of hope, not fear that is respectful of human rights.

    The report notes that to the new right-wing populists, the international sphere is a dangerous source of progressive values that challenges their narrow notions of sovereignty. International institutions and the human rights values they represent are deemed intrusive. The Paris Agreement on climate change, for example, has been painted as obstructive to economic growth and put at risk by the current attitude of the US government. The leaders of Israel, the Philippines and the US have attacked the UN.  The governments of Burundi and South Africa have in the last year threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court. Nowhere is the failure of multilateralism more apparent as in the Syrian crisis which has cost half a million lives and displaced half the country’s population, raising the spectre of impunity for war crimes being normalised.

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres characterized the current disregard for human rights, fuelled by rising populism and extremism, as a “disease that is spreading”. In the Philippines over 7000 people have been killed as a result of violence encouraged by President Rodrigo Duterte.  In Turkey, following an attempted coup, there are now sweeping restrictions on fundamental freedoms and civil society – some 195 media outlets have been shut down, 80 journalists have been imprisoned along with thousands of academics and others deemed as dissidents.


    A consistent pattern is emerging of attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists engaged in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Restrictive measures range from detentions, arrests and extrajudicial killings of activists to disenabling legislation to squeeze the funding and the functioning of CSOs as being experienced in Egypt. In Ethiopia,  more than 600 people have died in violent suppression of protests against economic and political marginalisation. Ethiopia’s civic space is rated as closed by the  CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that tracks civic space in every country.

    Some states, including in parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe, are now introducing laws to make it harder to hold protests. An example is Poland’s anti-terrorism law, passed in June 2016. It gives the state enhanced powers to ban public assemblies, along with increased surveillance and internet control powers. In Venezuela, protests are being met with brute force by government forces.

    Another significant trend has emerged over the past year: freedom of expression is being applied selectively. Dissent that serves right-wing populist agendas is encouraged; that which does not is to be dismissed or repressed. Increasingly, dissent is seen as a political act rather than a normal part of a functioning democracy. Methods range from attacks on journalists and activists to the shutting down of entire Internet or mobile phone networks, as experienced in Cameroon’s Anglophone region in the first quarter of 2017. These restrictive measures often increase during politically sensitive times, such as elections. The CIVICUS Monitor records 101 attacks on journalists, between June 2016 and March 2017. In some countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, both extremist forces and an authoritarian state present a threat to freedom of expression.

    The report notes that the right to express democratic dissent needs to be asserted in many countries.


    But the democracy of the street is alive and well. Around the world, whenever new leaders have come to power on polarizing right-wing populist platforms they have been met with major demonstrations - none have been bigger than those that mobilised as Sister Marches in the USA and around the world, against the politics of President Donald Trump. In South Korea, protests were intrinsic to the campaign that forced former president Park Guen-hye from office on corruption charges. From Romania to Brazil and South Africa, protests have been a key method for citizens to express dissatisfaction with governance dysfunction and corruption.

    The report calls on civil society to make the case for a new, progressive internationalism that has human rights at its heart, challenges exclusion and injustice while supporting an active citizenry.

    Civil society must also mount a new challenge to current practices of economic globalisation which further privileges elites, and the failures of political systems to give ordinary citizens voice. The response needs to understand the anger that people feel about their lives and livelihoods while being careful not to appease racism, sexism and xenophobia.  A positive message of hope rather than fear is needed. This requires building broad-based alliances that connect classic CSOs with protest movements, journalists, trade unions, youth groups, social enterprises and artists.


    Notes to Editors

    The full State of Civil Society Report 2017 can be found here.

    About CIVICUS’ 2017 State of Civil Society Report

    Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. Part one of our report reviews the past year, focusing on the space for civil society and the impact of a resurgence of right-wing populist politics; the right to express dissent; protest movements; and civil society’s international-level actions. Part two of the report has the special theme of ‘civil society and the private sector’.

    Our report is of, from and for civil society, drawing from a wide range of interviews with people close to the major stories of the day, a survey of members of our network of national and regional civil society coordination and membership bodies - the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) - and 27 specially-commissioned guest articles on different aspects of the theme of civil society and the private sector. Most of our inputs come from civil society, but we also sought the views of people working in government and the private sector.

    Our report also draws from CIVICUS’ ongoing programme of research and analysis into the conditions for civil society. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our new online platform that tracks the space for civil society - civic space - in every country, and the Enabling Environment National Assessments(EENA), a civil society-led analysis of legal, regulatory and policy environments.

    For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff or contributors please contact


  • Successes of people’s movements shows the way forward for post-pandemic recovery says new report

    •  Pandemic has accelerated major economic, political and social problems
    • Civil society has proven its value by winning key breakthroughs over the last year
    • The fight is now on to build a better post-pandemic world – civil society is in the forefront of this battle
  • World facing a global compassion deficit finds new CIVICUS report

    • Government attacks on humanitarian organisations on the rise globally
    • Right-wing populists, nationalists and extremist groups being mobilised to attack vulnerable groups such as refugees, migrants, LGBTIQ
    • Civil society organisations fighting back – 2018 saw a spike in protests against economic exclusion, inequality and poverty
    • Report calls for new strategies to argue against right-wing populism while urging progressive civil society to engage citizens towards better, more positive alternatives

    Civil society organisations providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees are being targeted as the world faces a crisis of global compassion.

    This alarming trend is one of the findings of the State of Civil Society Report 2019, an annual report by global civil society alliance CIVICUS, which looks at events and trends that impacted on civil society in the past year.

    In one cited example, the Italian government prevented a boat operated by international medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from docking in Italy, leaving it stranded at sea for a week with more than 700 passengers, including unaccompanied minors. In the USA, organisations were prevented from leaving life-saving water supplies for people making the hazardous journey across the desert from Mexico.

    “Civil society, acting on humanitarian impulses, confronts a rising tide of global mean-spiritedness, challenging humanitarian values in a way unparalleled since the Second World War,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General.

    “We need a new campaign, at both global and domestic levels, to reinforce humanitarian values and the rights of progressive civil society groups to act,” added John.

    According to the report, in Europe, the USA and beyond - from Brazil to India - right wing populists, nationalists and extremist groups are mobilising dominant populations to attack the most vulnerable. This has led to an attack on the values behind humanitarian response as people are being encouraged to blame minorities and vulnerable groups for their concerns about insecurity, inequality, economic hardship and isolation from power. This means that civil society organisations that support the rights of excluded populations such as women and LGBTQI people and stand up for labour rights are being attacked.

    As narrow notions of national sovereignty are being asserted, the international system is being rewritten by powerful states, such as China, Russia and the USA, that refuse to play by the rules. Borders and walls are being reinforced by rogue leaders who are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs by ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms.

    The report also points to a startling spike in protests relating to economic exclusion, inequality and poverty, which are often met with violent repression, and highlights a series of flawed and fake elections held in countries around the world in the last year.

    “Democratic values are under strain around the globe from unaccountable strong men attacking civil society and the media in unprecedented - and often brutal - ways,” said Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS’ Editor-in-Chief and the report’s lead author.

    2018 was a year in which regressive forces appeared to gain ground. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries around the world, civic space – the space for civil society – is now under serious attack in 111 of the world’s nations – well over half of all countries. Only four per cent of the world’s population live in countries where our fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are respected and enabled.

    But the past year was also one in which committed civil society activists fought back against the rising repression of rights. From the successes of the global #MeToo women’s rights movement to the March for Our Lives gun reform movement led by high school students in the USA to the growing school strike climate change movement, collective action gained ground to claim breakthroughs.

    “Despite the negative trends, active citizens and civil society organisations have been able to achieve change in Armenia, where a new political dispensation is in place, and in Ethiopia, where scores of prisoners of conscience have been released,” said John.

    The report makes several recommendations for civil society and citizen action. The report calls for new strategies to argue against right-wing populism while urging progressive civil society to engage citizens towards better, more positive alternatives. These include developing and promoting new ideas on economic democracy for fairer economies that put people and rights at their centre. Notably, the report calls for reinforcing the spirit of internationalism, shared humanity and the central importance of compassion in everything we say and do.


    For an executive summary of the report, click here.

    For the full report, click here.

    Further reading:

    Access the CIVICUS Monitor here and for more information on the latest CIVICUS Monitor ratings, clickhere.

    About the State of Civil Society Report 2019

    Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. This report looks back at the key stories of 2018 for civil society - the most significant developments that civil society was involved in, responded to and was impacted by.

    Our report is of, from and for civil society, putting front and centre the perspectives of a wide range of civil society activists and leaders close to the major stories of the day. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our online platform that tracks threats to civic space in every country.

    For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff and contributors to this report, please clickhere or contact:



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