2017 was the twelfth consecutive year in which states with a negative democratic development outnumbered those with a positive democratic development. The international network CIVICUS classifies the space for civil society in all UN member states in categories from ”closed” to ”open”. Their compilation from April 2017 shows that only three percent of the world’s population live in what can be considered open societies, where space for civic activism is truly open. Around 44 percent live in states where civic space is either completely closed or subjected to severe restrictions.
Actors in civil society face increasing social, financial and legal restrictions as well as threats against themselves and their families and even physical violence. During the period 2014-2016, more than 60 states adopted laws which classify organisations receiving international support as foreign agents. Intensified competition for natural resources combined with attacks on human rights globally is shrinking or closing the space for those who defend natural resources, land rights or indigenous peoples’ rights. The restrictions and attacks on civil society have detrimental consequences for women’s rights and LGBTQI activists who already face structural discrimination and o”and often depend on civil society as the only sphere where they can express themselves and organise.
The following sections presents recommendations for how decision-makers and government officials, as well as civil society’s own organisations, can promote civic space globally.