Civic space is the underpinning for open government, allowing people to think and speak freely, act in coordination, and advocate for change without fear of government reprisal or violence. Yet, it is eroding globally. According to CIVICUS, only 3.1 percent of the world’s population now live in countries with open civic space.
As of February 2022, 46 OGP members have made 117 commitments to protect civic space. The number of commitments have decreased over the past years, with only 14 members implementing civic space commitments in their 2019, 2020, and 2021 action plans.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries imposed severe restrictions across a variety of open government issues, including civic space. OGP countries were not spared from the trend as 21 countries restricted freedom of expression, eight have restricted media freedom, 26 countries included citizen surveillance methods in their emergency measures, and security forces, including civilian police and the military have used disproportionate physical violence against citizens to execute emergency measures in 20 OGP countries. While these figures have decreased by June 2021, civic space remains an urgent area of concern in OGP.
To support countries to protect and enhance civic space, the OGP Support Unit works to: strengthen the co-creation process, which serves as an important dialogue platform between government and civil society; coordinate with a range of partners to help countries develop ambitious commitments to protect civic space and prevent back-sliding on human rights; and mobilize a coalition of civil society and government champions who lead and promote ideas on advancing civic space efforts.
As part of the 2021 OGP Co-Chair Call-to-Action, this menu of suggested actions highlights ideas for OGP members to advance through their upcoming OGP action plans. It features recommendations across the three civic freedoms – freedom of assembly, association and expression – along with cross-cutting recommendations.
Journalists and activists are critical intermediaries connecting public officials with citizens and serving as government watchdogs. OGP members are committed to helping protect their rights and safety.
Peaceful assembly is essential to healthy and effective democratic institutions. OGP members are sharing best practices and experiences to protect this fundamental human right.