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Civic Space

OGP countries on average have better records of protecting civic space. However, data also shows that OGP countries are not exempt from emerging civic space threats.


Civic space is the capacity of citizens and civil society organizations to freely organize, participate, and communicate without hindrance from government or non-government actors.  Only four percent of the world’s population live in countries with open civic space.

Civic space is closing around the world. Unfortunately, the three fundamental civil society rights (freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly) are often denied in practice, and over several years, there has been a sustained and widespread assault on civic space. The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks and rates civic space conditions in 195 countries, showed that in February 2018 there were serious restrictions on civic space in 109 countries (56 percent), compared to only forty-four countries (23 percent) that were classified as having open civic space. The CIVICUS Monitor data makes clear that violations are occurring in both global north and south countries, in every global region, and in countries operating under various forms of government. In short, CIVICUS believes there is a global civic space emergency, with the conditions for civil society having been further deteriorated in 2017.

On average, OGP countries have better records of protecting civic space than non-OGP countries. Nearly half of “open” countries (12 of 23) are OGP countries, and there are no “closed” countries within OGP.  However, new analysis shows that OGP countries are not exempt from emerging civic space threats.

Recent OGP analysis showed the following:

  • In 48% of OGP countries, freedom of assembly remains a problem, due to lack access to funding, tax regulations, and barriers to entry
  • In 52% of OGP countries, there are reports of excessive use of police force during public protests, as well as use of surveillance and personal data to target civil society organisations, journalists, and human rights defenders
  • 45% of OGP countries have problems with censorship or online discrimination
  • 58% of OGP countries report issues related to harassment of activists and journalists

Yet, the majority of OGP civic space commitments are related to regulations on public participation–the least problematic area for OGP countries.

Our Civic Space Priorities

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was established around the premise that dialogue and engagement between civil society and government is vital for reform in any public policy area. OGP works to achieve the following:

  • Promote commitments across the breadth of civic space problems, including emerging issues such as online surveillance or harassment
  • Align civic space commitments in action plans to relevant country issues
  • Use collective dialogue to create more civic space through collaborative dialogue
  • Ensure commitments do not introduce undue burdens and restrictions on civic space

Why Civic Space?

When civic space is limited, the essential contribution of civil society is not realized. Civil society organizations (CSOs) cannot fulfill a number of important roles, including fostering citizen participation, exercising accountability in governance, advocating for policy change, and delivering essential services to otherwise excluded people. In open civic space, CSOs are able to act with autonomy in advancing human rights, democracy, development, and good governance.

Restrictions on civic space affect not only civil society, they also impact the social stability and economic growth of a country. Civic space promotes creativity and innovation through partnership between the public, private, and non-governmental sectors. As a result, restricting civic space is bad for business too.

A robust civic space is essential for a dynamic political culture and an innovative open government agenda.

There is statistical evidence linking the number of civil society organisations per capita to control of corruption, and linking the strength of civil society and the reduction of corruption.

A lack of press freedom leads to higher levels of corruption, confirming the power of information to strengthen public demand for anti-corruption measures. Case study evidence from Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Mexico suggest that civil society is more likely to have an impact on corruption if citizens’ action is integrated into supportive legal and institutional frameworks, including transparency legislation, participatory governance and horizontal accountability institutions.

Actions to strengthen democracy and protect civic rights in the digital era

OGP and the upcoming global summit will provide a platform to catalyze collective action to protect democratic participation from digital threats and curtailment of civic space. Learn more about the actions you can take through your national OGP co-creation process.

Recommendations

Protection of Human Rights

Even in some of the world’s most advanced democracies, human rights are threatened by governments that actively seek to silence activists, imprison journalists, and violate basic civil liberties.

Following are steps OGP governments can take, through open government commitments, to strengthen human rights institutions and laws and protect activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, including:

  • Encourage and ensure dialogue between civil society and government to monitor government compliance with human rights conventions
    • In Uruguay, the government opened a dialogue between civil society and government to ensure indigenous groups continued to be protected under the government’s duties to an international convention on human rights.
  • Be open and share data on resources used to protect human rights
    • In Mexico, the government produced data on public resources allocated to protect journalists and activists.

Commitments

  1. E-access and expansion

    NO0056, 2019, Civic Space

  2. CSO Participation in Policymaking

    BA0005, 2019, Capacity Building

  3. Liberalize television space

    CI0025, 2018, Civic Space

  4. Human Rights report

    UY0120, 2018, Civic Space

  5. NGO database, NGO fund

    LT0025, 2018, Civic Space

  6. Public services by NGOs

    LT0027, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. Healthy democracy

    CA0069, 2018, Civic Space

  8. Transparency in NGO project finance

    HR0030, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Media regulations framework

    HR0033, 2018, Civic Space

  10. implementation of anti-corruption policies by NGOs

    HR0038, 2018, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  11. public sector/civil society collaboration

    JO0059, 2018, Civic Space

  12. Improvements to Legal Aid

    ID0105, 2018, Capacity Building

  13. risk assessment in non-profit sector

    KG0014, 2018, Capacity Building

  14. Participación protagónica de niños, niñas y adolescentes organizados

    PY0047, 2018, Capacity Building

  15. Un jurado de enjuiciamiento de magistrados transparente.

    PY0061, 2018, Civic Space

  16. Dialogo social y participación ciudadana del Gabinete Civil

    PY0063, 2018, Civic Space

  17. e-calls for proposals to support CSOs

    UA0075, 2018, Civic Space

  18. online platform for executive bodies and CSOs

    UA0082, 2018, Civic Space

  19. DISEÑO E IMPLEMENTACIÓN DE UNA ESTRATEGIA DE INNOVACIÓN EN LA GESTIÓN PÚBLICA.

    GT0095, 2018, Civic Space

  20. Feasibility study on NGO satellite account

    SK0077, 2017, Civic Space

  21. Plataforma de vinculación entre organizaciones civiles y el Estado provincial

    AR0070, 2017, Capacity Building

  22. whistleblower protections

    LV0033, 2017, Capacity Building

  23. Create favourable environment for media and journalism

    MN0026, 2016, Civic Space

  24. Foriegn Aid Transparency

    SL0013, 2016, Aid

  25. Transparency of loans and aid from foreign countries

    MN0028, 2016, Aid

  26. Supporting the activities of the civil society members

    AZ0041, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  27. Ensure the freedom the press and plurality of expression

    CI0012, 2016, Civic Space

  28. Capacity strengthening for cooperation between the local self-government units and civil organizations

    MK0111, 2016, Capacity Building

  29. Favorable legal environment for social contracts

    MK0117, 2016, Civic Space

  30. transparency in aid management

    SE0015, 2016, Aid

  31. TRANSPARENCIA EN ORGANIZACIONES SOCIALES

    SV0078, 2016, Capacity Building

  32. Creation of NGO database.

    LT0022, 2016, Civic Space

  33. Creation of NGO fund.

    LT0023, 2016, Capacity Building

  34. LEY DE ORGANIZACIONES SOCIALES

    SV0090, 2016, Capacity Building

  35. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Civic Space

  36. Observatory on Digital Rights

    IT0053, 2016, Capacity Building

  37. Supporting Volunteering

    CZ0020, 2016, Civic Space

  38. Promote freedom of expression and independent media

    NO0051, 2016, Civic Space

  39. Increasing the transparency of the funding of non-governmental organisations

    EE0046, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  40. Strengthen the framework governing the freedom of the media

    JO0050, 2016, Capacity Building

  41. Diseñar e iniciar la ejecución de una ruta de acción para la política pública nacional en materia de desaparición forzada y por particulares con la participación de la sociedad civil y víctimas.

    MX0064, 2016, Civic Space

  42. Transformation of CSO registration procedure

    BG0047, 2016, Civic Space

  43. Public Trust in Data Sharing

    AU0006, 2016, Capacity Building

  44. Strive to improve the environment and provide support for the development of civil society organizations

    BG0065, 2016, Aid

  45. Consultas y diálogo sobre instrumentos internacionales

    UY0064, 2016, Capacity Building

  46. Development of a uniform methodology for planning, monitoring and performance evaluation of programmes and projects implemented by civil society organisations and monitoring the spending of allocated funds

    RS0024, 2016, Capacity Building

  47. Amend the Regulation on Funds to Support Programmes or Missing Amount of Funds for Programmes of Public Interest implemented by Associations

    RS0025, 2016, Capacity Building

  48. Starred commitment Derecho de acceso a la información pública

    UY0083, 2016, Capacity Building

  49. Starred commitment Develop public policy with civil society

    SK0047, 2015, Civic Space

  50. Carry out a public campaign to promote the Collective Electronic Petitions.

    SK0051, 2015, Capacity Building

  51. Transparency of Privacy Programs and Practices

    US0069, 2015, Capacity Building

  52. Improve Transparency in International Development Aid

    FR0005, 2015, Aid

  53. Sustainable model of financing NGOs

    LV0023, 2015, Civic Space

  54. Increased access to Swedish aid information

    SE0010, 2014, Aid

  55. Increased aid transparency at global level

    SE0012, 2014, Aid

  56. National Civil Society Fund Model Development

    LT0011, 2014, Civic Space

  57. Media Transparency

    HR0017, 2014, Civic Space

  58. Promoting Civil Participation in the Work of Civil Society Organizations

    HR0025, 2014, Civic Space

  59. Selecting and funding participation projects

    EE0024, 2014, Civic Space

  60. Local authorities' transactions with private entities

    EE0029, 2014, Civic Space

  61. Public spending for non-profits

    EE0030, 2014, Civic Space

  62. Applying the principles of good governance

    JO0046, 2014, Capacity Building

  63. Media-sector restructuring

    JO0047, 2014, Civic Space

  64. Implementation of a new charter for interaction between Volunteer Denmark/Associations Denmark and the public sector

    DK0044, 2014, Civic Space

  65. Trasparentar los avances de los fondos de préstamos y donaciones por Organismo, contraparte y componente

    GT0019, 2014, Civic Space

  66. Financing of charities

    UA0032, 2014, Civic Space

  67. Not-for-profit status for CSOs

    UA0033, 2014, Civic Space

  68. Set up a council for development of the civil society

    BG0030, 2014, Civic Space

  69. Starred commitment Transparentar las exenciones y exoneraciones de impuestos

    GT0047, 2014, Civic Space

  70. Transparent Financing of Civil Society Organizations

    RS0004, 2014, Civic Space

  71. Starred commitment Proactive publishing of surveillance data

    GE0027, 2014, Civic Space

  72. Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations in Public Policymaking

    RS0011, 2014, Civic Space

  73. Starred commitment Greater control and transparency in public grants

    ES0021, 2014, Civic Space

  74. Foreign aid and foreign investment

    MK0074, 2014, Aid

  75. National Broadcasting

    GH0010, 2013, Civic Space

  76. Declaration of principles for interaction and dialogue with NGOs

    NO0043, 2013, Capacity Building

  77. Simplification and digital administration of arrangements for NGOs

    NO0044, 2013, Capacity Building

  78. Direct contact with non-governmental organisations

    ME0023, 2012, Civic Space

  79. Starred commitment Improving Access to Information on Expending Public Resources and Contents of Relevant Registers: Implementation of acts on political activity and campaign financing

    HR0006, 2012, Civic Space

  80. Protection of persons reporting corruption

    ME0037, 2012, Civic Space

  81. Combatting all forms of discrimination: Carry out activities defined in the signed Memorandum of Cooperation with the NGOs

    ME0047, 2012, Civic Space

  82. Improving media freedoms

    ME0052, 2012, Civic Space

  83. Strengthening the financial and operational independence of the National Center for Human Rights.

    JO0015, 2012, Civic Space

  84. Completion of the second phase of the Jordan Aid Information Management System-JAIMS

    JO0023, 2012, Aid

  85. Laws on public participation

    UA0001, 2012, Civic Space

  86. Amendments to the law on community associations

    UA0002, 2012, Civic Space

  87. Alianza Gobierno, sector privado y sociedad civil

    CO0027, 2012, Civic Space

  88. Starred commitment Strategy for NGO development

    BG0002, 2012, Civic Space

  89. Law on public broadcasting

    UA0009, 2012, Civic Space

  90. IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE INVOLVEMENT OF SOCIETY IN DECISION MAKING: NGO fund

    LV0001, 2012, Capacity Building

  91. IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE INVOLVEMENT OF SOCIETY IN DECISION MAKING: Trade union law

    LV0003, 2012, Civic Space

  92. IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE INVOLVEMENT OF SOCIETY IN DECISION MAKING: NGO co-working

    LV0004, 2012, Civic Space

  93. Starred commitment Transparencia y rendición de cuentas en la Ayuda Oficial al Desarrollo

    ES0002, 2012, Aid

  94. Reforma a la Ley de Subvenciones

    ES0004, 2012, Civic Space

  95. Develop practical guidelines on departmental access to internet and social media

    UK0036, 2011, Civic Space

  96. Evaluation of Human Rights Obligations

    MX0012, 2011, Civic Space


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