Dossier: Squeezed – Spaces for Civil Society

Dossier: Squeezed – Space for Civil Society

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Civil society is part and parcel of all political processes, be they national or international. It can shape political processes, successfully organise political participation, uncover corruption and human rights abuses – and it will demand accountability from state actors.

But all across the world, civil society is under pressure. In many countries, state authorities are taking more and more systematic measures, aimed to restrict the work of civil society. Furthermore, civil society actors are targets of defamation, threats and violence. These developments, known as "shrinking space" or "closing space", have become a global trend.

The present dossier provides analyses and background information about how civil societies' spaces are being restricted and highlights various facettes. Examples from a number of countries provide evidence of how civil society is put under pressure – and what counter-strategies are being developed. Finally the dossier presents initatives, that are actively fighting against shrinking spaces to "Regain civic space!"

Human Rights

The promotion of democracy is one of the core themes in the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s international programmes. In collaboration with our courageous partners in many parts of the world, we are trying to widen the scope for political and social participation and emancipation. Specifically, we aim to strengthen civil society and democratically legitimate parliaments. We are trying to bolster women’s political and social rights, and we campaign against the discrimination and criminalisation of people whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to the norm, that is: LGBTI.

Initiatives against shrinking spaces

Civic Charter

Repression of civil society is on the rise all over the world. The charter aims to support civil society organizations as activists throughout the world, to advocate for their rights and freedom of action, and to demand government guarantees.

Introduction

Fewer and fewer governments in the North, the South, and the East feel bound by established international law that guarantees and protects freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of organization. We have to remind them of this, constantly and vehemently.
Barbara Unmüßig

Authoritarian repression under the pretext of sovereignty

The repression of civil societies activites in countries like Egypt and Russia are justified with the "protection of the states sovereignity" and the "principle of non-intervention". When unwelcomed critique is silenced, activists need all our solidarity and support.

Von Wolfgang Kaleck, Simon Rau

Maina Kiai: "Our Ideas keep living on"

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, explains in this interview with Christine Meissler why he will never give up fighting for democracy and human rights.

Von Christine Meissler

Shrinking Spaces: In many fields civil societies' activities are restricted

Especially organisations and activists engaging in environmental protection, equality or LGBTI rights are under threat. The limitations are visible on different levels - be it with the disconnection of certain web sites or the participation in international processes.

No right for digital participation in many regions of the world

In many regions of the world the freedom of the Internet is just an illusion. Especially in Arab countries, the neighbouring states of Russia and Subsahara-Africa the year 2015 marked the lowest point for democratic participation and civil liberties.

Von Ute Schaeffer

Habitat III: New Urban Agenda and the importance of civil society

Close on the heels of the UN adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 the HABITAT III conference offers the international community a timely opportunity to revisit and revision its commitments to putting human rights at the heart of sustainable urban development. The global context is adverse, marked by growing inequity, rising levels of homelessness and landlessness, forced migration, environmental degradation and climate change.

Von Poonam Joshi

Under pressure: In many countries civil socities are beeing squeezed out

Shrinking Civic Spaces in ASEAN

Despite its diversity, ASEAN member states have one common trait: state repression. This is in contrast to ASEAN´s aspiration to be people-centered. How repression looks on the ground can illustrate the example of the Bersih movement for fair elections in Malaysia.

Von Khoo Ying Hooi

An eclipse of Myanmar’s civil society?

Myanmar’s transition to democracy has earned the country a lot of appraisal on the international stage. But over the last year, the boundaries between what is permitted and what will get people in trouble slid back and blurred again.

Von Dr. Stefan Bächtold

Egypt, Cambodia and Russia are just a few examples on how governments globally are taking extreme actions against civil society activists. Our articles illustrate where the spaces for civil society action are shrinking.

Five years after the iconic “18 Days of Tahrir” and three years after the overthrow of the first freely elected president the situation of Egypt's civil society is precarious: An estimated 40.000 activists languish in Egyptian prisons for political reasons, often without a verdict.
Janis Grimm

Interview with Emin Milli, journalist and director at Meydan TV

For your further reading

Shrinking spaces in the Western Balkans

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Without civic engagement and participation, democratization cannot succeed. This publication sheds light on the complex mechanisms of shrinking spaces in the Western Balkans, provides analyses, and develops adequate countermeasures.

Dossier: For Democracy

With the publication “For democracy” and this online-dossier, we analyze the state of democracy worldwide as well as the possibilities of democracy assistance. At the same time, we provide insights into the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s political work for democracy.

Dossier: Focus on Hungary

Our dossier on Hungary is as a forum for critical voices since the right-wing government came to power in April 2010. The contributions reflect the socio-political changes as well as long-term developments.