Dossier: Squeezed – Space for Civil Society

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!"

For Democracy

Democracy is under pressure today in many parts of the world. Institutions of democracy assistance and pioneers of political freedom have been struggling against a significant headwind for some time now. The present publication “For Democracy” outlines and analyzes the state of democracy worldwide as well as the possibilities of democracy assistance.

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.

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.

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

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

Zivilgesellschaft in Gefahr - Handlungsspielräume für Engagement am Beispiel von Aserbaidschan - Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

video-thumbnail Watch on YouTube

For your further reading

Shrinking spaces in the Western Balkans

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.