About the watch

The European Civic Space Watch is a collaborative, knowledge-sharing online tool powered by the European Civic Forum contributing to better observing the state of civic space across Europe by gathering together alerts from civil society, existing analyses and institutional resources.

There are three sections in Civic Space Watch.

First, a mutual support scheme and a reporting point (Take action), where civic actors can share new developments on the ground, denounce attacks and call for solidarity. Here, activists can choose among several options to ask for the support from other European activists and networks to give visibility to local issues at the trans-European level.

Second, a section with alerts from civil society on burning issues. Additionally, we  also share analyses on civil society by national, European, and international networks, including CIVICUS, Civil Society Europe, the European Centre for Not-for-profit Law, the European Liberties Platform.

Third, a database of resources from institutions meant to create legal instruments to protect civil liberties, and from civic actors to promote new, positive narratives on civic space. These resources are providing a non-exhaustive list of measures, legislative proposals, and research to support civic actors and organisations advocating for a more open Civic Space in Europe.

The European Union is witnessing the rise of illiberal forms of government which repeatedly detour fundamental values and put into question its democratic acquis. Protest movements and whistleblowers are playing a crucial role in calling for greater political accountability by educating communities to democracy, raising the issue, and gathering people together to oppose these trends. However, as a reaction to this activity of open criticism and resistance, governments have in some cases discouraged, discredited or even repressed the action of civil society organisations and active citizens, labelling them as ‘foreign agents’ or delinquents and limiting their access to public funds.

Restrictions on civil liberties are not exclusive to a few authoritarian governments. They are also part of a broader trend spreading to consolidated democracies. What was initially perceived as an isolated issue is rapidly developing into a trans-European phenomena. The erosion of civic space in Europe is not solely limited to anti-NGOs laws.

In a survey launched by Civil Society Europe and CIVICUS in 2016, it came out that while civil society organisations are generally confident in fundamental liberties in Europe, civic space is deteriorating under the threat of anti-terrorism and extremism laws, excessive bureaucracy, but also the lack of structured dialogue with national and European institutions. Moreover, the responsibility of arguing and justifying the need for an open, participatory and pluralistic civil society is often left upon the shoulders of civic actors themselves.

The EU has so far treated each issue as a case of national competency and implemented a reactive, crisis-driven approach that was unable to prevent restrictions and delegitimations of civic space. As a result, the first challenge to overcome is understanding the contribution of civic actors to European democracies and identifying the challenges they face.

Civic Space Watch aims to capture national and trans-European trends in real time and provide easy access to existing resources that are often dispersed.

While there are many tools and various actors already working on civic space, Civic Space Watch will provide not only a platform to exchange information, but also  a virtual meeting point: activists and journalists will be able to report attacks across Europe and show mutual support, thus increasing trans-European solidarity and strengthening links among local and transnationalcivil societies in Europe.

The watch will also facilitate systematic data collection for advocacy, research and policy purposes.

The initiative is guided by:

Activism

Activism means promoting and acting for social, political, economic, or environmental change within the society. Activism can be both an individual and collective experience. When authorities do not duly safeguard elementary rights, it is the civic actorsthat raise public awareness about these breaches and advocate for change. Civic Space Watch wants to inspire citizens to take action to overturn the warning trends within the civic space.

Solidarity

Isolation is the first tool for governments to undermine and delegitimise the action of activists and whistleblowers. On the contrary, transnational pressure is the most significant challenge to these regimes. Bringing people from across Europe together can strengthen the voice of civil society locally and force states to be held accountable nationally. Civic Space Watch encourages citizens to support and take part in initiatives and campaigns led by activists across Europe.

Equality

In order to have a vibrant civic space, a government or public institution must enable all voices to be heard equally, free from discrimination based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or ethnic origins. This principle is particularly pressing as inequalities are skyrocketing and create new barriers to minorities under the pressure of economic and social crises. Civic Space Watch shares researches and thoughts from citizens, associations, and think tanks across Europe to promote new, positive narratives on the role that a plural civil society plays in democracy.

The European Civic Space Watch is a collaborative, knowledge-sharing online tool powered by the European Civic Forum contributing to better observing the state of civic space across Europe by gathering together alerts from civil society, existing analyses and institutional resources.

There are three sections in Civic Space Watch.

First, a mutual support scheme and a reporting point (Take action), where civic actors can share new developments on the ground, denounce attacks and call for solidarity. Here, activists can choose among several options to ask for the support from other European activists and networks to give visibility to local issues at the trans-European level.

Second, a section with alerts from civil society on burning issues. Additionally, we  also share analyses on civil society by national, European, and international networks, including CIVICUS, Civil Society Europe, the European Centre for Not-for-profit Law, the European Liberties Platform.

Third, a database of resources from institutions meant to create legal instruments to protect civil liberties, and from civic actors to promote new, positive narratives on civic space. These resources are providing a non-exhaustive list of measures, legislative proposals, and research to support civic actors and organisations advocating for a more open Civic Space in Europe.

The European Union is witnessing the rise of illiberal forms of government which repeatedly detour fundamental values and put into question its democratic acquis. Protest movements and whistleblowers are playing a crucial role in calling for greater political accountability by educating communities to democracy, raising the issue, and gathering people together to oppose these trends. However, as a reaction to this activity of open criticism and resistance, governments have in some cases discouraged, discredited or even repressed the action of civil society organisations and active citizens, labelling them as ‘foreign agents’ or delinquents and limiting their access to public funds.

Restrictions on civil liberties are not exclusive to a few authoritarian governments. They are also part of a broader trend spreading to consolidated democracies. What was initially perceived as an isolated issue is rapidly developing into a trans-European phenomena. The erosion of civic space in Europe is not solely limited to anti-NGOs laws.

In a survey launched by Civil Society Europe and CIVICUS in 2016, it came out that while civil society organisations are generally confident in fundamental liberties in Europe, civic space is deteriorating under the threat of anti-terrorism and extremism laws, excessive bureaucracy, but also the lack of structured dialogue with national and European institutions. Moreover, the responsibility of arguing and justifying the need for an open, participatory and pluralistic civil society is often left upon the shoulders of civic actors themselves.

The EU has so far treated each issue as a case of national competency and implemented a reactive, crisis-driven approach that was unable to prevent restrictions and delegitimations of civic space. As a result, the first challenge to overcome is understanding the contribution of civic actors to European democracies and identifying the challenges they face.

Civic Space Watch aims to capture national and trans-European trends in real time and provide easy access to existing resources that are often dispersed.

While there are many tools and various actors already working on civic space, Civic Space Watch will provide not only a platform to exchange information, but also  a virtual meeting point: activists and journalists will be able to report attacks across Europe and show mutual support, thus increasing trans-European solidarity and strengthening links among local and transnationalcivil societies in Europe.

The watch will also facilitate systematic data collection for advocacy, research and policy purposes.

The initiative is guided by:

Activism

Activism means promoting and acting for social, political, economic, or environmental change within the society. Activism can be both an individual and collective experience. When authorities do not duly safeguard elementary rights, it is the civic actorsthat raise public awareness about these breaches and advocate for change. Civic Space Watch wants to inspire citizens to take action to overturn the warning trends within the civic space.

Solidarity

Isolation is the first tool for governments to undermine and delegitimise the action of activists and whistleblowers. On the contrary, transnational pressure is the most significant challenge to these regimes. Bringing people from across Europe together can strengthen the voice of civil society locally and force states to be held accountable nationally. Civic Space Watch encourages citizens to support and take part in initiatives and campaigns led by activists across Europe.

Equality

In order to have a vibrant civic space, a government or public institution must enable all voices to be heard equally, free from discrimination based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or ethnic origins. This principle is particularly pressing as inequalities are skyrocketing and create new barriers to minorities under the pressure of economic and social crises. Civic Space Watch shares researches and thoughts from citizens, associations, and think tanks across Europe to promote new, positive narratives on the role that a plural civil society plays in democracy.

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