What is Civic Space Watch

Civic Space Watch collects findings and analyses from actors in Europe on the conditions for civil society to operate, capturing national and trans-European trends in civic space.  Through ongoing monitoring of social media and regular contact and interviews with a strong network of members and partners on the ground, we strive to provide easy access to resources and improve information sharing within civil society across Europe  with, policy-makers and the media. 

The resources are categorised on the website and shared in monthly and ad-hoc newsletters, and via social media alerts on recent civic space developments in the EU.

Civic space is shrinking everywhere but not evenly. The extent of the impact depends on historical and cultural factors. These elements critically affect not only how pressures are exerted, but also how well civil society and social movements are equipped to resist and respond to pressure and decline in access to rights for all.

While the concept of “shrinking civic space” is gaining traction, it remains a phenomenon that is difficult to grasp as threats to civil society are emerging in young democracies in addition to well-established ones. Challenges to understand and react to these threats are common not only among policy-makers and media, but also within civil society.

Civic Space Watch aims to amplify voices, build knowledge, and resilience for vibrant civic space in Europe.

The resources collected feed several initiatives of the European Civic Forum (ECF), its members and partners, including:

  • Reporting and research: Civic Space Watch facilitates systematic data collection for advocacy, research and policy purposes. See our publications for more information on our research efforts. The ECF is also one of the regional research partners of the CIVICUS Monitor contributing to raising civic space issues in the European Union member states at the international level.


  • Alerting institutions and advocacy: Based on evidence collected through Civic Space Watch, and joining forces with other EU level organisations including via Civil Society Europe, the ECF regularly alerts European and international institutions regarding concerning civic space developments to put pressure on Governments that abuse their powers. We advocate for a proactive EU approach to support civic actors under pressure. Check out the ECF website for more information about our advocacy efforts and successes.



  • Building capacities and solidarity: The ECF provides space for civic actors to share experiences and practices to build the capacities of civic activists. Check out the ECF website for more information about our events. We also mobilise our members and partner to provide solidarity and support to civic actors under pressure.
  • Saving the Rights and Values Programme

The European Rights and Values programme is aimed at supporting civic actions in the field of democracy and rule of law. In May 2020, the European Commission presented a strategy to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic’s adverse effects and presented a draft 7-year budget for the EU. While the strategy mentions civil society as an essential partner in facing the many challenges brought to our communities by the pandemic, the draft budget proposed cutting the Rights and Values Programme by over 20 per centcompared to the already very low figure proposed by the Commission in 2018. The European Civic Forum worked closely with members and partners, particularly the Polish Batory Foundation to mobilise over 300 civic organisations at national and European level to advocate the Commission, MEPs and the Member States to redress this decision. As a result, the European Parliament and the German Presidency of the Council of the EU clinched a deal foreseeing a significant increase in the budget for the Justice, Rights and Values programme, raising from 0.8 to €1.6 billion for the 2021-2027 period.

  • Commission’s President introduces Article 11 and civic space to Commissioner Jourová’s mandate

Following the 2019 European Elections, the European Civic Forum mobilised hundreds of civic organisations to put pressure on MEPs and President of the European Commission Von der Leyen  to include civic space and civil dialogue in the mission letter of Commissioner for Transparency and Values, Vera Jourova. Following a strong advocacy action, the mission letter was revised in December 2019 and now it stipulates that Mrs. Jourova will «maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society» and «Safeguard the right of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association». We continue to call for an interinstitutional agreement for the implementation of these tasks.

  • Defending the right to protest during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 virus spreads across Europe, in most European Union countries national authorities restricted the public space and limited the possibility for gatherings of people. The European Civic Forum sounded the alarm and organised a two-day event to provide a space for civic actors and social movements to strategise on how to defend this right and to advocate for EU actions in the context of the Rule of law framework.