The shrinking space of civil society: a report on trends, responses, and the role of donors

(Maecenata Foundation) Civil society is one of the main arenas of the democratization. However, in recent years the political space of civil society has become narrower and does not contribute to effective operation of civil society organisations (CSOs). Due to repression by governments, civil society organisations are encountering a series of challenges, which may extend to closing down the organisations. Civil society activists are being violently attacked, imprisoned and/or forced to emigrate. The mutual mistrust and the lack of dialogue between CSOs and government is increasing, not only in authoritarian, but also in some democratic states across the world.

This study aims to promote the importance of dialogue between civil society and governments in preventing the repression of civil society. Moreover, it will investigate the nature and causes of repression of civil society, to identify trends of shrinking the space as applied by states, to explore the responses and impact of shrinking space on civil society, to determine new mechanisms and strategies for dialogue and cooperation through comparative and contrast analysis of previous researches on the topic (desk review) and case studies. The study shows that various restrictions are being applied by governments to shrink the political space of CSOs, which leads to the closing down of organisations, due to the lack of response mechanisms and capacities. On the other hand, the research identifies possible response mechanisms and support by the international community as well as providing recommendations for stakeholders to address and solve the issue. The study shows that despite democratic developments in the world, there is a need to enhance cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding between CSOs and government to contribute to the democratisation of the countries.

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