UN’s Approach to Protecting and Promoting Civic Space

Welcome to the Online Consultation

13 Jan – 24 Jan 2020

From 13 Jan – 24 Jan 2020, please contribute to the development of the UN coherent and systematic approach to protecting and promoting civic space. The feedback and recommendations received during the consultations will feed into the development of the UN’s overall approach and strategy on the protection and promotion of civic space.

The target audience for this consultation are civil society actors at international, regional, national and local levels working on issues related to development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian action.

Important information:

Receive a notification when this consultation starts:

  1. Select “Sign up” from the top right of the page and create an account (or “Log in” if you already have an account).
  2. Return to this page (http://globaldevhub.org/civicspace) and select the yellow “Join” button that will appear in the banner image.


Across the globe, people need to speak out, organise, mobilise and take action off-line and on-line, in order to have a say in decisions about their future. Safe, open, free and enabling space for all to form and voice opinions, debate, be heard and peacefully protest, is an essential prerequisite for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, maintaining peace and security, humanitarian assistance, human rights and rule of law. Democratic, fundamental freedoms – of expression, association and peaceful assembly – and effective participation and safe environments are therefore key.

The tide against civil society is strong: hostile discourse and online and offline abuse and harassment, disinformation and smear campaigns are on the rise. Civil society organisations in different domains, including health, education, housing and humanitarian assistance can face curbs on funding and complex registration rules, often under the pretext of security. Independent journalists, peacebuilders, humanitarian workers, youth activists, land activists, minorities and indigenous groups, environmental defenders, activists for women’s equality and LGBTI rights, activists working on migration and forced displacement are frequently subjected to attacks, criminalization or killings.

Effective implementation of the UN’s policies and programmes is dependent on civil society contributions and feedback, including critical voices from and engagement by different communities and groups, especially communities affected by the UN’s work. UN entities, at the global, regional and national levels, have long been working in partnership with civil society to implement programmes and projects, e.g. to deliver life-saving services, to support mediation and post-conflict activities, to monitor political and social developments. The UN has also sought to promote and protect civic space in a multitude of ways, e.g. through rule of law programming, capacity development, advocacy in support of open space, including through the work of UN human rights bodies and mechanisms.

But the UN could do better and is therefore resolved to take its civic space work to the next level, by:

  • Promoting civic space: advise on, and proactively advocate for, safe participation of diverse civil society groups in national decision-making processes, including through protests; seize opportunities to expand the space for civil societies and systematically highlight the positive contributions of civil society
  • Partnering with civil society: enhance civil society engagement with the UN and strengthen policies and practices on participation of / partnerships with civil society, drawing on examples of good practice from across the UN system
  • Protecting civil society actors: coordinate and strengthen UN responses to protect civil society actors effectively, including from reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN and by identifying and disseminating examples of good practice across the UN system

UN partners include NGO umbrella networks, including but not restricted to ISHR, CIVICUS, ICVA, NY Peacebuilding Group etc. For more information, please contact civicspacesurvey@ohchr.org.

More infos here.