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Space for Civil Society

‘Space for Civil Society – How to Protect and Expand an Enabling Environment’, a study of CIDSE and the Act Alliance, is based on case studies of civil society organizations in Malawi, Rwanda, Colombia and Zimbabwe between 2009 and 2013.

The presence of a vibrant, strong and free civil society is essential in order to guarantee sustainable development and to provide incentives for social and democratic change. At the same time, civil society organisations and human rights defenders all over the world face risks and restrictions, particularly when they promote democracy, human rights and social justice.

CIDSE and Act Alliance conclude that civil society organisations are increasingly confronted with harassment, censorship and inequitable legislation. In spite of these challenging conditions, the report documents some best practices where civil society has succeeded in protecting or even expanding their operating space.

The report describes how alliances between civil society organisations can increase their legitimacy and influence in national planning and policy making by raising issues together and sharing information and learning. Joint action is also essential to strengthen security and protection mechanisms for civil society leaders and human rights defenders.

A selection of the recommendations for Civil Society Organizations and donor organizations that highlight the need for joint action and forming alliances:

For Civil Society’s Donors:

  • Support the formation of loose, issue- based coalitions of organisations working in different sectors (from human rights to humanitarian assistance); foster linkages and learning exchanges between national NGOs and grassroots social movements.

For Civil Society Organizations:

  • Learn from the experiences of other CSOs in the global South – how they use both formal and non-formal means to participate in development processes;
  • Exchange and collaborate with CSOs working in all sectors and bridge the gap between CSOs working in ‘development’ and CSOs working on human rights and social justice.

Quick details

Published by: CIDSE & Act Alliance Year of publication: 2014 Type of publication: Cordaid Document: PDF 3.11 MB Download the publication