Enabling & Protecting Civil Society

Driven by the belief that civil society is an integral part of democracy, the Community has long made support for nongovernmental actors who represent the interests of citizens an important priority of its work around the world.

The organization’s commitment to civil society can be seen at every meeting of the Governing Council, where representatives of the International Steering Committee are given the opportunity to speak alongside Governing Council member states. It is also evident in the Community’s efforts to create an enabling environment for nongovernmental actors through diplomatic action and individual projects.

Civil Society Standards

The Governing Council sought to reduce the growing pressure on civil society organizations in some parts of the world by adopting a document that lays out a series of steps that the democratic governments that comprise the Community will take, including:

• Ensure effective coordination of existing mechanisms to protect and strengthen civil society
• Advocate for laws, policies and practices that foster enabling civil society space, and oppose those that unduly impede civil society
• Develop new and innovative ways to provide technical, financial and logistical support to protect and promote freedom of association
• Share best practices, including ways to engage in dialogue with civil society
• Endeavour to undertake diplomatic and coordinated action in support of civil society in countries where it is under threat

Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society

The Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society (WGEPCS) fosters collaboration among states, civil society and international organizations to counter, through concrete initiatives, the growing global trend towards constraining civil society organizations and restricting the space in which they can operate through legal means.

Protecting Civic Space and Rights to Access Resources

“Protecting Civic Space and the Right to Access Resources” was the Community’s first project executed over the course of two years (2014-2015) as part of the initiative that aimed to create platforms where civil society actors and states can discuss obstacles and solutions to the shrinking civic space in different regions of the world.

The first set of regional dialogues organized by the Community of Democracies was led by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, with the participation of local and regional civil society representatives from five different regions: Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Northern Africa, and Latin America.

The project focused on key challenges that civil society organizations face in accessing resources. Foreign and local funding of non-violent democracy activists and non-governmental organizations have been at times severely restricted or even banned by states, thus impacting negatively on democratic processes. The Community of Democracies facilitated a cross-sector dialogue with government representatives of one or more countries from a given region, to address CSOs’ ability to access resources, including foreign and local funding, as well as to evaluate support to non-violent civil society organizations.

The main outcomes of the dialogues were identification of challenges, dissemination of information about them as well as a list of recommendations and strategies, which can help in overcoming them.