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Civic Space Beseiged

Governments have sought to limit the work of CSOs across the world, especially where that work relates to transparency, accountability, or investigation of public affairs. In Hungary, CSOs working on migration issues have faced particular difficulties as a result of President Viktor Orbán’s severe anti-migrant policies .

Laws are often used to limit CSO activity, such as Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ laws, as well as laws that restrict funding sources or impose onerous (or even prohibitive) bureaucratic or administrative processes and fees on groups. Similar strategies are often used to target media outlets. In some countries, such as Tanzania, CSO workers have even been arrested and intimidated for their work.

Governments often try to paint CSOs’ work as an assault on national sovereignty, and foreign funding restrictions have been put in place across Eastern Europe and parts of Asia and used to target CSO and media outlets. Civil society across the world – from Mexico to the UK’s Privacy International – has also been subject to surveillance.

In June 2018 United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a ‘Civic Space Resolution’, clarifying that the effectiveness of inter-governmental organisations is ‘inexorably linked’ to civil society participation, and emphasises that transparency and access to information are the bedrocks of an enabling environment. [1]


[1] ARTICLE 19, UNHRC: Action Needed to Safeguard Civic Space within International Organisations, 17 July 2018, available at