13,257 Unpacking the Concept of Civic Space, The Drum Beat 738, July 12-2017

The Drum BeatUnpacking the Concept of Civic Space – The Drum Beat 738
July 12, 2017
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This Drum Beat explores “civic space”, a concept that “connotes the availability of avenues and opportunities that support citizen action, civil society engagement, media freedom, independence of judiciary systems and protection of all human and socio-economic rights by relevant stakeholders within diverse global societies.” [Nyaruiru Ndungi, Kenya Human Rights Commission] The global civil society alliance CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation began using the term “civic space” regularly after the inception of the Civic Space Initiative in 2011, defining it as “the place, physical, virtual, and legal, where people exercise their rights to freedom of association, expression, and peaceful assembly. By forming associations, by speaking out on issues of public concern, by gathering together in online and o! ffline fora, and by participating in public decision-making, individuals use civic space to solve problems and improve lives. A robust and protected civic space forms the cornerstone of accountable, responsive democratic governance and stable societies.” The CIVICUS Monitor shows that more than 3.2 billion people live in countries in which civic space is either closed or repressed.
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  • 1. On “Shrinking Space”: A Framing Paper
    by Ben Hayes, Frank Barat, Isabelle Geuskens, Nick Buxton, Fiona Dove, Francesco Martone, Hannah Twomey, and Semanur Karaman
    This Transnational Institute (TNI) paper considers the efforts of civil society organisations (CSOs) to understand and counter “shrinking space”, or restrictions on political struggle – who is affected and why, where is the trend headed, and what are some of the problems inherent in the concept? TNI defines “shrinking space” as “a concept or framework that captures the dynamic relationship between repressive methods and political struggle, including the ways in which political struggle responds to these methods to reclaim space, and the impact this response has upon how political struggles relate to one another.” [Apr 2017]
  • 2. Restricting Space for Civil Society
    by Siãn Herbert
    There is consensus in the literature reviewed for this Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC) rapid query that the space for civil society to act has been increasingly restricted in the past decade. This is a global phenomenon – occurring in different ways and not in all countries, but in all regions of the world and in all regime types (not just authoritarian countries). [Aug 2015]
  • 3. Human Rights Defenders under Threat – A Shrinking Space for Civil Society
    This report is part of Amnesty International’s global advocacy campaign Brave, launched to combat measures by authoritarian leaders and other actors (state and non-state) with power to threaten and attack human rights defenders (HRDs) and shrink the space in which civil society operates. It provides an overview of the dangers HRDs face and calls on those in power to take immediate measures to ensure that HRDs are recognised, protected, and equipped to conduct their work without fear of attack in a safe environment. [May 2017]
  • 4. Keeping up the Pressure: Enhancing the Sustainability of Protest Movements
    by Tor Hodenfield
    This report explores structural, national-level, and external factors that contribute to or undermine the sustainability of contemporary protest movements, defined here as continuous public and physical gatherings of a group of individuals committed to using non-violent tactics to effect some political, social, cultural, or economic change that diverges from mainstream or extant political positions or practices. CIVICUS’s research assessed ongoing protest movements in Bahrain, Chile, and Uganda, using an interview and survey-based qualitative research methodology. The report seeks to build on our existing understanding of protest movements by providing perspectives from those leading and actively involved in protests, with the aim of contributing to the growing academic, civil society, and intergovernmental literature on the causes, consequences, and efficacy of contemporary protest campaigns. [Apr 2017]
  • 5. Putting Citizens’ Voice at the Centre of Development: Challenging Shrinking Civic Space across Africa
    This policy brief aims to highlight the issue of closing civic space in Africa and is based on detailed research commissioned by Oxfam from the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The research focused on 6 countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda – and identifies broader trends related to civic space, as well as recommendations for creating an enabling environment for meaningful civic action. [Nov 2016]
  • 6. Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries
    by Andrew Firmin
    Designed by CIVICUS and the International Center for Non-for-Profit Law (ICNL) under the Civic Space Initiative (CSI), in partnership with ARTICLE 19 and the World Movement for Democracy and with the support of the Government of Sweden, the Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) is an action-oriented research tool for assessing the legal, regulatory, and policy environment for civil society. Between 2013 and 2016, the EENA was implemented in 22 countries worldwide. This EENA Synthesis Report reveals that CSOs are often not free to act without the state’s permission and explores the impact of these constraints. [Feb 2017]

  • 7. Enabling Environment National Assessments: Civil Society Response Strategies
    by Andrew Firmin
    Featuring reflections on civil society strategies to create a more enabling environment, this paper draws on the findings of the EENA (see #6, above). It showcases a range of civil society success stories in overcoming restrictions to civil society, along with the obstacles such responses encountered. For example, in several contexts, including Cambodia, Nigeria, Panama and Zambia, CSOs involved in the EENA assessments asserted the value of holding regular national-level civil society dialogues and consultations, as a means of building solidarity, growing awareness of laws and regulations and their implications, and developing the legitimacy of CSO advocacy. It is noted that there can be no one size fits all model for developing and growing civil society coalitions. [Nov 2016]
  • 8. Civic Charter – The Global Framework for People’s Participation
    Spearheaded by the International Civil Society Centre (ICSC), the Civic Charter is a global document developed by civil society for civil society that aims to connect those engaged in the everyday struggle for civic space – on a local, national, regional, or international level. Based on universally accepted human rights, freedoms, and principles, the Civic Charter can be used as a tool for advocacy, for awareness-raising, for lobbying governments, for establishing a baseline for interaction with partners, and for many other purposes.
  • 9. Going Vertical: Citizen-Led Reform Campaigns in the Philippines
    by Joy Aceron, Ed. and Francis Isaac, Ed.
    The Philippines has a long history of state-society engagement to introduce reforms in government and politics. Transparency, participation, and accountability (TPA) to make governments responsive and effective is a reform solution that has been popular in recent decades. Several theoretical propositions on which strategic approaches work best for social accountability (SAcc) initiatives – to make governance more responsive, to introduce policy reforms, and to make government more accountable – have been put forward, including the idea of vertically integrated civil society monitoring and advocacy. This multi-authored research report uses vertical integration as a framework for examining 7 civil society SAcc initiatives in the Philippines, looking at what made them successful and how the gains they realised can be deepened and sustained. [Dec 2016]
  • 10. Africans Rising – For Justice, Peace and Sustainable Development
    The Africans Rising is a local, national, and continental movement that seeks to unite civil society across Africa to work towards: expanding the space for civic and political action; fighting for women’s rights and equity and dignity for all; demanding good governance; and achieving more justice in addressing the effects of climate change. The movement encourages activists, regional and local networks, artists, trade unions, faith-based groups, social movements, cultural activists, intellectuals, sports people, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international NGOs (INGOs), and ordinary people to join. The movement seeks to be built from the bottom up, to be driven by civil society and individuals (not solely by NGOs and INGOs as has been the case with similar initiatives in the past), and be inclusive of everyone who shares its ideals.
  • 11. World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law
    by Luis Felipe López-Calva and Yongmei Zhou
    This World Bank report looks beyond purely technical solutions and identifies commitment, coordination, and cooperation as 3 key functions of institutions for development. It reveals that governance can mitigate, even overcome, power asymmetries to bring about more effective policy interventions that achieve sustainable improvements in security, growth, and equity. One chapter analyses the role that ordinary citizens play in driving processes of societal transformation and institutional change. Surveying historical and contemporary experiences, it argues that citizens face collective action problems that prevent them from bargaining effectively and holding government accountable. To strengthen their influence in the policy arena, citizens need to engage through multiple mechanisms designed to solve collective action problems, including voting, political parties, social movements, civic associations, and other less conventional spaces for policy deliberation. [Jan 2017]
  • 12. Citizen Engagement in Public Service Delivery: The Critical Role of Public Officials
    by Mr. Elinor Bajraktari
    This United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paper is based on the analysis of 5 case studies exploring citizen engagement initiatives in rural China, the Philippines, Viet Nam, rural Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia. “This paper posits that there are no blueprints for the design and implementation of such initiatives or standardised and replicable tools. Instead it suggests that successful and sustainable citizen engagement is ideally developed through ‘a process of confrontation, accommodation, trial and error in which participants discover what works and gain a sense of self-confidence and empowerment’.” [Feb 2016]
  • See also:
    Citizen Voice and State Accountability: Towards Theories of Change that Embrace Contextual Dynamics

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  • 13. Shifting the Spotlight: Understanding Crowdsourcing Intermediaries in Transparency and Accountability Initiatives
    by Evangelia Berdou and Cathy Shutt
    This Making All Voices Count paper presents findings and conclusions from a multi-method study of “crowdsourcing intermediaries”, defined in transparency and accountability (T&A) initiatives as civil society and state actors who aim to contribute to more accountable governance through facilitating citizen feedback on government, using internet or mobile phone technology to source opinions. Instead of asking whether T&A initiatives are effective in terms of representation (whose voice is being heard?) and impact (what kind of change is being supported?), the research focused on how crowdsourcing intermediaries mediate citizen voice, and why. It addressed 2 questions: What tools, policies, and practices do crowdsourcing intermediaries adopt to express citizen voice? Whom do they mediate between, and why? [Feb 2017]
  • 14. Safeguarding Civil Society – Assessing Internet Freedom and Digital Resilience of Civil Society in East Africa
    This report sets out to assess internet freedom and the digital resilience of CSOs in the East and Horn of Africa, specifically in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The report, composed in partnership with Small Media, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), DefendDefenders, and Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law, used a policy analysis of current freedom of expression and internet-related legislation, 39 CSO interviews, and a series of network measurements to assess the state of internet freedom in the focus countries and to gauge civil society’s ability to protect itself from digital threats. It is hoped that this research “will prove instructive to regional policy makers to bring their policies into line with the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms (ADIRF), and to the CSOs and digital security providers who will need to work together to ! protect themselves from the growing threats in the region.” [2017]
  • 15. Transforming Governance: How Can Technology Help Reshape Democracy?
    by Matt Leighninger
    This paper explores the extent to which different forms of “civic tech”, the smart use of online platforms and tools that better connect people with their governments, enable citizens to engage with governance processes. It is one of the background papers prepared for the Making All Voices Count Transforming Governance learning event, held in Manila, the Philippines, in February 2016. The paper explores 3 civic tech approaches that can be said to have transformed governance, but in very different ways. Per Leighninger: “Perhaps the most striking common denominator in all three examples is the fact that the people who created them seemed to have a systemic perspective. In each case, leaders knew their technological innovations would require some kind of supportive civic infrastructure in order to thrive. They were aware of the skills, training and support that citizens would need in order to use the technology. And they had a clear sense of how the tools and pr! ocesses would lead to change…” [Jul 2016]
  • 16. Parliamentary Power to the People: Analyzing Online and Offline Strategies in Latin America
    by Greg Michener
    This report, published by the Open Society Foundation’s Latin America and Information Programmes, discusses how newly formed parliamentary monitoring organisations (PMOs) are strategically using internet technologies to forge spaces and tactics to bring citizens and governments together. The study finds 3 non-exclusive models of PMO projection: an Engagement Model, a Social Accountability Model, and a Research Model. It then sets out 3 general recommendations and concludes with an appendix listing specify offline and online tactics and tools that can be used and adapted based on context and need. [Mar 2012]
  • 17. Vibrant Information for Just, Prosperous, and Inclusive Societies
    by Tara Susman-Peña
    IREX is a nonprofit organisation that works to empower youth, cultivate leaders, strengthen institutions, and extend access to quality education and information. IREX’s approach to building vibrant information systems, which is laid out in this paper, is informed by the organisation’s past and present information and media work, with a focus on current and future challenges, trends, and needs. Rooted in IREX’s broad experience in people-centred development, the approach pays special attention to the opportunities and abilities of traditional media, digital media, non-media institutions, and individuals to create, protect, or maintain vibrant information – from generation to dissemination to engagement to action. [2017]
  • See also:
    Do Digital Information and Communications Technologies Increase the Voice and Influence of Women and Girls?
    Crowdsourcing Citizen Feedback on District Development in Ghana Using Interactive Voice Response Surveys
Recognising Our Renewing Communication Initiative Associates

The CI Associates are organisations and individuals who recognise the added value of The Communication Initiative toward their work priorities and have chosen to provide financial support to this initiative. We would like to thank the following Associates, who have renewed their commitment to support their own work through the work of The CI:

The Manoff Group
The Media Studies and Journalism Department of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB)

To become an Associate, click here or contact Victoria Martin vmartin@comminit.com


See also:

This issue of The Drum Beat was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.
The Drum Beat is the email and web network of The Communication Initiative Partnership.

Full list of the CI Partners:
ANDIBBC Media ActionBernard van Leer FoundationBreakthroughCiturna TVFundación ImaginarioFundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI)Heartlines,Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication ProgramsMaternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP)MISAOpen Society FoundationsOxfam NovibPAHOThe Panos InstitutePuntos de EncuentroSAfAIDSSesame WorkshopSoul CitySTEPS InternationalUNAIDSUNICEFUniversidad de los Andes,World Health Organization (WHO)W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.

Chair of the Partners Group: Garth Japhet, Founder, Soul City garth@heartlines.org.za

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The Editor of The Drum Beat is Kier Olsen DeVries.
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