Protest against the caste system in Bombay.
Photo: © M. Nascimento/laif

16.06.2016

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Civil society organisations are seeing their activities increasingly curbed by governments. Actors from the Böll Foundation’s partner countries reported on how this global trend is reflected in day-to-day civil society practice.

There are reports from many countries that civil society organisations are seeing their activities increasingly curbed by governments. More and more often, activists campaigning for human rights, social justice or environmental protection are faced with open or indirect threats. This development, which is often referred to as shrinking space or closing space, has long ceased to be a phenomenon observed solely in authoritarian regimes, as was demonstrated at an event organised by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin/Germany.

“There is nothing new about civil society being faced with repression,” said Böll Foundation Chair Barbara Unmüßig, opening the event in late April 2016. Unmüßig maintained that there were almost daily incidents of civil society actors being put under pressure and intimidated by governments. This was happening via a wide range of channels: via malicious campaigns in media forced into line (with the representatives of civil society often being referred to as “Western agents” violating local values or inciting people to do so), but often also via laws.

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