Published: 13 January 2022
Civil Society is key to democracy
Over the last years, CSOs all over Europe have voiced increasing concern about the legal and practical limitations affecting their work and their operating environment: including restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly or protest, administrative harassment, budget cuts or difficulties to access funding or reduced access to policy-makers and opportunities to participate in the policymaking process. In more extreme situations, we have also witnessed attacks on activists, human rights defenders, and critical voices, including smear campaigns aimed at delegitimising and stigmatising CSOs, independent media, and other critical voices.
These challenges are often cumulative, putting pressure on civic actors and affecting the environment in which civil society operates.
An open, plural, dynamic civic space, with strong civic organisations is key to stable infrastructure and the proper functioning of a healthy democracy. Civil society organisations (CSOs) are essential to keep the public updated about social and political debates that may affect their rights and quality of life, to allow citizens to voice their concerns and engage in public affairs beyond elections. They also uphold people’s freedoms, rights, and the rule of law by making sure governments are accountable.
Since 2018, Civitates has been committed to supporting open civic space and an enabling environment for CSOs in Europe.
Our goal is to strengthen the field of civil society actors in Europe and its capacity to reclaim civic space and perform its watchdog role effectively, by supporting collective actions from national civil society organisations and initiatives working towards an enabling environment for civil society at the European level.
For the current phase (2022-2023), and with a total grant amount of € 1,15 million, Civitates supports 14 national coalitions in 10 countries to help them address the challenges and opportunities related to the shrinking space in their respective contexts.
Our grantees form a cross-sectoral partnership and operate at a national level, ensuring a context-specific approach. They involve partners from different sectors and cities. Their approaches vary, but all of them include both reactive and pro-active elements aimed at building solidarity and the capacity to stand up collectively to defend civic space and perform their watchdog role more effectively in their respective countries.