Grantees in the spotlight

civil society

Italian civil society as an “antidote” to the crisis of democracy

The NGO Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso e Transeuropa (OBCT) – a think tank focused on South-East Europe, Turkey and the Caucasus founded more than 20 years ago – published the report “Italian civil society: from target to antidote to the crisis of democracy?”. The research, supported by Civitates, is part of the project “Winning the Narrative”, which aims to respond to the shrinking space for non-governmental organisations, renewing their narratives, especially on migration issues.

The OBCT team found that civil society in Italy has both strengths and weaknesses. It is fundamental to preserve the rule of law, but this role of “antidote” is endangered by the rise of populism, that followed the 2015 migrant crisis. This explains the question mark at the end of the title: Italian civil society is still working to recuperate its space of safeguard for democracy.

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civil society

The Czech presidency of the EU Council: an opportunity for civil society to collaborate and strengthen democracy

To understand what is at stake during the Czech Presidency and how non-governmental organisations are contributing to the debate around the EU priorities, we spoke with Jana Miléřová, a coordinator at Glopolis, a backbone organisation of the NeoN platform. NeoN, a Civitates grantee partner, is an informal network that associates 15 thematic platforms from the Czech Republic, putting together more than 400 NGOs. It coordinates advocacy actions for the democratic sphere. They are working towards promoting a stronger civic space a priority during the Czech Presidency of the EU Council.

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digital public sphere

Platforms’ algorithms and recommender systems are dangerous for democracy

For citizens to participate fully in democratic processes, they need to be able to make informed decisions. In the last decades, the internet made information more accessible than ever. Paradoxically, however, we seem to be getting less and less information of public interest while being shut in online eco-chambers that reinforce our views and prevent us from holding healthy and fruitful dialogues.

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independent journalism

Independent journalism as a precondition for democracy

While journalism is under threat across the world, journalists are courageously taking on investigations, sometimes at enormous costs to bring information of public interest to citizens. They bring to light the shadiest practices and speak truth to power. Recently, publications regarding two global investigations, the Pandora Papers and the Pegasus Project hugely impacted the international community. Direkt36, a Hungarian grantee partner of Civitates, played an important role in both these investigations.

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Further Stories

Independent public-interest journalism and CSOs collaborating for stronger democracy

In many countries, both media and civil society organisations (CSOs) face the same challenges such as restricted access to information, smear campaigns, legal and practical limitations for accessing funding, as well as limited space for the exchanges of best practices – all a result of the shrinking civil space. Collaboration between journalistic organisations and CSOs can counter those trends, advance their work, have a powerful societal impact, and strengthen democracy.

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Civic engagement goes beyond capital cities

Without the engagement of people from different social groups and demographics in public matters, one cannot build a democracy, nor counter polarisation. Still, civic engagement has been reserved predominantly for European capital regions where the effects of certain policies on people’s lives are immediately perceived.
Therefore, several of Civitates’ grantee partners have made it a priority to expand civic engagement beyond the capital cities.

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The future depends on all of us: collective action and lessons from Poland

A governmental attempt to restrict women’s rights in 2020, a proposed tax reform in 2021 that can shrink the space for independent media, and governmental efforts to curtail the judiciary’s independence marked an eventful period for civil society organisations in Poland. Amidst all developments, Polish civil society has learnt that united actions have more impact than individual attempts to counter the worrying trends.

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