Strong and resilient civil society

The importance of civil society for democracy

A vibrant civil society is a key ingredient for democracy. Both NGOs and more informal movements help us make sure that governments are taking decisions that consider all of us. Such civil society groups allow us to join our voices together and make ourselves heard so we can speak regularly to our elected representatives and ensure they provide the appropriate support and care to everyone. Civil society keeps people in power on their toes. After all, politicians and corporations tend to be much more likely to do what is best for the public when they know that people are watching them.

The closing civil space challenge

Unfortunately, the space for civil society is closing. Several governments in Europe are erecting barriers to civil society, publicly vilifying a wide spectrum of civil society groups and harassing individual activists, as well as putting in place restrictive laws or regulatory hurdles which infringe on the freedom of association. In several places civil society organizations also face legal and practical hurdles in accessing funding that is crucial to their work, like restrictions on foreign funding.

This prevents civil society groups from voicing the concerns of different communities and in accessing governments and other democratic institutions to perform their watchdog role effectively. While the closing of the space for civil society has been a phenomenon witnessed outside of the EU for many years, it has now also become a reality in several EU countries.

How we try to tackle the issue

Complex societal issues like these require broad cross-sector coordination. No single organization, however innovative or powerful, could improve the situation by itself. While isolated interventions of individual organizations can lead to important improvements in specific areas, system-wide progress will be almost unobtainable.

Civitates therefore empowers civil society actors to respond collectively and effectively to challenges related to the “closing space” for civil society, providing an essential protection against the erosion of values such as the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

We support cross-sectoral coalitions which operate at national level, ensuring a context specific approach. The coalitions involve partners from different sectors and cities. Their approach varies, but all of them include both reactive and pro-active elements aimed at building up resilience and the capacity to stand up against the deterioration of democratic values in their sectors.

Read more about the work of the coalitions here.

Our grantees

Civitates is proud to support the organizations listed below. Please note that only the name of the lead partner is mentioned, as this is the grantee with which we signed a grant letter, while these cross-sectoral coalitions involve a variety of partners and stakeholders.
Each coalition was granted a maximum of €100 000 for a project period of 18 months.