Defending Civil Society

These portal focuses on combating laws that restrict civic space and philanthropy around the world.

UN Documents
Reports and Publications

Defending Civil Society Report, Second edition 2012

Defending Civil Society, Second edition

This is the second edition of the Defending Civil Society report previously endorsed by Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Vaclav Havel.  It provides illustrative examples of the legal barriers used to constrain civic space and articulates international legal principles to protect civil society.

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UN Documents

  • UN General Assembly Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1999): Elaboration of the Declaration on human rights defenders began in 1984 and ended with the adoption of the text by the General Assembly in 1998, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Reports and Publications

  • The Complexities of Global Protests (2015): The central theme of this report is that the heterogeneity of protests around the world is one of their fundamental characteristics and that the temptation to reach for sweeping conclusions about what is happening can lead to a distorted view. The spike in global protests is becoming a major trend in international politics, but greater care is needed in ascertaining the precise nature and impact of the phenomenon.
  • CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report (2015): A comprehensive picture of civil society and the conditions it works in around the world. The report draws from a series of inputs contributed by members of the CIVICUS alliance.
  • CIVICUS: State of Civil Society Reports (2011-2014): Since its inception, the State of Civil Society Report has emerged as CIVICUS' flagship annual publication. Each year, the report provides hundreds of pages of insight into the key trends affecting civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizen movements. It aims to offer a unique perspective on the challenges faced by civil society and citizen activists.
  • Closing Space: Democracy and Human Rights Support Under Fire (2014): This report focuses on the serious challenge facing international support for democracy and human rights: more and more governments are erecting legal and logistical barriers to democracy and rights programs, publicly vilifying international aid groups and their local partners, and harassing such groups or expelling them altogether. Despite the significant implications of the pushback, the roots and full scope of the phenomenon remain poorly understood and responses to it are often weak.
  • The Legal and Regulatory Framework for Civil Society (2013): This edition of Global Trends surveys some of the more prominent and common restrictions seen in 2012-13, including increased impediments on NGOs’ ability to communicate effectively over the Internet.
  • Global Philanthropy in a Time of Crisis (2009): Drawn from the second issue of Global Trends in NGO Law, this report examines legal developments affecting global philanthropy and foreign assistance.
  • Global Trends in NGO Law: 2007 – 2009 (2009): The inaugural issue of Global Trends provides an overview of five major themes that have emerged with respect to laws affecting NGOs proposed or enacted from 2007 - 2009.
  • "The Associational Counter-Revolution" (2006): This 2006 article written by ICNL's President and Vice President summarizes the actions undertaken by countries around the world to constrain civil society.