Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System

A Practical Guide for Civil Society


This Guide highlights issues related to the work of civil society actors (CSAs), providing an overview of the conditions and environment needed for a free and independent civil society, including relevant international human rights standards for freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and the right to participate in public affairs.

The Guide includes some examples of how Governments and CSAs have worked together to develop space for civil society to carry out its work to advance enjoyment of all human rights (civil, cultural, economic, political and social) for all. Obstacles and limitations to civil society work are identified, including harassment, intimidation and reprisals against CSAs. The Guide invites CSAs to use the UN human rights system to promote and protect civil society space at the local level. Resources and contact details are provided at the end of the Guide.

The Guide aims primarily to assist CSAs who are not yet familiar with the UN human rights system. Its development has been enriched from the outset by input and advice from diverse CSAs.

This is the sixth in OHCHR’s series of human rights practical guides for civil society.