Wednesday, December 6, 2023
JOHANNESBURG – The CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression in 198 countries and territories, announced in a new report Wednesday that almost one third of humanity now lives in countries with ‘closed’ civic space.
This is the highest percentage–30.6% of the world’s population–living in the most restrictive possible environment since CIVICUS Monitor’s first report in 2018. Meanwhile, just 2.1% of people live in ‘open’ countries, where civic space is both free and protected, the lowest percentage yet and almost half the rate of six years ago.
These findings, detailed in the People Power Under Attack 2023 report, point to a worldwide civic space crisis requiring immediate, global efforts to reverse. “We are witnessing an unprecedented global crackdown on civic space,” said CIVICUS Monitor lead researcher Marianna Belalba Barreto. “The world is nearing a tipping point where repression, already widespread, becomes dominant. Governments and world leaders must work urgently to reverse this downward path before it is too late.”
The CIVICUS Monitor rates each country's civic space conditions based on data collected throughout the year from country-focused civil society activists, regionally-based research teams, international human rights indices and the Monitor's own in-house experts. The data from these four separate sources are then combined to assign each country a rating as either ‘open,’ ‘narrowed,’ ‘obstructed,’ ‘repressed’ or ‘closed.’ Seven countries saw their ratings drop this year. These include Venezuela and Bangladesh, each now rated ‘closed’ due to intensifications of existing crackdowns on activists, journalists and civil society.
Democratic countries slipped too. Europe’s largest democracy, Germany, fell from ‘open’ to ‘narrowed’ amid protest bans and targeting of environmental activists. Bosnia & Herzegovina also declined to ‘obstructed,’ the twelfth European country downgraded since 2018. One of 2023’s most dramatic slides occurred in Senegal, once considered among West Africa’s most stable democracies. Senegal entered the ‘repressed’ category amid sustained government persecution of protesters, journalists and opposition ahead of February elections.
“The range of countries where authorities restricted citizen participation in 2023 shows clampdowns are not isolated incidents but are part of a global pattern,” said Belalba. “A global backslide requires a global response. If citizens are not able to freely gather, organise and speak out, the world will not be able to solve inequality, confront the climate crisis and bring an end to war and conflict.”
darryll k. jones