This second edition of the State of Civil Society (2013) has been produced by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and draws from nearly 50 contributions by people active in civil society all over the world. These new pieces of analysis, together with 16 responses to a questionnaire from national civil society platforms, form a body of critical, cutting-edge thinking about the changing state of present-day civil society. Despite a growing recognition from governments, international agencies and businesses on the importance of a free and vibrant civil society, the report notes a litany of threats to civil societies in many parts of the world, including violence, legal restrictions, and loss of funding.
The report begins by summarising the global context of uncertainty, and changes since the last report was published. It then goes into detail concerning the key aspects of the enabling environment: legitimacy, transparency and accountability; connections, coalitions and solidarity; the policy and legal sphere; government and relations with civil society; public attitudes and participation; corruption; communication and technology; and, finally, resources.
Some key trends and figures highlighted in the report include that: 57% of the world's population is currently living under conditions of curtailed civil liberties and political freedom; vocal individuals and CSOs are increasingly being targeted in areas of conflict; corporations, particularly extractive and construction industries and agribusiness are displacing communities reliant on natural resources; and the blurring of government and business agendas are marginalising civil society voices on the post-2015 agenda and other global matters.
Whilst it could be argued that in many places civil society is in crisis, or at a cross-roads, the report suggests that perhaps it has ever been thus, and we should view such dynamic situations as healthy. The report concludes with some suggestions for collaborative strategies:
- Identify and share innovative practices pioneered by all actors that improve conditions for civil society.
- Civil society should play a key role in furthering enabling conditions, such as increasing transparency and accountability, and strengthening networks.
- Strategic action should be aimed at specific moments and opportunities to leverage change, e.g. times of reputational risk.
- Multi-stakeholder networks of like-minded actors should be mobilised to lobby for legislative and funding reform.
- Forge civil society coalitions at a range of levels, utilising the different strengths of participants and constituencies.
- Arguments still need to be won and, in attempting to do so, civil society should be ambitious and constantly strive to increase minimum standards.
The synthesis report is available at: http://socs.civicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013StateofCivilSocietyReport.pdf