Democratic Participation, Civic Space and Civil Dialogue

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Democracy is under attack in every region of the world. Fundamental rights are eroding and we are witnessing war, coup d’etat, and authoritarian and repressive governments taking power.

In Europe, there is a democratic backsliding and a rise in polarisation and far-right, extremist and populist forces. We have also seen a decline in people’s trust and willingness to engage in democratic processes such as elections and collective organising.

With authoritarianism, war, and repression on the rise around the world, human and social rights, democratic values, and people’s meaningful access, participation, and contribution to a just, inclusive, and open society are under threat.

A key indicator of the health of democracy is an open civic space, where people can exercise their fundamental rights, to protest, express dissent, go on strike, while having independent and free media and civil society. CIVICUS Monitor findings show that only 3.2% of the world’s population lives in countries with an open civic space.

In Europe, civil society organisations are also struggling. The lack of or limited access to a structured civil dialogue mechanism and adequate funding and support are major obstacles for them. The right to protest and to strike is criminalised or restricted, particularly for organisations advocating for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The rights of the LGBTQIAP+ community are particularly affected by the deterioration of the rule of law and backsliding of democracy. The independence of the Judiciary and media freedom are also being undermined by legislation that weakens two of the pillars of democratic and pluralist societies. 

Around the world, civil society organisations, including trade unions, human rights defenders, and activists, are being killed, imprisoned, and their activities criminalised or silenced.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

We need to defend, expand, and protect democratic rights and fundamental freedoms everywhere. Civic space and human rights must be monitored by the competent institutions, and governments must ensure that civil actors have access to a safe civic space, which is of essence to secure civil dialogue. 

In Europe, there is a need to ensure and to promote global citizenship education as a means for an engaged and active citizenry that participates in society and political processes. 

Europe must defend and expand the civic space and protect the fundamental freedoms of individuals, including in online spaces.

Civil society needs access to adequate funding and an enabling environment to operate. We need the EU to establish regular, meaningful and structured civil dialogue.

We need the EU to establish itself as an interlocutor with partner countries in ensuring an open civic space for civil society organisations, trade unions, and human rights defenders worldwide.

WHAT IS SOLIDAR DOING?

Together with its members and partners, SOLIDAR:

  • Monitors and works jointly to counter shrinking space in the Global South, especially Latin America, and South Asia. In 2022, it organised a Global Week of Action focused on the issue with partners and members from all over the world, sharing the main challenges and threats they face and what tools are key to strengthening civic space;
  • Monitors civic space in Europe through the Social Rights Monitor (SRM), with input provided by its members.
  • Publishes regular updates on the state of civic space in seven EU countries for the monitoring tool of CIVICUS Alliance, the Civicus Monitor. 
  • Advances and promotes active civic participation and deliberation in the green and just transition, in the framework of SDG Watch Europe and the REAL Deal project. 

Promotes civil dialogue at the EU level, paving avenues for citizens to participate in the democratic processes of the EU. It is in this spirit that SOLIDAR also proudly co-founded Civil Society Europe. A particular momentum for this effort was provided by the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), where SOLIDAR worked towards making it a more participatory and representative forum, showing European civil society diversity through the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe. The Convention represented at the CoFoE over 80 European networks and platforms in Europe and united millions of citizens active across different areas: from education to culture, social inclusion, environment, governance, and transparency. After its conclusion, SOLIDAR continues to work on the follow up of the CoFoE, in collaboration with Civil Society Europe – which leads the coalition. In this direction, SOLIDAR joined over 40 civil society organisations in drafting the first Civil Society State of the Union Report, in which the progress towards the EU institutions’ commitments stemming from the CoFoE was assessed. 

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