Protecting & Expanding

Civic Space

Activists perform the “one billion rising” dance during a protest to commemorate International Women’s Day in Manila, Philippines on March 8, 2019. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / © AFP)

Civic Space

Civic space is the environment that enables civil society to play a role in the political, economic and social life of our societies. Participation in public life by rights holders and organizations, in particular through the access of information, the engagement in dialogue and the expression of dissent or disagreement, is a fundamental principle of human rights and a prerequisite for making development and peace sustainable.

When civil society is allowed to participate in decision-making, policymaking is more informed, effective and sustainable. Each advance in protecting civic space has a positive ripple effect for communities and individuals and their rights. In South-East Asia, as in other parts of the world, civic space is increasingly under pressure.

OHCHR’s Regional Office is committed to protecting civic space and civil society actors. It works towards this goal in particular by advocating for stronger government protection of individuals and groups at risk, by supporting the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that protect civic space and that are in line with international standards, including online, and monitor trends and developments for civic space in the region and the situation of human rights defenders and social activists.

Additional messages from David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression:

Compilation of Recommendations Issued to Thailand on Issues Related to Democratic Space

This compilation, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) South-East Asia Regional Office, includes publicly available recommendations made to Thailand by the UN human rights mechanisms on the issues related to democratic space from 2014 to 2020.

Widening the Democratic Space: The Role of Youth in Public Decision Making

In 2016, the United Nations Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law held its first session, with 600 participants from Member States, United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, regional and intergovernmental organizations, national human rights institutions and nongovernmental organizations, including youth advocates and representatives of youth organizations from all regions. This document is an extract of the recommendations included in the report of the Chair (A/HRC/34/46).

Parliaments as Promoters of Human Rights, Democracy and Law

In 2018, the United Nations Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law organized its second session, which was attended by representatives of States, national and regional parliaments, parliamentary associations, United Nations specialized agencies, regional and intergovernmental bodies, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations. Over 60 Members of Parliaments, from all regions participated as well. This document is an extract of the recommendations included in the report of the Forum Chair (A/HRC/40/65).

COVID-19 and Civic Space

Why does civic space matter during a pandemic?  This guidance from UN Human Rights examines the importance of civil society, civic participation, access to accurate information, freedom of expression, privacy and the right to free assembly during a health crisis.

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