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How Covid-19 Shrank Civic Space - Report Summary

The global Covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented restrictions to civic space throughout 2020-21.

We and our partners set out to research the impact of this phenomenon, driven by our mission: standing together with poor and marginalised people and civil society groups to express and negotiate their interests, values and identities; to claim their rights and hold power-holders accountable.

As our study makes clear, many states have used the pandemic to crack down on citizen participation, with severe limits on freedom of speech and assembly and a sharp increase in government surveillance. Civic organisations face increasing challenges to their ways of working.

Some of these are long-term issues that are now being exacerbated by Covid-19, and even as the immediate need for emergency measures recedes, we see many remaining curbs on civic freedom and new proposals to restrict and monitor civil society. It is therefore urgent to identify future ways to protect civic space and make it more inclusive, through support to our partners and effective programming, policy and advocacy work.

Our findings reflect different contexts between countries, with their varying systems of government and differing degrees of freedom to associate, press freedom and civic scrutiny.