Frequently Asked Questions

What is Civic Space?

Civic Space is the set of conditions that allow civil society and individuals to organise, participate and communicate freely and without discrimination, and in doing so, influence the political and social structures around them. Core civic space rights – the rights to freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression – are guaranteed by law, in most national constitutions and international and regional human rights instruments and as part of States ratification of these conventions are part their obligations under international law. You can read more about CIVICUS’ definition of civic space here.

What is the CIVICUS Monitor?

The CIVICUS Monitor is a research collaboration between CIVICUS, our members and partners. It is a web platform that provides constantly-updated information and analysis on the space for civil society and citizen activism in every country of the world.

Doesn't this information already exist?

While there is a huge amount of data available about civic space, it is dispersed, often months or years out of date and sometimes based on a single source, which may be located far away from the country in question. CIVICUS members often tell us that indexes and measures of civil society fail to reflect local realities adequately and should be more nuanced. As civic space is volatile and subject to attacks and restrictions from many sources, information can quickly become out of date.

What is new about the CIVICUS Monitor?

The CIVICUS Monitor is different in two main ways. First, it triangulates reports and analysis on civic space from several different independent sources, while ensuring that the views of local groups always remains central to the analysis. Second, it provides rapid and frequent updates, so that it can accurately convey a picture of conditions on the ground, even when these are volatile and rapidly changing.

Who is it aimed at and what will it achieve?

We want the CIVICUS Monitor to become a valuable resource for civil society. By providing high quality, verified information on civic space in a way that is both globally comparable and sufficiently nuanced to take account of complex local realities, we intend that the CIVICUS Monitor will enable discussion and advocacy about civic space to be much more rooted in evidence. The CIVICUS Monitor should provide a reliable and credible platform for civil society organisations to communicate, understand and campaign on civic space issues.

How does the CIVICUS Monitor work?

Multiple information streams, comprising both quantitative and qualitative data, are fed into a central system managed by CIVICUS. The data is used to inform our rating of each country’s civic space, ranging from open to narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed. The different data streams also feed into individual country pages, offering a variety of rich, up-to-date information on civic space. Read our Methodology section for more information.

According to the CIVICUS Monitor, which country has the best civic space and which has the worst?

The CIVICUS Monitor does not rank countries, nor do we say which country is best and which is worst. Instead, we place countries in one of five broad bands or categories - CLOSED, REPRESSED, OBSTRUCTED, NARROWED, OPEN - which reflect the broad spectrum of respect for civil society freedoms we see in the world today. CIVICUS tracks conditions for civil society over time and countries can move between these categories at any time as the level of respect for civic space improves or declines.

Why do countries with different levels of respect for civic space appear in the same category?

It is important to remember that our ratings categories represent broad bands, within which there is a range of respect for civic space. So, just because two countries appear in the same band does not mean that both countries are demonstrating exactly the same levels of openness or repression. It is also worth bearing in mind that the ratings represent an assessment of three core freedoms (association, peaceful assembly and expression) meaning that two countries in the same ratings category may be violating different ‘parts’ of civic space more severely.

Why don't you assign scores?

Civil society and civic space are complex and ever changing. There are many specific historical, society and political factors which shape the particular dynamics of civil society and its operating environment in each country. For these reasons, we believe it is more useful to broadly categorise the severity of threats to civic space, and complement that analysis with detailed narrative descriptions and constant updates on the country pages.

How can I get involved?

The CIVICUS Monitor is a tool developed by civil society, for civil society. We want as many civil society organisations to participate as possible as we work together to track changes in civic space. You can submit updates on civic space in your country, by using the “have your say” function. Simply navigate to your country’s home page and scroll down to the button to tell us your views. Alternatively, you can email monitor@civicus.org.

How can I keep up to date with the latest developments?

Very soon we will be launching a function that will allow you to subscribe to countries of your choice. This means you can get an RSS feed that will automatically alert you as new information comes into the site. We’ll also be posting regularly on social media with all of the latest information as it goes live, so do make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We also plan to release more in-depth global analysis papers periodically.

How does this fit in with the rest of CIVICUS’ work?

We are a global alliance of civil society actors and activists. Our work has always been about strengthening and connecting civil society across the world. The Monitor builds upon all of the knowledge that we’ve gained over the past decade through other research initiatives and aims to place information generated from our membership at the forefront of everything we do. The CIVICUS Monitor complements our in-depth research on civic space issues through the Enabling Environment National Assessments, Universal Periodic Review Submissions, Policy Briefs as well as regular statements, interviews and alerts.

Is the data available for me to use?

Over time and as we build more data, we aim to create a Data Centre that will allow users to visualise, download and rearrange all of the data from the site. While this is still in development, we hope to launch it soon after we have full country coverage.

What is the Advisory Panel?

Country ratings are peer reviewed by an independent panel of experts before being posted on the CIVICUS Monitor site. The panel is comprised of various individuals from a variety of backgrounds and with different geographic and thematic expertise. Members of the panel offer their expertise on a voluntary basis and are not part of CIVICUS’ staff, board or trustees. The panel is asked to objectively assess the accuracy of the rating proposed by the CIVICUS Monitor methodology. You can find out more about the Advisory Panel here.

How do I get in touch with the Monitor team?

Do you dream about civil society-led, research methodologies? We do too. If you’d like to get in touch to talk to us about your dreams, you can contact us at monitor@civicus.org. Or, if you’re a journalist, please do contact our press team at communications@civicus.org. We look forward to hearing from you!