Ratings

Based on our constant analysis of multiple streams of data on civic space, each country is assigned a rating as follows:

  • open
  • narrowed
  • obstructed
  • repressed
  • closed

We recognise that ratings alone may offer a crude measure of the state of civic space in any given context, which is why the CIVICUS Monitor emphasises the importance of up-to-date, locally-generated analysis to complement the ratings. Nonetheless, we believe a rating system enables useful comparisons to be made across different countries, and also encourages the tracking of a country's overall civic space conditions over time.

Civic space conditions under each category are broadly understood as follows:

Open

The state both enables and safeguards the enjoyment of civic space for all people. Levels of fear are low as citizens are free to form associations, demonstrate in public places and receive and impart information without restrictions in law or practice. The authorities are tolerant of criticism from civil society groups and provide space and platforms for open and robust dialogue with members of the public. As a rule, the police protect public protestors, and laws governing the freedom of peaceful assembly adhere to international law and standards. There is a free media, online content is uncensored and citizens can access government information easily.

Narrowed

While the state allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression, violations of these rights also take place. People can form associations to pursue a wide range of interests, but full enjoyment of this right is impeded by occasional harassment, arrest or assault of people deemed critical of those in power. Protests are conducted peacefully, although authorities sometimes deny permission, citing security concerns, and excessive force, which may include tear gas and rubber bullets, are sometimes used against peaceful demonstrators. The media is free to disseminate a wide range of information, although the state undermines complete press freedom either through strict regulation or by exerting political pressure on media owners. 

Obstructed

Civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights. Although civil society organisations exist, state authorities undermine them, including through the use of illegal surveillance, bureaucratic harassment and demeaning public statements. Citizens can organise and assemble peacefully but they are vulnerable to frequent use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies, including rubber bullets, tear gas and baton charges. There is some space for non-state media and editorial independence, but journalists face the risk of physical attack and criminal defamation charges, which encourage self-censorship.

Repressed

Civic space is heavily constrained. Active individuals and civil society members who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, injury and death. Although some civil society organisations exist, their advocacy work is regularly impeded and they face threats of de-registration and closure by the authorities. People who organise or take part in peaceful protests are likely to be targeted by the authorities through the use of excessive force, including the use of live ammunition, and risk mass arrests and detention. The media typically reflects the position of the state, and any independent voices are routinely targeted through raids, physical attacks or protracted legal harassment. Websites and social media platforms are blocked and internet activism is heavily monitored.

Closed

There is complete closure - in law and in practice - of civic space. An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails, where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves. Any criticism of the ruling authorities is severely punished and there is virtually no media freedom. The internet is heavily censored, many websites are blocked and online criticism of power holders is subject to severe penalties.