In Numbers

The good, the bad and the ugly: civic space dynamics

Almost a third of the world’s population now lives in countries with closed civic space. This is the highest percentage since 2018, when CIVICUS began systematically tracking civic space conditions around the world. This startling decline – from 26 per cent living in closed countries in 2018 to 30.6 per cent today – points to a major civic space crisis that requires immediate, global efforts to reverse. This year we also recorded the lowest percentage of humanity living in open countries, where civic space is both free and protected. Today, just two per cent of the world's population enjoys the freedom to associate, demonstrate and express dissent without significant constraints, down from almost four per cent just five years ago.

Since the previous edition of this report, which covered 2022, civic space ratings have changed for 12 countries over the last year, worsening in seven countries and improving in five.

The latest CIVICUS Monitor country ratings update in December 2023 indicates that civil society faces an increasingly hostile environment. There are now 28 countries or territories with closed civic space, 50 with repressed civic space and 40 with obstructed civic space, meaning that 118 of 198 countries and territories are experiencing severe restrictions in fundamental freedoms. In comparison, 43 countries have narrowed civic space and just 37 have an open rating.

The severity of the civic space deterioration is exemplified by the number of countries moving to the repressed or closed category. Of the seven countries being downgraded, five moved to the two worst categories. Bangladesh and Venezuela are now rated as closed and Kyrgyzstan, Senegal and Sri Lanka are downgraded to the repressed rating as conditions for civil society continue to worsen.

Europe continues to add to the list of downgraded countries, with Bosnia and Herzegovina now placed in the obstructed category and Germany moving from an open to a narrowed rating. Over the past six years, 12 European countries have seen their ratings downgraded due to deteriorating civic space conditions.

Five countries have upgraded ratings in 2023, although, as in previous years, the situation for civil society in these countries continues to be challenging. Libya moved from the closed to the repressed category. Benin, Lesotho and Madagascar have moved from the repressed to the obstructed category. Notably, Timor-Leste has joined the narrowed category. Regional sections describe the conditions that led to ratings changes.