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Civic space

Civil society organisations are essential in democracies. But many of the human rights organisations that FRA cooperates with continue to face challenges throughout their daily work. In particular, organisations point to their increasing difficulties to speak and operate due to legal and practical restrictions on their activities. This includes increased difficulties in accessing funding. As part of its cooperation with civil society, FRA initiated a project on enabling and protecting civic space.



Over the last years, civil society organisations in FRA’s Fundamental Rights Platform have voiced increasing concern about the legal and practical challenges affecting their work.

  • Regulatory environment: (changes in) legislation that affect civil society organisations’ work
  • Finance and funding: availability and accessibility of resources;
  • Right to participation: difficulties in accessing decision-makers and providing input into law- and policymaking
  • Ensuring a safe space: attacks on, and harassment of, human rights defenders, including negative discourse aimed at delegitimising and stigmatising civil society organisations

These challenges are often cumulative, putting pressure on civil society organisations and human rights defenders.

FRA’s work on civic space

FRA’s 2018 report on Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU, draws on data collected by its FRANET research network and expert interviews. The report provides an overview of evidence collected and points to the many areas where data on civil society space is either non-existent or patchy. It suggests where more research and concrete action is needed to better understand and address the factors that enable or hamper civil society activity inside the EU. The report raises awareness about the challenges and risks for civil society organisations across the EU while also highlighting promising practices.

Since 2018, FRA also consults Platform organisations every year about the experiences and challenges they face in their work, through an online consultation.

A number of other FRA publications also cover areas related to civic space issues: