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A new report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has been published, calling on policymakers to foster a more conducive working environment for civil society, after the agency’s research indicates that the pandemic has exacerbated the threats and challenges they face. These include lack of funding for 6 in 10 civil society organisations and worsening work conditions for over half of them (57%).
Civil society organisations across the EU provide services, engage in communities, raise awareness, advocate on behalf of others and hold authorities to account. While their support is needed more than ever, the report finds that threats, attacks, funding cuts and disproportionate restrictions for such organisations have increased during the pandemic.
FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty, says:
“A strong and healthy civil society is the lifeblood of our democracies. Yet in some countries, civil society organisations are under great strain.
“While there are some green shoots of hope, the EU and EU countries need to support civil society organisations everywhere, so they can fulfil their vital role and defend our fundamental rights.”
FRA’s report ‘Protecting civic space in the EU’ sheds light on the challenges civil society faces across the EU. An online consultation with over 400 human rights civil society organisations carried out for the report reveals not only deteriorating work conditions and funding challenges, but a lack of involvement in key decision making and public consultations, threats and attacks and limitations to their freedom.
However, the report also highlights positive developments and promising practices. These include authorities publicly acknowledging the importance of civil society work, involving civil society in policy development and reducing bureaucracy for NGO registration.
FRA is now encouraging the EU and EU countries to monitor future challenges for civil society and counter restrictions, address funding needs and remove obstacles, safeguard rights to freedom, encourage dialogue between policymakers and civil society at the EU, national and local levels, and generally to protect civil society, ensuring effective protection against attacks and administrative harassment.
For more information, see the full report here.
Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash