Eastern Partnership Edition
WHAT IS SHRINKING SPACE
FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS?
The shrinking space for civil society is a complex phenomenon that can take many forms. The term “shrinking space” we use in this collection of stories publication is to describe various processes and measures taken by national governments to restrict the activity of civil society organisations that aim to limit freedom of expression, as well as the freedom of assembly and association of human rights and youth organisations.
We do not assume that, in the past, there was a broad space for CSO actors to work and grow or there were no problems. But with “shrinking space” for the civil society we refer to the recent developments that caused extra limitations, was a step back or took our even a minor freedom and independence from us and young people.
In order to understand the problem, we should look more at the consequences of the restrictions. Here are a few:
weaker engagement of NGOs in public life and debate, caused by the ineffectiveness of participatory mechanisms and self-censorship or a lack of action by NGOs because of the risks involved;
the prevention of NGOs from carrying out activities in the heart of local communities because of the labels attached to them;
the disappearance of the smallest NGOs as they are unable to cope with the pressure and restrictions;
the polarization of society resulting from the division between the organisations considered as “acting in the public interest” and illegal “foreign agents” which prompt organisations wishing to benefit from state funding to follow the political line promoted by those in power;
the severing of ties between national NGOs and the international NGOs of which they are members.
WHY THIS PUBLICATION?
The narratives and storytelling are the first steps, where young people from CSOs would like to consolidate and build better cooperation and contacts between people. In these stories, we can recognise civil society changes that are affecting someone else’s (youth) work and someone else's story, but it could be very well that some of them might sound very familiar or very recognizable.
The data and respondents are anonymized in some of the stories, as the respondents/storytellers wished so. This has been done with the consent of the respondent related to the sensitivity of the topics. The stories were kept in the language of the people telling them to keep their authenticity. We intentionally did not change the texts a lot, so as they sound as the first-hand experience.
If you are interested to find more stories like these from around Europe
YOUTH WORK, YOUTH ORGANISATIONS AND YOUNG PEOPLE's STORIES ABOUT CIVIL SOCIETY SHRINKING SPACES
IN THE STORIES
The government considers us an enemy in our own country if one works on human rights protection and in an NGO.
Belarusian National Youth Council RADA
This story could have ended differently if it weren’t for the Moldovan CSOs’ strong and proactive advocacy for their civic space.
VERONICA JANTOAN Moldovan National Platform of the EaP Civil Society Forum
Young people had a youth centre, a physical space which was a family with such a warm environment. All this was gone leaving us with nothing.
Former head of Jermuk Youth Centre
COMPENDIUM OF STORIES
This publication, a compedium of stories, is dedicated to stories about shrinking space for civil society and its effects on youth organisations, youth work and young people in the Eastern Partnership countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.