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Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Civil Society

Issued by



Issued by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Civic space, Civil society

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At its twenty-seventh session, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 27/31 civil society space, in which it requested the High Commissioner to “prepare a compilation of practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned, and in this regard to continue to engage with and seek the views of States, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the treaty bodies, relevant United Nations bodies and agencies, regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, civil society and other stakeholders, and to submit the compilation to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-second session”.

To prepare this report, OHCHR requested input from various stakeholders, including States, relevant United Nations agencies, intergovernmental organizations, the treaty bodies, the special procedures, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations . Inputs received from stakeholders are available below.

The report has been issued as document A/HRC/32/20

About this report

In this report the High Commissioner focuses on examples of practices that optimize civil society’s transformative potential. He makes the following conclusions:

The exercise of public freedoms, which is quintessential for civic activity, is among the most important investment policies for prosperity, stability and peace. As the Secretary-General noted in his statement, made on 15 September 2015 on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy, progress and civic participation go hand in hand. A confident nation gives citizens a say and a role in the development of their country.

Governments on their own do not have all the answers, and it is in their interest to dismantle barriers to the exercise of public freedoms to make it easier to unleash the creativity and ingenuity of civic activity to produce solutions.

The five key elements to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society are:

  • A robust legal framework that is compliant with international standards as well as a strong national human rights protection system that safeguards public freedoms and ensures effective access to justice;
  • A political environment conducive to civil society work;
  • Access to information;
  • Avenues for participation by civil society in decision-making processes; and
  • Long-term support and resources for civil society. By creating such conditions,

Governments, the international community and other stakeholders will be better positioned to foster a climate of trust and cooperation in the interest of all people, at the local, national and global levels.

The report then makes 21 recommendations specifically targeted to member states, as well as 4 recommendations for regional and international entities. 

Contributions from stakeholders

Member States

National Human Rights Institutions

International and Regional Organizations

UN Agencies

Civil Society actors


* The Civic Space Initiative is a consortium of the International Centre for Not for Profit Law (ICNL), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, ARTICLE 19, and the World Movement for Democracy.

Final report to be submitted to the thirty second session of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/32/20)