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Civic space is the environment that enables civil society to play a role in political, economic and social life. In particular, civic space allows individuals and groups to contribute to policy-making that affects their lives, including how it is implemented.

This civic space is increasingly under pressure from repressive laws and increased restrictions on freedoms to express, participate, assemble and associate. Civil society actors, including human rights defenders and individuals who cooperate with the United Nations, are also facing a pushback, online and offline, across the world. Civic space is essential for rights holders to engage on all types of rights.

Our work

UN Human Rights works to improve civic space at country level and strengthen good protection practices. We monitor civic space trends and situations of human rights defenders, and seek to raise visibility, create new methods to provide greater space and legitimacy for activism, and increase support for their work.

In addition, we work to mainstream civic space in wider UN policies, practices and operational activities. We support the Assistant Secretary-General in strengthening UN-wide action related to reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN.

Learn more about our work on civic space

Learn more about our work on reprisals for cooperation with the UN

Who else is involved

Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

The Special Rapporteur promotes the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in cooperation and dialogue with governments and other actors. The mandate also recommends effective strategies to better protect human rights defenders and integrate a gender perspective, paying particular attention to women human rights defenders.

Learn more