Formulating a creative development policy geared to people's needs is hardly conceivable without civil society participation. Based on worldwide surveys and field studies, HEKS/EPER has co-produced a study demonstrating that without an engaged civil society, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are doomed to fail.
Civil society in difficulty around the world
For years now we have been witnessing a decline in fundamental civil rights across the world: freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and press freedom, for example, are becoming ever more restricted in many countries.
Major emerging economies such as China and India have demonstrated how it is done and provided a blueprint for a "top-down” approach to economic development, one that fails to take the population on board and displays scant regard for the environment. Emulating their example, even smaller and poorer developing countries are today increasingly allowing themselves to reject demands for civil and political rights.
In contrast to the early 1990s, only 4% of the world's population currently lives in countries where they are free to express their opinion, to assemble, and enjoy access a free press. Civil rights are being restricted or suppressed in 109 countries around the world (Bread for the World/CIVICUS: Atlas der Zivilgesellschaft 2019).
Sean Hawkey/ACT Alliance
HEKS/EPER partners too are being affected
HEKS/EPER partner organizations too are reporting ever more instances of legal, bureaucratic or practical restrictions on their work. They are being prohibited from continuing to accept foreign financial support, they are losing their status or are simply being banned. Women's and human rights organizations in particular, as well as environmental activists are being so hampered in their work that one can no longer speak of «shrinking» room for action by civil society players, but only of the «closing down» of any such space.
No development without civil society
Yet civil society involvement is indispensable to achieving the UN-approved Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Jointly with two Act Alliance partners, HEKS/EPER has produced a study, on the basis of global surveys, 12 case studies and four field studies, showing that in the absence of an engaged civil society, the SDGs will fail. Worse yet, the study highlights the fact that the progress already made in combatting poverty, hunger and inequality is being jeopardized by political and legal constraints on civil society.
HEKS/EPER stands up for civil society
HEKS/EPER has been championing greater room for manoeuvre for underprivileged population groups for many years now. HEKS/EPER promotes project partners at the local, national and international levels that help these people avail themselves of their rights.
The study co-authored by HEKS/EPER formulates action recommendations addressed to national governments and the world community. HEKS/EPER is currently presenting the study and its demands in various national and international bodies, including the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the EU Commission in Brussels, the OECD in Paris, and in the framework of the UN conference to review progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report analyses the implications for development of the recent wave of closures of civic space in 12 countries around the world and concludes: shrinking civic space is highly likely to have negative effects on sustainable development.