On May 25th – 27th, 2016, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation organized a Research Partners Workshop on Civic Space Monitor in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gathering representatives of 21 regional civil society networks working on enabling environment for civil society development issues, including Sanja Bogatinovska, BCSDN’s Junior Policy and Advocacy Officer on Civil Society Development, the workshop aimed at opening a discussion that will develop into a vibrant, global community of practice around civic space research, while focusing the workshop on how the Civic Space Monitor (CSM) functions in practice, how the regional research partners fit into the CSM and how to further build on this research collaboration.
Civic space forms the bedrock of any open and democratic society however CIVICUS has recognized that the global civil society is being under attack, needs continuous monitoring that focuses exclusively on civic space and therefore, developed the CSM. While many factors influence civil society, CSM narrowly focuses on the three fundamental freedoms of civic space – freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. For the CSM to work, CIVICUS has developed a globally deployed methodology that is responsive enough to capture complex social change processes, namely a combination of eight independent data streams – civic pulse, users’ input, civil society consultations, research partners’ nodes, key scores, key analysis, CIVICUS analysis and newsfeed. Upon data source triangulation and rigorous verification that will enhance CSM accuracy, each country will be assigned to one of the five-category ratings – closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed and open.
CIVICUS research partners are responsible for feeding the CSM through the research partners’ nodes, one of the eight independent data streams. While monitoring civic space in eight countries on average, the research partners will be delivering by-monthly updates on the state at play with regards to the three fundamental freedoms of civic space, while providing factual evidence in support of their updates. More so, as they will be tracking civic space in a continuous manner, research partners will also provide alerts and early warning notification when worrying signals are observed, what will lead a certain country to be put on the CSM watch list.
CSM is intended to be used by civil society, journalists, government officials, development workers as well as the public for international advocacy, local campaigns, monitoring governments’ commitments, academic research and other uses. CIVICUS envisages that the CSM will be put in service during September, 2016.