About this Report

Groups that attack fundamental human rights are on the rise. They are gaining in confidence and visibility and are increasingly well connected and well resourced. Rhetoric that attacks civil society’s fundamental freedoms and the rights of excluded groups - such as women, LGBTQI people, migrants, refugees and minorities - is increasingly adopted and promoted by political leaders, and anti-rights groups are claiming civil society space at the domestic and international levels. Civil society that defends rights is under attack. Our research - reaching out to a wide range of civil society activists, experts and leaders - seeks to identify how the current wave of anti-rights groups are organising, operating and having an impact, and how civil society is and could be responding to reclaim human rights. For more information, see the research concept note.
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Voices from civil society, including CIVICUS alliance members and partners, are the basis of this research. Interviews focus on four main issues: the kinds of attacks encountered from anti-rights groups and their impacts; the ways in which anti-rights groups are organising and winning support; the tactics used by progressive, rights-based civil society to respond; and the support needed to mount a more effective response.


A survey about civil society experience facing anti-rights groups was administered among CIVICUS members in September 2019. We received 903 responses from 115 countries. The highest numbers of responses came from African countries (66 per cent) and from people who identified themselves as male (72 per cent). Two thirds of respondents said they had encountered anti-rights groups in the course of their work or activism. For a full analysis of the survey results, access the survey report here.


CIVICUS members convened local events to debate and react to the findings of the 2019 State of Civil Society Report, and particularly on the question of how to promote civil society responses to anti-rights groups. Short, interactive and informal discussions offered people an opportunity to speak out and identify actions for progressive, rights-oriented civil society to take in response to rising anti-rights discourse.

State of Civil Society in Your Country

Get close to real-time data and empirical evidence on the state of civil society in 196 countries. See how civic rights are being protected or violated in your country.