G20 commitment to civic space and partnerships critical for sustainable development - CIVICUS

G 20 Civic Space

Realising commitments to civil society space and partnerships are essential to progressing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and inclusive, resilient, and green growth, says CIVICUS, ahead of the New Delhi G-20 meeting. The Global civil society alliance made this call as leaders prepare to meet on 9-10 September 2023, with accelerating progress on SDGs, green development, and inclusive and resilient growth topping the agenda.  

The G-20 meeting of the world’s biggest economies happens days ahead of a landmark United Nations SDG Summit planned for 18-19 September in New York to mark the halfway point of the SDGs agreed by all countries in 2015. According to the UN Secretary General’s SDG progress report released in July 2023 30 % of the targets have seen no progress or regressed below their 2015 starting point.

“The lack of open civic spaces is a primary reason for faltering progress on SDGs. 85% of the world’s population struggles with completely closed or severely limited civic spaces which prevent effective partnerships with civil society for accelerating SDGs,” said Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS. “Civil society organisations provide innovative solutions to complex development challenges, deliver services to people in need and act as watchdogs on public resources yet they are being attacked for uncovering corruption and rights abuses.”

Just 3.2% of the world’s population live in 38 countries with enabled civic space, and only two G-20 nations enjoy open civic space while three are completely closed, according to CIVICUS monitor. Civic space  describes the ability of people to come together, organise and express themselves freely to shape economic, political and social structures around them. 

Canada and Germany enjoy ‘open’ civic spaces, but it is ‘narrowed’ in Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United States; ‘obstructed’ in Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and the United Kingdom; ‘repressed’ in India, Mexico and Turkey; and ‘closed’ in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

Called the greatest ever human endeavour to create peaceful, just, equal and sustainable societies, the SDGs include commitments on civic space in SDG 16.7 (responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision making), SDG 16.10 (access to Information and fundamental freedoms) and SDG 17.17 (encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships).

To ramp up action to achieve the SDGs, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has called for a SDG stimulus plan to scale up financing to the tune of $500 billion.  However, without civic participation and guarantees for functional civil societies there is a high probability that SDG stimulus funds could be misused by authoritarian governments to reinforce corrupt networks and to shore up repressions checking the progress for already vulnerable and excluded groups of people.

Serious civic space restrictions in India, the host country of the G-20, continue including criminalisation of human rights defenders, arbitrary restraints on funding for civil society organisations and persecution of peaceful protestors. Recently, the ‘We 20: People’s Summit’ in New Delhi involving more than 70 civil society organisations was subjected to disruption and intimidation by security agencies. Censorship including Internet shutdowns is also common in India, whose government refers to itself as the ‘world’s largest democracy.’  


Notes to editors:

CIVICUS Monitor is a participatory research collaboration that measures civic space conditions globally.

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