Welcome to the 2024 State of Civil Society Report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. This year’s report, the 13th in our annual series, looks back at 2023 to identify trends in civil society action, at every level and in every arena, from responses to conflicts and struggles for democracy, inclusion and climate justice to demands for global governance reform.

This year’s report draws from our rolling analysis and commentary initiative, CIVICUS Lens, and is directly informed by the voices of civil society affected by and responding to the major issues and challenges of the day. It reflects over 250 interviews and articles published by CIVICUS covering over 100 countries and territories.

Our report offers a civil society perspective of the world as it stands in early 2024: one plagued by conflict and crises, including of democratic values and institutions, but in which civil society works to hold the line in difficult times.



a world of crises needs civil society

Civil society is being tested like never before by a series of accelerating crises. Amid growing conflict and repression, in 2023 civil society faced mounting obstacles that made it harder to do its vital work of helping people, making their voices heard and upholding human rights. But civil society still managed to hold the line and make a difference to many. The way out of crises is to listen to, work with and enable civil society.


Conflict and crisis

a world in disarray

Amid deepening and intensifying conflict, civil society offers a crucial response, providing humanitarian aid, leading reconstruction efforts, collecting evidence of human rights abuses, urging the international community to act and calling for justice and an end to impunity. But rather than listen, conflict perpetrators are attacking civil society, humanitarian workers and journalists. All sides in conflicts must respect civil society’s rights.


Global governance

reform desperately needed

Global governance institutions are flailing as states make hypocritical decisions that undermine the rules-based international order. Today’s multiple crises are exposing the fundamental design flaws of UN institutions, testing them beyond their limits. Civil society has solutions for global governance reform but isn’t getting a seat at the table. States and the UN must take civil society’s practical reform ideas seriously.



repression as denial

The climate crisis is a global emergency. 2023 was the hottest year on record. The calls for urgent change are coming loudest from civil society, which is making a difference by winning court cases, pressuring institutions to stop fossil fuel investments and using disruptive stunts to win attention. But activists are facing growing pushback, with many states collapsing the space for climate activism. The repression of civic space should be recognised as a form of climate denial.



contested territory

Attacks on democracy are making it harder for people to advance the solutions today’s crises require. A record number of countries are sliding towards authoritarianism, while the number of countries democratising is the lowest in decades. Anti-rights political entrepreneurs are gaining ground by stoking prejudice and hatred, including against migrants and LGBTQI+ people. Civil society is working to defend democracy and hold leaders to account, but this is becoming harder as civic space is shutting down.



resistance against regression

In the face of regression, women’s and LGBTQI+ movements have continued to claim rights in 2023. But civil society’s hard-won, decades-long trend of progress in women’s and LGBTQI+ rights has slowed down in the face of an intense anti-rights backlash. In many countries, as backlash is being instrumentalised for political gain, attacks on activists are growing. Across the world, civil society resisted – through street protest, advocacy, campaigning, solidarity, mutual support and litigation.

Our Interviews

2023 in review



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