Past Event

Development needs Civil Society: The Implications of Civic Space for the Sustainable Development Goals

11 July 2019 14:15–15:45

High Level Political Forum Church Center, New York

Civic space is changing in terms of who participates and how. Dwindling civic space limits liberal human rights actors while widening right-wing, extremist and conservative groups. The growth of the digital space has reshaped the civic space for all actors and helped the unruly protest movements who are taking up more space, to mobilize.

Drawing on 12 desk-based country studies in addition to data collected through four country case studies carried out in Brazil, Cambodia, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, a new in-depth study carried out by IDS for ACT alliance analyzes the pivotal role civil society has played in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG). Examples from the collected case studies show how civic space contributes to the achievement of specific SDGs. However, political elites close civic space as part of national struggles over political and economic power. Conflicts over the use of natural resources and land have been found to be key reasons why civic space is restricted. Without a fully engaged civil society, the SDGs are bound to fail.

This is the main conclusion of the research and case studies done by IDS. Shrinking civic space is likely to halt or reverse progress towards reducing inequality, insuring inclusion, and improving sustainability, because it is often precisely those at greatest risk that are being ‘left behind by development’.


  • Mads Loftager Mundt, DCA
  • Naomi Hossain, IDS
  • Athayde Motta, IBASE
  • Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly
  • Representative of the MFA Denmark (TBC)


  • Una Hombrecher, HEKS