Working Paper

IDS Working Paper 515

What Does Closing Civic Space Mean for Development? A Literature Review and Proposed Conceptual Framework

Published on 31 July 2018

What does closing civic space mean for development? Aid donors are concerned about the implications of restrictions on civil society for their partners and programmes, but to date there has been little clarity about what this means for development.

This paper summarises the findings of a literature review in support of research on this issue. It concludes that: (a) civic space has changed more than shrunk, although new restrictions affect aid-supported groups disproportionately; (b) new regulations are not all unwelcome, but nonetheless shift power from civic to political actors; (c) how that power shift shapes development outcomes depends on how political elites deploy that power, and in whose interests; (d) while there are instances where civil society has been curtailed to advance ‘developmentalist’ agendas, it more often enables land and natural resource grabbing, or the abuse of labour or other rights of marginalised and disempowered groups; (e) while short-term economic growth is unlikely to be adversely affected, economic crises are more likely in settings where civic space is closed, and it is highly improbable that development has any chance of producing equitable, sustainable, or inclusive outcomes under conditions where civic space is restricted or closing.

Cite this publication

Hossain, N.; Khurana, N.; Mohmand, S.; Nazneen, S.; Oosterom, M.; Roberts, T.; Santos, R.; Shankland, A. and Schröder, P. (2018) What Does Closing Civic Space Mean for Development? A Literature Review and Proposed Conceptual Framework, IDS Working Paper 515, Brighton: IDS

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Image of Naomi Hossain
Naomi Hossain

Research Fellow

Image of Shandana Khan Mohmand
Shandana Khan Mohmand

Cluster leader and Research Fellow

Image of Sohela Nazneen
Sohela Nazneen

Research Fellow

Image of Marjoke Oosterom
Marjoke Oosterom

Research Fellow

Image of Tony Roberts
Tony Roberts

Research Fellow

Image of Ricardo Santos
Ricardo Santos

PhD Researcher

Image of Alex Shankland
Alex Shankland

Research Fellow

Image of Patrick Schröder
Patrick Schröder

Research Fellow

Nalini Khurana

Publication details

published by
Naomi Hossain, Nalini Khurana, Shandana Mohmand, Sohela Nazneen, Marjoke Oosterom, Tony Roberts, Ricardo Santos, Alex Shankland and Patrick Schröder


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