Civil Society Under Attack? Approaches from Projects Working on Strengthening State-Society Relations in Africa

Workshop Session 3
October 7, 14:30 – 16:00, Venue: Neue Mälzerei/Plenarsaal
Language: English


Milena Tmava, Governance Advisor, Civil Society Participation Programme Zambia

Katharina Kammerer, Advisor, Democracy Fund, Zimbabwe


Julia Leininger, DIE Head of Department: Governance, Statehood and Security (Acting), Representative of GGA Workstream “Civil Society and Good Governance”


Ute Böttcher, Head of Competence Center “Democracy, Policy Dialogue, Urban Development”

More African citizens than ever participate in elections and execute their political rights according to the Mo Ibrahim Index and other political observers. But despite an overall improvement of governance in Africa over the last years, there are concerning trends when it comes to civil society. Unfortunately, the trend of disenabling environments for civil society is not only found in Sub-Sahara Africa, but around the globe – be it in North Africa or Eastern Europe. In 2014, CIVICUS documented seriously disenabling conditions for civil society activities in close to half the globe’s 193 countries.

Against this backdrop, the objective of this session is to discuss which strategies for civil society support are applicable in fragile democratic environments.

The Civil Society Work Stream of GIZ’s sector network “Good Governance Africa (GGA)” has developed a publication on “Shrinking Democratic Spaces for Civil Society” with case studies from Cameroun, Mozambique, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and other countries. It seeks to answer the question whether GIZ colleagues and their civil society partners observe a trend of shrinking democratic spaces in the countries they work in; and if so, how it poses a challenge to their work and how they address it.
The relevance for our work is clear: If GIZ’s governance projects and their partners cannot respond with adequate measures when a state restricts the space for open dialogue or social engagement our projects are likely to fail. The GGA work stream would therefore like to share the lessons learned from selected case studies and discuss with colleagues from other regions and distinguished experts promising strategies to tackle this challenge.

Guiding questions for this sessions are:

What are the characteristics and reasons for “shrinking democratic spaces”?

What does it mean for an advisor or programme of GIZ to support state-society relations in a potentially conflictive environment?

How do our civil society partners shape their strategies to cope with the changing context?

Can good governance projects mitigate some of these negative developments or turn the trend around?

How can we plan effective projects and evaluate their success in such contexts?


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