While prospects for democratic transition remain uncertain, the protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have at least started to revitalize civil society through the emergence of vibrant new independent movements amongst youth, workers, bloggers, women activists and business groups.
But the Arab awakening aside, it feels like a cold spring for democracy activists and civil society groups, judging by a new joint report from the World Movement for Democracy and the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law.
The techniques and laws used to stifle civil society vary across the 15 countries analyzed in the reports, but there are nevertheless similar trends.
Governments employ deliberately cumbersome and opaque registration processes, employ discretionary powers to deny or revoke registration, control or impede funding, and prohibit civil society group’s engagement in broadly-defined political activity.
The fifteen country reports include case studies of civil society in Africa, including Burundi, Ghana, Mali: Nigeria, Sudan: and Ethiopia; in Asia, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore and Taiwan; and in Latin America/Caribbean, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador and Panama.