By definition, civic space is the open dialogue in society between government institutions, politicians, companies, civil society organisations, universities, and different media platforms. When these actors start limiting their freedom of voice due to cultural habits and values or societal restrictions, this space can shrink significantly.

Nowadays, we increasingly see governments impose limitations on the freedom to speak out: censoring, blocking media or civil society organisations from operating without interference, and even imprisoning individuals. Additionally, the advent of fake news is disturbing open dialogue by polarising societies for political purposes.​

In the last years of developmental cooperation, international NGOs have created projects, supported organisations, and influenced local politicians in developing countries. Despite this being done with good intentions, many politicians in these countries feel overwhelmed by this global influence and reject international involvement. They feel that their sovereignty as a national representative is not respected through efforts that can feel like foreign interference.​ This feeling is, for example, at the heart of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, or the conflict between the Western world and Russia and China.

Legitimacy in your own country makes the difference. You can inadvertently undermine the legitimacy and autonomy of local people by interfering as a foreigner. ​It's better to be careful and sensitive in these situations!


Would you like to learn how to influence policy processes and obtain key tools to plan advocacy strategies?

Our Advocacy and Policy Influencing course presents you with all the tools required to implement change in a practical and intelligent way, which respects the legitimacy of the local people and organisations involved. For more details, check our courses page.