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As restrictions on foreign funding for civil society continue to multiply around the world, Western public and private funders committed to supporting civil society development are diversifying and deepening their responses. Yet, as a result of continued internal divisions in outlook and approach, the international aid community is still struggling to define broader, collective approaches that match the depth and breadth of the problem. This paper seeks to answer the question: how is the assistance community responding to what a growing array of aid practitioners now see as a major threat to Western support for civil society development in many parts of the world? It looks at how Western funders are responding, examining changes they are making in how they operate and what they do to support civil society abroad, as well as actions they are taking to try to limit specific closing space measures.
After seeing its reach increase for decades, international support for democracy and human rights faces a serious challenge: more and more governments are erecting legal and logistical barriers to democracy and rights programs, publicly vilifying international aid groups and their local partners, and harassing such groups or expelling them altogether. Despite the significant implications of the pushback, the roots and full scope of the phenomenon remain poorly understood and responses to it are often weak. This report examines the closing space challenge to international support for democracy and rights.
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