In 2016, Asia Democracy Research Network (ADRN) selected corruption, shrinking civic space, and gender inequality as the common challenges across Asia that continue to plague and work against deepening the quality of democracy.

Against this background, ADRN published this special report to evaluate the current state of shrinking civic space in the region by studying the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s mechanisms including law and regulations, public participation, and public governance. The report investigates pressing, contemporary questions such as: What evidences suggest shrinking of civic space in Asia? What successes and failures has each country experienced in protecting civic space? What lessons can be drawn to suggest policy actions for expanding civic space?

Drawing on a rich array of resources and data, this report offers country-specific analysis, highlights areas of improvement, and suggests policy recommendations for ensuring civic space in Asia.


Quotes from the Paper 
"In recent decades, India has proven itself capable not only of preserving democracy, but of deepening and broadening it by moving to a more inclusive brand of politics. (…) However, there has been pushback against the progress made in terms of civic engagement. (…) This marks the need for the government to amplify its policy effort to create spaces where citizens may interact freely and peacefully." – Society for Participatory Research in Asia

"The situation of civic spaces in Sri Lanka over the last decade can be categorized under two distinct time periods: from 2007 until 2015 and from 2015 to the present. (…) During the first period, there was an observable shrinking of civic spaces in Sri Lanka and notable threats to fundamental rights and freedoms. (…) The initiation of the second time period saw an inverse expansion of civic spaces and greater latitude for citizens to exercise fundamental rights and freedoms. However, this period has not seen the complete removal of prior threats to civic spaces.
Whilst the government itself is not seen to violate these rights as egregiously as before, it has also allowed the country's culture of impunity to continue without meaningfully reinforcing or safeguarding these rights." - Centre for Policy Alternatives

"Government actions that impede and discourage civil society organizations from functioning independently will only add to the burden of the government. Such government actions are seen as a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Pakistan's own constitution and the international conventions to which the country is a party. It is important that the government recognize the role of civil society and promote a culture of cooperation and trust rather than an environment of hostility." - South Asia Partnership Pakistan

"All in all, the rising social divide affects the performance of democracy in various dimensions in Taiwan. The social divide has historical roots, but the China factor plays a decisive role in aggravating it. The China factor includes the rising political and military power of China, the more conservative and authoritarian trend of President Xi's term, and ongoing cross-strait economic integration that may hurt some low-skilled laborers in Taiwan. (…) As direct and indirect threats on civil society are both closely related to political developments in China, Taiwan cannot effectively solve the dilemma by itself without changes in China’s political system." - Asian Barometer & Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica

"The Philippine government is legally required to create conditions - economic, political, social, cultural, and legal - that actively support the ability and capacity of individuals and/or associations to engage in civic activities." - DLSU Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance

"Despite the National League Democracy’s landslide victory in the 2015 general election and its efforts in the democratization process, the national reconciliation and 2008 constitution pose barriers, and civic space is still curbed in the country. (…) There are many limitations and restrictions to fight against before ample civic space can be realized in the country." – Yangon School of Political Science


Various researchers from Society for Participatory Research in Asia, Centre for Policy Alternatives South Asia Partnership Pakistan, Asian Barometer & Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica DLSU Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance, and Yangon School of Political Science contributed to the research and writing of each report.

EAI provided support in the form of typesetting and proofreading for the production of the reports.