The space for civil society is shrinking in many parts of the world, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a recent speech. It’s under siege where power has become concentrated in the hands of a few and corruption a way of life. It is under threat by those who see independent media, peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and an open society as a source of insecurity.
Over the last three years, more than 50 countries have introduced or enacted measures to restrict civil society.
Even as it has come under siege and increasing threat, civil society has also drawn strength from powerful new tools that are making governments more open, data more accessible, and citizens more informed and connected.
Just as repressive regimes copy-and-paste laws from one another, the democratization of technology has given citizens a platform to learn, create, engage their governments, and raise their voices together.
“Democracy is the frontline of our defense,” said Deputy Secretary Blinken. “It serves as the bulwark against extremism and radicalization precisely because it gives all people the opportunity to express their rights, pursue their ambitions, and redress their grievances peacefully.”
The United States is committed to defending democratic values and that is why it is helping to develop regional innovation hubs through the Stand with Civil Society Initiative; training journalists to keep themselves and their information safe; deepening our diplomatic engagement through our presidency of the Community of Democracies; easing the path for reformers through the Open Government Partnership; and promoting the new Sustainable Development Goal 16 which, for the first time, places fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and accountable institutions on the global development agenda.
As we take action in defense of our values and those who share them, said Deputy Secretary Blinken, authoritarians and extremists will find that their politics of division and ideologies of hate will have precipitated exactly what they hoped to destroy: a world of civility and a resurgence of faith in the democratic ideal.