Social Platform workshop for Civil Society Days 2017: Empowering civil society to act and grow in Europe

27 June, 09:30-12:30 | European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Room JDE 63, Rue Belliard 99, Brussels B-1040, Belgium


For more information please click here or contact Annica Ryngbeck, Policy & Advocacy Adviser.

There are legal frameworks and mechanisms in place in Europe to ensure that citizens and civil society organisations enjoy the rights to freedoms of association, expression and assembly. However, there are growing challenges to these rights from either measures taken by governments or authorities or from action by third parties. There also seems to be mounting distrust of civil society, especially its advocacy or watchdog roles, on the part of the authorities.

Within the framework of Civil Society Days 2017 organised by the European Economic and Social Committee’s Liaison Group, Social Platform is holding a workshop to highlight the results of surveys and reports on the situation of civic space in the EU, and to encourage debate among decision-makers, civil society and other experts on the reasons behind and solutions to the emergence of worrying trends. The workshop will also address the various dimensions and specificities of civic space, looking at mechanisms that can suppress or enable the work of civil society. Finally, participants will be invited to share examples of initiatives at local and national level that contribute to the empowerment of civil society organisations.


09:30-09:40 Opening remarks

  • Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform

09.40-10.50 Part I. Civil society space in Europe: state of play (roundtable format)

Moderator: Annica Ryngbeck, Social Platform

  • Israel Butler, Head of Advocacy, Civil Liberties Union for Europe

Presentation of results from surveys on civic space by:

  • Carlotta Besozzi, Civil Society Europe
  • Waltraud Heller, Programme Manager for Civil Society Cooperation, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
  • Reactions from European civil society representatives and discussion on what can be done at European level to strengthen civic space and participation:
    • Kersty McCourt, Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN) working group on civic space – on EU internal and external coherence
    • Lilit Poghosyan, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network (IPPF-EN) – on the shrinking/growing space for civil society organisations working for/against sexual reproductive health and rights, women, and LGBT rights
    • Katerina Hadzi-Miceva Evans, European Centre for Non-profit Law (ECNL) – reacting to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’s findings on legal restrictions to civil society

10:50-11:10 Leg stretcher

11:10-11:40 Part II. Testimonies from the ground (personal accounts)

  • Participants will be asked to join small break-out groups to share stories about their local and national experiences of civic space. Each group will be asked to describe their challenges, opportunities and responses. The discussions will be divided up according to “four corners”, with participants invited to join the topic they find most relevant to their experience:
    • Freedom of association – regulatory environment and funding
    • Freedom of assembly – law and practice
    • Right to participation – access to the decision-making processes, advocacy/lobbying and campaigning
    • A safe environment – harassment, intimidation and negative narrative

11:40-12:10 Part III. Ways forward and recommendations to decision-makers (break-out groups)

  • Building on the outcome of discussions so far, participants will together identify solutions and key recommendations to decision-makers at national and European level, and civil society organisations and stakeholders on what we can do ourselves, both nationally and in solidarity with civil society bodies in other countries.

12:10-12:20 Reporting back on key recommendations from each group

  • A quick overview of the main recommendations, which will be presented back to the Civil Society Days plenary.

12:20-12:30 Closing remarks

  • Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform