Skip to main content

European Union and Civil Society sign landmark partnership to promote an enabling environment for civil society globally

13 June 2024

The EU System for an Enabling Environment for Civil Society (EU SEE) programme seeks to support civil society to thrive by preventing efforts to restrict civic space and shut down civil society organisations.   

  • Agreement signed by Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships in the European Commission together with civil society leaders
  • The programme named the EU System for an Enabling Environment (EU SEE) will be implemented by 9 civil society organisations with a global outreach across 4 continents 
  • EU SEE seeks to anticipate and address threats to civil society in 86 countries across the globe, providing timely information to networks and the EU to facilitate advocacy actions
  • It provides financial support mechanisms to civil society organisations including those most marginalised in decision making processes 

A new partnership between the European Union and a consortium of 9  civil society organisations (CSOs) has been signed today by EU Commissioner for International Partnerships in the European Commission, Jutta Urpilainen, alongside several leaders of civil society organisations. 

Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said: “Civil society is a key partner for the European Union in delivering sustainable impact for communities through Global Gateway. I am proud to launch with our partners the EU System for an Enabling Environment for Civil Society, an innovative global programme to monitor potential threats to civic space and strengthen the ability of local actors to respond proactively, through solidarity, advocacy and dialogue with state authorities.”  

EU SEE aims  to promote an enabling environment for civil society in 86 countries across the globe. Led by civil society, this innovative mechanism brings together national, regional and global networks to monitor the laws and administrative practices as well as the digital and media environments which provide the context for civil society operations. 

In countries where participating monitors issue alerts on  restrictive actions, EU SEE will aim to provide funds and solidarity networks to local organisations to mount campaigns, or strengthen their internal systems to withstand threats to their operations.

EU SEE began its work in 2024 as an innovative response to the ever increasing restrictions on civic space. Across the world, in both authoritarian states and established democracies, citizens engaged collectively in policy, advocacy and community work frequently face diverse restrictions on their rights to form associations and organise, or are prevented from freely expressing their views. Through repressive NGO laws and administrative red tape, civil society organisations find their expertise and knowledge ignored and their doors closed as they are excluded from decision-making processes. 

Through a chain of actions encompassing monitoring at the national level, resulting in early warnings, which in turn provide timely assistance to groups in need, EU SEE aims to support civil society in preventing and proactively responding to legal and policy developments that may impact their ability to operate.

The project has been designed with the broad participation of partner NGOs, and it aims to  reach a diverse set of groups such as those outside of main capitals and those representing marginalised communities including civil society organisations headed by women, youth and other vulnerable groups.

The EU SEE speaks to the commitment of the European Union to support civil society organisations, including those at the forefront of human rights violations, to push back against civic space restrictions and create a more enabling environment. 

The partner CSOs have a wealth of experience monitoring, protecting and strengthening civic space with members or chapters in over 190 countries. The organisations implementing the programme are CIVICUS, Democracy Reporting International, European Partnership for Democracy, Forus, Hivos, Oxfam Novib (Oxfam), Protection International, Transparency International and Urgent Action Fund – Latin America and the Caribbean (UAF-LAC)

At a time when restrictions seem to be on the increase even in established democracies, the legacy of the EU SEE Programme will help prevent repressive tactics and strengthen solidarity, advocacy and dialogue with state authorities.  

For media enquiries contact

CIVICUS: [email protected]  

European Partnership for Democracy: [email protected]

Forus: [email protected]

Oxfam Novib: [email protected]

Protection International: [email protected]  

Transparency International: [email protected]

Annex: More information about EU SEE 

The EU SEE programme comprises two main components designed to address these challenges. The first one seeks to set up and implement a civil society monitoring index and Early Warning Mechanism that would detect situations where the enabling environment is deteriorating or improving; it is led by Hivos. The second complementary component of the system responds with flexible and timely financial support for civil society organisations through its Flexible Support Mechanism; it is led by Oxfam. This mechanism supports civil society in advocating for a sustained enabling environment, developing systems of resilience, and protecting organisations and individuals. By detecting restrictions on time and responding preemptively, the system will contribute to the creation of a supportive environment for civil society to operate. 
The EU System for an Enabling Environment for Civil Society is funded by the European Commission. For more information about EU activities in support of Enabling Environment see Capacity4Dev.

Photo credits: Directorate General for International Partnerships.