Built around the launch of Westminster Foundation for Democracy’s paper "Defending democracy: when and why do parliaments protect political space?", this event will examine how democracy actors can react to attempts to close the political space and restrict civil activism in different parts of the world.
The morning session will focus on how parliaments can act to protect political space, then take a closer look at other tools and methods deployed by the activists and donor community responding to the challenges arising in the context of shrinking spaces. In the afternoon, panelists will tackle broader questions about risk-taking, unintended side-effects and 'politically smart' democracy support.
Authoritarian incumbents, and democratically elected leaders with authoritarian tendencies, can close political space and restrict civil society in a variety of ways. One increasingly popular tactic is to suppress civil society by restricting its access to foreign funding and controlling its activities through requirements to register. This often occurs in divided societies in which the ruling party paints civil society as a threat to stability, and manipulates the growth of radical groups to pass anti-terror legislation that enables them to exert control over a range of non-state actors. Parliaments – who ought to be defenders of democracy – often aid and abet executives in this process.
Co-hosted by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, European Endowment for Democracy, European Partnership for Democracy and University of Birmingham.