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The African Union (AU) has set out a clear vision through agenda 2063. It is one where the continent’s citizens are front and centre in defining their development agenda and where Africa’s resources benefit all Africans. A critical enabler of this vision is citizens’ right to organise and their ability to speak out against poverty, inequality and injustice. In fact, the AU has designated 2016 as the ‘Year of Human Rights’. Yet across the continent, there is an alarming and growing trend of citizens’ fundamental rights to assembly, association and free speech being restricted.
A range of governments are (mis)using new and existing laws to limit the creation of legitimate civil society organizations (CSOs), restrict their operations, and control their funding. Since 2012, 136 restrictive laws have been introduced worldwide, 29 of those have been in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This policy brief aims to highlight the issue of closing civic space and is based on detailed research commissioned by Oxfam from the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The research focused on six countries from across the Horn, East and Central Africa and its analysis is drawn on to identify broader trends and recommendations.