HRDs being interviewed by journalists


Press release: European Union and civil society sign landmark partnership to promote an enabling environment for civil society globally

13 June 2024
Jutta Urpilainen (European Commissioner for International Partnerships) & Sonia Garbi Gomez (Director of Finance and Operations of Oxfam Novib) – Picture copyright: European Union, 2024

Brussels, 12 June 2024

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

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 repress civil society organisations (CSOs).

  • 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 CSOs 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 CSOs in those countries, including to those most marginalised in decision making processes

A new partnership between the European Union and a consortium of nine CSOs, including Protection International (PI), has been signed today by the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships in the European Commission, Jutta Urpilainen, alongside several leaders of the implementing CSOs.

Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said: “Civil society is a key partner for the European Union in delivering sustainable impact for communities through EU external action. With civil society partners, we promote democratic civic space, which is essential for the successful roll-out of our Global Gateway investment strategy. I am proud that we can launch together the new EU System for an Enabling Environment for Civil Society programme. It will help civil society to monitor potential restrictions on civic space, raise the alarm and respond proactively to threats to democracy”.

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 begins 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 expressing their views freely. From repressive NGO laws aimed at cutting off civil society funding to administrative red tape, CSOs find their knowledge and expertise are disregarded and doors closed to them as they are excluded from decision-making processes.

Through a chain of actions encompassing monitoring at the national level, leading to the issue of early warnings, which in turn provides timely support to groups in need, EU SEE aims to support civil society’s response in preventing and proactively responding to legal and policy developments and other events that may impact their ability to operate.

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

According to PI’s Executive Director Mae Ocampo, “the EU-SEE is a very timely response to some of the demands that civil society has made to the European Commission in various consultation processes, including a mechanism to monitor and provide early warning of attacks on civil society and civic space, and flexible funding to counter these attacks. This comprehensive system addresses a global trend of state and non-state actors creating increasing obstacles for civil society to defend rights. PI is excited to be part of this programme, which aligns perfectly with our upcoming global strategic framework “An enabling environment for the right to defend human rights”.

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 program 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).

For media enquiries, please contact PI’s Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator, Iria Castro:

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 CSOs through its Flexible Support Mechanism; it is led by Oxfam and implemented by a consortium of four partner organisations, including PI. This mechanism supports civil society to advocate for a sustained enabling environment, develop systems of resilience, and protect 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 SEE is funded by the European Commission. For more information about EU activities in support of Enabling Environment, please see Capacity4Dev.