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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

[Source: GIGA Focus by Hannah Smidt.]

A growing number of governments in sub-Saharan Africa are now cracking down on civil society organisations addressing human rights issues. Governments are not only shrinking the space for civic activism, but also des­troying the backbone of democracy and inclusive development.

In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, civic space has been shrinking since the early 2000s – mirroring a global trend of restrictions being imposed on civil society organisations. Governments intimidate and arrest activists, and publicly criticise their advocacy work. They also promulgate restrictive policies, such as laws that curtail the foreign funding of domestic civil society groups, and resort to subtle ways of restricting civil society’s operating space – for instance, via cumbersome registration processes for civil society organisations.

Civil society organisations monitor and publicly expose human rights abuses. If governments commit severe abuses, they therefore have an incentive to impose restrictions on civil society activists and to silence their criticism. This incentive is stronger and civil society in greater danger when governments face pressure to live up to international human rights norms – for instance, if they have previously committed to human rights treaties or fear investigation by the International Criminal Court.

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South Africa at a Glance
57 700 000 (mid 2018 estimate)
5.1% y/y in October 2018 (CPI) & +6.9 y/y in October 2018 (PPI)
2.2% q/q (3rd quarter of 2018)
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