Mapping the Achievements of Civil Society - Thematic Report by Former UN Special Rapporteur on Free Assembly, Maina Kiai

June 2017 - Report by Maina Kiai, former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In his final thematic report, Maina Kiai addresses: Has civil society made the world a better place? Where and when has civil society made concrete and identifiable achievements? What would the world look like without civil society?

Below is an excerpt from the report presentation:

Throughout history and across cultures, associational life has enabled people to hold the powerful to account, to advocate for – and directly implement – progressive social changes, and to address many of the tensions inherent to collective human action. From the anti-slavery and anti-apartheid movements, to transnational advocacy campaigns against poverty and inequality, to women’s suffrage movements across the globe, to the countless thousands of human rights groups, grassroots and informal associations, and human rights defenders seeking to improve livelihoods and hold governments to account – the transformative power of civil society is seemingly self-evident.

However, civil society’s role in changing societies for the better is deeply contested. The space for civil society globally is closing rapidly. In established democracies as well as autocratic regimes and states in transition, laws and practices constraining freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly are flourishing. In 2015, serious threats to one or more civic freedoms were reported in over 100 countries.

This report contributes to the debate by discussing, mapping and quantifying the myriad ways in which civil society has improved societies globally in the past decade: protecting civil and political rights, advancing development objectives, moving societies towards freedom and equality, achieving and upholding peace, regulating corporate behaviour, protecting the environment, delivering essential services, and advocating for economic, social and cultural rights.

“Imagine a world without civil society,” Kiai writes in the report. “That world is bleak.”

Full report can be found at