On 4 March 2024, Citizen’s Platform in partnership with The Asia Foundation organised a roundtable discussion on ‘Adaptive Practices of the CSOs in Challenging Times: Learnings from Cross-country Experiences’.

Dr Nicola Nixon, Senior Director of Governance, The Asia Foundation (TAF) shared key findings and recommendations from a cross-country study on civic space, with a focus on South and Southeast Asian nations. Her research aimed to understand civil society’s response to governance trends and examine available opportunities within the civic space.
The findings highlighted how civil societies are trying to generate public goods in challenging circumstances. The findings show that restrictive environments are not experienced equally across all civil society and that ideological divisions, challenges in digital spaces and competition among countries are hindering collaboration.
She shared a trend observed in her research which indicates a decline in civil society’s ability to engage collectively. She also noted a depletion of spaces for creativity and involvement. Recommendations included supporting resilience strategies, greater networking, enhancing organisational capacity, and employing empirical argumentation to address emerging challenges.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue and Core Group Member, Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh moderated the discussion.
The discussion brought together voices from CSOs, INGOs, activists, International Development Partners, and media, cultivating an interactive dialogue to explore adaptive measures in our current context.
Concerns were raised about the current global phenomenon of CSOs having to operate in restrictive environments, censorships, digital surveillance and cyber laws, shrinking civic space, bureaucratic hurdles civic actors faced, and the role of the non-state actors in policymaking. Attendees discussed avenues for engagement with the participation of business associations and CSOs, addressed challenges in normative advocacy and explored avenues of regional engagement of CSOs. Participants raised issues concerning how Bangladesh can claim to be a graduating LDC and middle-income country with only 27 per cent civic space ability as was found in the study carried out by Dr Nixon. They also discussed issues of concern to marginalized communities such as disability inclusion and gender equality.
The discussants also explored how grassroots activism in Bangladesh could be strengthened.