UK Protest, 2021.

United Kingdom downgraded in global ratings report on civic freedoms – Bond reacts

Today (16 March) the UK has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ in CIVICUS Monitor’s annual report on the state of civil society and civic freedoms, People Power Under Attack 2022.  

Historically regarded as one of the most stable democracies, an ‘obstructed’ rating means civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, are now being continuously undermined in the United Kingdom. 

According to the report, the government’s introduction of a range of restrictive laws, including the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act which came into effect in April 2022 and the Public Order Bill, currently going through Parliament, alongside authorities’ continuous restrictions on protests, are highlighted as key violations of civic freedoms contributing to the downgrade. 

Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. 

Other obstructed countries include Poland, Hungary, Brazil, South Africa and Sri Lanka. There are 40 other countries in total with this rating.   

In reaction to the report, Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond said:  

The downgrade reflects the worrying trends we are seeing in restrictions across civil society that are threatening our democracy.

The government should be setting a positive example to countries that have clamped down on civic space. The UK is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is among concerning company in the CIVICUS Monitor ratings as restrictive laws and dangerous rhetoric are creating a hostile environment towards civil society in the UK.

Decision makers across all political parties should be alarmed and make it a priority to protect our rights and freedoms.

The downgrading of the UK is also supported by The Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s annual campaigner survey dedicated to tracking the experience of people involved in social change. Each year the survey provides a snapshot of the conditions in which campaigners operate, the challenges they face and their relationships with other stakeholders.   

The results of this year’s survey support CIVICUS’ downgrading of civic space. The research shows that 94% of respondents feel there are threats to the freedom to organise, contribute to public debate, influence political decisions, or protest. Asked specifically about what threatens civic space; 94% highlighted negative rhetoric towards campaigning from politicians and the media; as well as 92% thinking recent and emerging legislation posed a threat.  

Politicians were seen as the group most negative of campaigning, with 72 % of people saying they had become more negative in the last year. A staggering 43 % of respondents revealed they had censored themselves in the last year for fear of political backlash. 


Notes to editors 

  • Read the full report, People Power Under Attack 2022. 
  • CIVICUS Monitor is a global research collaboration that rates and tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories. 
  • Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 493 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2022.  
  • In September 2021, the UK was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist to signal a rapid decline in civic freedoms. The announcement was debated on the floors of Parliament and rebuked by leader of the House of Commons at the time, Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • The United Kingdom is now rated ‘obstructed’ on the CIVICUS Monitor. There are 39 other countries with this rating (see all).  
  • Visit the UK’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information. 
  • Part think tank, trainer, convener, and champion, Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) facilitates a new approach to civil society. SMK unleashes civil society’s Social Power by being curious about how change happens, by building its confidence and effectiveness, and by championing campaigners and campaigning. 
  • Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 400 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.   
  • For further information or interviews please contact Jess Salter at [email protected]