The UK has been downgraded from ‘narrowed’ to ‘obstructed’ in the latest report by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor report, People Power Under Attack 2022, the government’s introduction of a range of restrictive laws, particularly on protest, and authorities’ continuous restrictions on protests, led to the downgrade.
The downgrade to ‘obstructed’ means civic freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is being undermined in the UK. Other obstructed countries include Poland, Hungary and South Africa.
Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond, commented:
“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.”
Highlighted as concerns are:
- Legislation that give police further powers to restrict protests: the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act and the Public Order Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.
- The Strike bill which would give government ministers the power to set minimum service levels and limit protection for workers by restricting protection of trade unions from legal action and removing the automatic protection of employees from unfair dismissal if the minimum services were not delivered.
- UK authorities’ repeated restrictions on the right to protest by detaining protesters and preventing demonstrations, in particular on issues such as environmental rights and racial justice, with several protesters behind bars for their participation.
- The government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA), and to replace it with the ‘Bill of Rights’.
- The government’s ‘hostile rhetoric’ which has fuelled several attacks against migrants and anti-migrant protests in the past few months.
- How some ministers and MPs continue ‘to smear and publicly vilify protesters and civil society, especially those working on climate change, anti-racism and refugee and asylum seeker rights’.
Sue Tibballs from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation commented:
“To see the UK’s civic space downgraded to ‘obstructed’ is heart-breaking, but not surprising. A narrative is being crafted in the UK that politics should be left to politicians. Party politics is one thing, but politics with a small ‘p’ belongs to all of us and our civic space is where we explore challenges and ideas as a society. An open civic space supports a healthy democracy and it is the duty of the government to protect both.”
Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help it 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.
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.