Give space

A guide for the safe and meaningful inclusion of local civil society


Across the world, civic space is shrinking and activists for democracy and human rights are pushed back. Swedish diplomatic missions can play an important role in supporting local civil society. That effort starts with meaningful, safe and inclusive relationships and meetings. Both physical and digital.

This guide is our contribution to this important work and is aimed at those of you working at Swedish diplomatic missions. Based on our own and our partner organisations’ experiences, we have compiled information and recommendations on how Swedish diplomatic missions can build relationships and collaborate with civil society organisations. We have put together concrete advice on how to arrange physical and digital meetings, consultations and decision-making processes, which are meaningful, inclusive and safe. The publication is also aimed at the Swedish Government and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, to support them in working more coherently with civil society on a global level. By standardising the Swedish diplomatic missions’ work with civil society organisations, the aid work of organisations, as well as the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Government, can become even more effective, generating even greater positive results.

This guide may also inspire other international civil society organisations and platforms in their work with their national governments and foreign ministries. It should also serve as a good basis for how EU institutions should coordinate their work with civil society both in Brussels and at delegations around the world.

Examples of the recommendations in this guide:

Ensure that you develop relations with civil society, even outside capital cities. Always consider marginalised groups and add resources to strengthen these contacts.

Carefully prepare for meetings and consultations: plan in advance, be clear about the purpose and provide all the necessary information.

Perform a risk assessment/mapping of the meeting or event, with respect to the participants, issues to be discussed, power structures within society, as well as information that is collected and how it is shared.

Analyse how the increase in digital meetings and decision-making processes affects your relationships with civil society organisations. 

The below 27 organisations, all members of CONCORD Swedens’s working group for civic space, are all signatories to the guide

Act Church of Sweden
Centre Party International Foundation
IM, Individuell Människohjälp
Kvinna till Kvinna
Left International Forum
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
Palestinagrupperna i Sverige
Plan International Sverige

Right Livelihood
Rädda Barnen
Svalorna Latinamerika
Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation
Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
The Swallows India Bangladesh
Union to Union
We Effect
WWF Sweden
Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Sweden

Please find the Swedish version of this guide here: ”Ge plats! En guide för säker och meningsfull inkludering av det lokala civilsamhället