In 2016, USAID's Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance launched its Learning Agenda—a set of research questions designed to address the issues that confront staff in USAID field offices working on the intersection of development and democracy, human rights, and governance. This literature review—produced by a team of political scientists, geographers, and an anthropologist—synthesizes scholarship from diverse research traditions on the following Learning Agenda question:
How can citizens keep civic space from shrinking? What enables civic and political participation in countries where civil liberties have been lost? How do forms of civic and political engagement in such contexts differ from forms of engagement in contexts in which civil liberties are protected? Are some forms of civic and political engagement generally more tolerated in newly repressive contexts than others? How do civic actors adapt their engagement tactics to achieve their objectives?
The authors identify five strategies that have worked in at least some instances to pry open civic space under backsliding regimes:
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