The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2018 45 Mariam Afrasiabi is a senior adviser in the Civil Society and Media Division at USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. She previously served as a democracy and governance adviser in USAID’s Bureau for the Middle East. Mardy Shualy is a Presidential Management Fellow who worked in USAID’s DRG Center from 2017 to 2018. At USAID, he led the completion of the 2016 Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index, and contributed to agency policy for programming in closed spaces. Previously, he worked at the World Bank and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa. Development professionals focus on the need to bolster and expand civil society’s “open space” in countries around the world. BY MAR I AM AFRAS I AB I AND MARDY SHUALY “I am the last and only dictator in Europe; and, indeed, there are none anywhere else in the world,” declared Belarus President Alex- ander Lukashenko in a memo- rable 2012 interview. The reality, of course, is that Lukashenko is part of a siz- able and growing club of lead- ers imposing brazenly dictatorial rule. Throughout the past decade, freedom of speech, assembly and association has been Supporting Civil Society in THE FACE OF CLOSING SPACE ON DEMOCRACY FOCUS under broad assault worldwide, with restrictive legal frame- works, coordinated campaigns against public advocates and members of political opposition, and undercutting of indepen- dent media. Holding nominal elections and having a president are fig leaves for rulers who brook neither dissent nor opposi- tion. Crackdowns on civil society coincide with the suspension of term limits and the hollowing out of legislatures. These are features of “closing space”—a term for environ- ments in which restrictions hamper the ability of civil society and political actors to mobilize and operate. This phenomenon is becoming more severe, both in terms of the numbers of USAID’s Citizens Voice Project in Pakistan aims to increase engagement between citizens and state institutions. SYEDASAMEEN/COURTESYOFUSAID