Joe Hallgarten

Thesis title:

What kinds of local institutions and external global levers and can most effectively and sustainably counter the closing of civil society spaces?


Whilst the reasons for threats to democracy are complex, there is increasing recognition that for democracy to flourish, a strong, fully engaged civil society is imperative. Notions of civil society are diffuse and subjective (Edwards, 2014), but there is a general consensus that, in addition to its role in supporting democracies to thrive, a healthy civil society expands the realm of human connection to meet essential needs: well-being, social connections, civic participation, freedom of expression, and belonging.Although threats to the closing of civil society spaces are continually countered in a variety of ways, there is insufficient evidence about what works, and what works for the longer term. There is too limited understanding about what approaches – whether ‘bottom up’ from local institutions and social movements, or ‘top down’ from the interventions of other countries or global institutions – are most effective and sustainable in preventing the closing of civil society spaces. In addition to the rapid reaction that is so vital to countering threats when they arise – for instance, to freedom of expression, Joe’s work will argue that some broader theoretical underpinning is needed to understand how national and global actors (state and non-state) can develop more proactive, holistic strategies, creating an overall enabling environment where a flourishing civil society is far more likely and attempts to close spaces far more rare.

First supervisor:

Adam Fagan


13 – Politics, Public Policy & Governance