The 2013 CIVICUS State of Civil Society report comes within a global context that poses considerable challenges for civil society, as well as offering some opportunities. Economic crisis continues to affect the publics and governments of many countries, not least those of Europe and North America, where it has impacted on their governments’ engagements with developing countries, and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, to a lesser extent, South Africa); it has also fostered food and fuel price volatility, higher unemployment and slides back into poverty, which have unravelled some of the development gains made in earlier years in developing countries, including those in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, and helped to provoke mass dissent and demands for change.
In several European and North American countries, we are seeing increased awareness of the phenomenon of the ‘squeezed middle’. Wage stagnation and the eroding of labour standards mean that people who would once have been considered secure feel that although they are working hard and holding down jobs, they are now struggling to make ends meet – a feeling long familiar to the world’s poor.
Again, this is fuelling unrest and increasing the likelihood of people turning to political solutions beyond those offered by established parties and platforms, as elections have reflected recently in Greece and Italy. Discourse on inequality has arguably become commonplace, with the 1% vs. the 99% meme entering mainstream public consciousness.