Given the expansion of authoritarianism, the backslide of liberal democracy and the common predicament derived from neoliberalism, activists and organisations encounter increasingly similar threats and challenges than ever when they taking actions to tackle the social, economic and political inequality.
"The closing of civic space" could be one of the most challenging background that activists and organisations based in different locations in the region commonly shared and witnessed. Governments in the region learning and imitating restrictive legislation and measures with each other accelerates the closing of civic space.
Civic space is essential components and a key to the practice of human rights. As UN Guidance Note on Protection and Promotion of Civic Space demonstrates, “[c]ivic space is the environment that enables people and groups – or ‘civic space actors’ – to participate meaningfully in the political, economic, social and cultural life in their societies. Vibrant civic space requires an open, secure and safe environment that is free from all acts of intimidation, harassment and reprisals, whether online or offline. Any restrictions on such a space must comply with international human rights law.”
Even thought Taiwan is struggling as a “canary in the coal mine” confronting the unprecedentedly growing sharp power, this thrive democracy locates the nearest with Southeast Asia countries, is still been rated only country in Asia with open civic space for 3rd straight year. Taiwan is expected to play a stronger role to collaborate with civil societies in the region and to tackle the shrinking of civic space.
However, the lack of understanding to the politics, social issues and human rights in Southeast Asia and the lacks of connection and common experience between Taiwan and the Southeast Asian civil groups, makes this expectation a distance.
Asia Citizen Future Association (ACFA, 亞洲公民未來協會) is a Taiwan-based NGO established to tackle the closing of civic space by connecting civil society groups and individuals between Taiwan and the Southeast Asia. ACFA's short-term goals are:
(1) to enhance the understanding of Taiwan's civil society, parliament and government departments on relevant issues of the closing of civic space in the Southeast Asia; and further create collaboration between Taiwan and Southeast Asian's civil society.
(2) to scrutinize Taiwan's civic space and to advocate to amend relevant policies to protect foreigners' rights to the freedom of association.