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CSO Roundtable: The Impact of COVID-19 on Civil Society Space







This CSO roundtable is a part of an ongoing research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA). The project seeks to examine the different ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic shapes political space for civil society organisations (CSOs). The most common assumption in the current academic and political debates is that the COVID-19 pandemic and related legal measures reinforce a preexisting global trend of shrinking civic spaces. A closer look, however, reveals far more complex developments in many regions of the Global South. While many less-than-democratic government leaders have been using the pandemic as a pretext to (further) restrict political liberties and repress oppositional CSOs, many new CSOs and self-help initiatives have emerged in areas in which the state fails to deliver fundamental health and welfare services. Similarly, CSOs and movements worldwide have adapted to political restrictions by shifting to community-based activism while strengthening their organisational networks. We seek to further investigate these complex trends from a cross-regional comparative perspective.

This roundtable seeks to garner insights and experiences of members of CSOs in Asia and to provide them with an open and confidential venue where they can exchange their experiences and best practices in dealing with pandemic-related challenges. We invite 10-15 leading members of CSOs and informal civic groups whose works concentrate on both advocacy and social service delivery. The roundtable is designed to be interactive, guided by questions (listed below) relevant to the research. We would use “Go to Meeting” which is a secure online platform for activists and human rights defenders.

Roundtable questions

The roundtable focuses on the following questions:

  • In what ways does the COVID-19 pandemic obstruct your work? In what way does it present new opportunities?

  • What are your experiences regarding the COVID-19-related legal frameworks enforced in your country?

  • Since the pandemic, has your organisation modified the direction of its work or approach to activism? If so, how?

  • The pandemic has led many organisations to engage in activities to deliver services and welfare to communities in need. What are the experiences of your organisation? Do you think this change is positive or counterproductive in the long-run? Please provide some concrete examples.

  • Have the “political” components of your work (e.g., human rights work, advocacy) increased or decreased during the pandemic? Can you please explain why?

  • Have you conducted any advocacy activities to influence the government’s crisis response?

Hosts: Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University and the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)

1 June 2021 | 03.00‒06.00 p.m. for Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam/ 04.00‒07.00 p.m. for Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Contact persons: Dr. Janjira Sombatpoonsiri Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University Email: Janjira.S@chula.ac.th

Dr. Jasmin Lorch GIGA Institute for Asian Studies Email: jasmin.lorch@giga-hamburg.de

Monika Onken Free University of Berlin Email: monikaonken@gmx.de


Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University


We would like to ask you to register for this event. The registration is free of charge. Once you have successfully registered, you will receive a confirmation e-mail. If you do not receive this e-mail (make sure you check your spam folder), please contact us: events@giga-hamburg.de. You will receive your personal participation link and further information by e-mail before the online event starts. By registering, you agree to the GIGA's data protection guidelines. We will update our data protection notice as necessary. You can find the current version at: https://www.giga-hamburg.de/en/data-protection.