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Closing Space Barometer: A Toolkit for Systematically Responding to Closing Contexts


In 2018, the D-Arch found that while global levels of democracy remain near an all-time high, several countries, including some of the world’s most populous democracies, have registered a notable decline in liberal democracy over the past ten years. Furthermore, these declines are often masked by gains in electoral democracy. In other words, while leaders increasingly see elections as legitimizing, they also pursue policies that reduce media and civil society autonomy, individual rights and freedoms, and the rule of law (V-Dem Annual Report, 2018). In these conditions of closing democratic space, there are scarce resources for donors, implementers, and local beneficiaries to assess, adapt to, and address the nuances of democratic erosion.

  • What are the dimensions of closing space?
  • Who are the perpetrators and targets of closing within each space?
  • What are the tactics utilized by perpetrators of closing within each space?
  • What is the sequence of closing?
  • What were conditions or events that immediately preceded the beginning of closing?
  • What are the conditions or events that mark key juncture points in the closing process?

This project combines qualitative and quantitative methods to gather data on the process of and predictive conditions for closing space. Specifically, CEPPS/IRI will:

  • Create a new analytical framework to holistically understand the process of closing; and
  • In partnership with the D-Arch, the project will develop a predictive model based on the analytical framework that forecasts the onset of closing.


The Closing Space Barometer will include a scorecard that assesses closing space and an interactive online dashboard that identifies countries at risk of closing, based on annual releases of V-Dem data. These outputs will help policy-makers and implementers identify the process of closing and the conditions that often precede it. Using this assessment toolkit, implementers will be able to better preempt the consolidation of closing space as well as develop nuanced programmatic responses that allow local democratic actors to operate within and respond to closing space.

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