Terms of Reference: Consultant Researcher - Impact of Non-state actors on Civic Space

Job Type

Full Time





Start Date


Application Deadline



25 Owl Street
Auckland Park
South Africa



At CIVICUS our focus is simple: to strengthen civil society and citizen action for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. We do this by defending civic freedoms and democratic values; strengthening the power of people to organise, mobilise and take action; and empowering a more accountable, effective and innovative civil society. 

We work for civil society, protecting and growing `civic space’, by which we mean: the freedoms of expression, association and assembly - the fundamental freedoms that enable organisations and individuals the right to speak out, organise and take action. We strive to promote excluded voices, especially from the Global South, and have a growing alliance of more than 4000 members in more than 175 countries.

We know that this is a time of big global challenges for civil society and the world, but we also know that our members and partners have big responses. Our role is to connect, amplify and scale these responses and, in doing so, strengthen the contribution of citizen action and civil society.

Drawing on over 25 years of experience, we are working to build on our strengths while also exploring new ways of working. CIVICUS’ Strategic Plan 2017-2022 sets the strategic direction for the secretariat and alliance. It articulates who we are, what we strive to achieve, how we work and how we define our success.


A growing body of monitoring and research confirms that civil society organisations (CSOs) are increasingly unable to exercise their right to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor illustrates that this is clearly now a global phenomenon. Although they act peacefully and lawfully, CSOs on all continents, in democratic and authoritarian countries alike, have become the targets of restrictions.

This is a complex and non-linear phenomenon. As more restrictions are placed on civic activism, we also see civic activism continuing to take place all around the world. This contestation over civic space is being played out through complex political and societal processes, involving not just states and CSOs, but many other actors including private companies, political parties, government-aligned NGOs, extremist groups and others. To ensure that we can adequately capture these dynamic and interactive relationships, it is important that we broaden our research agenda in order to keep up with changing forms of restrictions and resistance.


This research studies the impact of actions by non-state actors (NSAs)on the political or civic space of CSOs through case studies in Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Palestine. Using a mixed methods approach, the study employs process tracing over a period of ten years to flesh out a typology of NSAs, their motivations, methods and tactics and impact upon the work and resources of CSOs. Aside from a presentation of detailed findings on these questions in a main research paper, the study will also help to bring a much stronger focus on the role of NSAs to future policies of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CSOs engaged in supporting efforts to safeguard civic space.



The purpose of this nine-month, full-time consultancy is to lead the implementation of a research study into the role of non-state actors on civic space. Working closely with the Civic Space Research Lead, other members of the CIVICUS team, and country-based partner CSOs in Zimbabwe, Palestine and Bangladesh, the Consultant will coordinate all aspects of the research study including planning, development of research instruments, provision of resources to partner organisations, data analysis, report writing and the organization of meetings to review and finalise the study findings.

Specific tasks and responsibilities

·      Organise and participate in a project kick-off meeting in December 2018 with all consortia members;

·      Develop a comprehensive research plan including research instruments, agreements with research partners and

a clear timeline for implementation.

·      Coordinate and monitor the work of research partners at all stages during implementation, providing necessary

guidance, support and feedback.

·      Prepare an interim report including initial findings and literature review.

·      Prepare a Zero draft of the final report for presentation to a validation workshop involving research partners,

CIVICUS and other stakeholders.

·      Prepare a final report including all research outputs, country case studies, policy recommendations, typologies

and other associated outputs for delivery to the study’s funder by end August 2018.

·      Other tasks associated with the successful coordination of the research study, as assigned.


  • PhD in international human rights law, development studies or social sciences, preferred.
  • Minimum of 7 years work experience in the civil society sector on human rights issues and demonstrated understanding of current dynamics of closing civic space.
  • Substantial previous experience of mixed methods research including both quantitative and qualitative approaches. A demonstrable understanding of process tracing and its implementation is an advantage.
  • In depth understanding of international law, standards and best practices related to the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression; previous experience working on the role of non-state actors an advantage.
  • A proven track record of communicating complex research outcomes in a simple, clear and succinct manner to a variety of audiences including policy makers.
  • Ability to work under pressure and meet clearly-defined deadlines. The consultant should be available to begin this assignment on 1st December 2018.

Level of Language Proficiency

Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively in written and spoken English – additional languages are an advantage.

Professional Level


Minimum Education Required

Doctorate (PhD)

How To Apply



Interested consultants are invited to submit a CV and covering letter outlining their expression of interest in response to these terms of reference. The consultant should also indicate their preferred daily rate.

Submissions should be emailed to CIVICUS Monitor Coordinator Cathal Gilbert on cathal.gilbert@civicus.org  before 17:00 Central African Time on Wednesday 31st October 2018.