Study - The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundamental rights and civic space

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is planning to launch a procurement procedure for a study on "The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundamental rights and civic space".

This announcement is made pursuant to Annex I.14 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 July 2018 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union, to award a low value contract as a result of a negotiated procedure. It is published ahead of the procurement procedure with basic information on the subject matter of the contract to give interested economic operators the possibility to express their interest to participate as tenderer in the subsequent procurement procedure.

All economic operators established in the European Union, European Economic Area and countries with a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, with proven experience in conducting studies on related topics, may express their interest to participate.


Civic space has been defined as "the environment that enables civil society to play a role in the political, economic and social life of our societies"[1]. In recent years, players such as civil society organisations have pointed  to a 'shrinking civic space'[2] and increasing attacks on civil society in some Member States[3].

Over the course of the past year, national governments have adopted extensive emergency measures in order to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. While these can be considered as necessary restrictions to protect public health, these should not be used to disproportionately limit fundamental rights and civic space, thereby exacerbating ongoing tendencies.

Aims and main tasks

Through this study, the EESC's Diversity Europe Group wants to assess the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundamental rights and civic space. The aims of the study are twofold.

  • First, it should  take stock of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundamental rights and civic space for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Europe[4].
  • Secondly, it should take a forward-looking approach, by reflecting on possible solutions that could be used to foster an environment in which civil society organisations can be heard and continue to fulfil their missions.

The main tasks to be performed are the following:

In a first stage, and on the basis of a meta-study, the contractor should look at the implications of the pandemic on CSOs, taking into account, amongst other things, the following concerns: the implications of emergency measures on freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression and the rule of law; attacks and criminalisation of CSOs; the freedom to raise funds; participation and dialogue with decision makers.[5]

In a second stage, and building on qualitative data collected through dialogue with CSOs, the study should explore different policy solutions. To this purpose, the contractor should specify how civil society representatives position themselves vis-à-vis these solutions, what are the threats and opportunities and how, if desired, these could be implemented.

Languages/geographical area

The study will focus on CSOs in Europe, the challenges they have faced and continue to face with regard to restrictions on certain freedoms and rights, and their needs in a post-Covid-19 environment.

The CSOs to be contacted should cover various interests and acting at the local, regional, national or European level.

The study should be carried out in English.

Indicative calendar

  1. Launch of the invitation to tender: May 2021.
  2. Contract award: between June and July 2021.
  3. The final study report is expected within 5 months following the signature of the contract.
  4. Deadline for submission of offers: approximately Second quarter 2021.


Expressions of interest to participate or requests for further information should be sent via the following contact form before the deadline indicated below.

Deadline:  10/05/2021 13h00 (CET, Brussels time)


Please note that this announcement does not create any obligation for the EESC to launch a procurement procedure. The EESC will take the submitted information into account only to identify potential candidates. Expressing interest to participate in a negotiated procedure of this type does not create any legal right or legitimate expectation on the part of any economic operator, and the EESC has the right to cancel the procedure at any time. The procurement documents will only be provided to the identified candidates, and any tender received from a legal or natural person not invited to tender will be rejected.

[1] Cf.: UN Human Rights, "Protecting and expanding civic space", Definitions vary. See: OECD, "Civic space",

[2] Cf. EESC (2017), The future evolution of civil society in the European Union by 2030, ; Youngs, R. & Echagüe, A. (2017), Shrinking space for civil society: the EU response, study requested by requested by the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights,

[3] Fundamental Rights Agency (2019), Civic space – Experiences of organisations in 2019,

[4] For an assessment of the implications on and the response of CSOs to the Covid-19 pandemic, see: EESC (2021), The response of civil society organisations to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictive measures adopted in Europe,!xW38xR.

[5] These concerns have been well documented by past studies, most prominently by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, cf.:


Expressions of interest to participate or requests for further information should be sent (before the deadline mentioned below) to the following functional mailbox:


Monday, May 10, 2021 - 10:59