International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019 brings together over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens across sectors, themes, regions in Belgrade, Serbia (8-12 April) to tackle the world's most pressing challenges in the fields of human rights, democracy and international development.
For the first time in almost a quarter century of convening, the event will be held in the Balkans, a region that provides an opportune place to explore the need for togetherness and the power of collective action.
ICSW presents at least 30 key sessions and partner events tackling a range of critical issues from emergency support for NGOs under attack to shrinking media freedoms to greater civil society accountability
Belgrade, Serbia – Across the globe, human rights organisations are increasingly being attacked by governments. Activists, journalists and people who speak out against growing restrictions are persecuted. A historic rise of populist leaders continues to erode fundamental freedoms, heightening political polarisation and sowing division.
We are in the midst of unprecedented global challenges – challenges that civil society and citizens worldwide have begun responding to with renewed determination.
It is within this context that International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW) kicks off next week - a global gathering of over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens across sectors, regions and themes taking place April 8-12 in Belgrade, Serbia. Delegates will share ideas and propose common solutions around some of the most pressing challenges in the fields of human rights, democracy and international development, and explore ways to unlock the power of collective action to stand up for democratic freedoms across the world.
Co-hosted by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Serbian civil society association, Civic Initiatives, with support of the Balkans Civil Society Development Network, ICSW will present a programme that includes over 30 sessions on topics ranging from the crackdown on media freedom to emergency assistance for NGOs under attack to greater civil society accountability, with a variety of partner events as well as key addresses by high-profile speakers. From their alliance of more than 7,000 members in 175 countries and regional presence, CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives have engaged more than 30 organisational partners and a number of high-profile, inspirational speakers to share their experiences and learnings with delegates.
In country after country, democracy is under attack, with populist and right-wing movements gaining ground and democratic regression being witnessed even in countries historically considered bastions of democracy.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, only 4% of the world’s population live in places where their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are properly respected and protected.
“Yet, civil society is fighting back, finding new and innovative way of organising and taking action. We are seeing new alliances being forged and an increasing openness to coalition building - with activists from different causes and communities coming together to fight for common issues,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General.
“This year’s event in Serbia comes at a critical and opportune time for civil society and the world’s citizens to realise the power of unified, collective action to challenge a global trend that threatens our fundamental freedoms,” said John.
This year’s theme – ‘The Power of Togetherness’ – explores how people and organisations around the world can, and are, working together to enable and defend spaces for civic action in a world where global transformations are reshaping how civil society functions.
For the first time in almost a quarter century of international convening, CIVICUS will host its flagship event in the Balkans – a region of 11 countries and 55 million people. The host city, Belgrade, is one of Europe’s oldest, with a 7,000-year history representing a complex Serbian history and regional experience that provides an opportune place to explore the need for togetherness and the power of collective action.
“Throughout its history, Serbia has shifted back and forth between authoritarian regimes and democracy,” said Civic Initiatives’ Maja Stojanovic.
“During the 1990s, authoritarian regimes produced conflicts, severe human rights violations and genocide. Today, as we approach European Union membership, internal and international independent monitoring mechanisms show shrinking media freedoms, a lack of separation of power and rule of law, and deterioration of freedom of elections,” said Stojanovic.
“This region, and particularly Serbia, demonstrates that changing laws, strategies or governments offers no guarantees – democracy does not exist if it is not built constantly. By hosting this year’s event in Belgrade, we will convene and send messages rooted in local circumstances and, in the same time, fully reflecting global challenges.”
The event will begin with a two-day Youth Assembly in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, which has been selected as the European Youth Capital for 2019. Bringing together more than 100 young activists from across the globe, the Assembly will offer delegates the opportunity to engage with international peers, examining and taking action on some of the critical challenges facing youth in civil society today.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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ABOUT THE CONVENERS
The conveners of ICSW 2019 are CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives (CI).
CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS strives to promote marginalised voices, especially from the Global South, and has members in more than 145 countries throughout the world.
Civic Initiatives (CI) was founded in May 1996 by a group of prominent NGO activists that were involved in the anti-war movement and non-nationalist democratic opposition since 1990. Since then, Civic Initiatives respond to the need to create a civic base that sustains democratic values by supporting citizens' activism and advocating for better legal framework for civic participation.
GET MORE INFO & UPDATES
More information is available on the virtual press centre. Find out what’s happening in real-time on the ICSW Live platform, a hub that links delegates with global civil society, with audio/ video interviews, and interactive features. You can also join the conversation on social media #ICSW2019, and get daily updates/ live streams of various sessions on CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives social media channels: CIVICUS Facebook and Civic Initiatives Facebook.
FAQs ABOUT ICSW 2019
What is International Civil Society Week 2019?
International Civil Society Week (ICSW), being hosted from April 8-12, 2019, is a key global gathering for civil society and other stakeholders to engage constructively in finding common solutions to global challenges. For the first time in more than 20 years of international convening, CIVICUS in partnership with Civic Initiatives (CI), will hold its flagship event in the Balkans region.
What are our key themes for 2019?
The ICSW 2019 programme will be centred along three interrelated tracks, to enable delegates to work together to:
Understand and connect with citizens and people’s movements taking place on the STREETS and around the world
Build BRIDGES that strengthen alliances, create solidarity and facilitate collective action across issues
Identify the STAIRS needed to build and sustain collective impact, and connect local and global efforts
Who will be attending?
Over 850 delegates from across the world will be part of ICSW 2019. These will include civil society leaders, activists, representatives from intergovernmental bodies,, governments, and the media.
Serbia and the Western Balkans have strong legal frameworks which are supposed to guarantee the basic rights of citizens. Yet, since the nineties, dictatorial regimes and shrinking basic rights have made these so called guarantees largely paper based, with conflicts, severe human rights violations and genocide happening in practice. Today, internal and international independent monitoring mechanisms show shrinking media freedoms, lack of separation of power and rule of law, and deterioration of freedom of elections. By hosting ICSW 2019 in Serbia, we aim to shine a spotlight on the work of the Balkan civil society community to address the ongoing challenges in the region and find ways to collaborate and support their work by building alliances between local and international civil society.