With social and political polarisation rising, global campaign gets people talking across divides

  • Global SPEAK! campaign counters growing divisions with a call to “speak with” those we don’t normally
  • Campaign will comprise almost 200 events in 60 countries worldwide
  • Events include dialogues countering hate speech, extremism, and religious conflict
  • Campaign timed to coincide with International Day for Tolerance

Across the globe, we are seeing a deepening of divisions within and between communities and countries on a scale like never before.

From Brazil to Germany to the U.S and the Philippines, there is growing polarisation – with many politicians exploiting our fears and differences to gain and maintain power. And, as we fight against each other more, we speak with each other less.

In response, a global campaign that seeks to bridge deepening divides and encourage authentic dialogue, will be launched on Friday, 16 November 2018.

The campaign, entitled SPEAK!, is centred around three days of global action with almost 200 events organised in at least 60 countries with a single purpose: to bring people together across lines of division and help build connection and understanding.

Lead by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, the 2018 SPEAK! campaign is now in its second year and already developing a reputation for doing things differently.

“It's no longer enough to speak to those who already agree with us. If we want real change, we need to speak with those who don't,” said Nic Mackay, SPEAK! Campaign Coordinator.

But before participants start engaging with others they wouldn't normally, the campaign will recognise those who can't even be part of the conversation. On Friday, 16 November at 09h00 local time across the globe, individuals and organisations will observe a digital Hour of Silence to raise awareness of and express solidarity with those whose voices have been silenced.

Then, hundreds of organised events will begin, spanning a range of topics and activities, all centred around bringing people with opposing positions together to talk about resolving difference. In Cameroon, a country caught in an armed conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, a dialogue between youth will seek to counter hate speech and encourage free speech. Meanwhile, young Pakistanis will join anti-extremism discussions intended to help them become even stronger agents of peace. In Colombia, a gamified tournament will seek to reduce tensions around the recent influx of Venezuelan migrants, while people will gather across religious lines in Benin to talk through the stigma of intra-faith marriages.

Beyond the three days of action from November 16-18, more SPEAK! events have been scheduled well into 2019.

The 2018 SPEAK! campaign has been timed to coincide with the International Day for Tolerance, but organisers hope that events will help people go beyond simply ‘tolerating’ one another.

“The idea of ‘tolerance' asks both too much and too little of us”, argues Mackay.

“Tolerance can hide the challenges between people and communities that are often grounded in real hurt or misunderstanding. It can also limit our hope for a future that embraces diversity and recognises that the greatest breakthroughs often follow the deepest conflicts.”

The true test of the campaign’s success will not only be seen across the 72 hours of events, but in the extent to which people continue to “speak with” each other in the days, weeks and months to come.


For more information or to arrange interviews with event organisers, please contact:

Nic Mackay

SPEAK! Campaign Coordinator

For a full list of campaign events, click here


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