Masterclass on Leadership organised by DTALK- 7th June 2011

If We Were Brave…

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General - CIVICUS

“NGOs should be involved in renegotiating the social contract, joining with states and markets to redefine what kind of society we want nationally and globally.”

NGO leaders in 2010 faced a particularly challenging year with an extreme pushback against  civil  society  almost  everywhere  in  the  world. The World  Economic  Forum (Davos) earlier in 2011 concluded that the world was in no shape to face further major risks. 

Two  conditions  -  economic  disparity  and  global  governance  failures     -  were highlighted particularly as risks that could cause a domino effect of contagion. Despite traditional religious, tribal, or political  divides between people, the main conflict was increasingly between relatively impoverished people  anywhere and those who were responsible for the world economic meltdown in the first place.



The ultimate conclusion from Davos was that there wasn’t any global forum or working methodology to resolve global crises.  The vacuum would have to be counterbalanced with  a  well-informed,  well-mobilsed  global  public  opinion  that  shared  norms  and values of global citizenship.

  Where  were  development  NGOs  in  this  process?  They  were  battling  the  “triple whammy” of a severe resource crunch, increased demand for their services and shifting geopolitics whereby  governments were reluctant to “call out” other governments for abuses such as human rights abuses.

Self-imposed factors as well limited their influence for change: the idea that rationality would prevail  among governments; losing their independence through becoming too embedded in the corridors of power; or organisations become comfortable doing what they’d always done rather than seeking new radical options.

Then 2011 happened and in the space of a few short weeks, the world had changed dramatically.   There was the emergence of a new belief that things could change and that this change could only come about with citizen action, led by a re-politicisation of young people in particular.  These changes include:

-    growing global support for government by consent vs. government by control
-     the realisation that civil society enjoys higher trust levels than any other sector of society.
-     real change came about about because of human political processes more than traditional technocratic solutions

The international NGO community were too myopic to foresee the effects of this shift in political consciousness and engagement. Now, for the first time ever NGO leaders are in the unique position of being able to define the future rather than just reacting to it.  A key question is, what do they want to do with that opportunity?