UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Clément Voule meets with civil society to discuss threats to rights

 

More than 80 representatives of civil society organisations, community leaders and academics met in Johannesburg on 30-31 May and on 3 June with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, Clément Voule to discuss the impact of restrictions on freedom of assembly and association on sustainable development. Participants discussed the relationship between human rights and development and how governments perceived the two as separate from each other.  Participants were of the view that the targeting of civil society organisations using a range of restrictions slows down the attainment of development outcomes. That there are existing tensions around the rise of authoritarian models and development and that over the last decade countries like China and Rwanda have experienced some levels of economic growth despite the fact that they are under authoritarian leaders.  Other key insights from participants:

 

ICSW 2019, New Board, Opportunities: Updates from Lysa John, CIVICUS SG

 

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For those of us who were in Belgrade a few weeks ago, it is hard to think of April as anything but the culmination of months of preparation towards the International Civil Society Week (ICSW). Themed around the ‘Power of Togetherness’, the ICSW brought together over 700 international delegates from 92 countries to engage with dialogues and actions organised by 42 event partners across 8-12 April. Events on the ground were accompanied a stream of media and online commentary aimed at profiling relevant issues beyond the event.

 

How ICSW empowered me to become a better activist

How ICSW empowered me to become a better activist

By Augustine Macarthy, Sierra Leone

AugustineLast month, I had the opportunity to attend International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW). It was a turning point for me, as my participation gave me the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with brilliant civil society representatives from every corner of the world. The event built my skills and gave me access to tools and resources that will effectively steer my future work.

Firstly, this year’s theme, “The Power of Togetherness,” helped me better understand the relevance and impact of collaboration. Building alliances with other civil society actors, stakeholders and community members which will contribute towards a sustainable civil space and strengthen our interventions. Collaboration and co-creation are key in responding to some of the pressing challenges we face as activists.

ICSW 2019 also helped me realize the scope of the challenges facing civil society in an increasingly restrictive civic space. Activists have it harder than ever: according to the CIVICUS Monitor, nearly six in ten countries globally are severely impeding on people’s freedom to protest, engage in activism and defend human rights. In this context, collaboration is key. Working together will be essential in   ensuring respect to civic space. This event has inspired me to keep the momentum and continue promoting civic freedoms. Human rights are fundamental and universal, and defending them is crucial in order to  initiate changes and address social issues.

As per the sessions, one that turned out to be particularly useful for me was organized by Bridge47. Under the title “Global Citizenship Education: the Power of Sharing Power,” the event inspired me with new ideas and resources for collaboration. Moreover, this session introduced me to the concept of Global Citizenship Education, a transformative approach meant to develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed for a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world. Since I am involved in an education, peacebuilding and youth organization, becoming acquainted with this concept has been a crucial development, and I will definitely use the learnings from this session to improve our strategies.

One of the most inspirational stories I heard came from Dessy Aliandrina, Executive Director at Sociopreneur Indonesia. Dessy uses entrepreneurship and innovation to boost the creativity of the young generation in Indonesia. Through education and experimentation, her organization fosters an environment where future entrepreneurial leaders can thrive and create the jobs that are required to solve people’s problems. This is a fundamental undertaking: not only does Dessy help ensure the availability of crucial skills to tackle important challenges, but she also plays an important role in training Indonesian youth to boost their self-reliance and realize their potential.

Furthermore, my organization Movement towards Education and Youth Empowerment-Sierra Leone was one of the six partners that helped plan the Youth Assembly, which took place the weekend before ICSW in Novi Sad, Serbia. As a planning team member, I had the privilege of working for four months with a group of very bright youth leaders from across the world. We were tasked with designing a program that would strengthen young activists’ skills to become resilient against threats and more effective in responding to other challenges. This not only gave all of us the opportunity to share ideas ahead of the event, but it also enhanced my ability to take action, use my creativity, and improve my communication skills.

As a young changemaker, I will employ all this knowledge and skills and I will tap into the networks I contacted during the event. My community is experiencing pressing humanitarian crises, and the strategies we develop to respond to them will be largely informed by learnings from ICSW 2019.

If you would like to connect with Augustine, you can find him on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webinar: Youth for Diversity

On 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), we will hosted a Youth for Diversity webinar under the theme "South-South experiences on the human rights of LGBTIQ+ youth."

The webinar brought together a panel of young activists from 4 regions in the Global South: Asia, Africa, Middle East and North Africa and the Pacific. Followingn this year's IDAHOBIT theme: Justice & Protection for All, the focus was to share insights into specific situations that young LGBTIQ+ communities experience, including the state of human rights and civil society engagement in their regions.

The webinar went hand in hand with the Youth for Diversity Statement presented at one of the plenaries at CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week in April. If you have not read and signed the statement yet, you may do so here.

The panel explored how inclusion and diversity can ensure objectives are met or exceeded in civil society initiatives. Discussions were centered around the following questions:

- Programming, interventions and solutions; how do we ensure we leave no one behind?
- Practices and resourcing of inclusion and diversity.
- What can come of South-South exchange, learning and collaboration?
- The middle ground: how best do we move from passive ally-ship to meaningful partnership?

Watch the full webinar below.

 

Why don’t we get a say at the UN?

By Caroline Vernaillen, Democracy International

Capture decran 2019 05 21 a 12.05.45When it comes to global issues, citizens have to trust that their governments will do their bidding. But what if our governments, willingly or accidentally, overlook an issue that is important to us? As citizens, our options to take influence on the global stage are limited. Together with Democracy Without Borders, we at Democracy International are launching an initiative to help remedy that. We need a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that allows citizens to table something at the UN General Assembly if they can gather enough support. I had the honor of presenting our idea at the CIVICUS International Civil Society Week in Belgrade, Serbia.

In the past months, young people all over the world have been cutting school to protest against global warming. Week after week, they implore their political leaders take urgent action on climate change. But the overall political response has been indifference at best. In Belgium, the country I’m from, the Flemish Minister for Environment in an unheard-of outburst of vitriol, alleged that the protests were an “orchestrated conspiracy” against her. She has had to step back for proffering that lie, but what hasn’t been rectified is her insistence that Belgium is doing everything it can to prevent global warming. And this seems to be the fate of climate marches in many places: citizens are turning out in huge numbers to urge their governments to act, but governments insist they can’t do more.

The appropriate arena to deal with an issue of the magnitude of climate change would be the United Nations (UN). The institution was built to collectively deal with global issues and is the most important hub of international politics. But here’s the thing: at the UN we are represented by our governments.

Now, I may agree with 90% of what my government works towards at the UN, but if climate change happens to fall under the 10% where I feel that I’m not represented. Going on the growing crowds at demonstrations everywhere, I’m probably not the only one. The UN at least is aware of this issue and has made efforts to include civil society in some of its deliberations, but individual citizens remain markedly voiceless at the UN.

With a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that would allow individuals who’ve gathered enough support to table a proposal at the UN General Assembly, citizens would be allowed to complement member states’ proposals with issues that they feel are missing. This is not a radical idea – instruments like this exist in numerous countries and even in other trans-national institutions. Since the entry-into-force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2012, EU citizens have the possibility to propose legislation to the EU Commission through the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). If a group of citizens manages to gather one million signatures in at least seven EU member states, the Commission has to respond to their proposal. Now, the ECI is far from perfect: it’s not well-known, very few initiatives succeed and those that do often don’t see concrete follow-up. But it’s a start and it has proven to be a useful tool for civil society and citizens alike to put their issues on the EU’s agenda.

CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week was the perfect place to pitch our idea for the first time and the response we received was incredibly encouraging. So many people came up to us to tell they liked the idea of a mechanism like this one, that it could be useful for their work. And this is exactly what we hope for: the introduction of a democratic tool that empowers citizens and civil society alike and includes them as important stakeholders in global decision-making.

So, we’re gearing up to launch a campaign for a UN World Citizens’ Initiative. We’ve asked two legal experts to look into the technicalities of the tool and we’ve started building a broad, global coalition of civil society organizations who support this idea. But, much like anything else in this world, we can’t do this alone, so if this sounds interesting to you, we need you: Go to our website, sign up for our updates, write us, join us!

 

25 years later, looking back at my CIVICUS journey

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by Anabel Cruz, Board Chair 2016-2019

Anabel Cruz Action ShotIn early 1993, democracy was rather “young” in many parts of the world. Only less than four years had passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall; Apartheid had not yet been totally dismantled and the first elections in South Africa held with universal suffrage were to happen the year after, in 1994. At the same time, the early nineties saw several countries in Latin America taking their first steps towards elected democracies, after more than a decade of military dictatorships.

Internet did not exist yet, and global communications were something at least very new, slow and difficult. Only one year earlier, in 1992, a professor of sociology at the University of Aberdeen had described globalisation as the compression of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of the world as a whole.

So, in that context, isn’t it really admirable that a group of individuals, from diverse regions and parts of the world, came together to found CIVICUS, as a global alliance of civil society organisations? Those visionaries defined the mission of the new Alliance as: “to strengthen citizen action and influence, based on the underlying principle that free and effective societies exist in direct proportion to their degree of citizen participation and influence." (CIVICUS Organising Committee, minutes Lisbon meeting January 1993).

Today, more than 25 years later, this mission is still valid and current, and it is also our permanent challenge. Freedom, participation and solidarity remain as one of our basic goals and fundamental values.

My 25-year journey with CIVICUS

As I reflect on my own journey with CIVICUS, a series of images come to my mind, and I relive my first contacts with CIVICUS like one of those high-speed movies. I learned of the new organisation in the first months of 1993: while helping to consolidate local democracy, civil society organisations in Latin America were seeking new international horizons and collaborations.

I never imagined that my visit to Independent Sector in Washington DC, at that moment hosting the recently founded Alliance, would result in such a long-lasting and enduring relationship. For the last 25 years, I have had the privilege of following and participating in CIVICUS history, its achievements, challenges, strategies and course corrections, from diverse positions: I have been a member, a partner, a Board member, the Chair of Board in two different opportunities.

One of CIVICUS first successful steps was probably its first international meeting. Soon after the organisation was founded, in 1995, the first CIVICUS World Assembly took place in Mexico City: 500 people from more than 50 different countries came together to learn about the new organisation and to have conversations on how to strengthen citizen action and cooperation opportunities. Since that moment, 16 global events have been organised in all parts of the world, global gatherings for civil society to connect, debate and create shared solutions, now known as International Civil Society Week (ICSW). The most recent one, in Belgrade, Serbia happened just last month, and was a vibrant gathering attended by over 700 delegates from 92 countries.

From the very beginning, CIVICUS prioritised activities such as networking, information-gathering and building the capacity of existing and new national and regional associations. Consistent with this, the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) was one of CIVICUS’ first, and still enduring, programmes, bringing together national associations and regional platforms from around the world for more than 20 years to foster greater cooperation across boundaries.

Building civil society knowledge in a changing world

From its inception in 1993, CIVICUS has sought to make a significant contribution to recording the rise of civil society around the world, and to building a knowledge base on civil society by civil society. A first World Report on Citizen Participation came out as early as 1995, intended to get a grasp on the state of civil society worldwide. Later in 1997 The New Civic Atlas was published, as a compilation of civil society profiles from 60 countries around the world. In order to provide consistency with regard to the issues covered and a more rigorous comparative framework and after a number of consultations, in 1999 CIVICUS was ready to launch a new idea, the Civil Society Index (CSI).

I remember so well the words of former CIVICUS Secretary General Kumi Naidoo, reporting years later that participants of the CSI consultations had described the project as “an exercise in madness,” especially due to the lack of data on civil society in most countries, and the contested definition of civil society that would not allow comparisons or global analysis. But CIVICUS challenged the paradigms once again and the so-called Diamond Tool was presented in the CIVICUS World Assembly in Manila, as the preliminary methodological design for the CSI project.

Subsequently, CIVICUS developed a fully-fledged project design and the CSI had its pilot phase from 2000 to 2002, with the CSI implemented in 13 countries. The evaluation of the pilot phase recommended modifications in the methodology and considered the Index project as “an innovative, contextually flexible, empowering and uniquely participatory tool for self-assessment by civil society stakeholders of the state of civil society in their countries” Two full phases followed, from 2003 to 2006, with the participation of 53 countries, and from 2008 to 2011, with the CSI implemented in 56 countries and also at regional level in six African countries.

The results of the decade of CSI implementation yielded an enormous contribution to the body of knowledge about civil society around the world. The world was changing very fast, new actors burst onto the scene: The Indignados Movement in Madrid, the student protests in Chile and in other countries, the Arab Spring, all these new started to rise in late 2010 with peaks during 2011 and 2012. The CSI findings were clear and very well oriented, pointing out a noticeable disconnect between established civil society organisations and the increasing number of citizens involved in both new and traditional forms of activism. It does not come as surprise that the final CSI report title was “Bridging the gaps: citizens, organisations and dissociations” (2011) and concluded that the CSI needed to evolve to encompass the changing landscape.

Conditions for civil society proved to be volatile and can change very rapidly, so information cannot be out of date. Indeed, more agile tools were needed, without compromising the rigor that characterized the CSI tool, in order to continue providing a leading barometer of that human impulse to freedom, justice and collective endeavour.

CIVICUS has listened and has tried to respond to the changing situations and the multiple demands. The State of Civil Society Report, published annually since 2013 and the CIVICUS Monitor launched in 2016, are part of that necessary evolution. The State of Civil Society Report has become CIVICUS' flagship annual publication, providing the key trends affecting civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizen movements. Furthermore, the CIVICUS Monitor is a research tool aimed to share reliable, up-to-date data on the state of civil society freedoms in all countries. Danny Sriskandarajah, our Secretary General from 2012 to 2018, defined the CIVICUS Monitor as “the first robust and comprehensive tool to track conditions for civil society around the world”.

The road ahead…

CIVICUS is indeed one of the few organisations whose main job is to protect and promote civil society writ large, all over the world. And in the years to come, no doubt that CIVICUS will continue listening to our members, partners, to our primary constituencies and will always be ready to innovate, will work hard to understand realities to defend civic and democratic freedoms, to strengthen the power of people, and to empower a more accountable and innovative civil society.

As we prepare to address new challenges, we are fortunate to find ourselves in a position of strength at CIVICUS: with a stable financial base, a committed and diverse board, a broad and growing membership and a talented secretariat team led by Lysa John, our inspiring new Secretary General. We have the best conditions to continuing strengthening citizen participation around the world.

As I step down from the Board soon, I can only say how privileged and grateful I feel. Thank you for the opportunity of having served for so many years, for all the learnings, for the love and friendship that I have received, for having met the most committed people to justice that can exist. CIVICUS is about shared values, solidarity and inclusion. I will always be a champion for those values. Thank you CIVICUS!

Anabel Cruz

Chair of the Board of CIVICUS 2016-2019

 

With mentoring and incentives, CSOs venture into raising key resources and support at home

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By Yessenia Soto, Community Engagement Officer on Civil Society Resourcing, CIVICUS

The Change the Game Academy provides classroom training on local fundraising to CSOs.

It’s something that many in the development and civil society sector have been painfully aware of for several years now. But the reality is hitting home harder than ever.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) – government aid designed primarily to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries – is steadily decreasing. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently announced that ODA fell almost 3% from 2017, with even larger reductions for developing countries. As foreign aid has long been a significant source of funding for southern CSOs, this news reminds us that civil society can’t rely on it in the long term, so, those who haven’t started diversifying their resource base, should do it now.

“There will be an end to foreign funding, at least as we now know it,” said Robert Wiggers, manager of programs and policy development at the Dutch Wilde Ganzen Foundation (WGF), during one of several panels about the financial sustainability of civil society held at the International Civil Society Week convened in Serbia from April 8-12. At ICSW, various organizations shared why and, most importantly, how CSOs can leverage more support, money and other resources in their own countries and communities to face financial pressures and gradually lessen dependence on ODA and other foreign aid.

“This is more than a funding alternative, highlighted Wiggers. “CSOs that mobilise their own resources locally get closer to their communities and the people they serve, gain independence from donors, have more control of their own development and feel even more empowered to hold their governments accountable.”

There is a wide consensus about the power of local resources to boost the financial sustainability, legitimacy, ownership and independence of CSOs. Even in a world with endless supplies of international assistance, weaning civil society off it should be the goal. But how can a small community organisation or one that has always relied on foreign aid start fundraising “at home” and on their own?

Agencies, associations, and foundations like the WGF are providing special training, mentoring sessions, online learning platforms, campaigning support and even dedicated grants to prepare CSOs for this journey. And the results are encouraging.

For example, the WGF partnered with the Smile Foundation from India, the Kenya Development Foundation and Brazil’s CESE, to create the Change the Game Academy, an innovative blended-learning program specially designed for civil society organisations that provides both online and classroom training on local fundraising, lobby and advocacy to hold governments and duty bearers accountable through civic participation.

The classroom training is delivered in a total of six months by local certified trainers. It includes individual coaching sessions to implement a fundraising plan and uses materials adapted to country contexts. The online platform contains 11 interactive modules of e-learning available in four languages, plus 40 toolkits and 88 inspiring success stories, all freely accessible and free of charge.  

More than 800 small NGOs and community based organisations have been trained through the Change the Game Academy in fourteen low- and middle-income countries. They intend to implement this initiative in four more countries this year.

In the Balkans, there is a similar initiative called the Sustainability Academy, created by the SIGN Network, a group of indigenous grantmakers who support the sustainable development of local communities and civil society. This academy focuses mostly on CSOs at a grassroots level, which have an annual budget of less than 10,000 euros, on average.

Their training program covers strategic planning, financial sustainability, networking, local fundraising techniques and campaign development, and is delivered in three modules over six months. At the end of the third module, the organisations receive small technical grants to implement their fundraising campaigns for four to six months. When the campaign is over and they meet their goal, the SIGN Network provides 100% matching grants.

“We have had very successful examples where, through our training and accompaniment, small organisations managed to fundraise even half of their annual budget and developed relationships with many local donors,” said Biljana Dakic, director of the Trag Foundation, a SIGN network member. “And most of them consolidated their causes and work in their communities, which brings invaluable support.”

Since 2014, the Sustainability Academy has supported over 100 CSOs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro.

CISU - Civil Society in Development, an association of Danish CSOs with members engaged in development work in Asia, Africa and Latin America, is also providing knowledge, training tools and assistance for local resource mobilisation in these regions. Additionally, they offer a co-funding modality through which the local CSOs can access 4-year grants if they leverage a small percentage of the total grant, explained Souad Bourrid, advisor at CISU.

Together, these opportunities have been key to reducing the initial resistance and fear that keep some organisations from exploring and testing new resourcing avenues.

“Many organisations still think that the only way to get funds is applying for donor grants. So, when we approach them about leveraging local support, they are skeptic and don’t believe is possible. But those who receive the training and try it, see how many more doors open to them and end up very thankful for the push,” emphasized Bourrid.

Besides strengthening skills, many civil society networks and coalitions (including CIVICUS) around the world are also advocating the need to create or improve other crucial conditions for facilitating the mobilisation of domestic resources for civil society, including legal frameworks and incentives for local philanthropy, establishing alliances with the public and private sector, and promoting policies to support the financial sustainability of CSOs.

 

“Open Up The Space”: A call for inclusivity by CIVICUS Youth

Header image Open Up The Space by daisuke 1230 CC BY SAThe world is filled with injustice, hate speech, violence and oppression. Variant forms of power are exercised to police bodies, groups and human rights work in the interests of privilege. This should not reflect within spaces of advocacy and accountability.

Civil society should understand the importance of sharing power and enabling inclusion in a meaningful and uplifting manner. We as young people of diversity acknowledge and recognise the importance of having voices of vulnerability at the forefront of change. We need to redefine how we provide solutions and build togetherness. Everyone's area of influence should consider issues of displacement, migration, decolonisation, disability, albinism, indigenous origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics and mental wellbeing.

Young people are present and ready to steer the mantle of challenging the complex systems and ideologies that impede our progress. We are willing and able to ensure no one is left behind.

At the Youth Assembly of International Civil Society Week 2019, many topics about youth empowerment were discussed among delegates. We were particularly interested in collaborating to identify ways to bring forward the narratives and concerns as young people of diverse identities. We hence call upon civil society organizations, donor and funding agencies, youth-led and youth-serving organizations and especially, CIVICUS member organizations to:

1) Continue engaging young people and enhancing civil society organizing without discrimination of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religious belief, political affiliation and any other social, economic, cultural or political identity.

2) Target the most vulnerable groups, including youth and LGBTIQ, to ensure equity and not just equality in achieving your programming.

3) Provide resource for youth-led marginalized organizations at country level without pre-empting and restricting

4) Open up the space, in anyway you can,by listening, linking and learning to/with/about the most marginalised in society.

5) Broaden your perspective in sharing these elite/exclusive spaces because the voices that are not in the room is likely to be most affected

Sign the call by filling in this form.

 

This call was endorsed by the following youth activists at the Youth Assembly:

Justin Francis Bionat - Youth Voices Count, Philippines

Amanda Segnini - Engajamundo

Dariele Santos - Brazil

Nini Oñate - DAKILA, Philippines

Marijoy Liwag - Commission on Human Rights PH

Wilson Villones - ANSA East Asia and the Pacific, Philippines

Peng - China

Natasha - India

Malebo- South Africa

Nikhil Taneja - India

Oliver Andreevski - CYA Krik, North Macedonia

Jelena Mitrovic, Serbia, Youth Worker, Board member of National Youth Council of Serbia

Fouzi Mathey, France, Yes! For humanity

Alan Jarandilla Nuñez, IYAFP

Wiem Chamsi, Tunisia YAT CIVICUS

Cynthia Muhonja, Kenya Life Lifters

Vandita Morarka, One Future Collective

Ximena Arrieta, Mexico

Joseph Kagabo, Rwanda

Dumiso Gatsha, Success Capital NGO, Botswana

Dessy - Indonesia

Tracey Martin - Plan International, United Kingdom

Ripley Wang - Beijing Gender

Christine - Jordan

Sohou Enagnon Brice, Bénin

Karin Watson, Chile

Kalisito Biaukula , Fiji

Abdul Mufeez Shared, Fiji

Jasmina Golubovska, Republic of North Macedonia

 

Photo by daisuke1230 (CC-BY-SA)

 

The Power of Art in Activism

By Mohammad Issa, Yes Theatre, Palestine, CIVICUS Voting Organisation Member

Some people say that our world is a mess right now. Others predict that it could be worse. This depends on who you are and what it is your vision for the future.

Yes TheatreIn the light of the ever-growing list of challenges, the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019 taken place in Belgrade - the Capital of Serbia. CIVICUS and other partners have mobilized a group of 900 activists to address the shrinking space for civil society.

I had the pleasure to represent my country (Palestine) and contribute effectively to this global debate. The shrinking space is not only connected with civil society in Palestine. It is more connected with the space that people use to live in. I was not really interested to share with ICSW participants stories about my country.

I was there to convince activists that art is a part of the fabric of our societies. It is a tool that could be used by anyone to convey strong messages and resonate with large audiences. It is the context that makes our work more creative and understandable by others, especially the people with fewer opportunities.

In our world today, we have a lot of things that connect us. Art is one of the main methods that make us inter-connected. This interconnection was very clear in the workshop that I delivered: “DramaNass” was a professional journey to accompany activists while they were discovering a new theatre methodology called Youth-Quake. This methodology is unique in that it gathered the energy and commitment of 14 activists to foster new dialogue necessary to encourage people to take an active role in order to work together and address the shrinking of civil society.

Participant activists went through a simulated exercise that use drama exercises, music, painting and theatre in a creative way to activate people and mobilize resources in oppressed contexts. The main slogan of this process is: “Art is everywhere in our daily life. Art connects us to others. It is the best way to support people in raising up their voices and achieve the social change that they are looking for”.

The workshop participants came from different countries. They had different academic and professional backgrounds but they were unified thanks to the power of art. Art was able to unify them and gather them to achieve one vision and same goals.

 

A Belgrade en Serbie, PJUD-BENIN ONG parle de la redevabilité au service de la démocratie béninoise.

Par DJOWAMON  A. Cyrille, PJUD - Promotion Jeunesse Unie pour le Développement, Benin ; organisation membre votante de CIVICUS

Cyrille 1La semaine internationale de la civile (the international civil society week ICSW) s’est déroulée du 06 au 12 avril 2019 à Belgrade en Serbie sous le thème : «Le Pouvoir de la Solidarité». Elle a donné l’occasion aux organisations, aux défenseurs des droits humains et aux activistes d’explorer les moyens par lesquels ils peuvent fédérer les efforts pour libérer le potentiel d’une l’action collective. Le programme de cette semaine constitué de plusieurs sessions a donné l’occasion à PJUD-BENIN ONG d’exposer ses actions sur la thématique de la redevabilité au Bénin. Autour du thème : « Government accountability towards Democracy and Rule of Law » le directeur exécutif de PJUD-BENIN ONG a partagé avec l’assistance constituée d’acteurs de la société civile mais également de partenaires techniques et financiers les efforts des OSC béninoises pour créer l’interaction entre les détenteurs de droits ou demandeurs de redevabilité et les débiteurs d’obligations qui offrent la recevabilité.

Cyrille 3Avec une démarche pédagogique, il a démontré que le recul des trois obstacles fondamentaux à la construction d’une bonne gouvernance et d’un État de droit que sont : la corruption, le clientélisme et la captation des marchés n’adviendra qu’avec l’appropriation du concept de redevabilité tant par les détenteurs de droits que par les débiteurs d’obligations. Pour lui, la corruption, le clientélisme et la captation des marchés sont des maux à combattre avec vigueur. En effet, la corruption, outre qu’elle enrichit directement des bureaucrates individuels, fausse les marchés et entrave la fourniture du service.

Le clientélisme, outre qu’il canalise de manière inéquitable des ressources publiques vers des groupes de clients spécifiques, altère les dynamiques de la compétition politique et mène à une fourniture inefficace du service public. Enfin La captation, outre qu’elle fournit des rentes à des acteurs économiques spécifiques, altère elle aussi grandement les marchés et aggrave la position des consommateurs, travailleurs et l’environnement entrepreneurial. Il a, pour conclure invité à une action à l’endroit de la jeunesse qui doit faire un parcours initiatique dans l’apprentissage de la responsabilité, de la culture de la vérité et du refus de la corruption sous toutes ses formes.        

 

Power of Togetherness Never Ends

Strengthening Civil Society Membership Platform

By Sin Putheary, Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, AGNA and CIVICUS voting organizational memberPutheary

Coming from the largest and longest established membership-based organization in Cambodia, I have a privilege to be part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Belgrade, Serbia while several other colleagues of civil society are not able to physically present themselves at the conference due to visa issues. However, this cannot stop us from moving together.

Strengthening Membership Platform for CSO Effectiveness, 29 year-experience from Cambodia context, is one of the buzz sessions I shared during the event. At the same time, participants also exchanged their experiences of civil society in Finland, France, U.S.A, Argentina, West Africa and Cuba. The discussion showed that our challenges are similar particularly the claiming for civic space.

Facing many obstacles on space, CSO realized the importance of working together in the collaborative manner. The power of common voice brought so many great examples of positive change in the region. At the meantime, the critical question on representation of CSO in policy discussion with the government remains unanswered for decades.

My observation through the discussion is that the risk is not just CSO as an institution, but it threatens to individual CSO staff mainly advocacy and human rights defenders. Since the adoption of Declaration on human rights defenders in 1998, the estimated 1,000 human rights defenders lost their lives in the cause of their work. It is a sad story, but I still believe that CSO has a home grown, and other members, partners, and networks of CSO are not static. Therefore, the dynamic of joining efforts will bring the success near.

One of the lessons learned from the event I noted is that CSO need reassess our function in society. Additionally, CSO also require a long-term vision, clear strategy, and flexible tactic to ensure their effective role in responding to the need of the people. These cannot happen by working alone, but together.

Throughout more than ten years working for civil society sector, I found out that dialogue on membership platform is beyond the classical NGOs meetings. It spiritually builds a momentum of hope and solidarity among CSO although they are coming from different colors, ages, social status and political view.

 

CIVICUS Accountability’s journey – some updates! 

Have you been wondering what’s up withCIVICUS’ accountability actions? Are you looking for examples and opportunities to strengthen your own organisation’s accountability or connect with others to take more concrete accountability steps? Then, this blog is for you!

 

Delivering emergency help for targeted activists is easier said than done

 By Lesego Moshikaro and Yessenia Soto

Imagine you lead a non-profit feminist organisation in Egypt.

IMG 4328Your work involves empowering women and lobbying the government to respect and protect their rights. In repressive Egypt, the authorities don’t like what you’re doing, and they want it to stop. So, they attack you – hitting you with a travel ban, freezing all your assets and charging you with receiving illegal foreign funding for your civil society organisation (CSO), which could lead to life in prison if you’re found guilty by Egypt’s notoriously biased courts. In aggressive and threatening interrogations, officials pressure you to shut down your CSO ‘voluntarily’, or things could get worse for you. 

Photo: Activists, civil society organisations and emergency fund managers during the “Resource the resistance” convening at ICSW 2019.

 

Hacia la construcción de nuestra Política Institucional de Rendición de Cuentas

Por Gloria Gonzalez Navarro y Enrique Blanco Lozada (Asociación Kusi Warma)

Los cambios o impactos sociales suelen estar acompañados de adversidades de nuestro ambiente, las cuales evidentemente deben ser enfrentadas con esfuerzo. Esfuerzo que caracteriza a las grandes y pequeñas organizaciones que tienen como objetivo común: el generar cambios positivos.

Kusi Warma, ONG de Perú que tiene como misión principal dar voz a los niños y niñas en situaciones poco ventajosas, no es la excepción a lo anteriormente mencionado. Es por ello que ha emprendido el emocionante camino hacia la construcción de su PIRC (Política Institucional de Rendición de Cuentas) como parte de la iniciativa Resilient Roots. Para ello el equipo del proyecto tuvo que seguir una serie de pasos iniciales que incluyó talleres de diagnóstico y devolución con la población con la que trabajaría los siguientes meses. Dicha población estuvo conformada por niños y niñas; sin embargo, debido a la relevancia y el papel que representan, también se trabajó con profesores y padres de familia.

Producto de los talleres se pudo recoger propuestas, tanto de profesores y padres como de los niños y niñas. La mayoría consideró oportuno que se brindara más información sobre el propósito de Kusi Warma en su comunidad, a pesar que muchos ya tenían conocimiento de nuestra misión y objetivos, se sentían interesados en recibir más información e involucrarse más en sus actividades institucionales.

Con la sugerencia y posterior aceptación por parte de la población involucrada, en febrero 2019 se inició el proceso de construcción de la PIRC utilizando el teatro como herramienta pedagógica. Los talleres se llevarán adelante durante 7 meses, incluyendo 4 sesiones y una puesta en escena cada mes. Para esto, cada sesión se dividió en dos, un primer grupo compuesto por niños y niñas entre 10 y 16 años; y otro compuesto por madres de la comunidad..

El inicio del taller en la Comunidad 12 de Diciembre, realizado el 12 de febrero de 2019, fue bien recibido por los niños y niñas por lo novedoso que era participar de un taller de teatro, experiencia que hasta el momento era totalmente lejana para ellos. Con el pasar de las sesiones el grupo de niños aumentó y lo que inició con 20 participantes terminó superando por poco la expectativa inicial de 30.

En el caso de las madres, se observó cierta reserva y vergüenza a participar en lo que entendían como “teatro”. Se logró mantener un grupo de 10 participantes activas que abrazaron el espacio íntimo y de libertad que el taller significaba para ellas. Pudimos ver cómo, según ellas, tenían un espacio en el cual escapaban de la cotidianidad de su vida y podían desenvolverse cada vez de forma más natural.

Llegó el fin de mes y, con ello, la puesta en escena de ambos talleres. Los niños prepararon de forma colectiva un guion que explicaba “Qué es Kusi Warma” y las madres, también de forma colectiva, crearon un guion referente al Día Internacional de la Mujer.

Aunque la previa se llenó de nerviosismo y un poco de temor a presentarse frente a toda la comunidad, ello pudo ser superado por la emoción que sintieron de poder expresar y transmitir lo que habían creado. Luego de esta primera presentación nos quedamos con la satisfacción de percibir que los niños y niñas de la comunidad tienen una imagen positiva del trabajo de Kusi Warma, dejando claro que para ellos representa diversión, salud, educación y una familia feliz. Del mismo modo, las madres dejaron claro que el impacto de una organización como Kusi Warma en la comunidad es algo que brinda más que ayuda, brinda una voz.

Es justamente la voz de todas las personas a las que Kusi Warma se dirige, la que queremos escuchar, recoger y transformar en acción a través de nuestra PIRC. Es por ello que en las próximas presentaciones, luego de la puesta en escena, vamos a facilitar un espacio de reflexión y participación a fin de recoger las opiniones del público sobre cómo desean participar en la gestión de Kusi Warma, tanto en sus proyectos como en su organización, y cómo desean que les rindamos cuentas. Este desafío fortalecerá los lazos de confianza y respeto mutuo, lo cual nos hará una organización más resiliente, porque nuestra fuerza y legitimidad estará en la población a la que dirigimos nuestra acción, más empoderada y comprometida, para juntos afrontar las adversidades que se presenten.

 

The power of togetherness: standing against the shrinking space for action

By Laura Brown, Movement and Network Capacity Manager at Womankind Worldwide

Last week I attended the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) conference in Belgrade hosted by CIVICUS. The conference was an opportunity for civil society organisations to discuss and generate solutions to the most pressing challenges affecting their ability to realise their human rights, sustain democratic values and achieve lasting impact.

 

Collaboration as currency, key to stop FGM in 5 communities in Nigeria

FRENCH

Director

We are happy to start a new edition of #StoriesOfResilience, which will feature several civil society groups and activists on their journey to creatively mobilise meaningful resources and support to sustain their work.

Today, Dolapo Olaniyan, Director of The UnCUT Initiative, shares why collaboration could be the new currency for civil society organisations that are facing funding constraints.

Last February, five communities in Asa village, located in the Osun state, South West Nigeria, unanimously and publicly agreed to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – a harmful, cruel and extremely discriminatory practice recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, but that is still common in some countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This is a big victory in a country where FGM affects 25% women (aged 15-49). It was also a victory for us at The UnCUT Initiative, an organisation focused on ending female genital mutilation across high risk communities in Nigeria by 2030, as the public “abandonment ceremony” was the culmination of work started in October 2018.

 

As India goes to to the polls, will the people vote against the ‘politics of hate’

 

By Alina Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)

Womens March3 4 April 2019In just under a week, the world’s largest democracy, India, will vote to elect and constitute the 17th Lok Sabha. According to the Election Commission (EC) of India, nearly 900 million voters will be eligible to vote for representatives to the lower house or the Lok Sabha of the bicameral Indian Parliament. Voting will begin on 11th April and be held in seven phases till 19th May, 2019 across 543 constituencies. The EC has also declared 23rd May, 2019 the day of counting and results.

 

How resilient are our pilot partners to civic space threats?

 

By Soulayma Mardam Bey and Jack Cornforth, CIVICUS

In recent years, “Resilience” has made its way into international development’s buzzword bingo board. Yet despite its increasing popularity, the concept often remains poorly understood. In this article, and during our upcoming Resilient Roots event at ICSW 2019 (Wednesday afternoon ), we will take a closer look at what this concept means for civil society organisations in the context of closing civic space.

 

The quest for resilience

By  Patricia Deniz, Senior Research and Development Officer CIVICUS 

Civil society, more than ever, is in dire need to reinvent itself, at least figure out how to be flexible, adaptable and resurgent in an ever-changing, uncertain and increasingly restrictive environment. Sustaining the status quo or surviving a crisis are no longer sufficient in contexts in which change happens unpredictably and drastically, requiring innovative responses to old problematics and new complex challenges. Instead, civil society aspires to becoming resilient, a term well known in the environmental and humanitarian spheres that is yet to be further analysed and explored in the CSO world.   

 

"Stubbornly optimistic": Reflections from Lysa John, CIVICUS SG

FRANÇAIS

It has been a little over 60 days since I took on my new role with CIVICUS and the question I get asked most frequently is: How does it feel to be SG? Fortunately, this query has an easy answer! It involves being reminded on a daily basis of the need to celebrate and reinforce efforts taken to defend and strengthen rights-based values and freedoms by individuals and organisations worldwide. It also involves being stubbornly optimistic about our ability as civil society to demonstrate greater accountability and impact, while continuing to learn from each other and from unconventional champions of the causes we believe in!

 

“La inclusión es una ilusión”

English | French 

Ochoa Ayala, Fundación 11:11, México

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¿A quién no le gusta sentir que pertenece a un lugar, comunidad, espacio, algo? El sentido de pertenencia tiene que ver con la identidad que cada individuo va desarrollando a lo largo de su vida, da una muestra de quienes somos; por ejemplo yo, soy una mujer, joven, mexicana, activista, soñadora etc., es como me identifico y las palabras que elegí para describirme hacen que me conecte con personas afines.

Al ser una mujer joven mexicana activista soñadora encontré a CIVUCUS

“Una comunidad mundial de ciudadanas y ciudadanos informados, inspirados y comprometidos en el abordaje de los desafíos que enfrenta la humanidad.”[1]

Al leer su visón de inmediato supe que quería ser parte de esa comunidad y es que me sentí identificada, supe que al otro lado del planeta, en el hemisferio de a lado, existían personas con una visión muy similar a la mía, con la intención de cooperar y crear alianzas para que los problemas de la humanidad se combatieran de manera conjunta e unificando esfuerzos aislados.

Ingrese mis datos y cada semana me llegaba información sobre sus boletines, actividades y demás, hasta que un día llego un correo invitándome a la convocatoria “the Global Learning Exchange and AGM” en donde se hablarían temas de inclusión y diversidad en Montevideo, Urugay; Sin pensarlo mucho tome una decisión y apliqué, sin imaginar que acababa de abrir la puerta a una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida. Meses después me confirmaron que fui seleccionada y el 13 de diciembre me encontraba en un avión rumbo al intercambio de aprendizaje.

Fueron tres días donde hablamos sobre el significado de diversidad e inclusión, de entrada tanto las personas seleccionadas como los encargados de dirigir el intercambio teníamos diferentes nacionalidades, idiomas, aspecto, creencias e ideas pero eso no importo para intercambiar experiencias y crear conceptos nuevos, al interactuar entre nosotros le dimos vida y realidad a los conceptos de diversidad e inclusión, puesto que estás dos palabras no significan nada sino las llevas a la acción. Comprobamos de primera mano que las diferencias enriquecen las ideas y la disposición a escuchar da pie a la inclusión.

Juntos concluimos que la diversidad es la riqueza de lo diferente y la inclusión es la bienvenida de eso, dos conceptos que coexisten puesto que uno necesita de otro para fortalecer cada acción que realicemos en pro de la humanidad.

Antes de este encuentro veía a la diversidad e inclusión como una ilusión, tenía el anhelo de que en mi país existieran personas que fomentaran acciones de bienvenida a lo diferente, y es que ya llevaba un tiempo trabajando por ello pero no se materializaba.

Lamentablemente vivimos en una Era de discurso y poco accionar, las personas hablan de aceptación, las leyes de inclusión, pero en la realidad parece más una exclusividad de lo diferente, es decir, “si eres diferente júntate con los que son diferentes como tú” pero entonces ¿dónde está la inclusión? ¿Es una ilusión inalcanzable? CIVICUS respondió mi duda al integrarme a un equipo donde lo que imperaba eran las diferencias, pero aprendí que la disposición, el respeto, la humildad, el reconocimiento, son actitudes que cualquier ser humano puede tener con otro y al hacerlo se da la oportunidad de conocerlo e incluirlo a su mundo.

Recordemos que desde nuestra existencia pertenecemos a un mundo en el que todos coexistimos y al que todos tenemos la oportunidad aportar algo valioso.

Gracias CIVICUS por hacer mi ilusión realidad.

[1] https://www.civicus.org/index.php/es/quienes-somos/acerca-de-civicus

 

Decluttering Diversity and Inclusion

French | Spanish

By Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and CIVICUS member from the Philippines

‘What does Diversity and Inclusion means to you?’

046bc8d0 d141 45db 9af2 8f41668951b1This is a question I have been pondering (and decluttering) in the last few years and even until now. Growing up as a young, queer person from a poor, rural family in the Philippines, and now as a migrant worker in the United Kingdom, my vision of diversity and inclusion has been emerging. Today, I define it as a world where everyone knows and claim their rights in which human rights and justice are enjoyed without discrimination.

Global Learning Exchange

In December 2018, I was able to take part in an ambitious CIVICUS programme of work on diversity and inclusion mainstreaming and integration across the civic movement called Global Learning Exchange (GLE) held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The program made me build on and re-energised my commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to transform our ways of working to better meet our strategic aims.

It aimed to capitalise on the potential of diversity and inclusion across the CIVICUS movement and beyond: to create space for dialogue and peer-to-peer sharing among the participants; to identify effective approaches that can contribute to social justice; AND to strengthen ways of working, including sharing good practices as well as joint strategising, within the global CIVICUS CSO (Civil Society Organisations) network.

What have I learned?

In this learning journey towards a more accountable civil society sector, I have realised that we need to successfully challenge the inequality, structural oppression and intersectional discrimination which shapes our societies and is the primary cause of human rights violations. How effective we are in meeting these challenges will depend heavily on our own ability to understand these forces; to confront them and find ways to counteract their impact within the civil society movement and our ways of working; as well as meaningfully raising the voices of people who are marginalised around the world. Continually striving for excellence on how we mainstream and integrate diversity and inclusion in our work is therefore of fundamental importance to our aim of building a truly global movement for justice and human rights.

Highlights and Recommendations

In order to help implement this work that CIVICUS is doing, they gathered more than 15 informed and dynamic individuals who, through their experience and expertise, can help improve CIVICUS and partner CSOs’ culture, ways of working and impact so that we can better challenge structural inequalities and oppression, intersectional discrimination and demonising narratives. Hence the Global Learning Exchange (GLE) happened.

As one of the participants in the GLE, I hope the steps that would be undertaken as a result of this program will be guided by the overarching goals and principles of:

-promoting social justice and human rights

-recognising and making visible that different aspects of people’s identities and lives interact to structurally affect their experiences of discrimination, marginalisation, privilege, and power.

-making CIVICUS and other CSOs a better organisation to work with for staff, volunteers, and partners who experience systemic discrimination

-transformation, not tokenism

Overall, I would like to affirm the importance of CIVICUS’ efforts to improve its practices, culture, and outcomes with respect to diversity and inclusion, prioritising improvements related to their ways of working, governance, and areas of acute and chronic issues.

I didn’t expect the event to have this kind of positive effect on my personal life; it’s pretty cool to derive personal benefits from an advocacy project.

What’s next? Be involved?

Over the next few months, CIVICUS is piloting a network alliance on diversity and inclusion. This would entail regular calls or communication, providing some time and expertise on Diversity & Inclusion for civil society and working towards a common commitment of dynamic accountability and support. If you would like to discuss this program in more detail please contact: Suhani Bhushan on . We are hoping this will be a participative process from inception.

 

 

CIVICUS GLE Testimonial: Building communities for inclusive action

French | Spanish

by Vandita Morarka, One Future Collective, India

VanditaI was a participant at the Global Learning Exchange and the ensuing AGM held by CIVICUS in Montevideo, Uruguay, 16th December, 2018, onwards, representing One Future Collective.

As a participant I engaged in various discussions and actionable agenda items towards building the first step towards frameworks for inclusion and diversity. The representatives at the GLE in themselves were a stellar example of the beauty and massive knowledge exchange and learning that actual practise of diversity and inclusion can bring in.

 

Remise en question des structures verticales de prise de décisions dans le secteur des Organisations de la Société Civile (OSCs) à travers l'amélioration des pratiques de redevabilité

Par Gaetan Mertens (Accountability Lab) et Resilient Roots (CIVICUS)

Resilient Roots est une initiative de CIVICUS, menée en partenariat avec Keystone Accountability et Accountable Now. Il s’agit d’un projet ambitieux qui implique 15 organisations de la société civile basées dans des pays différents, comprenant deux organisations en Afrique francophone, et plus particulièrement en Mauritanie et au Bénin.

 

Sketching Dreams Together

Reflections From CIVICUS’ Youth Co-Design Workshop In Montevideo

By Gioel Gioacchino

GioelIn December, as part of my work researching the resourcing landscape for youth-led civil society, I had the chance to witness and participate in a youth co-design workshop in Montevideo. For CIVICUS, organising this workshop meant bringing together wisdom and lessons learned about working meaningfully with young people.

For a start, the group was small: it felt intimate. We were not coming together to listen to people speak about ‘participation’ and civil society – we were invited to call upon our experience and knowledge. The guidelines of our work were simple: We have a budget for a youth program, let’s design it together. It felt like a rare luxury, a treat, to be able to get together with young activists all over the world and create. With my researcher cap on, it was refreshing to see how collective creation emerged as a product of reflection, of bringing together our emotions, stories, and insights.

Originally appeared on Gioelgio.com

 

Inspired and Challenged: Message from Lysa John, CIVICUS SG

LysaFrench 

As I write this, I am heading into my second week as Secretary-General of CIVICUS – and each day has been an opportunity to understand a new dimension of this global alliance. Day one, for instance, was marked by a strong sense of celebration! Many of you – members, partners and allies of the CIVICUS Alliance – have shared messages of support and encouragement to do more to secure and strengthen the work of civil society worldwide. I very much look forward to collaborating with all of you in the coming year!

 

CIVICUS’ AGM comes to a close with an approved Annual Report and Solidarity Fund!

Spanish | French 

In December 2018, CIVICUS members from all over the world gather in Montevideo, Uruguay, to attend a multiplicity of convenings. This includes a board meeting, a youth co-design workshop and a global exchange on diversity and inclusion. Participants share cake and celebrations to mark CIVICUS’ 25 year anniversary.

CIVICUS Alliance also bid farewell to outgoing Secretary General, Danny Sriskandarajah, who reflects on his 6- year tenure as “a wonderful mix of change and constancy, of frustration and fulfillment, of pride and humility” in this blog post, and welcomes incoming SG Lysa John. 

All of this end of year activity culminates in the CIVICUS members AGM (annual general meeting), held at the Spanish International Cooperation Agency for Development. Members approve the  CIVICUS Annual Report, as well as the framework for a ground-breaking CIVICUS Solidarity Fund. Stay in touch early 2019 for more information!

Voting members unable to join physically participate online through the Virtual AGM, where they actively contribute to the discussions around  key agenda items and cast their votes. Many express their contentment to be able to take part remotely. “We are happy and are with you who are on site in Uruguay; CIVICUS governance is more democratic and the needs of members are taken into account; we receive all information related to the management of the Alliance and agree to vote for the Report submitted to the members.”

One of  the AGM highlights, is when each continent comes together to create  a slogan representing their solidarity. Asia envelops everyone in a giant hug saying that ‘no one is an outsider’, North America links hands around the room as a physical manifestation of solidarity, Europe tells us that ‘your journey is our journey’, South America protests across the room to the slogan ‘the people united shall never be defeated’ and the Africans join everyone in a giant train across the world with a protest song.

As everyone leaves to go back home, crossing the globe to get back to our countries, we carry with us the spirit of togetherness, and the power of what we can achieve together.

 

Going forward hopeful: Reflections and farewell from outgoing SG of CIVICUS

Spanish | French 

As my time at CIVICUS draws to a close, I wanted to say a proper farewell to those who matter most at CIVICUS – the alliance of members and partners - who make this organisation unique and so special. The last six years have been a wonderful mix of change and constancy, of frustration and fulfillment, of pride and humility.

The markers of dramatic change are many. Our annual income has risen from around $3m to over $13m. This year, we will issue $2.5m of subgrants, to smaller, Southern organisations. Our staff team is more diverse than ever before and our technological capabilities far beyond those that I encountered upon my arrival.

Other things, I am pleased to say, have remained reassuringly constant, not least the fact that we remain proudly headquartered in Johannesburg. And, perhaps most importantly, that we have retained, I hope, the same professional, yet humble, approach to serving civil society that has been a feature of CIVICUS since its beginnings. I tried to label it being ‘profumble’ but it didn’t seem to stick with colleagues 😉

Of course, the last six years have also held their fair share of frustrations and setbacks. We could have been more strategic and intentional in the way we’ve grown, particularly in terms of our geographical footprint. We’ve talked a great deal about democratising the international system, as well as about the SDGs, yet our programmatic work does too little to reflect or support these goals.

My tenure at CIVICUS has also coincided with a period in which the crackdown on civic space has solidified into a persistent, pernicious, truly universal phenomenon. The space for civil society is shrinking, not by accident or in accordance with the natural ebb and flow of social change, but by design. Our democracies – we, the people – are under siege.

But I do not move on from CIVICUS convinced that we are living in dark and dangerous times. Quite the opposite: I go forward hopeful.

For, wherever I have been, I have encountered not just frustration with broken politics, but a desire to shape better democracies; to satisfy an unquenched thirst for participation; to re-imagine democracy for a new age. It is this hunger – a hunger for the power to better our own lives, to better our communities and countries – that civil society must look to satisfy.

But, if we are to have any hope of succeeding, we will need to embrace radical change. Neither the market, nor state alone can mend our social fabric, or rebuild our ailing democracies, but nor can we assume that civil society organisations, in their current form, will be at the vanguard of driving social change in the 21st century. Those that are – and will become – our most influential civic formations are those that are already reshaping, reinventing and renewing themselves.

If civil society can find new dynamism in its shifting shapes and come together to stand united in the push back against shrinking space, then we will be ready to take on what I have come to see as our three major challenges.

Our common, digital future

The first will be to reimagine our rights for a digital world. Nowhere are our freedoms being more fiercely contested than they are online. The handful of corporates that dominate cyber space, convinced as they are of their pioneering role as digital saviours of our ailing world, are fiercely anti-regulation. But we need to find ways of promoting better behaviours online and supporting a fairer, more transparent structure. We need to work out how our legal and social norms apply in digital spaces. We need to get the rules and the governance right.

Any new rules cannot be solely state-led, nor can they be led by the private sector alone. Governance of the digital space will need to be a truly multi-stakeholder initiative. Without conscious, purposeful struggle, the digital era won’t only fail on its promise to emancipate citizens; it will achieve the very opposite. [By the way, please do let me know in this area – the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation I sit on will report in April 2019]

Reimagining democracy

Our second major challenge is to reimagine our democracy, as we outlined in our latest report Democracy for All: Beyond a Crisis of Imagination. We – as civil society – need to be rethinking our ideology of power, rethinking our democracies, in such a way as to enable people to reclaim their voice and sense of agency. We need to be experimenting, engaging those who are most under-represented in our existing system in designing new prototypes.

It’s a process that urgently needs to happen at the global level as well. Many of the decisions that affect our lives are taken in the headquarters of remote, opaque, inaccessible institutions, cogs in a system that privileges a few, powerful states—and often corporations—over the interests of people.

We need institutions of global governance that offer recourse to protection and support when authorities at the national level abuse their power. We need them now more than ever.

And so, we must develop new forms of global consultation, we must insist upon more direct citizen participation in key decision-making, we must demand more transparency, so that trusted – and therefore, more effective – global institutions can form part of a reimagined democratic system.

Redrawing sectoral boundaries

Finally, we cannot reimagine our democracy until we reimagine our economy. Modern capitalism has concentrated power and wealth to an absurd, immoral degree.

We need to find ways of enabling people to reclaim their sense of economic agency. We need to repurpose technology to create services equivalent to those offered by today’s corporate monoliths, without the extreme levels of exploitation, extraction and inequality.

Civil society enjoys a freedom that neither the state nor market can lay claim to. Sitting beyond those sectors, we are free to reimagine the rules and dynamics that govern their systems. This constitutes perhaps the most fundamental challenge for CIVICUS. We cannot afford to simply defend ‘our sector’, nor can we fall prey to the fallacy that these sectors – state, market and civil society – are as neat or eternal as many make out. The future is going to be blurry and hybrid, and I hope CIVICUS can be ahead of the curve, helping others to navigate these changes.

Finally, let me finish where I started by saying that it has been a hugely fulfilling privilege to be part of the CIVICUS journey. I feel proud to have been part of a dynamic and diverse community of people. I leave with a conviction that there is something beautiful, precious and powerful about CIVICUS. I also leave knowing that there are some brilliant colleagues at CIVICUS continuing and evolving our work, led by the wonderful Lysa John, and overseen by the best Board in the civil society world.

I will be watching with great interest to see what comes next for CIVICUS. And I hope that I can work with my new colleagues at Oxfam Great Britain to play our part in strengthening people’s power.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

 

Climate change as a matter of peace

By Flávia Bellaguarda, Co-Founder and COO, Youth Climate Leaders

FlaviaThe Youth Climate Leaders (YCL) was honored to be selected to attend the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum, from 11th to 13th November, and to showcase our startup in the environmental village among other 119 projects from all over the world. Youth Climate Leaders would like to give a special "thank you" to CIVICUS for supporting us to attend the Paris Peace Forum. It was a well-organized and bustling event.

The opening ceremony was full of Heads of State, Heads of Government, and leaders of international organizations. It was a life-time experience to share the same room with President Trudeau, President Macron, President Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Nobel Peace Nadia Murad, just to name a few. A crucial part of YCL mission is to enable young people worldwide to increasingly occupy those spaces.

President Macron opened the ceremony stating that the world is in a different path because in the centenary of the 1918 Armistice we had in the same room 84 heads of states peacefully reunited in Paris under the Arc de Triomphe. The Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that peace must be pursed, and the first step is to recognize that the world is facing severe crises. She emphasized the refugee crisis we are facing saying that countries must be united in order to solve the situation providing real support for those in need.

Additionally, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted that climate change is the biggest challenge of 21st century and that multilateral efforts are crucial for us to take actions as we are gearing up for COP24. He complemented Merkel saying that in the context of climate change, demography and migration issues are the second most important challenge of our century. It reminded me of the amazing lecture that Dr. Caroline Zickgraf gave to us in Paris about the intersection of climate change and the refugee crisis during the #YCL2018Immersion.

The main purpose of the Paris Peace Forum was thus to produce two primary outputs: testifying and mobilizing in favor of collective action and multilateralism, and advancing concrete projects of global governance. Altogether, the Forum featured three spaces: (1) a Space for Solutions showcasing governance projects in five “Villages” (peace and security, environment, development, new technologies and inclusive economy); (2) a Space for debates where initiatives from the Villages as well as cross-cutting themes were discussed; and (3) a Space for Innovation which invited developers and programmers to devise digital solutions for the identified challenges.

It was a difficult task to decide which discussion I should participate in, as there were so many interesting topics! Fortunately, the YCL stand was always full of people keen to learn more about our startup and we had the chance to network with amazing people from all over the world. For that reason, I did not have time to participate in a lot of panels, so I chose the panels “Finance for Climate: a Way to go Forward, a Way to go Faster” and “Fleshing out 2250: A Role for Youth in Global Stability”.

We had three intense days at the Paris Peace Forum, where we could foster important connections to strengthen our ability to solve the challenges mentioned by President Macron. I was happy to hear in the closing ceremony that the next edition of the Paris Peace Forum they will have more open spaces for youth. We were not well represented in many panels, both as speakers and participants, nor as project leaders showcasing projects in the Villages. On the other hand, I was proud to see organizers recognizing this issue and that in order to pursue peace and have a multilateral effort to solve the world problems the youth must be included.

So, I hope to see many of you on the next edition of the Forum!

 

Civil society is blurring? Let’s remember our whys and get creative!

Reflection from “Money, Culture and Change” - a participatory action research process on the sustainability of youth-led civil society organisations (CSOs) in Medellin, Colombia.

By Gioel Gioacchino

In the middle of a research workshop, Stiven got up and drew the picture below on the board.  Stiven is a civil society leader active in Castilla, a neighbourhood on the slopes of Medellin, Colombia. He has not studied any theories of civil society, but, with his drawing, he put his finger on a big wound within the sector. He used the picture to explain that funding, and CSOs themselves, should be seen as tools, trampolines to promote a gearing of economic development and social economies based on solidarity.Gioel Giaoacchino

Stiven believes that social projects need to have economic models. “We need to move to an economy of solidarity,” he reflected, reminding us that there cannot be a community that lives in solidarity and justice without an economy of solidarity and justice.

As part of a PhD program at the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex), for the last four years I have been researching how youth-led CSOs seek financial sustainability, and with what implications for their organisational culture and understanding of social change.

Carrying out participatory action research with a group of ten youth-led CSOs in Medellin, Colombia we found a sort of double paradox in resourcing youth-led civil society organisations.

A double paradox

First, we noticed that youth-led organisations are more likely to want to do work that fits outside the buzzwords of the moment (read: they do not think of following the money). Yet, to do the type of work they value they do need resources.

If they manage to obtain some of the scarce funding available, they are asked to fit within the cha-cha-cha of funding parameters which often limit their independence - they need to adopt practices that might feel incoherent or set priorities that might not be their own.

Funding available to youth-led groups is scarce and often comes along with worldviews that disregard the contribution these organisations are making while emphasizing the more ‘technical aspects' of development. The risk is that CSOs will become more homogenous, less able to be in touch and respond to the needs they perceive in their communities.

They work with the crumbs of funding available, while having to digest the practices and values of a system they would not want to support.

Many youth-led organisations tend to be critical of our economic system and they would like to be truly independent, while they continue resourcing themselves from within a system that they struggle to fundamentally question - because it feeds them.

The other option is to generate funding by engaging with the market (e.g. Social entrepreneurship) - but many youth-organizations ask: how can we solve the challenges of a society, that we think are deeply tied to the injustice of the neoliberal economic system, by working with the same logic?

To make it all more complicated they often associate funding with negative emotions - they might think: ‘we do need funding, but money sucks’. It’s hard to attract funding when you think it sucks.

In short, the idea of an independent civil society seems redundant.

Looking at the future of civil society

A turning point in our research was a two-day participatory foresight workshop. Young civil society leaders and representative from donors’ institutions in Medellin came together to construct a range of eight scenarios for the future of civil society in 2035.

One of the most striking observations during the workshop was that, across all eight scenarios, participants expected differences between the public, private, and civil society sectors would blur even further.

Today, CIVICUS defines civil society as: “the arena - outside of the family, the state, and the market - which is created by individual and collective actions, organisations and institutions to advance shared interests”. In short, the current definition of civil society is tied to the idea that there are three sectors.

As they expected these boundaries between sectors to become thinner, participants were challenged to distil the meaning of civil society. If the structure and resourcing modalities of civil society were to change radically; if CSOs, as we know them today, were to disappear – what would be left of the concept of civil society?

To explore these scenarios, we had to go back to the essence. Why does civil society matter?

Across all eight scenarios, civil society was understood by participants as providing opportunities for questioning, reflecting, re-imagining and renewing social values and norms. A discussion on the question “What is the role of Civil Society?” suggested that civil society is a space where alternative values can be articulated, nourished, and explored. Someone argued that civil society seeks to “resist all the pressure to suppress citizens’ ability to express themselves”. Civil society generates well-being: it seeks to work in collaboration with others, it builds strong social ties, it crafts communities. Someone summarised the discussion by stating that civil society “promotes coexistence as intrinsically important”.

This research pointed out that many young people in Medellin are thirsty for different ways of being together and experiencing alternative community constructions: they are craving meaning. Consciousness, spirituality, and connection with nature were at the core of their work.

The youth-led CSOs in this study realised that resources matters beyond being instrumental to their work. Through funding, they create ties and conversations with other sectors. As we admitted civil society is not so independent, we realised that CSOs can only sustain themselves when they can co-construct realities with others, so as to pull together resources and energy.

For this type of work to happen, the current funding logics need to be transcended. Now, this won’t happen overnight - there is a lot to learn.

Experimenting!

So the youth-led CSOs that took part in this study are engaging in constant experimenting.

They seek financial sustainability by trying different strategies that can uphold their views, while learning to engage with market-forces selectively. In other words, they are responding to market forces as a necessity, while trying to uphold their worldview as a way to work toward their visions. We found that the CSOs in this study were developing their ability to also speak the language of the market as a way to expand their opportunities, comprehend their ecosystems, and contribute to shaping it. Meanwhile, they organize rituals, exchange their products and services, build meaningful relationships with people from different institutions, support local artists and artisans, grow their own food, and resist getting in competition with one another. They choose solidarity and collaboration at every corner.

Civil society cannot afford to sit around and question an economic system without looking to find new ways to sustain itself. We all need to play, experiment and get creative.

CIVICUS is currently analysing trends and practices of resourcing youth-led groups and movements in Africa and Latin America. We hope to gain more insights on trends and challenges that could provide useful recommendations for both funders and youth-led groups. The analysis will be led by the author of this blog who has been researching extensively on the sustainability of youth-led groups.

If you’d like to input/engage in this analysis, reach out to

 

 

Disability inclusion benefits us all

by Lieke Scheewe, policy advisor & coordinator at DCDD

Today is World Disability Day – a great day to celebrate the value of human diversity! That’s why the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) is making a case today for the value of a disability inclusive society, by launching a ‘social business case’.

Over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability according to WHO, that I s 1 in 7. At least 80% of this billion are estimated by the UN to live in low- and middle-income countries. Due to the barriers they face in accessing services and jobs, persons with disabilities make up a disproportionate percentage of the poorest sections of the community. Not only people themselves – but societies at large – are paying a high price for exclusion. What can investments in a more inclusive society bring us?

More resilient people and householdsBridgete

Catherine from Kenya is partially deaf-blind. She received support from an NGO to learn how to use the screen reader programme JAWS, to know her rights and to feel confident about her abilities. Her vocational training institute received support on how to make their building and their teaching methods more inclusive. Thanks to the removal of these barriers, Catherine completed her certificate and is now able to invest in the future of her son: “I love my new job in customer care; talking is one of my hobbies! I am doing something I am trained in, and I am earning a good salary to support my family. My son is going to start kindergarten next year, and I will be able to pay his school fees with no struggle.”

Profitable private sectors and sustainable public sectors

Still most children with disabilities do not attend school. If education systems would become more accessible and inclusive, this would have a major impact on individual lives and communities. Research in the Philippines reveals that inclusive education raises future adult wages of a child, by more than 25%. Evidence from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and the Philippines shows that the returns on investing in education for people with disabilities are two to three times higher than for persons without disabilities. ILO estimates that disability exclusion from the labour market comes at a national cost of 3 to 7 percent GDP. Fortunately, there is an increasing realisation among employers that promoting workplace diversity is good for business. Reasonable workplace adjustments and supportive policies are often less costly than initially thought and can also benefit workers without disabilities as they promote more inclusive work environments. “Differently-abled employees bring in a diversity of thought to the organisation, and hiring them is a business imperative for us, not a Corporate Social Responsibility activity,” said DP Singh, vice-president of Human Resources at IBM India/South Asia.

The Bangladesh garment industry opens its doors

Bangladesh Garment FactoryDisability exclusion from the labour market costs the Bangladesh government $891 million a year. Hopefully this is about to change, now that the garment industry has opened its doors to workers with a disability. As a growing industry, garment factories are in continuous demand for skilled workers. This already provided opportunity for many female domestic workers to enter the formal labour market, and it has now opened such opportunities to people with a disability as well. This change was triggered by the Rana Plaza disaster in 2014, which caused permanent injuries in the lives of many garment workers. The industry, together with local disability organisations and support from the Bangladesh and German governments, has established an Inclusive Job Centre and a Helpline in order to bridge the gap between employers and (potential) employees. So far, 250 factories have taken measures to make their workspaces accessible and inclusive, and 2500 people with disabilities have been supported in gaining skills and finding a job.

Ramp-up investment in disability inclusion!  

Good practices such as the one in Bangladesh are starting to pop up in many countries. Yet, we’re only at the beginning of seeing real change. If we aim to achieve the global goals by 2030, it’s high time that governments, businesses and development organisations really start to prioritize investments in accessibility, participation, support measures and disability data. As stated by the UN: Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote a resilient society for all”. We can no longer afford to miss out on the valuable contributions people with a disability make to society! The success of our fight against poverty and inequality depends on it.

 

All quotes and research references above can be found in the full article, ‘A Social Business Case on Disability Inclusion in Development’. To download this social business case and the accompanying infographic, please visit http://www.dcdd.nl/category/news/. Follow us on twitter @dcdd_nl.

 

 

What if ‘bottom-up’ wasn’t the answer?

By Marina Cherbonnier, CIVICUS membership engagement specialist

OECD at Paris Peace ForumAs I was walking around the stands, agoras and meet-ups of the very interactive and lively first edition of the Paris Peace Forum, I couldn’t help but keep stumbling across the by-now well-known expression ‘bottom-up approach’, used as a way to build a fair and better world.

The forum covered a range of extremely insightful topics such as digital peace and cyber security, global solidarity - on malnutrition for instance - and issues of the environment and governance – not only in the public sector but also in the business world. 

Discussions focused heavily on issues of global governance, and the phrase ‘bottom-up’ kept resonating like a fatalist acceptance of a system based on enduring inequality, where a tiny elite is and always will be at a higher level than others. As I listened, the question recurred: isn't that a fundamental issue if we are to build fair and equitable governance? How do we take on power when we genuinely believe that some people are above others?

 

Thinking about how to measure your organisation’s accountability?

...then read on, because this blog post is for you!

by Belén Giaquinta (CIVICUS)

FB Global EnThe Resilient Roots Accountability Initiative is working with 15 partners to help them design and rollout year-long accountability projects and document the factors which seem to help boost or hinder their accountability. We want to track changes in accountability over the course of the initiative, and to do so we need to measure our starting point!... But this proved to be much more complicated than we expected. Read on for some raw reflections about what we learned on the way!

How to do an accountability baseline in a comprehensive, yet efficient and comparable way, you ask? Well, you make a survey. Or to be exact, you make two similar surveys that cover various aspects of accountability (such as voice, responsiveness, trust, communication, etc.), addressed to the core of any organisation: their primary constituents and their staff.

For the majority of questions, the accountability baseline survey used the Net Performance Analysis (NPA) methodology, which involves respondents choosing a score on a scale from 0 to 10, from “totally disagree” to “completely agree”. The NPA then helped us generate a single number for each question which allows for easy comparison across constituent groups, between organisations, and over time. Comprehensive and comparable: check!

The exact method used to administer these surveys varied from one organisation to the next (based on the age of respondents, access to the internet, geographical location, etc), and included a mix of in-person/over the phone interviews and online surveys via the web and mobile phone applications. To do this, Resilient Roots hired independent consultants in almost all pilot project countries to undertake the surveys in the local language, and help reduce bias in responses (as opposed to organisations carrying out these baselines themselves).

Questions were standardised across all pilot project organisations, but the language in the surveys was adapted by each partner to fit the local context, make it less NGO-sounding and more accessible to its constituents. Then came the (11!) translations, one of the most time-consuming parts of the baseline measurement process. If you have ever tried to use “accountability” in another language, then you know the struggle of having to find translation for a term that simply does not exist outside of the English-speaking world. Now add words like “primary constituents” and “resilience” to the mix, and you have a buzzwords soup for a survey.

We approached these steps on a case-by-case basis, which made it a very laborious and slow process. But we wanted this baseline to be a real shared effort between our partners and the Resilient Roots team, and here taking our time proved to be more rewarding than efficiency.

So, we managed to create and implement a baseline survey that was indeed comprehensive, replicable, and comparable, and (to a lesser extent) efficient… That is until we got to the data analysis part, where we quickly realised how overwhelming this phase would be. The single, most important lesson learned from this is to “start at the end”. If we had started by spending more time thinking about the analysis, what we wanted to do with this information and what systems (read: complex equations on excel or powerful programming languages like “R”) we needed to set up to help us get there, this would have saved us lots of time and effort!

And it did not stop there! Once we had some preliminary results, we then had to figure out how to share these findings with the pilot project organisations, in a constructive and learning-oriented manner. After much debating, the best we came up with was an eight-page report (we tried!) with follow up calls. Of most importance for us was to visualise the data without generalising the findings or missing the nuance the NPA can give. So after we graphed, and pie-charted, and density-plotted, disaggregated and tabled, I think we got there!

Yet, a big part about understanding the results of this baseline survey does not depend on how many pretty graphs you make, but how vulnerable and open you are to both good and bad feedback from the people you work with. More importantly, it is about making serious commitments to address and respond to the feedback you receive. Accountability is (to a large extent) about organisational culture and how we “practice” sustainable development. These changes take time, and as a sector we have lots of work to do on this front! For Resilient Roots and the pilot project organisations, this baseline was our point of departure for setting off on this journey.

In sum, this accountability baseline measurement has been truly illuminating – though quite challenging and a somewhat burdensome process. But we have learned a lot on the way and we will continue to improve and adapt our methodology based on these learnings. Now, we feel readier than ever to support these 15, very exciting accountability pilot projects organisations make the best out of their efforts to increase their primary constituent accountability!

If you think, “hmm this is interesting, I want to know more about this methodology” then you are in luck! During the Global Accountability Week taking place 12-16 November, we will publish a much more comprehensive guide about how your organisation can measure its own accountability baseline. Stay tuned!

 

Global Citizenship Education as a Sustainable Development course: My first class

By Claudia Cassoma, writer, student in special education and teaching and CIVICUS member

Claudia2Considering Sustainable Development as the program of study, the major, perhaps the end goal; let's look at Global Citizenship Education as the required course and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the elective ones.

On 3 October, I attended my first ‘class’ on Global Citizenship Education. It was held at the lavishly elegant Les Atéliers des Tanneurs, in Brussels, and wAas conducted by Bridge 47, a network of experts on the seventh target of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, quality education. The classroom was filled with minds from different points of the world thirsty for knowledge. I did wish it was a little more culturally diverse; nonetheless, I loved that from the very beginning I felt inspired. From The Leap Manifesto, Maya Menezes opened the meeting with a simple sounding yet highly potent line that left me thinking ‘til the end. In her words, to change everything we need everyone. I held that in the muddle of my mind as I lived through that remarkable experience.

As we continued “unlocking the power of 4.7.” and deciphering the role of “Global Citizenship Education in achieving sustainable development” I was thinking about the most impactful way to deliver my own presentation. Yes! On the very first day of class I already had a presentation due. Being placed under the “changemakers” session was a responsibility I did not take lightly. I went in insisting on delivering nothing less than a true “story of impact”. I had an idea of what I wanted to say; however, as I got to observe the room and listen to all of those brilliant minds, that idea started conflicting with the question I had during my preparations: What exactly is ‘Global Citizenship Education’ and why does it matter to me as educator, humanitarian and as citizen of a country that barely knows the SDGs?

 

My Participation in the Bridge 47 Event and its Impact on our Education Program in Palestine

By Jamil Derbashi, from Palestinian Centre for Communication and Development Strategies (PCCDS), Palestine, and CIVICUS member

How the Bridge 47 project relates to our work in Palestine

Jamil DerbashiMy participation in the Bridge 47 Event in Brussels was one of my most important international meeting involvement in 2018. It focused mainly on the seventh objective of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal as defined by the United Nations for 2020-2030 (SDG4.7). The SDG 4.7 focuses on quality education towards a fair and resilient world (goal 4) and educating people as citizens of the world particularly (objective 7).

SDG4 is the framework of the Palestinian Centre for Communication and Development Strategies (PCCDS)’s work on education in Palestine. We will further be focusing on having a dialogue with the Palestinian Government and building coalitions to reach the objective of integrating “global citizenship” education within our strategic educational plan.

Indeed, the Sustainable Development Goals were approved and signed by the Palestinian President who has the highest authority, and he has demanded the various ministries to apply them, with the Ministry of Education being one of these ministries. The Ministry of Education responded gradually to address some objectives of goal 4, but hasn't yet implemented SDG 4.7.

How my participation at the Bridge 47 will further nurture our work

My attendance to the Bridge 47 event was side by side with 100 of the largest institutions working on global and/or sustainable education from Europe mainly, and from around the world in general, as well as representatives of international alliances. I was one of the members of these alliances: CIVICUS – the World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

 

Pakistan: “Global Citizenship”, a western perspective?

By Khurram Riaz, CIVICUS member from Pakistan

KhurramWith 207.74 million people in the country, having more than 50% youth population and 22.8 million children out of school, Pakistan faces the grave challenges of human rights violation, gender based violence, insecurity and extremism. Heavy influx of refugees and temporary displaced persons, cross-border tension and the latest economic project, Global Citizenship Education is the most important agenda to be taken forward by the government but completely neglected.

In Pakistan, which termed as a postcolonial state where citizenship agency is low, national identity very strong, and foreign influence extremely high, what can the future be for a framework of global citizenship? Although taught in schools in many developed countries e.g. UK, global citizenship is a new terminology in Pakistan and having talked to some of the citizens, students, professionals and friends, the general mindset in Pakistan is more local than global, more politically affiliated and it does not extend beyond nation states. Yes the postcolonial state of mindset is still prevalent, where citizenship is tied to nation state only. Today we, in Pakistan, still consider that the ideology of global citizenship stems from a western perspective.

But, this is not the case. I attended the one daylong conference on Building Global Citizenship and how we can unlock the power of global citizenship education on October 3, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. This was hosted by Bridge 47 - a network of 16 European and International Organisations which CIVICUS is a steering group member. As many as 100 participants attended, representing an extremely diverse group, from a range of developed and developing countries and with unmatched enthusiasm and acknowledgement of the power of working together.

I was participating as a CIVICUS member, travelling all the way from Pakistan with a great FEAR in MIND: “I do not know anyone”. When I met the first Bridge 47 person: Tania, followed by Marina, Jamil, Claudia from CIVICUS, in a short time I felt myself part of the family. It felt so easy to talk to each one of them as if this was not the first time I was talking or even meeting them. When I started discussing about my country situation, I got the sense that they were bonding so much with me that they felt the issue and they provided expert advice. All of them are part of my family now and that's what Global Citizenship is: bringing the people together and seeing how the connections work.

I am grateful for this collective CIVICUS experience and meeting such fantastic people. I believe that the way we are bonded now, we can work for each other, support each other and even contribute to bringing peace and harmony in areas where we cannot even dream of going. This is Global Citizenship and together we can work for it.

 

What constituents say about CIVICUS

By Marina Cherbonnier, CIVICUS Membership Engagement Specialist

Spanish | French

Early 2018, we asked CIVICUS constituents to tell us about how they perceive CIVICUS’ work - what’s successful and what can be improved. We received 442 insightful responses from members and non-members.

It is clear that CIVICUS constituents value the work we are doing as an Alliance: CIVICUS’ power in connecting people, spurring collective action, creating avenues for Civil Society to be heard by other stakeholders etc. At the same time, they want more of it. They want members to truly drive CIVICUS as a member-based organisation, more diversity and inclusion and leveraging the work of the global alliance for more synergy and action on national and regional level.

Check the infographic below to see the Top 10 members’ asks to improve CIVICUS work and the Top 10 of what members see as CIVICUS’ success!

The CIVICUS Secretariat has been working on strengthening CIVICUS messaging on what it does, why, and how to get involved as a member. Stay tuned in the coming weeks! We are having further discussions with respondents, members and staff to define the action points that will meet members’ needs in 2019.  

Feel free to share your reactions and thoughts on the infographic’s key findings, by writing to .

Also, we take CIVICUS’ commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement very seriously. We count on CIVICUS members, allies and supporters to reach out to us whenever they have questions or concerns about the alliance’s work and activities. Do you think we are accountable? If not, go ahead and hold us to account via our new online feedback mechanism, which was just launched in July 2018. You can find more information in this blog post on how our new feedback channel will help to implement CIVICUS’ Accountability Framework.

ANNUAL SURVEY 2018 REPORT EN

 

What “Global Citizenship” means to you - if anything

Global citizenship IMG2

Marina Cherbonnier, CIVICUS membership engagement specialist and Bridge 47 steering group member.

Do you consider yourself as a citizen of the world? Alternatively, do you feel uncomfortable, threatened or simply blank when hearing the term “global citizenship”? It fascinates me that the concept is crystal clear to some but does not resonate at all with others. It largely depends on the experience and exposure we have of the world - but not only.

In the highly conceptual world that “International Development” evolves in, there is a project called Bridge 47. It works towards providing “global citizenship education” for all as a means towards building a world that is fair and resilient. The name “Bridge 47” resonates with the “SDG 4.7” framework: the 4th Sustainable Development Goal on Education for All, of which item 7 focuses on global citizenship education.

Learning to be a citizen of the world, in brief, is to grow the consciousness that everything is connected. For instance, child labour is not far from you if you buy products prepared by children. Learning to be a citizen of the world means building the spirit and competencies to make day-to-day decisions and actions that will have a positive impact on ourselves, our communities and the rest of the world all together.

2-4 October 2018 marked the first gathering of Bridge 47 staff and steering group – which CIVICUS has been a part - since the launch of the project. The objective was to take stock of the project’s progress since then. We identified challenges and addressed them on a strategic and practical level, by looking at the four aspects of the project: innovation, advocacy, networking and partnership. It also brought together a hundred potential partners to strengthen the network around the project.

The event gathered a fascinating group of diverse, international and enthusiastic people driven by social values and principles, and convinced about the power of working together. Most importantly, Global Citizenship (and my job) took all its meaning when appreciating how the CIVICUS delegation of members present united spontaneously as a family, despite their differences. Take Khurram: a senior monitoring and evaluation expert from Pakistan, Claudia: a young student in special education from Angola, Jamil: a SDG educational program implementer from Palestine. Their only apparent similarity was in their work on education. They bonded immediately and used each other as safety net while engaging with other participants.

Over the past 10 years of working with international networks, it is precisely the connection that operates amongst members that has nurtured my faith for universal peace and care. The sense of belonging that a global community spurs is magical. CIVICUS membership IS global citizenship in spirit and practice.

Yet, what strikes me is that those of us who have been convinced about the necessity of working collectively are yet to identify how to do this in a more efficient and cohesive way. How do we move from less “Blabla” to more “Boom Boom”, as eloquently put by one of my previous partners? As long as we stay in our own conceptual sphere, with our own language, how far will we go? How do we translate ideas into concrete actions? “How do we get real?” It is time to move from convincing ourselves of the need to work together. Implementing activities and showing what global citizenship means in practice are the next steps for Bridge 47 in 2019 onward. Stay tuned.

 

Resilience in times of shrinking civic space: How Resilient Roots organisations are attempting to strengthen their roots through primary constituent accountability

Soulayma Mardam Bey (CIVICUS) and Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now)

The systematic crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations across the world has shaped our understanding of repression against civil society organisations (CSOs). Yet, less-spectacular restrictions such as increased bureaucratic requirements imposed by governments are not necessarily less threatening to CSO resilience.

While those tactics significantly hamper CSOs’ ability to operate and can reduce primary constituents' trust in CSOs' ability to represent them legitimately, we also need to acknowledge that these symptoms can stem from our own inappropriate approaches to accountability. When CSOs are not accountable to their roots, this can serve as a breeding ground for governments’ and other non-state actors’ anti-CSOs strategies and rhetoric.  

The Resilient Roots initiative is aiming to test whether CSOs who are more accountable and responsive to their primary constituents are more resilient against threats to their civic space. 15 organisations from diverse countries and contexts have partnered with us to design and rollout innovative accountability experiments over a 12 month period. These experiments will explore how public support and trust in CSOs can be improved through practising what we call primary constituent accountability, which aims to establish a meaningful dialogue with those groups that organisations exist to support, and increase their engagement in CSO decision-making.

Accountability and resilience are both highly context-specific and vary not just from country to country but also along an organisation’s thematic focus, size and approach. This means that we need to explore the relationship between accountability and resilience on a case by case basis and across a variety of very different contexts. Keeping this in mind - and without further adieu - read on to meet the some of Resilient Roots Accountability Pilot Project organisations:

One of these organisations is the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) from Zimbabwe. In the rural area of Dora, in the district of Mutare, they aim to systematically validate actions and strategies through constituent-led monitoring of programme progress. As a platform for civil society that aims to address the root-causes and diverse manifestations of poverty in Zimbabwe, they may face very different challenges from an organisation that works on more politically polarising topics.

For example, Russian CSO OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project that monitors detentions and other cases of politically motivated harassment, informs media and human rights organisations on the state of political repression in Russia, and provides legal assistance to activists. For the Resilient Roots initiative, OVD-Info seeks to set up a dashboard to serve as a data visualisation tool, which will help evaluate the efficiency of its projects and motivate their constituents to play a stronger role in the organisation’s decision-making.

In contrast to the technology and data-driven approach of OVD-Info, FemPLatz is a women’s rights organisation from Serbia that seeks a more direct and personal approach. They plan to gather feedback from their constituents through focus group discussions, interviews and workshops while also improving their communication with their constituents through the publication of a regular newsletter. This will allow their constituents to monitor their work and get in contact with them to provide feedback.

A newsletter can also contribute to closing the feedback loop. Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) from Madagascar, for example, will engage young adolescents, their parents and school administrations to establish a coordinated and systematic means to collect feedback. They will collect feedback through participatory scorecards, stories from primary constituents around the changes triggered by the project, and an updated youth magazine to get closer to their constituents. PJL works on a comprehensive sexual-reproductive health education and leadership development program integrated into public middle schools.

A particularly creative approach comes from Solidarity Now. Through multimedia productions, their primary constituents will express their daily perceptions, challenges, and dreams through the making and sharing of interactive material like video clips. Solidarity Now consists of a network of organisations and people whose goal is to assist and support the populations affected by the economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. Through the provision of services to both local Greeks and migrant populations, it seeks to restore the vision of a strong Europe based on solidarity and open values.

In Asia, Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) is an organisation working to drive changes in attitudes towards climate change, and trigger action on the topic. As part of the initiative, CWT is going to strengthen how they formulate policy asks, by continuously testing their relevance to their constituents and this gaining wider support.

Unfortunately, not all the organisations we work with in this initiative feel comfortable enough to publicly associate themselves to Resilient Roots, without the fear of inciting further anti-CSO responses in their local context. Such is the case of our Ugandan partner, a reminder of how delicate civic spaces are and how important it is for our sector to better understand how to strengthen CSO resilience in recent times.

These diverse organisations are using a variety of approaches to work on CSO accountability, and we are incredibly excited to be exploring with them how different accountability practices fare in different regional and thematic contexts. What factors will make them successful and where will they need to adjust? In what circumstances does increased accountability actually lead to increased resilience? We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you: how they progress with their projects, the things they are learning, and what you can draw from their experiences to inform the work of your own organisation.

 

Resilient Roots blog

 

Ganar espacio desde la raíz

Escrito por Analía Bettoni – Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo

Analia Bettoni En su reciente artículo The revolution will not be televised: Can NGOs learn to adapt? , Dom Perera, investigador del CIVICUS Monitor plantea que si bien en los últimos 25 años ha habido un crecimiento explosivo en el número de organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG), su papel en generar un cambio social se cuestiona. Su actuación se ha puesto en tela de juicio desde la propia opinión pública, mientras que gobiernos en muchos países imponen a menudo restricciones al trabajo de las organizaciones.

El artículo plantea que, en este escenario hostil, sin embargo, los movimientos sociales están mejor posicionados. Esto se puede deber por ejemplo a que son creados y dirigidos por las propias personas que reclaman, tienen mayor flexibilidad y motivación para adaptarse, no se plantean objetivos de largo plazo y sus estructuras flexibles permiten sumar aliados en los momentos que se necesita, permitiendo la movilización, adaptación y participación de forma rápida.

En 2012 la investigación La Sociedad Civil en la Encrucijada (Civil Society at a Crossroads), un estudio comparado de casos en todo el mundo presentaba como resultado una serie de desafíos para la sociedad civil organizada en total consonancia con estos estudios más recientes.

De acuerdo con este estudio, en todos los continentes, las asociaciones formales, como los partidos políticos, sindicatos y ONG no estaban siendo capaces de proporcionar una voz colectiva a las necesidades de las personas. Éstas eligen unirse en movimientos sociales, que surgen como “explosiones” ciudadanas desconectadas de los ámbitos formales o más tradicionales de la sociedad civil. Estas movilizaciones ciudadanas logran convocar a las personas a través de formatos tradicionales como las marchas, las protestas, las ocupaciones, pero también a través de otras formas más innovadoras como el teatro callejero, el arte, la canción, la poesía, la música, el baile entre otras, como lo han demostrado los movimientos estudiantiles o de mujeres. Por el contrario, las organizaciones formales como las ONG, se fueron convirtiendo paulatinamente en estructuras jerárquicas, con modelos de gestión y eficacia institucional (similar al empresarial) en la búsqueda de la sostenibilidad de sus proyectos y estructuras, lo que las llevó en gran medida a desconectarse de sus raíces o de las personas para las que trabajan o representan.

 

Every Voice Counts: UN Puts Spotlight on Children as Human Rights Defenders

By Lena Ingelstam and Ulrika Cilliers, Save the Children, Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS, and Beatrice Schulter, Child Rights Connect

Many children want to defend their rights and the rights of others and when children speak out things change.

Every day, millions of children take action and influence laws, budgets, service delivery and the realization of their rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They speak out on poverty, education, health, violence, the environment, discrimination, and many other things. Children are human rights defenders when they take action and promote, monitor and defend children’s rights and the rights of others.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides all children with the right to act as human rights defenders, rights which are reinforced in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

EveryVoiceCounts“I believe we are all human rights defenders in our own way. Some of us in small and quiet ways because that’s how we feel and all we can give to the world and some in large ways. The impact may be big or small but we all fight for what we believe in.”
Child participating in Child Rights Connect & Centre for Children’s Rights Survey

92 per cent of children who participated in a new survey by Child Rights Connect and the Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University, Belfast, see themselves as human rights defenders. But children face serious challenges when promoting and defending their rights and the rights of others. In the survey, children identify four main barriers:

  • Adults do not take children seriously. They do not see children as competent and children’s views are not respected.
  • Children do not feel safe; 70 per cent of children are concerned about violence when they act as human rights defenders.
  • Children lack information; 40 per cent of children agree that one of the main challenges they face as human rights defenders is the lack of information about rights.
  • Children sometimes struggle to act due to lack of time, money and ability to travel to meetings.

Children from the most marginalized and deprived groups often face additional challenges when they want to take action and promote and defend rights.

 

The world has changed; why haven’t we?

French | Spanish

Norwegian Agency

The world has changed dramatically since the turn of the century.  Selfies, smart phones, and instant communication are the norm across much of the world. Our lives are on the cloud and our offices are virtual. We're connecting across borders like never before.

We’re being confronted by our failures, such as the increasing number of scary weather events caused by global warming, along with deepening divides between the rich and those living in poverty. But we are also seeing people fighting back in new and creative ways, from the #MeToo movement in the United States to #FeesMustFall in South Africa. Innovative tools have made it easier than ever before for people to come together and take collective action, injecting new ideas, formations and energy into civil society.

For the past 25 years, CIVICUS has had a consistent mission, namely “to strengthen citizen action and civil society”. Yet, over the years, CIVICUS has worked mainly on the conditions for and effectiveness of civil society organisations, rather than the broader spectrum of citizen participation and action.

 

Resilient Roots: Debunking the Myths around Primary Constituent Accountability

By Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now) and Laurence Prinz (Keystone Accountability)

When you are passionate about something and join others to work on it collectively, you quickly start to develop your own group language. You start using jargon and acronyms. This is a central part of creating a close community of peers. Yet this language can also become exclusive, where others misinterpret or feel uncomfortable to ask for clarifications on what has become a common part of your group’s vocabulary.

 

General Operating Support for Local Organizations Represented Just 1% of International Giving by U.S. Foundations Over Five-year Period

By Lauren Bradford and Inga Ingulfsen 

The State of Global Giving by U.S. Foundations

From 2011 to 2015 U.S. foundations awarded a total of 35.4 billion dollars for organizations or programs based outside the U.S. International giving grew by 29 percent over the five-year period and reached an all-time high of $9.3 billion.

These figures are drawn from The State of Global Giving by U.S. Foundations, a report jointly published by Foundation Center and Council on Foundations earlier this month. It’s the tenth in a series of joint research published by our two organizations since our first report on international grantmaking in 1997. (You can access the whole series here). While philanthropic funds are dwarfed by official development assistance – the $9.3 billion in international grants awarded by U.S. foundations in 2015 was equivalent to about a third of the $31 billion in U.S. official development assistance that year – we know governments alone can’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that foundations are among the key civil society partners that will be instrumental in driving progress. We also know U.S. foundations provide critical support to civil society groups globally, including in countries with challenging legal environments for cross-border giving (more on this below). We therefore hope CIVICUS members and their extended networks will use our data and analysis to inform their strategic efforts and partnerships with U.S. foundations to strengthen civil society worldwide.

Here are four key takeaways for civil society advocates around the world on international giving by U.S. foundations:

 

Faire partie de CIVICUS nous a permis de défendre les droits des prisonniers au Burundi

English | Spanish  

A l’occasion des 25 ans de CIVICUS, SABUSHIMIKE Mamert, Président de l'Association des Amis de la Nature (AAN) et chargé de la communication et du plaidoyer au sein de la Coalition du Burundi pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, exprime comment faire partie de CIVICUS - l’Alliance Mondiale pour la participation des citoyens – a permis à son association d’avoir un impact pour l’amélioration des conditions des prisonniers au Burundi et le respect de leurs droits. @mamertsabushim   

Faire partie de l’Alliance Mondiale pour la participation des citoyens (CIVICUS) est une innovation importante et une très bonne chose pour moi, pour les membres de mon organisation : Association des Amis de la Nature et pour certains prisonniers du Burundi.

J’ai reçu de nouvelles connaissances en plaidoyer grâce à CIVICUS, qui ont été à la base de l’amélioration des conditions de vie, d’hygiène et d’assainissement des prisonniers du Burundi, particulièrement dans la principale prison du pays MPIMBA qui enfermait 3664 détenus en janvier 2018 avec une capacité d’accueil de 800 détenus.

 

Construyendo juntos un mejor entorno habilitante para todas las organizaciones sociales en el mundo

English | French 

Con motivo de los 25 años de CIVICUS, RACI: la Red Argentina de Cooperación Internacional queremos, explica de qué manera el ser parte de CIVICUS - Alianza Mundial para la participación ciudadana – permite cconstruir juntos un mejor entorno habilitante para todas las organizaciones sociales en el mundo.

“RACI se une, con mucha alegría, a la celebración del vigésimo quinto aniversario de CIVICUS. Desde la Red Argentina de Cooperación Internacional queremos desearle un feliz cumpleaños a CIVICUS y esperamos que vengan otros veinticinco años más.

 

Does greater accountability mean greater resilience? Findings from our research so far

By Kingsley Orievulu and Jack Cornforth

When ActionAid Uganda faced attacks from the government for their work, including freezing the organisation’s bank account, unrelenting support from local partners and credible local leadership ensured massive popular support during the ensuing legal battle (and eventual victory) against the government.[i]

 

Asia home to largest number of indigenous peoples: Activists building a movement in face of attacks

By Josef Benedict, Civic Space Research Officer

The 9th of August, marks International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The day is commemorated in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.

Asia is home to the largest number of indigenous peoples with an estimated 260 million from the 370 million original inhabitants worldwide. Despite this significant number, equaling half of the combined population of Europe, Asian indigenous peoples face an array of challenges such as the denial of the right to self-determination, the loss of control over their land and natural resources, discrimination and marginalisation, forced assimilation and violent repression by state security forces. 

While most of the countries in Asia had voted for the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in September 2007, many refuse to respect and implement these rights. This has been made more difficult with the shrinking democratic space in many Asian countries and the rise of autocratic leaders. 

In 2018, the CIVICUS Monitor continued to document human rights violations and state repression against indigenous peoples in the region. In the Philippines, there has been an increase of vilification against indigenous activists under the Duterte government. In March 2018, the Philippines labelled a number of local indigenous rights activists as “terrorists” for alleged links to the Communist Party. This included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, a Filipino national. 

 

Partnerships for sustainability

By Siok Sian Pek-Dorji, from Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy and CIVICUS member delegate to the EC Partnership Forum 2018.

pek1The energy was palpable as nearly 300 representatives of civil society and local authorities from across the globe gathered in Brussels on 26th July to discuss global partnerships. The aim was to strengthen partnerships so that we can make the world more sustainable and livable and to address the inequities so that “no one is left behind” in the 21st century.

“We’re all supposed to be singing from the same hit list” said one of the panelists – reminding the participants of the urgency of developing meaningful collaborations to make the Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG) vision of the United Nation’s Agenda 2030.

The premise is that these partnerships, and indeed, the SDGs, will be a game changer. The 193 signatory countries are supposedly aligning their national goals with the SDGs – at least the developing countries are. And they have another 12 years to achieve them.

The partnership forum, supported by the European Union, provides a critical platform for countries to come together to discuss the goals we have adopted. The forum reminded us that we’re all relying on one another to create this global movement of change, while we also need to focus on specific needs in our own countries. There were calls for urgent work on gender equity and addressing women’s role in development. Recommendations were made to address the many discriminations that still exist.

CIVICUS, which publishes an annual state of civil society report warns us that the world is facing a shrinking civic space and a general decline in democratic space, polarising politics, and divided societies. It is not an optimistic picture but the voices at the partnership forum shows that civility remains in civil society space, and ideas and commitment abound. And that gives us hope for the future. All this is very relevant to Bhutan where civil society is emerging, slowly but surely.

 

Have your say: Feedback channels to hold us to account

By Tamryn Lee Fourie

CIVICUS exists to defend people power. With a growing alliance of over 4000 members in 175 countries, we believe that together we are stronger. But, as an alliance, we need EVERYONE (our members, constituents, donors, wider civil society, general public) to tell us how the CIVICUS Secretariat is doing and to hold us to account on how strategies and approaches are implemented. A new and easy way to do this is through the online feedback and complaints form, launched in July 2018. Putting people at the centre of our work, enabling more iterative and participatory programming and allowing faster responses when changes in direction are required – this is what CIVICUS’ new Accountability Framework aims to establish, with your help.

Accountability, shifting the power

As part of our mission to strengthen civil society and mobilise citizens to fight for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world, the CIVICUS Secretariat continuously ask ourselves the question - what tools and strategies will help us to achieve the change necessary to achieve this mission? More specifically from an Impact and Accountability perspective, what data and accountability strategies, assets or tools can help us shift this power?

Through our accountability strategy and data approaches, we strive to see the diversity of those we work with reflected in our data sources (survey respondents, interviews, focus group participants etc.) and provide opportunities for our constituents to capture data on issues that are most relevant to them. We want to develop inclusive processes that not only take into account but shine a light on underlying power inequalities when it comes to sourcing data. We also want the data analysis and outputs, to be consumable, user-friendly and relevant to individual citizens and local decision makers to dialogue and make informed decisions together.

 

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