Strengthening Civil Society Membership Platform
By Sin Putheary, Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, AGNA and CIVICUS voting organizational member
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.