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.
A month later, the key question is what we have managed to achieve at this civil society-led effort to connect, debate and create shared solutions? Based on the feedback provided by delegates on the quality, scope and impact of the convening, the top takeaways from the International Civil Society Week seem to be:
- Harnessing Diversity: We are pleased to note that the overall feedback from delegates has been positive, with a majority of the post-event responses pointing towards a successful event. Half of all delegates were women, 1 of 3 were from the global south, and 1 of 5 were young people below age 30. On the downside, red flags on access to venues and public safety were raised, making it important for us to actively review all aspects of diversity and inclusion in future events.
- Connecting Ideas & Actions: The program framework of “Bridges, Stairs & Streets” was appreciated with comments on ICSW bringing together a “good mix of fresh knowledge, positive and hopeful content, working with real cases, action-oriented”. Opportunities to interact with public and cultural modes of activism made the conference a distinctly memorable experience. These include the #StandTogether Call to Action, the Freedom Runner campaign, the Youth Diversity Statement and the use of music as an expression of protest through local (Girl Rock Camp) and global (Pussy Riot) performances. A useful recommendation we have received is to develop after-event action packs providing 5 clear pathways that enable delegates to follow up on ICSW outcomes when they’re back in their countries!
- Extending Solidarity: Learning about civic space challenges within the Balkan region and demonstrating international support to local civil society in this regard was also reported as an important outcome. Most participants mentioned the added value of connecting with like-minded peers on joint ideas and initiatives to carry forward. Our favourite quote however comes from our local participant who said: “We brought something to the region that has never been seen before! It’s like the opening of a new era.” An interesting suggestion in this regard is for us to think about more ‘regional’ Civil Society Weeks which could generate stronger local solidarity and ownership, while improving cost and carbon related efficiencies.
A more detailed report summarising the feedback provided will be shared shortly. In the meantime, feel free to reach us with feedback and ideas that could help us assess what we have achieved this year, and what should inform our thinking on future iterations of ICSW!
Other important developments in the month of April include:
- Our new Board of Directors for 2019-21: Thank you for an overwhelming response to our call for nominations! We received over 160 applications for the CIVICUS Board, which is evidence of the strong reach and credibility of the Alliance. Our new Board has been elected by our voting members and commences its work in July this year. The announcement of the new Board at ICSW was also accompanied by tributes to the lasting contributions of our outgoing Board Chair, Anabel Cruz.
- Our Annual Accountability Report: Our 2017/2018 report is now online and provides an update on significant organisational developments, including how we aim to reduce our environmental footprint; enable our stakeholders to act against sexual exploitation and abuse; and build trusting partner relationships. Share your feedback on social media via #DynamicAccountability and @CIVICUSalliance!
Finally, if you’re looking for a chance to act with the Alliance here are two opportunities you can use!
- Sign up for the CIVICUS Youth for Diversity Statement which was launched at ICSW last month. The statement is currently open for endorsement! Read and show your support and connect with future events relevant to the cause! For more information:
- Subscribe to the Resilient Roots initiative which shares lessons from 14 worldwide pilots aimed at understanding how civil society is demonstrating resilience and strengthening accountability in contexts of closing civic space. In the coming months, findings from the initiative are being presented in Colombia, Tunis and London. For more information:
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation