Secretary General’s Update (July 2019)
July has been an incredibly exciting month and I’m excited to share key headlines from our work in this period!
Progressing our efforts on civil society resourcing reforms
Since the start of this year, we have had the privilege to hear from activists, organisers, young leaders and progressive funders from around the world on the resourcing challenges faced by civil society – and to understand how bold ideas and creative solutions can help address these barriers. A remarkably resourceful report summarising these insights is now available online. Aptly titled ‘Shifting Power to Grassroots Movements’, this practical guide on how grassroots groups and activists based in the global south can mobilise support to overcome civic space challenges and achieve positive change is an important step forward in the reforms we need to enable greater civil society resourcing. Your ideas on how we can activate the alternatives proposed in this report are eagerly awaited!
Launching a new, interactive platform on Diversity & Inclusion
In an equally exciting move, our newest networking initiative - The Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA) - was launched on 10 July. The group is a safe space for members to support each other to improve organisational structures and processes for diversity and inclusion and has already connected over 600 thought leaders and change makers in its first few weeks! If you haven’t already, do join the conversation and help us advance the transformative outcomes that DIGNA wants to achieve, which includes ensuring a sustained discourse on diversity in civil society organisations, enabling the exchange of tools and resources to increase workplace inclusion and creating a dynamic channel for the learning and collaboration that can help us all achieve high standards of diversity and inclusion in our organisations.
Working with CIVICUS members to improve our response to civic space restrictions
We had at least four important opportunities to engage CIVICUS members in analysing and proposing improved approaches to how we analyse and respond to the threats faced by civil society. In Mexico, we joined members of the VUKA! coalition to co-design methodologies to counteract the demonization of civic space, civil society and human rights defenders. The interaction resulted in a campaign design that we are committed to implement alongside our allies.
In Nairobi, members and friends of CIVICUS came together to discuss how anti-rights groups are organising and being supported, what tactics they use to attack human rights and how civil society can respond to this growing threat. Participants in the dialogue attested to the real challenges they face from hard line groups closely linked to state structures and politicians. The dialogue underscored that while human rights have always been contested, what is new is that extremist and ultra-conservative groups are now working with and being sheltered by the state. Vulnerable and excluded groups, it was observed, are on the frontline of violence. They are attacked first and most frequently, and often as a prelude to attacks on civil society as a whole.
Over 20 research partners of the CIVICUS Monitor met in Accra to review progress and propose how we further improve and enhance this work. The CIVICUS Monitor is a cutting edge research tool that allows access to live updates from civil society around the world, track threats to civil society and learn about the ways in which our right to participate is being realised or challenged. Each of these organisations plays a vital role in keeping information on this platform up-to-date, accurate and grounded in local realities.
We also worked with partners to make UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 4 countries – Armenia, Kenya, Kuwait and Laos - in advance of the 35th UPR session. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We also provided an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.
Amplifying local struggles at the UN High Level Political Forum
Our activities at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) this year provided an important opportunity to amplify the work of grassroots activists including Yineth Balanta, the Afro-Colombian environmental defender from Colombia who highlighted the dangers faced her community at two of our events; Corlett Letlojane from HURISA who spoke at South Africa’s Voluntary National Review and highlighted issues related to violence against women and other rights concerns; and 16-year old climate activist, Jerome Foster.
We also joined of the civil society delegation that met with the UN Secretary General António Guterres to present the ‘Belgrade Call to Action’, developed at the International Civil Society Week earlier this year. The delegation drew attention to the urgent need to address civic space challenges as part of effort to achieve the 2030 Agenda. More broadly, statistics from the CIVICUS Monitor drew attention to the status of civic space in the 47 countries participating in the HLPF through a statement urging stronger linkages between human rights and the sustainable development agenda.
Opportunities to act with CIVICUS:
- We are proud to announce the launch of our Spanish twitter channel, which is one of several steps we are taking to respond to the increasing demand for multi-lingual channels and capabilities across the Alliance! Connect with us on @CIVICUSespanol.
- The review report of the International Civil Society week (ICSW) is now available in three languages - English, Spanish and French, with acknowledgements due to the ICSW-2019 event partners and supporters whose collective efforts made the ‘Power of Togetherness’ possible in Belgrade earlier this year. We want to hear your reactions to the conclusions and recommendations laid out in the report, which will help us shape our strategy for the next iteration of ICSW!
- We are mid-way through our Strategic Plan period (2017-22) and will be coordinating a review process across the second half of the year! The mid-term review will serve the important purpose of reviewing how we have progressed so far and providing recommendations on the implementation of the final 2 years of our Strategic Plan. Do look out for opportunities to engage, the first being the Annual Constituency Survey which we will be initiated in August!
Please continue to share your feedback and inspirations. We look forward to hearing from you!