Here’s what we are achieving through our COVID-19 efforts

Secretary General's Update


Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

This has been a particularly tumultuous period for both civil society and the wider world. While the global emergency unleashed by the pandemic makes it difficult to think back to calmer times, this update includes some wider processes relevant to our strategy that have moved forward in the past few months, and a summary of some immediate outcomes that we are achieving through our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are our COVID-19 efforts achieving?

As with most As with most other agencies across the world, the focus of our efforts has been to ensure a meaningful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our initiatives have accordingly been organised around: (i) Staff safety and support (ii) Coordination with members, partners and donors (iii) Advocacy on civic space and human rights priorities (iv) Acting with others to address wider systemic issues.

Key developments in this regard include:

  • An internal ‘COVID-19 Response Team’ has worked together from the early days of March to ensure continuity of work and context-relevant support systems for staff of CIVICUS. Outcomes of this effort include equipping colleagues to work remotely, moving planned engagements to virtual spaces, negotiating grant deliverables and timelines with key donors and drawing on intelligence from members and peers on responses to a rapidly changing situation. In line with the continued health and economic implications of the pandemic, we have taken steps towards the implementation of the ‘COVID-19 Social Security Protocol’ and have extended our moratorium on travel and in-person events for staff and partners to September 2020.
  • Our first external intervention was to reinforce the need for donor flexibility and responsiveness in line with our focus on civil society resourcing and sustainability. Our Open Letter to Donors was published on 19 March, and followed up with targeted outreach meetings with a range of donor and development networks. In line with this effort, we extended the CIVICUS Solidarity Fund to cover COVID-19 related applications and are continuing to work with our allies in the #ShiftThePower movement to ensure international donors are providing much-needed support to local organisations in the global south in this period.
  • In keeping with our emphasis on the protection of civic space and human rights, we issued a statement urging states to put human rights at the heart of their response on 24 March. This has been followed by a CIVICUS Monitor briefing on restrictions and attacks on civil society that have been recorded since the pandemic was declared. On 16 April, we also launched an open letter to world leaders outlining 12 key actions required to protect civic space and human rights. The letter has received over 600 endorsements in less than a week since its launch, and will inform our advocacy efforts with governments.
  • In accordance with our focus on acting with others on structural challenges, we issued a call for a ‘Social Security Protocol for Civil Society’ on 07 April, in line with the ILO’s COVID-19 policy framework. The Protocol has now been adopted by close to 200 agencies, most of whom are local organisations in the global south with limited resources. This efforts reinforces our broader narrative on the systemic changes that civil society and wider society to act on as part of the effort that is needed to rebuild societies and economies in the aftermath of COVID-19. Our engagement with shaping and supporting international responses to the pandemic through close coordination with UN mechanisms in Geneva and New York as well as the emerging regional platform for COVID-19 policy priorities in Africa.

Acting on our Mid-term Strategy Review

We spent a significant amount of energy last year reviewing progress made against our strategy. The Mid-term Strategy Review resulted in 18 key recommendations which were taken forward by a process of deliberation and planning across the Secretariat, Board and membership. Our consolidated management response to the strategy review was published on 17 March 2020, and will inform our annual plans for the second half of the strategy period, as well as the planning process for the next strategy which will be initiated in 2021.

While recognising that a significant amount of our efforts this year will need to be redirected to respond to the challenges that the pandemic is posing for civic space and civil society, we expect to continue investing energies in areas of work related to the mid-term review that speak to our ability to strengthen the ability of the CIVICUS alliance to organise forces and influence change in newer, more innovative ways.

CIVICUS Midterm Strategy Review

Improving our Accountability

Our 11th Annual Accountability Report (for 2018/19) is now online. The feedback received from the Independent Review Panel includes recognition for efforts taken to ensure dynamic accountability, particularly around stakeholder engagement, partnerships, and learning. Recommendations for improvement include strengthening systems to track expenditure towards strategic objectives, as well as the management of our feedback systems. Both of these are areas that we will be paying attention this year.

We look forward to your continued engagement and insights in the coming months.

In solidarity,

Lysa John

Secretary-General, CIVICUS

(Johannesburg, South Africa)