Celebrating our 10,000 strong alliance!

Secretary General’s Update: August 2020


Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

As we deal with the challenges imposed by pandemic-related restrictions in our daily lives, the opportunity to celebrate big and small wins for civil society seems even more vital. We were presented with one such occasion when, in July, we registered our 10,000th CIVICUS member: the National Alliance of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), marking a 140% increase in our membership since June 2018. Through their work to protect the dignity and rights of informal workers, NASVI’s engagement with CIVICUS is a powerful reminder that our efforts must ultimately reach and represent those who are most affected by the deficiencies of our political and economic structures. We are grateful for their engagement, and look forward to strengthen our collaboration with local and mass-based movements as a result.

The State of Civil Society report 2020

The 9th edition of our State of Civil Society report was released in May and provides an in-depth analysis of how people-powered movements and civil society groups have worked together to challenge power, shift public narratives and change policies across countries. With testimonies from activists who have been directly involved in social movements that defined 2019, the report provides an exhaustive and uplifting analysis of why active citizenship and vibrant civil society are fundamental to the progress and protection of communities worldwide.

Campaigning for the release of Human Rights Defenders

StandAsMyWitness Campaign BannerOn July 18, we marked Mandela Day with the launch of our new campaign, Stand As My Witness, which shines a light on the stark injustice that the arrest of human rights defenders represents. Due to the abysmal living condition in most prisons, a jail term during the COVID-19 pandemic poses grave risks to the health and lives of those under arrest. We are deeply concerned that governments are using arbitrary detention as a way to silence activists, and invite you to join us in calling out for their immediate release.

A focus on the protection of human rights defenders has also informed our engagement with the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council which was held across June and July this year. The adoption of a resolution on peaceful protests in this session has been an especially encouraging development in this regard. It sends a strong message that the Council stands by peaceful protesters who mobilise for change, and that law enforcement officials who perpetrate violence against protesters must be held to account.

Calling for greater inclusion of civil society

The past weeks have also been a time for us to reinforce the need for stronger civil society and citizen participation in our international institutions. Our statements at the 75th anniversary of the UN Charter and at a high-level ECOSOC dialogue attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reflect the calls for radical inclusion in the consultative and decision making structures of the United Nations being put forward by a wide spectrum of civil society networks.

Encouragingly, our calls for stronger civic freedoms and better democratic processes appear to be resonating more widely with publics across the world. Our engagement with global and local media has increased significantly in the last few months and has included important opportunities to mainstream civil society priorities and civic space issues, including through Newsweek, BBC, TIME, SABC, and Reuters.

Our annual priorities for 2020/21

Organisational priorities 2020 2021Our annual plan for the year commits us to deepen our efforts to protect and promote civil society and civic freedoms despite the uncertainties and challenges posed by coronavirus pandemic. We will also be using this period to advance the important outcomes that emerged from the mid-term review of our current strategy, and set the stage for the development of a new strategy that will inform our ambition and outcomes for the period beyond 2022. A summary of our annual priorities is available on our website, and in three languages: English, French and Spanish. We would love you have your feedback!

The support and encouragement that we receive from you continues to be a vital source of inspiration and strength for our efforts. We are in turn keen to ensure that this experience of being reinforced and supported is available to our members. The CIVICUS Solidarity Fund therefore aims to provide a helping hand to members who need immediate support to sustain their operations. We encourage you to explore a contribution to the Solidarity Fund by renewing and/or upgrading your CIVICUS membership or directly engaging with this call for individual contributions.

In addition, please use this analysis on how governments can better support civil society through their COVID-19 response and recovery efforts to inform your advocacy on the enabling environment that we need and deserve! For more information, write to us at: .

In solidarity,

Lysa John

Secretary-General, CIVICUS