Grassroots action & the right to protest: here’s a look at our annual priorities

SGUpdate 092021

Secretary-General Update: August 2021

In June this year, we presented the CIVICUS Board with our annual plan for 2021/22. The plan reflects lessons we have learnt from civic space trends and challenges in the context of the current pandemic and our resulting intent to invest more actively in initiatives that enable the long-term relevance and sustainability of civil society across the world. 

On cue from our Impact & Accountability team, this update headlines five aspects of our annual plan that I am most excited about. More information about our annual plan is available here.

  • Championing the right to peaceful assembly

Large-scale, public protests have defined the civic space landscape in every continent of the world across the past decade. Our work this year will set the stage for multi-year interventions to support people and communities who exercise their right to protest, while actively challenging unwarranted restrictions on peaceful assembly. We will contribute to the creation of enabling international and constitutional norms; develop context-specific mechanisms for the safety, health and wellbeing of those who exercise their right to protest; and facilitate greater connections between protest movements and wider civil society. 

  • Increasing our ability to define & defend civic freedoms online

As part of our focus on civil society innovation and collaboration, our work this year includes the development of new strategies to support an enabling digital environment for civil society.  We will identify opportunities for civil society to actively monitor and report the misuse of technology to restrict civic freedoms and continue to be propositional about ways in which digital tools and platforms can support the fulfilment of human rights. As a result, we expect to increase the combined ability of the CIVICUS alliance to influence regulatory frameworks that protect and expand the online exercise of fundamental freedoms.

  • Strengthening our peer-to-peer learning, resourcing and solidarity initiatives

We are excited to launch a number of initiatives aimed at improving how CIVICUS members collaborate and innovate together across a range of platforms. Our new online platform for members now enables secure peer-to-peer exchanges on mutual aims and collaborative projects, thereby unlocking a whole new level of dynamic engagement across the alliance. Our targeted grassroots-led resourcing campaign will allow us to test assumptions and amplify lessons on the shifts needed to make grassroots and national civil society efforts more resilient and sustainable. We will also be paying special attention to innovations in youth-focused civic space monitoring and resourcing in this period. 

  • Deepening our commitment to accountability and inclusion in the workplace

In the last few years, we have prioritised a number of processes to ensure our workplace reflects our strong commitment to a culture of diversity, inclusion and accountability.  A rigorous review of internal practices and externally benchmarked evidence on sector standards has enabled a number of improvements in our systems related to recruitment, safeguarding, remuneration and benefits. In addition to progressing our commitment to a Fair Share for Women Leaders, we have undertaken an in-depth examination of how racial justice priorities show up in the culture and existing structures of the organisation in the past year. These processes have set the direction for further efforts that will be undertaken in the current year, which includes the progression of a composite and time-bound Racial Justice Action Plan.

  • Delivering an amended Strategic Plan that outlines CIVICUS’ priorities beyond 2022

In March 2021, the CIVICUS Board approved a ‘strategy amendment process’ aimed at refining our priorities beyond 2022. The decision for a strategy refresh – as opposed to the development of an entirely new strategic plan – was based on the recognition that a light-touch process would help us focus attention and energies on the urgent external challenges and changes that we face at this time. The strategy amendment process draws on outcomes from review and scoping exercises held with a wide range of stakeholders across 2020/21. It will allow us to stress-test our theory of change, update key assumptions and sharpen areas of work that have assumed increased relevance in the context of the pandemic.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the lessons learnt and outcomes achieved in relation to these endeavours in the coming months. Your suggestions are most welcome and could help us strengthen our efforts!  Please feel free to reach me or any other member of the CIVICUS team with your feedback – we look forward to hearing from you!

Lysa John 
CIVICUS Secretary-General
@lysajohn