Solidarity in the face of adversity

Message from Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary-General

Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

Another year is now drawing to a close. 2021 began with a glimmer of hope, as we saw the promised development of a COVID-19 vaccine becoming a reality. Yet, complex challenges, lack of global collaboration, and the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on every aspect of society has meant that this year we continued to operate in a world that has now changed dramatically. 

The pandemic has put intense pressure on civil society, and the individuals at the heart of people power. It inspires me that despite all that is happening in the world, people continue to collectively act for change. In this past year, millions challenged big business, protesting changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy, forcing one of the world’s most influential companies to retrace its steps in the face of an unexpected global backlash. At the same time, we saw growing calls for racial justice and climate action. 

On the other hand, civil society is still facing an alarming number of harassment and intimidation cases. Findings from the CIVICUS Monitor’s People Power Under Attack 2021 report show that 9 out of 10 people live in countries where civic freedoms are severely restricted, including the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

This critical context makes the work that we are doing to reinforce the importance of civil society and civic freedoms even more pressing. At the Secretariat, we are working to improve how we engage public and non-traditional stakeholders. With our media engagements, we strive to reach beyond civil society, while being part of multi-sector networks allows us to participate in a range of governance and strategy circles. Working together to respond to civic space challenges and violations across the world, CIVICUS Alliance continues to progress and we proud to share the following highlights:

  • We continued advocacy efforts, joining global calls for the release of human rights defenders as part of the  #StandAsMyWitness campaign. We celebrated the release of 3 Human Rights Defenders, namely Loujain al-Hathloul, Teresita Naul and Sudha Bharadwaj.
  • We continued to create platforms and spaces that support long term civic space resourcing, we have launched the Donor Finder and the Grassroots Solidarity Revolution campaign. 
  • The AGNA network successfully initiated 3 national pilots to test the ‘Rebuilding for Good’ framework
  • The CIVICUS Monitor, which marked its 5th year anniversary this year, produced a thought-provoking COVID-19 research brief, as well as a Climate Justice paper during COP26.

At the CIVICUS Secretariat, we have also been looking inwards, to improve processes and policies, as well as review our organisational strategy. This has included: a strategic amendment review, racial justice review, and drafting an operational strategy on data and digital rights. We held our virtual Annual General Meeting from 1-7 December 2021, which outlined CIVICUS’ efforts in fostering a culture of accountability - as a board, within the secretariat and across the alliance.

CIVICUS offices will be closed from 23 December to 3 January. Thank you for your solidarity, perseverance and efforts. It is an honour to work with such a diverse and remarkable alliance of activists and organisations. We look forward to connecting with you again next year with renewed energy and ambition.

Lysa John 
CIVICUS Secretary-General