Looking Back; Moving Forward

INGRID-BUSTSHOTDear friends, partners and supporters,

What a year 2011 was!

Often I found myself quoting Lenin: 'Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens, then weeks pass and decades happen.' Disasters, natural and man-made wrestled for attention with economies on the brink. Young people around the world defied incredibly daunting odds to seize control over their futures. Activism, citizen action and political engagement surged and found new, compelling forms on every continent. Authorities of every stripe were challenged and found lacking in accountability, legitimacy and imagination. Transparency was radically re-defined. Too many friends passed on. Many more were subjected to incarceration, intimidation and worse. But Aung San Suu Kyi walked free, living testament to the power of non-violent resistance. And a new nation was born in Africa. Freedom and control seemed locked in mortal combat like irresistible force and immovable obstacle.


Regional Workshop on Democratising Governance through Citizen Participation

The regional workshop on democratising governance through citizen participation brought together representatives of civil society organisations, international organisations and participatory governance practitioners from Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to share experiences in advancing participatory governance, identify key gaps in participatory governance processes at local, national and continental levels and propose solutions aimed at filling these gaps and making participatory governance effective at all levels.

The first part of the workshop focused on a review of global trends, challenges and good practices in participatory governance. The second part focused on the sharing of experiences on participatory governance by Global Transparency Fund (GTF) Mwananchi Programme partners from six countries in Africa. The third session focused on continental perspectives on participatory governance, looking specifically at the issue of democratic space in an effort to identify key areas where advances can be made to enable more effective participation in governance processes. In the fourth session, participants looked at the dynamics of two key African institutions and ways in which the voices of citizens can influence the decision-making processes of these institutions.
The fifth and sixth sessions focused on global perspectives on participatory governance, the use of new technologies to bridge existing gaps and the way forward.

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CIVICUS gearing up for 2nd Intersessional Meeting of the UNCSD

1 November was the official close of the call for submissions to the compilation document for Rio+20. A total of 488 contributions were received from Major Groups. CIVICUS, ANPED, and CI, the three NGO Major Group Operating Partners, did not submit a consensus input so that all NGO issues could be taken into account in a fair and equitable manner. However, in parallel, the NGO Operating Partners have separately submitted their own contributions. CIVICUS' submission consisted of specific civil society recommendations before, during, and after the Summit to ensure effective multi-stakeholder participation.

With the 2nd Intersessional Meeting of the UNCSD fast approaching on 15 December, CIVICUS is currently finalising logistics for a side event which will be co-organised with the Stakeholder Forum, UN-NGLS, Social Watch, Vitae Civilis, and Citizens Network for Sustainable Development, entitled “Civil Society Engagement in Sustainable Development Governance.” In the lead up to the intersessional, CIVICUS is also working jointly with ANPED to create a matrix overview of all NGO inputs submitted on 1 November,  and plans to launch the first edition of a co-signed Rio+20 newsletter that will provide information from NGO Major Group Operating Partners activities and other news relevant to the process. Submissions to the newsletter will be actively sought from NGOs to ensure that voices are appropriately represented.


Standing together we can change the world - CIVICUS' Ingrid Srinath appeals for support of the Crisis Response Fund

Dear Friends and Partners,

From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street protests, 2011 will be remembered as the year we realised the power we hold to change the world.

This year, for Human Rights Day, CIVICUS is asking you to support the Crisis Response Fund (CRF). In 2009-2010 CIVICUS tracked and documented threats to civil society in over 90 countries in every region of the globe. The Crisis Response Fund reacts quickly and decisively when these threats arise, and in 2011 we have achieved some important successes. The campaign by CIVICUS and our partners in the Philippines resulted in the release of the Morong 43, a group of wrongfully imprisoned health workers. We supported the International Observation Station in Minsk in monitoring and documenting human rights violations, and sent lawyer Me Oyane Ondo to the African Commission of Human and People's Rights to advocate for Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa. We have supported initiatives in Egypt, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

And the work of the Crisis Response Fund is not done. With your help we can continue to strengthen, empower and enable civil society around the world.

donate now

Read rest of the letter here


Appel à expression d'intérêt – Le nouveau Indice Rapide de la Société Civile (ISC-RA) de CIVICUS

A propos de l’ISC-Rapide

L’auto-évaluation de la société civile contribue à renforcer les bases factuelles pour le rôle plaidoyer de la société civile, fournissant une plateforme pour la société civile pour identifier les besoins communs, et pour aider à la planification et l'élaboration de stratégies autour des défis et des opportunités communes.

Depuis 1997, CIVICUS: L’Alliance Mondiale pour la Participation Citoyenne, est le pionnier dans le domaine d’auto-évaluation de la société civile avec son Indice de la Société Civile, qui a soutenu des auto-évaluations sur les conditions de la société civile dans 75 pays depuis 2001.

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The Human Rights Situation in the Syria Arab Republic

Human Rights Council 18th SPECIAL SESSION
The Human Rights Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

2 December 2011
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you, Mme President,

CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the crimes against humanity being committed in Syria as we speak.

CIVICUS commends the timely report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and would like to point out that the report clearly details how Syrian security forces have since the start of the nationwide protests repeatedly and indiscriminately used firearms to kill and maim hundreds of demonstrators for the mere exercise of their right to peaceful protest. The report also details how government snipers with the intention of instilling terror targeted individuals leading the protest marches or speaking from loudspeakers. Use of such like military tactics against civilians is a flagrant violation of international law and principles of the UN Charter.


2011 – The year of voluntary action

by Andrew Firmin, Acting Research Manager, CIVICUS

International Volunteer Day, and the culmination of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, offers an opportunity to emphasise the important role of volunteerism in civic life.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation believes that voluntary citizen participation is an essential part of civil society, which in turn is a key contributor to sustainable development, human rights, good governance and social justice. Volunteering in civil society organisations is a crucial way in which the effectiveness, capacity and governance of CSOs is enhanced and in which the voice of citizens can be heard in public life. CIVICUS, as part of its mandate to promote and strengthen civil society, undertakes research and analysis into the nature and role of volunteerism, and has a range of resources available to better inform approaches to volunteering, detailed after the break.


Submission on South Africa to the UN UPR 13th Session

This joint submission from Association for Progressive Communictaion (APC), Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), CIVICUS, Gender Links Highway Africa Chair in Media and Information Society,  IDASA, ODAC, Right 2 Know, Southern African NGO Network (SANGONet), Section27 and SERI focuses on: freedom of expression; the right to information; freedom from censorship; freedom of the press; the right to privacy; and the importance of affordable access to the internet.

Read the submission here


Civil society statement to the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Since the last High Level Forum in Accra, more than 20,000 civil society organisations (CSOs) - including trade unions, women’s groups, youth groups, faith-based organisations and other social movements – in more than 90 countries, have been consulted on the process, agenda and expected outcomes of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) that is meeting here in Busan. We, the 500 participants at the Busan Global Civil Society Forum convened on 26-28 November, represent thousands of civil society actors and speak with one voice.

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CIVICUS Submission on Philippines to the UN UPR 13th Session

CIVICUS outlines urgent concerns related to the environment in which civil society activists and human rights defenders operate in the Philippines. This submission highlights the major breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Read the submission here


CIVICUS submission on Brazil to the UN UPR 13th Session

CIVICUS outlines urgent concerns related to the environment in which civil society activists and human rights defenders operate in Brazil, and about threats faced by them in the exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

Read the submission here


CIVICUS focuses spotlight on enabling environment in Busan

Johannesburg. 25 November 2011. As talks on development effectiveness begin in Busan, South Korea next week, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation warns that shrinking space for civil society and restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly are seriously marring the effectiveness of aid policies.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) play a key role in the representation of a wide range of voices - including of those living on the margins of society - in the development of policies surrounding the disbursement and utilisation of aid. They monitor the effectiveness of aid and contribute to inclusive development, often-times supporting governments in the actual delivery of services.


Call for expressions of interest – the new CIVICUS Civil Society Index Rapid Assessment tool (CSI-RA)

About the CSI-RA

Civil society self-assessment contributes to strengthening the evidence base for civil society advocacy; providing a platform for civil society to identify shared needs; and assisting the planning and strategising of civil society around common challenges and opportunities.

Since 1997 CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, has pioneered the field of civil society self-assessment with its Civil Society Index, which has supported comprehensive self-assessments on the conditions for civil society in 75 countries to date.

Building on the track record of the CSI, CIVICUS now offers an additional and new civil society rapid assessment (CSI-RA) tool, which offers a more flexible and adaptable methodology to help civil society better assess its own strengths, challenges, potentials and needs in a range of different situations and contexts.

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Calling all those with artistic talent!

The State of Civil Society 2011: Through an Artist's Lens

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is seeking the ‘design of the year’ for the cover of The State of Civil Society 2011 report. This inaugural annual report will be an overview of the state of civil society and the main issues it confronted in a year which was anything but quiet. From the first volleys of the Arab Spring in January to the calls for climate justice at COP17 in Durban in December, 2011 has been an epic year for civil society. This is your chance to help commemorate it!


CIVICUS-BCHR Submission on Bahrain to the UN UPR 13th Session

CIVICUS and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) outline urgent concerns related to the environment in which civil society, human rights activists and ordinary citizens operate in Bahrain, and the vicious attacks by government security forces on those who dare to exercise their rights of expression, assembly and association.

Read the submission here.


CIVICUS launches new generation of civil society assessments at Dakar forum

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation launched its new civil society self-assessment tool, the Civil Society Index Rapid Assessment (CSI-RA) at the Africa Forum on Civil Society and Governance Assessments, 10 to 12 November 2011. The forum, held in Dakar, Senegal and co-convened by UNDP, CIVICUS, Trust Africa and other civil society partners brought together over 150 participants from all over Africa to discuss new trends in and opportunities for civil society’s role on civil society assessments and governance assessments.

The forum grew out of an understanding that in order to have greater impact, civil society must improve its interaction with, and effect on, public institutions, actors and policies, and help citizens to do so. Civil society therefore has a greater role to play in assessing the quality of governance, and in helping citizens to hold governments to account, for instance over the delivery of public services. As part of this, civil society needs to be provided opportunities to reflect on its own health and context, and generate its own evidence. However, there is growing acknowledgement that in current times of fast and dramatic change, many of the existing tools to help assess the state of civil society lack flexibility and are insufficiently able to reflect local nuances.


NGO Joint Letter to HRC Special Session on Syria

To Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Joint Call by Civil Society for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council to consider the findings of the Syrian Commission of Inquiry and ensure accountability

22 November, 2011

Your Excellency,

As civil society organizations from around the world we urgently call on the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) to convene a special session on Syria immediately after the release of the report of the HRC International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (the Commission of Inquiry), which is due before the end of November 2011. We also call on the HRC to transmit the findings of the Commission of Inquiry to the UN Security Council. If the Commission of Inquiry finds that crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity, appear to have been committed by the Syrian government, we call on the HRC to urge the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).


New online human rights film festival gives free access to world-class films

The online film festival gives Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) and Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) a new platform to raise awareness about human rights abuses. It's an innovative way to give voice to the oppressed and unite the global community to demand human rights for all.

JOHANNESBURG, 16 November 2011 - Tri Continental Film Festival in partnership with Every Human Has Rights is launching a commemorative International Human Rights Day online film festival on November 16, 2011, making them pioneers among human rights organisations in offering free access to award-winning documentary films. Users can screen the films at www.tcff.org.za from December 1-10, 2011.


In this week's issue of the e-CIVICUS

  • The clothes have no emperor
  • Just how much can the state restrict a peaceful protest?
  • Call for "Snapshots"
  • TCFF and EHHR launch online film festival
  • CIVICUS interview with Billy Mayaya
  • Bill is a ‘shameful moment’ for Israel
  • Palestinian civil society launches campaign to reform international aid to Palestine in run up to Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness
And much more. Read the full issue here. Subscribe to future issues here.


CIVICUS Call for "Snapshots" for the State of Civil Society

Read the call in:

English | French | Spanish | Russian | Portuguese Chinese


The State of Civil Society 2011 is a new initiative of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and it will be the only annual report on the health and state of civil society, and the enabling environment for civil society, authored by the civil society sector itself.

From jailed human rights defenders in Belarus to anti-corruption campaigners in India to disaster relief workers in Japan and in East Africa to angry protesters in Tahrir Square to the activists involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, we want to capture the tales of the individuals that witnessed, participated and commented on the events that defined 2011.


This week in e-CIVICUS

  • Occupy: Reinventing leadership, governance and economic paradigms
  • Promoting Human Rights in Uzbekistan - a Crisis Response Fund Appeal
  • Nnimmo Bassey on what to expect from Durban climate talks
  • On the road to Busan: Interview with Emele Duituturaga
  • Third day of the trial against Ales Bialiatski: clear signs of a politically-motivated trial

And much more. Read the full issue here. Subscribe to future issues here.


Call for submissions: Rio+20 Zero Draft

Dear members and partners,

We would like to kindly remind you that CIVICUS, as Operating Partner of the NGO Major Group facilitating the Rio+20 process, is very much interested in receiving your contributions to the Zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document by the November 1st deadline (5pm Eastern Standard time, close of business in New York).


Statement to G20 Leaders

CIVICUS is joining fellow civil society organisations to urge G20 leaders to put human rights norms and principles at the centre of their decision-making on financial regulation and climate change during their upcoming Summit in Cannes, France.

We invite you to consider adding your name to this call by endorsing the statement below.  To endorse as an organisation, please send the name of your organisation, the country, and the name and email address of a contact person to as soon as possible, but no later than 31 October 2011.

CIVICUS along with the Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Center of Concern, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), IBASE and Social Watch have already joined this appeal.

We are writing to the Group of 20 Leaders, in advance of their upcoming Summit in Cannes, to remind them that even in the policies of a most eminently economic nature, their duties to respect, protect and fulfill the economic, social, cultural, civil and political human rights, including the right to development, do not cease, but should take primacy in every commitment they undertake.

In particular, we are demanding action on the following issues on the agenda of the G20:


Commonwealth People's Forum 2011

Opening Plenary: The Global Context for Civil Society

by Ingrid Srinath

Where do we, civil society, find ourselves as we near the end of 2011?

The heady optimism of the 1990s following the fall of the Berlin wall and its promise of a global wave of democracy and freedom, and the growing power of citizen action symbolized by the protests at the WTO in Seattle were quickly followed by a decade of the “war on terror” used as an excuse by many governments around the world to restrict freedoms of information, expression, and assembly. Instead of the sweeping vision of the Earth Charter and the Millennium Declaration we settled, in the wake of 9/11, for the relatively minimalist, technocratic MDGs.


Uganda: Commitments on Freedoms of assembly, expression and association made during UPR-Review on 14 October must be respected.

Uganda was reviewed recently by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The government responded favourably to many of the recommendations made to strengthen freedom of expression, assembly and association in the country. Yet, barely a week later, was civil society once again under threat with a crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Uganda’s review was in the first cycle of UPR initiated under UNHRC, an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in all 192 UN Member states. Uganda was reviewed on 11 October at the 13th meeting of the twelfth sessions conducted from 3-14 October 2011 in Geneva.


This week in e-CIVICUS

  • People power for aid effectiveness
  • CIVICUS Secretary General at Commonwealth People's Forum
  • Joint Open Letter on Bahrain
  • Cuba 'Ladies in White' founder Laura Pollan dies
  • Bahrain: Repression against workers and attacks against Trade Union Rights are still going on
  • G20 finance ministers face growing public anger for failing to reform financial system
  • Civil Society at a Crossroads?

Read this issue online now.

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Joint Civil Society Letter to Commonwealth Heads of Government

Dear Commonwealth Heads of Governments,

This letter follows an earlier letter on this subject that many of us jointly wrote to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, prior to their meeting in New York on 22 September 2011. In the absence of any public pronouncement by Foreign Ministers on this issue we have to assume that no decision has yet been taken to put in place a process for assessing the suitability of Sri Lanka’s candidature for hosting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). In this context, we recall your 2009 decision to defer Sri Lanka’s candidature as host and seriously urge you to consider a similar postponement at CHOGM 2011.

We reiterate that Sri Lanka continues to face allegations of human rights violations that are of an extremely serious nature. These allegations have been found credible by none less than a Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General. In addition to this, several other well grounded allegations exist about the lack of fundamental freedoms within Sri Lanka, which it is charged, has resulted in serious violations of freedom of expression, association and movement as well as entrenched impunity for past human rights violations. Together these make Sri Lanka one of the most acute human rights situations in the Commonwealth.

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Uganda Side Event Report

Opening Up Uganda’s Civil Society Space at the United Nations Human Rights Counciluganda 1

Together with our colleagues from Uganda, Civicus organized a side event at the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 10, 2011, focusing on Civil Society Space in Uganda. This was held the day before Uganda’s Universal Period Review (UPR) within the Human Rights Council. The Ugandan activists discussed the current challenges facing civil society in their country, and what steps the government needs to take to open up the space for civil society.

While the Ugandan constitution enshrines basic human rights such as the right to assembly and to form associations, the government does often not respect these rights, and many Ugandan laws inhibit civil society organizations from carrying out their missions. Mr. Festus Kahiigwa from the Uganda NGO Forum informed the audience about issues such as difficulties for CSOs to register, the need to ask permission from the government to work in rural areas, and the wide discretionary powers of the government to decide when, where and if demonstrations can take place.

uganda 2Mr. Mohammed Ndifuna, CEO of the Human Rights Network – Uganda, and Mr. Patrick Tumwine, Advocacy Officer at Hurinet-U, further discussed violations of freedom of expression through a harsh law on the media, government crack downs on social media and the government banning some public demonstrations and the use of excess force at some public events. The speakers also touched on the proposed homosexuality bill, which would lead to even harsher sentences for homosexuality, including the death penalty.uganda 3

The panelists were asked important questions from the audience on issues such as why the government has recently begun cracking down on civil society, the impact of this on women’s participation civil society, and how to increase the engagement of young people. In terms of the government’s consultations with civil society for the UPR process, the government did reach out to civil society somewhat, but it was not nearly enough and the CSOs were not provided the report until the last minute.


CIVICUS Secretary General at Commonwealth People’s Forum

Ingrid SrinathCIVICUS Secretary General Ingrid Srinath is travelling to Perth, Australia, from 25-28 October 2011, to take civil society messages to Commonwealth decision-makers. Following an opening ceremony featuring the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia and H.E. Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary General, Ingrid will deliver a keynote address in the opening plenary on the topic “The Global Context for Civil Society”. The Commonwealth People’s Forum in Perth comes at a time of soul-searching for the Commonwealth, which is undergoing a process of internal reform, spearheaded by an Eminent Persons Group, designed to refresh its own relevance in a changing external environment.

What messages would you like to see Ingrid take to Perth to deliver on behalf of the CIVICUS constituency? Let us know and share your ideas with us by emailing by Friday 21 October 2011.


Southern Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Development

The Conference on Volunteer Action for Development will be taking place from the 17 – 19 of October at the FNB Learning Centre, Sandton, Johannesburg.

The conference is an initiative of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in partnership with Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) and the following conference partners active in the region: Canada World Youth (CWY), the European Commission, FirstRand Volunteers Programme, FK Norway, loveLife, Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), and VSO-RAISA. The conference is also supported by a Steering Committee of twenty organisations that promote volunteering and civic service in the region.

On Wedensday 19th October, CIVICUS will host some of the delagates of the conference at CIVICUS House to present a paper which draws on data gathered in eight African countries in the last phase of the CSI, held from 2008-2011: Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. Find out more about the site visits here and here.


CIVICUS-ODI Workshop on Democratising Governance through Citizen Participation

Authoritarian regimes, co-opted institutions, the absence of enabling legislation and a persecuted civil society are some of the central factors holding back the fulfilment of the fundamental rights of freedoms of many an African citizen.  This does not mean that the continent has not made progress towards democratisation and participatory governance.   Despite the trying circumstances, and the challenges of working in constraining environments, African civil society and citizens have been able to achieve major successes in enhancing participatory governance through the implementation of gender budgeting policies, enactment of freedom of legislation, establishment of institutions  and support of social activism and volunteerism to name a few. These experiences need to be celebrated, shared and replicated albeit taking into account the different realities in each country.


In this weeks issue of the e-CIVICUS

  • South Africa fails an ethical test: Dalai Lama cancels planned visit
  • Q&A: Africa's legislated civil society crackdown
  • Comments and proposals on the second draft of the Busan draft outcome document
  • Civic Engagement Measurement System
  • Bahrain medical staff sentenced for treating protesters
  • Civil society comes of age in Jamaica
  • World Bank-IMF annual meetings 2011
  • Online Consultation on the CFS Global Strategic Framework
Read this issue online. Click here to subscribe and get future issues in your inbox.


Comments and proposals on the second draft of the Busan draft outcome document

Following the publication of the revised Busan Outcome Document (BOD), CIVICUS has raised several concerns regarding the  global trend of the increasing dis-enabling environment for CSOs that affects their effectiveness and role as independent development actors. This is the second draft of the Busan declaration released, and whilst some civil society feedback to the first draft version was incorporated, we still have a number of concerns raised to the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness.


In e-CIVICUS this week

  • Trying to use a water pistol to stop a charging rhino
  • IMF-World Bank civil society town hall meeting
  • Joint letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding Uzbekistan
  • Busan CSO pre-event; Register now
  • Africa's energy future heading down a dark tunnel
  • Sentencing to prison of lawyer Moses Richards, a chilling message to the Gambian human rights community

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Wangari Maathai - in memoriam: A tribute from Cyril Ritchie, after 36 years of friendship with Maathai

Cyril Ritchie*

The  world  is  today  a  poorer  place,  following  the  immensely  regretted  death  of  Wangari  Maathai,   an  outstanding  woman,   an  outstanding  humanist,   an outstanding  innovator,   an outstanding  civil  society  activist,   an  outstanding  leader.   And  an  outstanding  mother   to  outstanding  children,  to  whom  I  convey  my  emotional  solidarity  and  support.

I  met  Wangari  in  Nairobi  in  1975  when  I  was  the  first  Chair  of  the  Environment  Liaison  Centre  International  (ELCI),  a  post  in  which  Wangari   later  succeeded  me.


IMF-World Bank civil society town hall meeting.

Remarks by Laila Iskandar, Chairperson, CID Consulting (a social enterprise in Cairo, Egypt), Board Chair, Spirit of Youth NGO in Cairo (situated in the garbage collectors’ neighbourhood of Manchiyet Nasser), and Member, Global Recyclers without Borders Network

Thank you for the invitation to this Town Hall meeting.  From the global CSO community we bring you news of our work with millions of people on six continents. 


This week in e-CIVICUS

  • Defining civil society
  • CIVICUS call for papers: 10th International Society for Third Sector Research conference, Siena, Italy 
  • Sign the petition to free Ales Bialiatski
  • MDGs: Time to get it rightWhen the road to democracy gets hijacked
  • Aid transparency campaigners welcome new ‘open-government’ initiative

And loads more!

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‘Less bang for their buck’

By Mr Letshego Mokeki, National TISDA Coordinator, Transparency International (TI)

Following up on findings of their research report, TI is currently undertaking two campaigns in South Africa to strengthen civil society and capacity in financial management in primary education.

The research, conducted as part of the Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Africa programme (TISDA) shows that good governance, and especially accountability and integrity, are critical in the delivery of basic services and learner performance in general. The South African education system has consistently failed to deliver the results. The dismal performance of Grades 3 and 6 learners in the Department of Basic Education’s Annual National Assessment (ANA) is a case in point. Only 35% of Grade 3 learners were found to be able to read and write. These results are particularly worrying given the high levels of poverty and unemployment. Furthermore, the fact that the South African government allocates the single largest portion of its budget to education, about 5 per cent of GDP in 2011, does not seem to be having the desired effect. As a group of students from Washington University put it, the South African education system is experiencing ‘less bang for their buck’.


Call for Papers: 10th International Society for Third Sector Research conference, Siena, Italy

The 10th International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) on the theme “Democratisation, Marketisation and the third sector’, will take place during July 10-13, 2012 in Siena, Italy.

In this context, CIVICUS, as an organiser of three panels at the 10th ISTR conference, is seeking abstract submission from researchers and practitioners for the Siena event. 15 papers will be selected for panel discussion.

According to the ISTR rules, abstracts should be sent to the panel organisers, in this case CIVICUS, to be reviewed by them. After the internal review and selection process, CIVICUS will submit panel proposal(s), along with the abstracts that were selected to be presented at the conference. The final decisions about acceptances to the conference will be made by the ISTR after submitting the panel proposal.

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e-CIVICUS, World Assembly Special Issue

The special issue of the e-CIVICUS, highlighting happenings, news and opinions from the just concluded CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal.

Click here to read online.

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CIVICUS Civil Society Index: Key findings from 2008-2011

Civil society is undergoing its most significant crisis and change for a generation. Many established civil society organisations (CSOs) are struggling under the weight of multiple economic and political challenges, but are also shown to be disconnected from many citizens, and particularly from new and informal forms of participation and activism.


Join the conversation from the largest global gathering of civil society: the CIVICUS World Assembly

The dialogue stretches beyond Montreal!

The spirit of the CIVICUS World Assembly is reaching far beyond the Palais Des Congres in Montreal. Around the world, civil society activists are taking part in the discussion and you TOO can share the World Assembly experience with them.


Government accountability and citizen agency in South Africa’s run-up to COP17

This is the final instalment of our conversation with Ms. Makoma Lekalakala, Programme Officer of Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg. Ms. Lekalakala spoke with CIVICUS about the role of the South African government in the COP17 negotiations, the citizen push for accountability and the future of the local climate justice movement after the COP has left Durban. You can read the first instalment of the interview here.


LAUNCHING 2 SEPTEMBER: New report on health of civil society from around the world

On Friday 2 September in Johannesburg, CIVICUS will  launch  our new report on the health of civil society, Bridging the Gaps: citizens, organisations and dissociation. The report comes at the end of a mammoth three year research project, the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI). Literally thousands of people have been involved in this: between 2008 and 2011, the CSI sought the views of over 45,000 members of the public, over 4,000 CSO representatives and over 1,000 external experts on civil society to build up a comprehensive picture of the strengths and weaknesses of, and the challenges and opportunities for civil society.


Call for expressions of interest to host the 2013 CIVICUS World Assembly


From 2010 to 2012, the CIVICUS World Assembly is being co-hosted by the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) in Montreal, Canada. In 2013 CIVICUS is aiming to organise its 12th World Assembly in a country from the Global South, with a strong preference for a Francophone country. CIVICUS is inviting bids from interested organisations to partner with CIVICUS in co-hosting the World Assembly in 2013, also in partnership with INM. 

We invite cities/countries to express their interest to host the 2013 CIVICUS World Assembly and Youth Assembly. We invite candidates to participate in the 2011 World Assembly in Montreal in September to meet the organising committee and learn more about the selection process of the next co-host.



Civil society and the need to communicate with impact

Mario Lubetkin is Secretary General for Inter Press Services (IPS), a communications institution with a global news agency at its core and is dedicated to raising the voices of the South and of civil society. In this piece, written in advance of the CIVICUS World Assembly next week, he reflects on the importance of communication for achieving civil society’s goals and the challenges the sector faces in this regard.

Civil society faces multiple challenges to strengthen its communications and increase its space in the global information system. Those challenges must be addressed clearly and frankly requiring us to understand civil society’s own limits and mistakes, as well as the system’s characteristics and potential for the immediate future.


One arrest signals a dark time for Belarusian civil society

Ales Baliatski
Ales Bialiatski, a prominent civil society activist in Belarus, was arrested on 4 August 2011.

Belarus is referred to as the last dictatorship in Europe and its human rights situation has long been dire, yet the arrest of one man has signalled even darker times ahead for local civil society. 

On 4 August 2011, Aliaksandr (Ales) Bialiatski, a prominent human rights defender in Belarus, was detained and his house searched. Later charged with tax fraud and still languishing in jail, Bialiatski’s arrest came after months of harassment and a crackdown on civil society in the country. This crackdown followed protests against what were viewed as fraudulent presidential elections last December that saw Aliaksandr Lukashenka, president of Belarus since 1994, remain in power. Yet, while the initial protests resulted in over 700 arrests, Bialiatski’s detention and subsequent charge of tax fraud has struck a particularly hard blow to Belarusian civil society, one tainted by betrayal and fear.

In order to understand the current situation in Belarus and why this single arrest had such an impact on Belarusian civil society, Jessica Hume, CIVICUS Communications Manager, spoke with Konstantin Baranov of the Committee for International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus  to get his thoughts. 


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Can you give us a bit of background on Earthlife?

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Read the letter.


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