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?

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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
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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.

Read more

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. 

Climate change in South Africa: What it means, and who cares?

Social activist, Makoma Lekalakala*, recently sat down with Elizabeth Hira, of CIVICUS’ Policy Unit, to discuss climate change from the perspective of South Africans, the task of mobilisation, and the role of women in climate justice.

Can you give us a bit of background on Earthlife?

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg is a voluntary environmental justice organisation founded in 1988 during the Apartheid era. Earthlife has six projects: the sustainable energy and climate change partnership (which I work for as a Programme Officer) and the other projects are, zero waste, anti-nuclear, biodiversity, animal rights, and acid rain drainage. The last project has resulted from this issue cropping up in the last few years around residue from the mines, because most of the mines were not decommissioned, so some of the chemical residues are eating pipes and the water is getting polluted, the primary mission of the organisation is to educate, create awareness and lately to build a movement on environmental justice issues.

Joint letter on human rights situation in Angola

CIVICUS recently joined several international civil society organisations in writing to the Government of Angola to draw attention to a number of concerns and to present urgent requests with regard to the humanrights situation in Angola. We called on the Government of Angola to ensure the full implementation of thehuman rights principles in respect of which the commitment of the Government was confirmed at the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Read the letter.

COP17: The Mechanisms, the context, the possibilities

Melita Steele has been with Greenpeace Africa as a climate and energy campaigner for a year and a half. Ms. Steele holds a Masters degree in Environmental Science and worked as an environmental consultant before coming to Greenpeace. This is the second instalment of her conversation with CIVICUS (you can read the first here).  She speaks to CIVICUS about the coalition of civil society organisations working together towards COP17 (C17), how advocacy actually happens at the Conference of the Parties, and what the day after COP17 looks like for South Africa.

Building bridges: the future of sustainable cooperation between informal online activists and civil society organisations

Click to view on YouTube

Click to listen/download
from iTunes store

On Wednesday 20 July, 2011, CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, hosted a webinar, geared towards developing policy recommendations for civil society organisations (CSOs), public and private sector donors and governments to enable them to bridge the gap between traditional CSOs and online activists.

This is sequel to a discussion note produced by CIVICUS intended to spur debate on the role of information communication technology as (a) a tool for mass mobilisation for offline activism (b) a vehicle for new forms of online activism (c) the creator and driver of online civic space (d) a platform for knowledge-sharing and collective learning and (e) a source of new models of governance.

The webinar session was moderated by CIVICUS Secretary General Ingrid Srinath, and presentations focused on a diverse range of topical issues including:

'A radical exercise in democracy: Lessons from Iceland's crowd-sourced constitution and its implication for better governance' - Representative Icelandic Constitutional Council

'The shifting technological parameters of journalism and its role in revolution in the Middle East' Mohammed Ziyaad Hassen, Senior Planner Social Media, Al Jazeera, Qatar

'Towards sustainable change: Moving from online activism to offline action' Amanda Atwood, Information and Communication Officer, Kubatana, Zimbabwe

We hope you enjoy it.

Listen on/download from iTunes  or View on YouTube

Strengthening citizen action and civil society in the Caribbean

A teleconference hosted by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
14:00 – 16:00 GMT on Friday 12 August 2011

It is my pleasure to invite you to participate in a regional consultation geared towards identifying and better understanding the key issues and state of civil society in the region, as well as how governments, CSOs and the private sector can better support the strengthening of civil society in the region. The consultation comes as part of the CIVICUS alliance’s outreach in the region, and the expectation is that the findings should help inform CIVICUS’ policy positions in global forums later in 2011, including the UN, the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, and the 17th Conference of Parties on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa.

This week in e-CIVICUS


  • Faith-based economics. Faith-based politics - Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General, CIVICUS
  • Emerging economies and the development aid discourse - Mandeep Tiwana, Policy manager, CIVICUS
  • CIVICUS World Assembly Workshop: Do NGO self-regulation mechanisms work? - Adele Poskit, Policy Officer, CIVICUS

Members' Corner

  • Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Greenpeace: The relentless fight to save the globe

Melita Steele, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Africa, speaks to Elizabeth Hira of CIVICUS

Melita Steele has been with Greenpeace Africa as a climate and energy campaigner for a year and a half. She holds a Masters degree in Environmental Science and worked as an environmental consultant before coming to Greenpeace. She spoke to CIVICUS about the South African government's stance on climate change and the realities of energy and possibility in South Africa.

Could you give us a little bit of background on Greenpeace Africa?

This week in e-CIVICUS


  • The sanctity of life: Norway and Somalia - a study in contrast
  • Civil Society and post-disaster reconstruction: the case of Japan 
  • The Making of Social Justice: Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture


  • Egypt civil society decries decision to ban international monitoring of the elections
  • Time for democratic dialogue in Malawi - not death threats and unfounded treason charges
  • After Sri Lanka polls, civil society groups say 'voters were threatened'

Time for democratic dialogue in Malawi - Not death threats and unfounded treason charges

NEWS RELEASE – Statement by the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Trust (SAHRDT)            

Johannesburg, July 26: In the wake of last week’s bloody demonstrations in Malawi, the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Trust (SAHRDT) calls on President Bingu wa Mutharika to engage in an open, national debate about the country’s future – rather than resorting to more inflammatory attacks on civil society leaders and pro-democracy activists. Any intention of charging the organisers of the protests – who were merely exercising their constitutional rights – with treason should also be abandoned since the allegations are clearly unfounded and absurd.

Many of the coordinators of the ‘For a better Malawi’ demonstrations and their families have received death threats and some of them are now in hiding – genuinely fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Those in hiding include Undule Mwakasungula, Gift Trapence, Rafiq Hajat and Luther Mambala. These threats can be linked to the President’s public remarks about dealing with leaders of the demonstration – that he would ‘smoke them out’ and charge them with treason for trying to overthrow his government.

¡Participa a las discusiones en línea de la Asamblea Mundial 2011 de CIVICUS!

CIVICUS invita a activistas, investigadores y profesionales de la sociedad civil, a líderes empresariales responsables y a representantes de agencias de desarrollo a compartir ideas y experiencias sobre el fortalecimiento de la participación ciudadana y a vincularse con representantes de organizaciones donantes y  gobiernos.

Bajo el lema general de “Actuar Juntos por un Mundo Justo”, el tema de la Asamblea Mundial de 2011 es: “Sociedad Civil y Decisiones Globales: Influyendo Más y Mejor”.

Hazte leer por el mundo entero!

In e-CIVICUS this week


  • 2011: Can it be the Year of Reckoning - ingrid Srinath
  • Food insecurity and the future


  • Zimbabwe: Inconsistency of charges against activists highlight deteriorating human rights situation (Press release)
  • Malawi erupts in anti-government protests

Voices on the Road to COP 17: Food insecurity and the future

Kelly_OxfamInterview by: Elizabeth Hira, Human Rights Activist and Policy Unit Intern, CIVICUS

With: Kelly Dent, Senior Climate Change Policy Advisor for Oxfam International

Kelly Dent is Oxfam International’s resident expert on climate change. She is also the Economic Justice Manager for Oxfam Australia. Ms. Dent has been part of Oxfam International’s global policy team for the past three years, and is now using her expertise on food crises and climate justice to represent Oxfam’s mission during the planning for COP17. Ms. Dent’s current focus is to integrate Oxfam’s global efforts with South African efforts, particularly focusing on policy, lobbying, media, and building alliances that bring together a diverse range of players from both the global north and global south, to lead the call for climate justice at COP17. CIVICUS had the pleasure of speaking with her about the connection between Oxfam’s work and food security as it relates to poverty, and how all of these issues are intrinsically related to climate change and the urgent need for action.

South Africa can move beyond the 'Two Economies' to deliver one inclusive food system, says UN Food Expert

PRETORIA – “South Africa is a champion of institutionalizing social, economic and cultural rights such as the human right to food, but it has yet to prove it can deliver results for 12 million poor food insecure people, 70 per cent of which live in rural areas,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, on the last day of his official mission to South Africa*.

“South Africa became a model by integrating the right to food in its Constitution and by establishing the South African Human Rights Commission. Its Constitutional Court developed a uniquely progressive jurisprudence in the area of economic social and cultural rights. But it is now time to build a food economy that benefits the majority of the population.”

Webinar - Building bridges: the future of sustainable cooperation between informal online activists and civil society organisations

A virtual consultation hosted by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Wednesday 20 July, 2011 at 1 pm UTC/GMT

The purpose of this thematic consultation is to develop policy recommendations for civil society organisations, public and private sector donors and governments to enable them to bridge the gap between traditional CSOs and online activists.

Speech by CIVICUS Research and Policy Director, Netsanet Belay at the launch of the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund

Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellencies and colleagues;

I thank you for this opportunity you gave me to address you on this distinct and historical occasion. My name is Netsanet Belay and I represent one of the oldest global alliances of civil society organisations based in the South: CIVICUS, World Alliance for Citizens participation.

We are gathered here today to welcome and launch yet another initiative to rescue, protect and support civil society groups under attack. The global picture and the rationale behind this initiative are very clear. In as much as the launch of this fund represents a unique occasion that sparks hopes to millions of activists around the world, we need to remind ourselves that this is far from a joyful event.

This week in e-CIVICUS


  • Co-operation for effective development: Looking to Busan
  • Voices on the road to COP 17: Who should lead the fight on climate change? You should


  • US violated Egypt’s sovereignty by offering funds to NGOs, says minister
  • Rich nations risk breaking their pledges on farming aid, says anti-poverty group

Voices on the road to COP 17: Who should lead the fight on climate change? You should

Mandeep TiwanaInterview by: Elizabeth Hira, Human Rights Activist and Policy Unit Intern, CIVICUS

Mandeep Tiwana, Policy Manager at CIVICUS, discusses climate change, COP17, and why ordinary people need to lead the fight. This is the first in a series of conversations CIVICUS will host in the lead-up to the 17th Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Call for Proposals: Implementing Microsoft SharePoint

CIVICUS is looking to develop a comprehensive intranet and knowledge management system using Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 and associated software including:

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 (email)
  • Microsoft Project (Project management)
  • Microsoft Lync/Communication Server (IM Chats, Group chat, VOIP and conference calling)
  • Visio (on-going work flow designs)

CIVICUS is seeking proposals from consultants to implement this solution between August and October 2011.

Download the full request for proposal here

Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa: Building Momentum for Mobilisation

Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa: Building Momentum for Mobilisation

On the 27 July 2011, a webinar was held on building momentum for mobilisation to address the challenges facing women human rights defenders in Africa.


After a March 2011 study conducted by CIVICUS on the challenges that women human rights defenders face in Africa, there was a clear need for follow-up advocacy efforts to address these challenges, with particular reference to “domesticating” international law to work on the ground in African nations, and strengthening the role of women in their communities, in organizations, and in civil society.

The event:

The webinar included presentations from Mozn Hassan, Founder and Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, and Tabitha Netuwa, Legal/Protection Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. Unfortunately, a planned presentation with Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary, World YWCA could not take place due to technical difficulties. 

In addition to these speakers, Elizabeth Hira, Policy Intern at CIVICUS, gave an overview presentation of the CIVICUS Report, 'Challenges for women human rights defenders in Africa'. The presentation is available here.

About the presenters:

Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

General Secretary, World YWCA

Ms. Gumbonzvanda is a human rights lawyer with over twenty years experience in women and children's human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries. At the World YWCA, Ms. Gumbonzvanda has focused on championing young women’s leadership, advancing peace with justice and addressing violence against women by making the YWCA a leader in community response to crises and conflict, and supporting the YWCA in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Ms. Gumbonzvanda’s many achievements include work on the integration of gender equality in the peace processes for the Sudan, Somalia and Northern Uganda, and taking a lead role in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region that resulted in the adoption of the Protocol on Sexual and Gender Based Violence. Ms. Gumbonzvanda was also involved in the development of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Ms. Gumbonzvanda has a Master’s degree in Private Law with specialisation in Constitutional Property Law from the University of South Africa and she completed post-graduate work on conflict resolution at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Ms. Tabitha Netuwa

Legal/Protection Officer, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

At EHAHRDP, Ms. Netuwa is the focal person for  human rights defenders who require support and protection. Among her many duties, Ms. Netuwa is responsible for the assessment of emergency cases of human rights defenders at risk, resource allocation for their assistance, and providing administrative and legal support to human rights defenders under the protection programme. Beyond her direct service work, Ms. Netuwa also monitors and provides analysis of legal and political developments, human rights and rule of law situations in the countries of the sub-region, and prepares reports on protection issues in the sub-region with proposals for intervention.

Ms. Netuwa holds a Law degree from Makerere University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal studies. She previously worked with the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University, where she was closely involved with refugees and internally displaced persons.

Can We Balance our Books on the Backs of the Poorest*

In this article, CIVICUS' Ingrid Srinath spoke with Justin Kilcullen of Trócaire at “If We Were Brave – Leadership Beyond Budget Cuts”, the first Masterclass organised by DTALK Learning, the Irish Aid mandated development training centre at Kimmage Manor Development Studies Centre.

RTE’s Frontline on May 30th pitted overseas development aid against the plight of carers and families facing the devastating consequences of healthcare cutbacks. The vulnerable versus more vulnerable spectacle was the continuation of a debate initiated earlier that day on Today with Pat Kenny when Friends’ First’s Jim Power made the case that Ireland can no longer afford its overseas development commitments. Frontline brought on another “expert” in foreign affairs arguing that at least some of the €675 million spent on overseas development in 2010 – down from €722 million the previous year - would be better spent on “special needs teachers or citizens.” Afterall, as the programme continuously repeated, charity begins at home, particularly in a recession.

Masterclass on Leadership organised by DTALK- 7th June 2011

If We Were Brave…

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General - CIVICUS

“NGOs should be involved in renegotiating the social contract, joining with states and markets to redefine what kind of society we want nationally and globally.”

NGO leaders in 2010 faced a particularly challenging year with an extreme pushback against  civil  society  almost  everywhere  in  the  world. The World  Economic  Forum (Davos) earlier in 2011 concluded that the world was in no shape to face further major risks. 

Latin American and Caribbean-How healthy is your civil society?

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation at the 8th Regional Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) for Latin American and the Caribbean Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina – 12- 14 July, 2011.

Founded in 1992, the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) is a major international association promoting research and education in the fields of civil society, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector. This regional event has been organised by two CIVICUS members; the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) and the Communication and Development Institute (ICD) from Uruguay.

NEW BLOG POST: With a grave human rights situation in Belarus at stake, civil society activists make their plea to OSCE

From a country so repressed that a dissenting word against government will result in a prison sentence, Yuri Dzhibladze*, Founder and President of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights in Moscow, writes why the international community must not forget Belarus. Read the post on the CIVICUS Blog.

Statement delivered by Secretary-general Ban Ki Moon to ECOSOC to launch the 2011 Millenium Development Goals

Geneva, 7 July 2011

“First of all let me thank you most sincerely for your very kind words and also your strong support and warm welcome on my reappointment as the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am deeply honoured and privileged to serve this great organization as Secretary-General and I will be more motivated and more engaged with Member States and you can count on me. Again thank you very much for you strong support.

I am pleased to be here for the launch of the 2011 Millennium Development Goals Report. I thank all those who have worked long and hard on this excellent study.

The report paints a mixed picture. On the one hand, it is clear that the MDGs have made a tremendous difference; they have raised awareness and they have shaped the broad vision that remains the overarching framework for development work across the world, and they have fuelled action and meaningful progress in people’s lives. Hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty, more people have access to education, better health care and improved access to clean drinking water.

Questions asked by members of the public re: CIVICUS’ RFP for implementing CiviCRM

 Below are the questions asked by parties who wanted additional information re our request for proposals for the implementation of our CRM strategy using CiviCRM.

Whilst we have cleaned up the questions to save space, we retained the answers as was sent the individual enquirers.

Q: Will being in a different timezone from Johannesburg, South Africa be an issue in your selection?
A: Whilst we are more interested in the capacity of the supplier to meet our needs and support the solution afterwards, the ability of the supplier to respond to mission critical requests during the implementation and support phases within normal South African work hour will be a plus

Q: Constituents relations tracking and reporting: Does it mean CTI (ie calls are automatically logged in the CRM
A: We will gladly explore the option of automatically logging calls, but at this time we are interested in a solution that allows staff log manually all calls made with details of the discussion and the possibility of creating a work flow to follow up the outcome of such telephone calls e.g. request manager to communicate with constituent etc.

Q: Training: where would it be expected? on site or remote?
A: If cost wont be an issue, we prefer training to be onsite, otherwise remote training may be an option

Statement to ECOSOC 2011 High-Level Segment

CIVICUS' UN Representative in Geneva, Renate Bloem, made an intervention today that the UN Economic and Social Council reaffirming that "CIVICUS believes that UN member states and global civil society need to work together to ensure quality education for all, in accordance with international norms and best practices. Moreover, civil society can play a strategic role in shaping development policies and in ensuring their proper implementation." 



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