• “Open Up The Space”: A call for inclusivity by CIVICUS Youth

    Header image Open Up The Space by daisuke 1230 CC BY SAThe world is filled with injustice, hate speech, violence and oppression. Variant forms of power are exercised to police bodies, groups and human rights work in the interests of privilege. This should not reflect within spaces of advocacy and accountability.

    Civil society should understand the importance of sharing power and enabling inclusion in a meaningful and uplifting manner. We as young people of diversity acknowledge and recognise the importance of having voices of vulnerability at the forefront of change. We need to redefine how we provide solutions and build togetherness. Everyone's area of influence should consider issues of displacement, migration, decolonisation, disability, albinism, indigenous origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics and mental wellbeing.

    Young people are present and ready to steer the mantle of challenging the complex systems and ideologies that impede our progress. We are willing and able to ensure no one is left behind.

    At the Youth Assembly of International Civil Society Week 2019, many topics about youth empowerment were discussed among delegates. We were particularly interested in collaborating to identify ways to bring forward the narratives and concerns as young people of diverse identities. We hence call upon civil society organizations, donor and funding agencies, youth-led and youth-serving organizations and especially, CIVICUS member organizations to:

    1) Continue engaging young people and enhancing civil society organizing without discrimination of age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religious belief, political affiliation and any other social, economic, cultural or political identity.

    2) Target the most vulnerable groups, including youth and LGBTIQ, to ensure equity and not just equality in achieving your programming.

    3) Provide resource for youth-led marginalized organizations at country level without pre-empting and restricting

    4) Open up the space, in anyway you can,by listening, linking and learning to/with/about the most marginalised in society.

    5) Broaden your perspective in sharing these elite/exclusive spaces because the voices that are not in the room is likely to be most affected

    Sign the call by filling in this form.


    This call was endorsed by the following youth activists at the Youth Assembly:

    Justin Francis Bionat - Youth Voices Count, Philippines

    Amanda Segnini - Engajamundo

    Dariele Santos - Brazil

    Nini Oñate - DAKILA, Philippines

    Marijoy Liwag - Commission on Human Rights PH

    Wilson Villones - ANSA East Asia and the Pacific, Philippines

    Peng - China

    Natasha - India

    Malebo- South Africa

    Nikhil Taneja - India

    Oliver Andreevski - CYA Krik, North Macedonia

    Jelena Mitrovic, Serbia, Youth Worker, Board member of National Youth Council of Serbia

    Fouzi Mathey, France, Yes! For humanity

    Alan Jarandilla Nuñez, IYAFP

    Wiem Chamsi, Tunisia YAT CIVICUS

    Cynthia Muhonja, Kenya Life Lifters

    Vandita Morarka, One Future Collective

    Ximena Arrieta, Mexico

    Joseph Kagabo, Rwanda

    Dumiso Gatsha, Success Capital NGO, Botswana

    Dessy - Indonesia

    Tracey Martin - Plan International, United Kingdom

    Ripley Wang - Beijing Gender

    Christine - Jordan

    Sohou Enagnon Brice, Bénin

    Karin Watson, Chile

    Kalisito Biaukula , Fiji

    Abdul Mufeez Shared, Fiji

    Jasmina Golubovska, Republic of North Macedonia


    Photo by daisuke1230 (CC-BY-SA)

  • Attacks on Media in the Balkans Sound Alarm Bells for Democracy

    By Susan Wilding, Head of Geneva, CIVICUS 

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which is the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW)
    Anti-government protesters invading Serbia’s state-owned television station, demanding that their voices be heard. Journalism bodies writing to the Albanian prime minister over plans to censor online media outlets. A Belgrade corruption-busting reporter forced to flee his house that had been torched; a Montenegrin investigative journalist shot in the leg outside her home.
  • CIVICUS en la Comisión de la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer de la ONU

    CIVICUS at UN65 Banner SP2

    Las líderes de la sociedad civil, las activistas, las manifestantes y las defensoras de derechos humanos son esenciales para dar forma a la vida pública, a través de campañas, protestas e intervenciones políticas. En todo el mundo, las mujeres y las niñas están en primera línea de la movilización: por la igualdad, por procesos democráticos significativos, por su libertad de expresión, por espacios más seguros y por un medio ambiente protegido, entre otras cosas. El tema de la Comisión de la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer (CSW65) de este año, que se celebra del 15 al 26 de marzo de 2021, es Mujeres en la vida pública: Igualdad de participación en la toma de decisiones.

    Reconociendo la importante labor de las mujeres activistas en todo el mundo, desde CIVICUS, y en colaboración con sus miembros y socios, hemos propuesto las siguientes acciones:

    • Mostrar perfiles de mujeres que se movilizan, que son activas en las protestas y en la sociedad civil, así como su papel en la vida pública;
    • Formular recomendaciones a los organismos multilaterales y a los gobiernos para conseguir alcanzar los ODS5 y ODS16, a partir de las realidades vividas por las mujeres;
    • Continuar incidiendo para que las mujeres que trabajan en la sociedad civil tengan acceso a una participación efectiva, a una adecuada dotación de recursos, trabajos de atención y que su trabajo sea visibilizado.

    ¿Cómo puedes participar?

    A partir de nuestra campaña “16 Días de Activismo”, desde CIVICUS presentaremos historias inspiradoras, amplificaremos las voces de nuestra comunidad de miembros, pondremos especial atención a las mujeres defensoras de los derechos humanos que se encuentran en peligro y continuaremos compartiendo cómo la Covid-19 está afectando al derecho de las mujeres a protestar.

    Te invitamos a lo siguiente:

    1. Durante la CSW65, del 15 al 26 de marzo de 2021, habla de tu trabajo en las redes sociales - como defensora de los derechos humanos, activista, manifestante - utilizando los hashtags #Wedefend #SheDefends #PublicLife #CSW65
    2. Sigue y etiqueta a @CIVICUSespanol o @CIVICUSalliance (Twitter | Facebook) cuando publiques algo durante la CSW65. Promoveremos y compartiremos tantas actividades como podamos.
    3. Comparte historias de defensoras de los derechos humanos detenidas arbitrariamente como parte de nuestra campaña #StandAsMyWitness rellenando este formulario para compartir casos documentados de defensoras de los derechos humanos actualmente detenidas.

    Leer más

    Historias impactantes de mujeres activistas y periodistas que se enfrentan al acoso en Internet. CIVICUS se ha asociado con Global Voices para producir esta serie de artículos: https://civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/op-eds/4951-harassment-goes-virtual-women-activists-and-journalists-speak

    Cómo las defensoras de los derechos humanos se enfrentan a mayores riesgos debido a su género, por Masana Ndinga-Kanga http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/05/women-human-rights-defenders-face-greater-risks-gender/

    INFORME: En defensa de la humanidad: Las defensoras de los derechos humanos y la lucha contra su silenciamiento https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications/3791-in-defence-of-humanity-women-human-rights-defenders-and-the-struggle-against-silencing


  • CSOs call for action for inclusive Sustainable Development process at Civil Society Summit in Belgrade

    Belgrade, Serbia – Civil society organisation (CSO) representatives, development workers, activists, and campaigners from all over the world are gathering in Belgrade, Serbia on April 8, 2019 for the Civil Society Summit as part of International Civil Society Week. The Civil Society Summit 2019 aims to leverage the energy and commitment of civic leaders representing thousands of CSOs, and human rights and climate activists around the world to demand that governments, parliamentarians, businesses, inter-governmental bodies, and citizens take action in promoting people’s participation in building a sustainable world.

  • El poder de la unión durante la ICSW 2019

    Para aquellos de nosotros que estuvimos en Belgrado hace unas semanas es difícil pensar en el mes de abril y no recordarlo como la culminación de meses de preparación para la Semana Internacional de la Sociedad Civil. Bajo el lema El poder de la unión, la ICSW reunió a más de 700 delegados internacionales de 92 países del 8 al 12 de abril para que participaran en coloquios y acciones organizadas por los 42 socios del evento. Las actividades sobre el terreno se vieron acompañados por un torrente de comentarios en los medios de comunicación y en Internet, para así promover ciertos temas fuera del evento y en todo el mundo.

  • Hard Battle Ahead for Independent Arab Media

    By Mouna Ben Garga, Innovation Officer CIVICUS

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW)

    Sometimes a peak into the future reminds us just how stuck we are in the past and present.

    It was the talk of the Middle East’s largest annual media industry gathering: a robot journalist – the region’s first – that wowed some 3,000 industry leaders and practitioners at the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai recently.

    In an address titled “Future News Anchors”, the robot, known as A20-50, waxed lyrical about robots that would report ‘tirelessly’ all day, every day and be programmed to do any task.

    Read on: Inter Press Service


  • How ICSW empowered me to become a better activist

    By Augustine Macarthy, Sierra Leone

    AugustineLast month, I had the opportunity to attend International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW). It was a turning point for me, as my participation gave me the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with brilliant civil society representatives from every corner of the world. The event built my skills and gave me access to tools and resources that will effectively steer my future work.

    Firstly, this year’s theme, “The Power of Togetherness,” helped me better understand the relevance and impact of collaboration. Building alliances with other civil society actors, stakeholders and community members which will contribute towards a sustainable civil space and strengthen our interventions. Collaboration and co-creation are key in responding to some of the pressing challenges we face as activists.

    ICSW 2019 also helped me realize the scope of the challenges facing civil society in an increasingly restrictive civic space. Activists have it harder than ever: according to the CIVICUS Monitor, nearly six in ten countries globally are severely impeding on people’s freedom to protest, engage in activism and defend human rights. In this context, collaboration is key. Working together will be essential in   ensuring respect to civic space. This event has inspired me to keep the momentum and continue promoting civic freedoms. Human rights are fundamental and universal, and defending them is crucial in order to  initiate changes and address social issues.

    As per the sessions, one that turned out to be particularly useful for me was organized by Bridge47. Under the title “Global Citizenship Education: the Power of Sharing Power,” the event inspired me with new ideas and resources for collaboration. Moreover, this session introduced me to the concept of Global Citizenship Education, a transformative approach meant to develop the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed for a more just, peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world. Since I am involved in an education, peacebuilding and youth organization, becoming acquainted with this concept has been a crucial development, and I will definitely use the learnings from this session to improve our strategies.

    One of the most inspirational stories I heard came from Dessy Aliandrina, Executive Director at Sociopreneur Indonesia. Dessy uses entrepreneurship and innovation to boost the creativity of the young generation in Indonesia. Through education and experimentation, her organization fosters an environment where future entrepreneurial leaders can thrive and create the jobs that are required to solve people’s problems. This is a fundamental undertaking: not only does Dessy help ensure the availability of crucial skills to tackle important challenges, but she also plays an important role in training Indonesian youth to boost their self-reliance and realize their potential.

    Furthermore, my organization Movement towards Education and Youth Empowerment-Sierra Leone was one of the six partners that helped plan the Youth Assembly, which took place the weekend before ICSW in Novi Sad, Serbia. As a planning team member, I had the privilege of working for four months with a group of very bright youth leaders from across the world. We were tasked with designing a program that would strengthen young activists’ skills to become resilient against threats and more effective in responding to other challenges. This not only gave all of us the opportunity to share ideas ahead of the event, but it also enhanced my ability to take action, use my creativity, and improve my communication skills.

    As a young changemaker, I will employ all this knowledge and skills and I will tap into the networks I contacted during the event. My community is experiencing pressing humanitarian crises, and the strategies we develop to respond to them will be largely informed by learnings from ICSW 2019.

    If you would like to connect with Augustine, you can find him on Facebook.












  • Human Rights Defenders Need to be Defended as Much as they Defend our Rights

    By Micahel Frost, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and a speaker at the International Civil Society Week, 8-12 April 2019, in Belgrade, Serbia

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which will be the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW)

     They are ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, brothers, friends. But for me they are extraordinary people – the ones who have the courage to stand up for everyone else’s rights. They are the human rights defenders.

    Last year, according to reliable sources, 321 of them were killed, in 27 countries. Their murders were directly caused by the work they do to ensure the rest of us enjoy the rights we claim as purely because we are human.

    Read on: Inter Press Service 

  • ICSW 2019, New Board, Opportunities: Updates from Lysa John, CIVICUS SG



    For those of us who were in Belgrade a few weeks ago, it is hard to think of April as anything but the culmination of months of preparation towards the International Civil Society Week (ICSW). Themed around the ‘Power of Togetherness’, the ICSW brought together over 700 international delegates from 92 countries to engage with dialogues and actions organised by 42 event partners across 8-12 April. Events on the ground were accompanied a stream of media and online commentary aimed at profiling relevant issues beyond the event.

  • International Civil Society Week closes with #FreedomRunner launch


    Belgrade, Serbia –More than 200 civil society leaders and human rights activists from some 100 countries were seen running through the streets of Serbia today – literally.

    The #FreedomRunner event, held at the close of International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019, a week-long global civil society gathering, kicked off a global campaign calling on people around the world to run in the name of human rights defenders who are currently jailed, being persecuted, or at risk for their work.

    Throughout the ICSW 2019forum, it was evident that individuals and organisations are increasingly under attack in many countries. Activists, journalists and people who speak out against growing restrictions are often persecuted, and a historic, unprecedented rise of populist leaders continues to erode fundamental freedoms and sow division in many countries.

    But brave women and men across the globe are refusing to be silenced.

    “In every country, and often in the face of serious risks, people are standing up for their rights. Those of us with the freedom to do so need to stand - or even run - alongside them,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General.

    The Freedom Runner campaign will be launched together with the Belgrade Marathon, a major annual event on the city’s calendar, on Sunday, April, 14.

    “We are dedicating the first run within this global movement to the Marija Lukic, a Serbian survivor of sexual violence, who is still fighting her struggle for her rights on behalf of all of us,” said Maja Stojanovic, Executive Director of ICSW co-host Civic Initiatives, an association of Serbian civil society organisations.

    “The connections that will be made among freedom runners all around the world is a powerful tool for creating more just, inclusive societies,” said Stojanovic.

    Over the coming year, runners will sign up to an online platform to track their collective runs, until they have run around the world – with some 40,075 km of running logged in the name of freedom - to arrive “back” in Belgrade.

    “Running today is our way of showing how powerful we can be when we work together,” said John.

    “We hope that people around the world will join us by running in their own cities and countries, so that we keep the spotlight shining on those whose basic freedoms are at risk.”

    Co-hosted by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Serbian civil society association, Civic Initiatives, with support of the Balkans Civil Society Development Network, ICSW brought together more than 900 delegates. This was the first time in almost a quarter century of international convening, that CIVICUS hosted its flagship event in the Balkans – a region of 11 countries and 55 million people.

    This year’s theme, “The Power of Togetherness”, set out to explore how people and organisations around the world can, and are, working together to enable and defend spaces for civic action in a world where global transformations are reshaping how civil society functions.

    Sign up here to become a #FreedomRunner.



    Based on data from the CIVICUS Monitor - a global research collaboration - just 4% of the world’s population live in countries where governments are properly respecting the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Find an album of photographs of the #FreedomRunner event here. They are free to publish. However please credit CIVICUS.


    For more information, or to arrange interviews, please email: or contact:

    Grant Clark, Senior Media Advisor, CIVICUS


    Mobile/Whatsapp: +27 63 567 9719


    Teodora Zahirovic, PR Manager, Civic Initiatives


    Mobile/Whatsapp: +381 60 3624 001

  • Rise in Cyberlaws Across Southeast Asia Spell Bad News for Human Rights & Democracy

    By Josef Benedict Civic Space Researcher, CIVICUS

    This article is part of a series on the state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which is the focus of International Civil Society Week

    Around the globe, cyberspace has become the new battleground in the fight for the heart and soul of democracy. And Southeast Asia is fast becoming one of the global hotspots where the screws are being tightened on freedom of expression online.

    Read on: Inter Press Service 

  • Shining a Spotlight on the Strengths & Challenges of Civil Society in the Balkans

    By Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General 

    This article is part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs), which is the focus of International Civil Society Week (ICSW)

    It is an incredible privilege to welcome you all to the ‘International Civil Society Week’. I am going to remind us of the reasons that make it so important for us to be here in Belgrade this week.

    This is our 16th global convening of civil leaders and 4th edition of the International Civil Society Week in particular – following on from events held in South Africa, Colombia and Fiji.

    Read on: Inter Press Service 

  • The Power of Art in Activism

    By Mohammad Issa, Yes Theatre, Palestine, CIVICUS Voting Organisation Member

    Some people say that our world is a mess right now. Others predict that it could be worse. This depends on who you are and what it is your vision for the future.

    Yes TheatreIn the light of the ever-growing list of challenges, the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019 taken place in Belgrade - the Capital of Serbia. CIVICUS and other partners have mobilized a group of 900 activists to address the shrinking space for civil society.

    I had the pleasure to represent my country (Palestine) and contribute effectively to this global debate. The shrinking space is not only connected with civil society in Palestine. It is more connected with the space that people use to live in. I was not really interested to share with ICSW participants stories about my country.

    I was there to convince activists that art is a part of the fabric of our societies. It is a tool that could be used by anyone to convey strong messages and resonate with large audiences. It is the context that makes our work more creative and understandable by others, especially the people with fewer opportunities.

    In our world today, we have a lot of things that connect us. Art is one of the main methods that make us inter-connected. This interconnection was very clear in the workshop that I delivered: “DramaNass” was a professional journey to accompany activists while they were discovering a new theatre methodology called Youth-Quake. This methodology is unique in that it gathered the energy and commitment of 14 activists to foster new dialogue necessary to encourage people to take an active role in order to work together and address the shrinking of civil society.

    Participant activists went through a simulated exercise that use drama exercises, music, painting and theatre in a creative way to activate people and mobilize resources in oppressed contexts. The main slogan of this process is: “Art is everywhere in our daily life. Art connects us to others. It is the best way to support people in raising up their voices and achieve the social change that they are looking for”.

    The workshop participants came from different countries. They had different academic and professional backgrounds but they were unified thanks to the power of art. Art was able to unify them and gather them to achieve one vision and same goals.

  • The power of togetherness: standing against the shrinking space for action

    By Laura Brown, Movement and Network Capacity Manager at Womankind Worldwide

    Last week I attended the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) conference in Belgrade hosted by CIVICUS. The conference was an opportunity for civil society organisations to discuss and generate solutions to the most pressing challenges affecting their ability to realise their human rights, sustain democratic values and achieve lasting impact.

  • UN Declaration defends peasant farmers, but will it help stop attacks and human rights abuses?

    By Natalia Gomez Peña, CIVICUS Advocacy & Engagement Officer

    This article is has been produced in partnership with CIVICUS in the context of the International Civil Society Week conference 2019, held this year in Belgrade, Serbia.

    The old cliché “action speaks louder than words” has a deadly ring for campesino (peasant farmers) activists contemplating a historic international pledge to do better to protect them from state-sponsored attacks. One of the toughest, deadliest years for campesino (peasant farmers) activists in Latin America ended in December with a historic United Nations declaration to ensure their wellbeing and prosperity.

  • Why don’t we get a say at the UN?

    By Caroline Vernaillen, Democracy International

    Capture decran 2019 05 21 a 12.05.45When it comes to global issues, citizens have to trust that their governments will do their bidding. But what if our governments, willingly or accidentally, overlook an issue that is important to us? As citizens, our options to take influence on the global stage are limited. Together with Democracy Without Borders, we at Democracy International are launching an initiative to help remedy that. We need a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that allows citizens to table something at the UN General Assembly if they can gather enough support. I had the honor of presenting our idea at the CIVICUS International Civil Society Week in Belgrade, Serbia.

    In the past months, young people all over the world have been cutting school to protest against global warming. Week after week, they implore their political leaders take urgent action on climate change. But the overall political response has been indifference at best. In Belgium, the country I’m from, the Flemish Minister for Environment in an unheard-of outburst of vitriol, alleged that the protests were an “orchestrated conspiracy” against her. She has had to step back for proffering that lie, but what hasn’t been rectified is her insistence that Belgium is doing everything it can to prevent global warming. And this seems to be the fate of climate marches in many places: citizens are turning out in huge numbers to urge their governments to act, but governments insist they can’t do more.

    The appropriate arena to deal with an issue of the magnitude of climate change would be the United Nations (UN). The institution was built to collectively deal with global issues and is the most important hub of international politics. But here’s the thing: at the UN we are represented by our governments.

    Now, I may agree with 90% of what my government works towards at the UN, but if climate change happens to fall under the 10% where I feel that I’m not represented. Going on the growing crowds at demonstrations everywhere, I’m probably not the only one. The UN at least is aware of this issue and has made efforts to include civil society in some of its deliberations, but individual citizens remain markedly voiceless at the UN.

    With a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that would allow individuals who’ve gathered enough support to table a proposal at the UN General Assembly, citizens would be allowed to complement member states’ proposals with issues that they feel are missing. This is not a radical idea – instruments like this exist in numerous countries and even in other trans-national institutions. Since the entry-into-force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2012, EU citizens have the possibility to propose legislation to the EU Commission through the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). If a group of citizens manages to gather one million signatures in at least seven EU member states, the Commission has to respond to their proposal. Now, the ECI is far from perfect: it’s not well-known, very few initiatives succeed and those that do often don’t see concrete follow-up. But it’s a start and it has proven to be a useful tool for civil society and citizens alike to put their issues on the EU’s agenda.

    CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week was the perfect place to pitch our idea for the first time and the response we received was incredibly encouraging. So many people came up to us to tell they liked the idea of a mechanism like this one, that it could be useful for their work. And this is exactly what we hope for: the introduction of a democratic tool that empowers citizens and civil society alike and includes them as important stakeholders in global decision-making.

    So, we’re gearing up to launch a campaign for a UN World Citizens’ Initiative. We’ve asked two legal experts to look into the technicalities of the tool and we’ve started building a broad, global coalition of civil society organizations who support this idea. But, much like anything else in this world, we can’t do this alone, so if this sounds interesting to you, we need you: Go to our website, sign up for our updates, write us, join us!

  • World’s civil society to gather in Balkans to strengthen the “Power of Togetherness”
    • International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019 brings together over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens across sectors, themes, regions in Belgrade, Serbia (8-12 April) to tackle the world's most pressing challenges in the fields of human rights, democracy and international development.
    • For the  first time in almost a quarter century of convening, the event will be held in the Balkans, a region that provides an opportune place to explore the need for  togetherness and the power of collective action.
    • ICSW presents at least 30 key sessions and partner events tackling a range of critical issues from emergency support for NGOs under attack to shrinking media freedoms to greater civil society accountability

    Belgrade, Serbia –Across the globe, human rights organisations are increasingly being attacked by governments. Activists, journalists and people who speak out against growing restrictions are persecuted. A historic rise of populist leaders continues to erode fundamental freedoms, heightening political polarisation and sowing division.

    We are in the midst of unprecedented global challenges – challenges that civil society and citizens worldwide have begun responding to with renewed determination.

    It is within this context that International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW) kicks off next week - a global gathering of over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens across sectors, regions and themes taking place April 8-12 in Belgrade, Serbia.  Delegates will share ideas and propose common solutions around some of the most pressing challenges in the fields of human rights, democracy and international development, and explore ways to unlock the power of collective action to stand up for democratic freedoms across the world.

    Co-hosted by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Serbian civil society association, Civic Initiatives, with support of the Balkans Civil Society Development Network, ICSW will present a programme that includes over 30 sessions on topics ranging from the crackdown on media freedom to emergency assistance for NGOs under attack to greater civil society accountability, with a variety of partner events as well as key addresses by high-profile speakers. From their alliance of more than 7,000 members in 175 countries and regional presence, CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives have engaged more than 30 organisational partners and a number of high-profile, inspirational speakers to share their experiences and learnings with delegates.

    In country after country, democracy is under attack, with populist and right-wing movements gaining ground and democratic regression being witnessed even in countries historically considered bastions of democracy.

    According to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, only 4% of the world’s population live in places where their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are properly respected and protected.

    “Yet, civil society is fighting back, finding new and innovative way of organising and taking action. We are seeing new alliances being forged and an increasing openness to coalition building - with activists from different causes and communities coming together to fight for common issues,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General.

    “This year’s event in Serbia comes at a critical and opportune time for civil society and the world’s citizens to realise the power of unified, collective action to challenge a global trend that threatens our fundamental freedoms,” said John.

    This year’s theme – ‘The Power of Togetherness’ –  explores how people and organisations around the world can, and are, working together to enable and defend spaces for civic action in a world where global transformations are reshaping how civil society functions.

    For the first time in almost a quarter century of international convening, CIVICUS will host its flagship event in the Balkans – a region of 11 countries and 55 million people. The host city, Belgrade, is one of Europe’s oldest, with a 7,000-year history representing a complex Serbian history and regional experience that provides an opportune place to explore the need for togetherness and the power of collective action.

    “Throughout its history, Serbia has shifted back and forth between authoritarian regimes  and democracy,” said Civic Initiatives’ Maja Stojanovic.

    “During the 1990s, authoritarian regimes produced conflicts, severe human rights violations and genocide. Today, as we approach European Union membership, internal and international independent monitoring mechanisms show shrinking media freedoms, a lack of separation of power and rule of law, and deterioration of freedom of elections,” said Stojanovic.

    “This region, and particularly Serbia, demonstrates that changing laws, strategies or governments offers no guarantees – democracy does not exist if it is not built constantly. By hosting this year’s event in Belgrade, we will convene and send messages rooted in local circumstances and, in the same time, fully reflecting global challenges.”

    The event will begin with a two-day Youth Assembly in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, which has been  selected as the European Youth Capital for 2019. Bringing together more than 100 young activists
    from across the globe, the Assembly will offer delegates the opportunity to engage with international peers, examining and taking action on some of the critical challenges facing youth in civil society today.



    For more information, please contact:


    The conveners of ICSW 2019 are CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives (CI).

    CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world.  Founded in 1993, CIVICUS strives to promote marginalised voices, especially from the Global South, and has members in more than 145 countries throughout the world.

    Civic Initiatives (CI) was founded in May 1996 by a group of prominent NGO activists that were involved in the anti-war movement and non-nationalist democratic opposition since 1990. Since then, Civic Initiatives respond to the need to create a civic base that sustains democratic values by supporting citizens' activism and advocating for better legal framework for civic participation.


    More information is available on the  virtual press centre. Find out what’s happening in real-time on the ICSW Live platform, a hub that links delegates with global civil society, with  audio/ video interviews, and interactive features. You can also join the conversation on social media #ICSW2019, and get daily updates/ live streams of various sessions on CIVICUS and Civic Initiatives social media channels: CIVICUS Facebook and Civic Initiatives Facebook.

    FAQs ABOUT ICSW 2019

    What is International Civil Society Week 2019?

    International Civil Society Week (ICSW), being hosted from April 8-12, 2019, is a key global gathering for civil society and other stakeholders to engage constructively in finding common solutions to global challenges. For the first time in more than 20 years of international convening, CIVICUS in partnership with Civic Initiatives (CI), will hold its flagship event in the Balkans region.

    What are our key themes for 2019?

    The ICSW 2019 programme will be centred along three interrelated tracks, to enable delegates to work together to:

    • Understand and connect with citizens and people’s movements taking place on the STREETSand around the world
    • Build BRIDGES that strengthen alliances, create solidarity and facilitate collective action across issues
    • Identify the STAIRS needed to build and sustain collective impact, and connect local and global efforts

    Who will be attending?

    Over 850 delegates from across the world will be part of ICSW 2019. These will include civil society leaders, activists, representatives from intergovernmental bodies,, governments, and the media.

    Why Serbia?

    Serbia and the Western Balkans have strong legal frameworks which are supposed to guarantee the basic rights of citizens. Yet, since the nineties, dictatorial regimes and shrinking basic rights have made these so called guarantees largely paper based, with conflicts, severe human rights violations and genocide  happening in practice. Today, internal and international independent monitoring mechanisms show shrinking media freedoms, lack of separation of power and rule of law, and deterioration of freedom of elections. By hosting ICSW 2019 in Serbia, we aim to shine a spotlight on the work of the Balkan civil society community to address the ongoing challenges in the region and find ways to collaborate and support their work by building alliances between local and international civil society.



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