Strengthening young activists by tagging-in local mentors and standing back

By CIVICUS youth

youth action lab logo finalOn the celebration of the International Youth month in August 2020, CIVICUS Youth launched a new mentorship format for the ten participants of the Youth Action Lab. The Youth Action Lab is a pilot project that seeks to test ways to strengthen youth activism in the global south. In the first year we learned how to better resource the next generation of changemakers in civil society through different approaches and the most valuable one was the mentorship component of the Lab.

Why mentorship was part of the Youth Action Lab

During the design phase of the Lab in 2019, the co-design team, composed of nine young grassroots activists itself, said that a mentorship or bespoke support component was necessary to support young activists to strengthen their activism strategies. Furthermore, other research from CIVICUS previous pilot projects with young activists, such as the Goalkeepers and interviews with other organisations working with youth, also highlighted the importance of mentorship and how valued it is by young people. Therefore, we knew that mentorship had to be a key part of the Lab to strengthen the efficiency, resilience and sustainability of youth movements advancing social justice agendas at the local level. With the support of an Advisory Group, we framed the mentorship as a horizontal learning exchange between the Lab participants and experienced civil society partners - not a traditional hierarchical mentorship. We wanted both parties to learn and grow from the experience in a safe and respectful space.

How did the Lab learning partnership start?

By the end of August 2020, each of the ten Lab participants identified a thematic and a technical learning partner to engage with over the course of 6 months. The Lab participants chose the themes and technical areas based on their area of work, geographic location, and previous skills needs assessment. Reflecting the diversity of the Lab participants themselves, there was a range of themes such as feminist leadership in the Pacific, Indigenous Rights Advocacy in the Philippines and rights of rural trans sex workers, women and youth in Uganda. Laber’s skills need assessment also showed diverse needs, so there were technical partners covering project management, budget management, and volunteer coordination to mention a few. In two cases, the thematic and technical partners were the same person, but in most cases, these were two separate experienced civil society partners. A really innovative arrangement came from the Lab participant Seif from Tunisia. He was interested in completing a film project during his lab year, so he decided to use his video service provider as his learning partner. This allowed him to learn directly with his partner by completing a project together. It was an arrangement outside of how we had conceived the partnership but led to an impressive body of work and skills transfer.

Seven of the ten Lab participants identified people they already knew and three were introduced to each other by CIVICUS. We tried to have the learning partner in the same country as the Lab participant and this worked for those that identified their own, but the CIVICUS matches were in different countries than the Lab participant. The CIVICUS matches also took longer to find which meant they did not get the full six months. Having the partner in-country was a high predictor and factor for success.

Once the learning partner confirmed interest in participating, CIVICUS sent a formal invitation, including the expectations: time commitment of six months, two sessions a month, one hour a session, USD900 stipend for the full commitment. If the learning partner accepted, they sent back their CV and three references. CIVICUS sent them a contract, workplan template and care pack which included information about CIVICUS, the Lab, CIVICUS Diversity & Inclusion Statement, accountability mechanisms, and how to create teams and psychological safety. They had one month to complete the workplan and submit it to the CIVICUS Youth coordination team along with the signed contract. The workplan was a one-pager that asked: what is the knowledge or skill you want to build, the projected outcome, the skills needed and the target completion date that the Lab participant and the learning partner agreed on.

The workplan was the only formal deliverable in the program. It was up to each of the partnerships to determine the times, ways and methods to best accomplish the desired objectives. Therefore, they had the flexibility to proceed with the meetings in the ways and times that worked best for them. They decided how to best use their time. For many, they had conversations on networking and advocacy plans. The learning partners filled many different roles over the six months – sometimes as advisors, sometimes cheerleaders, and sometimes actively making connections. For example, one learning partner helped connect the Lab participant to someone in government for an interview that furthered their activist objectives.

What were the key ingredients of the Learning Partnership?

Offering a stipend to a civil society leader or specialist in the area of interest of the Lab participant for their time mentoring them allowed both the Lab participant and learning partner to engage in a committed relationship structured by a contract moderated by a third party and in a space where the time of both partners was respected and valued. It was an investment in local network strengthening and provided flexibility within clear objectives and structure. Both aspects have been shown to be ways CIVICUS can add value and provide a high-quality experience for participants.

Relationships are key to building leadership and that takes time. Therefore, a space within a program to really invest in challenges and working
with young leaders expands our understanding of the reality they live in while also working together to grow through it. The Program is quite
open and flexible without a lot of complicated systems or interference from the CIVICUS team, thus giving ownership to the participant to work
the way that is best for them
.’ - Youth Action Lab Learning Partner

We evaluated the programme with the most recognised standard, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and it scored 92, which falls into the highest range: World-class. The learning partners all showed up for a final reflection session to share what worked and what to improve for the next round. The learning partners said it was a good experience because they learned about how to be mentors and about the struggle of the work of young activists in their countries. Because the learning partners were in the same country as the Lab participant in most cases, they could really provide specific and personalised advice better than what CIVICUS could provide. The Lab participants noted how important this was and it highlighted that for a global organisation like CIVICUS, it could not provide such bespoke support that a local experienced civil society leader could for these youth activists. They specifically mentioned that they really appreciated the workplan template, the autonomy, and the flexibility.

‘The learning partners helped expand on practical and contextualized knowledge I needed in my work, especially because they were also focused
on the same area, which for me is Indigenous knowledge in the Philippines. The programme also allowed me to gain more relevant skills such
as comms.’ - Kinja Tauli, Youth Action Lab participant

Despite the high score, the learning partners and lab participants still had ways we could improve. They highlighted that six months was too short, therefore, the 2021 cohort of the Youth Action Lab will have a ten month instead of six-month learning partner engagement. From the feedback session, we learned that some additional support on tracking the journey and sharing what is learned would be welcomed. As such, the new resources will include tools to track the progress of their learning journey through outcomes and story harvesting. And if interested, they will also have the possibility to write a blog post capturing the highlights of their work as learning partners.

To keep following the progress and learnings of the Youth Action Lab, subscribe to e-CIVICUS and join the Facebook group: CIVICUS youth united!


2020 to reshape the future of humanity

By Hafiz Jawad Sohail, Climate Reality Leader and SDGs Advocate from Pakistan

2020 was a year of real superheroes. Never before has there been a borderless event of this magnitude that has influenced our thinking, lifestyle, decision making, and inter-dependence. Local and global dynamics have totally changed and 2020 has not been a normal year in any way. 

We cannot deny the fact that this year was dramatic and horrific for many of us. On top of nearly two million deaths from the virus there has also been a rise in domestic violence, unemployment and economic instability. Disinformation was also widespread and the role of social media was criticised for not fulfilling its due responsibilities. COVID- 19 disrupted the operational capabilities of businesses across the globe and put in danger many small and medium enterprises. In short, this year has changed the economic, political, social and environmental dynamics forever. 

Now we realise the devastation caused by the pandemic but COVID-19 has also acted as a wake-up call for all of us to adapt to the changing environment and to reimagine the roles of industry, government, and civil society. We saw many positive things this year and believe me, the events of 2020 are going to reshape the future of humanity. For instance, this was the year of creativity, digital connectivity, virtual events, remote working, innovation, and dare I say evidence-based decision-making. We saw many inventions in the field of healthcare, fintech, and online education. We also witnessed many acts of kindness & charity, sacrifice, and gained a new appreciation for those that work on the frontlines. This was also the year of social activism, women leadership, and Black Lives Matter. 

There has also been a greater demand for accountability and transparency in decision making, inclusive of all sectors. We also looked back at our food production strategies and the risks facing our global supply chains. During this year we also talked about the prospects of digitalization, the digital economy, green finance, data protection, and the importance of cybersecurity. Most importantly, our planet got a breather after many centuries of resource-intensive industrialization. In a year that science could not be denied, many of the skeptics finally woke up to both the crisis and the opportunity of climate change.

As we welcome another new year, we also have many challenges ahead of us in 2021. Successful recovery requires redesigning our economies so that we prioritise sustainability over short term profits. Building back better will also require us addressing rising inequality. The distribution of the coronavirus vaccine will be a critical test to see if we are serious about equitable access to public goods.


#SiConLasOSC - Yes with CSOs!

By Oriana Castillo, CIVICUS

In July 2019, the VUKA! Coalition, a group working to coordinate civil society actors to reclaim civic space across the globe, supported VUKA! ally Alternativas y Capacidades to bring together 25 CSOs from across Mexico for a pilot workshop on strategies to counteract the stigmatisation and demonisation of civil society in the country.

Ori blog

There is a growing perception of insecurity and corruption in the country, which has affected everything, including public perceptions of CSOs.[1] Mexico’s corruption index, as announced by Transparency International, is one of the worst in the region.[2] Furthermore, the CIVICUS Monitor lists Mexico’s civic space as “Restricted”, with many CSOs facing surveillance, harassment and intimidation from the government or other non-state actors like organised crime groups like the drug cartels.[3] One tactic used by actors who are trying to avoid scrutiny from CSOs is to undermine their legitimacy via campaigns to discredit their work and leaders, which has contributed to a narrative that CSOs are also part of the country’s corruption problem.

Therefore despite a fairly strong institutional framework on paper, much of the country continues to lack a political and legal culture in which CSOs are able to operate freely and hold decision makers to account.[4] In order to maintain their independence from those in power, there is therefore much onus on CSOs to be transparent and rigorous in their approaches, as well as vigorously defend their space and access to resources.

Against this backdrop, the workshop brought participants together to explore ways to directly confront the discrediting messages they face. This included via campaigns to share impact stories through videos and other accessible formats, to change the narrative about the role and work of Mexican civil society. As a next step, allies in Mexico created a civil society campaign called #SiConLasOSC (Yes with CSOs), which currently involves more than 200 groups. In particular, #SiConLasOSC aims to rebuild trust and awareness of the role CSOs play in the community and the positive effects their work has in the country.

For example, CSOs are currently generating the equivalent of 3% of Mexico’s GDP and reinvesting that money in promoting social welfare, providing public services such as education and health to vulnerable population groups, renewing and safeguarding the environment, and preventing domestic violence directed towards women and children.[5]

One of the coalition’s strengths is the diversity and plurality it represents, with a presence throughout the country, and most importantly, a clear understanding of the needs of the population. Now more than 1.5 million people work for organisations involved in the campaign, who have a further 2 million volunteers all around the country.

They have gained legitimacy by listening to those communities they seek to represent, but also by working together they have generated fresh momentum for their respective causes. The organisation Fondo Guadalupe Musalem, for instance, which advocates for women’s rights, is helping members of indigenous groups to access formal education. Whereas another organisation, ASHOKA, created an alliance with American Express to host a workshop on Social Entrepreneurship for Development, in order to address needs related to income generation identified by the communities they work with.

The support these organisations give to the excluded communities has proven to be effective in reclaiming spaces and overcoming previously hostile attitudes and perceived connections to the corruption and waste that continues to contribute to poverty, violence and lack of access to health and educational services.

By bridging divisions, offering support, and fighting government laws that promote the use of “legitimate” force against protests, for example, the organisations involved in the campaign are attempting to strengthen a culture of citizen participation, accountability, and create a sense of community. Furthermore, the coalition has accrued legitimacy by constantly demonstrating how they are spending and investing their money, and explicitly communicating how their activities are helping community-embedded CSOs in Mexico to flourish. And, in doing so, they continue to say “yes with CSOs” and the fight for further public support. #SiConLasOSC!


[1] Una fotografía de la Sociedad Civil en México

[2] México detiene caída en el Índice de Percepción de la Corrupción: Transparencia Mexicana

[3] CIVICUS Monitor: Mexico

[4] Una fotografía de la Sociedad Civil en México

[5] Picture translated by the authors. For the original version please visit Alternativas y Capacidades


Myanmar elections show the regression of civic space over the last five years

By Lisa Majumdar, Advocacy Officer, CIVICUS

Amidst a flurry of high-profile elections this week, it will be Myanmar’s turn to go to the polls on 8 November. Nearly 100 political parties are contesting the country’s general election, with the upper and lower houses of the national, state and regional governments all to play for.

This will be the second election in Myanmar since the end of military rule in 2011. But the contrast between the two could hardly be starker. While the 2015 elections saw a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) amid a groundswell of hope for democratic progress and human rights change, the upcoming election will take place in an environment of ongoing serious human rights violations, escalating attacks on democratic freedoms and discriminatory policies.

Unfree and unfair

The conditions for free and fair elections depend on an open civic space, where voters have access to information, can enjoy freedom of expression and opinion, and are able to organize and gather. Countries that purport to be democracies have a responsibility to ensure that these conditions are met, so that people can truly have a say in their own governance.

But in Myanmar, these conditions are in short supply.

As the CIVICUS Monitor has documented, there has been a sustained attack on civic space in the country over the last few years. Human rights defenders, journalists and critics have been criminalized and attacked for speaking up about human rights violations. A raft of old draconian laws are deployed by the government and military to silence dissent. 

This already has created an unhealthy environment for elections. However, in the run-up to the election, authorities have compounded this by actively targeting electoral processes. 

For example, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC), which has been accused by human rights groups of making critical decisions without transparency, has censored the speeches of political parties that want to broadcast campaign materials on state-run TV and radio networks. The election commission’s stringent guidelines on the content of speeches means that criticism of government policies by opposition parties has essentially been banned from state-run airwaves, denying voters crucial information. 

Government-imposed internet restrictions in Rakhine and Chin States – which have now lasted for more than a year – has had a serious impact on the ability of voters in the affected areas to access information about candidates, parties, and their positions. 

The government’s response to COVID-19 had a negative impact on media freedom, affecting the ability of the electorate to be informed. Journalists and media workers have been declared a nonessential business and face travel restrictions due to the government’s strict stay-at-home orders, hindering comprehensive coverage. Four national newspapers – the Standard Times, 7 Day Daily, the Myanmar Times, and the Voice Daily – announced their decision to suspend circulation of their newspapers from 23 September 2020. Notably, the publication of state-owned newspaper will not be affected. 

Discriminatory policies 

Most egregiously, though, the Myanmar government is preventing people from voting or from standing for election altogether. 

It has systematically and deliberately disenfranchised voters from ethnic minorities, using the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law and the Election Law to prevent Rohingya candidates from running for office, even though most Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations. 

They include Abdul Rasheed, a Yangon resident whose father was a civil servant and who was born and has lived his whole life in Myanmar. Kyaw Min, the chairperson of the Democracy and Human Rights party, has also been barred despite having run in the 1990 election and spending years as a political prisoner alongside thousands of NLD activists and others.

The authorities have barred an estimated 600,000 Rohingya from registering to vote in the election. None of the million Rohingya who fled genocide in Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh will be allowed to vote. This adds yet another layer of repression and discrimination on a community that has experienced ethnic cleansing and a systematic denial of their rights in recent years. 

Voting has been suspended or cancelled in various constituencies in Kachin, Karen, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan States, and the Bago Region, with the election commission citing security concerns. As a result, over 1.5 million people will not be able to vote.

It is a common feature of would-be autocrats to attempt to suppress the votes of those who disagree with, or are negatively impacted by, their policies. Myanmar is not the only country to attempt to do so; it is not even the only country to have done so this week. But for a country where optimism for change and freedom shone so brightly five years ago, this represents a bleak failure of democratic progress. 

The two elections, five years apart, have bookended a downward spiral into gross human rights violations, attacks against dissenters, and a curtailment of democratic freedoms. While some countries have spoken up and stood by human rights defenders and victims of violations, other countries, particularly in the Southeast Asian region, have failed miserably to call out Myanmar on its actions.  Whatever the outcome of this elections – marred already by acts of censorship, racist voter suppression and other restrictions – we all must redouble our efforts to support civil society and activists to reverse the democratic regression we have witnessed since the 2015 elections.


Violence against transgender people in Pakistan

TW/CW: transphobia, physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual violence, rape, torture, murder, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse

Saro ImranI am Saro Imran, a transgender activist running a community-based organisation in Pakistan. Pakistan is a signatory to several international human rights conventions that are of relevance to transgender people and other marginalised minorities, which the country has systematically failed to protect. The exception is the Trans Protection Act of 2018, which we already have in place. As a consequence of this limited protection, transgender people and other marginalised minorities suffer discrimination and violence in many spheres of their lives. 

Earlier this month, a transgender person was killed and another was injured from gunshots fired by unidentified men in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) region of Pakistan. Both victims were rushed to the hospital, where doctors pronounced one victim dead. The other victim is undergoing treatment. According to the First Information Report (FIR), a group of transgender people had gone to perform at a wedding function and were preparing to leave when unknown people opened fire on them.

In the same month, a transgender person was gunned down by his younger brother from Swabi. The person had gone to Rawalpindi and Islamabad to participate in several dance parties. His family was opposed to his dance performance, and his brother had warned him of ‘dire consequences’.

Human rights violations and discrimination on the basis of gender identity are still prevalent and mount a big challenge for Pakistan. The transgender community and other marginalised minorities face stigma, discrimination and violence much more than non-marginalised groups. Transgender people, and transgender women in particular, face harassment, mistreatment and exclusion from society, from the public health care system, education system, employment and other institutions of government. They face different forms of abuse, ranging from exclusion from society to brutal murder. They are subjected to trafficking, extortion and forced prostitution. After the Trans Protection Act of 2018, things have slowly started to change. However, for the proper inclusion of transgender people in society and the acknowledgment of their basic human rights, the government will have to take a number of measures to address the gravity of the situation.

In Pakistan, transgender people and other marginalised minorities are ostracised by society and sometimes disowned by their families. Transgender women, in particular, live in groups for protection and survival. Due to widespread stigma and discrimination, many transgender women engage in sex work in extremely unsafe environments and circumstances. Their clients or sex partners feel that the sexual abuse of a transgender woman is permissible. Therefore, when they solicit their services, they invite friends over and gang rape them. These abuses cause severe emotional distress and mental agony for many transgender women. To cope with these realities, many survivors start indulging in drugs and alcohol or resort to self-harm.

trans in PakistanAlso, transgender individuals are often responsible for financially supporting their biological families, families who tend to resort to abuse, violence and torture to maintain their control over them. Forced marriage and physical and emotional torture are common forms of abuse against them, recorded in studies done by various organisations. The worst thing is, if police arrest perpetrators of violence, the biological family tends to forgive them in return for money. 

The only support for transgender people in Pakistan is provided by their peers. In the absence of medical care that is sensitive to their needs, relief usually comes from community members looking after them using traditional methods and wisdom. 

Community-based organisations all over Pakistan have arranged a protest against the murders and violence faced by transgender people. We demand justice for victims and survivors and security for the transgender community from the Government of Pakistan. We call for the development of provincial policies and legislation to criminalise offenses such as sexual violence and murder of transgender people.


Case Study on the Power of Radical Collaboration: People Before Projects

Conversation between Enhle Khumalo, CIVICUS Youth and Abigail Freeman, Alliance for Gender Justice Liberia in August 2020. 

Transforming information into impactful formats 

1. Who is Abigail?

I am a 22-year-old social justice activist and founder of the Alliance for Gender Justice and Human Rights- a movement formed on the basis of advocating for women’s rights, promoting gender equality, and amplifying the voices of women and youth in  Liberia. I am also a Youth Action Lab participant.

2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the communities you work with?

We had just launched our movement prior to the pandemic. However, due to the preventing measures to spread the COVID-19 pandemic we could not go on with our planned activities which included the construction of a physical space for young women and victims of sexual violence to participate safely in the campaign for sexual violence prevention and gender justice. So in the spirit of people before projects, we decided to adapt our plans to fit in with the needs of people during the COVID-19 state of emergency in Liberia that started in March.

3. How were you able to adapt your plans to accommodate the changing environment? 

My team and I wanted to adapt our plans to address people's needs and not our assumptions of what they needed. So, my team and I decided to see how we can work with communities and  to learn how to better address this issue and direct our efforts to protect women and children.

4. What was a major take-away from the work you were able to produce using this approach?

Gender issues are extremely sensitive in Ganta, Liberia. For instance, during our time working there with fellow grassroots activists, we discovered a case where four rapists had familial ties to the judge that ordered their medical release due to COVID-19. First, I was able to reach out to people working on those issues in the town. Working together, we built a campaign to raise awareness about this and the community demonstrated an overwhelming amount of support by joining us in protests demonstrations and press conferences calling for the immediate arrest of the rapists and along the way we gained traction and got legal support from the Liberia Justice Association. This strategic alliance assisted our advocacy efforts by introducing a legal entity, which we are not qualified as. Now more people know our movement and we are recognized and referred to as a group that stands up for gender justice in a context where this is a sensitive topic. Thanks to this we are reaching more people than if we had stayed with the original project plan.

5. What would you say to organisations/donors who are looking to support youth activists like yourself in these challenging times and post-Covid?

Abigail interview 2Many women and children living in rural communities are vulnerable to violence. Creating a space that will allow women, girls and children to acquire education and skills training will be a radical approach in the fight against GBV. At the SheLeads Academy, women, children and teenage mothers will be given an opportunity to build their capacity through skills training programs, counseling and mentorship,health care and leadership development. This will serve as a means for reducing poverty and domestic violence. 

Funding and logistical assistance is also important. It will help advocacy organisations to expand their networks and support the work we are doing in our communities.

6. Any advice for other youth activists facing similar challenges?

Young people have the power to change the world and as such, it is time we build a united front by bringing young people from diverse backgrounds to elevate our advocacy.

Gender Justice, safety for women and children, women empowerment and girls education is everyone’s responsibility. 

Collaboration is key. We managed to cut across many sectors and have had many people support the work we are doing.  Value the power of collaboration., Young people can cut through the noise and advocate for a fair and just society when they organise with and through their community.


Saluons le 10000ème membre de notre solide alliance!

Mise à jour de la Secrétaire Générale : Août 2020


India: Rich Land of Poor People

On International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August), we commend the work of imprisoned lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj, defender of Indigenous communities in India.

 Sudha Bharadwaj

                                                                                                              Sudha Bharadwaj


By Alina Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)

India’s Adivasi community

For decades, India’s Adivasis, the collective name for the many Indigenous people in India, have borne the brunt of development-induced displacement. Indigenous communities in India have had their lands taken, livelihoods destroyed, and rights trampled on as a result of business activities and urban expansion. Adivasis make-up about 8% of India’s population and rely on their lands and forests for their livelihood.

Over the past year, the CIVICUS Monitor has tracked several cases of arrests, intimidation and violence carried out by state authorities on Indigenous people and their allies. Such harassment and brutality are active in the mineral-rich state of Chhattisgarh, central India, which has the highest output of coal in the country and where limestone, dolomite and bauxite are found in abundance.

In Chhattisgarh, a significant proportion of people are Adivasis from tribal and Dalit communities. Many have been displaced due to businesses seizing land and natural resources, and rampant human rights abuses have been reported in the state. To add to this already complex situation, southern Chhattisgarh is the epicentre of a five decades-long insurgency between the Naxalite Maoist group and the Indian government. The fighting has negatively affected the tribal population, densely forested districts and neighbouring states.

The work of Sudha Bharadwaj, human rights lawyer and former General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties, lies at this fraught intersection. Sudha has lived in the state for 29 years, fighting for the rights of Indigenous and working-class people. However, she has been in pre-trial detention for nearly two years after being charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities and conspiring to incite public unrest.

Political Consciousness

Born in Massachusetts, US, Sudha moved to New Delhi at the age of 11. Her mother, renowned economist Krishna Bharadwaj, founded Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Economic Studies and planning. Sudha spent her childhood years at JNU, where her early political consciousness was formed:

“One of my early memories of JNU in my childhood was when Vietnam won the war against the US. I remember a lot of singing and celebration in the first quadrangle. That was the kind of atmosphere in which I grew up,” Sudha said in a recent interview.

At 18, Sudha moved to Kanpur, central India, to study. At this time, Kanpur was at the peak of its industrial boom, with a string of mega textile mills, attracting migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Through her work in the National Service Scheme (NSS) and its outreach programs, Sudha became exposed - for the first time in her life - to the appalling living conditions of the workers.

She was also introduced to Shankar Guha Niyogi, a trade unionist, and decided to join his organisation in Chhattisgarh in 1986. After Niyogi was assassinated at the behest of a local industrialist, the organisation splintered, with some choosing militant ways and others moderate. It was Bharadwaj who managed to unite the workers.

Women & Workers’ Rights

Sudha began working in the mining trade union of Chhattisgarh and strove to involve women in the fight for workers’ rights. She felt women experienced issues that were not being addressed and made sure the Women’s Committee discussed all topics, even sensitive ones including alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Other issues affecting working class wives were the threat of their huts being demolished, and the daily struggle for water and electricity.

After being involved in the struggles of the working classes for decades, Sudha decided to study law in the early 2000s. She soon gained a reputation as a formidable lawyer and became iconic in the pro-people struggle after standing up to corporate giants and big business. She is now a visiting professor at the National Law University and Vice President of the Indian Association for People’s Lawyers (IAPL).

Much of Sudha’s legal work has revolved around the rights of Adivasi people in India. Since 2016 Sudha has been fighting for the rights of villagers in Ghatbarra, Chhattisgarh, after the government cancelled the rights of villagers and Adivasi people to live in the forest and surrounding areas. It is alleged that the authorities want to make way for a coal mining facility, even though the move would damage over 1000 hectares of land and disrupt an elephant corridor.

Smear Campaign & Imprisonment

Becoming a well-known lawyer who fights for the rights of Indigenous and marginalised communities has pitted Sudha against a government sensitive to any criticism.

In September 2018, Republic TV, a channel known as the ‘FOX NEWS of India’, alleged that Sudha had written a letter identifying herself as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj” to a Maoist called “Comrade Prakash,” stating that a “Kashmir like situation” has to be created. The television presenter also accused her of receiving money from Maoists.

The Indian Supreme Court ordered that Sudha be placed under house arrest for four weeks. Her home was raided at midnight by police who seized her laptop, pen drives, work papers and mobile phone. In October 2018, Sudha’s bail plea was rejected and she is currently being held in pre-trial detention at the Byculla jail in Mumbai. Recently, a special court rejected an interim medical bail plea filed by her lawyers after an inmate tested positive for COVID-19. The National Investigation Agency accused Sudha of using the threat of COVID-19 as an excuse to seek bail.

As we observe The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this year, let us not forget the hundreds of Adivasi community workers, social activists, trade unionists, environmental advocates, human rights lawyers, grassroots doctors and nurses who are languishing in prisons - or have lost their lives - fighting for the rights of marginalised people across India. They have shown immense strength and resilience in fighting an increasingly oppressive regime whilst living through a global pandemic.


As the Narendra-Modi government continues to target grassroots activists, student-leaders, academics and anyone who is critical of the state - let us not forget Sudha’s words:

“If you try to be safe in the middle, you will never succeed.”

We urge you not to be safe in the middle. Join our campaign #StandAsMyWitness and demand justice for imprisoned human rights defenders like Sudha. We ask you to stand with them, so they do not stand alone.

Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) is a national network for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders in the country and a research partner of the CIVICUS Monitor.


3 funding concerns for civil society during this pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated, accelerated, and further exposed global challenges. For civil society, COVID-19 has also meant new challenges - not least of all stable funding during these increasingly stretched times.

What is the impact of the pandemic on the resilience and sustainability of the sector? Over the last four months, CIVICUS  hosted and participated in several virtual conversations with a range of practitioners and activists. These 3 recurring concerns have been raised across the board:  

1. Economic crisis and lockdown measures put civil society jobs and sustainability at risk 

The COVID-19 crisis hit the global economy pretty hard, including civil society organisations (CSOs), social enterprises, community-based groups, and activists. Many are losing even more donor funding, at the same time as having to stop their income-generating activities due to lockdowns. The result is threatening their already fragile sustainability, the possibility to continue serving communities, and the jobs of many civil society workers around the world.  

“One of the main challenges, in addition to what governments are doing [imposing restrictions on civic space], is that many donors and governments who had supported our work have suspended our grants and are freezing funding. That is causing many civil society organisations to put their activities on hold, and many in our sector have lost their jobs,” highlighted Sarah Ali, Executive Director at HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, during the webinar ‘Social movements before, during and after COVID-19.’

There is a need for new mechanisms and sustainable regulations that protect people working in this sector. We don't have the same conditions and regulations that protect us in the long term [compared to other sectors]. Every time there is a problem with funds many of us lose our jobs, and we are unable to fight against what’s happening, against violations,” added Ali.


2. Funding for COVID-19 relief is ignoring critical issues that usually affect the most vulnerable 

“Funding is being re-directed to COVID-19 relief efforts, but what qualifies as COVID-19 relief is quite limited and does not always account for the different realities of different communities,” said Vandita Morarka, feminist and founder at One Future Collective, India, in the recent webinar ‘Domestic violence during COVID-19: what CSOs can do to address this pandemic in a pandemic’.

During this webinar, activists expressed concerns about the lack of funding to address other health and social issues that are critical during the pandemic and that usually affect marginalised groups more, for example, mental health, reproductive health, violence against women, and the needs of LGBTQ+ communities.

“CSOs that provide critical support such as mental health services have had funding removed and redirected to other health interventions. This has reduced their capacity to provide sustainable mental health support during the pandemic. We have big expectations of CSOs but we should consider that funding at this time is limited and the access to resources keeps shrinking, affecting their critical work... And we already see the impact of this in many communities,” said Roshika Deo, coordinator of the One Billion Rising initiative in Fiji.


  • 3 months of quarantine could result in a 20% rise in intimate partner violence and cause from 325,000 to 1 million unwanted pregnancies throughout the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
  • Mental disorders affect 1 in 4 people worldwide, according to the WHO. Isolation, job loss, barriers to access mental health care, and burnout among frontline health care workers are additional burdens that could hurt people’s mental health during the pandemic. From 75,000 to 150,000 people could die from mental health-related outcomes of COVID-19 in the United States, estimates a study by the Well Being Trust.
  • The UN has called for a US $2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries.

3. The funding pie for youth-led activism is shrinking even more

While youth activism is on the rise, funding for youth and managed by youth is nominal, and young activists are worried that the crisis will make this worse. 

“During the current COVID-19 situation – where we see the governments tightening their controls and civic spaces, and also placing this within the broader context where there is reduced funding [for civil society] – what’s happening essentially is that the funding pie is shrinking and a lot of the young organisations are fighting for a pie that already started shrinking ages ago. And with COVID-19 some of this funding is being redirected to COVID-19 relief efforts,” highlighted Tharinda de Silva, a young activist and Peacebuilding Project Assistant at Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, during the webinar ‘Supporting Youth-led Movements and Groups as Key Drivers of People Power’.

Under these circumstances, added de Silva, the future funding landscape is bleak not only for youth activism but also for LGBTQ+ issues, women’s rights and other social causes and development needs in general. However, de Silva insists that young activists must continue working to maintain and grow the space they’ve won in political and civic engagement, especially in countries with restrictive governments. 


  • There are 1.2 billion young people in the world (ages 15-24) and 88% of them live in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Unfortunately, this generation of young people faces the highest risk of being left behind in large numbers, highlights the OECD
  • Youth civil society funding is scarce, fragile, almost exclusively short term, highly restrictive and prohibitive of institutional development, and donor-dependent (Restless Development). 
  • 91% of young feminist organisations consulted for the Global State of Young Feminist Organizing indicated that the lack of financial resources as their top challenge.



7 Q&As about participatory grantmaking

In February, CIVICUS hosted an animated webinar called ‘Participatory grantmaking in action’ in partnership with UHAI EASHRI, Africa’s first indigenous activist fund supporting sexual and gender minorities and sex worker human rights, and Candid, an organisation that has extensively researched and promoted participatory grantmaking. Both are strong proponents of participatory funding approaches. You can watch there recording on YouTube

Sarina Dayal, from Candid, shared the characteristics and principles of participatory approaches. Amy Taylor, from CIVICUS, shared their journey setting up a young participatory fund called CIVICUS Solidarity Fund. Lastly, Cleo Kambugu, from UHAI, explored the challenges and opportunities they have faced during their 10-year journey as participatory funders. 

Here, we want to share and answer seven most frequently asked questions sent to our panelists before and during the webinar: 

1. What stakeholders are or should be directly engaged in decision making in participatory grantmaking? 

Sarina Dayal: Across the board, participatory grantmakers agree that the very communities impacted by a problem should be at the decision-making table. But figuring out which community members should be involved really depends on your context and can be difficult, even for those who have been doing this for a long time. One of the most important factors in successful processes is being proactive and intentional about involving people from all parts of the community you are seeking to impact, not just those more likely to participate because of their titles, social capital, or financial status.

In addition, figuring out roles with donors and staff also depends on the context. Some funds are completely community-led in that everyone making the funding decisions is a member of the community the fund supports. Community members are also involved in designing the process, conducting outreach, and other steps of the grantmaking process. Other funds involve staff and donors in parts of the grantmaking process such as reviewing proposals, facilitating discussion, and even in granting final sign-off of the funding decision the community came to. Whatever balance of participation is used between community, staff, and donors, it should acknowledge power, privilege, capacity, and what the value-add is to the process and to advancing equity.  

2. In peer-reviewed applications, do peer reviewers provide platforms to the community stakeholders or their representatives to have any interactions and possibly give feedback? 

Amy Taylor: At CIVICUS, we have a Membership Advisory Group (MAG) that makes funding decisions related to the CIVICUS Solidarity Fund.  When the MAG does not have sufficient insight into the context of an applicant under review, they solicit feedback from other members in the CIVICUS alliance who have relevant knowledge and experience. 

3. Is there a downside to participation (e.g. risk of overburdening constituents)? What is the balance of meaningfully involving them but being considerate too of their limited time?

Sarina: The risk of overburdening constituents is real—but possible to avoid! While we don’t want to overburden constituents, participatory grantmakers agree that the greater risk is not involving communities at all. So, this is an excellent reminder to ask ourselves, what are we offering to communities by involving them in this process? One good practice is to open conversations with the community from the very start, so they can co-create a process that is mindful of their capacity and how they want to be involved. You may need to revisit these conversations and alter the process over time to find the right balance. Also, think about what you can do to compensate constituents for their time and thought, whether that be financial compensation, food, transportation, or otherwise. 

4. How can you handle conflicts of interest within the committees when deciding how the resources are allocated?

Cleo Kambugu: You can’t avoid dealing with different interests if you want to involve activists in participatory grantmaking processes. Activists should have a vested interest in making sure that the granted projects go well - this actually strengthens the process. What we do is provide a strong orientation to the review board. This orientation, beyond focusing on the technical skills, focuses on the value of participatory grantmaking and includes how to identify and manage conflicts of interest. We sign a memorandum of understanding with activists that sit in our review board, which elaborates on conflicts of interests and the circumstances in which these can happen, as well as the penalties for breaching it, like being excluded from the board or cutting funding for the organisation they represent. To help them manage a conflict of interest, we set up space in a way that if someone is feeling conflict, they can walk out, or another reviewer can call them out. What we have noticed is that most of the time people walk out of the room by themselves when feeling conflicted. (Hear an extended answer to this question in the webinar recording).

5. How do you guard against perpetuating inequitable or exclusionary dynamics in participatory grantmaking processes?

Amy: In our case, the group making funding decisions - the MAG - is composed of members nominated by members and selected by the CIVICUS Board’s membership committee. One of the key objectives of the selection process is to ensure a diverse MAG that has a variety of personal experiences and professional backgrounds, which helps to mitigate unintended bias in the group’s decision-making processes. To be more inclusive, the MAG tries to look beyond the quality of the writing in applications and prioritise the potential of the idea or degree of the need, often providing flexible funding that can be used for operational costs like office rent or salaries. In the future, the MAG hopes to expand the mediums of applications receivable to include videos and proposals.

6. Can the organisations of peer reviewers apply for grants during a grantmaking cycle when they are reviewing and how do their applications get treated?

Amy: The organisations of the MAG who serve as peer reviewers for the CIVICUS Solidarity Fund are not allowed to apply during the funding cycles that take place over their terms of reference. These individuals also recuse themselves from decision-making when affiliated organisations or alumni apply in order to avoid conflict of interest.

7. What strategies can help engage more donors in participatory grantmaking processes? 

Cleo: As part of our work, we do philanthropic advocacy with multiple stakeholders about participatory grantmaking, among other topics. We feel that if we speak about this often enough in rooms where activists themselves are not able to be, perhaps we can get donors interested. In the past 10 years, there have been many successes and changes in East Africa. Now activists in the region can participate in funding decisions that affect them. We have had law and policy reforms, LGBTQI organisations can now become registered and transgender people can change their genders. In social justice, this is really fast! To continue, we must document these experiences, challenges, opportunities, and successes. It is also necessary to link up with like-minded individuals and organisations and to think about less confrontational and more community-building, practical ways to be more participatory. Building a community of participatory grantmakers has helped us to keep speaking about this in different spaces. We have seen donors becoming more convinced that participatory funding can happen, while funding has become more flexible and less project-oriented.

Learn more about participatory grantmaking:


Ressources pour la société civile en période de pandémie COVID-19

Défendre la société civile, les droits démocratiques et nos libertés fondamentales peut être un défi, sans parler du fait de devoir le faire pendant le "confinement", en pratiquant la distanciation sociale au milieu d'une crise sanitaire mondiale qui s'étend rapidement dans le monde entier. Dans des moments comme celui-ci, la solidarité et la compassion sociale jouent le rôle le plus important. Pour aider à connecter et à informer l'alliance et la société civile pendant cette période, nous allons collecter des informations, des ressources et un soutien à partager.

Nous mettrons cette page à jour au fur et à mesure de l'évolution de la crise et du partage de nouvelles informations. Vous pouvez également contribuer avec des informations utiles en nous contactant à l'adresse suivante :

Tout d'abord, quelques informations de base sur la prévention du National Council for Voluntary Organisations


  • Le secrétariat de CIVICUS répond à l'urgence qui se propage rapidement et aux besoins qui en découlent dans divers endroits. Il s'agit notamment de soutenir notre personnel dans ses efforts pour faire face aux défis personnels et professionnels qui sont apparus à la suite de la pandémie COVID-19. Les mesures institutionnelles clés qui sont en vigueur jusqu'à présent comprennent un moratoire sur les voyages du personnel, la suspension des réunions pour les prochains mois et des systèmes permettant aux collègues de travailler depuis leur domicile et de concilier leurs responsabilités envers leurs familles et leurs communautés. Une équipe interne d'intervention COVID-19 est en place pour s'assurer que nos processus opérationnels et humains répondent aux réalités changeantes et soutiennent les besoins du personnel et des partenaires conformément aux directives de l'OMS en matière de prévention et de protection.
  • Dans l'intérêt de l'alliance CIVICUS et du soutien nécessaire aux petites et moyennes organisations en particulier, nous appelons les donateurs et les intermédiaires à faire preuve de souplesse et de compréhension car l'épidémie de COVID-19 nécessitera une redéfinition des priorités et des ajustements dans la programmation et les activités de sensibilisation des organisations de la société civile dans le monde entier. En ce moment, nous avons besoin que les bailleurs de fonds et les soutiens travaillent ensemble pour s'assurer que la société civile reste forte et résiliente alors que nous faisons face aux crises et incertitudes actuelles et futures, y compris dans la sphère sociale, politique et économique.
  • Ce faisant, nous sommes également conscients de la nécessité de nous soutenir mutuellement par des messages d'espoir, de résilience et de solidarité pour faire face aux conséquences négatives potentielles sur la cohésion sociale, la confiance et les luttes civiques. Aujourd'hui plus que jamais, nous devons mettre en place des mesures qui réduisent l'impact de la pandémie sur les groupes rendus particulièrement vulnérables par l'inégalité, la discrimination, le handicap et l'absence de mesures de sécurité sociale.
  • Enfin, comme beaucoup de membres de nos réseaux s'emploient activement à dire la vérité au pouvoir et à contester les inégalités de pouvoir, nous sommes préoccupés par la manière dont les mesures d'urgence peuvent être réorientées dans certains contextes pour réduire encore l'espace réservé à la société civile. Nous comprenons que l'exercice des libertés civiques, en particulier les mobilisations publiques, devra se faire en ligne temporairement. Cela nécessite des efforts supplémentaires pour appeler et contrôler une surveillance illicite renforcée. Les attaques contre les acteurs de la société civile pourraient également s'intensifier, car l'attention du monde est détournée ailleurs. Les prisonniers politiques, les défenseurs des droits humains détenus arbitrairement, les journalistes et les prisonniers politiques sont extrêmement vulnérables dans ce contexte et nous nous joignons aux appels à la libération immédiate et inconditionnelle de ces acteurs, en abandonnant toutes les charges retenues contre eux face à la surpopulation et à l'accès limité aux soins de santé qui existent déjà dans les systèmes pénitentiaires.
  • Il est impératif que nous restions vigilants et que nous agissions ensemble, en puisant efficacement dans nos réserves d'innovation et de résilience.


Au milieu de cette pandémie, il est très facile de se retrouver face à des "fausses nouvelles" et à la désinformation sur le virus. Open Democracy vous propose ce quiz qui vous aidera à repérer les désinformations courantes sur le Coronavirus qui circulent sur Internet.


Analyses de la société civile et des droits de l'homme :

Avec la diffusion du COVID-19 dans le monde entier, les différents systèmes nationaux ont des réponses différentes à cette crise. Et l'état de la société civile est donc influencé par la réaction ou l'absence de réaction des gouvernements. Lisez les différents cas signalés dans les différents pays :

Messages de la part des donateurs:

Déclarations et messages de la société civile:


Maintenant que nous devons tous être physiquement distants et isolés les uns des autres, notre routine quotidienne devra changer. Ces ressources offrent des conseils et des orientations pour faire face à l'isolement, travailler à domicile et poursuivre notre combat pour la société civile tout en pratiquant la distanciation sociale.

Puisque nous sommes confinés à la maison, un bon moyen d'apprendre sur les droits de l'homme et l'espace civique est de suivre des podcasts et des cours en ligne. Vous trouverez ci-dessous une liste de ressources permettant d'explorer et de découvrir des faits et des réalités concernant les droits de l'homme, la conduite du changement et bien plus encore.

Cours gratuits :


5 amazing funds that are making a difference for women

Did you know that only 4% of the total Official Development Assistance (ODA) supports programmes that integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment as the main objective? And only 3% of that fraction goes to women’s rights organisations.

Fortunately, a growing number of groups, organisations, and funds are mobilising and allocating resources for women, their specific needs and agendas. Even better, many of them are led by women! Today, we want to share five funds that are making a big difference for rural women, adolescent girls, women and transgender activists and human right defenders, and sex workers.

Blog 5 funds women


           1. Tewa – Nepal’s women fund

Tewa was founded 25 years ago and since then has been breaking new grounds in fundraising locally to promote self-reliant development and the empowerment of emerging groups of rural women in Nepal. This women-led fund has awarded almost 700 grants to 500 organizations strengthening women’s leadership, voice, visibility, and collective organizing power throughout the country. These organisations work in a wide variety of areas like income-generating activities, skill development training, women’s rights, environmental rights and justice, legal and health rights, and advocacy to stop violence and discrimination against women.

To learn more about Tewa, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

           2. With and for Girls

This is the world’s only participatory fund by, and for, adolescent girls! It joins a collective of 11 donors who contribute with funding, expertise and time to co-resource and execute the annual ‘With and For Girls Awards’. Under this programme, up to 25 exceptional, local and adolescent girl-led and centred organisations worldwide are chosen every year, by regional judging panels of adolescent girls, to be awarded flexible funding, opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, accompaniment, and profile-raising. Since 2014, With and For Girls has supported 60 organisations in 41 countries, reaching more than 1.5 million people.

To learn more about With and for Girls, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

           3. FCAM - Central American Women's Fund

FCAM is the first and only feminist fund in Central America to raise funds in support of the financial, political, fiscal, and emotional sustainability of groups, organizations, human rights defenders, networks, and movements that work for the human rights of women and their communities. These women are exposed to high rates of violence because of their activism and generally can’t access traditional sources of funding. FCAM’s partners receive flexible, multi-year general financial support, and are the ones who define their agendas, priorities, and methods. Since 2003, FCAM has supported and strengthened almost 400 women’s groups, organisations, networks, and activists in Central America.

To learn more about FCAM, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

           4. Red Umbrella Fund

This is the first global fund guided by and for sex workers. The Red Umbrella Fund mobilises resources, provides grants, and offers capacity building, technical assistance, and communications and donor advocacy to help strengthen and sustain the movement in achieving human rights for sex workers. While it brings together a diversity of funders and sex workers, the fund’s grant decisions and overall governance are led by sex workers themselves. Since its creation in 2012, the Red Umbrella Fund gave out 157 grants to 104 sex worker-led groups and networks in over 60 countries to organize themselves and speak out against the human rights violations they face.

To learn more about The Red Umbrella Fund, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

           5. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

This feminist fund can be a lifeline for women and transgender human rights defenders at critical moments. It provides rapid response grants and advocacy and alliance-building support when activists are poised to make great gains or face serious threats to their lives and work. They use online, text and mobile funding applications to respond to requests from activists within 72 hours and have funds on the ground within 1-7 days. They work in partnership with three sister funds, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, Urgent Action Fund-Latin America, and Urgent Action Fund-Asia & Pacific. Collectively, they support women’s leadership and activism in over 110 countries.

To learn more about Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


The CIVICUS Diversity and Inclusion journey continued

Diversity and Inclusion has become a hot topic within civil society in recent years. Knowing there is no ‘people power’ without true principles of diversity of inclusion, many in the sector are taking a step back and evaluating how this core principle is being integrated into programmes and operations.

The CIVICUS alliance sees the diversity and inclusion journey as one that civil society must embark on as a collective. Organisations may be at different stages of this fluid journey but we must encourage each other to push forward and engage in dynamic accountability. This area of focus is forever expanding so there is no end point that we are striving for, but instead we must ensure that we go beyond surface level commitments to tackle institutional structures from all perspectives.

CIVICUS has also had many moments of reflection over the past year in particular, on the principles of diversity and inclusion (D&I). CIVICUS also launched the Social Inclusion Toolkit in 2018 to help members assess their work on social inclusion.

December 2018

A delegation of CIVICUS members from across the globe convened on the 16 December 2018 in Montevideo, Uruguay at the Global Learning Exchange to i) discuss what diversity & inclusion means within the civil society sector, ii) identify obstacles that organisations and individual activists face, and iii) share best practices and tips. The exchange drew perspectives from a wide breadth of civil society geographically and thematically, with representation from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Ireland, North Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa and Zambia. 

Each participant had unique perspectives and had tested different approaches to diversity and inclusion, they had the opportunity to share and learn from each other. This led to discussions on the need to continue this conversation with broader civil society, to further the positive learning exchange. After the exchange, this group kept in touch, and identified the need for a safe space to discuss diverse and inclusive principles within civil society.

At the Global Learning Exchange the participants brainstormed and created the following working definitions of diversity and inclusion:

Diversity is a free and safe space in which complex perspectives, differences and intersectionality are celebrated as strengths and opportunities for innovation, acceptance and collaboration. Trust is a key concept, between and within diverse communities and groups.

Inclusion is the action point of diversity, a dynamic and continuous process that works on multiple political, economic and social levels, and leaves no one behind. It works to build meaningful connections between groups, and sometimes unlikely allies, toward a positive outcome for disenfranchised populations. Tokenism and quotas vs meaningful inclusion as a complex system (there is no ‘one size fits all’) was emphasized

January 2019
As the conversation on D&I within the CIVICUS alliance took off, the secretariat decided to launch its own commitment to diversity and inclusion by publishing the CIVICUS Diversity and Inclusion Statement that went through each of the main functions of the CIVICUS secretariat and added how that function would commit to ensure diversity and inclusion.

April 2019
The conversation from the Global Learning Exchange continued into International Civil Society Week (ICSW), held in Belgrade, Serbia 8 – 12 April 2019. CIVICUS members held a session on the practicalities of D&I within different spheres. These discussions focused on the workplace, education systems, intergenerational collaboration and access to justice. The discussions in Serbia reinforced the need for deep dive dialogues as many excluded groups felt that civil society still only practices D&I on the surface level rather than pursuing meaningful culture shifts.

April – June 2019
CIVICUS members from the Global Learning Exchange, as well as interested members from ICSW and the Youth Assembly, then took these conversations online and contributed to a brainstorm document. Using an online google document, questions were posed on what kind of space was needed, what was the purpose, what were the long term objectives, what is the best way to run, is a structure necessary etc. Members then had the opportunity to enter their input and interact with each other’s input to add on and track the progression of the conversation. This method was a great way to capture everyone’s input without a note-taker’s implicit bias, and was also easy to find the points of intersection amongst everyone’s perspectives. These conversations led to launching an online platform in July 2019 (please see further below).

May 2019
CIVICUS facilitated a peer exchange learning experience for its AGNA members on incorporating diversity and inclusion within their organisation and networks. This workshop focused on unpacking concepts (ie. diversity, inclusion, intersectionality and power), looked at the benefits of diversity and inclusion within civil society, analyzed case studies within the sector, and worked on mapping all of the different areas within an organisation that could require a D&I strategy. This conversation led to the AGNA members present share the findings and importance of D&I at the AGNA Annual General meeting in June 2019 where AGNA decided that D&I was going to be a priority for organisations within the network.

July 2019 Launching DIGNA: Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action
Using the brainstorm document, the alliance pulled out the most agreed upon steps forward and circulated an informal concept note proposing concrete steps forward:

  • The Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA) will use facebook as its platform for people to interact directly.
  • A rotating advisory group (8-10 people) will help moderate this space, beginning with an incubation advisory group that represents each region.
  • The purpose of this group is:
    • The Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA) brings together change-makers and thought leaders passionate about strengthening an inclusive and diverse civil society – including CIVICUS members, civil society organisations, groups, and activists, and their allies. This working group seeks to understand, conceptualise and identify innovative practices on what diversity and inclusion (D&I) can look like within different thematic areas and operating models.
    • The group is a safe space where members can support each other to improve organisational structure and processes, ways of working and impact with a focus on D&I. Regardless of our fight against all the backlash and consequences of inequality and segregation, we will shine a spotlight and learn from positive examples and benchmarks from around the globe. This group encourages discussion and debate on D&I issues, is a space for sharing positive experiences and practices, resources and tools, and lessons learned, and offers a channel to request for help, support and collaboration, and post potential opportunities.
  • The group was launched in July 2019 and has already now amassed almost 1000 members interested in making civil society a more diverse and inclusive place.
  • In September 2019 the Incubation Advisory group met in Tbilisi, Georgia to analyze how the group was being received and how to plan activities accordingly.

September 2019 Launching the D&I Pilot Programme
In September the Diversity and Inclusion Pilot Programme was launched as 8 member organisations were selected through an open call to enter into a 9 month programme designed to help increase the organisations’ commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. Each organisation went through a stocktaking audit exercise where external consultants spent time in the organisation and provided recommendations on how to improve policies in place, create new policies, and how to address workplace culture to ensure diversity and inclusion are championed principles on all levels of the organisation. The pilot organisations have been working on action plans on how to address the recommendations and had a meeting in December 2019 in Manila, the Philippines with each other to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

November 2019
CIVICUS organized a training on Feminist Leadership for its AGNA members facilitated by a member of the DIGNA Advisory Group. This training unpacked concepts such as power, intersectional feminism, leadership and systems of oppression such as capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy. Through the understanding of traditional leadership, participants were able to identify how traditional power structures lead to exclusion and harmful cultural practices. Participants were able to identify areas within their organisation that could benefit from a Feminist Leadership approach that focused more on values and principles.

2020 and onwards!
There is so much coming up from the CIVICUS alliance surrounding diversity and inclusion that is to be excited about! Keep an eye out for engagement opportunities and reach out to with any questions or inquiries.

Read part one of the Diversity and Inclusion journey here

[Image Iain Merchant]


Handy tips and techniques to help you with your next proposal

CIVICUS invited its member, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) to facilitate a proposal writing and resource mobilisation workshop for staff in 2019. The workshop offerings included tools and techniques to assist individuals and teams prepare and deliver compelling proposals to donors. As we begin a fresh new 2020, we thought that these easy reference videos will provide you with helpful tips and tools for preparing a winning proposal. These info bites cover;

  1. How to write an effective proposal.
  2. The theory of change: what is it and how does it fit into your proposal writing exercise?
  3. Top Tips for your next winning proposal
  4. The importance of an elevator pitch: making it count.
  5. Red Flags: what to avoid when writing your next proposal.


3 lessons learned about resourcing civil society in the 21st century

By Yessenia Soto, Community Engagement Officer on Civil Society Resourcing at CIVICUS

In 2019, CIVICUS set out to find ways to better support and resource citizen action in the 21st century. Why? Resourcing challenges are not new to civil society, but in this century we are in the middle of changing political, social and economic dynamics that have made those challenges even more complex

Authoritarian, repressive and anti-rights governments are gaining ground around the world and they are imposing restrictions on the civic space and on the access to both foreign funding and domestic support for citizen action. International donors are withdrawing from middle income countries despite their ingrained social problems, and most funding is focused on service delivery, providing little to nothing for social change, accountability and safeguarding human rights. Grassroots and youth actors have stood out as key changemakers, but their resourcing needs are mostly unmet by the existing modalities of international and domestic funding and support, which usually favor adult-led and more established civil society organisations (CSOs). And let’s not forget how the digital age has transformed civil society’s actions, reach and the threats it faces. 

To help promote an environment that sustains a diverse array of civil society forms and responses in these contested and uncertain times, this year we focused on two priority areas. First, identifying the greatest needs and challenges of individual activists and new generation changemakers who may not work within or associate themselves with established or traditional CSOs; and, second, exploring more meaningful, direct and democratic resourcing avenues for smaller and spontaneous civil society formations. 

We ran two consultations to understand the resourcing landscape of youth-led groups and movements and of grassroots – we emailed, called, and met face-to-face over 50 activists and donors. Using consultations’ findings, design thinking and co-creation methodologies, we identified and sense-checked four potential resourcing mechanisms for grassroots. And, currently, a team of nine young diverse activists from the Global South is co-creating an innovative mechanism for resourcing youth.

We also brought together a diverse range of entities that provide rapid response funds and support activists and a few back-donors to coordinate actions for enhancing rapid response grant-making across the world and to make it more accessible to the increasing number of attacked and threatened activists and CSOs. Lastly, we published an experimental data-driven analysis that offers evidence about the barriers that CSOs in Latin America face to access resources, which has fueled important debates between civil society and donors in the region. 

This work will continue during 2020. We will roll out the youth co-designed resourcing mechanism, called Youth Action Lab 2020, explore ideas of pilot activities based on the four resourcing prototypes and support a grassroots-led advocacy initiative aimed at influencing funder’s behavior. Moreover, we will mobilise the CIVICUS alliance to advocate for changes that could lead to more accessible and meaningful resources for civil society.

As we prepare for these next steps, we would like to share three key lessons we’ve learned so far about resourcing citizen action in the 21st century: 

  1. Youth-led organisations, groups and movements have specific resourcing needs and it is time to address and prioritise them

Our engagement with youth activists has been a truly eye-opening and transformational part of this workstream. For years, youth leaders around the world have been tackling important social problems, leading political and environmental protest and providing innovative solutions to development issues, however, resources specifically available to support them directly remain minimal. We realised that barriers to accessing resources not only limit the impact and sustainability of their work, but make them feel undermined, misunderstood and even disconnected from the development sector, other CSOs and donors. Young people request and should get now more financial resources but also more acknowledgment, spaces and connections with funders, CSOs and other stakeholders based on empathy, understanding and respect.

  1. More co-creation and collective work is needed

These activities emphasised the importance of co-creation, participatory decision-making and collective approaches in the development, testing and rollout of effective resourcing modalities. Different views, voices, lived experiences and contexts of civil society groups, donors and other actors, who may benefit or be affected in any way by proposed actions, should be included in these processes. However, we also learned that co-creating and being truly inclusive and diverse requires a significant investment of time, efforts, coordination and plenty of dedicated resources. 

  1. Civil society-donor relationships must improve

We are not speaking here about the transactional relationships between donors and civil society actors (which have their own set of challenges). After several workshops and dialogues between youth, grassroots and donors, we realised that there are tensions, frustrations, communication barriers and even lack of trust between them. It is not rare to hear civil society actors saying that “donors don’t listen, don’t reply to emails, have very different values.” On the other side, donors share frustrations of being under-resourced, overworked, and of the language gaps between donors-youth/grassroots. We learned that facilitating safe spaces and moments where donors and civil society actors can meet, speak and connect beyond that transactional dimension of grant-giving was highly valued by both groups, and this is a stepping stone towards improving some operating challenges that limit access and quality of resources for civil society groups.

This year of listening, experimenting and learning would not have been possible without the support of all CIVICUS members and partners who believed in the importance of finding new and better ways of resourcing civil society groups on the frontline of change. We would like to specially thank the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) who dared investing in innovative approaches to strengthen 21st century citizen action and is blazing new trails towards more effective development aid.


CIVICUS Annual General Meeting

From the 30th October to the 8th November 2019 members gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa from all over the world for the CIVICUS Annual General meeting. This, as always, is an opportunity to come together and set the agenda and priorities of CIVICUS Alliance. It included approval of the Annual Report and financial statements, reflecting on key outcomes of the annual constituency survey, a look at the first year of CIVICUS Solidarity Fund, a new membership Code of Conduct, and analysis of a mid-point review of CIVICUS’  Strategic Plan 2017-2022.

Board Meeting

During this year’s Board Meeting, we explored a range of topics and questions that will shape CIVICUS Alliance’s activities in the months -- and years -- to come. These included:

  • Political polarisation and what this means for inequality and exclusion
  • People power movements including mass protests. CIVICUS Alliance is eager to respond and connect!
  • Our impressive and rapid membership growth. We have a keen eye out for what this means for the CIVICUS Alliance’s future activities.
  • A benchmarking review of where we stand to date, and where we need to keep moving, especially in terms of the Alliance’s Southern presence, identity, and focus.

Code of Conduct

This year, CIVICUS Alliance touched base with you about a new, more detailed Membership Code of Conduct, so we can best support and look after each other in ever-growing solidarity. Stay tuned for updates!

Annual Constituency Survey

On the 31st of October, we held a Zoom meeting to follow up with you from our Annual Constituency Survey -- hearing from you personally on your experiences over the last year, your hopes and ideas for the future, and how we can continue to support and connect with you in the year to come.

This discussion centred around a major overarching question, “How can we bolster member engagement?” In responding, our members reported that:

  • Much of CIVICUS Alliance’s activity is already making very positive headway, especially in terms of capacity building support and opportunities
  • An area for ongoing growth in CIVICUS Alliance is in terms of member-to-member engagement and networking, especially along the lines of regional or thematic contexts where our members can share knowledge and experience more closely with each other

Mid-point strategic priority review

In 2016, CIVICUS developed its 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. This was to set the strategic direction for the Secretariat and Alliance by articulating who we are, what we strive to achieve, how we work and how we define our success. As November 2019 marked the mid-point of this plan, it was only right to take a moment to analyse our achievements and shortcomings so far. 

On 6 November, the CIVICUS Secretariat along with Board members and invited voting members gathered at the University of Johannesburg for our Strategy and Action Workshop. 

The morning session was dedicated to a review of Goals 1 through 4 and recommendations for improvement. Some of the big questions asked included: How should we measure and communicate the effectiveness of civil society? What kind of data do we need to collect from our members and how can we best put that data to use?

The afternoon session was organised around reimagining the CIVICUS of the future. The following trends informed the discussion:

  • Civil society is changing. Mobile, adaptive and progressive people power movements are taking centre stage.
  • Digital security: There is no longer a sharp distinction between offline and online organising. All in-person activism now has an online component and civil society must defend itself accordingly.
  • Civil society is under attack but the threats have changed. Far-right authoritarian movements are challenging the notion that the defence of human rights is an enshrined priority.

Participants in the Strategy and Action Workshop submitted overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience of the workshop (Mohammad HasanJean-Gilles Gbewouenondo Houmenou). It was an engaging day and provided many opportunities for the Secretariat, the Board and for voting members to meet and exchange ideas. The final review report will be published in early January 2020. 

CIVICUS Solidarity Fund (CSF)

On Monday 4 November, the Membership Advisory Group (MAG) met at the CIVICUS head office in Johannesburg to review the submissions for the CIVICUS Solidarity Fund. The MAG received 265 applications which they began reviewing in October. The group’s tireless efforts have resulted in the selection of 14 grantees, whose projects will be announced to the membership soon!

On Tuesday 5 November, the MAG hosted four separate webinars on the CSF in three different languages! Our dynamic hosts Maggie Musonda, Nandini Tanya Lallmon and Victoria Wisniewski Otero responded to questions from CIVICUS members and shared some exciting video content from our previous CSF grantees. Links to the webinar are here (English), (French), (Spanish). 

The MAG also took the opportunity of being all together in one room to discuss some significant changes to the fund for the future. The MAG is working with the CIVICUS Secretariat to implement the improvements and we look forward to sharing these updates with you soon. The next application window for the CIVICUS Solidarity Fund will open in February 2020.


COP25, UN Climate Change Conference, 2-15 December, Madrid, Spain

From 2 to 15 December, more than 20,000 people from almost 200 countries attended COP25, the UN climate change conference. The meeting was held in Madrid, Spain, under the Presidency of Chile, which abruptly withdrew from hosting the conference in Santiago one month before the conference took place. 

cop25 event lyndal

In a year when millions of people have mobilised to call for international cooperation on climate change, it is symbolic that COP25 was unable to find a host in South America, after both Chile and Brazil withdrew. CIVICUS new position paper ‘We will not be silenced: Climate activism from the frontlines to the UN’ published just before COP, details the different ways that the UN is failing to adequately respond to and  protect the growing climate movement.

CIVICUS participated at the official COP as well as civil society alternate COPs in both Madrid and Santiago with a focus on improving youth participation and protecting environmental defenders.

On 12 December, CIVICUS co-organised an official side event at COP25. The event was live-streamed by UNFCCC and can be viewed here. Former President of Ireland and Chair of the Elders Mary Robinson delivered a keynote speech highlighting the centrality of human rights to climate action and urging governments to ratify the agreement. Speakers at the event included representatives from UN ECLAC (UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), the governments of Costa Rica and Mexico, COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica), DAR-Peru, FARN-Argentina, and CIVICUS.

During COP25, Panama and Colombia both moved closer to ratifying Escazu following pressure from civil society. as December 22 countries have signed the treaty, Colombia signing during COP,  and 5 have ratified it.

Following a year of unprecedented public mobilisation for climate action, COP25 was no exception with Indigenous, youth and civil society delegates staging sit-ins and a “cacerolazo” during proceedings. Unfortunately, at least one of these civil society interventions was met with undue force from UN  and private security guards, as detailed in this joint civil society statement.

Cumbre Social por la Acción Climática: December 2-12, Santiago, Chile

More than 130 CSOs from Chile organized around the Civil Society for Climate Action Platform (SCAC) to put together an alternative COP that showcased civil society voices. Despite the change of venue, the summit was held with less participation from international civil society groups but with more energy from latin american groups, especially those from Chile. In the current context of social protests around the region the summit was an important space for solidarity and to lift the voices of those more affected by the climate crisis. Civicus was invited to be part of SCAC’s international advisory group.

SCAC Declaration

SCAC worked for several weeks with various groups from Latin America to create a declaration that highlighted the needs from the region in terms of climate action. The declaration was officially launched on Monday 9 both in Santiago and Madrid. Civicus was invited to speak at the launch.

SCAC declaration PDF

Launch of the SCAC Declaration:

Note on the launch event:

On December 10 and commemorating Human Rights Day Civicus participated in the side event “El Acuerdo de Escazú: La deuda de Chile con los Derechos Humanos”. In this opportunity we reflected on the different civic space restrictions climate and environmental defenders are facing in the region and in Chile as reported in our position paper and why Escazu Agreement is an important tool for the protection of defenders.

Further reading, media coverage of CIVICUS engagement:

Activists Demand Urgency At UN Climate Change Conference, NPR

Chile y la ‘COP ciudadana’, El Pais

Are Global South experts sidelined in climate conversations?, Al Jazeera

Interview Radio Universidad de la República, Santiago: On social protest movement in Latin America, the restrictions facing activists and COP


CIVICUS strategy review workshop: a step into social cohesion and sustainable development

By Mohammad Hasan, Yes Theatre Palestine

YesTheatre Palestine3CIVICUS’ process to mid-term review its strategic plan (2017-2022) is almost finished. The plan reflects the vision, ideas, and priorities of over 8,000 members of civil society organisations distributed everywhere in our world. It also builds on CIVICUS’ Action plan for 2020-2022, which is focused on defending civic & democratic freedoms, strengthening the power of people to organise, mobilise and take action, and empowering a more accountable, effective and informative civil society.

I still remember the words of Mrs. Anabel Cruz (former Chair of the CIVICUS Board) just before the launching of CIVICUS’ strategic plan (2017-2022): “As we launch our new strategic plan, we are fortunate to find ourselves in a position of strength at CIVICUS. With a stable financial base, a committed and diverse board, a broad and growing membership and a talented secretariat team, we are poised to be bold and brave”.

The CIVICUS strategy review workshop on 6th November 2019 was a translation of Anabel’s words. The workshop was a space for participants to stress the importance of CIVICUS as a leader and model for diversity and inclusion, ensuring that civil society is empowered and active at all levels.

Participants in the review sessions emphasized the importance of defining CIVCUS and its role as an international organisation that working side by side with multipliers of effect. People articulated the critical need for CIVICUS to partner with different actors to find creative ways to respond to the big global challenges for civil society and the world. Participants have agreed that the main job of CIVICUS is to connect, amplify and scale professional responses that lead to strengthening the citizens' contributions in realizing a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. YesTheatre Palestine

Yes Theatre for Communication among Youth (YT) in Palestine is one of the CIVICUS voting members. YT has designed solutions grounded in a belief that theatre and drama are effective tools to empower right-holders to know about, and claim their rights. This goal goes directly with CIVICUS mission: “to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world”. The review process was very relevant to the projects that Yes Theatre is running such as: the Completely Connected and Youth-Quack. These projects aim at encouraging the marginalised population to take an active role in fulfilling their needs and claiming their rights constructively and creatively, which will lead to the betterment of their livelihood as well as social cohesion and sustainable development. 

CIVICUS, Yes Theatre and other members must learn and evolve. The CIVICUS strategy review workshop is just a step to transform our world into a different situation in which each human being lives in dignity and enjoy freedom. 


Innovative 15-year old activist driving social inclusion movement in India

This article is part of the #StoriesOfResilience series, coordinated by CIVICUS to feature groups and activists on their journey to promote better resourcing practices for civil society and to mobilise meaningful resources to sustain their work.

blog Naman

In January 2019, around 600 people celebrated a unique event in Vadodara, western India. They gathered to play percussion instruments in public, but they were not musicians, in fact, most of them had never played a musical instrument before. Half of them were differently abled* children and youths and the other half were abled peers. They achieved perfect symphony in just a couple of minutes, amusing their families, friends and over 80,000 participants of the Vadodara International Marathon.

The event, called the ‘Divyang Dost Drum Circle,’ was organised by a group of students led by 15-year-old activist and tech enthusiast Naman Parikh, founder of the DivyangDost Foundation (DDF), a web-based movement and social enterprise promoting social inclusion of differently abled people (called ‘Divyangs’ in India) through friendship, music and technology.

“Differently abled individuals receive financial and educational aid, but they are deprived of emotional support and friendship, especially from abled children,” explained Naman.

To help change this issue, Naman created an app that facilitates social connections between differently abled and abled youths and children (called ‘DivyangDosts’).

The app operates as a sort of supervised Facebook and friendship-matching platform, connecting differently abled and abled youths and children, and NGOs that serve this population in India. Users create a profile, are matched with other users in their area, can befriend and coordinate meetups to spend quality time over educational, sports and leisure activities. ‘DivyangDosts’ can upload pictures and videos of their meetups with ‘Divyangs’ on the platform, gain cumulative points and be rewarded with certificates, medals and trophies as recognition for promoting social inclusion. Additionally, DDF organises large public gatherings, like the drum circle, to provide more spaces for inclusion.

DivyangDost Foundation has positively impacted almost 500 differently abled children, while 27 NGOs and almost 600 abled youths have joined the movement. Surprisingly, Naman started all of this with a visionary idea, creativity and the power of non-financial resources.

Thriving without money – how?

Achieving such impact may seem very costly but, for almost two years, the foundation thrived without funding. Naman invested his own time and technology skills, mobilised the support of valuable volunteers and mentors, established collaborations with NGOs and reached out to local media to promote their work.

“Knowing your context, connecting back to your roots and your own past experiences can help you see what alternative resources you can use and how to find them,” explains Naman. Having been a volunteer in different social projects in the past and being a student in the present, he was able to find members, volunteers, mentors and build alliances at school, in his community and through the organisations he met and helped before.

The young activist also emphasises the power of technology. “Young generations see technology as a powerful platform where we can promote change without focusing only on doing field activities, which can be more costly. I think technology is what allowed this project to amplify in a short time and without initial funding,” added Naman.

Blog Drum Circle

Divyang Dost Drum Circle 2019 

Adapting to change

When the DDF decided to organise the drum circle and other public events, money became a need. Believing in the power of technology and collaborations, Naman and his team set up an online crowdfunding campaign and asked local media to help spread the message. They raised almost USD 10,000 from that single campaign – more than what they needed for the first event.

“One of my mentors once told me that running a nonprofit doesn’t mean you won’t hold profit. You will and have to learn to deal with it,” highlighted Naman as he recalled how they went from having zero funds to holding a small financial surplus.

Since DDF continues to operate with minimal organisational costs, this surplus will be used to expand their services. They are creating an online marketplace where differently abled users can order and buy assistive technology directly from suppliers, at a lower cost.

Naman acknowledges that this will require a bigger financial investment. Therefore, they plan to reach out to high profile investors who can help with funds and mentorship, and to experts and people working in social inclusion and technology, who can provide expertise, volunteer work and connections. Public giving will continue to be a strong pillar of their funding strategy and, why not, they may even apply for traditional grants in the future.

“We [activists and civil society organisations] have to be more adaptive and not resist change. Needs change and we have to change too,” said Naman. He knows that having a larger and steadier flow of financial and non-financial resources will be key not only for this expansionary phase, but for the entire sustainability of the foundation’s mission. To achieve this, they are consolidating their concept, building plans for the next two years and have put more focus on demonstrating impact. DDF’s dream is to find support to scale their work at a national level.

Get in touch with DivyangDost Foundation, member of the CIVICUS alliance, through their website and follow the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

*Note: Regarding the terminology, the DivyangDost Foundation specifically uses the words “abled” and “differently abled” instead of “people with disabilities” or “disabled,” and we are running a local campaign in India to remove that label while addressing this population.


A la 65ème session ordinaire de la commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples, PJUD-BENIN ONG dénonce la politique ultra-sécuritaire des pays et propose !

By Cyrille Djowamon, PJUD - Promotion Jeunesse Unie pour le Développement, Benin


La 65ème session de la commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples s’est ouverte ce lundi 21 octobre 2019 à KAIRABA BEACH HOTEL à Banjul (Gambie). Elle a réunie autour de la vice-présidente gambienne 287 acteurs de la société civile venant de 36 pays africains. Les activités préparatoires entrant dans le cadre de cette session ont débuté le 14 octobre par un atelier sur le plaidoyer et le mécanisme africain des droits humains suivi du forum de participation des ONG et de la 39ème foire du livre des droits de l’homme les 17, 18 et 19 octobre.BeninBlog3

PJUD-BENIN ONG, membre de la délégation de l’alliance CIVICUS, a participé activement à tous ces travaux. Dans sa stratégie de défense des droits de la jeunesse, des femmes et filles rurales, elle a invité toutes les parties prenantes à l’application de la résolution 2250 des nations unies. Dans sa déclaration intitulée : Advocacy for a youth at the heart of change (Plaidoyer pour une jeunesse au Coeur du changement), elle invite les Etats à repositionner la jeunesse comme une force positive de changement dans l’édification d’une société sûre, stable et pacifique.

BeninBlog4En effet, Dans un contexte de mondialisation croissante caractérisé par l’omniprésence des préoccupations liées au terrorisme, à la criminalité transnationale organisée et à l’extrémisme violent, les perspectives concernant les jeunes sont faussées par des stéréotypes contagieux qui les associent à la violence. Ces stéréotypes négatifs ont pour principale conséquence de marginaliser et de stigmatiser la jeunesse en la présentant comme un problème à résoudre et une menace à contenir. Cette situation fausse de manière préjudiciable les interventions et les priorités programmatiques en faveur de la jeunesse, de la paix et de la sécurité au profit d’approches ultra-sécuritaires qui négligent la prévention. Continuer ainsi c’est foncé droit dans le mur, a-t-elle conclure en invitant toutes les parties prenantes à la promotion d’approche de sécurité communautaire.


Why do we need to #RewriteHerStory?

Female leaders in 2018 top films were 4 times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing. Did you notice? This is one of the striking findings of Plan International’s “Rewrite Her Story” research.


This new report is the second phase of a research project looking at female leadership. It focuses on the role of media in shaping girls’ and young women’s ambitions and aspirations to leadership and includes an analysis of 56 top-grossing films in 2018 across 20 countries.

The results resonate with our diverse experiences from across the world. We are a group of youth advocates advising Plan International on the Girls Get Equal campaign.

In Malawi, for example, most of the award-winning movies are directed by men, and most are about the plight of women. We see sad movies sensationalising women’s poor plight, and even female directors perpetuating stereotypes such as the cheating man with a sad stay-at-home wife waiting for his return. There is no space for the reframing of storytelling of women and girls.

In Bangladesh’s cinema industry, only one superhero movie featured a female protagonist. A similar picture is painted in Hollywood with only two blockbuster superhero movies featuring female protagonists in 2018.

If so few women are in these powerful roles, then how can girls perceive women as equally powerful as men? To young people, power in superhero movies is defined in “making the impossible possible”, with simple mechanics like shooting lasers out of one’s eyes. Women who are not superheroes will never shoot lasers out of their eyes – or feel they can tackle the impossible. This perception is internalized while growing up.

In Germany, decisionmakers in media tend to duck away from their responsibility to tackle gender inequality through ensuring equal gender representation. In Sudan, women with light skin tones, in passive roles, wearing a lot of makeup while serving as a background decoration are the preferred way to see women on screen.

These are just a few examples from the countries where we are from. In all of these countries and many others, it is clear that media is often the creator of public opinion, and is a great vehicle to influence gender roles. However, this relationship is often not recognized as a responsibility by stakeholders. How does this gap emerge? If a problem arises and the solution is at your hands, why not act?

Power-holders still attribute the responsibility to society and the consuming public itself. It is said that there is simply no demand for films with strong women but this is not true. The ‘Rewrite Her Story’ report shows that girls would love to see these inspirational characters. . We cannot expect change from consumers alone, it’s time to request it directly from the content creators.

Apart from finally acknowledging the responsibility of all involved in the film industry and creation of media content, certain inclusion targets need to be set. As Justin Trudeau recognised: “Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice”.

For the media landscape to perform an overall change, governmental involvement and collaborations with media stakeholders is required. Policies and legislation need to ban the constant reinforcement of gender stereotypes and make sure that the stories of the millions of women and girls of the world are being told.

Girls and young women need to be supported to create content and we need more women in media production roles. Let’s have more women superheroes and leaders and less obvious, stereotypical female characters. Media can be a very effective tool by intentionally breaking the stereotypes that diminish girls until it woman leaders and influencers are a realistic image for each and every girl.

Women and girls around the globe are heroes who drive solutions, and we need to show this in media and entertainment.

This Day of the Girl we are coming together in Stockholm for the annual Girls Get Equal Live summit where we will meet with decision-makers in the media and share these recommendations. We hope you tune in online and tell us how you want to #RewriteHerStory.


Kim from Germany, Memory and Matilda from Malawi, Razan from Sudan and Sifat from Bangladesh.


Human Rights Council Elections 2019

HRCIn October 2019, in New York, the UN General Assembly will elect 14 new members of the 47-member State Human Rights Council.

Two of the rotating 14 seats are currently open to countries from Latin America and the Caribbean regional group.

Until last week, only Venezuela and Brazil were standing as candidates for these two seats – which meant that both were guaranteed election to membership.

This all changed at the beginning of October, when Costa Rica announced that it was throwing its hat into the ring. It is standing explicitly as an alternative to Venezuela, whom it has deemed unsuitable to be a Human Rights Council member because of its grave human rights violations. Now, with three candidates standing for two seats, the election is suddenly much more meaningful.

At the last Session, the High Commissioner delivered a report on Venezuela which stated that over the last decade, in particular since 2016, Venezuela’s government has implemented a strategy “aimed at neutralising, repressing and criminalising political opponents and people critical of the Government.” The High Commissioner found that a series of laws, policies and practices have constrained civic and democratic space, allowing patterns of violation. The Council adopted a resolution on Venezuela to continue to monitor and report on these serious human rights violations. Many organisations believe that with its current record, Venezuela should not even stand for election, much less be voted in.

As a current member of the Council up for re-election, Brazil has supported resolutions tackling human rights crises around the world. But since the beginning of the new administration it has seen an increase in violent rhetoric and, over the last year, a curtailment in human rights protections, anti-minorities policies and attacks against Human Rights Council mechanisms. Its influence in the region and beyond, Brazilian and regional and international organisations believe that it could pose a significant threat to multilateralism.

There have been substantial civil society efforts from within both Brazil and Venezuela to advocate against their respective election to the Council. CIVICUS has members in both countries. Following the lead from our members on the ground, we believe that neither Brazil nor Venezuela should be elected to a seat on the UN’s main human rights body. CIVICUS recommends that states do not cast a ballot in favour of either country in a symbolic gesture to reject both candidates.

There have always been repressive governments on the HRC – China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, are among the Council’s current members – and this upcoming three-way fight can almost be seen as a microcosm of this wider dynamic.

The Human Rights Council is the main intergovernmental body within the UN responsible for addressing human rights violations. As such, we believe that its members have a responsibility to uphold universal human rights and multilateralism. CIVICUS will continue to advocate for that states with poor human rights records, or states which undermine the aims and commitments of the Human Rights Council, should not be elected to its membership, and we call on UN member states to refuse to cast their ballots for those who fall short. This may only be a symbolic gesture, but it is an important one: for the Human Rights Council to adequately protect human rights around the world, it needs to demand more of its membership.

In the meantime, we welcome Costa Rica’s courage and commitment in standing for membership, and we look forward to working with the delegation in Geneva in our shared vision for universal human rights.

The other States up for election are:

African Group: Benin, Libya, Mauritania and Sudan (with four seats available)

Asia-Pacific Group: Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Marshall Islands and Republic of Korea (competing for four seats)

Eastern European Group: Armenia, Republic of Moldova and Poland (competing for two seats)

Western European and Others Group: Germany and the Netherlands (with two seats available).

For more information on the human rights records of these states, see ISHR’s ‘scorecards' for each State standing for election to the UN Human Rights Council.


State supported anti-rights groups gaining ground

By Andrew Firmin & Sylvia Mbataru

Human rights have always been contested, and groups that attack human rights are nothing new. But what is new is that extremist and ultra-conservative groups are now working with and being sheltered by the state.

This was one of the key points raised during a dialogue with Kenyan civil society held in Nairobi in July 2019. The backdrop to the dialogue was CIVICUS’ current research on the impacts of anti-rights groups on civil society, to be published in November 2019. Our research aims to understand how anti-rights groups are organising and being supported, what tactics they use to attack human rights and how civil society can respond to this growing threat.

Nairobi dialogues attest to hardline groups linked to state structures

Participants in the Nairobi dialogue attested to the real challenges they face from hardline groups closely linked to state structures and politicians. They identified that in some cases, state agents are clearly working through proxy organisations to attack rights, and powerful political leaders are mobilising criminal gangs. Rather than uphold rights, the police are frequently on the side of these criminal gangs. Corrupt business interests are also attacking communities and activists who demand rights and environmental protection. Anti-rights groups are taking succour from political leaders who promote hatred and exclusion. In Kenya, participants noted that dominant political elites clearly have a campaign of publicly vilifying civil society, and this encourages others to attack.

Some state structures are even accused of having made it easier for anti-rights groups to operate, while simultaneously making it harder for legitimate groups that stand for human rights to do so. The government’s failure to implement the enabling provisions of the 2013 Public Benefits Organisation Act, despite repeated civil society advocacy, as well as bureaucratic restrictions in registration of civil society groups that represent vulnerable groups, remain a crucial area of concern and indicate the generally shabby treatment of civil society by those who hold political power.

Vulnerable and excluded groups, it was observed, are on the frontline of violence. They are attacked first and most frequently, and often as a prelude to attacks on civil society as a whole. Proxy groups often attack LGBTQI rights. Meanwhile, appeals to tradition and culture, defined narrowly and exclusively rather than broadly and inclusively, are used as a pretext for the repression of women and girls.

High-profile bloggers and journalists justify attacks on rights

Participants also pointed to a worrying trend where some high-profile bloggers and journalists are using the platform offered by their status to justify attacks on rights, sending a reminder of how the freedom of expression, a key right for us all, can be contested and abused in the service of hate. So much online space, which once offered such promise, has been captured to propagate messages that divide and polarise. At the same time, journalistic voices that stand for human rights are being silenced and stifled because of state capture.

The story is, however, also one of civil society response, to defend those under attack, make a case with the public as to why rights matter and work to hold those liable for abuses to account. As civil society, participants also asked themselves what they could be doing better.

Need to change the way we connect with concerns

Perhaps our old models, of how we organise ourselves and are resourced, need to change, and as part of this, we need to rethink how best international civil society can support and enable local civil society response. We need to learn from the mobilising power and energy of people’s protests – seen most recently in Hong Kong – and understand how to spark and sustain that energy. Because the messages of anti-rights groups find resonance with many people, we need to change the way we connect with, listen to and understand concerns at the community level. And we need to put aside our differences to offer a collective response.

CIVICUS members are holding dialogues and contributing to this research in a range of other ways. If you’d like to make your voice heard in our research, please contact .


CIVICUS en RightsCon2019!

Por Marianna Belalba Barreto y Belén Giaquinta

RightsCon TunisiaTodxs aquellos interesados en la interfaz entre derechos humanos y la tecnología sabrán que el mes pasado se celebró RightsCon 2019 en Túnez. Por primera vez la conferencia que reúne una mezcla extraordinaria de más de 3000 activistas, personas defensoras de derechos humanos, organizaciones de sociedad civil, sector privado (incluyendo compañías como Google y Facebook), donantes, emprendimientos sociales, expertxs en tecnología y humanistas, tuvo lugar en el Medio Oriente.

La celebración de una conferencia sobre derechos humanos de esta magnitud en un país parte del Oriente Medio y África del Norte es bastante significativo, ya que de acuerdo al CIVICUS Monitor,el espacio cívico se halla gravemente restringido en la región.

Este año CIVICUS participó activamente en varias de las 450 sesiones organizadas durante los 3 días de conferencia, y tanto el equipo del CIVICUS Monitor como la iniciativa Resilient Roots estuvieron presentes. Quieren saber cuales son nuestras reflexiones?

Por un lado, el CIVICUS Monitor participó en una sesión en alianza con RNW Media y activistas de Burundi, República Democrática del Congo y Libia. El objetivo fue intercambiar testimonios y experiencias de jóvenes activistas provenientes de países donde el ejercicio de las libertades fundamentales de asociación, protesta y expresión se encuentran seriamente restringidas. Con miras a promover y construir nuevas narrativas y espacios alternativos de activismo en contexto restringidos y sumamente polarizados, la sesión incluyó una breve descripción del espacio cívico a nivel global, seguido por testimonios y estrategias por parte de los y las activistas de los países mencionados.

En tiempos donde el activismo y el ejercicio de los derechos humanos se encuentra sumamente restringido en la mayoría de los países del mundo, según data reciente del CIVICUS Monitor, hace falta resaltar la resistencia y persistencia de activistas para ejercer estas libertades fundamentales, quienes a pesar del contexto hostil, de manera creativa buscan espacios alternativos para continuar su labor.

Resilient Roots, por el otro, organizó un taller interactivo sobre cómo crear lazos más fuertes con los grupos y personas para/con las que las organizaciones trabajan, a través de la rendición de cuentas. Uno de los (muy) pocos talleres en todo el programa, la sesión incluyó un breve mapeo de los grupos meta (stakeholders), seguido de una lluvia de ideas sobre cómo mecanismos de rendición de cuentas pueden ayudar a fortalecer estos lazos y generar más confianza en las OSC. También discutimos cómo una mejor rendición de cuentas contribuye al bienestar organizacional en un contexto donde las OSC están operando en entornos cada vez más hostiles.

La sesión formó parte del #Wellness track, o la rama de eventos centrados en el bienestar, tanto individual como organizacional, y la resiliencia del tercer sector. Incluso dentro de nuestra rama temática, quedó claro que Resilient Roots (y nuestro enfoque) realiza contribuciones importantes y muy necesarias al debate que existe en nuestro sector sobre la #RendiciónDeCuentas y la #Resiliencia.

A diferencia de aquellas sesiones enfocadas en la rendición de cuentas social (o de los gobiernos) o sobre la necesidad de tener una mejor rendición de cuentas en el sector privado - especialmente en relación al uso (o abuso?) de datos personales - Resilient Roots resaltó la importancia de la autocrítica para la auto práctica. Es decir, como los mecanismos internos de rendición de cuentas de las OCS también tienen que mejorar si queremos construir la legitimidad de nuestro sector, principalmente hacia las personas y grupos que se ven más afectadxs por nuestro trabajo (lo que se conoce como primary constituent accountability (PCA) por sus siglas en inglés).

Similarmente con la resiliencia, donde la mayoría de las sesiones capitalizaron en la resiliencia financiera de las OCS o la resiliencia (salud) individual del personal, faltó argumentar a favor de la resiliencia como práctica estratégica y organizacional para hacer frente a las amenazas de espacio cívico.

Principalmente, RightsCon nos sirvió para recordarnos, una vez más, de la importancia de seguir adaptando nuestra narrativa y ampliando nuestros diccionarios. Si nuestros objetivos incluyen crear espacios alternativos para el ejercicio de nuestras libertades fundamentales, entonces los lentes que usamos para entender los retos que hoy enfrenta la sociedad civil deben, y como resultado las estrategias que ideamos deben ser igual de flexibles.


The CIVICUS Diversity and Inclusion journey

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Diversity and Inclusion has become a hot topic within civil society in recent years which has prompted the sector to take a step back and evaluate its own programmes and operations. CIVICUS has also had many moments of reflection over the past year in particular in order to increase its principles on diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the actions of the secretariat and to best serve its wide and diverse membership.

At the Global Learning Exchange the participants brainstormed and created the following working definitions of diversity and inclusion:

Diversity is a free and safe space in which complex perspectives, differences and intersectionality are celebrated as strengths and opportunities for innovation, acceptance and collaboration. Trust is a key concept, between and within diverse communities and groups.

Inclusion is the action point of diversity, a dynamic and continuous process that works on multiple political, economic and social levels, and leaves no one behind. It works to build meaningful connections between groups, and sometimes unlikely allies, toward a positive outcome for disenfranchised populations. Tokenism and quotas vs meaningful inclusion as a complex system (there is no ‘one size fits all’) was emphasized

CIVICUS members from across the globe convened on the 16 December 2018 in Montevideo, Uruguay at the Global Learning Exhange to i) discuss what diversity & inclusion means within the civil society sector, ii) identify obstacles that organisations and individual activists face, and iii) share best practices and tips. The exchange drew perspectives from a wide breadth of civil society geographically and thematically, with representation from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, India, Ireland, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa and Zambia.

The exchange led to positive learning opportunities as each participant had unique perspectives and had tested different approaches to diversity and inclusion. This led to a discussion on the need to continuing this conversation with broader civil society to continue the positive learning exchange. This group continued to keep in touch after the exchange to begin identifying the needs of a safe space to discuss diverse and inclusive principles within civil society.

The conversation continued into International Civil Society Week (ICSW) that took place in Belgrade, Serbia on the week of the 8 – 12 April 2019. CIVICUS members held a session on the practicalities of D&I within different spheres. These discussions focused on the workplace, education systems, intergenerational collaboration and access to justice. The discussions in Serbia reinforced the need for deep dive dialogues as many excluded groups felt that civil society is still only practicing D&I on the surface level rather than pursuing meaningful culture shifts.

CIVICUS members from the Global Learning Exchange as well as interested members from ICSW and the Youth Assembly then took these conversations online and contributed to a brainstorm document. Using an online google document, questions were posed on what kind of space was needed, what was the purpose, what were the long term objectives, what is the best way to run, is a structure necessary etc. Members then had the opportunity to enter their input and interact with each other’s input to add on and track the progression of the conversation. This method was a great way to capture everyone’s input without a note-taker’s implicit bias, and was also easy to find the points of intersection amongst everyone’s perspectives.

Using the brainstorm document we pulled out the most agreed upon steps forward and circulated an informal concept note proposing the concrete steps forward. The agreed upon steps were as follows:

  • The group will use Facebook as its initial base as many people already use this platform and it will be easy to access the group. Once the group grows we will consider moving some conversations to more secure platforms like slack
  • The name of this group will be The Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA). In Spanish DIGNA means worthy, dignified or deserving, which we think is very fitting for this group.
  • We will have a rotating advisory group (8-10 people) to help moderate this space. We will begin with an incubation advisory group that represents each region and after 6 months we will rotate half of the group out and have an open call for new members. Each 6 months half of the group will step out to ensure continuity but also fresh perspectives.
  • We will help collect the resources shared on the platform and post them on CIVICUS’ toolkit page under Diversity and Inclusion so that everything is in one place
  • The purpose of this group is:
    • The Diversity & Inclusion Group for Networking and Action (DIGNA) brings together change-makers and thought leaders passionate about strengthening an inclusive and diverse civil society – including CIVICUS members, civil society organisations, groups, and activists, and their allies. This working group seeks to understand, conceptualise and identify innovative practices on what diversity and inclusion (D&I) can look like within different thematic areas and operating models.  
    • The group is a safe space where members can support each other to improve organisational structure and processes, ways of working and impact with a focus on D&I. Regardless of our fight against all the backlash and consequences of inequality and segregation, we will shine a spotlight and learn from positive examples and benchmarks from around the globe. This group encourages discussion and debate on D&I issues, is a space for sharing positive experiences and practices, resources and tools, and lessons learned, and offers a channel to request for help, support and collaboration, and post potential opportunities.

It is really important that the DIGNA remains a safe space for all to engage within, so before joining the group everyone must read and accept the community guidelines. We hope you join us on this journey and check out the platform!

The diversity and inclusion journey is one that civil society must embark on as a collective. Organizations may be at different stages of this fluid journey but we must encourage each other to push forward and engage in dynamic accountability. This area of focus is forever expanding so there is no end point that we are striving for, but instead we must ensure that we go beyond surface level commitments to tackle institutional structures from all perspectives.

Let’s push forward together!


AGNA: Sharing Lessons Globally to Scale up Domestic Impact

By Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Head, Knowledge Management Unit, WACSI

IMG 9913Civil society organisations (CSOs) across the globe thrive on the implementation of best practices. Some of these are found within organisations (intrinsic), learned from other organisations (extrinsic), learned in the course of implementing projects (operational) or learned as a result of obligatory requirements organisations must fulfil in contractual agreements with their partners (contractual).

Many CSOs learn sector-based best practices from others. This is often achieved through their membership in networks. Networks comprise of a group of CSOs and or individuals who work together to achieve a common goal. There is often an underlying motive or need to be addressed that binds members of the network together. They usually commit effort and resources to achieve their common goal and influence social change.

As Keller Easterling puts it;

“A network allows a broad range of people and organisations to identify their shared interests, to deepen their understanding of the systems they are seeking to change, and to find a shared framework from which to act. Members of a network are unlikely to agree on each and every philosophical point, but they can use their relationships and sense of shared purpose to coordinate actions capable of producing social change.”

Networks could be at a community level, a regional level within a country, a national level, a regional level either across a geo-political subset of a continent, or at a continental level or at the global level. They could also focus on specific thematic areas within different areas of the development spectrum. Often, CSOs are keen to be members of networks to leverage on the rich expertise, opportunities and the value addition networks give to its members.

One such network, at a global level, is the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA). Created in 2004 and championed by CIVICUS, AGNA comprises of national networks of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that seek to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world. This is to ensure that there is a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity.

Between 12 – 13 June 2019, over forty of AGNA’s eighty-seven members convened in Amman, Jordan for its 2019 annual general meeting. This was a space for reflections on AGNA’s operations and governance in the past year. It was also a space for reflection as a network, sharing of members’ experiences with a focus on initiatives driven by or in collaboration with AGNA. Most importantly, it was an opportunity for members to assess the governance of the network to consolidate its strengths and highlight areas for improvement where necessary.

As a member of AGNA since 2012, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) gained several lessons from the rich and expanding work of AGNA. The learning, transparency and accountability dimension of AGNA’s work was enriching for the Head of WACSI’s Knowledge Management Unit, Jimm Fomunjong who represented WACSI at this year’s AGM. It was enriching because it marries well with WACSI’s ongoing efforts to equip CSOs in West Africa to promote social accountability in the region. Although WACSI focuses on social accountability (holding duty bearers to account) and AGNA focuses on CSO accountability (ensuring that CSOs are accountable to all their stakeholders equally), Fomunjong admits that there is a strong nexus between CSOs’ accountability and social accountability because; “CSOs need to be veritably accountable to be able to demand accountability from duty bearers (social accountability)”.

“At a time when civil society regulation is a topical issue for governments and CSOs in some West African countries, notably Nigeria and Ghana, CSOs need to put in place practical, feasible and results-oriented measures to demonstrate their legitimacy, prove that they are transparent and showcase an unbiased accountability as a means of paving way for the highly demanded civil society self-regulation by us (CSOs),” he said.

At the AGM, Fomunjong shared WACSI’s experience in holding three successive national convenings that brought together CSOs, representatives from state institutions, national and international donor organisations and corporate institutions to reflect on feasible ways of facilitating CSOs’ capitalisation of domestic resource mobilisation opportunities in the country.

Timo Lappalainen, Director of the Finnish Development NGO (FINGO) in Finland considered WACSI’s experience of bringing together diverse multi-stakeholders around the same table to reflect on a common issue to be outstanding. He committed to apply this practice in Finland and make sure that FINGO convenes diverse stakeholders to reflect on feasible ways of mobilising resources to support the work of CSOs in the global south.



Why we need more women leaders in civil society worldwide

By Helene Wolf, Chair, FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders

Half of the delegates at CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week (April, Belgrade) were women. This is a great achievement and shows the major role women play in civil society as activists, staff members and changemakers. At a time when we are witnessing a backlash against women’s rights and women are disproportionately more affected by climate change, inequality, violent conflict and poverty, civil society at large stands in solidarity with women around the world.

Yet, the majority of civil society organisations (CSOs) are led by men. Based on the first FAIR SHARE Monitor we researched and published this year, we now know that most international CSOs have a significant gap of women leaders in comparison to the number of women on their staff.

Most CSOs include gender issues in their programming and advocacy but a talented woman working in a CSO is less likely to take on a leadership position than a man. We advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where gender equality is featured prominently (SDG 5) but do not address our internal barriers for women to fulfil their leadership potential. Altogether, it means that many CSOs do not yet live up to the demands and standards we expect from governments and companies within our own organisations. This puts our credibility and ultimately our impact on women’s and girls’ rights at risk.

That is why we did not only collect the data on women leadership but also asked CSOs to sign a commitment to achieve a FAIR SHARE of women leaders within their organisations by 2030 at the latest. CIVICUS has been one of the first signatories. We are now calling on all CSOs, small and large, from the Global South and North, whether they explicitly work on gender issues or not, to join the pledge to achieve a FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders by 2030. 

Watch Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International, speak about why he committed to a FAIR SHARE.

We know this is a big task and that CSOs work in very different contexts that may support or block women from taking on leadership positions. We know that different organisational set-ups and working environments call for different measures to increase internal gender equality. We also know that we need to increase the number of women, cisgender, transgender, intergender people from all ages, nationalities as well as social and economic backgrounds. That is why we want to create a global movement around the objective of FAIR SHARE that learns and works together to take on this large challenge.

We will not only monitor progress but want to develop a community together with the committed organisations that designs and drives the necessary changes together. This community has to be based on the principles of inclusivity, intersectionality and solidarity. As a newly founded organisation, we aim to put the principles and values of feminist leadership into action because we believe in the power of cooperation, dialogue and transformative change. To achieve this, we need as many different voices, experiences and perspectives in the room as possible and we invite all CIVICUS members to become part of this conversation.

To join FAIR SHARE, all CSOs are invited to sign our letter of commitment and submit their data on women leadership. As our community grows, we want to develop national FAIR SHARE Monitors and are looking for partners to develop the appropriate concepts and implementation. Please contact us at with any questions, ideas or to become part of the FAIR SHARE movement.

Helene Wolf is the Chair and Co-Founder of FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders e.V. Before starting FAIR SHARE she served as Deputy Executive Director of the International Civil Society Centre for eight years. She has two sons and lives in Berlin, Germany.


SG Update: For May-June 2019

Dear members & friends of CIVICUS,

The past weeks have been a busy but exciting time for a number of our networks and initiatives! We were proud to have hosted over 80 activists representing work on civic freedoms from across the world in Johannesburg in May for a dialogue with Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association (FoAA). The discussion focused on understanding the impact of civic space restrictions on sustainable development, and made it evident that for the Agenda 2030 to be fully realised, governments must collaborate with civil society and communities at all levels during the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in monitoring their impact. Our take on the rich inspirations gained from this discussion – including mechanisms for civil society organisations to engage more actively with national SDG mechanisms - is available here.

In another exciting development, AGNA and CIVICUS Youth announced the launch of a Youth Engagement Platform in May. The platform serves as a peer-learning site on strategies to break down barriers to youth participation and strengthen relationships between young activists and experienced organisations. It also showcases innovative ways in which member organisations have addressed the unique challenges they face in engaging youth. In this period, we also joined our peers within the Fair Share for Women Leaders initiative to explore how we progress efforts to create equitable opportunities for women to take on leadership roles. In addition to publishing an annual Women’s Leadership Monitor, the initiative aims to bring together a community of gender specialists and feminist leaders in civil society. More information on how to engage is available here.

CIVICUS joined a number of other organisations to convey our deep concern regarding the impact of the failure of UN member states to pay their assessed contributions on the operation of its human rights mechanisms. We also joined the world in expressing our outrage against the brutal clamp-down on citizen protesters in Sudan and continuing attacks on activists in the Philippines. And yet despite these concerns, we had occasion to celebrate new breakthroughs that civil society (and CIVICUS members) have directly contributed to, including the landmark judgement by the Gaborone High Court decriminalising same sex sexual relations in Botswana. A policy brief calling on the government of Equatorial Guinea and the African Union to take the urgent steps needed to ensure an enabling environment for civil society in the country was also published in collaboration with EG Justice in this period.

In the lead up to the G20 Summit, held across 28-29 June, we contributed to the development of the C20 Policy Pack which made recommendations to G20 countries to support freedom of action for civil society; policies to facilitate legal creation and operation of CSOs and to enable mechanisms to create sustainable partnerships for development. We also used the opportunity of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, held in Thailand across 22-23 June, to highlight Monitor ratings for the 10 ASEAN countries, namely Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines. Findings from our civic space research were also presented at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit 2019 held in Ottawa, Canada across 29-31 May.

Opportunities to act with CIVICUS:

  • We received a remarkable number of responses to our call for support to organise local dialogues around the State of Civil Society 2019 report and shape the next iteration of SPEAK! actions by signing up to be regional champions. Thank you for your enthusiasm! We are keen to find more ways to ensure our global reports and tools are enriching civil society efforts and outcomes locally – please continue to reach us with your suggestions in this regard.
  • Did you know that most youth-led groups and movements operate with an annual budget of less than 10,000 USD? Learn about how youth-led movements can be resourced in the 21st century through this read out from a webinar on the subject organised by CIVICUS Youth and RECREAR. Further perspective on how donors and youth movements can improve their relationship is available through this blog by CIVICUS member, Gioel Gioacchino.
  • We will be active at the UN Human Rights Council which will be in session from 24 June to 12 July. In addition to tracking a number of key issues, we will be sharing preliminary findings from research undertaken with Solidarity Center and other partners on the civic space challenges of migrants and refugees in 5 countries, namely Mexico, Kenya, Jordan, Germany and Malaysia. Watch this and other events we are co-hosting at the UNHRC online through our Facebook page.
  • The High Level Political Forum will be held in at the United Nations, New York from 9-18 July. Join us at the events that we are co-organising this year! More information here.
  • Learn more about the ‘Affinity Group of National Associations’ (AGNA), which reflected on its progress and set goals for the coming year at its Annual General Meeting, held in Amman, Jordan across 12-13 June.

In solidarity,

Lysa John



Webinar: “How to Resource Youth-Led Movements in the 21st Century”

Did you know that most youth-led groups and movements operate with an annual budget of less than 10,000 USD? It´s known that young people in the activism and development sector in the Global South face significant resourcing challenges: little capacity to attract funding and comply with donor requirements; ​restricted social, political and economic spaces to participate and grow; extensive gaps between the funds available to serve youth versus those managed directly by youth, and significant disparities between the resourcing opportunities that target young individual leaders within groups and movements rather than to the group itself, just to mention a few.

These and other challenges, as well as potential resourcing opportunities, best practices and innovative models that can help to overcome them were discussed during the webinarHow to Resource Youth-Led Movements in the 21st Century”. This event was organised by CIVICUS with representatives of the CIVICUS Youth network and RECREAR on June 26th, 2019. If you missed it, watch it on CIVICUS’ Youtube channel and share your thoughts in the comment box.

This webinar is part of CIVICUS’ efforts to help increase the resiliency of civil society in a context of systemic repressions and discriminations against it, and to promote changes in the behavior and culture of the funding community and the traditional civil society sector.

The 21st century has showed us new dynamics in how citizens claim their rights, which is more evident in the case of youth-led civil action. Both funders and civil society organisations are invited to be part of this change by re-thinking how to work with this generation of young change-makers, especially those in the Global South, working at the local level and organising in more innovative ways. Together, we must advocate and raise awareness on the need for wider support to leverage our common networks, knowledge and visibility within the funding community to push for more and better resourcing mechanisms for young activists.

The webinar’s panelists were Elisa Novoa, CIVICUS Youth Engagement Coordinator; Gioel Gioacchino, director of research at RECREAR; and Wilson Villones, researcher and a Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator advocate.

We invite you to watch the webinar session where the panelists shared:

  • The key findings from CIVICUS’ “Landscape and trends ​analysis on resourcing​ youth-led groups and movements” ​
  • Why youth-led movements and groups need differentiated resourcing practices and models
  • Personal experiences with program that is intentionally tailoring support and resources to young activists: Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator

The “Landscape and trends ​analysis on resourcing​ youth-led groups and movements” ​will be published as a toolkit and available to the public in September. Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about this webinar or the analysis, please contact  

Watch webinar:



UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Clément Voule meets with civil society to discuss threats to rights


More than 80 representatives of civil society organisations, community leaders and academics met in Johannesburg on 30-31 May and on 3 June with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, Clément Voule to discuss the impact of restrictions on freedom of assembly and association on sustainable development. Participants discussed the relationship between human rights and development and how governments perceived the two as separate from each other.  Participants were of the view that the targeting of civil society organisations using a range of restrictions slows down the attainment of development outcomes. That there are existing tensions around the rise of authoritarian models and development and that over the last decade countries like China and Rwanda have experienced some levels of economic growth despite the fact that they are under authoritarian leaders.  Other key insights from participants:


How ICSW empowered me to become a better activist

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.













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!


“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)


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.


A Belgrade en Serbie, PJUD-BENIN ONG parle de la redevabilité au service de la démocratie béninoise.

Par DJOWAMON  A. Cyrille, PJUD - Promotion Jeunesse Unie pour le Développement, Benin ; organisation membre votante de CIVICUS

Cyrille 1La semaine internationale de la civile (the international civil society week ICSW) s’est déroulée du 06 au 12 avril 2019 à Belgrade en Serbie sous le thème : «Le Pouvoir de la Solidarité». Elle a donné l’occasion aux organisations, aux défenseurs des droits humains et aux activistes d’explorer les moyens par lesquels ils peuvent fédérer les efforts pour libérer le potentiel d’une l’action collective. Le programme de cette semaine constitué de plusieurs sessions a donné l’occasion à PJUD-BENIN ONG d’exposer ses actions sur la thématique de la redevabilité au Bénin. Autour du thème : « Government accountability towards Democracy and Rule of Law » le directeur exécutif de PJUD-BENIN ONG a partagé avec l’assistance constituée d’acteurs de la société civile mais également de partenaires techniques et financiers les efforts des OSC béninoises pour créer l’interaction entre les détenteurs de droits ou demandeurs de redevabilité et les débiteurs d’obligations qui offrent la recevabilité.

Cyrille 3Avec une démarche pédagogique, il a démontré que le recul des trois obstacles fondamentaux à la construction d’une bonne gouvernance et d’un État de droit que sont : la corruption, le clientélisme et la captation des marchés n’adviendra qu’avec l’appropriation du concept de redevabilité tant par les détenteurs de droits que par les débiteurs d’obligations. Pour lui, la corruption, le clientélisme et la captation des marchés sont des maux à combattre avec vigueur. En effet, la corruption, outre qu’elle enrichit directement des bureaucrates individuels, fausse les marchés et entrave la fourniture du service.

Le clientélisme, outre qu’il canalise de manière inéquitable des ressources publiques vers des groupes de clients spécifiques, altère les dynamiques de la compétition politique et mène à une fourniture inefficace du service public. Enfin La captation, outre qu’elle fournit des rentes à des acteurs économiques spécifiques, altère elle aussi grandement les marchés et aggrave la position des consommateurs, travailleurs et l’environnement entrepreneurial. Il a, pour conclure invité à une action à l’endroit de la jeunesse qui doit faire un parcours initiatique dans l’apprentissage de la responsabilité, de la culture de la vérité et du refus de la corruption sous toutes ses formes.        


Power of Togetherness Never Ends

Strengthening Civil Society Membership Platform

By Sin Putheary, Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, AGNA and CIVICUS voting organizational memberPutheary

Coming from the largest and longest established membership-based organization in Cambodia, I have a privilege to be part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Belgrade, Serbia while several other colleagues of civil society are not able to physically present themselves at the conference due to visa issues. However, this cannot stop us from moving together.

Strengthening Membership Platform for CSO Effectiveness, 29 year-experience from Cambodia context, is one of the buzz sessions I shared during the event. At the same time, participants also exchanged their experiences of civil society in Finland, France, U.S.A, Argentina, West Africa and Cuba. The discussion showed that our challenges are similar particularly the claiming for civic space.

Facing many obstacles on space, CSO realized the importance of working together in the collaborative manner. The power of common voice brought so many great examples of positive change in the region. At the meantime, the critical question on representation of CSO in policy discussion with the government remains unanswered for decades.

My observation through the discussion is that the risk is not just CSO as an institution, but it threatens to individual CSO staff mainly advocacy and human rights defenders. Since the adoption of Declaration on human rights defenders in 1998, the estimated 1,000 human rights defenders lost their lives in the cause of their work. It is a sad story, but I still believe that CSO has a home grown, and other members, partners, and networks of CSO are not static. Therefore, the dynamic of joining efforts will bring the success near.

One of the lessons learned from the event I noted is that CSO need reassess our function in society. Additionally, CSO also require a long-term vision, clear strategy, and flexible tactic to ensure their effective role in responding to the need of the people. These cannot happen by working alone, but together.

Throughout more than ten years working for civil society sector, I found out that dialogue on membership platform is beyond the classical NGOs meetings. It spiritually builds a momentum of hope and solidarity among CSO although they are coming from different colors, ages, social status and political view.


CIVICUS Accountability’s journey – some updates! 

Have you been wondering what’s up withCIVICUS’ accountability actions? Are you looking for examples and opportunities to strengthen your own organisation’s accountability or connect with others to take more concrete accountability steps? Then, this blog is for you!


Delivering emergency help for targeted activists is easier said than done


By Lesego Moshikaro and Yessenia Soto

This article is part of the #StoriesOfResilience series, coordinated by CIVICUS to feature groups and activists on their journey to promote better resourcing practices for civil society and to mobilise meaningful resources to sustain their work.

Imagine you lead a non-profit feminist organisation in Egypt.

IMG 4328Your work involves empowering women and lobbying the government to respect and protect their rights. In repressive Egypt, the authorities don’t like what you’re doing, and they want it to stop. So, they attack you – hitting you with a travel ban, freezing all your assets and charging you with receiving illegal foreign funding for your civil society organisation (CSO), which could lead to life in prison if you’re found guilty by Egypt’s notoriously biased courts. In aggressive and threatening interrogations, officials pressure you to shut down your CSO ‘voluntarily’, or things could get worse for you. 

Photo: Activists, civil society organisations and emergency fund managers during the “Resource the resistance” convening at ICSW 2019.


Hacia la construcción de nuestra Política Institucional de Rendición de Cuentas

Por Gloria Gonzalez Navarro y Enrique Blanco Lozada (Asociación Kusi Warma)

Los cambios o impactos sociales suelen estar acompañados de adversidades de nuestro ambiente, las cuales evidentemente deben ser enfrentadas con esfuerzo. Esfuerzo que caracteriza a las grandes y pequeñas organizaciones que tienen como objetivo común: el generar cambios positivos.

Kusi Warma, ONG de Perú que tiene como misión principal dar voz a los niños y niñas en situaciones poco ventajosas, no es la excepción a lo anteriormente mencionado. Es por ello que ha emprendido el emocionante camino hacia la construcción de su PIRC (Política Institucional de Rendición de Cuentas) como parte de la iniciativa Resilient Roots. Para ello el equipo del proyecto tuvo que seguir una serie de pasos iniciales que incluyó talleres de diagnóstico y devolución con la población con la que trabajaría los siguientes meses. Dicha población estuvo conformada por niños y niñas; sin embargo, debido a la relevancia y el papel que representan, también se trabajó con profesores y padres de familia.

Producto de los talleres se pudo recoger propuestas, tanto de profesores y padres como de los niños y niñas. La mayoría consideró oportuno que se brindara más información sobre el propósito de Kusi Warma en su comunidad, a pesar que muchos ya tenían conocimiento de nuestra misión y objetivos, se sentían interesados en recibir más información e involucrarse más en sus actividades institucionales.

Con la sugerencia y posterior aceptación por parte de la población involucrada, en febrero 2019 se inició el proceso de construcción de la PIRC utilizando el teatro como herramienta pedagógica. Los talleres se llevarán adelante durante 7 meses, incluyendo 4 sesiones y una puesta en escena cada mes. Para esto, cada sesión se dividió en dos, un primer grupo compuesto por niños y niñas entre 10 y 16 años; y otro compuesto por madres de la comunidad..

El inicio del taller en la Comunidad 12 de Diciembre, realizado el 12 de febrero de 2019, fue bien recibido por los niños y niñas por lo novedoso que era participar de un taller de teatro, experiencia que hasta el momento era totalmente lejana para ellos. Con el pasar de las sesiones el grupo de niños aumentó y lo que inició con 20 participantes terminó superando por poco la expectativa inicial de 30.

En el caso de las madres, se observó cierta reserva y vergüenza a participar en lo que entendían como “teatro”. Se logró mantener un grupo de 10 participantes activas que abrazaron el espacio íntimo y de libertad que el taller significaba para ellas. Pudimos ver cómo, según ellas, tenían un espacio en el cual escapaban de la cotidianidad de su vida y podían desenvolverse cada vez de forma más natural.

Llegó el fin de mes y, con ello, la puesta en escena de ambos talleres. Los niños prepararon de forma colectiva un guion que explicaba “Qué es Kusi Warma” y las madres, también de forma colectiva, crearon un guion referente al Día Internacional de la Mujer.

Aunque la previa se llenó de nerviosismo y un poco de temor a presentarse frente a toda la comunidad, ello pudo ser superado por la emoción que sintieron de poder expresar y transmitir lo que habían creado. Luego de esta primera presentación nos quedamos con la satisfacción de percibir que los niños y niñas de la comunidad tienen una imagen positiva del trabajo de Kusi Warma, dejando claro que para ellos representa diversión, salud, educación y una familia feliz. Del mismo modo, las madres dejaron claro que el impacto de una organización como Kusi Warma en la comunidad es algo que brinda más que ayuda, brinda una voz.

Es justamente la voz de todas las personas a las que Kusi Warma se dirige, la que queremos escuchar, recoger y transformar en acción a través de nuestra PIRC. Es por ello que en las próximas presentaciones, luego de la puesta en escena, vamos a facilitar un espacio de reflexión y participación a fin de recoger las opiniones del público sobre cómo desean participar en la gestión de Kusi Warma, tanto en sus proyectos como en su organización, y cómo desean que les rindamos cuentas. Este desafío fortalecerá los lazos de confianza y respeto mutuo, lo cual nos hará una organización más resiliente, porque nuestra fuerza y legitimidad estará en la población a la que dirigimos nuestra acción, más empoderada y comprometida, para juntos afrontar las adversidades que se presenten.


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.


As India goes to to the polls, will the people vote against the ‘politics of hate’


By Alina Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA)

Womens March3 4 April 2019In just under a week, the world’s largest democracy, India, will vote to elect and constitute the 17th Lok Sabha. According to the Election Commission (EC) of India, nearly 900 million voters will be eligible to vote for representatives to the lower house or the Lok Sabha of the bicameral Indian Parliament. Voting will begin on 11th April and be held in seven phases till 19th May, 2019 across 543 constituencies. The EC has also declared 23rd May, 2019 the day of counting and results.


How resilient are our pilot partners to civic space threats?


By Soulayma Mardam Bey and Jack Cornforth, CIVICUS

In recent years, “Resilience” has made its way into international development’s buzzword bingo board. Yet despite its increasing popularity, the concept often remains poorly understood. In this article, and during our upcoming Resilient Roots event at ICSW 2019 (Wednesday afternoon ), we will take a closer look at what this concept means for civil society organisations in the context of closing civic space.


The quest for resilience

By  Patricia Deniz, Senior Research and Development Officer CIVICUS 

Civil society, more than ever, is in dire need to reinvent itself, at least figure out how to be flexible, adaptable and resurgent in an ever-changing, uncertain and increasingly restrictive environment. Sustaining the status quo or surviving a crisis are no longer sufficient in contexts in which change happens unpredictably and drastically, requiring innovative responses to old problematics and new complex challenges. Instead, civil society aspires to becoming resilient, a term well known in the environmental and humanitarian spheres that is yet to be further analysed and explored in the CSO world.   


“La inclusión es una ilusión”

English | French 

Ochoa Ayala, Fundación 11:11, México

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¿A quién no le gusta sentir que pertenece a un lugar, comunidad, espacio, algo? El sentido de pertenencia tiene que ver con la identidad que cada individuo va desarrollando a lo largo de su vida, da una muestra de quienes somos; por ejemplo yo, soy una mujer, joven, mexicana, activista, soñadora etc., es como me identifico y las palabras que elegí para describirme hacen que me conecte con personas afines.

Al ser una mujer joven mexicana activista soñadora encontré a CIVICUS

“Una comunidad mundial de ciudadanas y ciudadanos informados, inspirados y comprometidos en el abordaje de los desafíos que enfrenta la humanidad.”[1]

Al leer su visón de inmediato supe que quería ser parte de esa comunidad y es que me sentí identificada, supe que al otro lado del planeta, en el hemisferio de a lado, existían personas con una visión muy similar a la mía, con la intención de cooperar y crear alianzas para que los problemas de la humanidad se combatieran de manera conjunta e unificando esfuerzos aislados.

Ingrese mis datos y cada semana me llegaba información sobre sus boletines, actividades y demás, hasta que un día llego un correo invitándome a la convocatoria “the Global Learning Exchange and AGM” en donde se hablarían temas de inclusión y diversidad en Montevideo, Urugay; Sin pensarlo mucho tome una decisión y apliqué, sin imaginar que acababa de abrir la puerta a una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida. Meses después me confirmaron que fui seleccionada y el 13 de diciembre me encontraba en un avión rumbo al intercambio de aprendizaje.

Fueron tres días donde hablamos sobre el significado de diversidad e inclusión, de entrada tanto las personas seleccionadas como los encargados de dirigir el intercambio teníamos diferentes nacionalidades, idiomas, aspecto, creencias e ideas pero eso no importo para intercambiar experiencias y crear conceptos nuevos, al interactuar entre nosotros le dimos vida y realidad a los conceptos de diversidad e inclusión, puesto que estás dos palabras no significan nada sino las llevas a la acción. Comprobamos de primera mano que las diferencias enriquecen las ideas y la disposición a escuchar da pie a la inclusión.

Juntos concluimos que la diversidad es la riqueza de lo diferente y la inclusión es la bienvenida de eso, dos conceptos que coexisten puesto que uno necesita de otro para fortalecer cada acción que realicemos en pro de la humanidad.

Antes de este encuentro veía a la diversidad e inclusión como una ilusión, tenía el anhelo de que en mi país existieran personas que fomentaran acciones de bienvenida a lo diferente, y es que ya llevaba un tiempo trabajando por ello pero no se materializaba.

Lamentablemente vivimos en una Era de discurso y poco accionar, las personas hablan de aceptación, las leyes de inclusión, pero en la realidad parece más una exclusividad de lo diferente, es decir, “si eres diferente júntate con los que son diferentes como tú” pero entonces ¿dónde está la inclusión? ¿Es una ilusión inalcanzable? CIVICUS respondió mi duda al integrarme a un equipo donde lo que imperaba eran las diferencias, pero aprendí que la disposición, el respeto, la humildad, el reconocimiento, son actitudes que cualquier ser humano puede tener con otro y al hacerlo se da la oportunidad de conocerlo e incluirlo a su mundo.

Recordemos que desde nuestra existencia pertenecemos a un mundo en el que todos coexistimos y al que todos tenemos la oportunidad aportar algo valioso.

Gracias CIVICUS por hacer mi ilusión realidad.



Decluttering Diversity and Inclusion

French | Spanish

By Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and CIVICUS member from the Philippines

‘What does Diversity and Inclusion means to you?’

046bc8d0 d141 45db 9af2 8f41668951b1This is a question I have been pondering (and decluttering) in the last few years and even until now. Growing up as a young, queer person from a poor, rural family in the Philippines, and now as a migrant worker in the United Kingdom, my vision of diversity and inclusion has been emerging. Today, I define it as a world where everyone knows and claim their rights in which human rights and justice are enjoyed without discrimination.

Global Learning Exchange

In December 2018, I was able to take part in an ambitious CIVICUS programme of work on diversity and inclusion mainstreaming and integration across the civic movement called Global Learning Exchange (GLE) held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The program made me build on and re-energised my commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to transform our ways of working to better meet our strategic aims.

It aimed to capitalise on the potential of diversity and inclusion across the CIVICUS movement and beyond: to create space for dialogue and peer-to-peer sharing among the participants; to identify effective approaches that can contribute to social justice; AND to strengthen ways of working, including sharing good practices as well as joint strategising, within the global CIVICUS CSO (Civil Society Organisations) network.

What have I learned?

In this learning journey towards a more accountable civil society sector, I have realised that we need to successfully challenge the inequality, structural oppression and intersectional discrimination which shapes our societies and is the primary cause of human rights violations. How effective we are in meeting these challenges will depend heavily on our own ability to understand these forces; to confront them and find ways to counteract their impact within the civil society movement and our ways of working; as well as meaningfully raising the voices of people who are marginalised around the world. Continually striving for excellence on how we mainstream and integrate diversity and inclusion in our work is therefore of fundamental importance to our aim of building a truly global movement for justice and human rights.

Highlights and Recommendations

In order to help implement this work that CIVICUS is doing, they gathered more than 15 informed and dynamic individuals who, through their experience and expertise, can help improve CIVICUS and partner CSOs’ culture, ways of working and impact so that we can better challenge structural inequalities and oppression, intersectional discrimination and demonising narratives. Hence the Global Learning Exchange (GLE) happened.

As one of the participants in the GLE, I hope the steps that would be undertaken as a result of this program will be guided by the overarching goals and principles of:

-promoting social justice and human rights

-recognising and making visible that different aspects of people’s identities and lives interact to structurally affect their experiences of discrimination, marginalisation, privilege, and power.

-making CIVICUS and other CSOs a better organisation to work with for staff, volunteers, and partners who experience systemic discrimination

-transformation, not tokenism

Overall, I would like to affirm the importance of CIVICUS’ efforts to improve its practices, culture, and outcomes with respect to diversity and inclusion, prioritising improvements related to their ways of working, governance, and areas of acute and chronic issues.

I didn’t expect the event to have this kind of positive effect on my personal life; it’s pretty cool to derive personal benefits from an advocacy project.

What’s next? Be involved?

Over the next few months, CIVICUS is piloting a network alliance on diversity and inclusion. This would entail regular calls or communication, providing some time and expertise on Diversity & Inclusion for civil society and working towards a common commitment of dynamic accountability and support. If you would like to discuss this program in more detail please contact: Suhani Bhushan on . We are hoping this will be a participative process from inception.



CIVICUS GLE Testimonial: Building communities for inclusive action

French | Spanish

by Vandita Morarka, One Future Collective, India

VanditaI was a participant at the Global Learning Exchange and the ensuing AGM held by CIVICUS in Montevideo, Uruguay, 16th December, 2018, onwards, representing One Future Collective.

As a participant I engaged in various discussions and actionable agenda items towards building the first step towards frameworks for inclusion and diversity. The representatives at the GLE in themselves were a stellar example of the beauty and massive knowledge exchange and learning that actual practise of diversity and inclusion can bring in.


Remise en question des structures verticales de prise de décisions dans le secteur des Organisations de la Société Civile (OSCs) à travers l'amélioration des pratiques de redevabilité

Par Gaetan Mertens (Accountability Lab) et Resilient Roots (CIVICUS)

Resilient Roots est une initiative de CIVICUS, menée en partenariat avec Keystone Accountability et Accountable Now. Il s’agit d’un projet ambitieux qui implique 15 organisations de la société civile basées dans des pays différents, comprenant deux organisations en Afrique francophone, et plus particulièrement en Mauritanie et au Bénin.


Sketching Dreams Together

Reflections From CIVICUS’ Youth Co-Design Workshop In Montevideo

By Gioel Gioacchino

GioelIn December, as part of my work researching the resourcing landscape for youth-led civil society, I had the chance to witness and participate in a youth co-design workshop in Montevideo. For CIVICUS, organising this workshop meant bringing together wisdom and lessons learned about working meaningfully with young people.

For a start, the group was small: it felt intimate. We were not coming together to listen to people speak about ‘participation’ and civil society – we were invited to call upon our experience and knowledge. The guidelines of our work were simple: We have a budget for a youth program, let’s design it together. It felt like a rare luxury, a treat, to be able to get together with young activists all over the world and create. With my researcher cap on, it was refreshing to see how collective creation emerged as a product of reflection, of bringing together our emotions, stories, and insights.

Originally appeared on


CIVICUS’ AGM comes to a close with an approved Annual Report and Solidarity Fund!

Spanish | French 

In December 2018, CIVICUS members from all over the world gather in Montevideo, Uruguay, to attend a multiplicity of convenings. This includes a board meeting, a youth co-design workshop and a global exchange on diversity and inclusion. Participants share cake and celebrations to mark CIVICUS’ 25 year anniversary.

CIVICUS Alliance also bid farewell to outgoing Secretary General, Danny Sriskandarajah, who reflects on his 6- year tenure as “a wonderful mix of change and constancy, of frustration and fulfillment, of pride and humility” in this blog post, and welcomes incoming SG Lysa John. 

All of this end of year activity culminates in the CIVICUS members AGM (annual general meeting), held at the Spanish International Cooperation Agency for Development. Members approve the  CIVICUS Annual Report, as well as the framework for a ground-breaking CIVICUS Solidarity Fund. Stay in touch early 2019 for more information!

Voting members unable to join physically participate online through the Virtual AGM, where they actively contribute to the discussions around  key agenda items and cast their votes. Many express their contentment to be able to take part remotely. “We are happy and are with you who are on site in Uruguay; CIVICUS governance is more democratic and the needs of members are taken into account; we receive all information related to the management of the Alliance and agree to vote for the Report submitted to the members.”

One of  the AGM highlights, is when each continent comes together to create  a slogan representing their solidarity. Asia envelops everyone in a giant hug saying that ‘no one is an outsider’, North America links hands around the room as a physical manifestation of solidarity, Europe tells us that ‘your journey is our journey’, South America protests across the room to the slogan ‘the people united shall never be defeated’ and the Africans join everyone in a giant train across the world with a protest song.

As everyone leaves to go back home, crossing the globe to get back to our countries, we carry with us the spirit of togetherness, and the power of what we can achieve together.


Going forward hopeful: Reflections and farewell from outgoing SG of CIVICUS

Spanish | French 

As my time at CIVICUS draws to a close, I wanted to say a proper farewell to those who matter most at CIVICUS – the alliance of members and partners - who make this organisation unique and so special. The last six years have been a wonderful mix of change and constancy, of frustration and fulfillment, of pride and humility.

The markers of dramatic change are many. Our annual income has risen from around $3m to over $13m. This year, we will issue $2.5m of subgrants, to smaller, Southern organisations. Our staff team is more diverse than ever before and our technological capabilities far beyond those that I encountered upon my arrival.

Other things, I am pleased to say, have remained reassuringly constant, not least the fact that we remain proudly headquartered in Johannesburg. And, perhaps most importantly, that we have retained, I hope, the same professional, yet humble, approach to serving civil society that has been a feature of CIVICUS since its beginnings. I tried to label it being ‘profumble’ but it didn’t seem to stick with colleagues 😉

Of course, the last six years have also held their fair share of frustrations and setbacks. We could have been more strategic and intentional in the way we’ve grown, particularly in terms of our geographical footprint. We’ve talked a great deal about democratising the international system, as well as about the SDGs, yet our programmatic work does too little to reflect or support these goals.

My tenure at CIVICUS has also coincided with a period in which the crackdown on civic space has solidified into a persistent, pernicious, truly universal phenomenon. The space for civil society is shrinking, not by accident or in accordance with the natural ebb and flow of social change, but by design. Our democracies – we, the people – are under siege.

But I do not move on from CIVICUS convinced that we are living in dark and dangerous times. Quite the opposite: I go forward hopeful.

For, wherever I have been, I have encountered not just frustration with broken politics, but a desire to shape better democracies; to satisfy an unquenched thirst for participation; to re-imagine democracy for a new age. It is this hunger – a hunger for the power to better our own lives, to better our communities and countries – that civil society must look to satisfy.

But, if we are to have any hope of succeeding, we will need to embrace radical change. Neither the market, nor state alone can mend our social fabric, or rebuild our ailing democracies, but nor can we assume that civil society organisations, in their current form, will be at the vanguard of driving social change in the 21st century. Those that are – and will become – our most influential civic formations are those that are already reshaping, reinventing and renewing themselves.

If civil society can find new dynamism in its shifting shapes and come together to stand united in the push back against shrinking space, then we will be ready to take on what I have come to see as our three major challenges.

Our common, digital future

The first will be to reimagine our rights for a digital world. Nowhere are our freedoms being more fiercely contested than they are online. The handful of corporates that dominate cyber space, convinced as they are of their pioneering role as digital saviours of our ailing world, are fiercely anti-regulation. But we need to find ways of promoting better behaviours online and supporting a fairer, more transparent structure. We need to work out how our legal and social norms apply in digital spaces. We need to get the rules and the governance right.

Any new rules cannot be solely state-led, nor can they be led by the private sector alone. Governance of the digital space will need to be a truly multi-stakeholder initiative. Without conscious, purposeful struggle, the digital era won’t only fail on its promise to emancipate citizens; it will achieve the very opposite. [By the way, please do let me know in this area – the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation I sit on will report in April 2019]

Reimagining democracy

Our second major challenge is to reimagine our democracy, as we outlined in our latest report Democracy for All: Beyond a Crisis of Imagination. We – as civil society – need to be rethinking our ideology of power, rethinking our democracies, in such a way as to enable people to reclaim their voice and sense of agency. We need to be experimenting, engaging those who are most under-represented in our existing system in designing new prototypes.

It’s a process that urgently needs to happen at the global level as well. Many of the decisions that affect our lives are taken in the headquarters of remote, opaque, inaccessible institutions, cogs in a system that privileges a few, powerful states—and often corporations—over the interests of people.

We need institutions of global governance that offer recourse to protection and support when authorities at the national level abuse their power. We need them now more than ever.

And so, we must develop new forms of global consultation, we must insist upon more direct citizen participation in key decision-making, we must demand more transparency, so that trusted – and therefore, more effective – global institutions can form part of a reimagined democratic system.

Redrawing sectoral boundaries

Finally, we cannot reimagine our democracy until we reimagine our economy. Modern capitalism has concentrated power and wealth to an absurd, immoral degree.

We need to find ways of enabling people to reclaim their sense of economic agency. We need to repurpose technology to create services equivalent to those offered by today’s corporate monoliths, without the extreme levels of exploitation, extraction and inequality.

Civil society enjoys a freedom that neither the state nor market can lay claim to. Sitting beyond those sectors, we are free to reimagine the rules and dynamics that govern their systems. This constitutes perhaps the most fundamental challenge for CIVICUS. We cannot afford to simply defend ‘our sector’, nor can we fall prey to the fallacy that these sectors – state, market and civil society – are as neat or eternal as many make out. The future is going to be blurry and hybrid, and I hope CIVICUS can be ahead of the curve, helping others to navigate these changes.

Finally, let me finish where I started by saying that it has been a hugely fulfilling privilege to be part of the CIVICUS journey. I feel proud to have been part of a dynamic and diverse community of people. I leave with a conviction that there is something beautiful, precious and powerful about CIVICUS. I also leave knowing that there are some brilliant colleagues at CIVICUS continuing and evolving our work, led by the wonderful Lysa John, and overseen by the best Board in the civil society world.

I will be watching with great interest to see what comes next for CIVICUS. And I hope that I can work with my new colleagues at Oxfam Great Britain to play our part in strengthening people’s power.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah



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