Strengthening Civic Space in Zambia: A Decade of Challenges and Collaborative Efforts

CIVICUS, in collaboration with our esteemed partners at the GEARS Initiative, recently convened civil society actors in Zambia to delve into the intricacies of citizen-led advocacy aimed at expanding civic freedoms through legislative and policy reform. These gatherings provided invaluable opportunities for reflection, learning, and knowledge-sharing among participants. In this blog, Patrick Kaumba, Executve Director of GEARS Initiative, reflects on some of the topics discussed and how the civic space landscape in Zambia has evolved in the past decade. 

Over the past decade, Zambia has witnessed a concerning trend of shrinking Civic Space, largely attributed to changes in laws and the constitution. Laws such as the antiquated Public Order Act of 1955, the restrictive NGO Act of 2009, and the more recent Cyber Security and Crimes Act of 2021 have all contributed to limiting the space for civic engagement. Additionally, provisions regarding defamation of the president further exacerbated the situation.

However, amidst these challenges, there have been concerted efforts to strengthen Civic Space in Zambia. One of the key strategies has been the formation of alliances and networks, which have enabled greater impact and improved platforms for engaging with the government. These efforts, coupled with resilient people, accountable practices, finances, and systems, have played a significant role in pushing back against restrictive measures.

Crucially, the positive political will of the new administration has provided a favorable environment for advancing Civic Space in Zambia. The culmination of years of lobbying by local, regional, and international human rights defenders and civil society activists has borne fruit, with the government showing readiness to engage in meaningful reforms.

Key events in this reform process include media statements, engagement meetings with the police and political parties, and media engagements. These activities have served to raise awareness, foster dialogue, and garner support for reform initiatives.

Looking ahead, there remains much work to be done to further strengthen Civic Space in Zambia. This includes advocating for law reforms and constitutional amendments to address restrictive legislation such as the Public Order Act, the NGO Act, and the Cyber Security and Crimes Act. Electoral legal reforms are also crucial to ensure the participation of marginalized groups, including youth, women, and people with special needs.

In addition to legal reforms, sustained public awareness campaigns are needed to educate citizens about their rights and the importance of civic engagement. Monitoring mechanisms and inclusive policy development will help ensure accountability and transparency in governance.

Furthermore, continued engagement with international partners for technical support and capacity building is essential in addressing Civic Space challenges. Collaboration with organizations such as CIVICUS and CHARM has proven invaluable in raising awareness and building the technical capacity of local initiatives like the GEARS Initiative Zambia.

In conclusion, while the challenges to Civic Space in Zambia have been significant, the collaborative efforts of civil society, along with the support of the new administration and international partners, have yielded positive outcomes. By continuing to advocate for reform, raise awareness, and build alliances, Zambia can further strengthen its Civic Space and foster a more inclusive and democratic society.

“Imagine if the Haitian revolutionaries had to write a proposal?”: Reflections from the Shift the Power Summit

By Taís Siqueira, Local Leadership lab Coordinator

This quote represents what Shift the Power Summit was to me, a space to hear uncomfortable truths and to collectively reimagine solutions. When Marie-Rose Romain Murphy of the Haiti Community Foundation said that “we can’t shift power without breaking some rules” it got me thinking… Why do we need these rules in the first place? Why can’t we simply co-create guidelines and principles to follow together with the communities we serve?

The #ShiftThePower Global Summit took place from 5-7 December 2023 in Bogotá, Colombia. With over 700 participants hailing from across the globe the summit aimed to unite changemakers and catalysts from international development, philanthropy, and civil society.

The Summit showed me that there is appetite to co-create, however we are lacking safe spaces, resources, relationships, and the trust to do so in an honest, meaningful, and transformative way. At CIVICUS we launched a pilot initiative, Local Leadership Labs (LLL), that aims at co-creating solutions to some of the barriers (political, technical, behavioural) preventing governments, donors and other stakeholders from adopting and delivering on commitments that recognize, enable and resource diverse local civil society groups as key development actors in their own right. The initiative will support radically inclusive spaces where local civil society groups can drive, alongside other key actors and decision-makers, the development of context-appropriate policies and solutions.

In Bogotá, the LLL team, in partnership with Movement for Community-led Development (MCLD), co-organised a session where we had the perfect opportunity to start co-defining gaps, priorities and characteristics that would allow possible catalysing spaces to be relevant and useful for the ecosystem.

We learned that “catalyst” has multiple meanings beyond the dictionary definition and it is through learning, reflection, and intentional connections that we accelerate meaningful change, but how can we build such disruptive and transformative spaces to ignite dissent and curiosity as driving forces to learning and reflection? The answer that resonated with most participants was 1) co-creation to include diverse perspectives, 2) peer-learning to build intentional connections and 3) flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

The Summit was also a good reminder that liberation happens on the ground and and the possible contribution from global alliances and INGOs, is to mobilise networks of support and solidarity to allow movements, organisations and activists to flourish. Dismantling power imbalances in the funding ecosystem starts with acknowledging that power structures exist, and we need to advocate for more participatory, innovative and courageous approaches to decision-making in the funding ecosystem.

In conclusion, the Shift the Power Summit was a testament to the power of collective action. It proved that meaningful change arises from questioning existing rules, co-creating solutions, and fostering intentional connections. The journey towards shifting power is ongoing, and as

we continue to challenge the status quo, the summit serves as a guiding light, reminding us that togetherness is a powerful force in the pursuit of transformed ecosystem.

CIVICUS at Festival de Datos: Advancing action on inclusive, timely, and accountable data processes


Julieta Zurbrigg, Civic Space Research Advisor

Faith Pienaar, Impact and Accountability Officer

In the dynamic realm of data innovation, global challenges call for timely and impactful solutions. With this in mind, CIVICUS recently participated in the Festival de Datos - a global convening organized by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). We joined over 400 individuals from 50+ countries to celebrate data ideas and actions that advance the well-being of people and the planet. 

The urgency for rapid technological innovations in data collection, access, and utilization has never been more critical, particularly as we strive to meet the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, the data revolution brings forth fundamental tensions around power, privacy, and participation. In response to these challenges, Festival de Datos strengthens data communities and enhances collective ability to unlock the value of data for all. 

An Early Warning System to combat the deterioration of civic spaces and catalyse positive change

At the festival, CIVICUS facilitated an ‘Ideas Lab’ for the session From Reaction to Prevention: A Data-driven Approach to Civic Space Conditions. The purpose of our ‘Lab’ was twofold: first, to generate broader awareness about restrictions to civic space and the CIVICUS Monitor methodology, and second, to solicit feedback on an upcoming Early Warning System (EWS) initiative to enable proactive responses to emergent civic space threats and initiate preventive advocacy strategies. The upcoming EWS is framed under a European Union project where CIVICUS will lead the development of the tool’s methodology. 

The festival’s diverse participation from fellow data experts working across civil society, the private sector, and governments provided an excellent platform for us to test our assumptions and thinking on how an EWS might work in practice. Overall, the session was well-received and affirmed the value of CIVICUS's contributions in providing essential research and analysis to influence the discourse on civic space challenges and inform local and international advocacy efforts.

Our session surfaced the following feedback and considerations in developing an EWS:

  • How can we amplify existing informal warning systems driven by local civil society? As we’ve learned through our work with research partners contributing to the CIVICUS Monitor, the success of an EWS is largely dependent upon the strength of national and subnational networks to highlight threats to civil society. 
  • As those working to protect and advance civic space become increasingly under threat, how can we ensure effective protection and care for potential EWS contributors and their constituents?
  • And, how can we leverage open-sourced technology solutions (machine learning and sequential data) to gather information for further validation by local and regional organizations?

We thank the participants for engaging with the initial thinking on an EWS for and by civil society. As we prepare to implement this initiative, we look forward to engaging with our members and broader partners to continue refining and iterating this tool. A powerful idea at the core of our engagement is to complement and build upon existing efforts, generating more nuanced knowledge. By strategically focusing our resources and efforts, CIVICUS aims to fill critical data gaps where they are most needed. 

As we reflect on our participation in this remarkable convening, we express our gratitude and enthusiasm to the GPSDD for the opportunity to engage with a broader community dedicated to leveraging data for positive change. 

We hold close this perspective shared by Bronwen Robertson, Co-Founder of Data4Change echoed in the ambition and directive of our strategy: 

“Data isn’t just numbers- it's narratives that are deeply connected to real people and communities who are often excluded from data processes that impact them. We want to shift the balance of data power back to the hands of those most affected by extractive practices.”

Localisation: A Paradigm Shift Towards Local Leadership in the Global South

By Deborah Mowesley, Innovation For Change Intern

communityIn recent years, words like “localisation” and “locally-led” have garnered significant attention. There has been increasing discussion and emphasis on these concepts in all sectors. But what does localisation actually mean, how did it come about and why is it so important? 

Localisation is about more than just aesthetics. At its core, it is about a shift in the balance of power, a shift to being locally led.  It is about changing focus from external actors to local communities, where local actors lead the way in identifying and addressing issues that affect their communities. This means engaging in grassroots efforts to understand the unique needs and desires of the community, and working collaboratively to design initiatives and spaces that reflect those needs and values. 

In the past, international organisations and aid agencies have often been the drivers of humanitarian and development initiatives in the global south. These organisations would often take a top-down approach, where decisions were made at the international level, and projects were implemented by local partners. This approach led to a lack of ownership and engagement from local communities and resulted in initiatives that were not necessarily aligned with the needs and priorities of those communities. 

The shift towards localisation is not just about giving local communities more agency. It is also about recognising the value of local knowledge and expertise. Local actors often have a deeper and more nuanced understanding of their communities, their needs, the challenges they face and the socio-political context within which they live and operate. By leveraging this knowledge, the localisation movement enables the development of more relevant, effective, and sustainable solutions.

The importance of localisation cannot be overstated. When communities feel that their voices are heard and that they have agency in shaping their environment, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and pride in their community. This in turn leads to increased civic engagement, social cohesion, and overall wellbeing. Localisation is an important component of effective and sustainable development both in the Global North and Global South. However, it is particularly critical in the Global South, where historical power imbalances and complex challenges require a more collaborative and community-driven approach to development.

A great example of a successful localisation initiative is the Community Health Strategies (CHS) currently seen in multiple African countries. The CHS is a community-led approach to health care delivery that emphasizes the involvement of local communities in decision-making and the development of local health systems. Each community elects Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who are responsible for providing basic health education, promoting healthy behaviors, and identifying cases for further care. Volunteers receive training and support from local health workers and are integrated into the broader health system. The system has been successful in improving access to health care services and reducing health disparities in rural and underserved communities. By prioritizing the involvement of local communities in the development and delivery of health care services, the CHS has created a more collaborative and sustainable approach to health care that is grounded in the needs and priorities of local people.

Localisation is not a one-size-fits-all solution either, it requires ongoing engagement and collaboration with the community to ensure that efforts are respectful, inclusive, and effective. Despite the growing recognition of the importance of localisation, there are still many instances where localisation efforts fall short. There is a need for more investment in local organisations and actors to strengthen their capacity and ensure they have the resources and support they need to lead development initiatives. Additionally, there is a need for greater collaboration between local and international actors to ensure that initiatives are aligned with broader development goals. In some cases, localisation is treated as a checkbox to be ticked off rather than a genuine effort to engage with the community and build meaningful connections. This is leading to tokenism and superficial engagement, rather than genuine efforts to build trust and collaboration. There are also unintended consequences if not done thoughtfully. When localisation is implemented in this way, it can perpetuate inequalities and reinforce power imbalances between different groups within a community.

It's essential that localisation efforts are designed and implemented with a focus on equity and fairness, ensuring that all members of the community can benefit from the opportunities created. Great to see this at CIVICUS with the Local Leaderships Lab Initiative which aims at ensuring that the civil society support ecosystem is informed by the needs and priorities of diverse local civil society actors to enable solidarity and political support for local leadership that recognizes the agency of traditionally excluded civil society actors. 

In conclusion, localisation is not just a buzzword. It is a powerful approach that prioritizes the voices of local communities and brings sustainable change. There is, undoubtedly, a need to create space for more local actors to actively participate in and lead decision-making processes.  It’s a responsibility that we all share, whether we are civil society, policymakers, donors, urban planners, or simply members of the community, we have a role to play in creating communities that are inclusive, equitable, and reflective of the needs and values of the people in them.

Strengthening Citizen Engagement and Participation in the Civic Space: Challenges and Recommendations

By Deborah Mowesley, Innovation For Change Intern

As an intern at CIVICUS for the past two months, I have had the opportunity to gain valuable insight into the workings of civic engagement and participation. I have come to realize that the issues surrounding citizen engagement and participation are complex and multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive approach to address effectively. Through my experiences and observations, I have identified several critical factors that impact the success of civic engagement efforts, as well as some potential solutions to address them. In this piece, I will share my thoughts and recommendations on how we can strengthen citizen engagement and participation in civic space.


At its core, Human Centered Design is a design philosophy and approach that places human needs, capabilities, and experiences at the center of the design process. It is not only about aesthetics or usability, but also about empathy, creativity, and iteration. It involves four key stages: observation, ideation, prototyping, and testing. At each stage, designers need to engage with users, understand their context and goals, and generate ideas and concepts based on feedback and insights.

The principles of human-centered design and co-design are not only applicable to product and service design but also to public policy and governance. In fact, involving citizens in the decision-making process and incorporating their perspectives and feedback can lead to more effective and equitable outcomes.

However, the reality is that our democratic systems are not always designed to prioritize citizen engagement and participation. Moreover, there are institutional and cultural barriers that hinder citizen participation in governance. For example, some countries have outdated or opaque election systems that limit the diversity and representation of the electorate. Others have bureaucratic or legalistic processes that discourage citizen input and feedback. Additionally, there may be social and cultural norms that discourage or stigmatize political engagement, particularly among marginalized or underrepresented groups.

Citizen engagement and participation are essential components of a thriving democracy, as they enable individuals to actively participate in the decision-making process and hold elected officials accountable. However, despite the significant benefits of citizen engagement, there are several challenges that hinder its effectiveness.

One of the major issues related to citizen engagement is the lack of awareness and understanding among citizens about their rights and responsibilities. Many citizens are not aware of their role in the decision-making process, and therefore, they do not participate in it. This lack of understanding results in a limited pool of individuals that can be engaged and mobilized, ultimately leading to a loss of diversity in voices and perspectives in the decision-making process.

Another significant challenge is the lack of access to information and resources that enable citizens to engage in the decision-making process effectively. In many cases, the information provided by the government is limited, confusing, and difficult to access, which makes it difficult for citizens to make informed decisions. Additionally, many citizens lack the resources, including time and finances, to engage fully in the process.

Furthermore, there is often a significant power imbalance between citizens and elected officials, which can deter citizens from engaging in the decision-making process. The lack of transparency and accountability in the decision-making process can also limit citizens' ability to hold elected officials accountable for their actions and decisions. To address these challenges, several recommendations can be implemented:

  • Firstly, there needs to be an increased effort to educate citizens about their rights and responsibilities in the decision-making process. This can be done through civic education initiatives that inform citizens about the importance of citizen engagement and participation in the decision-making process.
  • Secondly, governments need to make a concerted effort to increase transparency and accessibility in the decision-making process. This can be achieved by providing citizens with clear, concise, and accessible information about the decision-making process and enabling them to access this information easily.
  • Thirdly, there needs to be a shift in power dynamics between citizens and elected officials. This can be achieved by creating more opportunities for citizens to engage in the decision-making process and ensuring that their voices are heard and considered. Elected officials also need to be held accountable for their actions and decisions, which can be achieved by implementing mechanisms for citizen feedback and evaluation of their performance.

Citizen engagement and participation are crucial for a thriving democracy. More needs to be done to ensure that citizen engagement is effective and meaningful. By implementing the recommendations discussed above, we can create a more engaged and empowered citizenry, which will ultimately lead to better decision-making and governance.

In conclusion, I am grateful for the opportunity to gain deeper insights into the challenges and opportunities surrounding citizen engagement and participation in civic space. It's clear civic engagement is crucial for a thriving democracy, but also that it is a complex issue that requires sustained effort and attention. Nevertheless, I am optimistic that with the right approach and strategies, we can overcome the challenges that hinder citizen participation and create more inclusive and representative democracies. I look forward to continuing my learning at CIVICUS and contributing to the efforts to strengthen citizen engagement and participation in the future.

Image: Cristinapilataxi

Une stratégie qui vise à remédier aux systèmes dysfonctionnels 

Mise à jour de la Secrétaire générale: Mars 2022 

Nous avons le plaisir de vous annoncer l'adoption d'un plan stratégique révisé pour la période allant de 2022 à 2027. Ce plan a été élaboré à l'issue d'un vaste processus de révision et de mise à jour des priorités stratégiques de CIVICUS. Le Conseil d'administration de CIVICUS a confirmé à l'unanimité l'adoption de la stratégie révisée en mars 2022. Des versions faciles à lire et multilingues de la stratégie seront donc élaborées et publiées sur notre site web d'ici la fin avril. Notre plan stratégique actuel a été effectif de juillet 2017 à juin 2022 et sera remplacé par une stratégie mise à jour en juillet 2022. 

Faire face à de nouvelles réalités 

La stratégie révisée est le résultat de délibérations entre les parties intéressées de l’alliance CIVICUS. Nous avons commencé ce voyage par plusieurs exercices d’analyse des tendances et des prévisions avec les membres, les partenaires et le personnel entre octobre 2020 et mars 2021. Ces évaluations ont contribué à l’élaboration de scénarios futurs et d’orientations stratégiques, qui ont été examinés par le Conseil d’administration de CIVICUS et nous ont incités à mettre à jour notre stratégie. Les délibérations du Conseil d’administration ont mis en exergue la possibilité de réaffirmer nos ambitions avec plus de clarté et de déterminer la meilleure façon de faire face à de nouvelles réalités et à de nouveaux défis liés à l’espace civique et à la société civile. Pour décrire la stratégie que nous avons maintenant développée, je voudrais reprendre les propos de notre plus jeune membre du Conseil d’administration, Vandita Morarka, qui a déclaré : « Ce dont je suis la plus fière, c’est que cette stratégie n’est pas une simple politesse... elle s’engage réellement à remédier aux systèmes dysfonctionnels. » 

Examiner notre théorie du changement 

Entre juillet et novembre 2021, des équipes de rédaction composées de membres du Conseil d’administration et du personnel ont travaillé de concert pour revoir et reformuler les hypothèses clés liées à la théorie du changement de CIVICUS. Nous avons analysé les succès de l’Organisation et les obstacles auxquels nous avons été confrontés dans la mise en œuvre de notre stratégie actuelle et les avons comparés à une analyse des évènements relatifs à l’espace civique au cours des dix dernières années (2011-21). Ce faisant, nous avons pu déceler les tensions et les opportunités liées à la manière dont nous définissons le changement auquel nous aspirons et auquel nous contribuons activement. Cette évaluation a permis d'élaborer un projet de stratégie, qui a fait l’objet de deux niveaux d’examen par le Conseil d'administration et le personnel entre novembre 2021 et janvier 2022. 

En février, le projet de stratégie a été partagé avec les principales parties intéressées de l’alliance CIVICUS à travers une série de dialogues, dont deux sessions d’interaction entre le Conseil d’administration et les membres sur les priorités proposées et une réunion conjointe avec les principaux donateurs. Ces interactions ont suscité un grand nombre de réactions et de questions sur divers aspects de la stratégie. Je suis heureuse d’annoncer que les équipes chargées de rédiger la stratégie ont pu boucler la boucle de rétroaction en prenant le temps de répondre aux questions soulevées par divers groupes. Les thèmes clés qui sont ressortis de nos échanges avec les membres de CIVICUS sont repris dans ce document de Foire Aux Questions (FAQ), qui est disponible en trois langues sur notre site web. 

Affiner nos objectifs stratégiques   

Les changements clés soulignés dans le cadre de ce plan révisé, qui guideront le cours stratégique de CIVICUS pour la période allant de juillet 2022 à juin 2027, comprennent : 

  • L’élaboration d’un objectif général, à savoir, renforcer la société civile et l’action civique pour un espace civique et démocratique élargi. Cet objectif reflète l’importance que nous accordons aux initiatives qui ne se contentent pas de défendre les libertés civiques et démocratiques, mais de les améliorer également, en organisant des interventions visant à influencer, à organiser et à faire preuve de solidarité. La stratégie définit cinq objectifs fondamentaux qui soutiennent la réalisation de notre objectif général, à savoir : (i) générer des connaissances en temps opportun ; (ii) coordonner un plaidoyer ciblé ; (iii) contribuer à renforcer les écosystèmes d’urgence et de soutien durable ; (iv) renforcer le discours public et les récits de la société civile ; (v) et établir un contre-pouvoir avec les groupes les plus touchés. 

Une attention particulière au travail avec et pour les groupes touchés par les effets combinés des restrictions de l’espace civique et des formes structurelles de discrimination. La stratégie révisée met l’accent sur la collaboration avec les mouvements dirigés par des communautés confrontées à la discrimination structurelle. Cela implique une plus grande importance accordée à la solidarité et à la création d’alliances à tous les niveaux de notre travail, ainsi qu’une représentation plus forte des questions de libertés civiques et démocratiques dans une optique de justice sociale. 

  • Une articulation plus claire de notre contribution au changement systémique à long terme, laquelle est décrite dans quatre énoncés de résultats qui relient notre travail à tous les niveaux et consolident son impact. Nos objectifs fondamentaux serviront de base à un cadre global permettant de mesurer les résultats et de communiquer plus efficacement les enseignements tirés de nos progrès.  

Une feuille de route pour la mise en œuvre de la stratégie 

L’étape suivante de ce processus consiste à coordonner l’élaboration d’un plan par étapes pour la mise en œuvre de la stratégie. Cette étape comprend la conception et l’activation d’un cadre de résultats et la coordination des initiatives d’harmonisation en matière de programmes et d’opérations, nécessaires à la mise en œuvre de notre stratégie mise à jour.  Un processus solide favorisant un engagement continu des parties intéressées dans nos progrès en matière de stratégie est également envisagé dans le cadre de ce plan et prévoit la coordination du mois de l’adhésion, une nouvelle initiative qui aura lieu chaque année pour permettre des échanges concernant la stratégie et l’impact de la société civile à travers l’Alliance. 

Nous vous remercions par avance de votre engagement et de votre soutien continus au cours de cette période importante! L’élection d’un nouveau Conseil d’administration CIVICUS cette année sera une occasion importante de participer directement à la supervision de la transition de notre stratégie mise à jour et au lancement d’une campagne d’un an visant à marquer le 30 anniversaire de CIVICUS en 2023. Si vous ne l’avez pas encore fait, n’oubliez pas de consulter notre calendrier d’élection du Conseil d’administration et de contribuer aux résultats de cette élection. 

En toute solidarité, 

Lysa John 

 Lysa John est Secrétaire générale de CIVICUS. Elle est basée en Afrique du Sud et peut être contactée via son compte Twitter : @lysajohn

Dans quelle mesure CIVICUS rend-t-elle compte de ses pratiques en matière de mise à disposition de ressources?

AccountabilityAccelerator.ThumbnailChez CIVICUS, la redistribution des fonds à nos membres et partenaires est un moyen essentiel de travailler à la réalisation des objectifs stratégiques de l'alliance. Cette nouvelle mini-série Resilient Roots examine notre organisation de l'intérieur, montrant comment nous nous efforçons d'être plus transparents dans l'allocation de nos ressources et les domaines dans lesquels nous devons progresser.

La première partie plante le décor, en soulignant le difficile équilibre que nous devons maintenir dans notre rôle d'"intermédiaires" entre les donateurs institutionnels et les acteurs de la société civile. Les parties suivantes analysent le succès de notre travail de dotation en ressources, qui est basé sur l'information, l'écoute et l'engagement direct de nos membres et partenaires, ainsi que la portée de l'aide que nous leur apportons pour améliorer leurs propres pratiques de responsabilité.

La solidarité face à l'adversité

Message de Lysa John, Secrétaire générale de CIVICUS

Chers membres et alliés de CIVICUS,

Une nouvelle année touche à sa fin. L'année 2021 a commencé avec une lueur d'espoir, puisque nous avons assisté à la concrétisation du développement promis d'un vaccin contre le COVID-19. Cependant, les défis complexes, le manque de collaboration mondiale et l'impact considérable de la pandémie sur tous les aspects de la société ont fait que, cette année encore, nous avons continué à opérer dans un monde désormais radicalement différent.

La pandémie a exercé une pression intense sur la société civile et sur les individus qui sont au cœur du pouvoir citoyen. Ce qui m'inspire, c'est que malgré tout ce qui se passe dans le monde, les gens continuent à agir collectivement pour le changement. Au cours de l'année écoulée, des millions de personnes ont défié les grandes entreprises en protestant contre les changements apportés à la politique de confidentialité de WhatsApp, obligeant l'une des entreprises les plus influentes du monde à faire machine arrière face à une réaction mondiale inattendue. Dans le même temps, nous avons vu se multiplier les appels à la justice raciale et à l'action climatique.

D'autre part, la société civile est toujours confrontée à un nombre alarmant de cas de harcèlement et d'intimidation. Les conclusions du rapport Le pouvoir du peuple attaqué 2021 du CIVICUS Monitor montrent que 9 personnes sur 10 vivent dans des pays où les libertés civiques sont sévèrement restreintes, notamment le droit à la liberté d'expression, d'association et de réunion pacifique.

Ce contexte critique rend encore plus urgent le travail que nous accomplissons pour renforcer l'importance de la société civile et des libertés civiques. Au Secrétariat, nous nous efforçons d'améliorer la manière dont nous engageons le public et les parties prenantes non traditionnelles. Avec nos engagements médiatiques, nous nous efforçons de rayonner au-delà de la société civile, tandis que notre appartenance à des réseaux multisectoriels nous permet de participer à toute une série de cercles de gouvernance et de stratégie. Travaillant ensemble pour répondre aux défis et aux violations de l'espace civique à travers le monde, l'Alliance CIVICUS continue de progresser et nous sommes fiers de partager les points forts suivants :

Au Secrétariat de CIVICUS, nous nous sommes également penchés sur nous-mêmes, afin d'améliorer les processus et les politiques, ainsi que pour revoir notre stratégie organisationnelle. Cela a inclus : une révision des amendements stratégiques, une révision en matière de justice raciale, et la rédaction d'une stratégie opérationnelle sur les données et les droits numériques. Nous avons tenu notre Assemblée Générale Annuelle virtuelle du 1er au 7 décembre 2021, qui a souligné les efforts de CIVICUS pour favoriser une culture de la responsabilité - au niveau du Conseil d'administration, du Secrétariat et à travers l'alliance.

Les bureaux de CIVICUS seront fermés du 23 décembre au 3 janvier. Merci pour votre solidarité, votre persévérance et vos efforts. C'est un honneur de travailler avec une alliance aussi diverse et remarquable de militants et d'organisations. Nous nous réjouissons de vous retrouver l'année prochaine avec une énergie et une ambition renouvelées.

Lysa John
Secrétaire générale de CIVICUS

Uganda: Over 50 civil society groups and human rights watchdogs illegally suspended

Dunia Uganda Blog Sept web

Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn, Human Rights Lawyer and Gender Equality Advocate

Dunia Mekonnen Tegegn is a human rights lawyer and Penn Kemble Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. She has also been working with the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights. Her previous roles have included working with Amnesty International USA, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rghts' Eastern Africa Regional Office (OHCHR EARO), and the United Nations Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, among others.

Authorities in Uganda have suspended more than 50 civic groups for allegedly not complying with regulations. This move, which targets organisations ranging from rights watchdogs to women’s groups, impacts hundreds of thousands of people who directly benefit from the organisations’ activities.

The government’s Non-Governmental Organisation Bureau (NGO Bureau) announced the suspensions on August 20 2021, citing the following grounds: operating without valid permits, permits have expired, not filing returns. This move directly contravenes international guidelines related to freedom of association.

The closure is part of a larger trend in the country. Earlier this year, the President also suspended the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), which is a multi-million dollar fund which assists local organisations that focus on democracy, human rights and good governance.

In 2019, the authorities banned the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU), an election monitoring coalition. In January 2021, the authorities also banned National Elections Watch – Uganda, a coalition of local organisations, from monitoring national elections. On Election Day, the police arrested more than 20 people working with Citizens Watch-IT and the Women’s Democracy Network for running a “parallel vote tallying center.” CCEDU and Citizens Watch-IT are among the groups whose activities have been banned by the NGO Bureau.

For Chapter 4 Uganda, the recent closures are allegedly political in nature and related to their work demanding accountability for human rights violations during the past election. Another affected organisation is AFIEGO, which has been involved in the promotion of rights of people affected by the crude oil development project. Together with other charities, they have been campaigning against the proposed East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, citing potential impact on the climate.

A number of women’s organisations were also affected in the recent suspensions, including Support Girl Child Uganda, Foundation for Women Empowerment, Kwataniza Women’s Organisation and Twimukye Women’s Organisation. All were suspended for operating without a valid permit.

This move directly contravenes international guidelines related to freedom of association

The guideline of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Freedom of Assembly and Association under article 11 states that "states shall not oblige associations to register in order to be permitted to exist and to function freely and that informal associations shall not be penalised or criminalised under the law or in practice on the basis of their lack of formal status.”

Furthermore, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly underlines that an important component of the right to freedom of association is that no one may be compelled to belong to an association. In his commentaries to Canada, Republic of Moldova, Slovenia, and the United States the Special Rapporteur reiterated that the right to freedom of association equally protects associations that are not registered. Individuals involved in unregistered associations should be free to carry out any activities, including the right to hold and participate in peaceful assemblies, and should not be subject to criminal sanctions.

The Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that a “notification procedure”, rather than a “prior authorisation procedure” that requests the approval of the authorities to establish an association as a legal entity, complies better with international human rights law and should be implemented by states. Under this notification procedure, associations are automatically granted legal status as soon as the authorities are notified by the founders that an organisation was created. In most countries, such notification is made through a written statement containing a number of elements of information clearly defined in the law, but this is not a precondition for the existence of an association. It is rather a submission through which the administration records the establishment of the said association.

Such a notification procedure is in force in countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Morocco, Portugal, Senegal, Switzerland and Uruguay. Under both notification and prior authorisation regimes, registration bodies must be bound to act immediately, and laws should set short time limits to respond to submissions and applications respectively.

The Special Rapporteur echoes a ruling of the 1European Court which provided that “significant delays in the registration procedure, if attributable to the Ministry of Justice, amounts to an interference with the exercise of the right of the association’s founders to freedom of association.” During this period, associations should be presumed to be operating legally until it is proven otherwise.


In closing, the suspension of these civil society groups breaks international law. It further contributes to the squeezing of the CSO space in Uganda accompanied by the pervasive targeting of human rights defenders. The suspension also has implications on advocacy work around women’s rights and empowerment. For organisations such as CCEDU, the suspension cuts substantial work on electoral democracy including political accountability, and voter education. The recent crackdown on civil society work should be understood in this broader context to appreciate the trends thus far and design strategies on the way forward.

[1] European Court of Human Rights, Sidiropoulos and Others v. Greece, application No. 26695/95, 10 July 1998.


La planification de scénarios pour un alignement stratégique agile

Par Tamryn Lee Fourie, Jerusha Govender et Khotso Tsotsotso

Pour CIVICUS, et la société civile dans son ensemble, la pandémie de COVID-19 a radicalement changé la façon dont nous travaillons, et le monde dans lequel nous travaillons. En gardant cela à l'esprit, à l'approche de la fin de l'actuel plan stratégique 2017-2022 de l'Alliance, nous nous sommes demandés : comment pouvons-nous rester stratégiquement pertinents, étant donné le manque de clarté sur ce qui nous attend, et en réalisant que les capacités du personnel et des membres sont déjà fortement sollicitées ?

En ces temps d'incertitude, les approches prospectives telles que la planification de scénarios sont un outil potentiel pour le développement de stratégies, et constituent un élément clé du processus actuel de la réorientation stratégique de l'Alliance CIVICUS.

En février et mars 2021, nous avons engagé Data Innovators pour examiner les documents existants d'analyse prospective et de planification de scénarios des membres et partenaires, interagir avec les membres de CIVICUS et produire des scénarios futurs liés à l'espace civique et à l'action citoyenne. Nous avons ensuite vérifié ces scénarios avec des alliés d'autres secteurs afin d'identifier les perturbateurs potentiels et les opportunités stratégiques que nous aurions pu ne pas détecter.

Les Scénarios

Quatre scénarios ont émergé pour guider le leadership de CIVICUS et soutenir d'autres OSC dans des étapes similaires de révision de la stratégie, documentés du point de vue d' « Olwethu », un activiste civique et notre personnage. Les quatre scénarios sont résumés ci-dessous:

 Scenarios FR

<En savoir plus sur les scénarios ici>

Ces scénarios aident CIVICUS à aborder les amendements nécessaires à notre stratégie existante, à utiliser les quatre futurs potentiels pour ouvrir la discussion sur les domaines où une mise en œuvre spécifique est nécessaire et à garder nos constituants (c'est-à-dire « Olwethu ») au centre. De la même manière, d'autres OSC peuvent également trouver ces scénarios utiles lorsqu'elles envisagent un ajustement stratégique.

Comment vous pouvez utiliser ces scénarios pour réorienter vos propres stratégies :

Cet exercice met à l'épreuve les stratégies actuelles dans différents contextes. C'est une bonne pratique que d'identifier les stratégies « sans surprise », c'est-à-dire celles qui sont robustes quel que soit le scénario. Cependant, les scénarios peuvent aussi être suffisamment diversifiés pour nécessiter des stratégies uniques à chaque contexte.

Les étapes recommandées pour tester les stratégies par rapport à ces scenarios:

Étape 1 : Prenez un scénario à la fois, et pendant un instant, supposez que ce scénario se produise. Discutez et explorez les différents aspects, en vous assurant que tous les participants comprennent les éléments essentiels.

Étape 2 : Une fois le scénario compris, posez les questions suivantes et documentez les réponses :

  • Votre ensemble d'objectifs stratégiques est-il approprié dans le scénario ?
  • Quelles sont les lacunes évidentes de la stratégie actuelle pour le scénario ?
  • Quelles stratégies supplémentaires/alternatives devraient être développées pour combler ces lacunes ?
  • Compte tenu des lacunes/alternatives, comment la théorie du changement (TdC)[1] devrait-elle être ajustée ?

Étape 3 : Répétez les étapes 1 et 2 pour chaque scénario jusqu'à ce que tous les scénarios soient couverts.

Si vous avez suffisamment de temps, passez à l'étape 4...

Étape 4 : Prenez du recul, regardez les listes d'options stratégiques pour chaque scénario. Identifiez celles qui apparaissent dans tous ou presque tous les scénarios. Ce sont les options stratégiques qui semblent bonnes dans tous les scénarios. Commencez à travailler sur une théorie du changement consolidée qui s'appuie sur les options stratégiques communes, les lacunes étant couvertes/remplacées par des stratégies alternatives. Prenez des mesures pour remédier à la partialité potentielle en demandant à des personnes extérieures à votre "cercle" habituel d'examiner et de valider votre travail.

Étape 5 : Testez la logique de la TdC et affinez-la. Et enfin, mettez à jour la stratégie actuelle.

Nous espérons que vous trouverez ces conseils utiles ! N'hésitez pas à nous faire part de vos commentaires sur la façon dont vous avez utilisé ces scénarios dans vos révisions de stratégie. Nous serions très intéressés de connaître vos expériences et vos idées !


La relation entre les restrictions de l'espace civique et la montée en flèche des inégalités requiert notre attention urgente

SG Update July21 Fr

Message de Lysa John, Secrétaire générale de CIVICUS

En mai dernier, nous avons publié la 10ème édition du rapport annuel sur l'état de la société civile. En plus de donner un aperçu des tendances qui ont inspiré l'action civique au cours de la dernière décennie, le rapport regorge d'exemples montrant comment, un pays après l'autre, des choix politiques délibérés des gouvernements ont provoqué l'indignation du public. Des choix qui ont suscité des réactions lorsqu'ils ont été perçus comme profitant systématiquement à un petit groupe d'élite, tout en ignorant ou en sapant de manière flagrante les droits et les besoins de populations qui vivent déjà dans un état de privation et de désespoir. Si la crise financière de la dernière décennie a été révélatrice d'un système économique défaillant, les profits tirés de la pandémie en cours et les impacts négatifs disproportionnés ressentis par les populations exclues ont prouvé que le système actuel n'est pas seulement défaillant, mais délibérément malveillant. 

A travers le monde, des protestations ont été déclenchées par des signes indiquant que la pandémie est utilisée comme un prétexte pour accroître les difficultés économiques des gens ordinaires tout en créant des profits obscènes pour les politiciens et les entreprises privées. Oxfam a notamment souligné que les dix hommes les plus riches du monde ont vu leur fortune cumulée augmenter de cinq cents milliards de dollars depuis le début de la pandémie. Cette somme permettrait non seulement de financer la couverture universelle du vaccin contre le COVID-19, mais aussi de financer des politiques de protection sociale afin de s'assurer que personne ne soit précipité dans la pauvreté par la pandémie.

Des mobilisations massives, notamment en Inde et en Irak, ont vu le jour en réaction aux politiques gouvernementales qui menacent d'alourdir le fardeau de populations déjà accablées. La brutalité avec laquelle certains gouvernements ont réagi aux protestations de ceux qui réclamaient de meilleurs droits du travail et un meilleur accès aux services publics met en évidence le lien pernicieux entre les ultra-riches et les détenteurs du pouvoir politique, sur tous les continents. Cela soulève des questions essentielles sur le rôle joué par les intérêts particuliers dans la dissolution des mécanismes de contrôle démocratique des processus économiques et politiques.

Dans plusieurs cas, l'action du public et de la société civile a permis de corriger le tir. Au Guatemala et au Costa Rica, les gouvernements ont été contraints d'annuler les mesures d'austérité qui avaient été convenues dans le cadre des plans de relance de la pandémie avec les institutions financières internationales. En Indonésie, des propositions visant à porter atteinte aux droits environnementaux sans examen public adéquat ont été remises en question. En Tunisie, les mobilisations exigeant des garanties économiques pour les moyens de subsistance menacés par la pandémie ont été menées par des femmes et des jeunes. Alors que les manifestations #BlackLivesMatter à travers le monde ont forcé les institutions publiques et privées à examiner de près leur propre rôle dans la perpétuation de l'injustice systémique, des mouvements tels que End SARS au Nigeria et #ZimbabeweanLivesMatter ont attiré l'attention sur l'utilisation abusive de l'appareil d'État pour intimider les citoyens et limiter l'action civique.

Si les échecs de gouvernance au niveau local ont été la principale cause de la colère du public en 2020, l'incapacité à fournir et à distribuer équitablement le vaccin contre le coronavirus pourrait bien être l'élément déclencheur d'un désenchantement durable à l'égard de la gouvernance mondiale et des institutions multilatérales. La décennie d'action promise par l'Agenda 2030 se transforme rapidement en une décennie d'impatience. Alors que les dirigeants et les institutions détournent manifestement le regard, des millions de personnes dans le monde découvrent que le pouvoir populaire est leur seule option.

En Solidarité,
Lysa John

Nous avons besoin de l'aide de la communauté internationale

Wai Hnin Pwint ThonWai Hnin Pwint Thon, Suisse

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon est responsable principale du plaidoyer à Burma Campaign UK (Campagne du Royaume-Uni pour la Birmanie), basée à Genève, en Suisse. Elle travaille avec les familles de prisonniers politiques depuis plus de dix ans. Son père, Mya Aye, est un ancien et actuel prisonnier politique qui a été à l'avant-garde du mouvement démocratique birman pendant plus de 30 ans. Il a été arrêté à Yangon le premier jour du coup d'État, le 1er février.

Voici son histoire:

« Enfant, la première fois que j'ai vu mon père, c'était à la prison d'Insein et il y avait des barres de fer entre nous, si bien que nous ne pouvions même pas nous embrasser. Lorsque j'ai appris la nouvelle de la dernière arrestation de mon père, je me suis sentie très inquiète pour lui et pour ma famille. Je ne voulais pas croire que nous devions tous revivre cette horrible expérience pour la troisième fois.

Les trois derniers mois ont été particulièrement éprouvants. Chaque jour, j'entends parler d'arrestations et de meurtres de manifestants pacifiques. Certains de mes amis sont désormais cachés ou emprisonnés pour s'être exprimés. 

La Birmanie a connu les plus grandes manifestations antimilitaires depuis 30 ans. Des étudiants qui auraient dû poursuivre leurs études et réaliser leurs rêves sont tués ou emprisonnés pour s'être battus pour la démocratie.

La génération Z, qui n'a pas connu les soulèvements de 1988 et 2007, comprend maintenant ce que serait la vie si les militaires gouvernaient le pays, et elle est déterminée à ne plus vivre sous une autre dictature militaire.

Nous voulons vivre dans un pays où nous n'avons pas à craindre d'être arrêtés pour avoir parlé. Nous voulons que nos enfants aillent à l'école sereinement sans avoir à craindre que leurs écoles soient bombardées. Nous voulons vivre dans un pays pacifique où règnent les valeurs fédérales, l'égalité et la dignité.

Pour réaliser nos rêves, nous avons besoin de l'aide de la communauté internationale. Nous sommes reconnaissants de voir que de nombreuses personnes du monde entier s'expriment sur les médias sociaux, collectent des fonds, organisent des événements et demandent aux représentants de leur gouvernement d'aider la population birmane. Cette solidarité nous donne force et espoir.

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon 2

Avec Burma Campaign UK, j'ai travaillé avec des défenseurs des droits humains et des organisations de base à l'intérieur du pays pour faire en sorte que leurs voix et leurs demandes d'action internationale soient entendues. Nous avons fait campagne pour que la communauté internationale impose des sanctions économiques intelligentes et ciblées contre les entreprises de l'armée, pour mettre en place un embargo mondial sur les armes et pour que l'armée soit tenue responsable de tous les crimes qu'elle a commis.

Aucun gouvernement ne peut prétendre qu'il ne sait pas ce qui se passe en Birmanie et qu'il ne connaît pas les mesures que la population lui demande de prendre en réponse."

Légendes : Wai Hnin Pwint Thon ; Wai Hnin parlant lors d'une récente réunion de l'ASEAN. (Copyright : Wai Hnin Pwint Thon.)

Le coup d'État au Myanmar m'a incité à agir

 Supyae Yadanar 1Supyae Yadanar, Dublin, Irlande 

Supyae Yadanar est née et a grandi à Yangon et étudie actuellement la médecine au Trinity College de Dublin en Irlande. Elle est co-responsable du plaidoyer du Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4DM), une coalition internationale d'organisations de base et d'individus qui travaillent pour soutenir la démocratie au Myanmar.

Voici son histoire :

« Le Myanmar est et sera toujours mon chez-moi, les rues de Yangon sont celles où j'ai grandi, et mon cœur appartient et appartiendra toujours au Myanmar.

Voir mes compatriotes, ma famille choisie - car notre amour commun pour notre pays et nos esprits révolutionnaires rendent nos liens aussi forts que les liens du sang - se faire tirer dessus, se faire brutaliser, aux mains des militaires du Myanmar, suscite un sentiment de fureur et de détermination des plus forts. Même si je ne suis pas dans le pays pour me battre sur le terrain avec mes camarades manifestants, j'ai néanmoins le pouvoir et la capacité de poursuivre la résistance à des kilomètres de distance.

À partir du 1er février, j'ai commencé à exprimer mes sentiments sur le coup d'État en prose et en poésie, qui ont été largement lus et partagés par la diaspora birmane et les Birmans résidant au Myanmar ; j'ai également lu mes poèmes lors de manifestations virtuelles de résistance, car les thèmes de la résistance et de la révolution sont omniprésents dans ma prose, et c'est ce qui résonne chez les gens, la volonté de triompher.

Dès que la nouvelle du coup d'État est tombée, j'ai rapidement mis en place un plan de plaidoyer au sein du Trinity College et en Irlande, avec un groupe d'étudiants, en écrivant à nos députés, au ministre des affaires étrangères et en faisant appel au grand public avec des pétitions pour obtenir un soutien afin que l'Irlande adopte une position plus forte contre l'armée du Myanmar.  

Supyae Yadanar Protest

En Irlande, j'ai écrit un article sur le Myanmar qui a suscité un certain intérêt au sein de Trinity ; j'ai participé à des podcasts, j'ai donné des conférences et pris la parole lors de tables rondes sur le Myanmar, organisées par la Société philosophique de l'université, la plus ancienne et la plus grande société d'étudiants au monde. Ces actions de plaidoyer visent à informer le plus grand nombre de personnes possible de la situation, et à leur faire comprendre que peu importe les efforts déployés par l'armée pour réduire au silence le peuple du Myanmar en lui coupant l'accès à l'internet, nos voix résonneront toujours, amplifiées par la diaspora à l'étranger.

J'ai également participé à une manifestation physique en Irlande ainsi qu'à une manifestation virtuelle mondiale le 27 mars, jour de la Révolution, pour protester contre les militaires, pour montrer que la Résistance transcende les océans et les frontières.

Certes, je n'ai pas été une grande militante avant le coup d'État au Myanmar, malgré mon énorme intérêt pour le militantisme et les questions sociales. Cependant, le coup d'État au Myanmar m'a poussée à agir, car je sais que j'ai une responsabilité envers mon peuple et mon pays, celle de les représenter depuis un autre pays.

En outre, ma passion pour la lutte en faveur des droits des femmes et des droits des LGBTQI+ a été renforcée par la révolution Htamein (Sarong) au Myanmar lors de la Journée internationale de la femme, lorsque les gens ont brandi des drapeaux de sarong pour se rebeller contre le patriarcat. Plus encore, je suis certaine que lorsque la révolution sera passée, le reste des militants et moi-même poursuivrons nos efforts de plaidoyer jusqu'à ce que la société dans son ensemble soit juste et inclusive, et ne laisse personne de côté.  

Je vous invite à continuer à lire sur le Myanmar et, si vous en avez les moyens financiers, à faire des dons aux collectes de fonds organisées pour fournir une aide médicale aux habitants du Myanmar ou pour soutenir le mouvement de désobéissance civile. En fin de compte, il est de notre devoir de parler pour les personnes qui ne sont pas en mesure de le faire, nous nous devons à nous-mêmes et à ces dernières d'utiliser la liberté que nous avons, la liberté de s'exprimer sans crainte de répercussion. »

Photos : Supyae Yadanar ; Supyae manifestant devant le bureau de poste général, Dublin. (Droits d'auteur : Supyae Yadanar.)

Le coup est une catastrophe pour notre patrie

Thant Tun

Thant Tun, Manchester, Royaume-Uni

Thant Tun est impliquée dans la lutte pour la démocratie au Myanmar depuis sa naissance. Elle a grandi dans l'enceinte de l'université de Rangoon, où sa mère était bibliothécaire, et a assisté à l'arrestation de nombreux étudiants lors du soulèvement d'U Thant en 1974. En 1988, elle a participé à la révolution étudiante "8888" et a été contrainte de quitter la Birmanie l'année suivante. Son défunt oncle était un militant politique et un journaliste qui a écrit un livre sur la démocratie fédérale. Il est mort à l'âge de 93 ans et a été arrêté à plusieurs reprises au cours de sa vie pour avoir défendu la démocratie.
Thant travaille comme infirmière clinicienne au sein du NHS mais consacre son temps libre à la lutte pour la démocratie au Myanmar. Elle a soutenu la Saffron Revolution en 2007 ; lors des récents troubles, sa filleule, Khin Nyein Thu, a été détenue arbitrairement à Yangon le 17 avril par les militaires, puis torturée. Il n'y a aucune nouvelle de sa libération.

Voici l'histoire de Thant:

« Nous avons d'abord appris l'arrestation illégale de ma filleule dans la soirée du 17 avril, après quoi les médias d'État dirigés par la junte militaire ont diffusé des photos d'elle et d'autres jeunes, montrant qu'ils avaient été battus sans pitié - elle avait des blessures au visage correspondant à des fractures, son visage n'était pas reconnaissable, ce qui a été très pénible pour la famille et les amis. 

Il faut que cela cesse. Je voudrais faire savoir à la communauté internationale que ces types de violations des droits humains et d'atrocités touchent de nombreuses personnes au Myanmar. Les personnes détenues arbitrairement n'ont pas accès à des médicaments ou à une assistance juridique.

La nouvelle du coup d'État organisé par l'armée du Myanmar le 1er février a été un choc énorme ; il était environ 22h45 heure GMT et un ami du Myanmar a envoyé un message - j'ai été choquée et attristée. Toutes les libertés pour lesquelles nous nous sommes battus, nos espoirs et nos rêves sont détruits.

Après trois décennies de lutte pour la démocratie, nous avions l'impression d'avoir enfin obtenu une certaine liberté sous le gouvernement civil - le pays s'est énormément développé et les jeunes sont beaucoup plus instruits qu'auparavant. Le coup d'État est une catastrophe pour notre mère-patrie.

Thant Tun protest

Notre famille a toujours défendu la voix du peuple et s'est opposée à la junte. J'ai donc commencé à travailler avec quelques amis pour plaider la cause du Myanmar. Nous avons écrit à nos députés et au ministre des affaires étrangères pour leur demander de condamner le coup d'État militaire et d'exiger la libération des prisonniers politiques ; nous avons demandé au gouvernement britannique d'imposer des sanctions ciblées aux entreprises appartenant aux militaires du Myanmar et à leurs associés.

Nous avons demandé au gouvernement britannique de créer une coalition mondiale de pays imposant des embargos sur les armes à destination du Myanmar. Nous lui avons également demandé de se rallier à la procédure de génocide engagée devant la Cour internationale de justice et de soutenir publiquement le renvoi de la situation du Myanmar devant la Cour internationale de justice.

Nous collectons également des fonds pour aider la population du Myanmar à se nourrir, à se loger et à se procurer des produits de base.

La communauté internationale doit agir rapidement pour mettre fin aux violations des droits humains et à la torture de civils innocents. »

Photo captions: Thant Tun; Thant Tun doing 3-finger ‘Hunger Games’ democracy salute for Myanmar (Copyright: Thant Tun.)

Il n'y a plus de mots pour décrire la brutalité de l'armée birmane

Myra DahgaypawMyra Dahgaypaw, Washington D.C.Etats-Unis

Myra Dahgaypaw est la directrice de la U.S. Campaign for Burma (Campagne américaine pour la Birmanie), une organisation qui s'efforce de sensibiliser le public aux violations des droits humains et aux atrocités à grande échelle commises par l'armée birmane à l'encontre des minorités ethniques et religieuses. Elle est issue de la communauté Karen, un groupe persécuté vivant dans l'est de la Birmanie, et a une expérience directe des violations commises par la junte militaire.

Voici son histoire:

« Parler de ce qui est arrivé à ma famille me rappelle encore beaucoup de souvenirs douloureux.

Les troupes militaires birmanes sont arrivées dans mon village, ont entièrement brûlé ma maison et ont forcé ma famille, les autres habitants du village et moi-même à fuir au milieu de la nuit. J'ai subi des frappes aériennes comme celles qui ont lieu actuellement dans l'État de Kachin. Je me souviens que mon école était entourée de tranchées pour que nous puissions y sauter dès que nous entendions les avions de chasse. J'ai vu beaucoup de gens tués, y compris mes propres camarades de classe.

Craignant pour ma vie, j'ai fui avec seulement mes vêtements sur le dos, un peu comme ce que vivent de nombreux Karens en ce moment. Lorsque j'étais enfant, je n'avais pas le droit de pleurer lorsque j'étais trop fatiguée pour marcher parmi les adultes, de peur d'alerter les militaires birmans de notre position. Je devais dormir sous une bâche en plastique qui n'était pas assez grande pour couvrir mon petit corps. Ma famille et moi avions très peu de nourriture pour survivre et le plus souvent, nous ne mangions pas. Comme j'étais la plus jeune, j'étais la seule à pouvoir manger une petite quantité par jour - un poing de riz.

Ma plus jeune tante a subi un viol collectif par les troupes birmanes. Elle a ensuite été embarquée et emmenée dans une autre ville. Pendant l'interrogatoire, elle a été suspendue par les pieds, la tête en bas, tandis que les troupes marquaient sa peau de brûlures de cigarettes jusqu'à ce qu'elle donne les réponses qu'ils voulaient. Il a fallu à notre famille plus de dix ans pour la retrouver.

Son mari, mon oncle, a été détenu arbitrairement. Pendant sa détention, il a été brutalement torturé lors des interrogatoires. Les militaires birmans ont découpé sa peau en lanières et l'ont frotté avec du sel pour qu'il se vide douloureusement de son sang. Lorsqu'ils ont rejoint un ruisseau, les troupes ont pratiqué une forme de waterboarding, noyant partiellement mon oncle pour obtenir les réponses qu'ils voulaient pendant sa confusion. Quand ils ont eu fini, les troupes l'ont poignardé et l'ont laissé se vider de son sang jusqu’à la mort.

Ce fut un véritable cauchemar jusqu'à ce que je devienne une réfugiée en Thaïlande.

Ce qui se passe actuellement en Birmanie n'est pas très différent de la Birmanie que j’ai connue quand j'étais enfant - il y a toujours de terribles violations des droits humains et des atrocités à grande échelle, certains crimes pouvant être assimilés à des crimes de guerre, des crimes contre l'humanité et des génocides. La situation dépasse tout ce que je peux exprimer- il n'y a plus de mots pour décrire la brutalité de la junte militaire birmane. 

Notre équipe, ainsi que de nombreux autres militants en Birmanie et dans le monde entier, tentent d'amplifier la voix de ceux qui sont sur le terrain. Nous protestons devant le bureau de l'attaché militaire birman, les ambassades de Chine, de Russie et d'autres pays, notamment celles qui soutiennent l'armée birmane en lui vendant des armes mortelles ou en la formant.

Nous adressons également des pétitions à nos représentants gouvernementaux et envoyons des lettres contenant des recommandations importantes et pertinentes, dans l'espoir que le Congrès nous aidera à faire changer les choses en Birmanie. En outre, nous avons également des sympathisants qui utilisent les médias sociaux pour partager des informations sur la situation actuelle en Birmanie, tout en appelant leurs sénateurs et représentants à faire part de leurs préoccupations lors des réunions du Congrès. 

Les attitudes de persévérance, de résilience et de courage de ceux qui sont sur le terrain sont ma source d'inspiration. Les personnes déplacées à l'intérieur du pays, les réfugiés et maintenant les manifestants du Mouvement pour la désobéissance civile (MDC) doivent vivre au milieu des fusils et des balles qui menacent constamment leur vie. Pourtant ils sont ingénieux pour trouver des moyens de survivre à ces épreuves indicibles. Ce sont eux qui doivent vivre dans la crainte de ce qui leur arrivera demain, mais ils vivent avec une dignité et une reconnaissance très inspirantes.

Myra Dahgaypaw protest

Amis et collègues du monde entier, le peuple birman risque sa vie pour lutter contre la brutale junte militaire birmane. Ils n'ont pas le temps de réfléchir à ce que leur réserve l'avenir. Vous et moi avons le temps, et si nous pouvons consacrer un peu de notre temps à amplifier les voix des communautés touchées en Birmanie, ainsi qu'à nous informer, à informer notre entourage et à informer nos représentants gouvernementaux, cela sera d'une grande aide. 

Continuez à faire pression sur vos représentants gouvernementaux pour qu'ils passent de la parole aux actes - les condamnations ne signifient rien pour la junte. Nous avons besoin d'actions tangibles. Vos pétitions, lettres, appels téléphoniques, courriels et partage d'informations sur vos réseaux sociaux respectifs feront la différence.

En résumé, aujourd'hui plus que jamais, la Birmanie a besoin de vous. J'ai besoin de votre aide pour rejoindre ce combat contre le régime militaire birman. Disons 'PLUS JAMAIS' à la junte militaire birmane, une fois pour toutes ».

Légendes : Myra Dahgaypaw ; Myra, à gauche, organise un rassemblement multiethnique devant le bureau de l'attaché militaire birman. (Copyright: Myra Dahgaypaw.)

Des adolescents de mon âge abandonnent l'école pour protester

 Bawi Hnem SungBawi Hnem Sung, Texas, les états-unis d'Amérique

Bawi Hnem Sung, lycéenne de 17 ans, est également issue de la communauté Chin de Lewisville, au Texas, et fait partie du Chin Club du lycée de Lewisville. Sa famille a fui le Myanmar lorsqu'elle avait trois ans.

Voici son histoire :

« J'ai pu visiter le Myanmar à l'hiver 2019, et cela me brise littéralement le cœur que les rues dans lesquelles je me suis promenée soient maintenant le théâtre de coups de feu jour et nuit, que les gens que j'ai rencontrés se cachent ou se battent pour leur vie, et que la perspective de retourner embrasser les membres de ma famille soit à nouveau incertaine. 

J'ai le cœur brisé et je suis furieuse que les citoyens du Myanmar doivent à nouveau faire face à l'oppression des militaires. Pour être tout à fait honnête, ce coup d'État m'a vraiment ouvert les yeux sur l'oppression du peuple du Myanmar. C'est la première fois que j'assiste à une oppression militaire au Myanmar, et bien que j'aie entendu de nombreuses histoires de la part de mes proches et de mes amis, je n'ai jamais vraiment compris la colère et la situation de fracture qu’entretient le gouvernement du Myanmar dans son ensemble.

Lorsque je dis que j'ai le plus grand respect pour les manifestants du Myanmar, c'est un euphémisme. J'ai vu des vidéos et lu des articles sur la façon dont les parents envoient leurs enfants à l'école tous les matins, en pensant qu'ils ne franchiront peut-être plus jamais la porte de leur maison, sur les adolescents de mon âge qui abandonnent l'école afin de pouvoir protester pour leur avenir et leur liberté, et sur le simple fait de voir la société du Myanmar travailler ensemble. Cela me touche beaucoup et me laisse admirative de la résilience et de la force de ce peuple.

Le fait d'être dans un pays différent a certainement créé des barrières entre nous et les habitants du Myanmar, mais j'ai fait tout ce qui était en mon pouvoir pour essayer d'aider. Avec l'aide de mes professeurs et de mes amis activistes, nous avons réussi à collecter des dons pour les habitants de notre pays natal, nous avons montré notre soutien au peuple en participant à des manifestations et nous avons fait de notre mieux pour que le monde entende la voix du peuple du Myanmar. 

Bawi Hnem Sung protesting

Nous avons également organisé une journée d'appel à l'action à l'intention de nos sénateurs et représentants, et nous avons partagé ce qui se passe au Myanmar sur nos médias sociaux. Dans notre spectacle annuel du festival Chin, nous avons réalisé un volet consacré au Mouvement de désobéissance civile (MDC) dans l'espoir qu'il sensibilise davantage la communauté qui nous entoure. Le Chin Club de la Lewisville High School a également réussi à récolter plus de 1 000 dollars.

L'armée s'est présentée au monde sous un faux jour en coupant les lignes Internet, en séquestrant des personnalités célèbres qui détestent l'armée et en réduisant au silence les voix de la population du Myanmar. Il est clair qu'elle ne veut pas que ses actes malveillants soient montrés et diffusés sur Internet. C’est pourquoi la communauté internationale peut aider en montrant ce qui se passe.

Des personnes d'origine birmane ont manifesté dans de nombreux pays du monde entier, notamment en Corée du Sud, en Australie, au Canada et dans bien d'autres pays encore. Cela signifie beaucoup pour nous de voir un grand nombre de nos frères et sœurs de différentes ethnies se joindre à notre protestation contre le coup d'État militaire.

Je comprends maintenant à quel point le peuple du Myanmar a besoin de reconnaissance internationale et d'aide - il a besoin que sa voix soit entendue. Cela fait plus de 70 ans que ce peuple attend que le monde l'écoute, et je veux m'assurer que cette attente ne se prolonge pas.»

Légendes: Bawi Hnem Sung; Bawi Sung manifestant à Dallas, Texas. (Copyright : Bawi Hnem Sung)

C'est à vous et à moi d'être le pilier de ceux qui luttent actuellement au Myanmar

 Par Tha HniangPar Tha Hniang, Texas, les états-unis d'Amérique

Par Tha Hniang est une jeune membre de la Bethel Baptist Church of Texas à Lewisville. Elle est originaire de la communauté Chin, un groupe ethnique persécuté de l'ouest du Myanmar, et y a vécu jusqu'à l'âge de sept ans. Beaucoup de membres de sa famille sont rentrés au pays. Lewisville compte environ 4 000 réfugiés Chin, ce qui en fait l'un des groupes ethniques les plus importants de la ville. Par Hniang fait partie de la Chin Youth Organization of Dallas (CYO Dallas) et de la Chin Youth Organization of North America (CYONA).

Voici son histoire :

« Lorsque je vois mes frères et mes sœurs au Myanmar pleurer en toute impuissance, je ne peux m'empêcher d'avoir le cœur brisé. Je suis constamment émue aux larmes lorsque j'entends et vois ce qui se passe au Myanmar. La colère face aux intentions malveillantes des militaires est également inévitable. Dieu nous dit d'aimer nos ennemis et de prier pour ceux qui nous persécutent, mais il est évidemment difficile de contenir ses émotions, surtout lorsque le sang coule constamment.

En tant que membre de la jeunesse de l'église baptiste Bethel du Texas, nous avons vendu notre nourriture traditionnelle Chin, le sabuti, afin de collecter des fonds. Il y avait tellement de gens qui nous soutenaient que chaque fois, tout était vendu en une heure ou deux. Bien que nous en ayons fait davantage à chaque fois, nous avons continué à vendre tous les plats à chaque fois et beaucoup de nos proches ont également fait des dons supplémentaires.

Dans le cadre de la Chin Youth Organization Dallas, nous avons organisé un concert pour collecter des fonds et nous avons participé à des manifestations organisées en divers endroits par les groupes ethniques du Myanmar. En tant que jeune des Chin Baptist Churches of America (CBCUSA), nous avons chacun donné 100 dollars ou plus au Mouvement de désobéissance civile.

Par Tha Hniang Protest

J'aime à croire que je suis active dans ma communauté et que je cherche toujours à faire progresser mon pays d'origine. Les événements au Myanmar sont légèrement différents, car nous savons ce que nos frères et sœurs traversent de par notre propre expérience. Le fait que nos amis et les membres de notre famille souffrent nous remplit de colère. Nous ne voulons plus rien avoir à faire avec l'armée birmane, nous avons le sentiment que c'est maintenant ou jamais. Nous sommes fatigués de subir le même esclavage, encore et encore. Il est temps que de nouveaux leaders se lèvent et construisent une armée qui protège ses citoyens plutôt qu'une armée parasite.

J'ai remarqué que les hashtags concernant le Myanmar existent à peine par rapport à d'autres causes. Nous devons le dire à nos amis dans nos écoles, contacter nos médias locaux, les autorités, nos représentants et leur montrer qu'il y a des électeurs qui se soucient de cette cause. 

Aucun pays ne devrait soutenir ce coup d'État. Même si tout ce que vous pouvez faire est de poster une photo sur les médias sociaux, c'est 100 fois mieux que de ne rien faire. Il nous appartient, à vous et à moi, d'être le soutien de ceux qui luttent en ce moment au Myanmar.»

Légendes : Par Tha Hniang ; Par Tha Hniang manifestant pour le Myanmar à Dallas, Texas. (Copyright : Par Tha Hniang.)

3 Reasons Why Relationships are Vital to Expanding Youth Networks

The Youth Action Team (YAT) and Youth Action Lab at CIVICUS has now had several rounds of calls for candidates to champion youth engagement and civic space. A question we are now asking ourselves is - how are we making sure there is a diverse, committed, and innovative pool of candidates to select from? Here are some of the key lessons we have learned so far, highlighting the relevance of building strong social capital -through fostering reciprocity, trust and generating value for individuals and the community. 


1. Past participants of your programme are your ambassadors to attract new ones

When creating a programme, we need to make sure to give participants a great experience. Of course, this includes the project length but goes beyond it. Keeping in touch and being a witness to their journey, ongoing communication and providing support to make sure they reach their full potential are ways in which we can build long-term connections. This is an end in and of itself, but the benefits do not stop there. When people have a good experience, they are compelled toshare it with friends and networks. In fact, a recent survey showed that 90% of YAT participants said they will recommend the programme to peers. That is exactly what happened ahead of the call for applications for the YAT this year, where 92% of the chosen candidates applied because the experience was recommended by a colleague who participated in a CIVICUS programme.
 2. Young activists acting locally are well-connected and can extend this network to your organisation 
The Youth Action Lab co-design team has a great bearing on the representation of countries and the number of applications received in 2020 for the Youth Action Lab. Even though CIVICUS membership has a global coverage of over 175 countries, receiving more than one application from countries like Iraq or Trinidad & Tobago in an open call is not very common. The local networks of the co-design team served as a direct pathway to these countries and, instead of relying only on the reach of CIVICUS alone, their outreach in the recruitment process was very valuable to achieve more diversity in the pool of applications. 
3. A good relationship can last for years and lead to ongoing collaboration 

The co-design team had its first engagement with CIVICUS in 2019, when co-creating the Youth Action Lab. Yet, a network is about a constant flow of exchanges. This connection was nurtured through ongoing participation in the call for applications of the first Lab in 2020. To keep engaged with the Lab, all 9 co-design team members were invited to select the new 2021 cohort voluntarily, 4 said yes. Being it a time-consuming process, the fact that they have helped to shape the programme, motivated them to ensure that the best candidates are part of it.

21st century activism is complex, persistent and all-pervasive. Governments and businesses will have to reinvent themselves

Lysa John SGUPDATE2021

Message from Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary-General

The nature of civic space has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic. The CIVICUS Monitor, which systematically tracks the status of civic freedoms across countries, has shown that even in established democracies, governments have used the pandemic to disproportionately curtail fundamental freedoms. Nearly 9 of 10 people now live in countries where civic freedoms are under attack, and over a quarter of the world’s population – 4 of 10 people –  live in countries where civic space is completely closed. That is, in contexts where they can be routinely attacked, arrested, or even killed by state or non-state actors for simply exercising their universally recognised right to expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

Across 2020, we have seen an exponential rise in two trends that seriously threaten the work and lives of both activists and active citizens: one, the devastating misuse of technology to increase censorship, surveillance and targeted misinformation or propaganda against civil society, particularly journalists and human rights defenders; and two, the impunity with which state and non-state actors are able to attack and intimidate civil society and active citizens who speak out against governments and organize for their rights. The CIVICUS Monitor has also made a special note of the rise in attacks on women and peaceful protestors in the past year.

Despite this, we see that civil society has striven to find new ways to fulfill its unique purpose. Our annual State Of Civil Society report, now in its 10th edition, provides evidence that social movements are more diverse, more connected, and more mainstreamed than ever before. Technology has made access to opportunities for cross-border, multi-sector, and inter-generational civic action more possible. The old playbook of leadership that thrives on fear, hierarchy, and control is hopelessly insufficient in present times as 21st-century activism is complex, persistent and all-pervasive. Governments and businesses will have no choice but to reinvent themselves to be more open, accountable, people-centered in the coming years. This not only requires us to rethink mechanisms for civic participation and people-centered accountability at the level of global and multilateral institutions but also requires a radical change in the way public and private institutions operate at national and local levels.

As evidenced in this pandemic-related survey on sustained support systems for civil society,  every country must put in place the infrastructure and investment needed for a strong, well-networked, and fully empowered civil society. We need stronger national and international laws that protect civil society and civic freedoms, and we need greater public engagement to demand and ensure the effective implementation of these laws. People of all ages and affiliations should have the means and resources to actively understand, influence, and engage with public policies. In addition to this, we need to foster dialogue & initiative across all sections of society and demonstrate an inclusive approach to leadership that celebrates a creative & collaborative engagement with diversity and dissent.

In Solidarity, 
Lysa John

Labour activists and unions stepped up to defend workers during the pandemic


By Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Monitor

Across the globe every year, workers and trade unions gather together on 1 May which is Labour Day to commemorate the hard-fought struggle for labour rights and to make demands of their governments’ where they are failing to protect workers. 

The last year has been particular painful for workers across the Asia Pacific region. According to the International Labour Organisation, a total of 81 million jobs are estimated to have been lost in the region in 2020, due to the pandemic.  The impact of the crisis was far-reaching, with underemployment surging as millions of workers were asked to work reduced hours or no hours at all.

Although there have been various commitments made at the national and international level to address inequalities exposed during the pandemic and to ‘build back better', in a number of countries in the Asia region, governments and businesses attempted to use the opportunity of the pandemic to erode and restrict workers’ and unions’ rights, deny them wages and force them to work in unsafe conditions and even remove them from their jobs. 

One glaring example has been in Indonesia where the authorities bulldozed a controversial job creation law through parliament during the pandemic. The government claimed the law was aimed to improve bureaucratic efficiency and cut red tape, particularly in regard to business permits and investment but has been criticised by workers, human rights activists, academics fearing that that it would erode workers’ protections and trigger job insecurity. 

Thousands of workers and trade unions took to the streets in 2020 to protest the law but were met with arbitrary arrests, excessive use of force by the police. Even journalists were not spared. Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security affairs Mohammad Mahfud also attempted to smear the protesters, by telling a televised news conference that the protests were being led by anarchists “aimed at creating chaos and fear in society”. 

In Malaysia, in March 2020, police arrested and charged five labour activists and supporters of the National Union of Workers in Hospital Support and Allied Services (NUWHSAS) who has organised a protest outside a hospital in Ipoh to highlight concerns about cleaners working in state-run hospitals who lacked adequate protective gear against infections, which puts them at risk during the pandemic. Health workers have also been subjected to harassment, victimisation and union-busting activities. 

Malaysian union leader N. Gopal Kishnam also faced government harassment after speaking in a news report by a United Kingdom broadcast, Channel 4 News in June 2020 on the safety and health of workers exporting personal protective equipment at rubber glove manufacturer Top Glove. 

Migrant workers have also faced the brunt of the pandemic with many forced to work in unsafe conditions or not paid wages and others facing racism and xenophobia.  Often, they had very few avenues for redress and when they did speak up, often faced reprisals. 

In the Maldives, in June 2020 migrant workers At least 80 persons – mostly migrant workers - were detained for protesting against unpaid salaries, inhumane conditions and labour rights violations.  Authorities invoked national security to detain the workers.

Despite this, the  CIVICUS Monitor, a global tool tracking civic space, documented how labour activists, trade unions and others also mobilised to push back on these violations despite attempts to silence their voices.

In South Korea, in November 2020,  tens of thousands of workers demonstrated across South Korea calling on the government to withdraw a regressive labour law revision which would ban workers from occupying certain facilities at workplaces during strikes. These amendments were in violation of the principles of freedom of association existing recommendations by the tripartite ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.

Unions leaders also took on businesses trying to use the opportunity of the pandemic to target trade unions and sack workers. In Cambodia, Soy Sros, a female union leader, stepped up when approximately 100 workers in a handbag factory were told their jobs would not be renewed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis. The factory also suspended unions members including a pregnant woman. When the management refused to meet her, she criticised the decision on social media. Subsequently, all the workers had their contracts renewed. However, Soy Sros ended in detention because of the social media post. After mobilisation by activists and trade unions, Soy Sros was subsequently released after being detained without trial for nearly two months. 

In Taiwan, Migrants Empowerment Network in Taiwan (MENT), an alliance of migrant workers’ groups mobilised protests in May 2020 outside the Ministry of Labour in Taipei calling on the government to guarantee safer working conditions for migrant workers. The protesters said that employers had barred migrant workers from going outside due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while other workers have been unable to return to their jobs in Taiwan or visit their home countries.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the pandemic has shown the key role played by labour activists and unions in defending employment and wages and campaigning for decent health and safety at work. In some cases, the pandemic has also accelerated the experience of virtual organising – over Zoom or other internet platforms. Unions represented workers threatened with being laid off, pushed for adequate severance pay, sought expanded access to social protection and raised the concerns of women workers who faced even greater discrimination and of migrant workers denied equal access and equal treatment.

Instead of repressing their voices, it is crucial that moving forward that governments and businesses in the Asia region recognise the vital role that labour activists and unions play in representing working people ,  respect the fundamental rights and freedoms and engage them with them if they truly want to build back better.  


La constitution d'une équipe mondiale diversifiée de militants pour la transformation sociale : Accueillons l'équipe d'action jeunesse CIVICUS 2021-22

Nous, l'équipe de jeunesse de CIVICUS, sommes très reconnaissants à l'équipe d'action jeunesse (YAT) 2019-2020, un groupe de jeunes leaders accomplis et inspirants du monde entier qui travaillent ensemble pendant un an et demi pour insuffler une vision plus adaptée aux jeunes au sein de CIVICUS et servir d'inspiration à d'autres organisations à travers le monde pour que les jeunes soient au centre et prennent des décisions qui ne laissent pas derrière eux le pouvoir de 1,8 milliard, la plus grande génération de jeunes que le monde ait jamais connue.

CIVICUS YAT 2021 22 FrenchLe YAT a participé activement au processus de conception, de sélection et d'identification de la prochaine génération de cette équipe. Chacun est devenu un ambassadeur dans sa propre région pour diffuser l'appel à candidatures auprès des militants locaux, nous aidant ainsi à avoir une présence dans des communautés qui, autrement, nous auraient échappé. Ensuite, ils ont fourni des idées utiles pour mieux évaluer les candidatures, comme le fait d'avoir des questions moins nombreuses mais plus provocantes qui ont atteint le cœur de l'activisme des candidats. Enfin, ils ont aidé à évaluer les profils des YAT entrants et à choisir les profils les plus prometteurs pour créer une équipe qui soit complémentaire et qui puisse exploiter la diversité comme un atout clé pour favoriser l'innovation et une communauté mondiale prête à relever les défis locaux.

Les principaux critères utilisés sont les suivants : avoir une expérience de militant et faire partie d'une organisation plus large dirigée par des jeunes, être passionné, engagé et plein de ressources ; avoir une bonne compréhension de CIVICUS Youth ; avoir des compétences et des ressources qui peuvent nourrir et être entretenues par une communauté mondiale de militants ; et avoir l'aval d'une organisation/mouvement ou d'un collectif qui peut évaluer avec confiance ses compétences de leadership, sa proactivité et sa capacité de mobilisation pour des causes sociales. Grâce à ces éléments, il a été plus facile d'identifier des profils holistiques qui bénéficieraient grandement de l'appartenance à un réseau plus large ayant une portée et une influence mondiales.

Après ce processus de sélection minutieux, le nouveau YAT comprend un groupe équilibré entre les sexes, avec 7 femmes et 6 hommes, représentant les Amériques et les Caraïbes, l'Afrique subsaharienne, l'Asie, l'Europe et le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord. Il compte des militants âgés de 18 à 30 ans, dont l'expérience va d'organisations mondiales comme l'UNICEF, One Young World et Amnesty International, à des réseaux régionaux comme l'Afrika Youth Movement et des groupes locaux comme Ayudando a Honduras ou One Future Collective. Mélange de conteurs, de militants de base, de défenseurs internationaux, d'entrepreneurs sociaux, d'organisateurs, de mobilisateurs et de chercheurs, l'équipe possède un large éventail de compétences pour aborder les défis locaux dans une perspective mondiale. L'équipe YAT 2021-22 comprend un militant des droits LGBTI et un champion de l'intégration des jeunes vivant avec un handicap. Bien qu'individuellement, chacun ait son propre créneau d'intervention, collectivement, ils peuvent insuffler un changement social. Cependant, il ne s'agit pas seulement des jeunes. Kejal Slava, d'Inde, le responsable du Mouvement du Ruban Bleu - un groupe visant à redéfinir la structure de leadership et à utiliser des pratiques non violentes - dit qu'un monde avec un engagement significatif des jeunes serait peint avec les couleurs de la sagesse intergénérationnelle, qui crée un espace pour que chacun puisse apprendre et agir de façon créative ensemble. Yi Kang Choo, étudiant en législation sur les droits de l'homme de Malaisie, ajoute que c'est un monde où les dirigeants nationaux et les jeunes dirigent ensemble, en travaillant comme partenaires avec une pertinence et une valeur égales.

Il n'a fallu que peu de temps pour se connaître jusqu'à présent et ils ont eu le courage de créer un puissant écosystème de transformation, où la jeunesse est au centre et remet en question le statu quo par l'unité et la diversité. Cela pourrait être le début d'un changement qui s'étend à l'ensemble de l'alliance CIVICUS et au-delà.


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

Spanish | French

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:



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