Staying true to ambition: Priorities from our mid-term strategy review

Secretary General’s Update

lysajohnDear CIVICUS members and allies,

January was replete with the signals that the coming months will require significantly increased levels of ambition and action if we, civil society, are to remain relevant to the issues of our times.

Alongside threats of global military aggression and the devastating consequence of the wildfires in Australia in this first month of the year, we were alarmed to see the rapid escalation of violence against citizen protestors – largely women and youth – in India and dismayed at the massive pushback on civil society in Uganda. The introduction of new registration rules has threatened the operation of over 12,000 NGOs in the country, while also putting the work of the LGBTIQ community at significant risk.

And yet, despite these difficult times we continue to see civil society act together with courage and determination. While Oxfam’s new report, Time to Care, drew the attention of media and decision-makers globally, the report’s call to ‘abolish billionaires’ and ‘fight inequality’ was converted to street action in over 30 countries through localised protests and public events. At Davos, young climate activists including Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg demanded decisive action on the climate emergency – a call that was reinforced by a joint civil society statement for greater accountability for climate justice from decision-makers at the World Economic Forum.

CIVICUS also joined the call for a ‘Decade of Action’ to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We celebrated the emphasis on civic freedoms in UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ address to the General Assembly on priorities for 2020, and commend efforts made by governments such as Denmark to ensure that human rights objectives are firmly integrated into strategies for sustainable development.

For CIVICUS, the impetus to review and refine our strategies for change is both urgent and specific. After a successful Strategy and Action Workshop with CIVICUS members, staff and the Board, the outcomes of our mid-term strategy review are now publicly available, even summarised in this infographic (available in Spanish, French and Arabic) – and point to several important choices that we must make in order to harness the full potential of our strategic ambition. The review report identifies five priority themes – coherence, systems, simplicity, leadership and metamorphosis – and makes eighteen specific recommendations for action. This includes the need to invest in a composite program model for change and future design on one hand, and the importance of working with new actors and strengthening our engagement with ‘people power’ on the other.

CIVICUS staff and Board members will be reviewing the recommendations that have emerged from the strategy review across February with a view to integrating priorities into immediate and future plans. Your feedback on the directions provided by the review would be immensely helpful at this stage. Do share your insights!

You can send them directly to me by email or via twitter. I look forward to hearing from you!

In solidarity,
Lysa John
Secretary-General, CIVICUS