CIVICUS' New Strategic Period: A Time to Actively Engage Members and Allies

A message from Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS

Dear CIVICUS members and allies,

On July 1st, we marked the beginning of a new strategy period for the CIVICUS alliance. In this update, I’m excited to share headlines from the efforts that we have been making to align our work and interrogate the outcomes we need in relation to our strategic priorities for 2022 to 2027.

The 11th edition of our State of Civil Society report was published on 27 June and has received an encouraging response. In addition to a consistent social media push, we have been able to use the analyses to generate op-eds on key issues, and offer presentations to a wide range of activist, academic, and donor networks. Since its release, we have received much appreciation for the report’s assessment of meta-trends in civic space and democracy and for showcasing examples of where and how civil society has been successful in influencing change. Media coverage of the findings from the report include an op-ed by our editor-in-chief, Andrew Firmin and an overview by Mandeep Tiwana. The CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist was also updated during this period and includes Chad, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico and Sri Lanka.

On Mandela Day (18 July) this year, we marked two years of the ‘Stand As My Witness’ campaign. The initiative aims to mobilise the public and policymakers to act for the release of prisoners of conscience. The campaign has profiled over 20 detained activists and has allowed us to contribute to global efforts resulting in the release of nine defenders. A dialogue with activists and networks linked to the campaign was organised on the second anniversary of the campaign and provided important insights on how our collective efforts could better assist the struggles of human rights defenders. Our teams have also been actively engaged in the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in this period. In addition to contributing to and presenting key statements, we were actively involved in amplifying demands from civil society on the process to elect the next UN Human Rights Commissioner, calling for the UN to renew its expert mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity and contributing to processes that have led to the adoption of a new resolution on the right to peaceful protest.

Yet another initiative, namely the ‘Grassroots Solidarity Revolution’ campaign, has received considerable support and attention in this period. Updates from local dialogues and jam sessions held in five countries were shared online by a range of participants, including young leaders, grassroots networks and donors. Reflections on the lessons learned from the initiative by participants and co-travelers such as Dumiso Gatsha, Otto Saki and Yessenia Soto have provided an important opportunity to reflect on the questions and challenges being brought to light by this initiative, and its potential to catalyse the deeper and more difficult introspection on individual and institutional values that is essential to the discourse on localisation and decolonisation. In this context, we are pleased to report that a formal response to the joint letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power from 1289 southern organisations has been received. The response, signed by the Administrator Power, acknowledges the priorities raised in the joint letter and outlined initiatives being taken to strengthen USAID’s direct engagement with and support to local civil society actors. These shifts were also reiterated as a priority in the dialogue on democracy organised between the USAID Administrator and civil society leaders organised on 16 June.

Network-led developments include the launch of CIVICUS’ Youth Action Team’s report on youth trends in activism and civic space and the VUKA! Coalition’s consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to contribute to their next thematic report on HRDs working on issues related to migration, refugees, and asylum. A joint gathering of regional networks working together on the freedom of peaceful assembly (FoPA) was also held in July 2022. The meeting included a review of collaborative efforts that have been organised since 2021 as part of a co-creation process with six regional platforms to identify context-specific needs and priorities and to produce resources that would support them as key interlocutors on the right to peaceful protest.

Our newest offering, the CIVICUS Lens has helped us draw on the voices and experiences of diverse civil society groups to provide real-time analyses and perspectives on geo-political trends and developments. Articles published through CIVICUS Lens have – along with other aspects of our work - helped us forge partnerships with wider platforms for dissemination. Across June and July, we have published multiple op-eds and recorded over 84 media citations across global, regional, and local platforms including Reuters, IPS, Open Democracy, The Diplomat, Afrika NewsRoom, and El Pais.

Finally, we are proud to have recently completed the Accountability Now reporting cycle for 2021-22. The review report includes commendations about the transparent and inclusive process undertaken to refresh our strategic plan and an acknowledgment of CIVICUS as a trusted and valued partner whose work has remained relevant to members in a time of rapid context changes. Efforts being made to provide a safe and equitable working environment have also been acknowledged in the report. Three key areas for improvement have also been identified in the review process and include: (i) Improving the indicators we use to measure strategic progress (ii) Improving our risk mitigation processes, and (iii) Increasing staff awareness and use of internal complaints mechanisms. Actions to address these areas of improvement have been identified and included in this summary of the process that has been published on the CIVICUS website.

None of this would be possible without the active engagement of our members and allies. We are grateful for your support and look forward to your continued engagement in the work and outcomes of the alliance!

In solidarity,

Lysa John

Secretary-General, CIVICUS.



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