Never-ending news alerts inform us almost daily that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are coming under intense scrutiny, or are even shut down, by governments around the world. Civic space is shrinking, and we as a sector, have to take measures not just as an immediate response, but also have to set up our organisations in a way so they can resist such scrutiny and action. To cope with this task CSOs need to be transparent and accountable, which enhances the trust they publicly gain. More so, CSOs need to go beyond simple housekeeping exercises and implement the voices of all their stakeholders in decision-making processes: This is what we call Dynamic Accountability.
The ninth Global Perspectives conference took place on 1-3 November 2017 in Mexico City and brought together around 80 participants from all over the world, representing ICSOs as well as CSOs, government, and business.
In this video, you can watch a presentation from Global Perspectives, “From Supporters to Change Agents“, by Jan Oldfield, Global Engagement Director at Greenpeace International. She explores and explains how Greenpeace made changes in their organisation and, as a result, the wider civil society sector with its new approaches to resource mobilisation. She focusses on how Greenpeace looked to their supporters to play a bigger role in their organisation; shaping ideas, leading decision making and taking direct action, effectively becoming the agents by which change happens.
Towards the end of the Global Perspectives conference earlier this month in Mexico City, one of the participants asked the leaders of some of the world’s largest international CSOs to imagine their offices around the world empty and dark. Another participant emphasised this key take-away: “Grants are for losers.”
The title of the conference, “New Resources for New Programmes,” barely does justice to the ambition of an agenda intended to urge well-established CSO leaders out of their comfort zones and into a radical re-conceptualisation of how they do their work. MORE
I recently returned from the Global Perspectives conference in Mexico City, an annual gathering of civil society leaders from around the world, for three days of discussion on the big global trends, and how they’re impacting on the work that we do. It was a diverse group, spanning the international development, governance and environment sectors from across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. It included big, mid-size and small international CSOs, platforms, and national organisations, plus a smattering of participants from donors, foundations, think tanks and academia.
Despite our very different contexts, and the spread of issues on which we’re working, there were some clear themes that emerged from the meeting. I’ve picked 10 of them: MORE
The ninth Global Perspectives conference took place on 1-3 November 2017 in Mexico City and brought together around 80 participants from all over the world, representing ICSOs as well as CSOs, government and business. Under the topic “New Resources for New Programmes”, the conference offered a platform for exploring new approaches to both programmes and resources. With a combination of presentations, panel discussions, and interactive peer-to-peer exchange, Global Perspectives was an extremely dynamic event with open exchanges, high-quality conversations and intense networking. On D&I, we will publish some impressions from this year’s conference participants.
Having attended several Global Perspective conferences, the following five things were what stood out to me the most this year – in a very positive way: MORE
Last week was (on some accounts) a good week: Joshua Wong of the Umbrella Movement was released on bail in Hong Kong and Özlem Dalkıran, part of the so-called #Istanbul10, was released from prison. These two of the most active Civic Charter supporters had been unjustly imprisoned for their respective work to defend civic freedoms, and we rallied the Civic Charter community to push for their release.
Their imprisonment, and now subsequent release, caused me to think a lot about what it means to be imprisoned. In my very privileged position as a CSO professional and activist living in Germany, where my safety is—for the time being—almost 100% guaranteed if I criticise the government or other powerful actors, I can think about prisons from a theoretical perspective. I don’t want to get too Foucauldian here, but while physical prisons are surely the ultimate and most brutal manifestation of a separation between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ we should also think about the metaphorical prisons we might be in without even realising it. MORE
On Wednesday the 20th and Thursday the 21st September 2017, the offices of ActionAid Uganda and the Great Lakes Institute, both in Kampala, and Solidarity Uganda in Lira, were raided by the police.
Investigations by the police on the three organisations are ongoing and the accusations labelled against them are:
- that they were involved in illicit financial transactions;
- they are involved in subversive activities to destabilise Uganda.
Unfortunately, we are preparing for a long-drawn out attack on civil society generally and so it helps to reflect on possible motives of the attack and what is likely to happen in the near future. Most importantly, we must focus on lessons for civil society as we collectively prepare for more such threats.
Civil society organisations exists to make the world a better place. Some of us work on corporate transparency, others on voting rights, and still others on government accountability. While we each have different goals, increasingly the way we work is becoming reliant on digital technologies and spaces, such as the internet. We conduct research, we collaborate, we store and share information, and we build coalitions all on the internet. For most of the past two decades, that has helped us unite and become stronger together. Unfortunately, our increasing digital connectivity also creates a shared vulnerability that threatens to undermine our work.
Access Now is a human rights organisation that works to protect our digital spaces. We operate a 24/7 global helpline for users at risk. As such, we work with civil society groups around the planet and have witnessed the increasing attacks on our digital spaces and our ability to harness the power of the internet.
In particular, we’re watching an alarming increase in the number of “Internet Shutdowns” in which governments use their privileged position to shut down entire networks. Both blunt and broad, these attacks make our work more difficult. Fortunately, groups like the #KeepItOn coalition have formed to unite across sectors to push back on this trend. MORE
Something tells me, we, as in members, representatives, participants and active thinkers of civil society networks, need each other more than ever today. The global political, social and economic order, have changed tides, so much that, while we were all busy doing our own things we have not noticed how our mere presence in this new order of things has been jeopardised.
On one hand, we are fighting harassment, crackdown, and persecution in the hands of the regimes wanting to get rid of independent voices, while on the other, we cannot move fast and effective enough to generate stronger support that would have an impact on regimes cracking down on dissent. The space for civil society is shrinking all the while, the avenues for advocacy mechanisms are exhausting themselves and so are the tactics. But we shall not despair. Because there is still hope. Or at least, this is how I felt, after attending the international civic forum in DC last month. MORE
This contribution by a participant of the International Civic Forum puts into context how insights from the Forum are relevant for local civil society in Cambodia, and what specific areas must be prioritised to defend people’s rights to participate in a country where civic space is rapidly shrinking before our eyes.
Between 11- 12 September, I had the opportunity to participate in International Civic Forum, held in Washington D.C., USA, with 68 leaders from civil society organisations, representatives from government, media and the private sector across the globe. It was an interesting and important forum where good topics, speakers and processes were deployed. Participants shared stories of how civic rights are being dramatically threatened, causing global concern for the gradual “shrinking” of space worldwide. This has been happening not only in the countries ruled by authoritarian governments or dictators, but also by populist politicians and within democracies.
Many governments around the world use legal frameworks, and actions such as harassment, intimidation, imprisonment and killing to silence civil society leaders, media, political activists, trade unionists, environmentalists, and many others.
The country that I come from, Cambodia, was discussed at the Forum as a case study of shrinking civic space. Participants agreed that urgent collective attention is needed as the situation in Cambodia is of serious concern. MORE