Patrick Watt

14 November, 2017

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

Åsa Månsson

7 November, 2017

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

Brandi Geurkink

31 October, 2017

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

Arthur Larok

24 October, 2017

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:

  1. that they were involved in illicit financial transactions;
  2. 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.


Nathan White

17 October, 2017

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

Arzu Geybulla

10 October, 2017

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

Soeung Saroeun

3 October, 2017

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

Burkhard Gnärig

26 September, 2017

Two weeks ago we organised our second International Civic Forum, bringing together 68 representatives from civil society, foundations, the media, governments and business. The one-and-a-half-day meeting reviewed the situation of shrinking space for civic participation globally, focusing on strategies for addressing increasing restrictions to civic freedoms. Discussions in plenaries and workshops focused on:

  • forging cross-sector alliances to secure civic space;
  • using SDG 16 (Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies) to promote civic freedoms,
  • strengthening accountability and transparency in the face of oppression; and
  • countering restrictions in the digital space.


Burkhard Gnärig

19 September, 2017

In April and May of 2017, the International Civil Society Centre distributed a governance questionnaire to the leaders of 32 of the world’s best known international civil society organisations (ICSOs). This is the picture CEOs and Board Chairs paint of their organisations: MORE

Kevin Jenkins

12 September, 2017

This era of rapid and accelerating change affects World Vision and our peers in the non-profit sector as much as anyone else.

The explosion of ‘big’ data, the pervasiveness of mobile technology, the increasing vacuum of political leadership, the ascendency of fear over hope – all affect our work.

Even the face of poverty is morphing. In a generation, populations once defined as ‘poor’ are now making progress, while those in fragile states and conflict-affected regions are slipping behind.

Some global trends affect those with the least resources more severely, including the negative aspects of urbanisation, the dramatic increase of climate-related emergencies, and rising inequality between the hyper-rich and the unreached poor.

Confronting this requires a transformation in our sector. But change is never abstract. It’s always personal … and that’s why it’s so difficult. MORE