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

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.