Paving the way for enhanced relations between Canada and South Africa

Canada and South Africa have a long history of shared relations, both during and after the years of Apartheid struggle. In light of this The Canada-South Africa Relations Colloquium took place on 14 – 15 May at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, to encourage new dialogue and cooperation between public intellectuals, academics and policymakers of both countries in the current changing dynamics of the global political economy.

Critical stakeholders and supporters of the event included the International Council for Canadian Studies, South African Association of Canadian Studies, Government and High Commission of Canada, and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of  South Africa. Continue reading

Reflections from the Open Forum: money, power and sex in Africa

CIVICUS participated in the Open Forum, a conference on the paradox of unequal growth in Africa organised jointly by the four Open Society Africa Foundations from 22 to 24 May in Cape Town, South Africa. The event was of signal importance as it brought together leading intellectuals, civil society members and social activists to discuss key challenges facing the continent.

Organised under the themes of ‘Money, Power and Sex’ all of which are relevant to the persistent inequalities, democratic deficit and suppression of individual sexuality in Africa, the Open Forum provided opportunities to debate solutions to contentious and often divisive issues for all those who live in or have an interest in the continent.

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Finding common ground – faith-based organisations and a global alliance

CIVICUS research shows faith structures usually have the highest trust of any non-governmental formation. Faith-based CSOs may have particular routes to some sections of the public and the ability to reach and channel large pockets of support. At CIVICUS, we are seeking to build partnerships with FBOs in order to achieve greater impact in areas of common interest.

Attaining expertise and disseminating information between CVICUS members and the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development at the Rio+20 Conference

In May 2012 CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation Outreach Director Henri Valot conducted a formal interview with the for the Division of Sustainable Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Head of the Rio +20 Secretariat, Mr. Nikhil Seth. The purpose of the interview was to attain valuable knowledge from the organization about the upcoming Rio +20 Conference that is to take place between the 20- 22 June this year in Brazil. Mr. Seth responded to a myriad of questions concerning his aspirations for the conference with regards to the current challenges being face at the UN, the relationship between the SDGs and MDGs in the post 2015 agenda, and finally his opinion on the significance of civil society organizations at the Rio +20 conference this year. Mr. Seth’s responses were viewed with optimism, which serves as an interesting point of departure to the fast approaching negotiations ahead.

Protecting civil society: will India lead the way in Geneva?

On 24 May, India undergoes its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. UPR, as the Universal Periodic Review is commonly called, has emerged as a critical global process where all UN member states submit turn by turn to an evaluation of their human rights record by other governments.

For India, engaging substantively with the process is vital to enhance the legitimacy of its aspirations to play a greater role in world affairs through representation at various multilateral forums, including its campaign for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Equally, it will reinforce the consistent claims ofIndia’s diplomats at international forums that the country’s democratic institutions, constitutional bill of rights and vibrant civil society are proof of its commitment to the UN Charter and the international human rights framework. Continue reading

Civil Society in crisis: Civil Society funding and the way forward (23 May)

Many CSOs report declining funding, volatility and changing donor priorities, and in response are giving more attention to fundraising and diversification of funding sources. Financing for development and reforming the existing architecture of international aid are key issues on the global agenda for CSOs. Organised in conjunction with CIVICUS’ donors, this webinar hopes to explore techniques to weather these turbulent times.

UN Alliance of Civilizations calls citizens worldwide to ‘Do ONE thing for Diversity and Inclusion’ through second global campaign

In 2002 the UN General Assembly declared May 21 as the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development following the adoption in 2001 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity by UNESCO.

To celebrate this Day, the United Nations Alliance of Civilization (UNAOC) has launched the second edition of the ‘Do ONE Thing for Diversity and Inclusion’ campaign in partnership with UNESCO.  Based on the successful model of the Earth Day that encourages people to take concrete action to preserve the planet, the Do One Thing campaign invites people from around the world to ‘do one thing’ to support cultural diversity through cultural exchanges, music, food, cinema, languages or art.

A dedicated Facebook page has been created as the main vehicle of the campaign over the past year, visited and “liked” by millions of people around the world.

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Protection of civil society, transparency and participation should be at the heart of the World Bank’s social accountability initiative

In the immediate aftermath of the popular uprisings which took place in the Middle East and North Africa from late 2010, the then World Bank President Robert Zoellick delivered a presentation at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on 6 April 2011 in which he called for a new social contract for development. He also called on global powers to “modernise multilateralism,” which among other things means a “reform of international institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF [and United Nations Security Council] to better reflect the realities of the economic power shifts that are taking place in the world today.”

After this, the World Bank engaged in a series of consultations with major stakeholders and civil society in particular to develop a Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPESA). According to the Bank, GPESA is aimed at “lending crucial and long term strategic support to civil society in countries in the global South to enable them to work better with governments in a transparent and accountable manner to realise greater development outcomes.” Continue reading

From Bahrain to Belarus: using the power of the sporting event

So the Bahrain Grand Prix came and went. Protests flared and were duly suppressed. Someone won, and then the circus left town and moved onto the next country to uncontroversially run its race – to austerity-ravaged Spain, as it happens.

For fans of the sport, the question of whether the Bahrain race should take place proved divisive. Some took the view that to race in a context where protestors were being slung into jail was repugnant. Seasoned fans affirmed they would break long runs and wash their own cars in preference. Others bracketed protestors as troublemakers, at times coming close to England cricketer Mike Gatting’s notorious self-defence while leading a renegade tour of apartheid South Africa that protests were just “a few people singing and dancing.”

Personally, I admit to some mixed feelings about the incursion of politics into the sporting occasion. As someone who, when I’m in the UK, spends my weekends supporting my club, I tend to regard time at the football as time off:  what JB Priestley called, admittedly in more sexist times, working man’s catharsis.

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Global governance of the internet – time to democratise

By Parminder Jeet Singh, Executive Director, IT for Change

The UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development holds a one day meeting on ‘Enhanced Cooperation on Public Policy Issues Pertaining to the Internet’ on 18 May in Geneva. This could have critical implications for democratising the global governance of the internet, which is currently being driven by dominant political and economic interests. It is vital that progressive civil society actors speak up for preserving the egalitarian potential of the internet, and seek appropriate institutional arrangements for this purpose.

As we all realise, while the real action and impact may be at the micro-level, in the everyday lives of people, increasingly, much of the structural causes of our social challenges and opportunities lie at the global level. One deep structural phenomenon strongly impacting on our societies is the internet and the larger digital ecology. However, progressive actors have mostly looked only at the opportunities and goodies that the internet provides, and not so much at it as a larger techno-social construct, and at the key question of who and what shapes the internet today. The issue of the governance of the global internet is most significant in this regard. Continue reading