Development and Civil Society Enabling Environment: Reflections from the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings

For one week each spring, thousands of civil society activists, journalists, academics, private sector representatives, government officials, World Bank Group (WBG) and IMF staff descend on Washington, DC during the Spring Meetings and the Civil Society Policy Forum to dialogue on a number of policy issues related to the work of the World Bank and the IMF and development aid effectiveness. Tor blog

During the meetings from April 16-17, CIVICUS co-organized and participated in a number of policy dialogue sessions and high-level meetings with Bank staff and civil society from across the globe. Among other key activities, CIVICUS was invited to panel the CSO roundtable with World Bank Executive Directors, co-organize a follow-up side event to the Global Conference on Citizen Engagement for Enhanced Development Impact, and hold a launch reception for CIVICUS’ 2013 State of Civil Society Report.

Throughout the parallel meetings, CIVICUS emphasized that the Bank’s public recognition of the vital role civil society plays in development processes is undermined by rising the rising tide of legal restrictions, funding cuts and violence faced by civil society around the world. Continue reading

Advancing the Business and Human Rights Agenda: Key to Reform Financial Sector

*The UN Secretary General’s July 2012 report on Business and Human Rights provides a critical insight on the need for enhanced corporate accountability and financial regulation. Governance gaps at many levels are blamed in the report for creating a “permissive environment for wrongful acts by economic actors of all kinds, without adequate sanctioning or reparation.”

Closely linked to the business and human rights agenda is the role of dominant economic policies in spurring inequality which is threatening global political, social and economic stability. A 2011 study by UNICEF estimates that the top 20% of the world’s population accounts for 70% of global income. Civil society group Oxfam estimates that the top 100 billionaires of the world earned enough money in 2012 to “make extreme poverty history four times over.” Yet, we find increasing talk about privatisation and advancement of the same neo-liberal agenda which has spurred inequality by governments around the world. Public-private partnerships are becoming the new mantra at international conferences on development as civil society groups lament the failure of states to fulfil their social contract to citizens. More and more governments are outsourcing basic services which are their responsibility to provide such as health, education, mass transport and even policing to private players as politicians and business leaders collude. Continue reading

Responsáveis e eficazes?

**Conhecemos a situação de muitas organizações da sociedade civil (OSC):estas são as primeiras a exigir responsabilidade e transparência dos outros atores de desenvolvimento (doadores, governos, empresas privadas, governos locais e outros) mas nem sempre refletem e trabalham na sua própria responsabilidade e eficácia. Verdadeiro ou não, esta percepção domina: sempre me choca quando ouço de amigos e pessoas falar da sua péssima imagen imagem atual das organizações da sociedade civil. O que houve nestes últimos anos? Há dez anos, as pesquisas de opinião mostravam que as OSC compartilhavam com as igrejas a confiança do público e eram geralmente consideradas como acima dos governos, dos partidos, e das empresas privadas em termos de responsabilidade. Alguma coisa mudou:será os escândalos causados por algumas OSC aqui e ali, ou o cepticismo crescente em muitos? Nos OSCs, esforçamo-nos cada vez mais a ser transparentes, a prestar melhores contas as comunidades, ao público e aos nossos doadores, mas este esforço todo parece em vão. Devemos comunicar melhor estes esforços! Há tantas iniciativas positivas das OSCs, e uma destas é o trabalho do Fórum Aberto sobre a Eficácia da Contribuição das OSC ao Desenvolvimento. E disto que vamos falar hoje. Continue reading

Strengthening global civil society: the role of Geneva stakeholders

By Olivia Tchamba and Aisha Onsando

Geneva stakeholder meetingAlthough we are connected to the Johannesburg office through emails and very well informed on the treats available in the kitchen, it was great to get a visitor in the Geneva office.  On Monday the 25th of April 2013 we were pleased to welcome Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS’ new Secretary General for a lightning speed 30 hour visit. Danny’s energy and passion for social justice and civil society were contagious and have us all very excited about the future of CIVICUS.

First order of business was a roundtable discussion in the CIVICUS meeting room in Geneva to lay the foundation for more collaborative work to help create an enabling environment for the work of civil society both locally and globally. The participants were drawn from states and civil society stakeholders with an active presence at the UN offices in Geneva. The focus of the discussion was the Human Rights Defenders resolution adopted by consensus at the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council. Continue reading

BRICS Summit: Headway on Syria but can we also discuss corporate accountability and civil society participation

Politics and business indeed make for strange bedfellows. When the leaders of the five BRICS countries which account for 40% of the world’s population and more than a quarter of the world’s GDP met in South Africa last week for their summit, many in civil society were left wondering what is it other than pure commercial interest that brings these five countries together. India, Brazil and South Africa are vibrant democracies with vibrant civil societies albeit with their challenges.  Russia and China subscribe to more paternalistic and authoritarian paradigms of governance with little space for civil society members and dissidents to critique government actions.

Nevertheless, the BRICS mechanism claims to have expanded its focus from mainly economic cooperation to contributing positively to global peace, stability and development. This was evident in South Africa’s hosting of the summit. A clear call was made in the BRICS Communiqué for all parties in Syria to “allow and facilitate immediate, safe, full and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations to all in need of assistance.” The call follows an appeal by a group of eminent civil society activists to BRICS leaders to convince the Syrian government to allow the UN impeded humanitarian access within and across Syria’s borders as the death toll crosses 70, 000. The appeal was particularly significant as Assad’s advisor urged BRICS leaders for an intervention to “stop the violence in the country and encourage the opening of a dialogue” which the Syrian government wishes to start even as extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, hunger and lack of shelter in the country abound. Continue reading