Make your voice heard in 2013!

As we conclude another fruitful year of work advancing citizen action and strengthening civil society, I would like to thank you – CIVICUS’ colleagues, members, supporters and friends – for your participation in various CIVICUS activities and for taking part in our ambitious vision of achieving a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity.

Organisationally, CIVICUS was able to inscribe several key milestones in 2012. As our five-year strategy for 2008-2012 was coming to an end, we set out on a broad and in-depth consultation process with members, partners and key stakeholders to agree on a new five-year strategy for 2013-2017. Due to the diversity of our constituents, as well as the fast-moving and often crisis-led global situation affecting civil society, it was a challenge to prioritise and de-prioritise many of the issues that are related to day-to-day struggles of our members and others. In the end, the CIVICUS Board was able to crystallise the focus of the alliance in the next five years into the CIVICUS Strategic Priorities 2013-2017 with the three key themes of 1) influence, 2) connect and 3) enable, as introduced and endorsed at the members’ meeting during the CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal in September. Continue reading

WA 2012- the year where the youth take center-stage!

This year I had the great privilege to attend my first CIVICUS World Assembly! From my past experience providing translation and logistical support to the Assembly from my desk in Johannesburg and comparing it with my more active, physical involvement this year in Montreal, I can honestly say that the 2012 World Assembly has been a huge success in terms of surpassing the previous one- for personal reasons, through the increased responsibilities I took on and the professional skills I honed; as well as from a holistic point of view of the conference in that overall delegate satisfaction with the event was extremely positive. With around 1000 delegates representing 98 countries, a good number of quality high level panelists, such as Marina Silva, Former Minister of Environment of Brazil, and Caroline Antsey, Managing Director of the World Bank in the UK, and overall diversity and level of interactivity of activity sessions, there is a lot to boast about.

However, now that this massive event is over, where to now? In particular, I think about the young people who attended the Assembly, the change makers of todays’ society. I met with many dynamic young activists in the fields of social and civic justice. Razwan Nabin, Founder of the Bangladesh Youth Movement for Climate Change and 2nd year participant of the CIVICUS World Assembly, was one of the inspiring youth committed to bringing the global ideas taken from the Assembly into the local context of his country.  His organisation was active throughout the Rio+20 preparatory process, working closely with the Children and Youth Major Group to ensure that global youth voices were adequately represented in the negotiating rooms of the UN and in the final Outcome Document.

In an activity session focused on youth involvement towards Rio+20 called “Rio+you(th)”, facilitated by Aleksandra Nasteska, co-founder of We Canada, a key issue was what initiatives youth can undertake to have more integrated global or national movements. Better promotion of information was identified as a critical step towards building a cohesive network of focused, active youth working towards a common objective. In particular, as Razwan explained, we can take advantage of the wide, global reach of social media tools to integrate youth movements more effectively.  Indeed other youth delegates reiterated the importance of social media as a tool for making information accessible, as well as bringing together and mobilizing people for social and meaningful change. The recent experiences from the Arab Spring show that these new channels were instrumental in giving young people a way to express their voices and demand greater participation in their countries’ decision-making processes. Continue reading

From political will to political won’t

CIVICUS’ participatory governance side event at our World Assembly on 4 September brought together representatives from civil society and local governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.  On the subject of leadership development and civil society strengthening, the event was a product of inception workshops and consultations between civil society organisations, communities, traditional authorities and government in countries in the Pacific region that had taken place in the run-up to the World Assembly.

The inception workshops, consultations and World Assembly event were conducted under the aegis of a project led by CIVICUS and the Foundation of the People’s of the South Pacific, with support from Australian Aid, aimed at bridging existing gaps in collaboration between governments, civil society organisations and communities in the Pacific region. The project also aims to strengthen the capacity of leaders of communities and civil society organisations to enable them to engage more effectively with formal government structures in the formulation and implementation of policies.

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Planet Earth: my health is the basis of yours

I realised at the beginning of the week that something I have long observed among activists is true at the CIVICUS World Assembly. For many dedicated workers for social justice our planet is a peripheral concern, an afterthought alluded to in the phrase ‘sustainable development’. It’s a fine phrase that I use myself, but I perceive that it very often goes with seeing through a lens narrowed on human concerns, an important lens, but not the only one of value to our perception, analysis and planning.

We are engaged in building a united movement that includes both justice people and environment people. Seeing that the Earth itself is not in good focus for the majority at the Assembly, on Tuesday afternoon I decided to make the Earth more visible. I fashioned and wore for the rest of the week a garland of paper flowers, to call attention to a sign I wore on my back: “Planet Earth says, ‘My health is the basis of yours’.” I was not entirely comfortable wearing these flowers, but felt it was my duty to do something, and that was the idea I had.

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Towards global health justice at the CIVICUS World Assembly?

Eric A Friedman is a member of the Steering Committee of the Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health (JALI). Ahead of the CIVICUS World Assembly, he urges participants to make the connection between their issues of concern and the campaign for global health rights and justice.

Global health justice: that is the calling card of an initiative to redress global health inequities, with the right to health – and for people to have the knowledge and tools to claim their rights – at its centre. The Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health (JALI), seeks to help define the post-2015 development agenda for health – and redefine the global social contract on health. How can its principles feed into the CIVICUS World Assembly discussions, and the post-2015 session immediately preceding the Assembly, as well as the post-2015 discussions that will continue afterwards? Continue reading

Caste based Discrimination in Nepal

Social exclusion remains a prominent part of Nepalese history and has its roots deep into our traditions. Caste-based discrimination was officially abolished in 1963. And despite Caste Based Discrimination and Untouchability Act 2011, society has continued to observe social hierarchies and divisions. Its feudalistic orientation has served to strengthen the authoritarian nature of the state. Furthermore, women and girls have been ascribed a subordinate status, they experience widespread gender-based discrimination.

Cultural imperialism is the root cause that excluded communities like Dalits[1] and minorities are not represented in Nepal’s governance system (Sharma S, 2001). Dalits rank at the bottom of the societal hierarchy, and, have been excluded from capacity development to power-sharing. They have been denied participation in Nepal’s patrimonial feudal social system.

Although the exact figures are contested, it is estimated that Dalit comprise of approximately 15% of the total population of Nepal. According to the Nepal Living Standards Survey, 2011, almost half of the country’s Dalits population live in poverty, while the average for the whole country is 31%. The average life expectancy for Dalits is far lower than the national average of 66.16, with males and females living just 51 and 58 years respectively (

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The sustainable human development approach starts with…

The sustainable human development approach starts with the recognition that people’s knowledge, skills, experience, culture, energy and inventiveness are every country’s most valuable resource, and that people and their traditions must be regarded as assets, not liabilities. This approach gives prime emphasis to the role of human beings in their social context. For this reason, a strong civic society, in which norms of reciprocity, cooperation and trust are respected, would be the best way to underpin sustainable human development” – Stefan de Vylder (‘Sustainable Human Development and Macroeconomics. Strategic Links and Implications’, UNDP Discussion Paper, New York, 1995).

I had the chance to represent CIVICUS at the recent Global Human Development Forum organised by UNDP and the Turkish Government, held from 22 to 23 March, in Istanbul. I spoke at the first plenary on Greening Human Development, moderated by Olav Kjørven, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy. Continue reading

A multitude of convergence

While working on the final press release for the CIVICUS World Assembly, which ended on Monday, Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS’ Secretary General, suggested we change the title to read “Civil society breaks through silos”. My French-speaking colleagues at Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM – the World Assembly co-hosts in Montreal) groaned “not that phrase again!” They were frustrated because it was a term that kept popping up in our communications, but they struggled to find a good translation in French. Yet, it seems impossible to reflect on this year’s World Assembly and not speak of breaking the silos – every angle you consider when looking back on the three days is an example of a silo being broken and disparate ideas, themes, regions, you name it, converging together.  Continue reading

The beginning of the end…?

Beautiful Montreal welcomed us with wonderful weather for the 10th CIVICUS World Assembly that began on 10September with much anticipation from all those attending it. It was preceded of course by the youth assembly which was oneof my highlights of the past 3 days leading up to the main world assembly. I had the privilege of meeting and interacting with some exceptional youngpeople,a group I was happy to include myself among, who are taking an active interest intheir world and who wanttomake a positive difference and contribution to it. And it’s not so much the conversations that took place in the various planned presentations and group discussions that I enjoyed but the hallway and lunch break exchanges. Those unstructuredtalks that merge, morph and evolve dynamically as people come and go and contribute to various aspects of the discussion, which is one of the wonderful things about the world assembly.

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