International Civil Society Week (ICSW) took place in Belgrade from 8-12 April 2019. Sponsored by the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS), the event brought together Civil Society, activists, campaigners and other stakeholders from around the world.
The session explored the significance of reversing the shrinking space for Civil Society engagement in various platforms, the urgent need to stop attacks on human rights defenders and ways to renew the prospects for an inclusive pathway to achieve Agenda 2030.
ACT Alliance joined 135 organisations from over 60 countries to endorse the Belgrade Call to Action: A Civil Society Call to Stand Together to Defend Peoples’ Voices for a Just and Sustainable World. The Call is addressed to Governments and United Nations Member States around the world, urging an immediate response to the shrinking space for civil society and the deteriorating conditions for human rights defenders.
The Call reads, “Enough is enough! Stop the relentless attacks on civil society, social leaders and human rights defenders!” It also emphasises that the full engagement of civil society is an essential foundation of democracy, and is critical for safeguarding human rights and to make progress on Agenda 2030.
It also acknowledges the challenges faced by many civic actors including threats and other severe conditions such as legal and political obstacles. “Civic actors across many sectors are being threatened, persecuted and killed – including those supporting and representing rural communities, Indigenous peoples, journalists, trade unions, women’s rights activists, LGBTQ activists, youth, people living with disabilities and environmentalists.”
“…Civic leaders are being physically harmed, with women’s human rights defenders facing sexual harassment and abuse. All because they seek to protect peoples’ human rights while promoting democratic participation on issues that affect their lives,” the Call continues.
Along with the Call, an Action Agenda: Positive Measures for Enabling Civic Space towards Maximizing Civil Society Contributions to the SDGs was developed. The Action Agenda identifies a range of initiatives that can be implemented by Member States and International Organizations to alter the conditions that are hindering and threatening the work of CSOs and the lives of Human Rights Defenders around the world.
The Action Agenda is available here.