Freedom of the press and the right to protest are increasingly threatened today and repressed around the world.
This year, civil society summoned by CIVICUS comes together in Belgrade for the International Civil Society Week, to face the most pressing issues affecting our democracies, such as attacks on activists, the role of the media and the construction of collective impact.
It is particularly significant that the event takes place in Serbia as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the NATO bombardments of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
For the occasion, CIVICUS unites 850 activists from around the world, who will discuss the worrying wave of extreme right-wing, nationalist governments around the world that are threatening our right to protest and defend our human rights.
Those who come together will work on constructing global agendas in common to respond with innovation and determination to the world’s emerging challenges.
Murders of social leaders and activists, attacks on protesters, restrictions on the press, and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders are some of the violations that are on a list of urgent matters to be addressed this week.
Global civil society united
The ICSW of this year has been designed to foster connections, debate and to elaborate solutions together, with the objective of sharing ideas that drive positive social change. The exchange of tools that improve citizen participation and that celebrate people power will be strengthened this week.
From the 8th to the 12th April 2019, ICSW will take place. The central theme this year is the power of cohesion, and the conference will explore the ways in which people and organisations around the world are working together to unleash the potential of collective action.
More specifically, the three themes specified in the guide are:
- Bridge sessions that explore changes in the current context within civil society on a global and regional level, that seek to create connections between participants and strengthen their collaboration
- Street sessions that analyse how to construct support groups and reinforce necessary competencies for successful civic action
- Stairs sessions that identify forms of constructing and maintaining collective impact, and connect local actions with international movements
Challenges for democracy
Restrictions upon basic human rights and democracy continue growing rapidly around the world. This puts the quality and capacity of civil society to mobilise itself and defend its rights at risk.
A global effort to respond to these challenges which require urgent measures to prevent an escalation in the restriction of human rights is necessary, and these spaces allow for the further consolidation of fair, equal and sustainable societies.
Without common agendas between activists and organisations that allow for the fight for human rights to be strengthened, it will be impossible to combat democratic backslides in such difficult moments.
The response lies in articulating collectively as a civil society that is able to act against measures that threaten human rights and the survival of our democracies. We must be pay close attention to the results of the conference, as they could be decisive in the protection of our civil rights today.