From 4 to 8 December in Suva, Fiji, more than 700 delegates from all around the world gathered at the CIVICUS International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2017, held for the first time in the Pacific. Under the theme “Our Planet. Our Struggles. Our Future”, ICSW 2017 united various actors from diverse backgrounds towards a common goal, to celebrate the power of citizen action to realize a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.
This event highlighted the indispensable role civil society plays in addressing the issues of climate change and social justice. CSOs came together in solidarity with those affected by climate change and the ICSW 2017 was marked by the signing of the Declaration on Climate Induced Displacement, calling on States and International Organizations to recognize climate change as a key driver of migration in the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. But beyond discussions on the effects of climate change and efforts to mitigate them, the debates during the five days were full and far-reaching, encompassing many of the big global issues from shrinking civic space to unprecedented rise of populist leaders, inequality, conflict and so forth.
For the third time, BCSDN has taken active participation in the ICSW, this year by being involved in two different initiatives – the launch of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability and the CIVICUS Monitor workshop on improving research on civic space.
The official launch of the Global Standard for CSO Accountability took place at the ICSW and project partners presented the framework and shared their experiences of working with it. BCSDN is one of the nine accountability initiatives that developed the Standard as a key reference standard and a global point of orientation for CSO accountability globally. At the workshop, BCSDN’s Executive Director, Ilina Neshikj, led the group discussion on how the Standard can be used as means of capacity building for CSOs, and discussed ways how other organizations can get involved. In a room full of attendees, the session triggered a discussion around the future of CSO accountability and how the Global Standard can contribute to a more enabling environment for civil society in times of shrinking space.
For the other part, Anja Bosilkova-Antovska, BCSDN’s Information and Communication Officer, joined the CIVICUS Monitor team in hosting an interactive, three-hour workshop, exploring how researchers can overcome the challenges to effective civic space research and how we can improve the quality of monitoring and analysis of civic space. The workshop drew a large and diverse audience of researchers and activists, who had the opportunity to learn about how the CIVICUS Monitor works and to hear about some of the research challenges including closed spaces, security threats, keeping everything live and dealing with fake news. Mrs Bosilkova-Antovska presented an overview of the patterns of violations to the freedoms of assembly, expression and association in the Western Balkan and Turkey region and discussed how these challenges affect our research on civic space in the WBT region and what are the gaps and opportunities of the CIVICUS Monitor. BCSDN is a research partner of CIVICUS since May 2016, responsible for providing research updates for 8 countries in the region of Western Balkans and Turkey.
BCSDN representatives also took part in other events during the week, such as the AGNA peer exchange on membership; the Innovation Lab workshop on campaigning to protect civic space; the Partos session on new ways of cooperation for civil society worldwide; the reception with members of the Vuka! Steering Group, etc.
The ICSW 2017 provided an opportunity for a lively exchange between activists, change makers, researchers and practitioners from across the globe and insightful discussions on challenges facing civil society and inspiring stories of civic action and citizen participation. The next International Civil Society Week will be organized in 2019 and will take place in the Balkans & Black Sea Region. CIVICUS has announced that the Call for expressions of interest will be opening January 2018. More information on the #ICSW2017 is available here.