A new playbook for international civil society to put into action solidarity

5th December 2019 by Miriam Niehaus

A new playbook for international civil society to put into action solidarity


Together with a newly formed Working Group of international civil society organisation (ICSO) and CSO colleagues, the International Civil Society Centre is now embarking on the next phase of developing a Solidarity Playbook.


For years now, civil society worldwide is facing increasing restrictions to their freedoms of association, assembly, expression and exchange of information. Likewise, their reputations have been consistently attacked. Human rights activists have always been targeted, however, even large ICSOs are now coming under pressure. There are growing fears over staff safety and the ability to deliver essential operations in varied contexts. Even when size does offer some cover, their partners are attacked. In turn, they require support and solidarity. 

Many global coalitions have responded by making calls to action aimed at “providing solidarity”, and yet even in our highly value-driven sector, it often proves difficult to get the results we all hope for. 


Why is solidarity playbook needed and how can it help international CSOs show “solidarity”?


Many organisations shy away from public proclamations of solidarity as they do not want to put staff members and operations at risk. Through many stakeholder conversations, the Centre has identified the need to approach solidarity differently and enable collective learning on how ICSOs can better support each other and their partners, particularly in contexts where confrontational advocacy is not an avenue they can pursue. Our conversations show that the need and the desire to cooperate better between different strands of civil society has never been bigger and our opportunity to turn this challenge into an opportunity never greater.

The International Civil Society Centre is working with ICSOs and their CSO partners to develop a new playbook for solidarity and cooperation, to be able to better respond to the clampdown, to be better prepared and to push back to the boundaries of what civil society restrictions have come to be. 


The Centre commissioned a study on ICSO response mechanisms and national civic space coalitions to assess where we are collectively and to begin sharing and learning from each other. This study “Solidarity in Times of Scrutiny” was shared with some 40 delegates of the International Civic Forum, convened by the Centre on 29 October 2019 in Addis Ababa. The delegates, colleagues from ICSOs, CSOs and philanthropy, highly valued the space for exchange and the Centre’s initiative to facilitate shared learning and re-envision our solidarity mechanisms. They provided ideas and feedback for the Solidarity Playbook. The Centre is currently reviewing and discussing with the Working Group how to turn feedback and ideas into a format that best serves the sector. Throughout 2020, the Centre will be leading the development of the Playbook together with the Working Group and with the help of an Advisory Group. At the end of 2020, the playbook will be launched at the International Civic Forum. 


Should you be interested in finding out more or joining our Advisory Group, please contact the project manager Miriam Niehaus ( 

Miriam Niehaus

Head of Programmes

International Civil Society Centre

Miriam leads the Centre’s programmes. She started at the Centre as Executive Assistant in 2014 and then, as Project Manager, developed and implemented the Centre’s projects on civic space between 2016 and 2019. Prior to joining the Centre Miriam worked for VSO International and GIZ in the Palestinian Territories. She holds a BA in Islamic Studies and Social Anthropology from the University of Freiburg and an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies.