The ninth Global Perspectives conference took place on 1-3 November 2017 in Mexico City and brought together an international audience of about 80 participants from national and international civil society organisations (CSOs), governments and business. The conference offered a platform for exploring new approaches to conducting and funding civil society activities. Presentations, panel discussions, work sessions and peer-to-peer exchange offered an effective platform for open exchange, high-quality conversations and intense networking.
The conference quickly reached consensus that only transformational change will enable civil society to address the significant challenges that lie ahead. Key aspects of the required transformation are:
Participants predominantly rated the conference as “very good”. They especially enjoyed the networking, the workshop sessions and the facilitation. They further recommended to include a more diverse group of participants and to have a session taking place outside the conference venue.
The next Global Perspectives conference will take place in Berlin, Germany on 31 October – 2 November. Please save the date – we look forward to hosting you there!
On 11 – 12 September 67 representatives from civil society, government, business, media and philanthropy came together at the International Civic Forum in Washington D.C. to explore how they can cooperate to promote civic freedoms and stand up together when these are violated.
Today the vast majority of the world’s population live in countries where citizens’ rights to organise and speak out and contribute to shaping their societies are respected, protected and fulfilled. Around the world human rights, social, and environmental activists and journalists face defamation campaigns labelling them as foreign agents, physical and legal threats against themselves and their families, persecution, imprisonment and even death. Civil Society Organisations are targeted through freezing of bank accounts, targeted break-ins, revoked licenses, and office closures.
Governments and even businesses often silence voices of dissent under the guise of national security or economic prosperity while decisions about what constitutes a “risk” to national security or the economy are shrouded in mystery rather than rooted in transparency and rule of law. This is a fundamental breach of citizens’ rights and democratic values.
Restrictions on civic freedoms not only interfere in the ability of the civil society sector to fulfil its role, it also limits the ability of media to create public awareness and protect public interest against malpractice and partiality. Private philanthropy cannot advance the public good if there is no space to engage citizens on their needs and expectations. Responsible business also has a role to play, as it needs the rule of law and open governance to thrive. Governments cannot legitimately represent their citizens if citizens are not free to express themselves; autocratic government increases the risk of internal conflict.
In the interest of sustainable development and just and open societies we – representatives from different sectors from around the world – commit to respecting, protecting and strengthening civic freedoms based on the principles embedded in the Civic Charter – The Global Framework for People’s Participation:
Only together we can ensure that citizens’ rights are upheld and free and just societies prosper.
On Thursday, pro-democracy activist and Civic Charter supporter Joshua Wong, 20, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the student-led pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The Appeals court also handed custodial sentences to Alex Chow, 26, for seven months and Nathan Law, 24, for eight months. Prosecutors sought to make an example of the trio after they pursued harsher sentencing following their original non-custodial sentences last year.
Burkhard Gnärig, Executive Director of the International Civil Society Centre, said:
“This abhorrent and politically-motivated move from Hong Kong authorities is a direct attack on freedom of expression and right to peaceful protest. The aim of the authorities is clearly to deter people from exercising their basic civic rights. We strongly protest against the oppression of civic rights in Hong Kong.
Joshua has been a vocal and active leader in defending civic participation. Now the international community must respond by speaking up for civic rights in Hong Kong.”
In his statement on the Civic Charter Joshua Wong points out:
“Though we may come from different backgrounds and cultures, and have different systems and histories, we believe in the same universal principles of human freedom.”
It is for this reason that Civil Society Organisations around the world are standing in solidarity with Joshua, Alex and Nathan, and call for their sentence to be overturned.