Kubalasa says SGG’s cannot be fruitful without civic space:  Attends civil society summit in Belgrade

Malawian member of the Reality of Aid Africa, who is also Southern Africa sub regional representative of the civil society partnerships for development effectiveness, Dalitso Kubalasa says the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mantra of leaving no one behind will not come to fruition without civic space and civic engagement in a truly enabled environment for inclusive partnerships.

Kubalasa: SDG’s mantra of leaving no one behind  will not come to fruition without civic space

In a response to a Nyasa Times questionnaire from Belgrade, Serbia where he was attending a CIVICUS co-hosted international civil  society week 2019, themed  “power of togetherness” particularly looking at the shrinking civic space for civic engagement , Kubalasa said the shrinking civil space is making operations of civil society difficult.

“This meeting has come at a very good time realizing that the SDG’s mantra of leaving no one behind  will not come to fruition without civic space and civic engagement in a truly enabled environment for inclusive partnerships,” said Kubalasa.

Kubalasa disclosed that the day-long event opened with the welcome remarks of Serbia’s Office of Civil Society Cooperation Director Zarko Stepanovic, who explained that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) process must include partnership of public administration, citizens, and CSOs to promote real development.

According to a statement from the organisers of the meeting, the day-long event opened with the welcome remarks of Serbia’s Office of Civil Society Cooperation Director Zarko Stepanovic, who explained that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) process must include partnership of public administration, citizens, and CSOs to promote real development.

This was followed by a backgrounder on the summit, presented by CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Co-Chair Justin Kilcullen, CIVICUS Chair Anabel Cruz, and Civic Initiatives Programme Director Bojana Selakovic.

United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Coordination Fabrizio Hochschild delivered his keynote address, which acknowledged the difficulties faced by civil society, as well as their role.

A panel featuring prominent civic leaders then discussed the harms of closing civic spaces and attacks on human rights defenders in different contexts.

Speakers included Just Associates Advisor Marusia Lopez Cruz, IBON International Director Emeritus Antonio Tujan Jr., ActionAid CEO Adriano Campolina, and Climate Action Network Deputy Executive Director Sarah Strack. CIVICUS Secretary-General Lysa John facilitated the session.

CPDE Co-Chair Richard Ssewakiryanga and InterAction Director Carolyn Aeby introduced the Belgrade Call to Action, a declaration that asks United Nations Member States to act to reverse the closing and shrinking space for civil society, to stop the attacks on human rights defenders and the undermining of democratic participation, and to renew the prospects for an inclusive Agenda 2030, and the full realisation of the SDGs.

Case studies on shrinking civic spaces – and how the civil society fought back – were shared by Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)’s Anas El Hasnaoui, and Nigeria Network of NGOs Director Oluseyi Babatunde Oyebisi.

For his part, El Hasnaoui talked about his organisation’s work on civic space and the state of CSO enabling environment in the Middle East and North Africa region, while Oyebisi discussed how Nigerian NGOs resisted an NGO regulation law in 2017 which would regulate CSO operations and curtail people’s freedom for association, expression and political participation.

They said  CSOs need to build resistance from bottom up and rise together to deliver the promise of development.

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