CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Archive for December, 2010

CSI Madagascar launched and off to a great start!

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 23, 2010

Written by: Yosi Echeverry Burckhardt and Megan MacGarry

We are very excited to report on our participation and observation last week of the official media launch and first Advisory Committee meeting, thus marking the official start of the CSI in Madagascar!

 Two very intensive days of training were held by us, with our partners Consortium National pour la Participation Citoyenne (CNPC) and Multi-Sector Information Services (MSIS), as well as full participation from the leading donors on the project, the UNDP Madagascar regional office. This training was on the complex realities and intricacies of the CSI methodology, which is currently underway in Madagascar. Everyone was rather tired due to the intensive, but exciting work done over the two days.

 However, this was to be shaken off quickly as the stage was set, at the Hotel La Residence Ankerana on the outskirts of Antananarivo, for the official launch and ceremony, as well as the first Advisory Committee meeting, marking the beginning of the project. There were numerous groups present for this prestigious event, including the United Nations Resident Coordinator Fatma Samoura, the CSI national Advisory Committee, the teams of both the national coordinating organisations MSIS and CNPC, UNDP programme staff members, two representatives from CIVICUS, and several journalists from both print and tv press present. Key speakers at the beginning of the launching ceremony included:

  • Mr Andriamoraniaina Harijaona (Niaina): Coordinator of MSIS
  • Mr Amaholimihaso Rahaga: the speaker of the Advisory Committee
  • Mrs Fatma Samoura: UN Resident Coordinator
  • And Miss Yosi Echeverry Burckhardt: CSI Programme Officer with CIVICUS.

 

From left to right: Niaina, Amaholimihaso Rahaga, Fatma Samoura, Yosi

The speakers emphasised what a great opportunity implementing the CSI project is for Madagascar, how this will hopefully impact broader participation in Malagasy society, and how this will hopefully strengthen civil society throughout the country, despite the ongoing political difficulties and constraints evident of late in the country.

There is a strong interest and participation in the project from a wide scope of stakeholders across various sectors, including from the government, the private sector, and the media. This helps to highlight how timely and valuable an evaluation of the state of civil society, such as the CSI, is. In a country where all development projects, except humanitarian projects, have been stopped due to sanctions from various international actors. Compounded by the complexities of operating in repressive and constricted environments, it is hoped that the CSI implementation will be an initiator for increased, deepened civic engagement, participation, and leadership. As Edmondine Ramaroson, the President of CNPC underlines, the findings from the project will not be an end in themselves but rather serve to create a more active and engaged citizenship throughout Madagascar. As Edmondine mentioned in her welcoming speech at the launch of the project:

Donnons – nous la main pour n’avoir qu’une unique : la résultante, suffisamment solide pour porter l’espoir que Madagascar sera hissé à la place qu’elle mérite!

It was a true honour for both of us to be present, to highlight CIVICUS’ commitment and active participation in civil society strengthening processes and showing the value of the CSI particularly in countries such as Madagascar. It was engaging and exciting to see our project in real live action in front of us- witnessing how interested and motivated the members of the AC are in the project, as it allows us to see the true participatory value of the CSI.

The Advisory Committee (AC), the two NCOs, UNDP Madagascar focal point and the CIVICUS team:

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Press Statement: CIVICUS condemns crackdown on Civil Society in Bahrain

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 13, 2010

  

Johannesburg. 10 December 2010. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is deeply concerned about the deteriorating operating environment for civil society in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The past few months have been marred by growing intolerance towards dissenters, which began in the run up to the October elections and continues in the post election phase.

Authorities in Bahrain are waging a relentless campaign against activists whose views are not in line with the official position. Currently, 24 prominent human rights defenders are facing trial under Bahrains anti-terrorism laws. They have been charged with collaborating with foreign organisations and circulating false information. They have also been accused of forming terrorist networks, destruction of public and private property and defaming the authorities.

The arrested activists have complained about torture and abuse meted out to them by the National Security Agency. They have so far appeared in court on four occasions and the next hearing has been scheduled for 23 December. During their first appearance in court on 27 October, detainees informed the court that while in detention they were beaten, electrocuted, verbally and physically assaulted and denied adequate sleep. Those detained were not allowed access to legal representation during interrogation and some family members did not know where they were being detained for two weeks after their arrest. It has also been reported that prior to, during and after the elections about 350 other activists have been arrested.

In a worrying trend, it has become commonplace in Bahrain to arrest activists for writing articles and delivering speeches which are critical of the governments discriminatory policies and official corruption, said Netsanet Belay, CIVICUS Director of Policy and Research. Persecution and torture of public-spirited individuals offering legitimate criticism against official policies and the clampdown on their organisations amounts to a repudiation of Bahrains accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), a CIVICUS partner for the Civil Society Index and one of the few remaining independent groups striving for the protection of civil and political freedoms in the country, has been targeted in the recent crackdown. On 6 September, the Ministry of Social Development issued an order to dissolve the Board of the BHRS and went ahead to appoint an administrator  an employee from the Ministry  to lead the BHRS. The BHRS has had to go to court in response to these arbitrary actions and its fate currently depends on the courts response. The first hearing of the case scheduled for 26 October has been postponed to 4 January 2011.

According to Abdullah Aldorazi of BHRS, the unfair order issued by the Ministry of Social Development to dissolve the Board of the BHRS is a security strategy aimed at preventing the documentation of atrocities carried out by the authorities during the crackdown and preventing families of the detainees from using the society as a safe haven.

CIVICUS urges the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain to live up to their commitments under international law and guarantee civil society the space to freely express, associate and assemble.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global movement of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. The Civil Society Watch (CSW) Project of CIVICUS tracks threats to civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly across the world.

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CALL FOR PAPERS

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 10, 2010

ISTR AFRICA CIVIL SOCIETY RESEARCH NETWORK CONFERENCE

Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

23-27 August 2011

 

Theme: Civil Spaces in Africa: Past, Present and Future

 

Past and present narratives of civil society in Africa have been, by and large, about ‘space’ – political, material and symbolic. Inspired by stirring Eastern European examples of anti-state mobilization, the earliest discourses focused on the modalities of reclaiming space for civic agency from authoritarian state forces.  Hence the interest, variously, in thematics such as ‘expanding’, ‘opening up’ or ‘liberating’ ‘democratic space’. In these early, even heady, articulations, the goal of civil society was envisaged as a simple one: to contest and open up the public arena (one that, until then, the state had largely monopolized) as a way of embedding modes of participation crucial for civic renewal and political regeneration. In a sense, the history of civil society agitation and organizing in Africa over the past three decades is in fact the unfolding of this particular struggle.  It invited an inevitable reaction by state elements reluctant to relinquish many of the advantages carried over from colonial governmentality.

Yet, contestations for space are, by definition, always ongoing. Thus, gains and losses are hardly ever permanent, with strategic positionality always subject to the thrust and parry of local, regional and, increasingly, transnational political, cultural and economic forces. Current developments in various parts of Africa provide a vivid illustration of this complex. They create a backdrop for much needed reflection on the current history of space, spaces and space-making in African contexts. Moreover, because of the external normative characteristics of much research on the continent, they also invite a more careful examination of the endogenous nature of civil society and civic agency. 

It is against this background that we invite papers that attempt to deepen scholarly understanding of African civil spaces in their cultural, social, demographic, economic and political pluralities and particularities. Original, conceptual or empirically-grounded contributions are welcome from a variety of social-oriented disciplines – including, but not limited to: history, sociology, economics, demography, geography, cultural studies, literature, and political science.

Papers may be guided by the following questions, though creative subversions are strongly encouraged:  What characterizes civil spaces in Africa?  What, if anything, is distinctive about such spaces?  How have spaces metamorphosed within globalizing geo-political movements and dominant economic processes? How have these forces encouraged or thwarted the production of governable and/or ungovernable spaces across the continent? How can we understand fundamental and emergent forms of civic mobilizing – in primary associational life, in social movements, in mutuality, in charity, in philanthropy?  How do we measure their presence and effectiveness on the social landscape? What are forms and contours of the new spaces of assertion dominated by anti-state forces? How do we account for their emergence against the background of state retrenchment? In what ways do virtual and material spaces interact, and how do they reinforce or contradict one another? What are the implications of the virtualization of politics for the understanding of state praxis and citizenship? What roles are women, underprivileged and oppressed groups playing in the marking and delimitation of new socio-economic and political spaces? How do new forms of sociality enable us to comprehend the distinctions between private and public spaces, and how tenable are those distinctions?

 

Paper abstracts (maximum 500 words) should be sent to:

 Prof Ebenezer Obadare

Department of Sociology

Kansas University

obadare@ku.edu 

Please also provide contact details (at least an email address and telephone number) and your institutional affiliation.

 DEADLINE:  28 February 2011

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ESRA Conference 2011 Call for Paper Proposals

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 9, 2010

The Department of Sociology (University of Heidelberg), the Centre for Social Investment (Heidelberg), and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Partizipation (Johannesburg) are organizing a panel on:

 “The Civil Society Index as a tool for cross-national comparisons.

Methodological issues and substantive applications”

within the context of the 4th Conference of the European Survey Research Association (ESRA), which will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 18-22 July 2011.

The proposed panel will focus on the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) as one specific tool for assessing civil society cross-nationally. Between 2003 and 2006, the CSI was implemented in over 50 countries worldwide. In 2008 the project’s methodology was further strengthened to allow for comparative analysis, and data from the current project phase (2008-2010) is available for 21 countries. The CSI uses a multilevel and multimethod approach, combining various tools to measure different dimensions (Civic Engagement, Level of Organisation, Practice of Values, Perceived Impact, External Environment) and levels of civil society engagement (micro, meso, macro). A population survey assesses the extent and the intensity of engagement of individuals in civil society. An organizational survey analyzes the structure, policies and practices of NGOs and other organized expressions of civil society. An expert survey, combined with a series of in-depth interviews with government officials, the media and other stakeholders, aims to get an external assessment on the impact of civil society in society at large. Currently, CIVICUS is developing a database to publish the data of the CSI on the Internet.

We are inviting papers presenting substantive applications of the CSI from different world regions as well as analyses of innovative methodological approaches and challenges. The aim of the session is to assess the current state of measurement applications based on the CSI and to discuss potential improvements. The best papers will be featured in one of the upcoming volumes of the “CIVICUS Study of Civil Society around the World” book series, which we are currently establishing. For scholars with a promising outline, we will be able to provide exclusive access to the full CSI data (currently under embargo).

For more information on the CSI and its methodology see the CSI Blog or the CSI webpage

A full description of the panel can be found here

Information on the Conference is available from the ESRA website

To be considered for inclusion in the scientific programme of ESRA 2011, please submit an abstract of your paper containing no more than 250 words via this ESRA website. To submit a presentation, you must sign up or log in to the ESRA website. After logging in with your account, click “Propose a new presentation” to start submitting.

 The closing date for submission of paper proposals is 14 January 2011.

We are looking forward to receiving your interesting abstract!

Michael Hoelscher & Helmut Anheier

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Armenia: Reason for optimism emerges from CIVICUS CSI report

Posted by civilsocietyindex on December 8, 2010

 

CIVICUS is pleased to announce that the second Analytical Country Report of this phase (2008-2010) of the Civil Society Index has been completed. The report, entitled Armenian Civil Society: From Transition to Consolidation, is one milestone marking the completion of the CSI in Armenia. Counterpart International Armenia implemented the project with the support of international organisations USAID/Armenia, UN Volunteers and OSCE and others.

The report, based on a variety of research sources including three quantitative surveys, shows that civil society in Armenia is moving towards consolidation. While the “Level of Organisation”, “Practice of Values” and “External Environment” dimensions of what is known as the CSI diamond are all fairly balanced, the “Civic Engagement” and “Perception of Impact” dimensions score below average (37.4% and 32.8% respectively). Further findings attribute the lag in Civic Engagement to weak levels of citizen participation, particularly for socially-based engagement (11.9%). Similarly low scores in the perceived impact achieved by civil society reflect civil society’s weak impact on social attitudes (15.2%).

 In terms of their organisation, Armenian CSOs have in many cases successfully established formal management systems, membership networks, growth and communication access. Likewise, the “Practice of Values” dimension suggests that despite the concerted efforts made by Armenian CSOs to promote their internal values, more effort is needed to make these practices and values a reality. The “External Environment” dimension for Armenian civil society suggests that state-civil society and private sector-civil society partnerships prosper where symbiotic linkages have propelled them out of the corrupt environment which has plagued Armenian civil society for a long-time.  

 Although the space for Armenian civil society faces issues of corruption, weak social capital, political patronage and clientelism, the report argues that there is significant room for optimism about the future of civil society in Armenia. In particular, the government’s willingness to work with civil society signals a determination by the country as a whole to work together towards developing a larger space for civil society in the country.

 CIVICUS would like to commend the National Implementing Team (NIT) in Armenia for the hard work they put into compiling the report and implementing the project.

 To access the full report, please click here

 

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