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Providing an Enabling Environment to Empower Civil Society

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 9 2013 (IPS) - The annual CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report aims to offer an annual and comprehensive review of the state and health of civil society, from a civil society-led and owned perspective. This year’s report, expected to be published in April 2013, will focus on the question of the enabling environment for civil society.

“A healthy civil society is both a good in itself and a key to promoting democracy and economic and social development,” said Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS: World Aliance for Citizen Participation, at a panel discussion Tuesday on civil society and its environment: ’ Driving sustainable development? ‘

CIVICUS is an international alliance of civil society organizations working to strengthen citizen action and civil society world-wide, especially in areas where participatory democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are challenged.

Sriskandarajah added: “Our new report suggests that providing an enabling environment for civil society to thrive is critical, but in too many countries at the moment, civil society finds itself either under attack or facing difficult conditions which governments are not doing enough to improve.”

On the global stage, civil society continues to face lack of financial and human resources. Drawing on fresh perspectives and case studies, the new report will be considered a milestone towards better monitoring and measuring progress by governments on their commitments to empower civil society.

“The new CIVICUS report shows that civil society organisations have more and more difficulties to act freely because of legislations, criteria, prohibition on areas of action, lack of resources. Governments have a great responsibility to constantly support civil society,” stressed Magnus Lennartsson, Minister, Coordinator for Economic and Social Affairs, at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the U.N.

The report comes at a critical time for global negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the post-Rio+20 Sustainable Development Goals and the follow-up to the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, according to Sigrid Kaag, the Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“UNDP recognizes that civil society advocates and organisations, individually and collectively, play an essential role in bringing voice, participation and accountability to all dimensions of development. It’s essential to ensure the space for civil society advocates to function and thrive within their countries and communities,” Kaag stated.

In 2000, UNDP was the first U.N. agency to set up an advisory committee composed of civil society leaders worldwide to advise UNDP’s senior management on matters of strategy and policy.

“The voice of civil society is unique and need to be respected because civil society plays a unique bridging role in crucial issues. We need to establish an inclusive framework and a long-term perspective,” added Kaag.

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