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This year’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was a great opportunity to draw attention to shrinking civil society space. Misean Cara’s Project Officer Éamonn Casey highlights the international delegation meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres where they asked for his support to safeguard civil society space. Read Éamonn’s blog below.

Fighting for Civil Society Space

Civil society activists from around the world met UN Secretary-General António Guterres during the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that took place from the 9th – 18th July 2019 assessing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to highlight the Belgrade Call to Action to tackle severely shrinking civic space across many countries, which is threatening democratic participation and the achievement of the SDGs.

Irish civil society activist and Misean Cara Project Officer Éamonn Casey, represented Dóchas (a Belgrade Call to Action Signatory) and Advocacy Coordinator Deirdre de Búrca represented FORUS, a global network of national NGO platforms and regional coalitions.

The delegation sought the meeting to elicit the UN Secretary-General’s support for civic actors across many sectors who are being threatened, persecuted and killed worldwide – including those supporting and representing rural communities, Indigenous Peoples, trade unions, women’s rights activists, youths, people living with disabilities, and environmentalists.

The delegates who met the UN-Secretary-General on 18 July, on behalf of activists worldwide, called for his support to help stop the relentless attacks on civil society, social leaders and human rights defenders, which, unchecked, will preclude achievement of Agenda 2030. The delegation urged stronger civil society participation in UN bodies and agencies, and a strengthened High-Level Political Forum and national review processes on the SDGs; and the creation of a special UN, government and civil society reference group on the SDGs and civic space to agree concrete actions to protect and enable space for civil society.

Civicus Civil Society Monitor records that more than sixty percent (60%) of the world’s population – 4.5 billion people living in over 90 countries – face a situation where either the conditions are closed for civil society (20 countries), where civil society is highly repressed (29 countries), or where civil society faces substantial legal and political obstacles (43 countries).

Civil society organisations around the world are now working collaboratively to develop and support a Global Week of Action on Climate, Voice, Peace and Equality from 20-27 September, which includes youth and women’s movements; development, climate action and human rights organisations; and many national NGO and CSO coalitions.

They are also working for more just and inclusive processes in the build up to 2020 and the 75th anniversary of the UN, including a proposed special session on freedoms of assembly, association and expression at the 2020 Summit.

Pictured at the HLPF meeting with the UN Secretary-General are, left to right: Emele Duitutaraga, Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO); Beckie Malay, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) – Asia Region; Éamonn Casey, Dóchas (NGDO platform) and Misean Cara – Ireland; Allesandra Nilo, Gestos – Brazil; Oyebisi Oluseyi, Nigeria Network of NGOs; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Zia Ur-Rehmann, AWAZ and GCAP Pakistan; Beverly Longid, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE); Oli Henman, Action for Sustainable Development (A4SD); Deirdre De Búrca, FORUS – the International Forum of National NGO Platforms; Kate Donovan, ActionAid. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.