Guest blog: Inspired and Challenged: Message from Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General

As I write this, I am heading into my third week as Secretary-General of CIVICUS – and each day has been an opportunity to understand a new dimension of this global alliance. Day one, for instance, was marked by a strong sense of celebration! Many of you – members, partners and allies of the CIVICUS Alliance – have shared messages of support and encouragement to do more to secure and strengthen the work of civil society worldwide. I very much look forward to collaborating with all of you in the coming year!
2019 opened up very quickly with stark reminders of the context we face as civil society organisations. An armed attack on civilians in Nairobi generated shock and outrage in Kenya and across the world, while in Zimbabwe civil society groups and citizens met violent force, including another example of the worrying trend of silencing voices by shutting down the internet. In the United States, the continued government shut down is taking a toll on families and essential services, while in Brazil the newly sworn in Bolsonaro government seems to be keeping to promises of putting a stranglehold on activism.
And yet, against the odds, we continue to see citizens, media and civic organisations coordinate public responses and act together in the face of the challenge and uncertainty. A new report by Human Rights Watch indicates that efforts to resist human rights abuses are increasing across the world – a trend that we hope to have contributed to and intend to intensify through our efforts. Strengthening initiatives to achieve greater civic and democratic freedoms and harnessing on opportunities for civil society to demonstrate greater impact and accountability will continue to be an integral part of our work this year.
Many of you responded to our annual constituency survey last year, telling us what you expect from the Secretariat to help support the important work you do. This included striving to build a truly member-led organisation, better connecting members as a community, ensuring inclusivity is at the heart of all we do, and strengthening communication, capacity, and advocacy efforts. We value your feedback – and encourage you to keep informing our work across the year.
We look forward to being inspired (and challenged) to do more and do better by your experiences and insights! Working together, we can tell a more powerful story of how our civil society efforts are protecting and expanding the entitlements that change makers of the past have fought to define and achieve; while also enabling a new generation of leaders to design innovative strategies and tools needed to confront newer and more complex challenges. Here’s looking forward to creating a stronger foundation for the future of civil society through our combined efforts this year!

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