According to the Belgrade Call to Action (2019), over six billion people are living in countries where there are serious constraints on civic space: the conditions are closed for civil society in 23 countries; civil society is highly repressed in 35 countries while civil society faces substantial legal and political obstacles in 53 countries. Civic actors across many sectors are being threatened and persecuted – including those supporting and representing rural communities, indigenous peoples, journalists, trade unions, women’s rights activists, LGBTQ activists, youth, people living with disabilities, and environmentalists.
Despite promises of action by many United Nations Member States (including Nigerian State) to “reverse the trend of shrinking civic space wherever it is taking place,” (Nairobi Outcome Document, GPEDC) attacks on CSOs, social leaders and human rights defenders, and the deterioration of enabling environment for CSOs (GPEDC 2019:8) continue unabated. Nigerian NGOs, Community Development Associations, Academia, Human rights activists, LGBT groups, National Youth Council, opposition politicians all have been engaging governments on the need to make governance participatory, open and accountable and respect the rights of the citizens.
CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), a coalition that works in 117 countries including Nigeria as a platform that unites civil society organizations from around the world on the issue of effective development cooperation (EDC). The coalition, in partnership with the CAFSO-WRAG for Development, a foremost civil society organization in Nigeria held a One- Day *Multistakeholders’ Capacity Building Workshop on Policy/Advocacy on Shrinking Civic Space and Effective Development Cooperation in Nigeria*.
The workshop featured participants who were drawn from stakeholders across the various thematic areas which include Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development Goals (CSCSD), Civil Society Network on HIV/AIDS, National Youth Council (NYCN), NGOs, FBOs, Joint Association of Persons living with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Youth groups, Media and CBOs.
1. To strengthen CPDE membership with policy advocacy skills on the issue of shrinking civic space so as to be conducting action, mass mobilization, and other activities geared at influencing relevant official policies, programmes or processes.
2. To increase, broaden, and expand CSO constituencies in advancing CSO enabling environment, and monitoring EDC principles and implementation.
1. The federal government is churning out restrictive and repressive laws and disabling conditions that hinder the full operation of CSOs, and arbitrary policies, especially for those working in critically sensitive environments.
2. The low participation of citizens and citizens groups in the governance process at all levels of governance in Nigeria.
3. High level lack of transparency and accountability at all levels of government.
4. Deliberate effort by government at all levels to stifle the civic space.
5. Inconsistent capacity building for citizens and citizens groups on strategies for engagement with government officials.
1. Government should refrain from introducing new laws and end reinterpretation of existing laws that aim to regulate, control, and abuse CSOs and civil society workers; end anti-CSO rhetoric as these serve as ‘unwritten’ laws for armed state actors to attack CSOs.
2. Government should respect CSOs as a key pillar of democracy accountable to the people.
3. Governments should engage with; provide support and emergency assistance for, and take action in defense of, Human Rights Defenders (HRDs); hold effective, inclusive and transparent consultations with CSOs regarding national development priorities and guarantee meaningful CSO participation in decision-making and creation of public policies; implement public policies to promote and strengthen CSOs.
4. There should be deliberate efforts for partnership between government and citizens groups for sustainable development in line with global best practices.
5. Government should take concrete steps to reverse the trends of shrinking and closing civic spaces in development, to protect and enable space for civil society, including enabling laws and regulations, democratic accountability based on human rights norms and human rights standards, and the full protection of civil society under attack – such as social leaders, human rights defenders and gender rights activists;
6. Government should repeal and halt all obnoxious laws, policies, and bills stifling operations of civil society including CAMA and social media bill and Hate Speech Bill that metes out death penalty on the violator especially the press as these policies are reminiscent of the Satanic Decree 2 of 1984;
7. Government should respect democratic country ownership of national development plans, and recognize the importance of the inter-connected themes in achieving Agenda 2030 — civil society voice, eradicating poverty, women’s empowerment, fighting inequality, decent work, climate action and environmental justice — without which the realisation of the SDGs would be a mirage in Nigeria;
8. Government should hold effective, inclusive and transparent consultations with CSOs regarding national development priorities and guarantee meaningful inclusive CSO participation in decision-making and creation of public policies all in tandem with the UN Agenda 2030 mantra of “Leave no one behind”; and implement public policies to promote and strengthen CSOs;
9. Civil Society should promote, uphold and respect the 8 Istanbul development effectiveness principles by being fully accountable for their development practices.
10. Citizens should be proactive in making government accountable, access information and strategically engage government officials for good governance and sustainable development.
Participants thanked CAFSO-WRAG for Development with support from CPDE for providing the platform for this engagement. The meeting that successfully elected the leadership of the CPDE National Advocacy Group on EDC, also resolved to continue to respond EDC principles and acts capable of sustaining the country’s nascent democracy. CSOs request ask that government recognise, by developing mechanisms, the multiplicity of the roles and functions of CSOs, people’s movements, and trade unions CSOs as independent development actors in their own rights according to paragraph 22 of the Accra Agenda for Action.
Dr. Tola Winjobi
CAFSO-WRAG for Development
Advocates for Human rights and Sustainable Development
Trees on Earth Development Foundation
Public Enlightenment Projects