The West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and Spaces for Change (S4C), with support from the Ford Foundation, have launched the “Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub)”, to promote open civic space, its resilience and regulatory compliance.
The Hub, which is a five-year programme also seeks to strengthen Civil Society Organisations’ (CSOs) organisational governance and financial resilience, and support CSOs to reinforce their digital security and data protection, enhance their knowledge capacity and build solidarity to address civic space challenges.
Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director, WACSI, in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency, said: “When civic space is restricted and constrained, social justice disappears, social accountability is absent, social protection fails, and people suffer.”
Highlighting the collaborative ethos of this programme, he said WACSI was delighted to partner S4C, the Ford Foundation, and other partners, strengthen and enhance civic space and civil society within West Africa, beginning with Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal.
“In solidarity, we’ll work for, fight for, and protect civic space for the West Africa we want – peaceful, just, inclusive, and prosperous,” he added.
The statement noted that civic space in West Africa was under threat and was not only a cause of but also the result of democratic retrogression in the region.
The 2020 CIVICUS Monitor report shows that the civic space environment continues to worsen across the region and with the exception of Cape Verde, the civic space in most West African nation was either obstructed or repressed.
It explained that the COVID-19 pandemic further enabled constraints on civic action and engagement with government abuse of power and exposed the vulnerabilities of civil society actors.
Madam Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, Executive Director of S4C, speaking on the importance of the initiative, said: “At a time when governments in West Africa are increasingly drifting towards authoritarianism and tightening the operating environment for civil society, the establishment of the CSR-Hub could not have come at a better time.”
With CSR-Hub, she said civil society actors and organisations would not only become more resilient, but also get the support they needed to better respond to the governance, regulatory, digital and operational challenges they faced.
In affirming the relevance of the CSR-Hub, Mr Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Senior Programme Officer, Ford Foundation, urged CSOs to take advantage of the opportunity to build stronger synergy and solidarity.
He said: “We are very pleased to see the West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub come to fruition. The taming could not be better, especially given that CSOs are facing resource and capacity constraints in the face of an ever-changing and dynamic context in which stronger solidarity and collaboration are urgently needed.
“We look forward to working with the West Africa Civil Society Institute, Spaces for Change and other hub partners in this important initiative.”
According to the statement, the CSR Hub would provide long term resource and support to enhance the capacity of CSOs working to expand civic space and reposition civil society actors in the countries to effectively respond to the emerging and longstanding challenges to civic freedom, enabling environment, democratic consolidation and transformational social change.