[Accra- 19 October]- Twenty-five (25) civil society organisations (CSOs) will now be able to effectively contribute towards the fight for a resilient civic space in West Africa having received training on civic space protection at a regional workshop in Accra, under the Civic Space Resource Hub for West Africa (CSR-Hub) project.
The workshop mobilised the 25 CSOs including national NGOs, youth networks and women’s organisations from the pool of over five hundred (500) applications received from the three targeted countries–Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.
This group of beneficiaries (also referred to as cohort 1) would receive series of trainings, technical assistance, coaching, and support services aimed at strengthening their institutional, operational and financial resilience.
The two-day regional workshop took place from 12 to 13 of October 2022 under the theme: “Contextualising civic space in west Africa: Interrogating the Rapidly Changing Context, Dynamics, Emerging Issues of Restrictions and Threat to Civil Liberties.” This was anchored under Civic Space Protection, which is a key component of the five-year project being funded by the Ford Foundation.
The training was at the behest of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), the lead implementing partner of the project. A strategic partner, Spaces for Change (S4C) and five other supporting organisations would be serving as resource experts for the various thematic areas of the project.
The supporting organisations include Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), Busara Africa, Penplusbytes, Paradigm Initiative, and Placements Ghana.
In an opening remark, Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, Executive Director of WACSI, noted that West Africa in recent times has suffered coups, which has worsened the plight of civic actors in their fight for an open civic space.
She underscored the impact coups have on the democratic credentials of the region and how it muffles citizens’ voices and threatens civil society’s existence while also challenging citizens’ collective power for inclusive development.
Afadzinu also decried the failure of CSOs in the region to work together and support each other, especially at a time when the civic space is under numerous threats. “Solidarity in the civic space has become weak, partly because we are all struggling for resources,” she said.
For these reasons, the WACSI Executive Director considers the CSR-Hub project as a timely intervention to empower and resource CSOs to work collaboratively towards a common goal.
Resource expert and Executive Director of NNNGO, Oyebisi Babatunde Oluseyi, who facilitated the workshop noted that West Africa suffers threats to civil liberties and the civic space continues to be under pressure and restrictions.
“In many West African countries, state authorities are taking more and more measures, to restrict the work of civil society,” he noted while urging the cohort 1 project beneficiaries to seize the opportunities the project offers to build resilience and become a formidable force for the protection of the civic space.
The Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit at WACSI, Omolara Balogun, indicated that all capacity development, training, and coaching services under the project would be tailored to the needs of the beneficiary organisations.
She said the CSR-Hub had a global outlook. “The project will connect us to global civic actors. It will help us broaden our scope of knowledge about civic space. Our knowledge of how we can protect the civic space will not be limited to only West Africa,” she emphasised.
She urged the beneficiaries to take advantage of the opportunity given them to address institutional and the resources gaps that impeded their efforts to pursue their mandates in the civic space.
The CSR-Hub for West Africa seeks to strengthen the capacity of CSOs working to expand civic space and promote open societies in West Africa.
Specifically, it provides capacity-strengthening support and technical advice to CSOs around four strategic thematic areas: Civic Space Protection, Organisational Governance and Regulatory Compliance, Digital Security and Protection, and Resource Mobilization and Financial Resilience.
The project is part of the global “Weaving Resilience” programme, an $80,000,000 initiative which aims to strengthen civil society resilience in the Global South.