The Belgrade Call to Action
A Civil Society Call to Stand Together to
Defend Peoples’ Voices for a Just and Sustainable World
Reverse the Closing and Shrinking Space for Civil Society
Stop the Increasing Attacks on Human Rights Defenders and the Undermining of Democratic Participation
Renew the Prospects for an Inclusive Agenda 2030 and the Full Realization of the SDGs
Launched in Belgrade, April 8, 2019
We, leaders from Global Civil Society, coming from civil society organizations, activists and campaigners from all parts of the World, on this day in Belgrade call on international and national civil society to stand together and declare aloud: Enough is enough! Stop the relentless attacks on civil society, social leaders and human rights defenders!
The global community is currently moving down a path that will leave hundreds of millions of people behind; real and transformative progress towards achieving the systemic changes for people and planet promised by Agenda 2030 will not be possible without a fully engaged civil society and people’s genuine participation through their organizations and communities.
It is deeply troubling that more than eighty percent (80%) of the world’s population - 6 billion people living in 111 countries - face a situation where either the conditions are closed for civil society (23 countries), or where civil society is highly repressed (35 countries), or where civil society faces substantial legal and political obstacles (53 countries). [CIVICUS Civil Society Monitor] In these countries there is little chance for a fully engaged and mobilized civil society, which is an essential foundation for democracy, human rights safeguards, and progress on the SDGs and for a transformative Agenda 2030.
We urge all Member States of the United Nations to take concrete urgent action to reverse these trends.
Despite rhetorical promises of action by many Member States to “reverse the trend of shrinking civic space wherever it is taking place,” attacks on CSOs, social leaders and human rights defenders continue unabated. [Nairobi Outcome Document, Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation]
Civic actors across many sectors are being threatened, persecuted and killed – 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. They are being harassed through arbitrary arrest, detention, the targeted use of legal and regulatory measures and restrictions on CSO finances. Others are deliberately discredited as criminals or “foreign agents.” Civic leaders are being physically harmed, with women’s human rights defenders facing sexual harassment and abuse. All because they seek to protect peoples’ human rights, while promoting democratic participation on issues that affect their lives.
Real and transformative progress, leaving no one behind, in achieving core SDGs – including eradicating poverty (SDG1), eliminating hunger (SDG2), addressing gender and all forms of inequality (SDG5), reducing inequalities (SDG10), promoting decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all (SDG8), and taking action for climate justice and a just transition (SDG13) – will not be possible without a fully engaged civil society and population. The strengths of civil society are its diversity, its rootedness in communities and territories, its direct development experience, and its capacities for public engagement.
SDG 16, for peace, justice and effective institutions, is well beyond reach, in places where civic space is closed and repressed, where civil society cannot freely act with poor and marginalized populations to contribute to and safeguard accountable and inclusive institutions.
The time for rhetoric and noble international statements and declarations is over. The agenda is urgent, and the time to act is now. Practical action is possible. We cannot wait until there is little space for CSOs and their leaders, for human rights activists and for peoples’ voices and actions!
This Belgrade Call to Action is calling for specific commitments and actions, appropriate to each country, with an overarching reference in the Political Declaration of the 2019 High Level Political Forum, and with a timetable by which Member States can be held accountable.
We call on all Member States, meeting in September 2019:
1. To take concrete steps 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 equality activists.
2. To embed inclusion and meaningful accountability to people in development practices.
3. To implement and respect democratic country ownership of national development plans and implement transparency and accountability for inclusive SDG delivery.
4. To lead by example with concerted action to challenge major human rights violations, including deteriorating conditions facing peoples’ organizations, trade unions, women’s rights organizations, indigenous peoples, and community-based environmentalists, among many others.
5. To 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.
Implementing an Action Agenda based on these commitments will require robust, pro-active and collaborative political leadership on the part of all Member States, Development Stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations.
Civil Society is fully committed to the achievement of the SDGs. But our efforts will be in vain, if we cannot count on new measures and actions at the local, national, regional and global level to reverse the debilitating trends that are shrinking and closing civic space.
We commit to raise these urgent concerns and demand action at all inter-governmental and preparatory meetings as the international community reviews progress in Agenda 2030 in the coming months and years.
This Call to Action, with an accompanying Action Agenda, is being launched simultaneously in countries around the world to draw attention to its urgency.
April 8, 2019
The Belgrade Call to Action is currently endorsed by 135 civil society organizations from more than 60 countries worldwide. These organizations include major International NGOs, Regional and National CSOs from many diverse sectors – education, human rights, health, social development, climate and environment, among others.
Accountability Now Germany
Act Alliance Global
Action for Humanity and Social Progress India
Action for Sustainable Development United Kingdom
AEJT-‐ BENIN Benin
African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC) Benin
Afrika Youth Movement Africa
AFVMC Assistance to Families and Victims of Clandestine Migrations Cameroon
AidWatch Canada Canada
Alliance Sud Switzerland
Amnesty International Global
Arkemetria Social Mexico
Asia Democracy Network (ADN) Korea
Asian Civil Society Platform for Sustainable Development Asia
Association Mauritanienne pour la Transparence et le Développement (ATED) Mauritania
Balkan Civil Society Development Network Balkans
Brot fur die Welt Germany
Burundi Child Rights Association Burundi
Canadian Council for International Cooperation Canada
CareMe E-‐clinic Rwanda
Center for Youth Activism Macedonia
Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education Kenya
Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur India
Civic Initiatives Serbia
Civica Mobilitas Macedonia
CIVICUS South Africa
Civil Citizen United States
Civil Society Advocates Cyprus
Civil Society in Development Denmark
Civil Society Initiative Iraq
Civil Society Partnership for Effective Development Philippines
Civil Society Reference Group Kenya
Confederación Colombiana de ONG (CCONG) Colombia
Constitution and Reform Education Consortium Kenya
Corruption Brakes Crusade (COBRA) Uganda
CPCD Bosnia And Herzegovina
Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity Croatia
CSYM HUDUMA-‐ Christian Spiritual Youth Ministry Tanzania
Defend Defenders Switzerland
Dynamics OSCAF Francophone , Africa
Ethiopia Civil Society Forum Ethiopia
European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW) Europe
European Women's Lobby Europe
Fondation Bill Clinton Pour la Paix FBCP DRC
Forum of Women's NGOs of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan
Foundation Open Society Macedonia Macedonia
Freedom House United States
Front Line Defenders Ireland
Fundacion Cambia tu Calle Chile
Geospatial Tanzania Tanzania
Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) Global
Global Campaign for Education Global
Global Peace Chain Mauritius Mauritius
Global Responsibility Austria
Globalt Fokus Denmark
Group Come Out Serbia
Hui E! Community Aotearoa New Zealand
IBON Foundation Philippines
Impulse Center Azerbaijan
Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination & Liberation Philippines
Individuell Manniskohjapl Sweden
Instituto de Communicacion y Desarrollo Uruguay
Inter Pares Canada
Interaction United States
International Center for Not-‐for-‐Profit Law United States
International Women's Alliance Global
International Youth Alliance Bulgaria
INTRAC United Kingdom
Iraq Al-‐Amal Association Iraq
Just Associates United States
Just Forests Ireland
Kenya Community Development Foundation Kenya
Light for the World United States
Michael Imodu National Institute for Labour Studies Nigeria
Movement towards education and youth empowerment Sierra Leone
NGO Collective for Food Security and Rural Development (COSADER) Cameroon
NGO Nash Vek Kyrgyzstan
Nigeria Network of NGOs Nigeria
Norwegian Peoples Aid Norway
Olive Charitable Trust Uganda
Partners Albania Albania
Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty Philippines
PHE Ethiopia Consortium Ethiopia
PLAN International Global
Platforme des Femmes Leaders du Mali Mali
Poverty Eradication Network Kenya
Promo-‐Lex Association Moldova
Public Space Network Kenya
Queer Cypress Association Cypress
Reality of Aid Africa Kenya
Strategies for Peace, Education, Research & Development Kenya
Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE) Cameroon
Success Capital Organisation Southern Africa
TAG-‐A-‐LIFE International Zimbabwe
TECHO Latin America
The Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Denmark
The East African Sexual Health & Rights Initiative (UHAI) Kenya
The IREDE Foundation Nigeria
Together First United Kingdom
Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development Uganda
Uganda Debt Network Uganda
Uganda National NGO forum Uganda
Volunteer Activists Netherlands
Warande Advisory Kenya
West Africa Civil Society Institute Ghana
Womenkind Worldwide United Kingdom
World Council of Churches Global
World Movement of Democracies United States
World Vision Albania Albania
World Wide Fund for Nature/WWF Global