Friday, 26 April 2019 10:27

The Belgrade Call to Action


 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

Endorsing Organizations


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

ActionAid                                                                                                  Global

AEJT-­‐ BENIN                                                                                              Benin

African Monitoring Observatory on Climate, Waters, Earth, and Cultures (AMOClimWEC)   Benin


Afrika Youth Movement                                                                                 Africa

AfroLeadership                                                                                           Cameroon

AFVMC Assistance to Families and Victims of Clandestine Migrations                    Cameroon

AidWatch Canada                                                                                       Canada


Alliance Sud                                                                                             Switzerland

Amnesty International                                                                              Global

ANND                                                                                                     Morocco

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


AWHES                                                                                                     Pakistan

Balkan Civil Society Development Network                                                     Balkans

BEST                                                                                                      China

Brot fur die Welt                                                                                     Germany

Burundi Child Rights Association                                                               Burundi

Canadian Council for International Cooperation                                            Canada

CareMe Eclinic                                                                                     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

Diakonia                                                                                               Sweden

Dynamics OSCAF                                                                                    Francophone , Africa                                                                                                          


Dytech                                                                                                Zambia

Ethiopia Civil Society Forum                                                                    Ethiopia

European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW)                                      Europe

European Women's Lobby                                                                     Europe

femLINKpacific                                                                                     Pacific

FemPlatz                                                                                              Serbia

FOND                                                                                                  Romania

Fondation Bill Clinton Pour la Paix FBCP                                                     DRC

Forum of Women's NGOs of Kyrgyzstan                                                   Kyrgyzstan

Forus                                                                                                  Global

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

Greenpeace                                                                                         Global

Group Come Out                                                                                   Serbia

Hui E! Community Aotearoa                                                                     New Zealand

IBON Foundation                                                                                   Philippines

Igarape                                                                                               Brazil

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-­forProfit 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

KCFS                                                                                                   Kosovo

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

MPAP                                                                                                 Pakistan

Multipolar                                                                                          Argentina

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

PAO                                                                                                    Iraq

Partners Albania                                                                                   Albania

PASCiB                                                                                               Benin

Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty                                                      Philippines

PHE Ethiopia Consortium                                                                        Ethiopia

PIANGO                                                                                               Pacific

PLAN International                                                                                Global

Platforme des Femmes Leaders du Mali                                                     Mali

Poverty Eradication Network                                                                    Kenya

PromoLex Association                                                                          Moldova

Public Space Network                                                                               Kenya

Queer Cypress Association                                                                        Cypress

RACI                                                                                                      Argentina

Reality of Aid Africa                                                                                   Kenya

SPEDYAAfrica                                                                                     Ghana

Strategies for Peace, Education, Research & Development                             Kenya

Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE)                                     Cameroon

Success Capital Organisation                                                                 Southern Africa

TAGALIFE 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

Trócaire                                                                                              Ireland

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

YUVA                                                                                                    Turkey










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