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2023 was an extraordinary year at Spaces for Change | S4C, marked by an unwavering dedication to defending the civic space, upholding human rights, and enhancing civic participation. Our commitment to fostering positive change was reinforced through various impactful initiatives, projects, and activities we implemented across West Africa. From Nigeria to Ghana to Senegal, we adopted a multifaceted approach involving research, documentaries, training sessions, workshops, and conferences, continuing to weave a tapestry of change that touched the lives of individuals, non-profit organizations, corporations, institutions, and communities.

Because research and knowledge-building remain a cornerstone of our mission, S4C released four research reports spanning our four thematic areas. Notably, the report titled “Go To Court: A Synonym for Judicial Capture” examined the impact of judicial intervention in electoral processes and its effect on participatory rights during and beyond election cycles in Nigeria. Other publications explored the ramifications of counter-terrorism laws on the non-profit sector and the effects of demolitions on housing rights. These publications gained widespread readership, with over 769 downloads recorded as of November 2023.

Together with allies in the Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS), S4C implemented numerous projects across Nigeria that addressed downstream harms of the security and counterterrorism architecture through engagement with security and law enforcement agencies as well as grassroots activists and communities. Together with allies, we spearheaded advocacy to improve data protection and reform the surveillance ecosystem.  Between 2021 and 2022, AGFCS members leveraged the diversity and expertise within the network to undertake a joint action research, tagged, The Security Playbook, which identified and analyzed incidents of the misuse of the security architecture and digital technologies to crack down on civic actors in Nigeria.

Capacity-building trainings and workshops were central to our empowerment and advocacy strategies in 2023, with a focus on enhancing the resilience and sustainability of non-profit organizations. S4C hosted two regional conferences focusing on equitable benefit-sharing of natural resources and protecting human rights while countering terrorism. We also conducted 24 training sessions and workshops across three countries of West Africa, which directly benefitted over 1469 non-profit organizations. The training sessions focused on bolstering the resilience and sustainability of non-profits, engaging policymakers on civic space expansion, ensuring regulatory compliance for NGOs, addressing digital security concerns, and building the research and evidence-generation capabilities of human rights defenders in West Africa.

Consistent with our commitment to defending civil liberties and freedoms in the year 2023, S4C produced three documentaries, issued 17 press statements, and published four policy briefs. These outputs served as early warning signals for activists, demanded accountability from state actors and corporations, and provided strategic guidance for civic actors to advance their disparate advocacy agendas.

At the international level, S4C partnered with like-minded organizations to campaign for an open society where citizens can freely speak, assemble, associate, and participate in the governance of their countries. The organization participated in over 15 international engagements discussing issues ranging from the bespoke application of counter-terrorism measures to promoting meaningful community participation in natural resource governance processes and housing rights. S4C’s publications and contributions provided regional perspectives on these global issues and conversations. Further demonstrating our commitment to international partnerships, Spaces for Change opened a new country office in Ghana in November 2023.

As we reflect on the events of 2023, Spaces for Change celebrates the numerous success stories of individuals and organizations positively impacted by our work directly and indirectly. Our commitment to upholding the rights and liberties of individuals and communities remains steadfast. The year 2023 stands as a testament to the transformative power of commitment, resilience, and collective action. Looking ahead to 2024, Spaces for Change is poised with renewed determination, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to continue our impactful journey, creating spaces where positive change can flourish. Thanks to our numerous donors, partners, allies, well-wishers, and friends whose support and comradeship inflame our passion to do more.

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