Spaces for Change | S4C and West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), co-hosts of the West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub), participated in the Weaving Resilience conference held in Cape Town, South Africa from February 27 to March 2, 2023. Beginning from January 2022, the CSR-Hub’s four strategic pillars—Governance, Digital Security, Civic Space Protection, and Research and Knowledge-building—have delivered capacity-building programs for civil society organizations (CSOs), media practitioners, activists, and other civic space actors to increase their ability to respond to the crackdowns on the civic space and effectively address any governance, regulatory, digital and operational challenges that they may have. At the Cape Town conference, S4C and WACSI participated in several group discussions where they shared experiences of the CSR Hub activities implemented in the West Africa subregion as well as the challenges organizations face as a result of the repressive practices of state and non-state actors.
The Ford Foundation-supported Weaving Resilience Global Network works to galvanize and consolidate civil society responses to internal and external threats to the civic space. In addition, the network supports community voices seeking solutions to the local needs of the global south in light of the significant knowledge and power asymmetry between the organizations in the global south and the global north. For four days, the regional hubs located in different parts of the world—West Africa, East Africa, the Andean region, Southern Africa, the Middle East and North America, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico—came together to learn from each other’s contextual experiences and deepen collaboration within the network. While the opportunities and challenges faced by CSOs vary across regional and geographic lines, the threats to their operating environments share similar characteristics.
According to the various regional hubs, some common challenges affecting the civil society space in the global south range from onerous donor or grantmaking requirements, excessive regulation from governments, reprisals attacks, and so forth. S4C and WACSI spoke about the challenges faced in the subregion such as over-regulation, digital surveillance plus the contextual differences arising from applying the Hub’s core values of anti-colonialism, anti-racism, anti-patriarchy, and anti-ableism. To bridge this gap, some technical and programmatic services delivered by the CSR-Hub—such as organizational adaptation, institutional resilience, strategic communications, and wellness/safety—are equipping West African CSOs with the resources and empowerment needed to operate in restrictive environments. At the end of the conference, the need for collaboration resonated strongly among participants. The Weaving Resilience is only the first step toward fostering an effective collaborative environment for organizations in the global south.