The learning exchange between the Nigeria-based Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) and the Kenya-based Coast Civil Society Network on Human Rights (CCSNHR) has ushered in a broad new panorama of collective empowerment, knowledge-sharing and collaborative problem-solving among civil society organizations in Africa. The learning exchange kicked off with the visit of the CCSNHR’s 3-person delegation to Nigeria between July 3 to 6, 2023. During this time, they met with AGFCS members in Lagos and Abuja, learning and comparing advocacy strategies for protecting human rights and safeguarding the civic space in their respective countries.
How to conduct participatory national risks assessment (NRA) of the non-profit sector topped the list on the learning schedule. Nigeria has just published the first-part report of the terrorist-financing national risk assessment of non-profit organizations (NPOs) in line with the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). CCSNHR learned about how Nigerian organizations organized themselves and meaningfully engaged the process from the design stage through data collation to regional consultations with NPOs across the six regions of the country. S4C’s sustained advocacy during this process played a significant role in steering positive policy reforms like the delisting of the NPO sector from the list of designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs). They also learned about the advocacy strategies deployed by Nigerian CSOs to foster inclusion in the NRA processes and to defend the civic space from excessive securitization that may result from the incorrect application of FATF Standards.
Another point of learning is how the AGFCS conducts collective action research, producing knowledge pieces that are co-created and co-owned by members of the coalition. The AGFCS conducted research on the Security Playbook in Nigeria and published three reports based on the huge amounts of data collected. The three-part reports focused on the misapplication of surveillance technologies in the name of counterterrorism, the impact of transnational security measures on domestic civic spaces, and the security-related drivers of shrinking civic space at the national level. Moving from research rhetoric to action, AGFCS is leveraging the entry points identified in the research studies to reform and transform the security architecture.
CCSNHR also met with other coalitions in Nigeria where they learned about the different strategies for implementing human rights and peacebuilding efforts in conflicted settings as well as for navigating obstacles associated with delivering humanitarian assistance programs. Effective strategies include transparent communication with the government, comprehensive knowledge of, and compliance with extant regulations and relevant laws applicable to non-profits, etc. The program concluded with a courtesy visit to the NPO regulatory umpire in Nigeria, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), where CCSNHR gained insights into the regulatory landscape in Nigeria and the collaboration between the Commission and the NPO sector.
‘What a rich and enlightening experience’, the CCSNHR team exclaimed during the courtesy visit to S4C’s Lagos office at the end of their mission in Nigeria. They appreciated S4C and members of the AGFCS for facilitating the first leg of the exchange program supported by the Fund for Global Human Rights. In August, the Nigerian AGFCS delegation will embark on a return-leg trip to Kenya, channeling the energies of coalitions in Africa into building solidarity, peer learning, and constructive opportunities that usher transformative changes in the civic space in the continent.