Thursday 19th April, 1-6pm
Park Building 1.23, University of Portsmouth
Civil society is in crisis. Civic space is shrinking rapidly, not only in autocracies and semi-democracies, but also in mature liberal democracies. Across the world, governments are using laws and regulations to restrict organisations from registering, protesting and accessing funds. This has resulted in what CIVICUS calls a ‘global emergency’ of civic space; an erosion of civil liberties that fundamentally redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state.
Aid and development workers struggle with the stress caused by this insecure operating environment. All too often they do not receive sufficient support with key aspects of their working experience, including coping with high-risk situations, challenging institutionalised discrimination and adapting to culturally/linguistically diverse contexts.
Against this backdrop, NGOs are facing increasingly strident criticism of their transparency and accountability, as most recently illustrated by the Oxfam prostitution scandal. The Edelman global survey of public perceptions of NGOs revealed that levels of trust had plummeted to record lows even before the story had hit the headlines. It seems likely that the allegations will cause yet more reputational damage to the sector, and provide fodder for critics to argue that official aid budgets should be slashed.
Civil society organisations are also under pressure to demonstrate their ‘effectiveness’, particularly following the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the increased focus of donors on ‘value for money’. Public cynicism, too, makes it harder for activists to find new ways to encourage wider participation in their campaigns.
This workshop considers different dimensions of the manifold threats that confront NGOs and civil society.
Location: Park Building 1.23, University of Portsmouth