CIVICUS is an international non-profit organisation, which describes itself as “a global alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, the organisation today has members in more than 145 countries, with its headquarters in Johannesburg and offices in London, Geneva and New York.
In 1991, an international group of 20 leaders from Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and social movements met to explore how to support citizen participation in governmental decision-making processes. This process culminated in 1993 when a founding board established CIVICUS from the Latin term meaning "of the community".
Mission and Values
The organisation works to protect and grow civic space where people can express and organise themselves. In particular, the organisation focuses on regions where participatory democracy and freedom of association are at risk. CIVICUS counts among its central values: Justice and Equality, where all people are free to exercise their rights as citizens as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In service of its mission and values, the organisation’s primary areas of activity are:
- The State of Civil Society Report provides an assessment of the operating environments for NGOs, global governance and legislative trends affecting civil liberties.
- The World Assembly is a semi-annual international conference for activists from a wide variety of fields and representatives of NGOs; in 2014 participants from over 100 countries convened in Johannesburg, South Africa to share information and focus on emerging issues affecting civil society.
- The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) is a research project that assesses the state of civil society in countries around the world.
- The Civil Society Watch is a project that provides responses to situations that threaten the primary freedoms outlined in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
- The Enabling Environment Index (EEI) examines the conditions within which civil society work. Using secondary statistical data, it ranks the governance, socio-cultural and socio-economic environments for civil society in over 100 countries.
Structure and Governance
CIVICUS has approximately 30 members of staff and is led by Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, who became Secretary General in January 2013. The governing body of CIVICUS is an International Board of 13 civil society leaders from 13 countries.
Past Leaders/Chief Executives
- Kunmi Naidoo
- Ingrid Srinath
- Katsuji Imata (Acting CEO)
Revenue to support the operations of CIVICUS is derived from multiple sources, including institutional funders, individual contributions, membership fees, and registration fees for the CIVICUS World Assembly. The aggregated income for 2013/2014 was roughly $3.5 million USD with notable contributions from SIDA, Department of Foreign Affairs (Ireland), Freedom House and the European Commission.
Since its establishment in 1993, CIVICUS has built successively on its core programmatic activities:
- 1994: Production of first regional reports on the state of civil society.
- 1995: First World Assembly in Mexico City. The organisation has later gone on to hold 10 World Assemblies which have brought together thousands of activists to discuss and take action on the most pressing issues affecting civil society.
- 2000: Kumi Naidoo joins CIVICUS as Secretary General.
- 2001-2002: Pilot phase of the Civil Society Index (CSI) analyses the state of civil society across a wide range of countries. Since its inception this research project has engaged thousands of stakeholders to exchange information across a total of 75 countries.
- 2003: Headquarters move from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg, South Africa
- 2004: Launch of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) with CIVICUS as a key partner.
- 2005: Organises first Nelson Mandela- Graça Machel Innovation Awards to recognize leading achievements of grassroots organisations.
- 2011: Produces first annual State of Civil Society Report which provides an assessment of the operating environments for NGOs, global governance and legislative trends affecting civil liberties.
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