Civil society finds new resolve in working together at CIVICUS World Assembly
to solve global crises

MONTREAL, Aug. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Over 500 representatives of civil society, donors, governments, business, academics media and youth from about 100 countries at the 9th CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal, sent out a call for closer collaboration and greater resolve in addressing the global crises confronting humanity.

Over three days of broad-ranging discussions under the theme: 'SOS: Seeking Out Solutions', the participants found common ground on issues of economic justice, development effectiveness and climate change. Clear themes that emerged included the growing threats to civil society freedoms around the world, and the opportunity for structural change based on values of justice, equity and human rights.  

At the end of the event, which many described as the first opportunity for civil society to jointly address the interlinked crises, Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS said that "This World Assembly succeeded in providing a space for civil society to collaborate, network and build solidarity at a time when we most urgently need to do so if we are to achieve the transformational changes society is seeking."

The event included a series of plenaries and workshops that brought together viewpoints from a unique spectrum of organisations, big and small, south and north, government and non-government. In a plenary session, a range of panelists including the World Bank's Vice President, Otaviano Canuto, discussed the challenge of seeking out solutions to the economic injustices facing the poor and marginalised. Each day also saw Open Forum sessions where participants chose the themes on which they wanted to focus on to arrive at shared agendas and joint actions..

According to Beverly J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation at the Canadian International Development Agency, "The CIVICUS World Assembly was a useful reminder that development does not happen by itself. It happens as a result of the actions of thousands of committed people and communities - in the developing and developed world."

During the closing ceremony Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said that there was an urgency in dealing with the global crises which must be acted upon and that it was imperative that civil society be more involved in getting governments to act on their promises. "The significant numbers of human rights abuses stand to be concentrated in the developing world."

During the event -- organized jointly by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) -- participants deliberated over the narrowing space civil society is forced to operate in and the momentum to define a new and fairer paradigm for human existence, including a pivotal plenary session about the need to take a stand in support of freedom of expression.

The ideas generated at the event will feed into other international forums in the coming months, including the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) summit in New York in September, set up to review the progress of the MDGs.

At the opening session, Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, applauded CIVICUS and its Every Human Has Rights (EHHR) program for  "(being) the voice for the many whose voices would never be heard" in campaigning for a human rights-based approach to the Millennium Development Goals. "A human rights based approach to the MDGs is absolutely necessary for success …as it gets to heart of the reason for (countries) poor performance," she said. "The current draft does not adequately concern human rights." The EHHR campaign unveiled its plans for a Walk Barefoot around the Block event which is planned for Human Rights Day in December this year.

Michel Venne, Director General of INM feels, "Civil society has to play an important role if we are to solve global crises. Canadian civil society must also be able to integrate with global issues and to learn from and contribute to international initiatives."

BBC World Have Your Say conducted two live radio programs, one each for the Youth and World Assemblies. During the World Assembly interaction, the debate was around the proposed development of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York.

"We don't have a plan B because we don't have a planet B," said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, adding, "every individual and every stakeholder must engage on the issues affecting our planet."

There were also a set of Learning Exchanges during the assembly that allowed participants to explore Canada's contribution to developing civil society. One of these was an interaction on the innovative Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities which sets a common ground for addressing issues between citizens and the City.

The CIVICUS Youth World Assembly was held at the Concordia University in Montreal during 18 - 20 August and brought together 100 young. Samar Samir Mezghanni, the Youth Assembly Chair, passionately urged civil society "to show a new approach to tackling global crises and emphasised the need to involve youth in civil society's initiatives."

Following the success of this year's event, it is confirmed that for the next two years the venue of the CIVICUS World Assembly will remain in Montreal, Canada.

SOURCE Institut du Nouveau Monde

For further information: For further information:

Devendra Tak, Media and Communications Manager at CIVICUS, devendra.tak@civicus.org
Tel:+ 27- 11- 8335959 (office), +27 - 832688004 (mobile)
Or
Roch Bilodeau at INM on +1 866 618-7537 and rbilodeau@pharecom.ca

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Institut du Nouveau Monde

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