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PRESS STATEMENT: Over 100 Civil Society Leaders and Development Partners Converge in Nigeria to Reimagine the Role of Civil Society in Rapidly Closing Civic Space and Declining Democracy

In a bold response to the unprecedented challenges threatening civic space and democracy in West Africa, over 100 civil society leaders, activists, and development partners are set to convene in Lagos, Nigeria for the inaugural West Africa Civil Society Week (#WACSW23).  

The conference, organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in collaboration with the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), will delve into the pivotal role of civil society in safeguarding democratic values, consolidating regional development, and navigating the complex contemporary landscape. 

Themed, ‘Civil Society in West Africa: reimagining the role of the third sector in protecting civic space and consolidating democracy for regional development,’ the 3-day event is under the auspices of the West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub (CSR-Hub), a regional hub established to building the capacity of civil society organisations to effectively respond to emerging and longstanding challenges to civic space and democratic governance in the region.   

WACSW23 is envisioned as a catalyst for deepening the understanding of the evolving landscape and redefining the role of civil society in countering the decline of democracy, coup attempts, and encroachments on civic freedoms. Moreover, it will serve as a conduit for enhancing cross-generational bonds, fostering collaboration, and collectively share strategies to proactively safeguard democracy in West Africa. 

Central to the discussions will be the transformative potential of technology in shaping civic engagement and reinforcing democratic structures. This assembly will also spotlight the remarkable achievements of CSR-Hub and outline avenues and strategies for its scalable growth.  

It would also serve as a tactical platform to tackle the connection of shrinking civic space and constraints on freedom of expression, association and assembly; human rights; press freedom; digital security and protection, regional security, youth activism among others, while formulating transformative strategies to consolidate democracy in the region.  

The conference agenda encompasses high-level discussions, interactive panels, breakout sessions, and plenary sessions strategically designed to delve into the shared obstacles confronting civil society organisations (CSOs), proffering pragmatic solutions that enhance their effectiveness within the evolving regional context.  

Scheduled for 29 – 31 August 2023, the maiden WACSW23 will assemble a diverse civil society stakeholders including grassroots organisations, national and regional CSOs, youth networks, women’s groups, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), diplomatic entities, the donor community, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union, and United Nations representatives, as well as the media. 

As we stand united to navigate the emerging threats to democracy and civic engagement in West Africa, this conference stands as a resounding testament to the unyielding dedication, adaptability, and remarkable resilience of civil society leaders. Together, we are shaping a brighter and more democratic future for our region.  

Signed: WACSI

About CSR-Hub

CSR-Hub is West Africa’s regional platform for civil society organisations (CSOs) focusing on building the capacity of CSOs and repositioning the third sector to effectively respond to emerging and longstanding challenges to civic space and democratic governance in the region, and to deliver on their mandates and development objectives effectively.

The CSR-Hub is managed by the West Africa Civil Society Institute and Spaces for Change (S4C), Nigeria, with the support of Ford Foundation.

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