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Strengthening CSOs

Monday, December 04, 2017

THE International Civil Society Week is an opportunity to strengthen our capacities so that we can regain a stronger position in our efforts to progress our communities.

These sentiments were expressed by Vanuatu Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (VANGO) executive board member Ian Kalsuak, a key regional delegate at the global ICSW conference which starts today.

Mr Kalsuak says the weakened position of civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the region is particularly visible during times of national disaster.

He hopes deliberations will provide a platform to recognise the efforts local NGOs put in particularly in times of natural disasters.

Mr Kalsuak says on most occasions regional governments were more likely to partner with the international NGOs rather than local entities.

"I feel that sometimes the governments overlook civil societies, so we want to have the power, we want to be seen as yes, we've got some capacities," he said.

He hopes discussions at ICSW will empower NGOs and government bodies to work together to set up and implement solutions to their nation's core challenges, particularly those related to climate change.

Empowerment of the Pacific region's civil society leaders is one of the key reason's the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) lobbied with CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the main organiser of ICSW.

PIANGO executive director Emele Duituturaga says, for the first time, more than 200 civil society leaders and youth activists will represent the region in an international conference.

"We are excited and blessed to be able to work with all our partners to be able to host this opportunity in our region," she said.

"The fruits of this empowering forum will undoubtedly be reaped for many years by the region."

She adds PIANGO and CIVICUS, the co-hosts of ICSW, are especially encouraged by the support of the Fiji Cabinet, which officially endorsed the conference.

The government bodies, particularly the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Department of Immigration and the Fiji Police assisted with logistics from the beginning of preparations and are members of the ICSW Local Host Committee.

Other key local partners include the Fiji Council of Social Services, the University of the South Pacific, USP's Student Association, and OXFAM Pacific.

Meanwhile, CIVICUS secretary general Danny Sriskandarajah says it is crucial that governments and civil society organisations work together on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

He says shifting ICSW's location to Fiji is appropriate because the region is at the frontier of climate change impacts.

In addition, Fiji's leadership this year in the international arena; at the United Nation's Ocean Summit at New York, US, in June, and at the 23rd Conference of the Parties in Bonn, Germany, last month, were compelling reasons to commit to the first-ever ICSW in the Pacific.

"The Pacific region has a vibrant diverse civil society, known for their efforts on global issues from tackling climate change, banning nuclear weapons and protecting our oceans," said Mr Sriskandarajah.

"But many of the countries in the region, along with other small island states around the world, were already struggling with other development challenges, before climate change made things worse.

"With our planet and its biodiversity facing critical threats, it is often excluded people that face the most severe and unjust consequences.

"Innovation and good practice are vital to realising environmental sustainability, the Paris Climate Agreement and Agenda 2030.

"We can no longer afford to treat climate action and sustainable development as two distinct agendas to be pursued in tandem.

"Well-designed policies and actions to reduce emissions and enhance resilience to climate disruptions can deliver broad sustainable development benefits.

"Similarly, advancing progress towards the SDGs can contribute to climate impact mitigation and adaptation."

ICSW will start with the Youth Assembly, which only delegates under 30 years of age have access to attend.

The assembly is a forum in which young leaders from across the world will debate solutions for poverty, inequality and climate change impacting youth, and how to engage with the global Sustainable Development Goals.

The public ICSW 2017 program then runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this is then followed by the CIVICUS World Assembly on Thursday.

The World Assembly will feature key international speakers including Dave Archambault, Former Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline in the US; Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Youth Envoy; and Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, UNDP Administrator and Candidate for UN Secretary-General in 2016.

Another highlight is the Nelson Mandela — Graça Machel Innovation Awards. The awards ceremony honours the work of outstanding activists and organisations and will be presented during the World Assembly program with awards for youth activists, individual activists, civil society organisations and brave philanthropy.

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