© Università degli Studi di Padova - Credits: HCE Web agency
The State of Civil Society Report 2022, published by CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists, shows a period of immense upheaval and contestation. Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has had direct negative effects on the lives of millions of people, but is also indirectly affecting civil society worldwide as it has caused the prices of basic goods to rise, especially worsening the living conditions of communities already hard hit by the Covid 19 pandemic and climate change.
On a positive note, underlined by the report, is the global mobilisation to promote justice, defend human rights and assist those most in need. Civil society is engaging with all available means to make a difference.
The report identifies five current trends of global importance:
1. Rising fuel and food costs are triggering public anger and protests against economic mismanagement.
Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impact of massive price increases, exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
2. Democracy is under attack, but positive changes are still taking place.
The military has seized power in many countries, including Burkina Faso and Sudan. Completely fraudulent elections have been held in countries as diverse as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan. But at the same time there have been successful mobilisations to defend democracy, not least in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where citizens voted against divisive political leaders in favour of new and far-reaching alternatives.
3. Despite the attacks, there is progress in the fight against social inequalities.
In politically turbulent times, and despite strong pressure from anti-rights groups, progress has been made in promoting women's and LGBTQI+ rights. Recently, the Swiss people voted overwhelmingly in favour of an egalitarian marriage law. When it comes to fighting for the rights of migrants, however, only Ukrainian refugees in Europe are met with the compassion that all people who leave their country for the most diverse reasons deserve.
4. Civil society keeps up the pressure for climate action.
A young and diverse generation is the same social force that keeps the pressure on climate change.
5. The current crises expose the inadequacies of the international governance system.
Russia's war against Ukraine is the latest crisis, along with recent conflicts in the Sahel, Syria and Yemen, among others, to highlight the failure of global institutions to protect people and prevent conflict. The UN Security Council is hampered by Russia's veto role as one of its five permanent members, although a special session of the UN General Assembly produced a resolution condemning the invasion. Russia was rightly suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this top human rights body remains dominated by rights-abusing states. If the UN is to help prevent crises rather than try to react to them, effective civil society engagement is needed. Today's crisis-ridden and volatile world needs a UN that is ready to collaborate with civil society as it continues to seek and secure vital advances for humanity.