In a world marked by increasing conflicts and crises, Forus, a global network of National NGO Platforms and Regional NGO Coalitions, renews its call to include, listen to, and work with civil society to address the most pressing issues of our time.

Over the past months, the world has witnessed unspeakable suffering, from the war between Israel and the Hamas, to the invasion of Ukraine, atrocities in Darfour and countless displaced in the Sahel region, to the over 110 armed conflicts worldwide that are unfolding at the moment, the vast majority of which do not make it into the headlines.  Added to this, there are many more tragedies, most of them “silent”: Human Rights abuses, attacks on civil society, not to mention all the slow onset disasters that increasingly put lives and livelihoods at risk.

In these uncertain times, it is more critical than ever to recall the universally recognized fundamental rights and freedoms as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) over 70 years ago. In its article 3, the UDHR states that: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” And in its article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Everyone, first and foremost those in power, have a responsibility to ensure that the rights set out in the UDHR and in humanitarian law are upheld and protected. But sadly these days, the vision set out over 70 years ago sounds like a vain promise.

Over centuries, civil society has organized so that the rights of all human beings are recognized and respected, and to thrive for a better future for all. Time and time again, CSOs and CSO platforms have shown that they are at the forefront when crises hit, that they inspire solidarity and build support networks, that they are the ones responding to the needs of the most vulnerable when systems fail.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that civil society, and in particular local civil society, is fully included in addressing these challenges, preventing looming ones, in building resilience and mending societal divisions. This can only be done if civil society is recognized as a development actor in its own right and is truly listened to (for instance through organized civil society structures) and if it can operate in an environment that will allow it to deploy its full potential. Local NGOs, as well as the national and regional NGO platforms that they organize in, are the first-hand witnesses of situations, needs and solutions on the ground and can testify how much all efforts need to converge in the imperative to prevent, prepare for, and respond to crises, especially for the most vulnerable. We acknowledge their dedication to improving the lives of their communities despite all the challenges they face.

Since its inception over 15 years ago, Forus has centered strong values and principles in its work, which echo the ones that the network’s members embody in their work on the ground. National and regional platforms have a unique vantage point and provide an inclusive space to spur joint initiatives, to voice demands towards decision-makers, to hold them accountable, and to ensure words are met by action.

We will continue to call on all to respect universal rights and values, take all possible measures to achieve peace, and to work hand in hand to build a safe, prosperous and sustainable future for all.


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