The Open Grants Call 2023-24 is now accepting applications. Find out more

Tag: Civil society

Power to the People: the Commonwealth Foundation at CHOGM 2022

After two years of delay and postponement, of anticipation and frustration, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings (CHOGM) finally took place in Kigali in late June.

For the Foundation, this was the culmination of years of preparation and planning, most especially for the People’s Forum—the largest gathering of civil society in the Commonwealth system that has been a fixture of the CHOGM calendar for almost two decades.

The Foundation also took the lead in convening a half-day of roundtable discussions between Foreign Ministers and members of Commonwealth civil society. An outcome video of the Forum, which was broadcast at the official CHOGM Foreign Ministers Meeting, and also played at the Roundtable itself, can be accessed here.

‘What role could—or should—the Commonwealth of Nations play in these vital steps towards a better world for all its people?’

The People’s Forum 2022: Our Health, Our Planet, Our Future

The People’s Forum 2022 set itself the ambitious task of asking—and trying to answer—the biggest and most important questions of our age: how do we harness the best of humanity—the forces of love, compassion, equality and justice­—to advance our common future and protect our planet? How do we work together to build or re-fashion our institutions so that they support a world that leaves no one behind? And what role could—or should—the Commonwealth of Nations play in these vital steps towards a better world for all its people?

Along with our partners at the Rwanda Governance Board, the Foundation took advantage of the two-year delay to shape a strong and streamlined programme that focused on what is front and centre for so many people of the Commonwealth: health, climate and freedom of expression. The Critical Conversations online event series, launched by the Foundation in 2020 after the first CHOGM postponement, proved to be a gamechanger: giving us experience and confidence in new formats and approaches and expanding our network of activists and leaders across all Commonwealth regions.

‘In a time of growing debt burdens, especially across low and middle-income countries, who should be paying for better primary health care and the other elements of UHC?’

In relation to developing the Forum sessions on climate for example, the Foundation was able to draw on several different events  organised as part of the Critical Conversations series, including one on small states and climate justice held in September 2021 just before COP26, and another on the difficult issue of reparations for climate damage, held in February of this year. Our main climate session at the People’s Forum was explicitly practical: looking ahead to COP27 in November and to what the Commonwealth could and should be doing to advance the interests of those most affected.  Leaders and advocates from the Commonwealth’s small island developing states left the Forum in no doubt about the urgency of the challenge and the moral duty of the Commonwealth, its member countries and its institutions, to demonstrate genuine solidarity through concrete commitments.

The Forum’s sessions on health also benefited from multiple Critical Conversations events the Foundation has convened since early 2020 which shed a bright light on the parlous state of so many national health systems and the apparent incapacity of international systems and institutions (including, disappointingly, the Commonwealth itself) to deliver practical support. At the Forum, the issue of universal health coverage (UHC)—the guarantee that people can access quality health services without facing financial hardship—was front and centre, with panellists interrogating the role that civil society might play in pushing for UHC and the strong, resilient, and equitable health systems that must be at its heart.

Any useful discussion around health and climate must address the thorny question of finance: how do we get the money needed to fund desperately overdue measures aimed at protecting countries and communities from the worst effects of climate change? In a time of growing debt burdens, especially across low and middle-income countries, who should be paying for better primary health care and the other elements of UHC? In the case of climate, Forum participants strongly took up the cause of the Commonwealth’s smaller and more vulnerable Member States, for whom the loss and damage caused by climate change is presenting unique—and in some cases existential—challenges. Across both issues participants were united in their conviction that the Commonwealth has a unique role to play in bringing together those who hold the power to deliver support, relieve debt burdens, and provide restitution. A failure to take up that role with determination would be, in the eyes of Commonwealth civil society, a clear rejection of the very ideas that the Commonwealth stands for.

‘a vibrant and principled Commonwealth is critical to the future of its citizens’

The Commonwealth Charter affirms that freedom of expression—including media freedom—is essential to the flourishing of democratic societies and a basic condition for development. Sadly, this is an area where too many Commonwealth countries are slipping behind. Building on a previous Critical Conversations event, the Forum engaged in a vigorous, at times tense discussion of freedom of expression: why does it matter and how can it be protected? What can the Commonwealth, its member states and institutions, do to support and advance free and responsible media? There was clear agreement that no country can afford to be complacent: direct threats to journalists and freedom of expression are real and growing. Civil society has an important role to play in championing the proposed Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression that could help shore up freedom of expression and break the culture of silence that provides cover for its steady erosion.

The final session of the Forum, A Commonwealth for All’, set itself the ambitious goal of provoking deep discussion and personal reflection about where we are now, and how the Commonwealth—its Member States, its institutions, and its people—can help inspire real and meaningful change. It was aimed at all those who care about the Commonwealth; those who have a perspective on its past; and those who have a stake in its future. The Forum Chair participated in the event alongside the Commonwealth Secretary-General. Both were asked to comment on a provocative video of highlights from the Foundation’s three-part mini-series on the future of the Commonwealth. The passion and conviction of speakers at this final event—and of the many participants who contributed to the discussion—left no doubt that a vibrant and principled Commonwealth is critical to the future of its citizens. The ten-year anniversary of the Charter, which will be commemorated next year, was singled out by many as an opportunity to galvanise action for a reinvigorated Commonwealth.

Weaving together all Forum sessions was the idea of participatory governance: the idea that the involvement of people in their governance is critical to democracy and democratic legitimacy; the idea that citizens have a central role to play in helping to shape policies and decisions that affect their lives. Forum participants acknowledged that participatory governance is a work in progress right across the Commonwealth. We can learn from examples of innovation that have delivered tangible results. But we must be brave in pushing for more meaningful involvement of citizens across every area of public life.

‘How can we measure progress? And how can we push for meaningful action as global economic headwinds turn against us?’

Civil Society and the Foreign Ministers’ Roundtable

The roundtable between participants of the People’s Forum and Foreign Ministers is now an established fixture on the CHOGM calendar: a powerful embodiment of the Commonwealth identity as an organisation of people—and not just of states. For the Foundation, it is an unambiguous exercise in participatory governance—the unifying thread of the People’s Forum.

The 2022 Roundtable was widely proclaimed to be a huge success with the largest-ever number of Ministers in attendance, including a substantial contingent of Foreign Ministers and excellent representation from Commonwealth civil society and accredited organisations. The event was Chaired by the Rwanda Foreign Minister and moderated by me. The seating arrangement, large round tables where government and civil society sat together, and the moderator’s insistence that each take turns in contributing, guaranteed a lively and at times passionate debate. Among the wide range of matters discussed, gender equality and freedom of expression stood out as issues that everyone in the room—government and civil society alike—cared deeply about.

Towards the Future

On the current schedule, we now have less than two years to go until CHOGM 2024. While our future is uncertain, we must brace ourselves for the likelihood that many of the challenges discussed in Kigali will be unresolved. How can we measure progress? And how can we push for meaningful action as global economic headwinds turn against us?

The CHOGM communique—which sets out a bold and ambitious plan of action—should be front and centre. However, many participants in the Forum pointed out the danger of the Communique becoming irrelevant unless Member States commit to measuring their actions against the goals they have set before reporting to CHOGM 2024. Our analysis of the sentiment coming out from the Forum indicates that progress on climate could be usefully measured by the practical steps that Commonwealth countries and institutions take to protect small island developing countries. Progress on freedom of expression is even easier to measure: the Commonwealth must take the final step to adopt a robust set of principles on media freedom that comply with current international human rights standards and put in place mechanisms to monitor implementation. Progress on health requires concerted action to break the debt deadlock that is strangling efforts to deliver universal health care in so many of the Commonwealth’s low and middle-income countries.

So much more could and should be done. But we must start somewhere if the Commonwealth is to hold its head high. Let us decide to hold ourselves—and each other—to account. The people of the Commonwealth deserve no less.

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Covid-19 has shown the importance of media freedom. How can the Commonwealth defend it?

Who wants to know more about Covid-19 vaccinations?

All of us.

As citizens, we deserve information that has a bearing on our lives—we should know about national plans and progress, about virus variants and the price our governments are paying for jabs.

We need to know how our governments are allocating rescue and stimulus packages. Who’s paying, and who’s benefiting? Are we indeed saving jobs and mitigating poverty, as our governments claim?

In any society, only a small handful of actors can provide this information. Those who work in the news media are among them. Journalists do the important work of enabling us to hold governments to account for their promises. Thanks to them, we can understand the world around us as events unfold. But journalists rarely work without fear or favour, and sometimes their employers require them to give favour.

This is where international organisations (IGOs) come into the picture. It falls to bodies like the Commonwealth—and to UNESCO where I work—to help uphold the norms whereby journalists can work freely and safely.

Safety—freedom from physical or moral threats—is a basic prerequisite for carrying out the work of a journalist. Without that fundamental protection, the free flow of information is restricted and a citizen’s chance of understanding what is going on badly limited.

In too many places around the world, impunity for the range of crimes committed against journalists prevails, and a culture of silence and misinformation has taken hold.

In Commonwealth countries alone, 178 journalists were killed between 2006 and 2020. The impunity rate for the killings of journalists during that same time stands at 96%—which is notably higher than the already disgraceful global impunity rate of 87%.

‘In Commonwealth countries alone, 178 journalists were killed between 2006 and 2020.’

Journalists worldwide, including throughout the Commonwealth, are too often targeted by disinformation campaigns and the aggressive discourse of political leaders. Recent times have seen a surge in attacks against journalists covering protests, an increase in incidents of women journalists facing gender-specific threats and violence, and the use of Covid-19 by governments as a pretext to stifle legitimate dissent.

So, what role can IGOs such as the Commonwealth play in reversing these trends?

As a South African, I am personally aware of the positive difference that the Commonwealth has made in advancing norms governing freedom of expression and press freedom.

The landmark Harare Declaration, adopted by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1991, roundly condemned the apartheid government and its regime of censorship; ultimately, it hastened the establishment of democracy in my country. In that same year, the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press established a normative framework for freedom of expression in a post-Cold War world.

The Windhoek Declaration emerged out of a UNESCO-supported seminar that also led to the proclamation of World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993. It was African journalists’ calls for greater press freedom that catalysed these landmark events.

Thirty years later in 2021, the global commemoration of World Press Freedom Day comes home to Windhoek (Namibia) on 1-3 May. Commonwealth organisations have a valuable role to play in joining the event and in marking this date.

In doing so, they will be riding the tide of international state-led initiatives addressing this issue. The formation of ‘Group[s] of Friends for the Safety of Journalists’ by Member States at the Headquarters of various intergovernmental organisations in Paris, New York, Geneva, Vienna and Strasbourg has virtually guaranteed that the conversation around Media Freedom is now ringing in the halls of major intergovernmental organisations and agencies.

‘Press freedom and journalists’ safety are vital to functioning democracies’

The Media Freedom Coalition, with over 40 members, was mobilised through the Media Freedom Campaign initiated by the United Kingdom and Canada in 2019 and contributed to the adoption of the Hague Commitment to Increase the Safety of Journalists at the 2020 World Press Freedom Conference.

These state-led efforts present an opportunity to firmly reiterate the norm that press freedom and journalists’ safety are vital to functioning democracies.

In addition to defending and advancing basic principles of media freedom, IGOs also have a great deal to offer in terms of supporting the effective implementation of those norms, not least by urging their Member States to monitor and report on freedom of expression, access to information and journalists’ safety. There is a multitude of relevant platforms supporting this work*.

IGOs—including the Commonwealth—can also work with UNESCO in facilitating connections and building specialised knowledge among key actors, such as judicial operators and security forces. In this regard, a soon-to-be-launched multi-language online course for judges developed by UNESCO jointly with Oxford University could be of special interest to associations and networks of judges and legal professionals in Commonwealth countries.

The development of an informal light touch task force, between UNESCO and several other IGOs will enable us to coordinate these various efforts and ensure they feed into the agenda for 2022: the tenth anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

By highlighting the issue of media freedom in its Critical Conversation series, and by ensuring that is on the agenda of the forthcoming Commonwealth People’s Forum, the Commonwealth Foundation is making an important contribution to these collective efforts.

The global pandemic’s collision with the information age has shown that good journalism can be an issue of life and death: now is the time for intergovernmental organisations and their Member States to seize the mantle of media freedom. I’ve seen first-hand the difference they can make.

Guy Berger leads UNESCO’s work on the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity

*The Sustainable Development Goals offer the opportunity of Voluntary National Reviews; there is the  Universal Periodic Review process operated by the UN Human Rights Council; UNESCO’s Director-General annually calls on states to provide information on the judicial follow-up to the killing of journalists; An African Digital Platform has been recently launched, with UNESCO’s support, to foster reinforced monitoring on the safety of journalists. Commonwealth members, journalists, CSOs and other relevant stakeholders working in this region are encouraged to contribute to these opportunities.

The full picture: the Partner’s Learning Exchange 2017

As part of capacity development support to the South African Alliance on Youth Employment (SAAYE), the Commonwealth Foundation brokered a learning exchange with Citizens UK, trialling a new model of support. This multimedia story explores the techniques used in the exchange to help civil society to better organise.

‘It taught me to celebrate people’s identities, stories and history’

‘I came to South Africa eager to learn from the young leaders of SAAYE and what I ended up finding out had a huge impact on me.’

I have been working as a community organiser with Citizens UK for 4 years in one of the most diverse boroughs in London – Tower Hamlets, where over 55 languages are spoken.

My colleague, Emmanuel Gotora and I were the main facilitators for the recent Learning Exchange between Citizens UK and SAAYE. I came to South Africa eager to learn from the young leaders of SAAYE and what I ended up finding out had a huge impact on me. I saw politically engaged young people and individuals working together to create social change in the world. They had hope despite the huge challenge of youth unemployment and the slow progress or seeming in-action of their governments to address it. I also saw young people rooted in their history and culture, who readily shared their different identities.

Social change has been a part of their day-to-day lives. It has shaped who they are and made them proud of their country. Music and dance were a regular feature of our workshop energisers. This was a stark difference from the leaders that I work with in the UK. I attribute this difference to the heightened political awareness of the participants and a strong identity shaped by recent history, that of the liberation struggle. Social change has been a part of their day-to-day lives. It has shaped who they are and made them proud of their country.

What was even more remarkable was the speed at which SAAYE members grasped, challenged and understood the concepts, teachings and universals that we were delivering. Their ability to challenge and question what was being presented showed us that they were reflecting upon it within their own contexts. They were definitely the right people for the task. I could see light bulb moments within each one of them.

We adapted the trainings based on the needs and experiences of the participants, but the training proved to me that the universals that we teach in community organising are truly universal. SAAYE members were able to grasp the concept of understanding power and how to build relational power as if it was natural to them. I saw this from the first day, during our Athenian-Melian role play. Irene, who had assumed a lead role, refused to leave the negotiation table when Emmanuel asked her to leave[1]. Instead, she stayed throughout the negotiations acknowledging that what mattered at this moment was the deal on the table because it concerned her future.

As a facilitator, we are trained not only to teach the content of our training but to adapt it according to the context of the room. This can be challenging at times but because SAAYE members were clear on adapting Citizens UK’s experiences to their own, it became natural and easy. One of the main case studies that we shared was Citizens UK’s Good Jobs Campaign that focuses on creating employment opportunities for young people. Based on participant’s reflections and drawing on the experience of Good Jobs Campaign, I introduced an issue based organising model – an adaptation of the broad based organsing model, which also brings together principle partners from the state, market and civil society to meet the needs of people at grassroots levels.

The Learning Exchange with SAAYE provided me with a lot of learning about Southern Africa and for myself as a community organiser. It taught me the value of understanding the context in the room and it made me realise that I need to do more at Citizens UK to celebrate people’s identities, stories and history.

[1] During the Athenian-Melian role play, in order to change the dynamics of the negotiations and get the actors to think on their feet, the facilitators often create an intervening scenario. In Irene’s case, she was called to an important meeting, but then refused to go.

Read the full multimedia story on the learning exchange here

Explainer video: what is the Commonwealth Civil Society Forum?

The Civil Society Forum, supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, takes place annually in Geneva prior to the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting and gives Commonwealth civil society a chance to discuss policy issues raised at the Commonwealth Health Ministerial Meeting (CHMM). This video provides a summary of the process and its potential value to participants.

Find out more

With thanks to our contributors
Hon. John Boyce, Minister of Health, Barbados
Maisha Hutton, Executive Director, Health Caribbean Coalition
Prof. Tony Nelson, Commonwealth Health Professions Alliance

© Commonwealth Foundation 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Healthy discussion: but will Ministers listen?

Anton Kerr, former Director of HIV/AIDS alliance and chairman of Commonwealth Health Professions Alliance, makes the case for increased spending on health. Photo credit: Leo Kiss

But will Ministers listen? That was the thought that nagged away throughout the short flight from London to Geneva as I travelled to attend this year’s Commonwealth Heath Minister’s meeting. They meet in the wings of the World Health Assembly and we work to bring civic voices to that Commonwealth ministerial gathering. Naturally civil society organisations across the Commonwealth have an interest in trying to influence the outcomes of the ministerial meeting. To do this we convened a policy dialogue at the Commonwealth Civil Society Forum that addressed the themes that would come up in the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting, which met under the banner “Sustainable Financing of Universal Health Coverage as an Essential Component for Global Security Including the Reduction of All Forms of Violence. But would they listen?

I came away from Geneva understanding that I had been asking the wrong question. It’s not a question of getting ministers to listen – rather the challenge is getting ministers, officials and civil society to talk with each other in order to find workable solutions to the health challenges we face. The approach we took this year was two-fold.

Firstly, we broadened the debate so that a wider cross section of civil society was able to participate in the discussion. Not only did this bring a Commonwealth agenda to a new audience – it also provided an opportunity for voices less heard to be given a platform. We convened a working group comprising the Commonwealth Health Professionals Alliance, Third World Network and the International Community of Women Living with HIV in Eastern Africa so that civil society organisations were designing and steering the process. They also delivered the three policy papers that formed the basis of the discussions at the civil society forum. Those papers included policy asks of Commonwealth Ministers. Those policy asks drew on the inputs of more than 100 other civic voices from across the Commonwealth through a survey. The process also drew in new stakeholders.

Secondly we deepened the discussion so that Ministers were provided with perspectives from civil society that they might not have considered or previously been exposed to. The three papers explored each of the strands on the Ministerial agenda: adding a gender equality dimension; exploring the utility of the concept of well-being; and provoking a discussion on the financing of universal healthcare.

The papers stimulated discussion in different ways. The paper by Saamah Abdallah on the Politics of Wellbeing challenged conventional metrics of development. It posited wellbeing as a sustainable condition that enables the individual to develop and thrive. Its holistic approach encourages ministries and agencies to collaborate. In data collected to date it seems there is a correlation between high levels of wellbeing in a population and “good” governance. The paper on structural violence and its impact on women’s health was powerfully delivered by Lillian Mworeko. She cited instances of forced sterilisation of women living with HIV. She made the point that when institutions visit this violence on women they foster discrimination and stigma and this despite progressive laws and policies. Tony Nelson presented on financing Universal Health Care. The provocative thesis suggested that spending more on health care doesn’t always result in better health outcomes and that greater accountability is needed on way that resources are allocated and spent.

But would Ministers listen? The chances of giving the issues raised by civic voices a proper airing is constrained by the format of the Ministerial Meeting so we invited policy makers to sit with civil society at the Forum and respond to the policy changes being suggested. The Minister of Health for Barbados, Hon. John Boyce provided new insights on the potential of alliances between civil society and Ministries of Health. He described moves to address sugar in soft drinks in Barbados, where collaboration had worked well. Dr Jabbin Mulwanda, the Permanent Secretary for Health Services in Zambia affirmed how helpful civic inputs were for civil servants charged with finding solutions to public health challenges. Their willingness to engage at the Forum helped to achieve our objective of dialogue. Without them the Forum would have been one more civic gathering and there are plenty of spaces where civil society can talk to itself. I know colleagues from governments valued the exposure and I dare say we enhanced their Commonwealth Health Ministerial Meeting experience.

We provided a Commonwealth space that encouraged the co-creation of new policy thinking in a collegial and informal setting. We went some way to making room for less heard voices and south-south exchange. The process worked well and everyone got a boost from the attendance and participation of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Hon. Patricia Scotland QC. It was the first time that an SG had actively listened to what civil society had to say about the Health Ministers’ agenda and her assurance that the policy asks made would be given proper consideration was widely appreciated.

But did Ministers listen? The crude indicator in these matters is the final statement that Ministers issue at the end of their meeting. These statements are brief and summarise the main points. In the Commonwealth system they generally serve to signal intent rather than bind governments to specific commitments. Last year the Ministers’ statement included the line: “we note the civil society participation and contribution to discussions on sustainable financing and encourage their ongoing participation in health policy.” This was a disappointing result and perhaps responsible for that nagging refrain that wouldn’t go away – “Will Ministers listen?”

I looked at this year’s statement with hope restored. In paragraph 12: “Ministers noted the report from the Civil Society Forum Policy Dialogue which highlighted the need for a universal health system that provides basic minimum package of services to all as a key priority; emphasised well-being as core to health policy and being more than just absence of disease; and, raised the issue of structural inequalities and violence and their impact on the utilisation of healthcare.” This year it seems, at least the substance provided by civil society at its Forum had been registered.

Yes, Ministers of Health did listen to what civil society organisations had to say but now I was left with a new concern. If the priorities in the Ministers’ statement are going to be implemented – the position of Health Ministers in national administrations needs to be strengthened. My new question was “Does anyone listen to what Ministers of Health have to say?” Surely dialogue and alliances between health ministries and civil society for a common cause can only improve the chances.

What next for peacebuilding in Africa?

At Wilton Park’s third meeting on ‘Peacebuilding in Africa’ series, participants were asked about the biggest opportunities or hindrances to sustainable civil society engagement in the African peacebuilding process.

Myn Garcia, The Commonwealth Foundation’s Deputy Director, spoke about the importance of localised civil society action to peaceful development and the need to acknowledge the multitude of national and local perspectives in the African context.

Previous events in Wilton Park’s ‘African perspectives on peacebuilding’ series have assessed the development of African approaches to peacebuilding in response to the changing dynamics of conflict and emergence of new conflict actors on the continent.

For more details explore Wilton Park’s website.

Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting: Civil Society Forum 2017

With support from the Commonwealth Foundation, the Civil Society Forum was jointly hosted by the Commonwealth Health Professionals Alliance, International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) and Third World Network, and took place on 20 May 2017 prior to the World Health Assembly and in conjunction with the Commonwealth Health Ministers’ Meeting (CHMM).

Objectives: to present the Commonwealth civil society position on issues discussed at the Commonwealth Health Ministerial Meeting 2017, and produce a policy statement that will be heard by Ministers attending the  CHMM 2017.

Methodology: The forum followed the format of a policy dialogue bringing together civil society representatives and policy makers.  It included a presentation of policy briefs that are the result of a consultation process in which civil society voices throughout the Commonwealth were reflected.

The policy briefs presented to ministers can be downloaded below:

Regional multi-stakeholder dialogue on gender equality

Convened by EASSI, the multi-stakeholder dialogue intended to present and discuss the findings of the pilot implementation of the EAC Gender Barometer and to lay the foundation and build partnerships for an evidence based advocacy tool for promoting gender equality in the East African Community (EAC). The Commonwealth Foundation supported the dialogue, which was held in Kampala in May 2017.

Under EASSI’s leadership the dialogue provided a space for civil society, government representatives from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda as well as women’s rights activists to interact on the findings of the EAC Gender Barometer.  Some of the highlights from the pilot:

  • Need for bold steps to address gender redistributive justice, and to reorient entitlements of women and men. All governments achieved low scores in this regard
  • Gender-based violence:  need for issue based conscientization campaign and the need for accountability channels, where currently none exist.
  • Sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS: there has been a reversal of gains in countries like Uganda; social responses need to be strengthened.
  • Rwanda taking the lead in institutionalising gender budgeting. Macro economic frameworks still largely impervious to gender and equity concerns
  • Good progress made on legislation; challenge is in implementation.

At the dialogue a government representative from South Africa offered the SADC experience on the use of the barometer in the Southern Africa region and spoke of how important the collaborative partnership to advance gender equality is.

In addition, five policy briefs based on identified gender priority issues were developed to include targeted policy recommendations on realisation of gender equality in the EAC.

Priorities for the way forward: 1) Popularising the Gender Bill nationally, 2) National ratification, 3) application of the Gender Barometer

Learning exchange between Citizens UK and SAAYE

My colleague, Mithika and I are looking forward to our upcoming trip to Johannesburg to work with the full core membership and Secretariat of the Southern African Alliance on Youth Employment (SAAYE). As part of the capacity development support to SAAYE, the Foundation has brokered a learning exchange between Citizens UK and the Alliance, trialling a new model of support.

SAAYE is a recently formed alliance of church-based youth organisations, student groups and activists, trade union representatives and youth development trusts from nine Southern African countries. The Foundation has supported the Economic Justice Network (EJN) in establishing SAAYE; EJN now act as SAAYE’s secretariat. Over the past 18 months, SAAYE has been bringing the group closer together, clarifying their strategic mission, and building partnerships and allies. The Foundation has provided support to the Alliance and its members as they have continued to develop their mission at the regional and national levels. Foundation support is also helping the Alliance to enable working relationships between members.

The learning exchange will take SAAYE’s work from strategic planning to the next step: to formulate their actions for change, over a two-year period. We have linked them up with Citizens UK because of their expertise in organising and building the power of civil society to advocate and act. The sessions will be led by Lead Organiser, Emmanuel Gotora and Yasmin Aktar from the East London Community Organisation (TELCO). In addition to Citizen’s skills in developing the capacity of civil society leaders to constructively engage with people in power, the Learning Exchange will draw on Citizen’s work around employment and work such as the Living Wage campaign and the Good Jobs campaign which directly address youth unemployment using a multi-stakeholder group of leaders from London’s community groups, industry employers and training institutions. These experiences will provide some relevant lessons and ideas.

It is our hope that at the end of the four-day exchange, SAAYE national teams and the Secretariat will have analysed where, with whom and how, in each of their theories of change, they should target specific actions to have the greatest potential impact. Key questions like: Where can SAAYE have most relational power in making change on youth employment in each country? Who has power inside and outside the formal structures regarding youth employment policy nationally and regionally? How do the people who can make decisions relate to each other and how can SAAYE influence them? The outputs from the learning exchange will be available on the Foundation’s website.

The learning exchange between SAYEE and Citizens UK takes place in Johannesburg from 24 to 31 March, 2017. Photo Credit: Alan Levine Flickr CC