UNDEF at CIVICUS World Assembly

At the CIVICUS World Assembly in Montreal in September, UNDEF hosted a panel discussion that brought together UNDEF projects from four continents, each focusing on strengthening the voice of civil society. Kazi Fattah, Programme Manager, BRAC, Bangladesh, explained the structures being used to organize civil society at the village level, and how issues were brought to the attention of local governance entities. Wilna Quarmyne, Coordinator, Ghana Community Radio Network, spoke about the importance of community radio in Ghana as a means of allowing citizens to speak to each other in their own languages, and how concerns about resource development had emerged a highly contentious issue. Andrea Torres-Hermoza, Director of Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, Un Techo para Mi País,  discussed Un Techo's work to build community halls in slum areas to allow the communities to meet and discuss their common concerns. He described how volunteers working for this project now form a powerful group of alumni spanning the whole of Latin America. Ben Peterson, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Journalists for Human Rights, explained how JHR started work in Sierra Leone as it was emerging from one of the darkest civil wars in Africa, and helped train many journalists to report of issues of importance to the community. Roland Rich, Executive Head UN Democracy Fund, provided an introduction to UNDEF's work, illustrated by photos from a recent exhibition at UN Headquarters showcasing UNDEF projects.

The audience responded enthusiastically, with many questions focused on ways of replicating UNDEF's type of projects in yet more countries and scaling them up to even larger constituencies. A pleasant surprise was the attendance at the conference of several other UNDEF grantees, including Hamyaran from Iran, LDC Watch from Nepal and PRIA from India.