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Session Overview
8-HP122: Civil Society Initiatives Promoting Solidarity in Constrained Settings
Thursday, 08/July/2021:
12:30pm - 1:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Tiina Kontinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Session Chair: Dr. Marianne Millstein, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
Session Chair: Dr. Kees Biekart, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Netherlands, The

Session Abstract

A vibrant civil society enhances solidarity, social justice, and peace. However, civil society initiatives often encounter severe limitations. Solidarity networks sometimes function in a way that may counter conventional (Western) conceptualizations of civil society. The panel therefore explores how civil society initiatives are locally conceptualized and realized in a variety of authoritarian, conflict-affected and fragile contexts. Through localized and contextualized notions of civil society, the panel seeks to understand the dynamics of civic-driven change in non-democratic settings, realized by formal and established organizations as well as by informal initiatives.

The panel is organized by the EADI Working Group Citizenship and Civil Society in Development. The aim is to publish the papers of this panel, together with papers from the July 2020 webinar, in an edited volume of the EADI Global Development series with Palgrave publishers.

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Philanthropy and Covid-19 in urban peripheries

Patricia Maria Mendonca1, Cassio Aoqui2, Leticia Cardoso3

1University of Sao Paulo/ USP, Brazil; 2University of Sao Paulo/ USP, Brazil; 3ponteAponte

Philanthropy in Brazil, as in many post-colonial nations, is anchored on the perspective of the colonizer, under a premise of moral superiority, often related to religiosity. From missionary values to the recent formation of social assistance policies, the country has always experienced a mix of public and private initiatives, having local elites as an important civic power.

In addition to this trajectory, notably in the post-World War II period, international aid networks gain momentum connecting technical assistance from multilateral organizations and financing from independent philanthropic agents.

More recently, from the 90s, under the discourse of the ‘third sector’, interaction with market agents opens up, under arguments of the professionalization of philanthropy. This moment is very well portrayed in Sergio Bianchi's movie, Quanto Vale ou é Por Quilo (2005). The narrative takes up the colonial question by making an analogy between the philanthropic market and the slave trade.

With the Covid-19 pandemic settling in Brazil in mid-March 2020, an explosion of mobilizations and donations has happened. Some enthusiastic defend that this would be a milestone in a new trajectory in the culture of donation and grantmaking.

On the one hand, there are data from the Monitor de Doações, which points to more than R$ 6.5 billion donated by almost 555 thousand donors during the pandemic. But these donations are concentrated in the early April-May 2020 period (R$ 5 Billion) and then decrease, as well as in a few CSOs, notably hospitals and research centers. At the same time, the level of transparency of these donors was low in terms of accountability, often without mentioning the donating CSOs.

On the other hand, several civil society initiatives emerged in this period, structured in such a way as to question or at least rethink the colonial approach to philanthropy. Among them, five forms of incidence stand out:

(i) campaigns, such as Sociedade contra Corona, which unites networks, associations and companies, among them Pacto pela Democracia, Abong and GIFE, to challenge the federal government's anti-democratic practices in confronting Covid-19 in Brazil;

(ii) fundraising initiatives "from and to the peripheries", such as the Favela em Casa Festival, to generate income for peripheral artists;

(iii) initiatives that unite philanthropic donors and leaders from the peripheries horizontally, such as Matchfunding Enfrente, Latinidades Pretas, and ÉDITODOS, the latter structured by several peripheral collectives;

(iv) financing actions and community funds, such as those carried out by members of the Rede de Filantropia para a Justiça Social, including the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana, which focused exclusively on peripheral and network activities; the announcement of the Fundo Baobá to support people and communities with emergency donations, without the need to be a formalized organization; the Fundo de Apoio Emergencial Covid-19, of the Brazil Human Rights Fund, which supported more than 240 initiatives; and the call for projects to support grassroots groups to confront Covid-19 of the Fundo Socioambiental Casa, with a specific focus on the North and Northeast regions, anticipating the need for special assistance in these locations, given the serious spread of the virus currently faced in the Legal Amazon States;

(v) communication initiatives focused to make qualified information available, for example, to health services in peripheral regions and accounting of emergency aid (Agência Mural, Nós Mulheres da Periferia, and Alma Preta.).

This work seeks to present data on these donations and mobilizations, contrasting them with selected cases of civic driven agency in urban peripheries, seeking to identify the presence of their colonial inheritance vs emancipation forces on selected cases.

Le Hirak: the role of artists. A case study of Algiers.

Rene Spitz

Alumni Leiden University, Netherlands, The

Since 22 February 2019, tens of thousands and later on millions of Algerians went on the street in all parts of the country to demand the departure of the regime, genuine democracy, ending corruption and a fair management of resources. This pacific movement, called ‘Hirak’ (the Arabic word for movement), demanded during more than a year fundamental reform of the political system[1] as well as economic reforms and perspectives for its young population.[2] This continuous popular pressure led to results: president Bouteflika resigned and more than 100 senior government officials close to him were arrested. Presidential elections were postponed twice under this pressure. However the demands to have no elections, a civilian state and no military one as well as to oust all politicians did not materialize.[3] Early March 2020 the authorities forbid any mass demonstrations due to the pandemic as well as Hirak-leaders called off demonstrations. At that time the authorities had already arrested more than thirty activists; all of them were accused of offenses that criminalized free speech. The crack down on journalists and Hirak activists continues until today.[4]

While the Hirak as a civil movement came to the surprise of many observers of political developments in Algeria, civil society in Algeria, although in a difficult security and political context, was always present in Algeria. While there are civil society organisations linked to the dominant political party (FLN) and the political establishment, there are also autonomous associations and groups, including of religious / charitable nature as well as profession- linked organisations and unions.[5]

Artists had a major role in the Hirak; especially singers, graphic artists and visual artists. They used their creativity to support the political demands of the demonstrators and gave also expression to their demands through songs and other means and helped ordinary people to use their creativity.[6] Already prior to the Hirak, culture was a domain where youth tried, partly with support from foreign sponsored programmes, to enlarge public space for expression. Conscious about the political sensitivity of this kind of initiatives for a semi-authoritarian regime, these artists negotiated at the level of the local authorities enlarged access to the public space for certain socio-cultural initiatives.[7]

The proposed paper aims to analyse how artists used culture as means to engage youth in socio-cultural activities in the city of Algiers for the period 2015-2020. The assumption is that such initiatives also contributed to the strength of the Hirak movement for instance as networks for mobilizing people and generating creative ideas. Besides analysing the Hirak in a broader socio-political context, this research aims at interviewing activists about their role in the Hirak as well as about their perception of current developments.

[1] Benderra, Omar, Gèze, Francois (ed) et autres, Hirak en Algérie, l’invention d’un soulèvement, February 2020 p. 7 ; International Crisis Group, l’Algérie de l’après-Bouteflika : protestations grandissantes, signes de répression, 26 April 2019.

[2] ARTE reportage, le réveil de la jeunesse, 12 April 2019,

[3] Manara magazine, Algeria’s Hirak : why such a mass movement achieved so little, 13 February 2021.

[4] Amnesty International, Algeria: end repression against Hirak activists and journalists amidst Covid-19, 27 april 2020; Carnegie, Algeria’s Hirak, Defenders of freedom of expression, 19 January 2021; Algeria Watch, 2019-2020 : le pouvoir algérien face au Hirak (Omar Benderra), 14 October 2020.

[5] The Conversation, En Algérie, la longue marche de la société civile, 12 February 2021.

[6] Lebdjaoui, Rafik, Quand les artistes deviennent partie prenante du hirak, in Benderra, Omar, Gèze, Francois (ed) et autres, Hirak en Algérie, l’invention d’un soulèvement, February 2020 p. 109-116.

[7] Example: the festival Djart: .

How Do NGO-led Development Initiatives Affect Citizenship In Constrained Settings? A View From Rural Western Uganda

Karembe Ahimbisibwe, Tiina Kontinen, Henni Alava

University of Jyväskylä, Finland, Finland

Views on the ideal relationship between states, citizens and development have swung from one extreme to another over recent decades, as has debate on the nature an necessity of ‘politics’ within this triad. On one hand, neoliberal ideals have resulted in responsibilizing citizens for their ‘own development’, while on the other hand advocates of human-rights based approaches insists that citizens need to be empowered not just to work hard, but to demand that states fulfil their responsibilities. Meanwhile, critical development scholars have shown how the responsibilization of citizens can numb their demands and entrench the power of authoritarian states, many of which employ profound neoliberal economic and social policies. To advance discussions on a) responsibilization and depoliticization through NGO-led development, and b) on politics, development and citizenship in Uganda, this paper advances the notion of constrained citizenship. We draw on participatory research conducted in rural Western Uganda to show how local NGO-supported interventions strengthen people’s livelihoods, and enable members to adopt increasingly active roles within local communities. In essence, the NGO initiative espouse the neoliberal ideal that individuals and communities are the primary agents of development, and makes no attempt to advance activist citizenship identities among project participants; thus fitting seamlessly within the development narrative popularized by the neoliberal and authoritarian Ugandan state. How then should the NGO’s impact on citizenship be interpreted? Does essentially depoliticised grassroots empowerment create a mere façade of citizenship, thus entrenching a state disinterested in its citizens’ wellbeing? Or, is such everyday citizenship the only viable possibility for rural citizens to struggle for better lives within an increasingly constrained setting? We reflect on localised everyday citizenship as both distant from but also embedded within the contending politics of the state. Then, we conclude that responsibilization of citizens at the grassroots may simultaneously contribute to citizens’ ability live within, and sometimes, even if rarely, push back against the authoritarian and neoliberal constraints within their reach.

Globalization, Neoliberalism And The Local Humanitarianism As Constrains To Civil Societies: The Case Of Refugees In Western Tanzania

Opportuna Kweka

University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Tanzania

This paper studies changes in support and practices of humanitarian caused by globalization, neoliberalism and the local humanitarianism as they lead to constraints to civil society. Globalization bring with it the localization and neoliberalism promote individual non-state actors mostly the private sector and not the civil societies. These coupled with the local humanitarianism has played part in the context of protracted refugees and minimize the role of civil society. In the case of Tanzania with the renewed role of the state has undermined the works of civil societies organization even in places such as the refugee camps. UNHCR’s proposal for a Comprehensive Refugee Relief Framework (CRRF) which was supposed to carter for the local communities and the refugees was halted. As a result, the UN Join programme was launched which provides avenue for meetings between the host communities and the refugees called ujirani mwema (good Samaritan). This paper explores the everyday humanitarianism between the refugees and the host communities and the extent to which the formal system with the UN and the civil societies on one hand co-exist with the local system of humanitarianism. In fact. In the context of protracted refugees, while the role of civil societies has been minimal, there is increasing acts of humanitarianism between the refugees and the local host communities. This is true also in other context such as disaster and the COVID-19 recently.

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