Belgrade, Serbia – More than 200 civil society leaders and human rights activists from some 100 countries were seen running through the streets of Serbia today – literally.
The #FreedomRunner event, held at the close of International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2019, a week-long global civil society gathering, kicked off a global campaign calling on people around the world to run in the name of human rights defenders who are currently jailed, being persecuted, or at risk for their work.
Throughout the ICSW 2019 forum, it was evident that individuals and organisations are increasingly under attack in many countries. Activists, journalists and people who speak out against growing restrictions are often persecuted, and a historic, unprecedented rise of populist leaders continues to erode fundamental freedoms and sow division in many countries.
“In every country, and often in the face of serious risks, people are standing up for their rights. Those of us with the freedom to do so need to stand – or even run – alongside them,” said Lysa John, CIVICUS Secretary General, while explaining that brave women and men across the globe are refusing to be silenced.
Co-hosted by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Serbian civil society association, Civic Initiatives, with support of the Balkans Civil Society Development Network, ICSW brought together more than 900 delegates. This was the first time in almost a quarter century of international convening, that CIVICUS hosted its flagship event in the Balkans – a region of 11 countries and 55 million people.
This year’s theme, “The Power of Togetherness”, was set out to explore how people and organisations around the world can, and are, working together to enable and defend spaces for civic action in a world where global transformations are reshaping how civil society functions.