UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance hosted a webinar on the state of civil society during the COVID-19 pandemic. It featured Mr Andrew Firmin, Mr David Kode, and Dr Inés Pousadela of CIVICUS.
The webinar tackled some of the key civil society responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that unfolded during 2020. It traced how civil society organisations (CSOs) provided help to communities that experienced the impact of the pandemic and the emergency measures taken by states as well as defence of the rights of specific groups during these times.
Firmin suggested that some of the emergency regulations were overly broad, ‘The trends noted by CIVICUS during the pandemic included censorship and restrictions on media and information, posing the risk of action against those who criticised state responses to a point where the rights of privacy were violated’, he said.
He noted that, although this was a difficult time to organise and build solidarity, ’civil society responded with agility and urgency, often offering superior measures to those of the government to provide relief and essential services.’
Communities of care sprung up, particularly around vulnerability and protection, movements were organised remotely and in online and offline spheres, and service provision was linked to struggles for rights to refine purpose, test assumptions, and make a new case for civil society.
Civil society also proposed new ideas for recovery that aim to redistribute power and build solidarity, whilst securing the rights of the most excluded. It promoted economic and climate justice and harnessed public and political support to advance rights-based reform of trade, aid and governance systems and redistribute global power.