19 November 2015 - 11.00-12.30 - Room 10, Palais de l'Europe, Interpretation: FR/EN/RU - Sponsored by the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe


Civil society and the public space are increasingly under pressure. Many organisations that promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights face harassment and censorship, and are sometimes branded as ‘terrorists’ in order to justify repressive legislation which is affecting their work. What counter measures can be taken to stop the worrying trend of a shrinking space for civil society organisations?

Initiative 1

Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas, Water Governance Institute, Uganda

Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO) is a loose network of CSOs working on issues related to oil and gas. It was initiated to pool professional and financial resources of various CSOs as a way to enhance their research and advocacy agenda, to work collectively and connectedly and speak as one voice on issues related to oil and gas exploitation in Uganda as well as to enhance their political impact to effectively influence national policy, governance and decision-making. The network was also intended to protect individual CSOs from being isolated and victimized by unscrupulous government agencies and officials. This was on the realisation that the emerging petroleum industry in Uganda was being highly politicised and regarded a sensitive security/secret matter. It was also on the realisation that the space for civil society organisations to operate individually and freely speak about the emerging industry was shrinking because of a changing political environment that is shifting towards increasing intolerance to alternative/divergent opinion contrary to the ruling regime agenda and opposition politics and the installation of telecommunication surveillance systems to monitor “subversive” information flows.



Mr Henry MUGISHA BAZIRA, Uganda, Executive Director of the Water Governance Institute

Mr Henry Mugisha Bazira is the Executive Director of Water Governance Institute (WGI) – a non-governmental organisation based in Uganda. He is the founding Chairperson of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil & Gas (CSCO). He served as chairperson from 2008 to 2012 and peacefully handed over leadership to another Steering Committee of CSCO. He has taken on the role of assisting CSOs establish research and advocacy networks to influence national policy and governance. He is a natural resources expert with keen interest in the interaction between water and the extractive sector i.e. oil, gas, mining and industrial operations.

Initiative 2

Enabling and Protecting Civil Society, Amnesty International, Turkey

In the last years, human rights organizations have observed an unprecedented offense by states on civil society with growing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association and crackdown on human rights defenders. It is happening not only in Turkey but in every world region. This shrinking of civil society and the targeting of human rights defenders is having a serious impact. Human rights defenders and organizations feel under threat and pressure, in both legislative and practical areas. This is also a vital issue for many human rights organizations and Amnesty in especially some countries. If this trend is not reversed, the consequences will be devastating for millions of people who rely on human rights defenders and others in civil society, empowering others to know and exercise their rights. The result might be most probably societies characterized by greater inequality, disenfranchisement, political social instability, stalled growth or deeper poverty, and potentially violent conflict.



Ms Ruhat Sena AKSENER, Turkey, Campaigns and Advocacy Director, Amnesty International, Turkey

Ruhat Sena Aksener is the Campaigns and Advocacy Director in Amnesty International Turkey Section and working as the manager of the campaigns/advocacy/media-communications team of the section. After graduating from Middle East Technical University/Ankara Political Science and Public Administration Department, she received a MS degree in Gender Studies. She has been implementing and administrating campaigns at Amnesty since 2005, specializing on freedom of expression, women’s rights, impunity, trial observation, fair trails, right to organization, Economical Social Rights, discrimination and LGBTI rights. Her interests are mainly on human rights, impunity, discrimination and freedom of expression.


Discussants are invited to take part in the Labs in order to share their experience with the presented democratic initiatives and try to bring broader perspectives to the following discussions.

Ms Maryna GONOSHYLINA, Ukraine, Board Member of Avtomaidan, anticorruption watch-dog, Country Leader of Enactus Ukraine

Maryna Gonoshylina is an Avtomaidan activist, an anticorruption watch-dog, whose major focus is to combat corruption inside courts, DA offices and internal affairs bodies in Ukraine. She also chairs the youth organisation Enactus in Ukraine, aiming at using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

Mr Rajith KEERTHI TENNAKOON, Sri Lanka, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Research

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon is the Executive Director of Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE), an independent election monitor from Sri Lanka. He is also the Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR) – Sri Lanka, a leading nonprofit civil society organization in the country. Both organizations are actively engaged in promoting and protecting human rights and representative democracy. Tennakoon is also a well-known organizer of public movements against suppression and human rights violations. He has also acted as a resource person for the Commonwealth Secretariat and expert of Election Monitoring. He is specialized in political communication.

Ms Alexandrina NAJMOWICZ , Romania, Director of the European Civic Forum

Alexandrina Najmowicz has been working for over ten years in the third sector and not-for-profit organisations in Romania, France and Europe wise. She is currently Director of the European Civic Forum, a transnational network of more than one hundred associations across Europe standing for Equality, Solidarity and Democracy, working to enable civic participation and European civil dialogue. In this capacity, she has been coordinating different campaigns aiming to strengthen the capacity and the role of civil society organisations to stand and act for citizens’ rights and to become influential in the decision making process. She represents the European Civic Forum in the civil dialogue stakeholders group within the European Commission “Europe for Citizens” Programme, in the European Economic and Social Committee Liaison Group with Civil Society Organisations or the Council of Europe’s OING Conference

Ms Anne-Marie CHAVANON, France, Chair of the Democracy, Social Cohesion and Global Challenges Committee of the Conference of INGOs

Anne-Marie Chavanon chairs the committee on Democracy, Social cohesion and Global Challenges of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, which brings together some 210 NGOs. She represents the International Federation for  Housing and Planning (IFHP) at the Council of Europe, an international NGO bringing together all stakeholders of territorial democracy. She has served in key levels of governance in France (ministries, parliament, local and regional authorities) which gave her the experience and passion to establish a dialogue between governments and the governed, between politicians and citizens.


Mr Aurélien CANTOU

Lab 4 - Civil society responses
Palais de l'Europe - Room 10 19 Nov., 11.00-12.30
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Challenges 2015