New Ends Protection of Civic Space Conference

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The National Elections Watch (NEW) has concluded a two-day conference from 20 to 21 June 2022 with the theme: “Building Resilience, Protecting the Civic Space: A CSO Agenda for the 2023 Elections”. 

Aim of this conference is to examine the current trends and challenges of civil society organisations (CSO) and the civic space in Sierra Leone and to develop a set of toolboxes to keep CSOs resilient, adaptive, and relevant in the democratic space as the country approaches its general elections in June 2023. 

This conference is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ), implemented by GIZ, through the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operation (EPSAO) Project. 

The EPSAO Project is aimed at strengthening ECOWAS’ capacities to support peaceful electoral processes in West Africa, including civil society efforts to monitor electoral processes and to prevent and manage electoral conflict. 

Civil society and the civic space in Sierra Leone and other countries around the world are faced with emerging challenges. 

To examine these challenges and to discuss possible ways to address them, over seventy (70) civil society actors, including media organizations, drawn from all regions and districts across the country, have been meeting in this two-day conference. 

Their discussion is particularly focusing on election-related challenges faced by Sierra Leonean CSOs, including the media, and their role ahead of the June 2023 general elections, including political polarisation, politically motivated violence, hate speech and divisive messages and misinformation and disinformation. 

Furthermore, the conference is conceived to strengthen the voice of civil society leaders who support democracy, credible elections and civil liberties and foster civil society activism for democratic resilience. 

The conference is taking place under an open-space approach to generate robust and insightful discussions. 

As result of the conference, participants are expected to identify strategies to improve the resilience and capacities of CSOs ahead of the 2023 general elections and beyond, as well as coordination amongst CSOs at the national level on planning and implementing election-related activities.