International Civil Society Week 2020/21

People Power!

International Civil Society Week (ICSW) 2020-21 was launched to promote a global, year-long conversation about people power – the collective power of people acting together to drive social and political change. At CIVICUS, we believe that this is the right time for civil society activists, organisations and social movements to engage in a collective process alongside donors, friends and supporters to learn and unlearn together ways to sustain and support people power for the long haul.

In 2020, we hosted seven ICSW/virtual events that convened more than 700 civil society actors from around the world. These conversations focused on seven thematic priorities that are key to supporting people power at this time: 

Click on the topic to learn more.

Change of Plans

The original ICSW plan was to follow these virtual conversations with a series of local and regional events that would culminate in a global gathering in one city, over one week in 2021.  Unfortunately, this was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic health and safety restrictions. 

While we miss gathering face-to-face, we are happy to close ICSW 2020-21 with an alternative celebration of people power that will provide a safe and inclusive space for global civil society and recognition to the outstanding individuals, groups and organisations supporting people power around the world: the 2021 CIVICUS Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards.


Why People Power?

People power is in the habit of emerging in the most unlikely places and where it is most unexpected – that is, not only where the space for civil society is guaranteed and the fundamental freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly are upheld by the state and generally respected, but also in repressive contexts that it seeks to change. As people power shows its face, so do repressive forces seeking to shut it down; as people power shifts tactics to elude restrictions, repressive forces also learn, adapt and reassert themselves.


A retrospective look at 2020 shows a remarkable surge in people power, in the form of a myriad of social movements and protests challenging various forms of inequality, gender discrimination and gender-based violence, autocratic and authoritarian governance, corruption, corporate abuse and inaction in the face of climate change, among other key challenges of our time. But people power is also facing unprecedented attacks, which makes it more important than ever to have collective conversations and efforts to protect and sustain it. Read more in the 2021 State of Civil Society Report.

About ICSW

International Civil Society Week (ICSW) is a global gathering for civil society to connect, debate and create shared solutions. Through a ‘partnered’ approach, organisations pool their resources to convene a diverse international group of civil society leaders to share ideas, catalyse positive social change, exchange tools that enhance citizen action, and celebrate people power. Each ICSW explores a specific theme in-depth. To learn more about  the previous edition of ICSW, check out ICSW 2019

Event History

Since 1995, CIVICUS has convened people and organisations from disparate sectors, themes, regions and backgrounds to work together to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

In 2014, International Civil Society Week was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa as a co-owned and co-created space for the CIVICUS alliance to bring together its collective knowledge, skills, expertise, influence and power. 

The overall goal is to strengthen civil society and citizen action to build a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.

Event Principles

  1. Inclusion: making sure that people affected by our work are represented in our events
  2. Equality: reflecting gender equality and non-discrimination in our panels
  3. Sustainability: being environmentally conscious and minimising harm to the planet
  4. Transparency: sharing our successes and failures so that we contribute to a learning environment
  5. Diversity: bringing together diverse stakeholders to discuss complex problems
  6. Participation: providing space for event attendees to engage in meaningful dialogue

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