Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah took up the post of Secretary General of CIVICUS in January. What does he think is most important about CIVICUS? What areas of work would he like to see more developed? Where will he be putting less emphasis in future? In the Alliance November interview, he talks to Caroline Hartnell about the first nine months in the job.
For Sriskandarajah, the key value he associates with CIVICUS is solidarity. ‘CIVICUS provides solidarity across civil society around the world. We’re there to share best practice, invest in progressive causes, strengthen civil society – to be there for each other across the world.’
His overarching philosophy, he explains, is to ‘consolidate and experiment’: to consolidate what CIVICUS does well but then to experiment and come up with new ideas that will themselves build momentum and garner support. He would like to see the organization engage better with new social movements and citizen movements around the world – while cautioning against the view that Facebook and a Twitter campaign will bring about social justice and lasting change.
Has CIVICUS got an identity problem? Whereas it’s usually easy to see what national organizations do, global organizations often have an identity problem – people don’t know exactly what they do or what their role is, and this is especially true of CIVICUS, which focuses on civil society broadly. Sriskandarajah admits this is an issue for CIVICUS. ‘I think the nature of civil society, and its wonderful diversity, provides a huge challenge for us. We believe we’re there to fight for civic space everywhere in the world and we hope that our activities will benefit civil society actors everywhere. But few of them would have any idea of what CIVICUS is.
‘Given the changes around new social movements and new or recent popular uprisings,’ he goes on, ‘we have a second challenge: that organized civil society itself is being seen as less relevant these days. When I started, I asked colleagues who in Tahrir Square in 2011 would have thought of CIVICUS while they were mobilizing for an unprecedented civil uprising. The ways in which citizens are organizing and mobilizing these days are changing, and that’s a challenge for us.’
Click here to read more.