By Amin Kef-Ranger
According to a Press Release dated 21st June 2022 it was revealed that the National Elections Watch (NEW) organized a two-day conference from the 20th to 21st June 2022 on the theme, “Building Resilience, Protecting the Civic Space: A CSO Agenda for the 2023 Elections”.
The aim of the conference was to examine the current trends and challenges of Civil Society Organizations (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 general elections in June 2023.
The conference was 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 prevent and manage electoral conflict.
It was recognized that Civil Society and the civic space in Sierra Leone and other countries around the world are faced with emerging challenges.
To examine those 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 met in the two-day conference.
Their discussions focused on election-related challenges faced by Sierra Leonean CSOs, including the media, and their role ahead of the June 2023 general elections, including political polarization, politically motivated violence, hate speech and divisive messages and misinformation and disinformation.
Furthermore, the conference was 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 took place under an open-space approach to generate robust and insightful discussions.
Participants identified 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.