Civil society organisations respond to a wide variety of concerns and perform very important social, cultural, civic, recreational and economic functions. Through their various missions, they support excluded and marginalised groups, provide essential services and contribute to social cohesion and to safeguarding democratic life. In Europe, around one in five Europeans are involved in associative life, in one way or another.
Despite this, the social and civic value of this sector is often neglected and called into question. A major concern is that in several countries, governments, sometimes under the pretext of the COVID-19 crisis, are restricting the public and financial freedoms of civil society organisations.
Through this conference, the Diversity Europe Group, in partnership with Civil Society Europe, wishes to draw attention to these developments and provide a forum for reviewing the state of civil society organisations in Europe, in collaboration with representatives of civil society organisations active on the ground and their European umbrella organisations.
The event will feature contributions by high-level speakers, as well as representatives of civil society organisations active in various Member States. Panellists will discuss:
- the value that these organisations create for European democracies
- the challenges and barriers they face with regard to the protection of fundamental rights and civic space, on the basis of the initial findings of a new EESC study on 'The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundamental rights and civic space'
- experiences with civil dialogue at national and European level,
- other current challenges and responses from civil society in Europe and
- civil society organisations' views on the process for the Conference on the Future of Europe and future steps for strengthening organised civil society and democracy.
The conference is being organised by the Diversity Europe Group, in partnership with Civil Society Europe and with the support of the EESC's Civil Society Liaison Group and the Associational Life Category.
The event will take place on 5 November 2021 in Brussels in a hybrid form.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current restrictions at the EESC, external participants are kindly invited to follow the meeting from remote, using the Interactio platform. The link to connect to the meeting will be sent to all registered participants in due course. Simultaneous interpretation will be available from FR DE EN IT NL DA EL ES PT FI CS SL RO HU PL and into FR DE EN IT EL ES PT FI CS RO PL.