Tuesday, 21 February 2017

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"The challenges of the Portuguese civil society towards the current social and economic context"

What is civil society?

The Portuguese Constitution describes civil society organizations from an economic point of view as the third sector. In Article 82 it has been foreseen the “coexistence of three sectors of ownership of the means of production”. Therefore, side by side with the public and private sectors, there is a “cooperative and social sector” which includes: cooperatives, “communitarian production means”, owned and managed by local communities” and those which are “collectively run by workers” (the so-called self-managed companies), as well as “Means of production owned and managed by nonprofit bodies corporate, the primary objective of which is charitable, particularly bodies of a mutualistic nature.”

 Why this event?

We live in an increasingly globalized world where the problems that we face at a local level are frequently interlinked with global issues or with factors present in other parts of the globe. Therefore, finding the solution to our problems also involves seeking the dialogue with people and organizations in other regions and international organizations. At an international level we are also living a crucial moment in what concerns the definition of the post-2015 global policy for sustainable development, in its several dimensions: economic, social, environmental and governance.

The current context of national and international financial crisis has had very harmful consequences to society, namely increased social inequality and poverty. This context is a challenge to all institutions and the whole social fabric. Civil society organizations have played a very important role in maintaining a minimum social protection net and in creating room for a public debate focused on the possible solutions.

In spite of its important contribution, the third sector is not very well known to the general public, it is segmented and fragmented along different fields of activity - NGOs working in Development, Private Social Solidarity Institutions (IPSS), Local Development Associations and cooperatives, etc - it is often absent from international platforms and it does not interact much with international organizations.

This is a crucial moment for civil society to get mobilized and to implement some proposals that gather consensus and present them to the country, showing what civil society considers to be its role and how it will be possible to create a fairer, more equitable and solidary society. Therefore, holding a discussion forum that gathers organizations from different several segments of civil society is very important, in order to bring together organizations with different approaches, facilitating a conversation and bridging different views and ideas to stimulate the emergence of proposals to help the country move forward, for the better.

Consequently, the Portuguese Association for Local development (ANIMAR), the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), the National Federation for Social Solidarity Organizations, the Portuguese Confederation of the Environment Protection Associations (CPADA), the Youth National Council (CNJ), the António Sérgio Cooperative for Social Economy (CASES), the Portuguese Federation of Local Development Associations (“Minha Terra”), the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights (PPDM) and the Portuguese NGO for Development Platform plan to organize a forum, together with the academia and other national and international organizations, to discuss the challenges of the Portuguese civil society in the current context of global crisis.

General goals

  • Reflect on the role of the Portuguese civil society within the context of the economic and social crisis;
  • To raise awareness on the role and activities of Portuguese civil society organizations, promoting the discussion on how to respond to local and global challenges
  • To propose a joint declaration by the civil society organizations on its role and contribution to finding solutions to the country’s problems

Other actors involved

Academia; businesses; journalists/media; members of parliament, Foreign Affairs Commission, members of the European Parliament; ONG representatives from other countries; UN agencies: FAO, OIT; intergovernmental organizations such as CPLP; Unions

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