December 13, 2021


Guest Blog: Protecting civic space in times of COVID-19 - CSPPS participation at the 2021 Paris Peace Forum

By The Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS), The Hague, The Netherlands

The Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (CSPPS) is a member-led international network that brings together more than 800 civil society organisations from the Global North and the Global South, supporting conflict and crisis prevention, peacebuilding and statebuilding in over 30 fragile and conflict-affected countries. In addition, and in the context of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS), CSPPS represents the civil society branch of the tripartite structure and has established a presence in 19 out of the 20 g7+ countries, as well as in other countries outside of g7+ who have manifestations of fragility or conflicts.  

CSPPS joined TAP Network as a Partner in 2015 and ever since, has been one of TAP’s closest collaborators.  CSPPS is now completing their 2020-2021 term on TAP’s Steering Committee and will continue on as a carry-over organization for the 2022-2023 Steering Committee term.  You can see more of CSPPS’s engagements with TAP, including a TAP Conversation, on their Partner profile.

Created in 2018, the Paris Peace Forum was launched by French President Emmanuel Macron, with the purpose of collectively discussing and finding solutions to some of the greatest global problems facing the world today. The Forum brings together heads of state, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society to work together towards global governance solutions to achieve peace. This year, the Forum was held once again in Paris in a hybrid format for its fourth edition between the 11th and the 13th of November. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown once again the interconnectedness of many of the challenges faced by humanity today, which renders international cooperation more important than ever. Against this background, this year’s edition aimed at addressing governance gaps, such as the North-South solidarity gap, and at finding solutions to recover and build back better from the pandemic, looking beyond just the public health impacts of COVID-19. The project “CSPPS Coordinated Response to Support Local Action during COVID-19” was selected as one of 80 projects to be showcased in this year’s Paris Peace Forum, as a result of the work implemented in Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Somalia to face the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The impacts of COVID-19 on civil society and CSPPS’ response  

The activities implemented under the aforementioned project worked on two levels – namely, on the international level via the Platform’s lobby and advocacy work, and on the national level, via the project activities implemented by the CSPPS Country Teams. In early 2020, CSPPS quickly saw the pandemic having worrying effects on civil society organisations, their work, and their operating capacity, extending into the realm of rising gender inequality, shrinking civic space, and the spread of misinformation, to name a few. To raise awareness on this issue, the Platform began by chronicling the wider effects of the pandemic on peace and conflict in a series of interviews and articles, via consultations with members of the CSPPS Platform.   

On the basis of our discussions with our partners, we then published the first in our series of Covid reports, “Fighting COVID-19, Building Peace – What Local Peacebuilders say about COVID-19, Civic Space, Fragility and Drivers of Conflict”, a valuable advocacy resource used locally, regionally, and nationally by our members, and on the international policy level by the Platform as a whole. The published articles, interviews, and reports emphasised the importance of CSO-government collaboration for a well informed and effective response to COVID-19 in fragile settings.  

Most recently, upon seeing the continued and persistent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the members of its network, we published the second report on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, entitled “Persistent Impact: An Urgent Call for a Conflict-Sensitive Approach to the COVID-19 Pandemic”. The report is the result of a series of interviews aimed at identifying the pressing challenges faced by the CSPPS network one year into the pandemic. It was concluded that, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the voices of local peacebuilders are still not sufficiently heard by national and international decision-makers, and their lived experiences are not taken into account enough.  

CSPPS at the Paris Peace Forum 2021 

At the Paris Peace Forum, CSPPS was one of 30 projects present in-person and it was represented by Ms Fidèle Djebba, president of the Association Rayons de Soleil and country focal point of CSPPS in Cameroon. In a session entitled “Projects of hope: What expanding civic space looks like in practice”, civil society representatives shared the practical efforts that have been implemented in their contexts to deal with the shrinkage of civic space caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In the context of Cameroon, Ms Djebba went as far as claiming that the restrictive measures have had a more significant impact on the civil society in Cameroon than the pandemic itself. However, hope stems from the fact that, albeit not sufficient, there has been collaboration between the Cameroonian government and the civil society to design and implement projects aimed at addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19. Ms Djebba called for more inclusive collaboration and reinforced the need to build civic capacity and to provide them with the necessary tools and instruments for effective participation. Finally, Ms Djebba stressed the necessary attention needed for women and youth who need stronger support for effective participation in the COVID-19 response and for a meaningful extension of the civic space.  

In addition, CSPPS hosted an informative booth at the Grande Halle de la Vilette, this year’s venue for the Forum, which allowed for rich networking opportunities to discuss solutions for peace and how to build forward better from the COVID-19 pandemic. CSPPS members present at the venue further had the opportunity to attend in-person discussions, which counted with the presence of Emmanuel Macron, Kamala Harris, Muhammadu Buhari, Sheikh Hasina, among others.  

Future trajectory 

Almost two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to sharply impact the work of CSPPS member organisations and local peacebuilders around the world. The Platform’s call for ensuring a conflict-sensitive response to the pandemic that safeguards peace and civic space is thus as important as ever; this was emphasised by CSPPS in our participation at the 2021 Paris Peace Forum, and we hope to continue to support our members efforts to tackle the impacts of the pandemic extending far beyond just public health, now and in the future.  

Stemming from CSPPS’ ambition to build forward better from the COVID-19 pandemic, CSPPS coordinator, Peter van Sluijs, affirmed: 

This year, CSPPS wishes to emphasize the cruciality of safeguarding and ensuring civil society’s involvement in their respective contexts’ conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response. We want to stress the importance of collaboration between all stakeholders in order to fully recover from the pandemic in a peaceful, just, and sustainable way. Inclusively, we can build forward better.” 

To stay updated on CSPPS’ future endeavours to address the COVID-19 pandemic and support civil society, visit our website, contact us at, and follow us on LinkedInTwitterInstagram, and Facebook

About TAP Storytelling: In 2021, TAP Network is launching the TAP Storytelling Initiative, which will aim to closely and frequently highlight the work of our Network through working directly with them to produce quality online content about their endeavors. Together in this initiative, we will aim to intimately spotlight the work of our Members and Partners and the challenges, successes, failures, processes and problem solving that comes with it, while also offering the chance for wide promotion through TAP’s outreach channels. We hope that these opportunities will not only offer heightened visibility of the work of our Network, but will also inspire and educate more commitments to SDG16 and transparency and accountability for the 2030 Agenda as a whole. If you are interested in spearheading this work with us, head to our TAP Membership Engagement Portal where you can find the Storytelling Form to submit your interest.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on the TAP Network Blog Platform are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the TAP Network. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion.

Photo by CSPPS

Interested in publishing an article?