Back to Case Studies

Civilisation: Coalition-building to fight back against government attacks on civil society in Hungary

Report Date | October 2019
Type | Coalition response
Region | Europe
Author(s) | Sarah Pugh and Deborah Doane

Download case study

Civilizáció (Civilisation) was established as a joint campaign of Hungarian civil society organisations in early 2017.

Download case study

Their mission is to strengthen the image, constituency and support of civil society and civic action; to increase levels of solidarity; to share knowledge and skills to strengthen the civil society sector; and to take action against shrinking civil space and increase the opportunities of democratic participation and the diversity of civil society.

Standby
Civilisation was established in response to a crisis, and therefore their coalition has been built upon resistance. They work best together when there is an external threat or something to respond to. Without a common, clear goal to motivate their joint work, there is a risk that the interest and engagement of members will decrease. The government has gone relatively quiet during 2019, and so the coalition has been ‘on standby’. They cannot maintain that mode infinitely, and so a common focus or theme is needed that brings the members together and inspires joint action.

How to cooperate
This has been the first real cross-sector coalition in Hungary, and learning to cooperate and to work together took time. Members had to work hard to recognise and acknowledge different styles and types of CSOs, and different attitudes, approaches, appetites and agendas. It took some time to harmonise this, and to recognise and appreciate the diversity of the network. The lessons learned during earlier (failed) coalition-building efforts contributed to this – they taught more experienced members to exercise patience. Mutually agreed internal decision-making rules, based on the principles of ‘one member – one vote’ and ‘everyone contributes according to their capacities’ were also important, particularly for smaller, weaker members to feel safe and comfortable in the coalition.

  • Members are now better prepared for threats. Capacity has been built via shared resources, and links have formed between sectors and groups that were not previously connected, as this is the first truly cross-sector coalition in Hungarian civil society.
  • Although the international and regional solidarity has not stopped restrictive legislation passing into law, it has helped Hungarian civil society feel seen, and not forgotten, which has been incredibly important.
  • They are better organised. During quiet spells, the coalition is able to ‘plan for peace times’, developing longer-term strategies such as a positive image campaign, but also to prepare for adverse developments.

Report Date | October 2019     Type | Coalition response     Region | Europe     Author(s) | Sarah Pugh and Deborah Doane

Andy White built this WordPress website theme