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UnidOSC: How research, advocacy and capacity-building have been used to defend the space for civil society in Mexico

Type | Coalition response
Region | Americas
Author(s) | Sarah Pugh and Deborah Doane

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The UnidOSC is a coalition that has provided an identity for the collective effort to defend and champion civic space in Mexico and in the region.

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It seeks to foster coordination among civil society organisations (CSOs) on the defense of rights inherent to the freedom of association, and on the construction of an enabling environment for civil society.

UnidOSC is a coalition comprised of CSOs, foundations, academics and activists interested in protecting the operational space for civil society through proactive strategic proposals designed to advance the sector, and diverse responses to new risks and challenges that arise. The coalition has provided an identity for the collective effort to defend and champion civic space in Mexico and in the region.

Galvanising a diverse range of CSOs
Some invited organisations have expressed an interest in the coalition, but have not committed to participate actively, mainly because CSO rights are frequently seen as second in importance to CSOs’ own causes. The coalition is working to expand membership for broader scope and diversity, but this remains a challenge.

Competing priorities
It can be challenging to incorporate the multiple priorities of so many different types of CSOs. To mitigate this, the Committee tries to identify the different needs of the membership and translate them into initiatives that can be of benefit to most organisations, or for those that are most vulnerable. Some regulations affect all
CSOs and cross-sector solidarity is needed
to tackle these.

Technical assistance as solidarity
UnidOSC has benefited greatly from technical assistance from international groups experts in civic space such as ICNL, ECNL, Human Security Collective, the WINGS network and others. These groups have provided technical assistance either relating to legal aspects of the enabling environment, or by sharing good practice from other countries such as strategies for digital security, or inviting UnidOSC representatives to spaces and platforms for exchange and learning. This kind of solidarity has been invaluable, and should expand.

ICSO gap
It has been difficult for the coalition to engage with more international civil society organisations (ICSOs). Whilst there might be the desire to engage on civic space at an international or secretariat level, those concerns are not necessarily shared by colleagues in ICSOs’ country offices, as their focus is often more on the cause related to their specific mission. UnidOSC has formed good relationships with some ICSOs who participate as full members, as they see the close connection between the protection of civic space on the one hand, and the work that they are mandated to do on the other. However, that link is not always clear. Some ICSOs have, however, acted as allies to the coalition, if not as full members, for
example by supporting with the dissemination of research.

  • Expertise and capacity: Although the initial campaign has not yet succeeded in reforming national CSO legislation in Mexico, the work formed the base of even more advanced legislation that has since been presented at state-level. If those reforms are adopted, it would create a precedent that could lay the ground for future national reforms. UnidOSC’s work has helped to create a feedback and solidarity loop whereby regional, national, and local advocacy initiatives can strengthen one another.

  • Access: Members have benefited from the coalition in terms of access and direct participation, including access to research, the exchange of learning, and an opening up of dialogue with multiple different authorities and stakeholders that influence the regulatory framework for CSOs.   

Type | Coalition response     Region | Americas     Author(s) | Sarah Pugh and Deborah Doane

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