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Recreating civic space and activism: Prague Civil Society Centre

Partner story

Photo: © Prague Civil Society Centre

Civil society organisations worldwide are under significant pressure. Last year, several governments around the world limited the capacity of civil society to: participate in the policy process; organise and mobilise; and receive foreign funding.

The Prague Civil Society Centre (PCSC) works to empower and support civil societies across the counties of the Former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltics). “We want our support to help realise social change, by enabling civic groups to connect with their communities and improve people’s lives,” says Rostislav Valvoda, executive director of PCSC. He believes that “the resilience and creativity of activists and campaigners working tirelessly to effect change in new and exciting ways is inspiring and offers hope, despite the difficult conditions”. PCSC works to build fluid, cross-sector communities of leading civic activists, campaigners, researchers, journalists and policymakers. It does so by providing project grants to innovative, engaging groups across the region by supporting a wide range of initiatives, including anti-corruption campaigns, film festivals, community centres and social entrepreneurship.

Since launching in 2015, the Prague-based Centre has thrived. “I have been delighted with the progress made so far,” says Adrian Arena, director of Oak’s International Human Rights Programme. “Despite all odds, the Centre has flourished”. Some of the activities supported by PCSC include:

  • a new women’s rights movement across Central Asia for different groups to share information, concerns and plan fundraising activities;
  • an app for citizens to monitor air pollution in Almaty, Kazakhstan;
  • a series of illustrations to raise awareness of conditions in Russia’s northern Caucasus and support victims of torture;
  • the assistance of several organisations across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to increase the effectiveness of their media and communications through technology workshops, design hackathons and social media marketing schools;
  • the funding of a network of legal clinics for people living in conflict zones who have found themselves in a legal vacuum; and
  • assistance to a group in Kyrgyzstan to run a successful anti-child marriage advocacy campaign, which contributed to the adoption of a new law prohibiting underage religious ceremonies.

Oak’s International Human Rights Programme hopes to help protect civic participation through long term and flexible funding. This enables activists to explore new tools for action, i.e., to invest in digital and physical security to enable partners to work effectively and safely.

To find out more about PCSC’s fantastic work, visit its website.