2023 Meeting of the Civil Society Pillar of the Community of Democracies in Panama

2023 Meeting of the Civil Society Pillar of the Community of Democracies in Panama

From July 31st to August 1st, the Civil Society Pillar (CSP) of the Community of Democracies (CoD) held its annual meeting in Panama City. The CoD is is an intergovernmental coalition committed to advance and protect democratic freedoms, strengthen democratic institutions, and expand political participation. As CSP national focal point, Cooperation Canada joined representatives from fourteen other countries to discuss the strategic vision of the CoD in light of ongoing threats on civic space and democratic institutions worldwide. 

While the CSP is not a voting member of the CoD, it has historically endeavoured to represent the interests of civil society within the organization. For instance, the CSP voiced its disappointment over the renewal of Hungary’s membership to the Governing Council (GC) despite concerns about its non-compliance with the Warsaw Declaration, the founding document of the CoD. This conversation remains open within the CSP, where a strong Latin American presence in Panama City led to important discussions on the membership legitimacy of Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala. 

In light of the worrying state of democracy, CSP representatives agreed that the GC fell short of achieving goals set out in its 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. While the plan committed to responding to democratic backsliding and the restriction of civic space, reforming GC processes, and expanding partnerships, the CSP emphasized that most efforts were centered on dialogue. Looking to the drafting of the of the forthcoming 5-year plan, to be released in 2024, the Pillar emphasized that proactive measures and actions must take greater focus.  

The global trend towards democratic backsliding was a key area of concern to all civil society representatives. Within the civil society space, representatives agreed that the erosion of civil liberties, threats to freedom of expression, and weakening of rule of law have made their work more challenging and dangerous. A key observation was that authoritarian leaders and groups often gain power through democratic processes, only to shut down civic participation spaces once power has been consolidated.   

The CoD has been chaired by Canada since 2022, with the country represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is no certainty as to whether Canada will renew its term as CoD President. We encourage the Government of Canada to consider the CSP recommendations , namely 1, 2, 3 and 7. Cooperation Canada deems the drafting of a new strategic plan a crucial moment for Canada to voice its commitment to human rights and demonstrate its global leadership on the matter. Canadian CSOs, including those participating in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Canada led by the UN Human Rights Council, stand as active allies and agents of change. 


Nicolas Parent

Nicolas Parent

Policy Analyst


Learning Session on SOGIESC Inclusion in International Cooperation Organizations

Learning Session on SOGIESC Inclusion in International Cooperation Organizations

Cooperation Canada partnered with Dignity Network Canada to present a virtual learning session on “SOGIESC Inclusion in International Cooperation Organizations” on June 14, 2023. The event featured remarks by Vaisnavi Gnanasekaran, SRHR Specialist at Oxfam Canada, Libertad Benito Torres, Senior Gender Consultant at Equitas, Lina Marcela Gomez Nunez, Gender and Social Inclusion Manager at Cuso International, and Nasya Razavi, Co-Manager at Inter Pares. 

These organizations have embarked on a journey to be more inclusive in their international work on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity & expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). 

Panellists were asked a series of questions regarding SOGIESC inclusion, intersectionality and solidarity with 2SLGBTQI+ organizations most notably in the Global South. 

Successful SOGIESC inclusion in international cooperation organizations means taking cues from the groundbreaking work in the Global South.  Establishing connections, creating collaborations and cooperation between North-South organizations is key to this work. 

Intersectionality is paramount to SOGIESC inclusion. Whether the work pertains to SRHR, gender equality, anti-racism and anti-oppression, it’s crucial that a decolonized approach is taken.  Representation needs to be emphasized throughout the entire organization.  All voices need to be heard & promoted by the organization and consulted as a priority. 

Amid growing backlash against the 2SLGBTQI+ community globally – due in part to religious fundamentalism and conservative governments – the panellists remained hopeful.  While there are many progressive countries with robust protections, there remain increased threats & discrimination against 2SLGBTQI+ human rights. 


Althea Branton

Director of Ops and Member Relations, Dignity Network

Canada and the Summit for Democracy

Canada and the Summit for Democracy

What is the Summit for Democracy? 

In December 2021, US President Joe Biden hosted a Summit for Democracy focussed on the important themes of defence against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and respect for human rights. On March 29-30 of this year, the second Summit for Democracy was held, co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, the United States and Zambia, and revisiting the themes from the first Summit. Following a virtual welcome to leaders the Summit included in-person meetings with representatives from civil society, government, and the private sector. The plenaries were designed to highlight key issues and challenges facing democracy today and explore solutions to strengthen democratic institutions and values around the world. Opening remarks were given by leaders of all participating nations, as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations.  


Why does the Summit matter? 

The Summit came at a time when democracy faces significant challenges and threats around the world. Authoritarianism, populism, disinformation, and other factors are eroding democratic values and institutions, making it more important than ever to promote and defend democracy. Given the intensifying struggles in these areas, the Summit turned out to be one of the most important gatherings of democratic leaders and advocates in recent history. It brought together leaders and civil society representatives from around the world to discuss ways to strengthen democratic institutions and values, defend human rights, and promote prosperity for all by addressing these challenges head-on, fostering cooperation and sharing best practices among democratic leaders and advocates. Importantly, the Summit also culminated in the Declaration of the Summit for Democracy, of which Canada is a signatory. 

The Declaration of the Summit for Democracy outlines 17 commitments in the effort to protect and strengthen democratic societies. These 17 commitments are in addition to the 35 actions that Canada committed to at the 2021 Summit for Democracy. In the spirit of these engagements, the Government of Canada instituted a mechanism to track progress for each of their commitments, open to the public online. Together with holding the presidency of the Community of Democracies since September 2022, Canada is actively committed to advancing democratic values. 


What is Cooperation Canada’s role on issues of civic space and democracy? 

Cooperation Canada’s engagement with democracy and civic space starts with its partners and members, both on the domestic and the international scene, with the aim of creating an enabling environment for democratic values to be upheld in Canada and around the world. By playing a liaison role between civil society and the government on important democracy initiatives, Cooperation Canada aims to promote progress and accountability on Canada’s commitments. Indeed, Cooperation Canada: 

  • Serves as the focal point of Canada’s presidency of the Community of Democracies, as well as the Civil Society Pillar focal point. 
  • Co-chairs the Civil Society Policy Advisory Group. 
  • Hosts an annual dialogue with Global Affairs Canada. 
  • Contributes to global reports around the theme of civic space, such as the Progressing National SDGs Implementation report, and global initiatives such as the Civil Society 7. 
  • Aims to reinforce partnerships with civil society through participation in partner networks’ important work, such as Forus. 


Cooperation Canada advocates for meaningful civil society engagement across government consultations and engagement processes and pushes the government to advance democratic values in an equitable and coherent manner. 

Darron Seller-Peritz

Darron Seller-Peritz

Policy Analyst and Program Officer