There were still major restrictions on meeting physically and Digni therefore invited its member organizations and their partners to a virtual Global Network Meeting from Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th of November 2021.
The virtual meeting consisted of over 200 participants from projects, partners, member organizations and the Digni secretariate. The participants were from nearly 25 countries from Asia, Africa and Norway.
On the first day Professor Stephanie Dietrich presented the Sustainable Development Goals and the “Leave no one behind” principle. Important questions that were discussed were: What does “Leave no one behind” mean for societies, churches and global cooperation (diakonia), Who are the «the furthest behind» in our different contexts? How can the church’s diakonia challenge the SDGs? And how can the SDGs challenge diakonia?
Dag Håkon Eriksen and Amos Ounsoubo held a presentation on “Civil Society in Strategic Partnership”. Our expectations and understanding of partnership were discussed. There are difficult challenges in partnership, including inequalities in power relations between the North being a donor and the South being a recipient. Partners in the South want a more mutual partnership instead of a partnership based on dependency and one-way financial support. There needs to be a change from project focus to partnership focus with an aim to strengthening local civil society organizations, Dag Håkon Eriksen argued.
Dr Titus Tenga discussed how civil society could be strengthened with a special focus on churches and faith-based organizations. The session also included a section on how the pandemic has affected civil society. There was also a discussion on the role of churches as political actors and their important role in mobilizing for community resilience.
On the second day, parallel sessions were held, and in one of the sessions the focus was environmental sustainability. The role of churches and faith-based actors in climate adaption processes at the national and grassroot level were explored and debated. In addition, there were parallel sessions on financial empowerment, education, health and peacebuilding work that are related to the specific work we do in our projects.
On the last day, we looked towards the future and we will include what we have discussed into the new strategic management plan and the application to Norad for a new agreement period 2023 – 2027.
According to Bal Kumari, the meeting was very well organized.
-Bal Kumari said she was grateful for this wonderful opportunity. – By conducting the meeting virtually, more relevant staff could join the programme according to their needs, although meeting physically also has its own benefits.
– The meeting provided opportunities for interaction. The sessions were facilitated and led by both Digni representatives and partners. I enjoyed the Digni flower, the SDG sharing and strengthening of civil society. My takeaways are the resource sharing site, learning from the experiences of each other and more clarity on Digni strategies, policies, systems and functions, Bal Kumari concluded.
According to Jean Bethe Osito, the meeting was very participatory.
-The meeting dealt with topics that are very relevant to the realities we experience in our daily work. The virtual meeting was for several people (especially in my organization), a first experience, he argued.
Particularly two sessions stood out according to Jean Bhete.
– The first one was Strengthening civil society. It is important to understand the church as a civil society actor that must work for increased community resilience. The Church can also do important work at the grassroot level. Moreover, the church must analyze the values of the community, while teach people to take responsibility for themselves
Jean Bhete also enjoyed the session on Women’s economic empowerment.
It is important to strengthen and encourage women to work because if they work, the finances of the family and the country will be better, he concluded.
Sisekelo Nzima stressed that it was a very fruitful meeting with many interesting insights
I enjoyed the session on the SDGs as well as the role of the church in civil society and the session on quality education, he said.
-Important insights from the sessions were that the church is important and should lead in advocacy issues and our interventions should be conducted in such a way that no one is left behind.
-I also thought the virtual meeting was well organized and the virtual platform worked best under the circumstances, he concluded.
Digni hopes this virtual meeting was a good arena for useful experience sharing and competence building between the partners in the South!