World NGO Day – Seminar: “From the Past to the Future: A Living Civic Space for a Living Democracy”

Article by  Council of Europe – 22 January 2020, accessible here.

The Conference of INGOs is celebrating World NGO Day with the holding of a seminar in Brussels on 28 February entitled “From the Past to the Future : A Living Civic Space for a Living Democracy”.

The emergence of spontaneous grassroots activism and effective, widespread bottom-up initiatives questions the more institutionalised operational models of NGOs, INGOs and other umbrella organisations. But is it possible to initiate lasting changes in the socio-political world without relying on formal self-organised structures? How can the spontaneous mobilisation of citizens be relied on by more institutionalised NGOs? Do the grassroots organisations recognize themselves in the more corporatist NGOs? Are the global networks and institutionalised NGOs inclusive and welcoming enough to marginalised groups and individuals, local and smaller citizen initiatives? Are the goals of both the same?

A closing civic space impacts all forms of independent civil society and appears to be one of the symptoms of the “ill-democracy”. A rapidly changing political, economic, technologic and social landscape impacts quite significantly the civil society sector, and especially its sustainability. Faced with these changes, civil society organisations work to strengthen their organisational resilience, financial viability and capacities for action. They must also constantly look for new solutions to increase their capacities, seek out visibility and partnerships, adapt their engagement with citizens and advocacy with policymakers as well as new means of engaging with their own constituency and membership.

Join the Council of Europe Conference of INGOs and our knowledgeable and active panellists for a dynamic discussion of these important issues for civil society and democracy.


The debate will take place at the Council of Europe Office in Brussels from 10.00am to 5.00pm. There are only very limited places available to attend the event in person in Brussels and those interested are to register online as soon as possible. Places will be given on a first come first served basis. Those who cannot attend can follow the seminar live online. A link will be provided later, on this web page.

When: 28 February 2020 from 10.00am to 5.00pm

Where: Council of Europe Office in Brussels (85, Avenue des Nerviens) or LIVE ONLINE (link will be provided later)

Registration: To attend in person, register online before 17 February 2020. Limited places available on a first come first served basis.

Language of the seminar : English only (NO interpretation)

Concept Note

Draft programme

Register online


What is World NGO Day?

The universal concept of World NGO Day, which is celebrated on 27 February, is CelebrateCommemorate and Collaborate – the various NGOs around the world, and the people behind them that contribute to society all year around.

World NGO Day is a global initiative aiming to:

  • highlight the efforts and achievements of NGOs from all sectors,
  • offer the opportunity for people to understand more clearly what NGOs are doing for society at a local, national and international level and,
  • provide a platform for NGOs to discuss the issues that affect their work and share their knowledge and experience with one another.