Start main page content

Activists from over 100 countries at Wits

- By Wits University

Hundreds of activists and prominent members of civil society from more than 100 countries gathered at Wits in the last week of November to discuss and debate issues affecting civil society.

The annual International Civil Society Week (ICSW) World Assembly hosted by Civicus in partnership with Wits University amplified the role of the fourth estate in preserving democracy.  

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib, in conversation with Navi Pillay, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, discussed her fight for human rights in South Africa and through the UN.

Some of the other key issues that were explored were data for development, global governance, labour movements, the role of the media, protests and youth dialogues.

Over 30 students from the Wits Volunteer programme assisted Civicus and attended the interactive dialogue.

The World Assembly culminated with the Innovation Awards ceremony featuring the Nelson Mandela - Graça Machel Innovation Awards and the ONE Africa award. The Nelson Mandela - Graça Machel Innovation Award celebrates civil society activism by rewarding an organisation, individual activist and young person for their excellence, innovation, and brave risk-taking within grassroots development and governance campaign initiatives. Since the awards were launched by Graça Machel in 2004, 24 projects in 19 different countries received this honour. At the opening ceremony, Machel said, “The world needs new heroes and new positive roles models. The winners of the awards should be celebrated as such.”

The ONE Africa award aims to recognise, reward, and advance the exceptional work of organisations, founded by Africans and based in Africa, dedicated to helping Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The USD 100,000 award brings recognition to innovative African efforts to fight poverty. A list of the winners can be found at