The year 2016 was a difficult year in so many ways for those who believe in democratic values, fundamental human rights and social justice. Despite all this, there were several moments of hope demonstrating the power of citizen action which continue to inspire Civil Society.
1.Appointment of the first UN special rapporteur on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)
The year 2016 saw the launch of the first-ever mandate of an Independent Expert of the Human Rights Council on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). In the face of backlash and hostility from some countries, civil society threw its weight behind the mandate which was ratified on 21 November by the UN General Assembly in New York. The person selected as to be mandate holder is well respected Thai academic and human rights advocate, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn.
2.South Africa’s Amadiba Crisis Committee’s fight for land rights
The persistent struggle of community group, Amadiba Crisis Committee to protect their traditional lands in the pristine Xolobeni area of South Africa from environmentally damaging titanium mining activities finally paid off. Mineral Resources Commodities, the mining company involved announced their decision to withdraw from the area. However, the tragic murder of community leader and chair of Amadiba Crisis Committee Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe, in March 2016 highlights the price activists have to pay in their struggles for justice.
Here's a timeline on Amadiba Crisis Committee's fight to protect their land:
3.Paris Climate Agreement entering into force
It may have its sceptics, but the universally-agreed Paris Agreement which entered into force in November 2016 became the first globally binding deal on tackling climate change. Among other things, the deal seeks to ensure that the long term global rise in temperature remains well below 2 degrees in relation to pre-industrial levels. Civil society fought long and hard for more urgent action to tackle emissions and fund adaption in light of the devastating effects of climate change on the most excluded people in the world.
4.Release of pro-democracy activists in the DRC
Thanks to intense civil society pressure , several civil society activists agitating for democratic rights were released in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016. They consistently opposed President Kabila’s unconstitutional moves to extend his term in office.
5.Positive legislative victories
Last year several legal and policy measures infringing on fundamental rights were dropped following civil society pressure. In Colombia, same–sex marriage was made legal after years of campaigning. In Poland, moves to further tighten anti-abortion legislation met a resolute response from women’s rights advocates and were dropped. In Nigeria, a regressive social media bill was also finally shelved.
There are many more stories of inspirational moments, please share yours. #sharinghope.
By Kgalalelo Gaebee