MaryamAlKhawajaUpdate: 19 September 2014: We are happy to let you know that detained Bahraini  activist, Maryam Al-Khawaja is no longer in custody. She was released on 18 September by Bahraini authorities although the politically motivated charges against her still stand.

We are overwhelmed by the groundswell of support we received from around the world on Maryam’s plight. Over 150 civil society organisations in over 60 countries joined us in endorsing a letter to Bahrain’s government urging the release of Maryam and an end to persecution of human rights defenders in the country.

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9 September 2014. Punitive action taken by elements of the Hungarian police and state prosecutors against key civil society bodies has been strongly condemned by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS. 

“The latest events in Hungary highlight a major set-back for due process and lead to serious questions about Hungarian democracy. The incoming European Commission must act to ensure that the core democratic principles of the Union are upheld,” said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS. 

In the latest developments to restrict the activity of legitimate NGOs that receive funds from the Norwegian NGO Fund, police have raided offices of two key organisations: the Okotars Foundation and the Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights (DemNet). They are reported to have prevented staff from communicating or leaving the premises while the raids took place and to have searched the whole premises, ransacked files and taken laptops and servers. 

4 September 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges Bangladesh’s government to unconditionally withdraw politically motivated criminal charges against Bangladeshi activists Adilur Rahman Khan and Mr ASM Nasiruddin Elan. They were charged one year ago today under the draconian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act for documenting human rights violations.

“Mr Khan and Mr Elan are highly respected civil society activists who have made an immense contribution to support good governance and accountability in Bangladesh”, said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “Their rights monitoring and advocacy work through their organisation, Odhikar, is crucial for Bangladesh’s democracy and to meet the country’s human obligations.”

The charges against Mr Khan and Mr Elan stem from the publication of a fact finding report by Odhikar on the alleged killing of 61 people by Bangladeshi security forces during a rally held by Hefazat-e-Islam activists in Dhaka from 5-6 May 2013. Bangladeshi authorities demanded that Odhikar release details of individuals who had submitted testimonials and evidence about the killings, which was rejected by the organization to protect them from reprisals.

3 September 2014. We have watched with horror, the death and destruction wreaked on the people of Gaza by the State of Israel over the past two months. We have watched the targeting of civilian areas by Israeli forces which has resulted in over 2000 deaths, including approximately 500 children. Notably, the UN has said that roughly 70% of the Palestinians killed were civilians. Equally, we condemn the actions of Hamas militants who let loose a barrage of rockets on Israeli civilian areas causing fear and the death of seven civilians.

We believe that what has taken place in Gaza represents a monumental failure of the global governance system, highlighting many of the weaknesses that we have outlined in our State of Civil Society Report 2014. The report points out that international institutions provide a battleground where the strategic imperatives of states are asserted and contested. This is evident from the lack of response by the UN Security Council whose primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security. Although, we are heartened that the UN Human Rights Council was able to pass a resolution on the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate violations by both sides, we remain concerned whether perpetrators of what we believe are war crimes will be brought to justice. Sadly, many powerful and democratic states did not vote in support of the resolution.

28 August 2014 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has expressed solidarity with 127 community health workers and members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) who will be appearing in court on 1 September in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  They are facing charges in relation to their arrest following a peaceful night vigil on 10 July and a peaceful demonstration on 11 July. The community health workers and activists sought to highlight challenges plaguing the public health sector and demand dignified working conditions in South Africa’s Free State province.

“For over a year we have released alerts, stating our concern over a slowly collapsing public health system, the evidence of which is borne out of the many stories we receive on a frequent basis from those who are dependent on this crumbling health system,” said Sello Mokhaliphi, TAC Free State Provincial Chairperson. “We as the TAC, community health care workers and the government need to work together to improve it instead of fighting one another.”

13 August 2014. Former Minister in the Mandela Cabinet, co-founder of COSATU and lifetime activist, Jay Naidoo, will be playing a new role as an advisor to CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

“We are delighted to be able to draw on Jay’s vast experience in helping civil society navigate the confluence of crises humanity faces at the moment,” said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS.

As a global alliance with a mission to strengthen civil society, the CIVCUS Board asked Jay Naidoo to form and chair an advisory council to help it think through some of the challenges facing civil society. So far, together with the CIVICUS Secretary-General, he has had numerous conversations with civil society actors – from grassroots activists to the CEOs of some of the biggest NGOs in the world.

26 June 2014 - Independent civil society groups and journalists exposing human rights violations are coming under increasing pressure by Bangladeshi authorities warns CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. Individuals and organisations speaking out against the volatile political climate in Bangladesh which has taken a turn for the worse following the flawed January 2014 elections – boycotted by the opposition - are being subjected to various forms of persecution by state institutions.

“In recent months, Bangladesh’s government has been extremely hostile towards human rights defenders subjecting them to various forms of unwarranted surveillance and malicious prosecution,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “Many critical voices have already been silenced while those who continue to expose violations remain severely threatened.”

Human rights advocacy organisation, Odhikar is facing serious threats to its existence. Its Secretary, Adilur Rahman Khan and Director Nasiruddin Elan are currently facing several politically motivated criminal charges for their work in documenting human rights violations. The organisation has also been subjected to various forms of intimidation including persistent surveillance of its staff and repeated inspection of its records by Bangladeshi authorities.

2 July 2014 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is urging the international community to isolate Egypt’s repressive regime as it escalates its campaign against democratic dissent and the rights of its people.

“The past few months have marked a concerted assault on fundamental freedoms by Egypt’s totalitarian state,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi heads an illegitimate regime that has no respect for international norms and basic human rights. When global leaders, regional and international institutions continue routine diplomatic engagements with Egypt’s regime, they make themselves complicit in the suppression of the rights of Egyptians.”  

On 23 June, three Al-Jazeera journalists were handed lengthy prison terms of 7-10 years through a sham trial on the basis of made up charges of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier, this month on 11 June 2014, well respected activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others were convicted for holding illegal demonstrations and sentenced to 15 years in prison for protesting against the routine practice of using military courts to try civilians for political offences.

25 June 2014 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is shocked at the ongoing media and civil society crackdown in Nigeria. A number of legal and extra-legal tactics are being employed by Nigeria’s government to prevent the spread of information and the exercise of democratic freedoms.

“Once hailed for its progress on democratic indicators, Nigeria is fast becoming a hostile place for independent media and civil society groups, said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “In moves reminiscent of the days of military dictatorship in Nigeria, the media and civil society are being blamed for threatening state security.”

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria are extremely concerned by legislative moves to control their funding from international sources through the restrictive Foreign Donations (Regulation) Bill. The Bill gives the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission broad discretionary powers to deny foreign funding to CSOs on vague grounds such as `likely to affect’ the sovereignty and integrity of Nigeria, adverse diplomatic relations with foreign countries and religious harmony. Many believe this is a direct consequence of increasing civil society criticism of Nigeria’s government for its handling of the law and order situation in the country.    

13 June 2014: The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) must act to address the shrinking space for civil society across the globe, urged member organisations of the Civic Space Initiative* (CSI) at a side event in Geneva on 12 June.

In September 2013, the HRC adopted by consensus a landmark resolution urging States to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society to operate and carry out their essential work. 

The side event sought to identify how States must address the “implementation gap” between international standards and domestic law and practice, in particular for marginalised groups.  

“Freedom of association is a fundamental right, yet its core is being chipped away. Perhaps it’s time to shape the contours of this right more clearly: the existence of an independent civil society is a prerequisite for a legitimate democracy,” said Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. “It is the primary vehicle for people to organize and make their voices heard. States have no business interfering with that process – rather, they should encourage it.”

GDCA CIVICUS POST

4 June 2014 - More than 20 countries around the world will participate in the first ever 'Global Day of Citizen Action’ on Saturday 7 June as part of a campaign to raise awareness about threats to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

“The 'Global Day of Citizen Action’ will allow people all around the world to tell us what they think about their rights to speak out, organise and take action,” said Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

“At the moment we have around 40 events in more than 20 countries and many people are still signing up. The events will engage thousands of people and will have a strong visual and social media element, so we’re quite excited about them. For those who haven’t already, there’s still time to host events or sign up to attend, and on the day people will also be able to participate online,” Sayed said.

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02 Junho 2014- Protestos públicos em massa  têm ocupado as manchetes ao redor do mundo durante os últimos anos, refletindo uma falha de governança a nível nacional e internacional, diz o novo relatório da aliança global de sociedade civil, CIVICUS.

"Em muitos países ao redor do mundo, inclusive no Brasil, as pessoas vêem  que os processos democráticos formais assim como os partidos políticos estão falhando a abordar as questões realmente importantes. Em vez disso, esses sistemas são vistos servindo os interesses das elites políticas e económicas, "disse Danny Sriskandarajah, o secretário-geral da CIVICUS no lançamento do relatório 2014 sobre o estado da sociedade Civil.

"Seria de esperar que aqueles sendo reprimidos, marginalizados ou excluídos a nível nacional fossem ouvidos e protegidos pelas instituições a nível internacional – mas também a governança global não está funcionando. Muitos dos nossos processos e instituições internacionais estão desatualizados, não têm mecanismos de prestação de contas e são incapazes de enfrentar os desafios atuais eficazmente. As Instituições de governança internacional com um âmbito  limitado de participação popular correm o risco de se tornar irrelevantes.

02 Haziran 2014 - Küresel sivil toplum ittifakı CIVICUS tarafından yayınlanan yeni rapor, geçtiğimiz birkaç senede dünya genelinde manşetleri yakalayan  kitlesel protestoların, ulusal ve uluslararası seviyede gerçekleşen yönetişim hatalarını yansıttığına dikkat çekiyor.

CIVICUS Genel Sekreteri Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, 2014 Sivil Toplumun Durumu Raporu’nun duyurusunda “Dünya genelinde pek çok ülkede insanlar, resmi demokratik süreçleri ve parti politikalarını değer verdikleri meseleleri ele almakta başarısız buluyor.  Aksine insanlar bu sistemlerin politik ve ekonomik elitlerin çıkarlarına hizmet ettiğini düşünüyor.” dedi.

Rapor, Türkiye’de kitlesel protestolara katılan kişilerin elitist olmakla itham edildiğine dikkat çekiyor. Ayrıca protestocuların demokratik yollarla seçilmiş ve arkasında geniş halk desteği olan bir lidere karşı çıkmakla suçlandığını belirtiyor. Ancak küçük barışçıl gösterilerin kitlesel hareketlere dönüşmesine, devletin göstericilere orantısız ve şiddet dolu tepki vermesi sebep oldu. Protestoculara saldıran polislerin fotoğrafları
ülkedeki geleneksel ve sosyal medya kanalları aracılığıyla yaygınlaştırıldı. Görüntüler tepkinin büyümesine ve hızlı bir şekilde protestocuların sayısının artmasına neden oldu.  Ayrıca protestoya katılan insan profili çeşitlendi ve dile getirilen taleplerin kapsamı genişledi. Protestoların kapsamı ilk günlerde dile getirilen meseleleri aştı ve protestolar halkın derinlerde yatan memnuniyetsizliklerini meydana çıkardı.


State of civil society report 2014

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Mass public protests that have grabbed headlines around the world during the last few years reflect a failure of governance at the national and international level, says a new report by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“In many countries around the world people see formal democratic processes and party politics as failing to address the issues they care about. Instead these systems are seen to serve the interests of political and economic elites,” said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, the CIVICUS Secretary-General on launching the organisation’s 2014 State of Civil Society Report.

19 May 2014. Torture and enforced disappearances of activists by state security agents and private militias have severely escalated in recent months in the Philippines, say global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.

“We are alarmed at attacks on activists and members of the political opposition in the Philippines. 

Since taking office in June 2010, the administration of President Benigno Aquino has done little to address serious violations of human rights in the country despite promises made during his election campaign,” said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan. 

From July 2010 to March 2014, Karapatan has documented cases of 192 victims of extrajudicial killings, 21 cases of enforced disappearance, 94 of torture and 631 of illegal arrests and detention. 26 journalists have also been reportedly murdered since President Benigno Aquino took office, making the Philippines an extremely dangerous environment for the media. 

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14 May 2014. Johannesburg. Azerbaijan has been urged to stop the intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders as it assumes the chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 14 May. 

The call, by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Azerbaijan-based Center for National and International Studies (CNIS), comes in the face of persecution by the government of leaders of several prominent civil society organisations (CSOs)  in apparent reprisals for critically analysing the presidential elections.  Other activists are being held on different charges to discredit their credibility.

“Azerbaijani authorities have severely escalated repression since the re-election of President Ilham Aliyev in October 2013. Numerous activists have been arrested and detained merely for speaking out against the government’s poor human rights record,” said Leila Alieva, President of CNIS. “These actions are a matter of serious concern as the European system is underpinned by a commitment to uphold human rights standards.” 

CIVICUS logo colour-on-white SML HRA  AAND Ittijah

 

6 May 2014 – The global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and several NGO networks are calling for the release of the imprisoned Palestinian civil society leader, Ameer Makhoul, on the 4th anniversary of his arrest.

“Ameer Makhoul has unjustly spent years in prison as a result of his legitimate and peaceful activities as a human rights defender,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “His trial and conviction were marred by a number of flaws and inconsistencies and we are calling on the Israeli government to release him immediately.”

On 6 May 2010, Ameer Makhoul, Director of the Palestinian NGO, Ittijah: Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, was arrested by Israeli Shin Bet security forces in Haifa, Israel. Following his arrest, Mr Makhoul was denied access to legal counsel and his family for nearly two weeks, during which he was reportedly forced to make a confession under severe duress.

4 MAY 2014 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the US-based Defending Dissent Foundation are alarmed at proposed legislation in the United States to reduce official funding to academic institutions that support the boycott of Israel.

 

“Israel remains one of most serious violators of human rights on the planet,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “It is indeed ironic that legislation would be proposed in the United States to limit freedom of expression when a fundamental pillar of US foreign policy is supposed to be support for human and democratic rights.”

 

The “Anti- Boycott Bill” (number A 08392A) introduced in the New York State Assembly on 6 February 2014 prohibits the use of state funds by any college to provide assistance to any ‘academic entity’ that supports a boycott of a country or its academic institutions either through an official statement or public resolution. The bill covers support to any university, college or professor including through financing of travel to meetings or membership of organisations that support boycotts. 

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In December of last year, we came together as human rights, social and environmental justice and trade union organizations worldwide to lay out a roadmap for embedding all human rights into the core of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. We’ve monitored developments very carefully since then.

As the Open Working Group (OWG) on sustainable development now moves from principles to the specific content of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we are compelled to assess how well the full realization of human rights is reflected in the Co-Chairs’ Working Document in advance of the 5-9 May session of the OWG.

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20 March 2014 – The release of Sri Lankan Human Rights Defenders Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan must be met with substantive reform to advance human rights say CIVICUS, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice (SLCPJ).

“While we welcome the release of Fernando and Father Praveen following an outpouring of international condemnation, numerous activists and dissidents remain in detention for trying to advance human rights,” says Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General. “The Sri Lankan Government must further heed the appeals of national and international civil society groups to remove all unwarranted restrictions on peaceful dissent and ensure a sustainable transition to democracy and rule of law,” continued Sriskandarajah.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and the Pakistan Development Alliance (PDA) express strong reservations about the proposed Foreign Contributions Bill to regulate international funding for civil society activities in Pakistan.

RAWA protest rally against Taliban in Peshawar April 28 1998

 

"The overall environment in the country is already punitive to the working of NGOs and civil society voices,” said Zia ur Rehman, National Representative of the Pakistan Development Alliance. “The proposed legislation would further instigate the undesirable bureaucratic actions against civil society organisations. When five different laws already exist to control and regulate the sector, we must ask ourselves whether we need another one.”

05 February 2014. Ukraine’s passing of an amnesty law signed by President Viktor Yanukovich on 31 January 2014 is a meaningless gesture, says Ukrainian CSO GURT Resource Centre, and global civil society alliance CIVICUS. They urge the Ukrainian Parliament to amend the recently passed amnesty law by withdrawing conditions placed on amnesty for protestors.

Law No.  4021-3 signed by the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, came into force on 2 February 2014. According to this law, amnesty will be granted to protesters charged with the commission of offences from 26 December last year if they vacate government buildings and unblock Grushevskogo Street in downtown Kiev and other streets and squares across the country within 15 days.

“The law puts conditions on protestors without any requisite assurance that the demand of the protestors to hold an early election will be met,” said Bohdan Maslych, Executive Director of GURT. “Ukrainian authorities need to address the underlying causes of public discontent in the country.”

According to a report released by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office on 30 January, nearly 250 protesters have been detained or arrested since anti-government demonstrations began in late November 2013.  

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has released a revised version of what is probably the world’s most comprehensive compilation of commitments made by governments on civil society rights.

Compendium Wordle

“The compendium is the result of years of painstaking research on public documents that promise respect for civil society freedoms and is an invaluable tool for citizens and organisations around the world. It is arguably the most comprehensive document of its kind in the world,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

Zambia’s government and its international development partners must support not undermine the country’s harassed NGOs say global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD).  Zambian NGOs resisting government deadlines to register under the restrictive NGO Act have expressed concern about the actions of a number of donor governments.

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“We have been credibly informed that despite the all-round international criticism of the NGO Act, a number of governments are refusing to provide financial assistance to Zambian NGOs unless they register under the law,” said Tor Hodenfield from CIVICUS. “This reveals a glaring discrepancy between donor priorities and those of national NGOs. Such requirements are undermining the national NGOs’ campaign to repeal this unjust law.”

Global Civil Society Alliance CIVICUS joins other international, national and Syrian CSOs in condemning the gunpoint kidnapping of four Syrian human rights defenders including internationally acclaimed activist Razan Zaitouneh, the General Coordinator of the Violations Documentation Centre.

"The woman who has documented violations against humanity for three years in Syria, and defended human rights for more than a decade is now a victim of kidnapping, in a clear attempt to extinguish the reporting of truths from Syria" said Bassam Al-Ahmad, Spokesperson of the Violations Documentation "but we will continue carrying the candle she has lit."

Ironically, they were abducted on Tuesday, 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day, from the Violations Documentation Centre in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and SOLIDAR, join in strongly condemning attacks on fundamental freedoms in Egypt. Rising restrictions on public debate have imperiled the aspirations for justice and freedom which underpinned the Egyptian revolution.

Egyptian policemen use a water canon to disperse protesters during a demonstration against the newly passed law on November 26, 2013

We are deeply concerned about the enactment of the "Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations (Law 107 of 2013)" which was approved by Interim President Adly Mansour on November 24. This highly restrictive law violates well established international human rights law standards and places arbitrary limitations on the right to peaceful assembly. Its provisions give security officials excessive and discretionary powers to clamp down on public demonstrations and on the right to protest peacefully under the garb of protecting "security and peace".

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, joins hundreds of millions of people around the world in extending its deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of former South African president Nelson Mandela and to the people of South Africa and all those inspired and touched by his humanity.

"On behalf of our members across more than 100 countries, CIVICUS mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, a global icon and an inspiration to all those fighting for human rights and justice around the world," says Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges the international community and South Sudan's trading and development partners in particular to question official moves to push through a repressive civil society draft law in Parliament.

South Sudan Grunge Flag  by Free Grunge Textures

"The Voluntary and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations Bill narrowly defines the scope of civil society organisations' (CSO) activities to exclude key areas such as tackling corruption, promoting good governance and advocating against human rights violations," said CIVICUS Head of Policy and Research, Mandeep Tiwana. "Following repeated failed attempts by South Sudanese civil society to engage in constructive dialogue with the government over this repressive Bill, we are urging the international community to speak with renewed urgency in support of South Sudanese civil society."

11 November 2013 – A new report finds shocking threats to civil society in Sri Lanka, amidst growing protests about the Commonwealth's decision to host its Summit there despite strong criticism of the country's human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka Report Launch

Based on interviews with a diverse range of civil society leaders and research on the conditions affecting citizen participation, CIVICUS and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka (CPA), document a litany of threats to civil society in Sri Lanka.

The report - Sri Lanka's Harassed Civil Society - finds:

  • The right to express democratic dissent is seriously imperilled, with many civil society activists facing harassment, intimidation and violence.
  • Abduction and assassination remain a constant threat for prominent journalists, activists and dissidents, with little effort by the authorities to investigate such attacks.
  • Peaceful protests have been disrupted by security forces.
  • Senior officials and state-owned media have issued inappropriate and threatening statements against civil society leaders and organisations.
  • The legal environment for non-governmental organisations is restrictive, with administrative and regulatory obstacles impeding their effective operation.
  • Civil society organisations are being subjected to increasing surveillance and official control, especially in the Northern Province.
  • The ability of civil society organisations to find funding from overseas and work with international partners is severely hampered.

112 civil society organizations based in over 46 countries have endorsed a letter calling on the Zambian President to refrain from implementing the restrictive 2009 NGO Act.

Africa made of Country Flags

“Hundreds of Zambian civil society groups are taking a principled stand at the risk of criminal sanctions by refusing to abide by the official directive to register under this unjust law by the November 11 deadline,” said Lewis Mwape, Executive Secretary of the Zambia Council for Social Development. “Submission to this law will severely mar the independence of NGOs in Zambia,” said Mwape.

A new report released today by the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, reveals a pattern of sustained attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world.

CIVICUS has tracked 413 threats to civil society in 87 countries since the beginning of 2012. Worryingly the report shows that several governments are attempting to weaken civil society organisations by enacting laws which prevent them from accessing the funding they need to survive and prevent them from conducting legitimate activities involving expressions of democratic dissent.

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere by mind on fire on Flickr

“We are hugely concerned about the killings of land rights and environmental activists in Latin America and Southeast Asia due to collusion between politicians and big businesses. Equally, defenders of rights of women and the gay community are facing severe threats in the Middle East and Africa respectively,” said Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General.

10 October 2013 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, denounces the South Korean government’s unjustified arrest and detention of eleven environmental and civil society activists for exercising their right to freedom of assembly.

south korean activist

“The repressive and unwarranted response to the peaceful demonstrations is representative of the government’s persistent intolerance of environmental activism in the country,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “The government must immediately drop all charges against the peaceful protestors and initiate a dialogue with Miryang villagers to find a mutually-agreeable solution to the dispute.”
 
On 3 October 2013, 11 human rights defenders were arrested and detained by members of the National Police Agency in response to peaceful demonstrations against the construction of large-scale power transmission towers, in Miryang, Republic of Korea. While a number of the activists were released without charge within 48 hours of being detained, criminal charges were filed against four of the detainees.

8 October 2013 - Global civil so ciety alliance, CIVICUS strongly condemns the government of Sudan’s brutal response to on-going protests in the country.

sudan protests

“The government’s violent repression of demonstrations represents the most severe crackdown on independent dissent since the protest movement began in 2011,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “The international community, especially the African Union, must not wait passively for the situation to further deteriorate before taking action,” said Hodenfield.

According to the Sudanese authorities, 34 people have died and 700 others have been arrested during the most recent wave of protests which began on 22 September in the greater Khartoum area. However, Sudanese civil society groups and diplomats have put the death toll at at least 200, citing the government’s indiscriminate and excessive use of excessive force, including live ammunition, to disperse protestors.

 

In partnership with Saudi civil society, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is urging the Saudi Arabian government to draft an NGO law that will guarantee legal status and protection for civil society organisations (CSOs).

“The association law needs to be passed with great haste,” said Sadek Al-Ramadan from the Saudi-based Adala Centre for Human Rights, “because until there is a code to protect and guide our functions, we are placed in a legal limbo and cannot achieve our goals, fundraise, or organise our affairs legally. Human rights concepts and understanding cannot be rooted in our country without serious work by civil society who should be given legal protection.”

Currently, the Saudi Basic Law of Governance governs the operation of charities. A number of civil society groups including those engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights are unable to obtain legal status under the narrow definition of charity under the law. The Adala Centre for Human Rights had its appeal to register rejected in August by an administrative court. The Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) stated that its decision to refuse the license was on the grounds that it is only permitted to license charities. As a result, MOSA stated that the Adala Centre’s remit was not covered by the definition of a charity.

A new index published today by the global civil society network, CIVICUS, shows that many governments around the world are failing to keep their promise to create an environment that allows citizens to mobilise and participate in civil society.

CIVICUS 2013 Enabling Environment Index Report Cover

"Despite countless promises from governments that they will protect civil society, the majority of citizens around the world live in environments in which they do not have the capacity to participate freely and fully in the activities, organisations and movements that seek to better their lives and improve their societies," said Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General.

Evidence from around the world suggests that the conditions for civil society are far from perfect. The CIVICUS 'Enabling Environment Index' (EEI) is the first rigorous attempt to measure and compare the conditions that affect the potential of citizens to participate in civil society and ranks the governance, socio-cultural and socio-economic environments for civil society in 109 countries.

Public and media freedoms are increasingly under threat in Uganda, says CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

“During the last few years we have seen attacks on the media, gay rights activists, anti-corruption campaigners and now Ugandans are faced with the possibility of a draconian new law that will restrict their freedom of assembly,” said Charlotte Allan, CIVICUS Policy and Advocacy Officer.
 
A lone female journalist with The Independent Magazine Uganda stands right in front of a sea of Policemen Source Echwalu Photography
 
The latest in this crackdown on fundamental freedoms is the pending Public Order Management Bill (POMB) and the secrecy surrounding it.
 

22 August 2013 – CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, has welcomed the UN Secretary General’s recently released report on the post-2015 development agenda.

A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, is strongly underpinned by a human rights based approach which CIVICUS believes is a positive step,  raising hopes for the adoption of a holistic and relevant development framework to succeed the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

MDGs

“A major shortcoming of the present MDGs is their failure to prioritise good governance supported by democratic freedoms. The report emphasises the need to uphold human rights and rightly states that freedom from fear and want are inseparable,” said Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

22 August 2013: Bangladesh's persistent onslaught on democratic freedoms will seriously undermine development gains warns CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

"CIVICUS is deeply concerned by growing intimidation tactics by the Bangladeshi government to silence critical civil society voices in the country," said Tor Hodenfield of CIVICUS.

Bangladesh Muktijuddho Mural

Credible civil society sources estimate that at least 150 protestors have been killed and hundreds have been seriously injured by security forces in nationwide political protests that have rocked the country since the beginning of 2013. Police and paramilitary forces have been accused of acting with impunity and using excessive and indiscriminate force against protestors.

Johannesburg, 19 August 2013 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and the Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) are alarmed at attacks on the independence of the NGO sector and the media in Zambia.

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The Zambian government is starting to implement a controversial 2009 NGO law by requiring all NGOs to re-register. The NGO law creates a difficult environment for civil society as highlighted by CIVICUS in its letter to former President Rupiah Banda. This includes the requirement for NGOs to be subjected to oversight by a government dominated Board; government powers to dictate NGOs thematic and geographical areas of work; streamlining of NGOs’ work according to the objectives dictated in the National Development Plan; and increased red tape through mandatory re-registration every five years .

Johannesburg, Jakarta, 18 August 2013: The decision by Indonesian President Yudhoyono to approve a highly restrictive NGO has been condemned by civil society in Indonesia and abroad.

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The Law on Mass Organisations (Ormas Law) represents a severe setback for freedom of association in the country says CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID).

Johannesburg, 14 August 2013: Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is deeply concerned about the proposed legislative changes to the Non-Profit Organizations Law in Israel and the effect this will have on civil society space and the right to express dissent in the country.

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Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, is currently considering a restrictive amendment to the Amutot (Non-Profit Organizations) Law. The bill introduced in the Knesset on 9 July seeks to prohibit civil society organisations (CSOs) from receiving more than NIS 20,000 (approximately $6000) if they have called for the trial in international courts of IDF [Israeli Defence Force] soldiers or for boycotts, divestments or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Global Civil Society Alliance, CIVICUS, is shocked and saddened by the deaths of at least 51 pro-Morsi supporters in the early hours of 8 July. Hundreds more are reported to have been injured when military and police opened fire on Monday morning outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo.

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"We urge the interim government of Egypt and the armed forces to start an investigation into this atrocity immediately. This is desperately needed to restore faith in both the transitional government and the armed forces' ability to protect the freedoms of association and assembly of all Egyptians, and not just the 'victors' of this second uprising," says Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General.

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Johannesburg, 26 June 2013 - Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the intimidation and harassment of civil society members in Mali in the run up to the July 2013 elections. Following the March 2012 coup d’état there has been a renewed crackdown on fundamental freedoms, particularly the freedoms of assembly and expression in Mali.

“It is critical that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community urgently engage with the Malian authorities to ensure protection of fundamental freedoms and civil society voices in the country,” says David Kode, CIVICUS Policy and Advocacy Officer.

“Civil society members are facing threats from both government forces as well as armed groups as human rights violations abound in the country. Journalists are being harassed by security forces through random visits to media houses and routine summoning for questioning. Many have been warned against writing stories about the military and the political situation in the country,” says Kode.

A one day multi-stakeholder dialogue entitled "Stakeholders Forum on Building Citizen Engagement" will be held on 5 June 2013 in Ughelli, Delta State, Nigeria. The dialogue includes a capacity building workshop and engagement forum for individuals from communities, companies, multinationals, civil society organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders and will provide an opportunity for reflecting on the role economic and social groups, oil companies, corporate institutions and other stakeholders serve in rural development in the region.

Last September, NDWPD joined participants from around the world in Montreal, Canada for the CIVICUS World Assembly to define a New Social Contract for Citizen Participation.

CIVICUS' 2012 World Assembly theme track on "Building partnerships for social innovation" challenged NDWPD and other civil society actors to initiate a new and creative relationship or dialogue between non-connected organisations, actors and sectors to bring social change at a local level. NDWPD took this challenge and received the 2013 CIVICUS Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award for the aforementioned multi-stakeholder discussions for key actors in the Niger Delta.

As protests rage across Turkey, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges Turkey's government to pay heed to the protestors' demands for greater democratic and personal freedoms. The response of the Turkish government to the protests has been heavy handed as witnessed in the crackdown underway since 31 May. A blackout was also imposed on sections of the media to prevent reporting of the protests.

The demonstrations which originally began in Istanbul against the government's proposals to undertake urban development plans on the site of a public park have now spread to other major cities in the country including the capital Ankara where hundreds have been detained. The protestors are expressing widespread dissatisfaction against the policies of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's government which they see as undermining Turkey's democratic and secular fabric.

Saudi Arabia's dismal human and civil rights record continues as civil society members are subjected to heightened persecution in a show of blatant subversion of fundamental rights in the country. The Saudi government is resorting to a systematic crackdown on critical voices through the denial of registration to human rights groups, imposition of travel bans on activists and intimidation of human rights defenders through politically motivated legal proceedings.

human rights nabeel rajab bahrain cartoonGlobal civil society alliance, CIVICUS expresses deep concern about recent attempts to isolate and silence imprisoned Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab. He has been secluded since 13 May after he communicated to his wife over the phone that he had witnessed the savage torture of 8 young political activists by officers at Jaw prison in Manama.

After unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Nabeel for a week, his wife paid him a visit at Jaw Prison on 20 May where he informed her that the authorities were intent on gagging him after he and two prisoners witnessed foreign police officers brutally torture young political activists. Nabeel Rajab is one of Bahrain's most prolific pro-democracy activists. He is presently serving a two-year jail term for using twitter to allegedly "insult" the Bahraini regime.

Johannesburg. 3 May 2013: CIVICUS and Russia based Citizens’ Watch strongly condemn the continuing raids on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) by the Russian government. Inspections on the premises of NGOs with the stated aim of checking compliance with new laws on foreign funding are designed to create a climate of fear among independent civil society groups.

Despite President Putin’s assertion on 5 April in Hannover, Germany that he simply wants to ascertain how the 654 NGOs receiving money from abroad spend the money they receive, the CSO searches have been performed in an aggressive fashion, raising concerns that Russia is turning into a police state.

The concerns stem from the following:

  • On 19 March 2013, the Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor stated that during the coming month 5,000 inspections of CSOs would be conducted to check compliance with new laws on terrorism, foreign funding and other offences. Since this time, inspections have been carried out against a large number of national and international CSOs including the offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Helsinki Group and the Russian human rights CSO, Memorial.

May 3, 2013
Today, Freedom Now, Amnesty International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Committee to Free Eskinder Nega, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, English PEN, the International Press Institute, the International Women’s Media Foundation, Media Legal Defence Initiative, the National Press Club, PEN American Center, PEN Canada, and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, condemned the decision by the Ethiopian Supreme Court upholding the 18-year sentence imposed against independent journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega. “By upholding the sentence, the Ethiopian government has missed yet another opportunity to respect its freely undertaken obligations under international law,” the groups said. “This failure is particularly striking in light of today’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations.”

“By misusing anti-terror legislation to stifle the peaceful work of journalists like Mr. Nega and his colleagues Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye, the government has, unfortunately, demonstrated that it is willing to disregard the legitimate rights of the Ethiopian people and undermine the credibility of international efforts to address real security threats in the region, all in an attempt to silence critical voices in the country. It is time for the international community to make it clear to the government in Addis Ababa that such violations will no longer be tolerated.”

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International development efforts are being undermined by the rising tide of legal restrictions, funding cuts and violence faced by civil society around the world, according to a new report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

The new report - The State of Civil Society 2013 - catalogues the experiences of activists and non-governmental organisations across the world. It concludes that the optimism within civil society of 2012 has evaporated.

The report argues that new post-2015 international development goals should include an aim of improving the 'enabling environment' for civil society, so that other goals of poverty reduction, conflict prevention and inequality are not undermined.

The report, which draws on around 50 expert contributions from around the world, also shows that while civil society is increasingly using social media to mobilise citizen action and scrutinise governments, restrictions on websites and social media are increasingly being used as tools to keep citizens in the dark. The report shows that around a third of all internet users globally have experienced some kind of national-level restriction on their freedom to communicate, with over 45 states, most notably China, having imposed restrictions of some kind.

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