The recent sentencing of two South Korean civil society leaders, indicted for their role in organising and participating in protests demanding an independent investigation into the tragic Sewol Ferry disaster of 2014, is a troubling outcome for the protection of democratic rights in the country. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is deeply disturbed by the conviction and sentencing of the two leaders.
“The recent convictions of civil society protest leaders are a regressive step that will ultimately harm South Korean democracy,” said Teldah Mawarire, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “In democratic societies the right to express dissent and petition the government should be respected, not squashed.”
A pending Bill under consideration in Nigeria has civil society concerned for freedom of expression in the country. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) are urging Nigerian lawmakers to reject the ‘Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith Bill’, also known as the “Social Media Bill”. If passed, the proposed law will severely curtail freedom of speech and the opportunity to engage in critical political commentary online.
TO: His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
CC: His Excellency Lieutenant General Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior, His Excellency Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, And Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva
We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Bahraini authorities to lift the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Nabeel Rajab in order that he be able to travel abroad with his family for the purpose of securing medical assistance for his wife, Sumaya Rajab.
Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights and on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Defend Defenders) and Amnesty International urge Ethiopia’s development and international partners to address the killing of at least 140 protesters in the Oromia region since December 2015.
On 12 November 2015, peaceful protests started in the Oromia Region, southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa, in response to measures taken to transfer the ownership of a community school and portions of a local forest to private investors. The protests have since expanded in scope and size against wider grievances concerning the expansion of Addis Ababa into the Oromia Region under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan. They have also turned violent, resulting in the killing of protesters, and arrests of protesters and opposition leaders.
The government announced on 12 January that it was cancelling the Master Plan, but protests continued the next day in parts of Western Hararghe, Ambo and Wellega where the police and the military used live bullets and beat protesters.
A Joint Statement by 108 Worldwide Civil Society Organizations regarding the 709 Crackdown
(9th January 2016, Hong Kong) Exactly six months have passed since 9 July 2015 when the Chinese government started detaining human rights lawyers and defenders in large scale. To date, we take note that 14 lawyers and 22 human rights defenders have remained under various forms of confinement, with some in complete disappearance. In addition, another 33 of them are banned from travelling out of the country.
On 16 December 2015, prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, 46, and his colleague, Ms. Le Thu Ha, 33, were arrested at their home and office in Hanoi, Vietnam, respectively. Both have been charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, a law that has been routinely and arbitrarily invoked by the government to suppress critical voices.
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Protection International (PI) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcome the resolution adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council during this Special Session, requesting that a mission composed of independent experts be urgently dispatched to investigate human rights violations.
All over the world, human rights defenders and civil society organisations are facing increasing challenges with both state and non-state actors seeking to silence them.
CIVICUS speaks to student activist, Mpho Ndaba who is also an executive member of 350Wits and blogger on recent protests that rocked South African Universities. Students this year marched on Parliament in Cape Town and the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria making various demands.
1. What are the issues that were behind the recent protests?
The fall of apartheid saw many promises being made to South Africans especially to black people who were most affected by the system of oppression and segregation. Although there was a sense of hope for a new path which would ultimately lead to complete emancipation, nothing appears to have changed.
Access to education has been one of the major challenges the poor have been faced with in the new democratic South Africa, hence 2015 saw the rise of students who are willing to lay their lives down in an attempt to ensure that the system does not put them in a position of disadvantage. Students from various institutions of higher learning embarked in a national protest action. This gave birth to what is today known as ‘Fees Must Fall movement.’
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, warns of serious consequences due to the continued escalation of violence in Burundi. CIVICUS urges African leaders and the international community to strengthen diplomatic efforts to stem the tide of killings and gross human rights violations in Burundi. Individuals and civil society organisations perceived to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government are under severe attack.
With the Climate Change Conference underway in France, CIVICUS speaks to Wael Hmaidan of the Climate Action Network on what the outcomes of the conference will mean. Climate Action Network is an international network of over 950 NGOs that promotes action to limit human-induced climate change
1. What are the core issues at stake concerning climate change at the COP 21 UN Climate Summit taking place in Paris?
At the UN Climate Summit in Paris, governments have an opportunity to forge a new global agreement that accelerates the transition away from fossil fuels to a safer world powered by 100% renewable energy. The stakes underpinning the transition to 100% renewable energy are huge. The governments know the science, they know that without accelerating this action they could be responsible for hundreds of millions of people falling into poverty, for millions of people losing their homes due to rising seas, and a massive increase in instability in vulnerable regions. On the other hand, the same governments know that by failing to back an orderly transition to a renewable energy future they risk losing out on massive benefits. They could miss out on securing millions of new jobs, improving public health and saving money by ditching out of date and expensive fossil fuels.
CIVICUS spoke to Kirsten Auken, Director of the poverty reduction department at Danmission, about the effects of the recent reductions in the Danish development aid. Danmission is a Danish faith-based NGO that supports development projects of partners in the Global South based on principles of Christian ideology.
1. How will the budget cuts by the Danish government impact your civil society partners in the global South?
Danmission will have to cut around 4-million DKK (US$570 000) out of a previous Danish Development Assistance (Danida) framework of 14-million DKK (US$2-million). The cuts will affect partners and activities in Egypt, Tanzania, Myanmar and Cambodia.
In Egypt, we work together with the Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Service (CEOSS), which is an important NGO in the Egyptian civil society landscape. We support two big dialogue and development projects of CEOSS, which will experience the biggest cuts of all the projects we support globally. 17 out of the 81 participating community based organisations are not able to continue being part of the project due to the cuts in the Danish development aid.
32 civil society organisations working on youth issues have writen to South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, seeking his urgent intervention regarding unacceptable restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association and gross violations of the rights of human rights defenders in Angola. The letter brings attention to the plight of young activists in detention for engaging in human rights and pro-democracy activities and requests that President Zuma call on the Angolan authorities to release them when they appear in court on 16-20 November 2015.
CIVICUS speaks to a civil society member in Cameroon (who asked to remain anonymous) following the arrest in September of members of the non-governmental organisation Dynamic Citizen for holding a governance workshop
1. What is Dynamic Citizen and what does it do?
Dynamic Citizen (Dynamique Citoyenne) is a network of Cameroonian civil society organisations committed to monitoring public policies and cooperation strategies. Dynamic Citizen has a national coverage and is present in all the 10 regions of Cameroon.
It aims at influencing public policies through social mobilisation by raising the awareness of local populations on issues pertaining to financial governance ( such as budget analysis), political governance (including fighting against corruption, freedom to protest) and other human rights related issues like access to water and other social amenities. Recently, Dynamic Citizen has been engaged in an international campaign dubbed “Tournons la Page’’ (Let’s turn the Page) that addresses electoral governance and change of leadership in African countries.
Fifteen youth activists in Angola are due to appear in court on 16 November, facing charges of preparing for a rebellion and attempting to assassinate the President. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is calling on Angolan authorities to end the judicial persecution of these 15 young people, who have been in detention since June this year.
CIVICUS speaks to human rights defender Jonas Tshiombela Kabiena, who is the national coordinator of the New Congolese Civil Society - a platform of about 300 civil society organisations in the DRC. Mr. Kabiena is also the national secretary of the CSOs-DRC Coalition, a journalist and director of the Congolese Press Agency. He speaks about the challenges to civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ahead of the elections scheduled for 2016.
1. What is the situation regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms in the DRC?
The state of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a source of concern in the DRC, especially as the country moves towards holding a poll next year. Human rights defenders are targeted on the basis of the work they do and subjected to threats, harassment, arbitrary arrests, judicial persecution, and pro-longed detentions. In addition freedom of assembly and expression are severely constrained. Human rights defenders are threatened by the authorities and on several occasions are arrested and imprisoned for the work they do. Freedom of assembly is restricted as those who take part in protests are arrested. For example on 15 March 2015, several young democracy activists from the civil society movements Collectif Filimbi and Lucha were arrested following a day of protests organised by their counterparts in Kinshasa. Two of them, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala are in jail
Following threats to de-register 959 Kenyan NGOs, many working for good governance and human rights, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), call on Kenyan authorities to immediately stop the repeated harassment of NGOs and ensure a conducive legal and political operating environment.
Cameroon’s increasing clampdown on civil society and civic freedoms is being strongly condemned by global and national civil society organisations (CSOs). CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Cameroonian civil society network, Plateforme Nationale des Organisations de la Société Civile du Cameroun (PLANOSCAM) are concerned for several activists who will appear in court on October 28 for organising a workshop without permission. Especially worrying is the use of anti-terror dialogue to justify violations of freedoms of association and assembly.
CIVICUS spoke to Mamadou Moctar Sarr, a civil society activist and executive secretary of the National Forum for Human Rights Organisations (Forum nationalepour l’organisation des droits humains, FONADH) about challenges facing human rights defenders in Mauritania
1. What is the general state of civic space and human rights in Mauritania?
Mauritania, which is a pluralistic and multicultural country, has over the last decades, experienced serious human rights infringements, including the deportation of thousands of black Mauritanian citizens to Senegal and Mali where they are living in inhumane and degrading conditions. There have also been instances of slavery, racial discrimination and exclusion practiced with impunity. This is the daily reality for citizens who also have to face a deterioration of the economic, political and social conditions in Mauritania.
However, thanks to amendments made to the Constitution in 2012, the practice of slavery and torture are now classified as criminal offences.
Pakistan’s new policy to regulate the registration and operations of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) has been strongly condemned by civil society.
Issued on 1 October 2015, the new rules place substantial burdens on INGOs while subjecting them to debilitating bureaucratic controls including through excessive interference in their activities and limits on placement and retention of staff.
With parliamentary elections currently underway in Egypt, the international community must not overlook the on-going crackdown on civil society and civic freedoms in the country, say CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.
“Given Egypt’s current authoritarian political climate it is very unlikely that the elections will lead to any meaningful gains on democratic governance,” says Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “Some gestures have been made by the authorities to appease the international community, however these are not enough. The international community needs to do much more to pressure the regime to restore sovereignty and rights to the Egyptian people.”
The situation of detained Angolan pro-democracy activist and youth human rights defender Henrique Luaty da Silva Beirão has deteriorated and is now life threatening.
Mr. Beirão has been on hunger strike for over three weeks to protest his detention and that of 14 activists without trial or any formal charges beyond the 90 days stipulated under Angolan law. Mr. Beirão’s health has deteriorated significantly, rendering him completely weak and unable to walk or talk. He refuses to take any liquids and there are clear signs of some internal bleeding. Mr. Beirão’s current health condition requires immediate intervention from the Angolan government as there are growing fears for his life. If urgent action is not taken to release him and accord him immediate access to treatment, he may not be able to live for much longer. We are sad to observe that even under such life threatening circumstances the authorities in Angola have so far kept him in solitary confinement and refuse to allow others to visit him.
Civil society and human rights defenders continue to face daunting challenges in Uganda ranging from judicial persecution and intimidation to harassment and threats for the work they do. Restrictive legislation also impedes the activities of civil society as authorities threaten to close down NGOs and media agencies that are critical of the government. CIVICUS spoke to human rights defender Orishaba Bagamuhunda Justus about ongoing judicial harassment against him and the general state of human rights in the country ahead of the election scheduled for 2016.
1. What is the state of human rights in Uganda at the moment?
The state of human rights in Uganda is very bad. There are ongoing threats to freedom of expression, assembly and association which continue to raise serious concerns in Uganda. Security forces such as the police largely enjoy impunity for the torture of people during peaceful protests. The government has banned political pressure groups that call for peaceful change, obstructed opposition rallies, and harassed and intimidated journalists and civil society activists working in the areas of human rights, corruption, oil, land rights and sexual rights.
The notorious NGO Bill, which seeks to limit the civic space for NGOs in Uganda, looms in Parliament. Among other issues, the bill grants the NGO Board broad powers to refuse to register an NGO, to issue permits with instructions that place conditions on the staffing of NGOs and to restrict the employment of foreign nationals. The government has accused NGOs of engaging in “political activism” and in one case suspended an NGO working on sexual rights, arguing that it was “promoting homosexuality.”
Civil Society is on the frontline responding to the refugee crisis. CIVICUS noted in its 2015 State of Civil Society report that it is civil society that is acting as the first and often more effective responders to crises around the world. CIVICUS spoke to Libby Freeman the founder of grassroots campaign Calais Action (Twitter handle: @Calaisaction), a CSO that is on the frontline assisting refugees arriving in Europe on the response of civil society organisations to the crisis and, what they can do better.
1.What are the urgent needs of refugees and what sort of assistance are you offering?
We are collecting aid donations from around the United Kingdom mostly consisting of sleeping bags, tents, camping equipment, clothes, jackets and food. We are distributing in Calais and went on our first mission to Eastern Europe in September. We are also based in Hungary, and reaching out to refugees in Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. We are also working with NGOs on the ground in Calais to organise volunteer programs and assist in long-term help projects for the refugees.
There are concerns over the effects on civil society organisations of recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force. CIVICUS spoke to representatives of four organisations ─ Charity Security Network, Human Security Collective, European Foundation Centre and European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law ─ about how the work of the Financial Action Task Force affects CSOs and how CSOs can mitigate the unintended negative consequences.
Read the full interview here.
Two draft laws to restrict civic space in Israel are currently before its Parliament. CIVICUS spoke to a human rights defender, who asked to remain anonymous, on what the new bills mean and the dangers inherent in them for civil society organisations (CSOs).
Read the full interview here.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses grave alarm over reports that members of the Israeli Knesset have proposed two Bills that, if approved, would place unprecedented and debilitating restrictions on the legitimate activities of civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in Israel. The Bills – titled “Obligation to Disclose Support by a Foreign Political Entity” and “Foreign Agents” - were introduced by members of the “Jewish Home” party on 16 and 23 June 2015 respectively.
Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a third term as Burundi’s President on Thursday, 20 August 2015, six days ahead of schedule. Nkurunziza’s candidacy - which is widely held to have violated the constitution and peace accord - and his subsequent winning of the elections deemed by the international community as lacking in credibility, have sparked protests over the last few months, leaving scores of people dead with many forced to flee and seek refuge abroad.
CIVICUS spoke to a trusted partner in Burundi who requested that the interview be run anonymously for reasons of personal safety.
1.How would you describe the current political situation in Burundi?
The political situation in Burundi is very tense. Many people, including political opponents, civil society activists, journalists and even ordinary citizens have fled and continue to flee the country for fear of escalating violence and oppression. Killings and torture against opponents of the third term of Pierre Nkurunziza are rife.
Ramiro Orias, is a lawyer and specialist on human rights and issues related to access to justice in Bolivia. He is also a member of Foundation Construir and speaks to CIVICUS about the recent protests related to the mining region of Potosí and the current challenges that civil society actors face to get their demands heard in the country. Foundation CONSTRUIR is a Bolivian civil organization working for the defence of human rights and the strengthening of the rule of law.
Sixteen international organisations have joined the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) in welcoming the release of its president Mazen Darwish and in calling for all charges against him and his colleagues to be dropped, as well as for the release of all other prisoners of conscience who remain detained by the Syrian authorities.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the 3 August sentencing of 18 Muslim leaders, protestors and journalists in Ethiopia under the country’s widely criticised anti-terrorism law. Heavy sentences handed out to the religious rights activists represent a serious violation of their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.
Ahead of plans for a parliamentary debate on the proposed Uganda NGO Bill 2015, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) call upon the Honourable Members of Uganda’s Parliament to either reject or radically overhaul the Bill in line with ‘Best Practices’ outlined by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The Parliament of Uganda is currently considering the NGO Bill.
CIVICUS and FHRI believe that it is in the interests of the Ugandan people to have an NGO law that meets the highest constitutional and international law standards.
CIVICUS has written to the President of South Korea to express its deep concern over the judicial harassment and detention of individuals and civil society activists for organizing and participating in protests commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry tragedy.
CIVICUS has written to President Park Geun-hye of South Korea to reiterate our deep concern over the continued judicial harassment and detention of individuals and civil society activists for organizing and participating in protests commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry tragedy.
We join the growing number of international and national civil society groups calling for the immediate release of all demonstrators and representatives of civil society organisations who have been unjustly persecuted and detained for exercising their fundamental rights.
Read the full letter here.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the Government of Venezuela’s repeated harassment of civil society members who engage with UN human rights mechanisms. Several civil society leaders are currently being subjected to a smear campaign by state authorities for raising legitimate concerns at the UN about Venezuela’s deteriorating human rights record.
Recently, on 2 July, during ‘The Mallet’, a weekly television programme hosted by the current President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, several civil society members were subjected to targeted vilification. Among other slanderous claims, Mr Cabello accused activists, who had presented information to the UN Human Rights Committee on June 29 and 30, of conspiring against the state and defending the interests of foreign entities. The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts tasked with overseeing the compliance of states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Venezuela is required to report periodically to the Human Rights Committee on progress made by it in realising the rights enshrined in the ICCPR.
During the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (15 June - 3 July 2015), CIVICUS made a number of joint and individual interventions to highlight restrictions on civil society space. The interventions, including 9 parallel side events and 10 oral statements, underscored pressing thematic and country specific concerns on the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression and persecution of human rights defenders, which require the Council’s attention.
ICSW 2016 will involve a diverse partnership of civil society actors that seek to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Let’s face these challenges together! CIVICUS and CCONG invite your organisation to host an event at ICSW 2016, which would bring together concerned citizens across different sectors, themes, regions and backgrounds.
Use this opportunity to become an ICSW2016 partner and contribute to the implementation of one of the biggest civil society events.
29 June 2015 - In a show of solidarity against grave rights violations, 25 governments have criticised Azerbaijan’s government in the world’s premier human rights body. The strongly worded joint statement was delivered at the UN Human Rights Council even as Azerbaijan was hosting the first ever European Games (12-28 June).
29 June 2015 - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the on-going crackdown on civil society in Angola, urging the international community not to look the other way as the safety of activists, members of civil society organisations (CSOs) and journalists is imperilled.
A new global report by CIVICUS finds that rights of civil society were violated in almost half of the world’s 193 countries in 2014. In particular, the report draws attention to the systematic assault on Freedom of Association, Expression and Assembly.
The CIVICUS Civil Society Watch Report shows that core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were violated to a significant degree in at least 96 countries during 2014.
To Permanent Representatives of member and observer States of the UN Human Rights Council
Geneva, 10 June 2015
We are writing to urge your delegation to address serious, widespread and ongoing violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in South Sudan and to also address the lack of any credible accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the country during the upcoming 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Lizet Vlamings is a researcher with expertise in human rights and public health. Lizet has been working with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) for the past 3 years on monitoring human rights violations and conducting legislative advocacy in Uganda.
The Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) is an independent, non-governmental, non-partisan and not-for-profit human rights advocacy organization established in 1991. The organization seeks to enhance knowledge, respect and observance of human rights, and promote exchange of information and best practices through training, education, research, legislative advocacy and strategic partnerships in Uganda. The organization has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, is a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and is affiliated to the International Federation of Human Rights Defenders, (FIDH
1. What is the current status of the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill (2015) that is being considered?
The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill, 2015 was published in the Uganda Gazette No. 18 Vol. CVIII on 10th April 2015, and is intended to repeal the NonGovernmental Organisations Registration Act, Cap. 113 (as amended in 2006). The Bill was tabled in Parliament on 13th May 2015, and thereafter referred to the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs. At this stage, the committee tasked with scrutinising the bill normally invites the public to present views on the Bill. The Committee has not started receiving submissions from the public on the NGO Bill yet, but has shown intent to invite civil society stakeholders as soon as deliberations on the Bill start.
CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the possible impact of China’s new draft Non-Mainland Non-Governmental Organizations Management Law which applies to all non-profit, non-governmental “social organisations” formed outside mainland China that carry out activities promoting “public welfare” within mainland China.
If enacted, the draft law will severely restrict the work of international civil society organizations (CSOs) and public spirited individuals operating in mainland China. In particular it will impede their right to critique and contribute to the development of national policies and public institutions in breach of the spirit of the International Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
This toolkit is designed to stimulate a reflection around the potential and limits of multi-stakeholder processes in promoting socio-political change, and provides practical tools and resources to facilitate the use of dialogue processes in new ways.
The proposed methodology is based on the direct observation of several local dialogue processes initiated by civil society around crucial challenges experienced in their communities. It takes stock of the useful and sometimes unusual perspectives of local stakeholders around challenges, trends and innovations on how citizens collectively engage in the decisions that affect their lives.
7 May 2015
H.E. Sar Kheng
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior
Ministry of Interior,
275 Norodom Blvd,
Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
We the undersigned international and regional civil society organizations write to express our deep concern about provisions of the proposed Law on Associations, and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO). If adopted in its current form, the draft would place undue restrictions on the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of association and undermine laudable steps taken to actualize democratic reforms in the country. We urge your government to consult with a wide spectrum of civil society stakeholders to ensure that the draft corresponds to Cambodia’s constitutional and international human rights commitments.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, expresses grave concern over the arbitrary suspension of fundamental civil liberties and the targeted judicial persecution of persons arrested for participating in ongoing demonstrations in Baltimore, USA.
“The decision to prolong pre-trial detention and the imposition of exorbitant bail on protestors in Baltimore is a blatant manipulation of the right to liberty enshrined in national and international law,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “The destruction of property during the largely peaceful protests does not give the authorities carte blanche to undermine the rights of its citizens.”
Intimidation Undermines Independent Oversight
Venezuela is intimidating and harassing human rights defenders, and making unsubstantiated allegations that they are seeking to undermine Venezuelan democracy, 28 international and Latin American human rights organizations said today. The authorities’ allegations concern the groups’ legitimate functions of documenting abuses and representing victims before international human rights bodies.
Venezuelan authorities should cease this tactic immediately, the groups said. Governments participating in the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10-11, 2015, should press the administration of Nicolás Maduro to ensure that human rights defenders can do their job without fear of reprisals, the organizations said.
The government harassment is clearly intended to discredit and intimidate groups that document human rights violations, the groups said.
1 April 2015. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS has boldly declared that the space for citizens and organisations to speak out, organise and take action is finally expanding and is no longer going to be a world-wide problem. CIVICUS’ analysis is based on several recent positive developments. A number of states have issued synchronised statements to indicate “a new era of engagement” on civic space.
The governments of Uganda and Nigeria in their joint statement released last week termed persecution of the LGBTI community and CSOs promoting their rights as wrong. “This is a clear case of discrimination. Just as we oppose the discrimination of anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, place of birth, economic status or religion, we opposed the discrimination of human beings just because they are born gay,” said the joint statement.
On March 4, 2015, the FATF Secretariat shared a section of the draft Best Practice Paper on Combating the Abuse of Non-Profit Organisation (BPP), requesting input from non-profit organizations (NPOs) to be submitted before the consultation on March 25 or by April 10. Input is requested on self-regulation and due diligence practices and on limited sections of the BPP, mainly those that target NPOs.
We welcome FATF’s approach to consult the sector. We wish to ensure that there is wide and meaningful consultation as possible on the whole paper, especially grassroots service organizations, which are more difficult to reach.
CIVICUS secretary general Danny Sriskandarajah, together with the leaders of ActionAid (Adriano Campolina), AWID (Lydia Alpízar Durán), Greenpeace (Kumi Naidoo) and Oxfam (Winnie Byanyima), have made a joint call for unity against the 1% ahead of the World Social Forum in Tunis.
The widening gap and imbalance of power between the richest and the rest is warping the rules and policies that affect all of us in society, creating a vicious circle of ever growing and harmful undue influence. Global efforts to end poverty and marginalisation, advance women’s rights, defend the environment, protect human rights, and promote fair and dignified employment are all being undermined as a consequence of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. Decisions are being shaped in the narrow interests of the richest, at the expense of the people as a whole. The economic, ecological and human rights crises we face are intertwined and reinforcing. The influence of the 1% has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.
Faced with this challenge, we need to go beyond tinkering, and address the structural causes of inequality: we cannot rely on technological fixes – there is no app for this; we cannot rely on the market – unchecked it will worsen inequality and climate change; and we cannot rely on the global elites – left alone they will continue to reinforce the structures and approaches that have led to where we are. As the Rustlers Valley letter to civil society leaders noted, civil society organisations need to be bold in building from below. We need to help strengthen the power of the people to challenge the people with power.