This year marks the 20th anniversary of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s authoritarian rule in Belarus, the “last dictatorship of Europe.” As if to celebrate the occasion, and despite multiple urgent calls from around the world, the International Ice Hockey Federation granted Lukashenka’s wish to host the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship (IHWC) in Belarus this May. Hockey is his favorite sport.
"CIVICUS, an international movement dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, expresses its appreciation for this opportunity to address the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 55th Ordinary Session."
Read the full statement here.
Dear CIVICUS friends,
As Chair of the CIVICUS Board of Directors, I am delighted to share with you some results of our Board of Directors meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of March, 2014. I congratulate CIVICUS voting members for electing a truly diverse, international and inter-generational Board. This diversity will benefit us all at CIVICUS.
As the Board we adopted key priorities for our term in office, which include fundraising, strategic engagement and sustainable financial growth. We also adopted new ways of work focusing on a Board that provides thought leadership as we maintain our core responsibility of oversight and policy advice to the organisation.
The Board received a management report, and we are encouraged by the strategic approaches and positioning of CIVICUS by the Secretary-General, Danny Sriskandarajah, and the management team. The Board has given their full support for International Civil Society Week 2014, complete with CIVICUS World and Youth Assemblies. We are excited to host this event in Johannesburg, South Africa, with local and international CIVICUS partners. We therefore encourage our members, partners and friends to actively engage with CIVICUS through these exciting opportunities. CIVICUS is already exploring the next location for International Civil Society Week, planned for early 2016.
I am looking forward to joining some 100-odd civil society colleagues in Mexico City next week to attend the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The GPEDC grew out of a series of meetings on improving aid effectiveness that culminated in Busan, South Korea in 2011. Next week’s meeting will attract some 1300 senior officials from 161 Governments and 54 organisations who will review progress on the commitments made in Busan and how to make sure that the post-2015 global development agenda is implemented as effectively as possible.
Will this meeting really mark ‘a major milestone in the global fight against poverty’ as promised on the GPEDC website? Or will it be just another minor stop on the road to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda? For many of us in civil society, there are three areas where the GPEDC could make a big impact. If next week’s meeting could show tangible progress on these, I for one would leave happy.
Show us the progress
As I have argued elsewhere, we need a paradigm shift in the way that development is delivered, moving from a supply-side driven model built around official development assistance (ODA) to one that reflects the changing geopolitical and economic realities, is shaped not only by donors, and involves flows beyond aid. By signalling a commitment to mutual accountability, transparency, and better institutions, and by going beyond donor governments (other donors, civil society, foundations, business), the GPEDC has the potential to drive this paradigm shift.
CIVICUS and the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) express shock at the continued harassment and re-arrest of Swazi journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko.
The undersigned civil society organizations express their serious concern for the health and well-being of imprisoned Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Mr. Al-Khawaja was arrested three years ago today, on 9 April 2011, and continues to require medical attention for injuries sustained during his arrest and subsequent torture.
By Danny Sriskandarajah
There is a new weapon of choice for governments that want to undermine bits of civil society that irritate them - restricting funding from foreign sources. By making it more difficult for human rights organizations or public watchdogs to access money from abroad, these governments hope to curb dissent and reduce accountability. These measures not only go against established international conventions and commitments, but what governments do not seem to realize is that the measures will not work.
There has been a plethora of funding restrictions recently, so much so that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedoms of assembly and association devoted his report to the subject last year. Colleagues at the International Center for Not-for-profit Law have documented more than 20 attempts to restrict foreign funding in the last two years.
For example, in Bangladesh advance government approval is needed before a non-governmental organization (NGO) can access foreign funding, in Ethiopia and Israel there are limits on the areas foreign-funded NGOs can work in; in Zimbabwe foreign-funded NGOs cannot work on ‘governance’ issues, and in Russia the government has tried to stigmatize these NGOs (requiring them to register using a Russian word that means ‘spy’).
Such measures may play well politically by reinforcing the idea of undue foreign (Western) interference in domestic affairs, but they are based on a set of flawed assumptions about how civil society works. They will only make a marginal difference in curbing dissent, and will have disproportionate effects on civil society. They may even end up back-firing completely.
Geneva, Switzerland – The government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 61 human rights organizations said today. The United Nations Security Council demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria on February 22, 2014.
CIVICUS is supporting a new campaign to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Syria. You can see who else is part of the campaign by visiting www.with-Syria.org
The 15th March marks the third year anniversary of the Syria crisis - a crisis that has been labelled one of the worst of our generation; half the country has been forced to flee their homes; over 100,000 people have been killed.
In the run up to the anniversary, Syrian groups, prominent international NGOs, former world leaders and celebrities around the world are holding vigils in over 30 countries, turning global landmarks into symbols of hope, from the Eiffel Tower to Za’atari camp, from Trafalgar Square to Dadaab camp in Kenya. The artist, Banksy, has donated the use of his iconic image of the girl with the red balloon as a motif for the campaign.
The campaign calls on everyone to redouble efforts to raise awareness about the crisis. As part of the #WithSyria campaign, we are asking world leaders to make every effort to ensure the people of Syria do not lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. This means pressing all parties to the conflict and all those with influence to:
Please lend your support to the #WithSyria campaign by:
4 March, 2014
Feliciano Reyna is a human rights advocate working on HIV and AIDS related issues in Venezuela since 1995. He has been involved in CIVILIS since 2009, a non-profit organisation in Venezuela promoting and defending human rights.
CIVILIS´ mission is the development of information and capacity building skills for organized citizen actions aimed at the promotion and defense of human rights, based on multidisciplinary approaches and on civic, democratic values. CIVILIS seeks to contribute to the expansion and strengthening of frameworks of respect, and guarantees to the dignity of human life, in their civic, political, social, economic and cultural dimensions.
Feliciano Reyna speaks to CIVICUS about the ongoing protests and the fragile political situation in Venezuela.
1. What prompted Foro Por La Vida and other Venezuelan organizations to issue a call for urgent international action to support human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela?
The impetus for the call arose from the pattern of criminalization of protests in Venezuela, which started in 2005, that led the government to suppress protests in the Western part of the country in early February. The largest protest to date took place on February 12 this year in the capital, Caracas. During this protest, three people died, many were wounded and others were detained. This was then followed by an information blackout where TV stations and media were heavily censored or self-censored themselves.
This environment of criminalization has not just been about criminalising protests but also takes the form of government officials, from the President down, condemning the protests as part of an “attempted coup” and as “fascist movements sponsored by foreign agents and enemies of the state.”
Instead of promoting dialogue with the protesters, the state resorted to extreme use of force, arbitrary detentions, cruel and degrading treatment of detainees, which include some cases of torture, denying due process of law, as well as utilising state terrorism laws against protestors. In effect, many of the close to 1,000 arrested are forbidden now from exercising their right to freedom of expression and to protest.
By Danny Sriskandarajah
Last weekend, I took part in two back-to-back meetings in Istanbul on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. It was an intense and, sometimes, tense few days, but I have a feeling that the two meetings mark the start of two initiatives that have the potential to transform the role of civil society in the post-2015 process.
The first was a convening of some 50 people representing more than 30 platforms and organisations that work on post-2015 issues, and was aimed at identifying what scope there was for a new global campaign over the next 18 months. We had a great mix of participants, ranging from large networks such as Climate Action Network International (CAN) and Global Call to Action on Poverty (GCAP) to individuals like Amina Mohammed (the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on these issues) and Richard Curtis (the acclaimed filmmaker who has been working on ideas for a new campaign).
There has been talk of a new global campaign on post-2015 for a while, including at meetings like the ones we co-hosted in Johannesburg in November 2013, but nothing firm had materialised. One of the reasons was that there had yet to be a broad-based conversation involving a range of civil society actors, including those from the worlds of development, climate and gender justice. This is why the Istanbul meeting was so important.
In Istanbul, there was consensus that civil society needed to come together urgently to ensure that the two processes culminating in 2015 (the climate negotiations and the agreement of a new set of development goals) deliver an ambitious and transformative set of outcomes that will serve the interests of people and planet. We agreed to build a genuinely global movement through which people would put pressure on our leaders to deliver; to be radical and radically inclusive. We agreed to build a light-touch governance structure that would help coordinate and amplify existing and planned initiatives, without centralised command-and-control functions. And we agreed to produce campaign materials that would be powerful enough to capture the imagination of billions of people around the world.
Member organizations of Foro por la Vida, together with other Venezuelan organizations, have made the following statement in light of events in the country.
We, the undersigned organizations, given the worsening of the Venezuelan situation resulting from violence, misinformation, arbitrary detentions and other major violations of human rights that have occurred in the month of February 2014 make a call for urgent action in support of the observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela.
The events taking place in Venezuela showcase the deterioration of public institutions to effectively arbitrate the diversity of political positions that exist in the country. In light of this situation it is important that various sectors of the national and international community take a stand to challenge human rights violations, calling for an independent investigation, requesting the cessation of repression and the opening of genuine dialogue.
CIVICUS and the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) have submitted a written statement to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (3 – 28 March 2014). The statement examines the rising restrictions on the activities of civil society across the world, including: i) worsening policy and legal environment for civil society; ii) dissolution of civil society groups without justification; and iii) judicial persecution of civil society members. The statement further provides a number of key recommendations to be considered by the UNHRC to ensure the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.
February 14, 2014
Ethiopia’s renewed push for admission to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) should be closely scrutinized due to the limited role Ethiopia has granted to civil society and a hostile legal environment that minimizes meaningful debate, Freedom House and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation said.
Freedom House and Civicus urge the government of Ethiopia to live up to the commitment made in its 2013 EITI application to “improve the legal environment” for the citizen-based watchdog role in the process. We also call on the EITI International board to ensure that Ethiopian civil society organizations are granted free, full and effective participation, as required by the EITI standard.
“Free, meaningful participation by Ethiopia’s civil society is impossible in the current environment,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa Programs at Freedom House. ‘The Ethiopian government should use the EITI application process to identify and complete concrete action toward making substantive changes to the tightly restricted role of citizens’ groups.”
CIVICUS is currently in the process of developing the content for our flagship State of Civil Society Report. With humanity poised at a critical juncture due to multiple integrated economic, social, political, environmental and humanitarian crises, and as conversations take place around the world on a new paradigm for sustainable development, our 2014 report will focus on the broad theme of citizens’ transforming the global governance arena.
The 2014 report slated for release in the second quarter of the year will be presented through a series of interactive webpages and downloadable sections, along with an engaging and accessible summary which will be widely disseminated. The report will also include key findings from CIVICUS’ inaugural civil society-intergovernmental scorecard, which assesses the depth and quality of engagement of intergovernmental organisations with civil society organisations. We invite you to participate in our survey here.
As part of our regular interview series, CIVICUS speaks to Mauricio Alarcón-Salvador about threats to human rights activists and NGOs in Ecuador. Mauricio is a lawyer and human rights defender who focuses on citizen participation and the rights of people with disabilities. He is the Programme Director of Fundamedios, a position he has held since 2009. Fundamedios or the Andean Foundation for the observation and study of the media is a civil society organisation which works to defend and promote freedom of the press, speech and association in Ecuador.
Lately, a lot of media attention has been focused on restrictions on democratic freedoms in Ecuador. Can you tell us more about the situation there?
In the recent years, there has been a consistent deterioration in the respect of fundamental freedoms in Ecuador. Freedom of expression is mostly affected because of increasing threats to and attacks on journalists, media agencies and ordinary citizens who are critical of the government. Journalists are increasingly persecuted, radio and TV Stations have been shut down and citizens arrested for allegedly “offending the President.” The government is equally trampling on the rights of association and the right to protest. Civil society activists and human rights defenders have been subjected to judicial persecution and jailed for simply participating in public protests. As we speak, there are more than 200 leaders of social movements and activists who are being persecuted for simply expressing their rights to protest and associate. Most of those who are persecuted are charged with threatening state security.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the selection of 8 convening partners to conduct local multi-stakeholder dialogues between January and June 2014, as part of its action-based research project, the New Social Contract.
Through the project, CIVICUS seeks to find new ways of partnership, engagement and commitment between different stakeholders to address collective challenges at the local level and together set up collective goals. CIVICUS proposes a methodology for these multi-stakeholder engagements and has been funding a series of local conversations about collaboration and systems that underpin the relationship between different forces in society, also known as social contracts.
The Call for Expressions of Interest to organise locally-initiated multi-stakeholders dialogues was officially launched on 20 September 2013, and was well received as 948 applications from 120 countries were submitted. Between October and December 2013, the proposals were moderated on account of the relevance of the proposed challenge, the candidates’ willingness to address it and their motivations to establish a local multi-stakeholder platform.
Global Update by the Civic Space Initiative
As he concluded his official visit to Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai urged the government of Rwanda to lift restrictions on peaceful assembly and association.
The purpose of the UNSR’s visit was to provide observations and recommendations for how Rwanda can better respect, promote, and implement international human rights law and standards regarding the freedoms of assembly and association. He met with government officials as well as leaders from national and international non-governmental organizations. Rwanda is the first African country to have invited the UNSR since the establishment of the mandate in 2010.
The UNSR commended the country’s remarkable economic progress since the 1994 genocide. However, he expressed concerns that the government generally does not allow peaceful protest, and asserted that “peaceful assemblies should not be feared. Rather, they should be encouraged. There is value in expressing disagreement and differences peacefully and publically.”
Mr. Kiai also noted restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs) and political parties, including barriers to registration, limits on CSO activities, excessive government interference, and a lack of space for dissenting views. He urged Rwanda to uphold its international legal obligations regarding freedom of association, reiterating that “it is crucial that individuals exercising the right to associate…are able to operate freely and without fear.”
The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) supports the UNSR mandate by providing technical expertise and human resource support. The CSI also works to ensure meaningful participation of civil society actors in the work of the UNSR. Members of the CSI are ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and the World Movement for Democracy.
4th February 2014
The Government of Eritrea should accept recommendations to cooperate fully with the United Nations human rights system, said Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, following its examination at the Universal Periodic Review yesterday.
Under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the human rights record of each UN member state is reviewed every four and a half years. Given the situation of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea, the UPR process is an important opportunity for scrutiny and dialogue. During the three and a half hour working group session in Geneva, the delegation of Eritrea, headed by Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu, stated its commitment to human rights and to engagement, dialogue and cooperation, and was commended for its participation in the review. However, Eritrea simultaneously continues to refuse to cooperate or allow access to the country to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea.
27 January 2014. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Civil Rights Defenders and the Azerbaijan Civil Society Defense Committee, a coalition of 42 Azerbaijani civil society organizations, are appealing to Azerbaijan’s President not to sign into law a number of restrictive amendments to the NGO Act passed by Parliament on 17 December 2013 to control the activities of NGOs. The Bill is currently in the President’s Office and likely to be approved at any moment.
The amendments subject NGOs to increased bureaucratic controls through requirements to re-register every three months with the Ministry of Justice, creating increased uncertainty for the sector. Furthermore, the amendments impose enhanced fines ranging between 2500-3000 AZN (approximately 3190 – 3830 USD) on NGOs and between 1000-2000 AZN (approximately 1280 – 2560 USD) on the leadership of NGOs for failing to submit information or for submitting “false information.” The amendments also state that if NGOs are served notices for infringing any legislative requirements more than twice in a year, they may be shut down at the discretion of the courts.
22 January 2013
The annual gathering of world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos lacks any meaningful citizen engagement and is a shameful reinforcement of the status quo it purports to change, says the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.
“The world’s political and business elite in Davos are not interested in citizen voice and participation judging by the lack of inclusiveness and transparency they display,” says Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, the CIVICUS Secretary-General.
“It is almost laughable that they talk about inequality, poverty and other critical social issues while not including the very people most affected by them. It is no wonder that levels of trust in political and economic leaders is at an all-time low,” states Sriskandarajah.
“Political and business leaders need to face up to the urgent need for meaningful citizen engagement and think about what a democratic Davos would look like. And they also need to pay more than lip service to inequality. At the moment Davos is the epitome of a world run by elites,” says the CIVICUS Secretary-General.
The issues of inequality, elitism and the co-option of the political process by wealthy elites is in focus at Davos, especially following on from a report released by Oxfam that shows that the richest 85 people in the world own as much as half of the world’s population.
21 January 2013
To the political and business leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos
As representatives of civil society organisations attending the World Economic Forum, we are writing to urge you to ensure that the following issues of critical global importance are central to discussions at the forum and that, as per its stated purpose, the forum helps to deliver the insights, initiatives and actions necessary to respond to them
Following the election of a new president in the Maldives in November 2013, national and international civil society groups hope the new government will respect the fundamental rights of its citizens and ease restrictions on citizens' rights which characterised the outgoing regime. CIVICUS speaks to civil society activist and founder of the Voice of Women (VoW) Maldives, Thilmeeza Hussain, about the challenges faced by civil society during the previous regime and the sense of optimism among civil society groups about the opening up of spaces for civil society by the new government.
1) What are the objectives of the Voice of Women (VoW) and what are some of the main activities VoM has undertaken to strengthen civil society in the Maldives?
The main objectives of the VoW are: to create a society where men and women work side by side, mutually respecting each other's rights; to empower women so they are able to stand up for their rights; to generate opportunities to effect change for the advancement of women through development, support and inspiration of women as leaders; to promote women's leadership in sustainable development, the environment and climate change; to build respect for human rights in the Maldives in general by creating awareness of the rights of women and to document human rights violations, domestic violence, or sexual abuse that takes place specifically based on gender. Below we highlight a few activities we have undertaken in advancing human rights in the Maldives:
International Civil Society Week
CIVICUS is the only global network of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. We are proudly based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and have over 1000 members in more than 120 countries. International Civil Society Week 2014 (ICSW 2014) is a key global gathering for civil society, governments, donors and business to engage constructively in finding common solutions to global challenges. The week will bring together concerned citizens across sectors, themes, regions and backgrounds. The key theme of the week is “Citizen Action, People Power”.
ICSW 2014 will be a ‘partnered event’–a model that was tested in the conceptualisation and implementation of ICSW 2013. Between 8-15 November 2013, CIVICUS, CONCORD/ DEEEP, Global Call to Action against Poverty and International Civil Society Centre convened 13 different conferences, workshops and events, which brought together over 300 civil society actors from around the world. ICSW 2014, hosted in November, will build upon the successes of ICSW 2013, bringing together over 500 people in Johannesburg and thousands more through online engagement.
South Africa has a rich legacy of activism and involvement to bring about social change, as exemplified by the liberation struggle. Active involvement did not end there and there are still many examples of positive citizen activism and engagement today. The proposed date for ICSW 2014 coincides with a pivotal moment in South Africa’s history–the 20th Anniversary of Democracy and Freedom. This provides an opportune time for the world to look back, reflect and celebrate what South Africa and the world has achieved in the past twenty years, and also to explore how we can deepen our gains in freedom and democracy to provide a more just and equitable society for all.
After an energetic and engaging Board Meeting we are proud to announce new Board Officers for the term of 2013-2016 below.
The CIVICUS Board is keen to engage with CIVICUS members and partners to lead, guide and advise the organisation as it moves forward in engaging and advocating for civil society worldwide. Watch this space!
Andrew Khoo, the Co-Chairperson of Malaysian Bar Council's Human Rights Committee (BCHRC), speaks to CIVICUS about the growing restrictions on civil society and obstacles to realizing UPR recommendations in Malaysia.
How would you describe the overall operating environment for civil society in Malaysia? What are the main challenges faced by civil society?
We have seen the overall operating environment for civil society in Malaysia deteriorate significantly in recent years. The government has increasingly responded to criticism from civil society organisations (CSOs) with unwarranted and targeted restrictions. The most common tactics employed by the government to obstruct the work of dissenting groups include unsolicited accounting and tax audits, unjustified inspections to check compliance with registration requirements, questioning of organizational staff and demands for confidential documents and warrantless seizures of equipment and records.
While CSOs in Malaysia are permitted to receive foreign funding, the authorities routinely level unfounded accusation that CSOs which receive international support are agents of foreign governments working to undermine the sovereign interests of the country or national security in Malaysia. CSOs are also subjected to slander and smear campaigns in the media. The government-controlled press regularly accuses CSOs of being enemies of the state or enemies of Islam.
It is with extreme alarm that CIVICUS demands the Bangladeshi government halt its campaign of harassment against Odhikar, Bangladesh’s leading human rights organization. Odhikar has been drawing attention to human rights abuses since 1994.
Odhikar’s Director, Nasiruddin Elan, and its Secretary, Adilur Rahman Khan, stand accused of committing offences under the controversial and recently amended Information and Communication Technology Act 2006. Nasiruddin Elan’s plea for bail was rejected this morning by the Cyber Crimes Tribunal which ordered that Elan be detained and taken to jail.
CIVICUS is deeply concerned that Nasiruddin is at risk of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment whilst in detention, and that Adilur Rahman Khan, currently released on bail, is in danger of further politically motivated harassment on spurious charges constructed by the state.
CIVICUS reiterates its call to the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Adil and Elan and to end all harassment against Odhikar.
A Global Update by the Civic Space Initiative
The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) welcomes the recent report on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of elections by Mr. Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association (UNSR). The report was presented to the United National General Assembly (UNGA) on October 29.
In his presentation of the report, Mr. Kiai stated that he had received “numerous complaints from individuals and groups concerning the excessive force used by law enforcement officials in dispersing protests that advocate for electoral reform or challenge election results.” He argued that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are often violated before, during, or after elections particularly in a highly tense political environment. As “the electoral process is a major avenue” for citizens to participate in democratic governance and “elections confer legitimacy on governments,” he urges UN Member States to ensure the conduct of legitimate elections by protecting those rights.
Coinciding with the presentation of the report, Mr. Kiai launched FreeAssembly.net, which will serve as a portal for information related to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The October 29 report to the UNGA, along with his previous reports to the UN Human Rights Council, is available on this website. It also includes press releases and public statements by Mr. Kiai as well as information related to countries that he has visited or seeks to visit. Through the website, various stakeholders, especially civil society groups and national human rights institutions, can communicate and share their information directly with UNSR.
No more time outs from poverty
27 June 2013
In the absence of active engagement with slum dwellers and serious consideration of their points of view and aspirations, most poverty alleviation and youth empowerment programs fail to offer a real chance for breaking the poverty cycle. This dialogue aimed at sparking a conversation between stakeholders that don't usually interact directly with each other in order to jointly share views on how to tackle poverty in Kibera, Nairobi's biggest slum, identifying who can play a role in that change and exploring ways of further engagement with the hope to build and validate an otherwise unlikely partnership. It was hoped that such a dialogue could shift the relations between the beneficiaries of poverty alleviation programs and donors and government agencies.
In June 2013, protesters took to the streets in Brazil to protest against increases in the prices of bus tickets in the major cities. The protests later spread as demonstrators expressed their displeasure over high corruption in the government, poor public services, high living costs and police brutality. CIVICUS speaks to Brazilian lawyer and activist Natasha Zadorosny who provides an insider’s perspective into the protests and the police’s response.
1. What is the nature of your work and how involved are you with the demonstrations in Brazil?
The protests in Brazil started on 6 June 2013 and at the initial stages I was just another protester. However, since mid-July, I have been actively involved as a lawyer on a voluntary basis. At the moment there are two main groups made up of volunteer lawyers who participate in the protests and assist activists and other participants. These groups are the Institute of Human Rights Defenders (IDDH) and the Habeas Corpus. IDDH is an NGO which advocates for the defence of human rights and protects the rights of protesters who are victims of police harassment and brutality. Habeas Corpus was created in June at the start of the protests to defend and protect the rights of activists arbitrarily arrested during the protests in Rio de Janeiro. I work as an independent lawyer but collaborate with Habeas Corpus. During the protests, I am identified publicly as a lawyer and my presence provides a sense of security to the protesters. I clarify doubts about legal issues for the protesters and pass on information about the protests using social media, including facebook and “whatsapp” to other volunteer lawyers.
Dear CIVICUS member,
I am writing to you as the current Chair of CIVICUS Board of Directors. As an outgoing Board Member, I am also on the Nominations Committee. The Nominations Committee was established by the CIVICUS Board of Directors to oversee the nominations and elections process for the CIVICUS Board of Directors 2013-2016. The Nominations Committee was given the very challenging task of reviewing the large amount of nominations received, selecting a maximum of 26 candidates that reflected the diversity and balance we seek for the CIVICUS Board and reviewing the election ballots received from CIVICUS voting members.
I am very pleased to announce the incoming CIVICUS Board of Directors. The exceptional quality and talent of the candidates on the ballot paper was reflected in a very tight election. The Nominations Committee examined the election results closely, which resulted in a multi-person tie for the 13th position. To avoid this tie-break, the Nominations Committee ultimately decided to elect 14 candidates to work on the Board of Directors. The names of elected candidates can be found below.
CIVICUS Board of Directors 2013-2016
|Anabel Cruz||Uygar Özesmi|
|Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda||Elisa Peter|
|Nabila Hamza||Feliciano Reyna|
|Wael Hmaidan||João Felipe Scarpelini|
|Joanna Kerr||Caroline Usikpedo-Omoniye|
|Anselmo Lee||Pauline Wanja|
|Anne Firth Murray||Sam Worthington|
We are hoping that most of the newly elected Board Members will be able to join CIVICUS in Johannesburg for the first Board Meeting this November, when they will take on their official duties as elected CIVICUS representatives.
Many thanks to all CIVICUS members for participating in this important process. We received a record number of nominations, and had a large voter turnout in the elections.
Chair, Board of Directors
Member, Nominations Committee
Ahead of the release of her next report due to be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014, CIVICUS speaks to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights - Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona.
1) What is the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights?
My role is part of one of the so-called “United Nations special procedures”. Special Procedures are human rights monitoring mechanisms established by the UN Human Rights Council and endorsed to individual experts called “Special Rapporteurs”, “Independent Experts” or “Working Groups", whose common mandate is the investigation and reporting of human rights situations either in a specific territory (country mandates) or with regard to a phenomena of violations (thematic mandates).
The scope of the action of special procedures is truly universal: all the States of the world are monitored by these bodies and they cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. As mandate holders, we report on our activities and findings to the most important United Nations bodies dealing with human rights, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. We also carry out country visits to investigate the situation of human rights in specific domestic contexts. We are independent, we serve in our personal capacity, and we do not receive salaries or any other financial compensation for our work.
2) How would you describe your working relationship with civil society and how can they make better use of your mechanism to advance human rights of vulnerable groups?
Creating linkages with civil society and using the mandate on extreme poverty as a platform for civil society issues is a definite priority for me as Special Rapporteur. I see immense value in collaborating with and taking up issues being pursued by civil society organisations and grassroots movements. I have enjoyed very productive working relationships with a number of civil society organisations to date, both with respect to my thematic reports and to my country missions, where collaboration with civil society is an essential element of a successful mission.
When: 12PM GMT, 23 October 2013 Where: Online
CIVICUS is pleased to invite you to webinar on "a new paradigm shift for development" which will bring together representatives of civil society organisations to discuss the need for a new approach to development and key reforms needed in global governance. More specifically, the webinar will seek to address the following questions:
Please use the following link to register for the event: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/5jmmo7ed08hc&eom
Gina Govender, former trade unionist and anti-apartheid activist
Antonella Valmorbida, Association of Local Democracy Agencies
Aldo Caliari, Rethinking Bretton Woods Project
Jenni Williams, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise
Myrna Cunningham, Indigenous Rights Activist
For more information, contact:
On October 11th, Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar, was released on bail following over one month in pre-trial detention.
Adil was originally arrested on 10 August 2013 in apparent reprisal for publishing reports critical of the government’s response to May 2013 demonstrations in Dhaka in which over 60 people were reportedly killed.
While CIVICUS welcomes the decision to release Adil on bail, we reiterate our call that the government drop all charges against him and end the harassment of Odhikar and other human rights defenders persecuted for their legitimate work.
For more information please visit the CIVICUS Civil Society Behind Bars page
What follows is an open letter from Victor Ochen, a Ugandan civic leader and victims' rights advocate. Ochen is the founder of the Africa Youth Initiative Network, which works with war crimes victims in Northern Uganda. Ochen brings a perspective that has been completely overlooked at this meeting of the African Union and his missive ought to be heeded by governments seeking to exit the ICC.
To the Kind Attention of Your Excellencies the African Presidents:
I write to you as a fellow African, as a brother to you and those millions of Africans who continues to suffer from different forms of injustices. Above all, as someone who shares with you the deep love for our beloved continent. I reach to you Heads of African States, with my deepest compassion in the light of the effects of decades of dreadful conflicts in Africa. I do believe that my views are widely shared by majority of Africans and people around the world with desires to see profound meaningful and positive change comes to the continent. Above all, I am representing the voices of victims and survivors whose lives have been shattered by wars, and who are living with great despair, anger and bitterness.
Action For Fundamental Change and Development (AFFCAD)
Enhancing Religious Pluralism and Tolerance - Multi Stakeholders' Meetings and Dialogue in Kawempe Municipality
May - June 2013
This project was motivated by the perceptions that the many faith-based organisations in Kawempe Municipality tie their humanitarian assistance to the faith they profess, which has created tensions, mistrust and hatred within the local communities. This initiative was thus intended to encourage these organisations to enhance and mainstream religious pluralism and tolerance in their work to promote peaceful co-existence and to ensure community cohesion at local level.
Niger Delta Women's Movement for Peace and Development (NDWMPD)
Stakeholders forum on building citizen engagement and participation
5 June 2013
The forum was conceived as a one day capacity building workshop and engagement forum for citizens from the Niger Delta communities, multinationals companies, local governments and civil society organisations. Its ambition was to provide an opportunity for reflection on the roles and responsibilities that several economic and social groups play in the Niger Delta's environmental, economic and socal situation today. In many rural communities, most citizens, especially women, do not participate in the decisions that affect their daily lives, and there is often a lack of trust between citizens and local officials. Communities have also been suffering from the negative effects of oil's extraction without necessarily benefiting from this industry. The objectives of this dialogue were primarily to increase citizens' knowledge and participation about those issues and to create opportunities for citizens and relevant stakeholders to engage with each other to improve their community.
Centro Ecuatoriano de Derecho Ambiental (CEDA)
Social responsibility: a commitment to cross learning
20 June 2013
CEDA sought to promote innovation in the management of civil society organisations (CSOs) based on the experiences of the private sector and through the creation of new channels of dialogue and learning between them. This new space for dialogue would allow sharing specific experiences of social responsibility, analysing and discussing its implementation in the civil society and social sector.
CEDA has been working on positioning the corporate social responsibility as a management model which could allow for a better accountability for CSOs, and this dialogue between CSOs and private companies in Ecuador built on the private sector's interest in actions based management models in social responsibility.
CIVICUS recently published its new Enabling Environment Index, showing 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.
To share its findings, CIVICUS is holding a launch event in London on Tuesday 8 October, 13:00 – 15:00 at Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3EU. It will include a panel discussion on the road to effectively measuring civil society health, what the results mean for the UK, and its role in protecting civil society conditions domestically and around the world.
Light refreshments will be provided.
1. How do you operate as a female activist in Saudi Arabia?
We have never had an organisation or union between women. We tried to organise something like that but there are a wide range of different beliefs amongst Saudi women. Women are afraid of the persecution that might result and so we were unable to establish a formalised group.
However, I know the women that are interested in women’s issues and they know me, and we keep in touch. When I travel in Saudi, I meet them in Jedah or Riyadh, and we use Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype to keep in touch. I am pretty sure the authorities monitor everything. Legally, in Saudi we cannot arrange a meeting of over 30 people and must get permission for meetings over that number.
30 September 2013. The government of Azerbaijan’s intensified crackdown on independent dissent severely undermines the prospect of free, fair and credible presidential elections, says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Azerbaijan-based Center for National and International Studies (CNIS).
“The government’s pre-emptive campaign to silence independent journalists, human rights defenders and civil society groups ahead of the October 9th elections is emblematic of the systematic and widespread repression of civil society in the country,” said Ine Van Severen of CIVICUS. “Azerbaijan’s European trade and development partners need to revaluate their relationship with the government and demand greater protection for democratic freedoms in light of the country’s international obligations,” said Severen.
New York, September 23, 2013. “The economy is growing, but poverty is increasing. Clearly, we need to change the way we define progress”, said one participant in a community meeting in Nigeria on development priorities. This was among the key messages shared by civil society representatives from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe at the United Nations Headquarters today, ahead of the UN Special Event on 25th September where Governments will debate what should follow the Millennium Development Goals after their 2015 deadline.
“We need to seek out the people who are not usually heard in these high level debates – this is what we are trying to do here” said Richard Ssewakiryanga from the Uganda NGO Forum.
Application deadline: 15 October 2013
We are living in an age characterized by climate change, financial collapse, resource depletion and a growing gap between rich and poor, amongst other factors. In order to properly address those complex challenges and demands, societies need to adopt new approaches fostering innovative, cross-sector, decision-making and action strategies. To explore these new pathways for participation, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, has launched the action-based research project, New Social Contract.
Within this framework, CIVICUS seeks Expressions of Interest by potential convening partners to organise and oversee locally-initiated multi-stakeholder dialogues, following the methodological approach proposed by the project. More specifically, we are looking for:
CIVICUS welcomes the release of prominent human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh and at least ten Iranian prisoners of conscience on 18 September 2013.
Arrested in September 2010, Nasrin was sentenced to 6 years in prison as a result of her work as a human rights lawyer and member of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran.
While the decision to release Narsin represents a welcome step in the right direction, CIVICUS urges the government to revoke the unwarranted ban preventing Nasrin from practising law and from leaving Iran for 20 years and further release all prisoners of conscience imprisoned as reprisal for their legitimate human rights work.
Through the New Social Contract project, CIVICUS seeks to find new ways of partnerships, engagements and commitments around collective goals for society. New Social Contract will input on the discussions around participative governance and how to reconsider the rules that govern how citizens engage in the decisions that affect their lives.
Through local, multi-level and virtual activities and consultations New Social Contract will gather compelling examples of collaborations, commitments and action strategies taking place between diverse stakeholders around the world, including government, business, scientific community and the civic sector, across a broad range of issues.
One method to do so will be the co-organisation with convening partners of locally initiated multi-stakeholder dialogues, following a methodology developed by CIVICUS. The local partners will be selected through a call for expressions of interest, based on the relevance of the proposed challenge, their willingness to address it and their motivations, reasons and interest to establish a local multi-stakeholder platform.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, FORUM-ASIA, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative would like to draw the attention of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has been under review by the UN Human Rights Council, since March 2013 for its government's egregious human rights abuses, both past and ongoing. The UN Secretary‐General's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, in its April 2011 report, found credible allegations associated with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both, the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. These abuses have been well documented and have twice been the cause of censure at the Council. In the latest development, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, in her observations at the end of her official mission to Sri Lanka between 25 and 31 August 2013, highlights several of our past and continuing concerns.
A group of international civil society organisations has called on the Bangladeshi Prime Minister to immediately release advocate Adilur Rahman Khan. In a joint letter to the Prime Minister they note Mr Khan’s extensive work with Odhikar, the organisation for which he is the Secretary, as well as his human rights work and campaigns against extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Mr. Khan’s arrest and subsequent detention under the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 appears to be aimed at intimidating and silencing critics of the Bangladeshi government.
Read the full letter here
Today, on 1 September, Nabeel Rajab, the prominent Bahraini activist and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, spends a second birthday behind bars.
CIVICUS joins thousands around the world in calling for the immediate release of Mr. Rajab, who is being unjustly persecuted for his work as a human rights defender and for his peaceful role in the Bahrain peoples’ uprising which began in February 2011.
Sign the petition for Nabeel Rajab’s release on Civil Society Behind Bars!
Activists are increasingly being targeted as freedom of expression is threatened in Fiji. In the latest instance, on 9 August, a High Court Judge sentenced human rights defender and head of the Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) Reverend Akuila Yabaki to a three months suspended sentence for “contempt of court.”
Reverend Yabaki was accused of reproducing the summary of an article in his organisation, CCF’s newsletter, Tutaka. The article originally published by the Law Society of England and Wales” noted that “there is no rule of law” in Fiji and the “independence of the judiciary cannot be relied upon.”
The judge indicated that Reverend Yabaki’s sentence was suspended on condition that he pays a FJD $ 2000 (approximately US $1000) fine within a month of the handing of the sentence. The court also demanded that he pays FJD $ 2500 (approximately US $ 1250) as costs to the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, CCF was also fined FJD $20000 (approximately US $10000) and asked to issue an apology which must be pre-approved by the courts and then published in CCF’s newsletter.
The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme says the Pacific’s development goals beyond 2015 will be more ambitious and deal with unfinished business.
Helen Clark says the Millennium Development Goals have been mostly successful - there is less poverty, more children in school and fewer babies dying in the Pacific.
But she says beyond 2015, there is still plenty of work to be done.
HELEN CLARK: In my opinion, the MDGs have been a success. That’s not to say that every country has achieved every goal, which obviously is not the case. But overall there’s been tremendous progress reducing poverty, tremendous progress towards getting every child in school, fewer babies and children dying. So we have to say there’s success, but there’s unfinished business. And now as we’re talking about what will follow the MDGs in 2015, we’re looking at how to finish the unfinished business, but also be more ambitious.
MARY BAINES: So places like Solomon Islands are expected not to meet those goals? What about other places like Melanesian states, Polynesia, Micronesia - are they going to meet their goals?
Read more at Radio New Zealand International