In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a Tunisian activist who works for an LGBT organisation speaks about the conditions for LGBT activists and organisations in Tunisia. CIVICUS also asked her about the general situation for civil society post-revolution and post the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Tunisian civil society actors half a year ago.
1. What are the conditions for civil society organisations and human rights defenders working on LGBT issues in Tunisia?
There is currently a public campaign against LGBT persons and civil society activists and organisations working on LGBT issues on national television claiming that we are a threat to Muslim and Arabic identity. This has led to increased aggression against LGBT activists in the streets and especially those activists who go on television to speak about LGBT issues. Some activists have also been beaten in public spaces. The campaign against LGBT activists has not only been supported by ordinary people but also by the military and police who have said that they would fight against LGBT people where they meet them. Some LGBT activists have even been expelled from their schools and universities. The LGBT people and activists who look a bit different to what are gender norms in Tunisia, such as women with short hair, people with piercings or a man who is a bit feminine, can be arrested at check points.
Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to respect the right to protest peacefully and condemns the use of extreme violence by security forces in PNG to supress demonstrations by students.
On 8 June 2016 lethally armed police attacked student protestors with live ammunition as they demonstrated peacefully from the University of PNG’s Waingani Campus in Port Moresby. The protesters had planned to march from their campus to Parliament. At least 38 protesters were injured, several of them with bullet wounds and some remain in a critical condition. Other protesting students were physically assaulted as the police attempted to disperse them.
CIVICUS speaks to Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan grassroots environmental activist about the challenges faced by activists for environmental rights in the country. She is a co- founder of the Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), an organisation that advocates for the rights of marginalised communities in the coastal belt of Kenya. She was Africa’s recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 and is known for organising protests and shutting down a lead smelting plant located in the middle of Owino Uhuru, a slum near Mombasa.
1. Can you explain the rise in numbers of environmental rights activists in Kenya and the circumstances they are operating under?
The main cause for the rise in the numbers of environmental rights activists is business encroaching on human territory, pollution, displacement of communities by the state and corporate activities, wanton destruction of mangrove trees and deviation of water bodies among other reasons. This affects the livelihoods of poor communities forcing them to seek protection of their fundamental rights. When trying to follow available channels to advocate for rights, access to information, lack of public participation and access to justice are impeded by business with facilitation of the state.
CIVICUS speaks to Diana Vegas, the vice-president of Sinergia, a Venezuelan organisation that aims at expanding spaces for citizen participation, providing a space for civil society articulation and strengthening civil society.
1. There have recently been many news reports regarding the State of Emergency decree, skyrocketing inflation, food shortages and increasing violence in Venezuela. How are these developments affecting civic space in the country?
Indeed, several concurrent crises are having an impact on Venezuelans’ daily lives. Their effects include a hike in poverty (a survey jointly conducted by several universities has revealed that up to 75% of the population are poor, while structural poverty is almost 30%), deteriorating working conditions, one of the highest inflation rates in the world, shortages of basic goods including food and medicine, deteriorating health and education services, increased fear, and loss of public space. The main response of the State to all of these has been systematic repression. The most central explanatory element of these severe crises lies in the institutional destruction caused by arbitrariness and the prevalence of social relations based on force. Today Venezuela is among the countries with the highest proportion of violent deaths in the world: in 2015, the homicide rate was 90 per 100 000 inhabitants, a historical record.
The international community should press Venezuela to revoke the recent “State of Exception and Emergency Decree” that granted the government powers to restrict rights, suspend international cooperation for civil society groups, including human rights organizations, and limit the constitutional powers of the National Assembly, 125 human rights and civil society organizations from around the world said today.
The Ethiopian Government must end its escalating crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media, peaceful protestors as well as members and leaders of the political opposition through the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) says a group of civil society organisations (CSOs).
“The government’s repression of independent voices has significantly worsened as the Oromo protest movement has grown,” said Yared Hailemariam, Director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE). “The international community should demand the end of this state-orchestrated clampdown and the immediate release of peaceful critics to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.”
Fernando Bracaccini a lawyer and coordinator of the Area for the Strengthening of Democratic Institutions at ACIJ (Civil Association for Equality and Justice), a non-profit organisation, speaks to CIVICUS on the environment for civil society organisations in Argentina. The ACIJ was founded in 2002 to defend the principles of the national Constitution and the rule of law, back all struggles against discrimination, promote legislation favouring the most disadvantaged groups, and developing participatory and deliberative democratic practices in Argentina.
1. Following two recent incidents – the arrest of social activist Milagro Sala in the Jujuy Province and the drafting of a so-called “anti-protest protocol” – to what extent are the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly threatened in Argentina?
Although these two events are different, arising from disparate decisions and jurisdictions, both have had a restrictive effect on the right to protest. Even though legal charges were actually raised against Milagro Sala, the fact remains that the decision to arrest her was based solely on her participation in the protest that took place on 14 December 2015. ACIJ publicly stated that this was an arbitrary restriction of the right to protest. The decision is also a show of the lack of independence of the judiciary in many Argentine provinces.
Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is concerned about the negative impact of Venezuela’s “state of exception and economic emergency” on civil society freedoms. On 13 May 2016 President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree calling for the state of exception on the basis that “extraordinary circumstances of social, economic, political, natural and ecological nature […] seriously affect the constitutional order, social peace, national security, public institutions and citizens of the Republic.”
Dinara Oshurahunova, of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, speaks with CIVICUS on recently failed attempts in Kyrgyzstan to pass a foreign agents law and the civil society environment in the country
1. Could you tell us more about the draft Foreign Agents Law that was rejected by Parliament on May 12 in its final reading?
In 2013 the draft Foreign Agents Law was first introduced. The law would mandate NGOs that are funded by foreign resources to register as “foreign agents”. Additionally, the draft law opened the door for the prosecution of NGOs engaged in “political activities”. The notion of "political activities" was vaguely worded in the draft law meaning it was open to different interpretations. Since then the draft law went through changes: the term "foreign agent" was removed, while the provision regarding "political activity" was also eliminated. The recently rejected version of the draft law imposes heavy reporting requirements for NGOs.
Nearly two hundred civil society organisations from 74 countries, including South Africa, have written an open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma to mark the second-month anniversary of the brutal assassination of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe. Mr Rhadebe was killed on 22 March 2016 by unknown assailants using firearms.
In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a human rights defender working for a civil society organisation in China details what China’s new NGO Law means and its likely impact on NGOs. Although the law was passed in April and should take effect in January 2017, it can be repealed if the President is convinced not to sign the order to enact it.
Q: Please detail briefly what China’s new NGO law says for local and foreign NGOs
First of all, it has to be clarified that calling the law the “foreign NGOs” as has been peddled in most media is a misleading translation. In its original Chinese language, the law is literally about “extra-territorial” not “foreign” NGOs, meaning that it covers NGOs in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as China sees it.
We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the authorities to immediately release human rights defender and professor of economics Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, who remains in detention in an unknown location in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his social media posts and human rights activities. He has been denied proper access to his lawyer or family since his arrest in August 2015, and reportedly subject to torture in custody. The continued detention and charges violate his human rights, including his right to free expression.
CIVICUS speaks to Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a human rights defender and founding member of the Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland about persistent civic space challenges in the Kingdom of Swaziland and his experiences as a victim of the actions of monarchy. He spoke to us on the sidelines of a side event on Swaziland at the United Nations Human Rights Council
1. What are some of the human rights challenges faced by Swazis?
The main problem for Swaziland is the lack of a democratic space for the people to express themselves. The system of government is one based on the supremacy of the King and royal institutions. It is now generally acknowledged that a system that concentrates power in one center is inconsistent with the ideals of the rule of law and democratic governance. Supremacy anywhere is not in line with the respect, promotion, protection and fulfilment of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is significant to mention that the problem with Swaziland started on 12 April 1973 when King Sobhuza unlawfully repealed the Constitution, dissolved Parliament and assumed all state and governmental power. His son, King Mswati III who assumed power on April 25, 1986 reaffirmed this position as soon as he had assumed the throne in 1987 when he promulgated Decree No. 1 of 1987. Through this amendment Proclamation, he confirmed that in terms of Swazi law and custom, the King is the supreme power in Swaziland.
Today, citizens will be gathering in streets and squares around the world to exercise their fundamental rights to speak out, organise and take action on issues affecting their everyday lives. The events are being organised as part of the Global Day of Citizen Action, which is bringing together thousands of citizens in over 35 countries across approximately 80 events to raise awareness about the importance of civic space and the role of citizens in driving change within their communities and governments.
Carmen Aída Ibarra (pictured) is the Executive Director of the Pro Justicia Movement Coalition, a grouping of citizen participants that brings together three civil society organisations fighting impunity in Guatemala. She speaks to CIVICUS about the operating environment for civil society in the country.
As you may be aware, 22 May 2016, will mark the second-month anniversary of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe’s brutal murder in the Eastern Cape province. To mark this sad occasion, we are hoping to get a critical mass of civil society organisations from around the world to express their solidarity through a sign on letter.
Mr Rhadebe was the chair of the Amadiba Crisis Committee which is engaged in an unequal struggle against titanium mining operations in South Africa’ s pristine Wild Coast region. The local community is concerned that dust generated by open cast mining will cause severe health problems and use up scarce communal water sources. Mining activities could also possibly lead to relocation of the local community and interfere with agricultural activities.
Publish What You Pay (PWYP), ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS welcome yesterday’s unprecedented decision by the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to list Azerbaijan as ‘inactive'. Through this decision, the OGP – a voluntary initiative promoting government transparency and accountability – reaffirms how vital civil society is for an open government and the importance that OGP members attach to the protection of civic space.
Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Mauritania to release blogger and freelance journalist Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed and overturn a death sentence against him upheld by the Appeals Court in Nouadhibou on 21 April 2016. In upholding the sentence, the Appeals Court referred the case to the Supreme Court, which has the authority to repeal the sentence or reduce it.
Bogotá 28 April 2016; Three activists from India, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone were awarded the coveted Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award, honoring their ground-breaking work on social issues. The winners were publicly announced at the Awards ceremony held on 28 April as part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which was hosted by CIVICUS in collaboration with the Confederación Colombiana de ONG, from 25 to 28 April 2016in Bogotá, Colombia.
Vice-President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), Penelope Faulkner, speaks to CIVICUS about the current challenges faced by civil society in Vietnam and the role of international solidarity networks in supporting the creation of a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders.
Dear King Hamad,
We, the undersigned Bahraini and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), would like to unequivocally condemn your government’s arrest of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja along with her infant son. The implementation of Ms. Al-Khawaja’s prison sentence for merely exercising her right to free expression and assembly amounts to arbitrary detention is wholly unacceptable. While Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa indicated an intention to release her, she has not yet been freed from prison and we are concerned that these arbitrary charges remain against her. We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to secure her immediate and unconditional release.
CIVICUS speaks to Carlos A Guevara coordinates the information
system for Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders), a non-governmental protection program for human rights defenders in Colombia. He is a journalist, audio-visual producer and social communicator specialising in human rights, armed conflict, public opinion, digital rights, peace building and humanitarian assistance based on the “do no harm” principle. He has extensive experience in supporting, training and consulting with social and human rights organisations in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico on issues of advocacy, management of public opinion and human rights, communication for protection, risk analysis, self-protection and management of communications in crisis situations.
1. What is the current status of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the guerrillas?
The negotiation process with the world’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) began in 2012 and has so far produced many results. Some people remain sceptical but the truth is that agreements have already been reached regarding the most sensitive issues, such as illicit crops, drug trafficking and reparations for victims. The last issues are being addressed including physical safety for those who demobilise. Two days ago another very positive development took place, as the ELN (National Liberation Army), the other guerrilla group that still stands in Colombia, announced the establishment of a second dialogue table that is going to start working on the basis of what has already been negotiated with the FARC. Merging both tables however does not seem feasible because the two guerrilla movements are quite different in both aims and structure: the FARC are much larger and have more territorial power and a vertical structure, while the ELN’s more horizontal structure means that negotiations and decision-making processes are more complicated and take longer.
CIVICUS speaks to Rolando Bú, the director of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH), a civil society umbrella organisation that brings together 86 Honduran NGOs. He has over 26 years of experience in civil society and volunteers at environmental and youth support NGOs. He discusses the security situation for Honduran human rights defenders and what can be done to improve the environment NGOs operate in.
1. Several recent assassinations of human rights defenders seem to corroborate the description of Honduras as the most dangerous country in the world for indigenous and environmental activists. What are the obstacles faced by human rights activists in Honduras?
The climate of insecurity in Honduras has multiple causes. One of the biggest problems is the fact that judicial institutions are weak, which makes them very vulnerable to penetration by organised crime ─ which in turn has grown exponentially over the last decade. These infiltrated institutions have not been able to prevent or promptly investigate killings, which has been apparent in the cases of human rights defenders assassinated for their work for land rights and against the exploitation of natural resources. Another, closely related factor is the concession of environmental licences allowing large domestic and foreign companies to make large investments to exploit those natural resources, often to the detriment of the ancestral territories of indigenous people.
Armando Chaguaceda Noriega is a Cuban political scientist and historian who specialises in the study of civil society and the political regimes of Cuba and other ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas) countries. He has extensive experience of participating, both in his native country and in other parts of Latin America, in several organisations and activists’ networks built around a progressive, anti-authoritarian perspective. He is a member of Amnesty International and a professor at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico.
1. After decades of isolation, Cuba returns to the Organization of American States and has received the visits of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Do you think this “opening to the world” will have any short- or medium-term effects in respect of democratic reforms or civil society freedoms?
The new Secretary-General of the United Nations will inherit a significant array of human rights challenges, and must urgently deal with the capability of United Nations institutions to protect and promote human rights globally. It is vitally important that she or he places human rights at the heart of the United Nations’ agenda.
Ahead of the Chadian presidential elections scheduled for 10 April 2016, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the release of five arbitrarily detained civil society activists. The activists have been detained for peacefully opposing the candidature of incumbent President General Idriss Déby Itno, who is also the current rotating chair of the African Union.
On 22 March 2016, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe (pictured), chairperson of the, Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) was assassinated at his home by two assailants who shot him eight times in the head. ACC, a South African community organisation has been subjected to sustained harassment from local authorities and a mining company, for its campaign to oppose titanium mining on the ancestral land of local communities in the pristine Eastern Cape Province. Prior to the assassination, Rhadebe had contacted other members of the organisation warning them of a hit list that his name was on. CIVICUS speaks to Mzamo Dlamini, deputy chairperson of the ACC.
1. Tell us more about the late Sikhosiphi Rhadebe
Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was born in 1965 to a very poor family. He only attended junior school and did not complete senior schooling. Around 1995 he went to Johannesburg to work as a labourer in a gold mine. He saved a bit of money and soon returned to Xolobeni and opened a small shop. Soon after he bought a van that he used to stock the shop, and also as a taxi for extra income. He was very hardworking and did not have the means to employ a driver so he drove the taxi himself. He was also a good mechanic and could fix broken down vehicles which allowed him an extra income. So he was a businessman and over the years his business grew and he had about 10-15 taxis and a scrapyard for repairing vehicles. He loved his family and his community. He was well-known for his friendliness.
Even as the European Union (EU) finalised its refugee agreement with the Turkish government, freedom of expression and civil society space continue to shrink in the country. CIVICUS urges the EU not to compromise its core values in its cooperation with Turkey.
Part of the refugee plan includes speeding up Turkey’s accession process to the EU, but such steps are usually conditioned by positive human rights developments. On the contrary, democratic rights violations are currently becoming commonplace in Turkey, with security forces acting with impunity.
The media is facing an unprecedented crackdown in Turkey. Authorities have severely restricted the operations of newspapers perceived to be supportive of the political opposition by taking over their management, imposing heavy fines, and preventing their distribution. Several TV channels have been forced off the air.
The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea should immediately cease its suppression of independent voices ahead of presidential elections, a group of human rights and democracy organizations said today. The government should also reverse its March 16, 2016 order requiring a leading independent civic group to suspend operations indefinitely, the groups said.
The Provincial Court of Luanda sentenced 17 Angolan youth activists to prison sentences ranging from between two to over eight years on Monday for engaging in “preparation of a rebellion and criminal association.” CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, strongly condemns this latest instance of repression by Angola’s totalitarian state apparatus, headed by president José Eduardo dos Santos since 1979.
South Africa may be celebrating human rights month to commemorate the sacrifices made in the struggle for democracy, yet attacks on rights defenders point to a worrying trend for civil society. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on South Africa’s government to treat two recent incidents with utmost seriousness.
March 2016 marks a year since Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara’s enforced disappearance. Itai (pictured) is the founder of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement. His protest style included sitting in the Africa Unity Square in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, with posters calling for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation and respect of human rights. In Harare recently, CIVICUS spoke to Patson Dzamara, who is brother to Itai, on the activism work of his brother and efforts to locate Itai.
1. Tell us about Itai’s background
Itai is a journalist by profession and born in 1979. His journalism journey started when he was still in high school. At some point he led the journalism club at his school, Highfileds High One School. He studied journalism soon after his Advanced-Levels. After completing his studies, he worked for various publications including The Zimbabwean, The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent. Itai also founded his own publication, The News Leader.
Some say his activism started when he founded the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement but I do not think that Itai’s activism started with Occupy Africa Unity Square. He has always been an activist even through his writing. When he started Occupy Africa Unity Square, it was just an escalation of his activism. He chose to grab the bull by its horns.
He is married to Sheffra and they have two children, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
Votre organisation œuvre-t-elle à construire un monde plus juste et plus pacifique? Votre travail contribue-t-il à donner plus de pouvoir aux citoyens et les incite-t-il à prendre des mesures sur les questions qui nous concernent tous?
Si oui, vous pouvez vous inscrire au Concours photo des Citoyens actifs de CIVICUS!
Le concours est organisé dans la perspective de la Semaine internationale de la société civile 2016 selon le principe suivant: «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».
Le concours est ouvert à tous les membres votants de l'Alliance mondiale CIVICUS. Tous les membres votants et membres associés (organisations ou membres individuels) sont invités à soumettre des photos relatives aux thèmes de la conférence : «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».
Admissibilité, juges et prix
Chaque membre votant ou associé(organisation ou membre individuel) peut présenter jusqu'à 3 photos maximum.
Au total, trois prix en espèces seront à gagner : un premier prix de 500 $ (USD), et deux seconds prix de 250 $ chacun.
Les gagnants seront sélectionnés par un jury composé de membres du personnel de CIVICUS. Les photos gagnantes seront sélectionnées et les candidats informés des décisions du jury d'ici juin 2016.
Remarque: CIVICUS se réserve le droit de ne pas décerner de prix si les juges estiment qu'il n'y a pas de gagnant
Nous recherchons les images qui représentent le mieux la société civile en action et les efforts de nos membres pour protéger et promouvoir l'espace civique. Les photos pourront être affichées lors de l'ICSW 2016, et être également publiées sur les médias sociaux, notamment le site Web, les comptes Twitter et Facebook.
Les photos peuvent également être utilisées pour d'autres publications de CIVICUS et/ou lors d'événements CIVICUS à l'avenir. Les photographes et/ou les organisations qui soumettent les photographies conservent la propriété de toutes les photos, et leur utilisation sera accompagnée des mentions pertinentes à leur égard par CIVICUS.
Nous vous demandons de nous envoyer:
Gardez à l'esprit que toutes les photos soumises doivent respecter les règles suivantes :
Pour obtenir des conseils sur la prise de belles photos, veuillez consulter les pages suivantes:
Les inscriptions débuteront lundi 21 mars 2016 et se clôtureront vendredi 15 avril 2016 à minuit GMT. Les photos présentées après la date de clôture ne seront pas prises en compte.
Règles de participation
¿Trabaja tu organización para construir un mundo de paz y más justo? ¿Colabora tu trabajo con el empoderamiento de ciudadanos y ciudadanas para la acción en temas que nos afectan a todos?
Si es así, ¡considera participar en el Concurso Fotográfico de CIVICUS “Ciudadanía Activa”!
El Concurso se desarrolla en el marco de la Semana Internacional de la Sociedad Civil bajo el lema “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”.
El concurso está abierto para todos los miembros de CIVICUS. Miembros (personas y organizaciones) están invitadas a enviar sus propuestas relacionadas con la tema de la conferencia: “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”
Elegibilidad, Jurado y Premios
Cada miembro puede presentar hasta 3 fotos.
Habrá un total de tres premios en metálico: un primer premio de USD 500 (quinientos dólares americanos), y dos segundos premios de USD 250 cada uno (dos cientos cincuenta dólares).
Los ganadores serán seleccionados por un panel integrado por personal de la Secretaría de CIVICUS. Los trabajos ganadores serán seleccionados y las personas concursantes serán informadas de las decisiones del panel en el mes de junio de 2016.
Nota: CIVICUS se reserva el derecho de declarar desierto el concurso si los miembros del jurado la gente a entender que no hay un claro ganador.
¿Qué es lo que estamos buscando?
Estamos buscando las imágenes que mejor representen a la sociedad civil en acción y los esfuerzos de nuestros socios en la promoción del espacio cívico. Las fotos serán exhibidas durante la Semana ICSW2016 y anunciadas en las redes sociales, como por ejemplo sitio web de CIVICUS, su Twitter y su cuenta de Facebook.
Las fotos también podrán ser usadas en el futuro en otras publicaciones de CIVICUS o en eventos organizados por CIVICUS. La propiedad de las fotografías seguirá siendo de las y los artistas que las tomaron o de la organización que las presentó al concurso, y CIVICUS aclarará el uso correspondiente.
Así que por favor pedimos que nos envíen:
Recuerden que todos los trabajos deben cumplir con ciertas condiciones, a saber:
Se pueden leer consejos de cómo tomar fotos muy buenas en los siguientes sitios web:
Período de presentación de los trabajos
El período de presentación de trabajos comienza el lunes 21 de marzo de 2016 y culmina el viernes 15 de abril de 2016 a medianoche horario GMT. Los trabajos que se presenten fuera de plazo no serán considerados para el concurso.
Reglamento de presentación de los trabajos
In the lead-up to International Civil Society Week 2016, CIVICUS launched the Active Citizens Photography Competition, inviting eligible participants to share images of Alliance members in action. We received close to 100 photographs from around the globe showing CIVICUS Members engaging in the civic space in diverse ways.
As expected, CIVICUS Members made the judges’ task a difficult one! But decisions had to be made, and it is with great pleasure that we announce the top 3 photographs, touching upon women’s struggles for equality in political life, children and youth engaging in peace-building and civic space, and promoting acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities.
CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of the Active Citizens Competition!
The top prize of $500 USD was awarded to Gender Links for this powerful image of women demanding their rightful place in politics.
Caption:Women in Mavula, Swaziland make their voices count during a debate on the equal representation of women in politics.
Photo credit:Thandokuhle Dlamini (for Gender Links)
|Rationale:Gender Links (GL) is committed to an inclusive, equal and just society in the public and private space in accordance with the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Protocol on Gender and Development. This vision is achieved through a people-centred approach guided by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing+20 and Africa Agenda 2063. The organisation’s vision is grounded in the ideal that power and responsibility is much more effective than demagogic rule. Whether in the political arena, in the workplace or in the home, there is ample evidence to show that unbridled power is never a healthy state of affairs. GL firmly believes that democracy in our region can only be real if it starts in the home.|
Caption: In celebration of Europe Day in the city of Vinnitsa, a group of girls held a flash mob for tolerance in support of the LGBT community. The girls attracted the attention of passers-by, when together they lifted up their palms painted in rainbow colours.
Photo credit:Evgen Gomoniuk (for Sustainable Development Club)
|Rationale: The Sustainable Development Club has implemented the ESKOM project ("Energy Efficiency: Building coalitions on the earth") with the support of the EU. From July 2015, SDC has worked on the "Union parent community Lymaniskoho rural kindergarten to save it from destruction" project. In the autumn of 2015 SDC led the "Our days in the lens" project for training young photographers. Currently, the organisation is completing the project "To be an eco-journalist", which aims to train young activists in the basics of journalism and media literacy.|
Caption: YAD’s Kids for Peace project works with the kids, for the kids, by the kids. The picture captures children celebrating that they are peace activists, promoting peace from the start, from childhood until the end of life. This picture was taken after the children took a peace pledge.
Photo Credit:Atta ul Haq (for Youth Association for Development)
|Rationale: YAD’s Kids for Peace Pakistan project has a Mission to cultivate every child’s innate ability to foster peace through cross-cultural experiences and hands-on arts, service and environmental projects. The project’s Vision is a safe and peaceful world where all people respect and care for each other and our planet. Kids for Peace serve as a model and inspiration for creating this reality with children leading the way, not only for today, but for generations to come. Our Motto is Kindness Matters.|
It was so difficult for the judges to make the final decisions that the panel chose to award three additional “honourable mentions”. These three contestants will be awarded one year’s free Voting Membership to the CIVICUS Alliance.
|Caption:Eco-campaigners support zero net carbon emissions by 2050||Caption:Peaceful demonstration against terrorism||Caption:Making a camouflage net amidst conflict in Ukraine|
|Photo credit:CliMates (www.studentclimates.org)||Photo credit: LAM ECHML (www.lamechaml.org/)||Photo credit: Iryna Makarova|
Syria’s authorities should reveal the whereabouts of Bassel Khartabil, a software developer and free speech activist, and release him immediately, 31 organizations said on the fourth anniversary of his detention.
CIVICUS speaks to Liana Varon the Deputy Secretary General of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV), a network of over 100 foundations and associations in Turkey on the situation concerning freedom of expression and the environment for CSOs.
1. Can you provide details on the case surrounding the arrest of 27 academics early this year?
Academicians for Peace Initiative was established in 2012 to produce and disseminate academic knowledge on ending armed conflicts and peace building processes through analysing different examples from around the world. On January 11, 2016 the initiative made public the petition entitled “We will not be a party to this crime!”
Does your organisation work to build a more just and peaceful world? Does your work help empower and engage citizens to take action on issues that affect us all?
If so, consider entering the CIVICUS “Active Citizens” Photography Competition!
The competition is being held in the run-up to International Civil Society Week 2016 under the banner: “Active Citizens, Accountable Actions”.
The competition is open to all voting members of the CIVICUS World Alliance. Voting members (organisations or individual members) are invited to submit entries relating to the conference’s themes: peace, inclusion, enabling environment, and participation.
Eligibility, Judging & Prizes
Each individual voting member or organisation may submit up to 8 photos (max. 2 photos per category:
There will be a total of three cash prizes: A top prize of $500 (USD), and two runner-up prizes of $250 each.
Prize winners will be selected by a panel of CIVICUS staff. Winning entries will be selected and contestants informed of the panel’s decisions by June 2016.
Note: CIVICUS reserves the right to not award prizes if the judges rule that there is no winner in a specific category.
What We’re Looking for
We’re looking for images that best represent civil society in action and our members’ efforts to protect and promote civic space. Photos may be displayed during ICSW 2016, as well as featured on social media, including the CIVICUS website and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.
Photos may also be used for other CIVICUS publications and/or at CIVICUS events in the future. Ownership of all photos remains with the photographers and/or the organisations submitting the photographs, and their use will be credited accordingly by CIVICUS.
So please send us:
Keep in mind that all entries must:
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On the first anniversary of the detention of Congolese youth activists, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the African Union (AU) to demand their immediate and unconditional release, along with several other imprisoned civil society activists.
CIVICUS thanks the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea for her update this morning. We note with extreme concern that the government of Eritrea has effectively closed all spaces for participation of citizens in peaceful assemblies and it continues to restrict the rights of Eritreans to express independent opinions. The government uses sophisticated surveillance systems to monitor communications and activities of Eritreans at home and abroad.
On 7 March, one day before International Women’s Day, mourners gathered to pay their final respects to human rights defender Berta Cáceres, who was violently gunned down at her home in the early morning hours of 3 March. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS joins Honduran civil society and the international community in strongly condemning the assassination of this leading advocate for indigenous land rights, demanding justice for her and her community.
On February 25, 2016, 58 nonprofit organizations (NPOs), including umbrella groups with more than 300 member organizations, sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Treasury and State asking them to convene a multi-stakeholder dialogue as part of a broader effort to ensure that registered, law-abiding NPOs are able to access the global financial system. The signatories to this letter represent more than $8.3 billion annually in humanitarian aid and services to the world’s most needy.
In February 2016, CIVICUS interviewed Ms. Hanna Szulczewska, Press Officer for the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a citizen movement that emerged on social media in late 2015 as a response to threats facing Poland’s democracy. Here, Ms. Szulczewska discusses how the movement came about, what it aims to achieve and what support KOD is calling for from international actors.
1. What developments led to the formation of KOD in late 2015 and what does the movement hope to achieve?
Since the parliamentary elections on 25 October 2015, the initiatives of the new Polish government have given serious cause for public concern. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won a majority in parliament following a populist electoral campaign based on a social policies programme, started to implement a series of changes with disregard for democratic principles and the rule of law.
Our civic movement emerged spontaneously in reaction to these developments. KOD was actually inspired by an article published on 18 November 2015 on studioopinii.pl, an independent journalist web portal, by Krzysztof Łoziński, an active member of the anti-communist opposition and a journalist. In his text Łoziński said there was now a need to create a Committee for the Defence of Democracy, in view of “deliberate attempts made by the Law and Justice party to dismantle democracy”. The Committee should follow the tradition and ideals of the Committee for the Defence of Workers founded in communist Poland in 1976.
Civil society groups are urging Ugandan authorities to respect citizen and media freedoms ahead of the 18 February parliamentary and presidential elections.
In the months leading up to election day, Ugandan authorities have restricted the ability of ordinary citizens, civil society activists and journalists to engage in open debates on sensitive issues such as official corruption, high rates of unemployment, rising costs of living, human rights violations and succession in the presidency, say CIVICUS and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).
“It appears that attacks on the media and journalists aim to restrict coverage of events and discussions that appear to challenge the actions and performance of the current government that has been in power for 30 years,” said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations. “Worryingly, freedom of assembly of members of the political opposition has also been restricted, while civil society organisations have been intimidated.”
Journalists, particularly those working for independent radio stations outside of the capital Kampala, have been targeted by the authorities and accused of providing biased platforms for members of the political opposition to broadcast messages to their supporters. Several have been prevented from covering political campaigns, while others have been physically assaulted and shot at with live ammunition during demonstrations and campaign rallies organised by opposition parties.
On 20 January 2016, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) suspended the licence of independent radio Endigyito FM and seized the station’s equipment after it broadcast an interview with a leading opposition candidate. Earlier, on 15 October 2015, police shot and injured Radio One correspondent Ivan Vincent as he covered squabbles between supporters of the leading opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and the police.
Police have used excessive force to disperse some opposition rallies and pre-emptive arrests have also been carried out against opposition party members and political figures to prevent them from going to campaign rallies. Authorities have blamed civil society organisations for inciting violence, demanding apologies and retractions of statements. In several instances, police have used the Public Order Management Act, which regulates assemblies in Uganda, to crackdown on peaceful rallies and demonstrations by refusing to grant permission for some and providing police with powers to use brute force to disperse peaceful gatherings.
Moreover, the timing of the contentious NGO Bill on 10 November 2015, just a few months before the elections, also raises questions on the way the government views civil society organisations. The bill places undue restrictions on NGOs by establishing a National Bureau for NGOs with extensive powers which include the refusal to register NGOs and revoke their permits. The Bureau has the authority to monitor the activities of NGOs.
CIVICUS and FHRI call on the Ugandan authorities to stop the crackdown on independent voices and journalists and create an enabling environment that allows political participation of all actors, peaceful assemblies, and media freedom to objectively report on issues affecting the people of Uganda.
CIVICUS is looking for nominations for election to its Board of Directors. As the term of the current Board draws to a close, we are now searching for suitable civil society leaders to help steer and govern the organisation from the end of 2016 to the end of 2019.
We are looking for motivated and engaged civil society activists, thought leaders, researchers, volunteers, data specialists, networkers, movers and shakers to help lead the CIVICUS family and play an important role as part of our Board of Directors.
More importantly, you have until 21 February 2016 to nominate yourself or a person in your network who is capable and interested in the position.
Nominations are due by midnight UTC, Sunday 21 February 2016.
CIVICUS spoke to Yared Hailemariam, the director of Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), concerning the recent killing of protesters in the country. AHRE is an NGO initiative of Ethiopian human rights activists that fled the country and is dedicated to the advancement of human rights protection in Ethiopia.
1. Can you detail the main causes of the current protests in Ethiopia?
The current protest in Ethiopia’s Oromia region began in November 2015. The first and main cause of the protests was the controversial government proposal of a Master Plan for the capital, Addis Ababa, which aims to expand the city by taking over several Oromia towns surrounding the capital. Protestors say the implementation of the plan will result in the displacement of thousands of local farmers who settled in the area many years back. The protest was started by students in Oromia region and then farmers and other members of the Oromo ethnic group joined the demonstrations.
CIVICUS speaks to Natalie Samarasinghe, the executive director of the United Nations Association – UK, where she has worked since 2006. She is the first woman to hold this position. She speaks and writes regularly on UN issues. In 2013, she co-founded 1 for 7 Billion, a global campaign to improve the selection process for the UN Secretary-General.
1.How can the process of appointing the UN secretary-general be made more open, accountable and democratic?
It is crucial that a highly capable secretary-general is appointed this year – someone who can inspire global action, speak truth to power and give voice to the hopes and needs of the world’s seven billion people. Their ability to do so would be enormously strengthened by a selection process that is focused on merit; gives them a broader base of support; and minimises political compromises needed for appointment.
To date, the process has satisfied any of these conditions, lacking even basic elements of modern recruitment practices and falling short of the UN’s principles of good governance. The Security Council has chosen a candidate behind closed doors and the rest of the UN’s membership has rubberstamped that decision. This opaque and outdated process has damaged the performance and perception of the UN.
The Climate Change Conference, COP21, was concluded in December 2015 with various agreements by states. CIVICUS speaks to Wael Hmaidan of the Climate Action Network who unpacks the agreements and what the outcomes of the conference 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 major outcomes of the COP21 conference for the future?
As we start to get down to business in 2016, one thing is clear; this year will be different than any of those that came before it because this year, we have a comprehensive, global climate agreement to work with. While the agreement struck in Paris in December 2015 at COP21 will not ─ and was never expected to ─ solve climate change overnight, it is a historic turning point for our movement and indeed the planet. In Paris, leaders sent a signal that the age of fossil fuels is over, and that the renewable energy era will be embraced in its place.
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.