By Cathal Gilbert 

There is a growing list of critical problems in the G20's inbox, namely a faltering global economy, terrorist threats in a majority of G20 member states, and a patched-up climate change agreement. Solving these problems will take more than 20 heads of state and their economic ministers. The role of the private sector is widely acknowledged, but the power of civil society is often dismissed. Addressing these expensive and expansive issues requires the will and contribution of the people.

Read on: Al Jazeera

By Kgalalelo Gaebee 

From the large city centres to the rural townships, South Africans are witnessing a nationwide crackdown on their civic rights. Citizens’ ability to speak out, organise and take action on social issues in South Africa is becoming increasingly restricted. For those critical of business and government elites, there are much higher rates of harassment and detention by security forces. Social activist Kgalalelo Gaebee lists five threats to our basic freedoms that we should be concerned about.

Read on: The Daily Vox

After two years of deep thinking and hard work, the global civil society alliance CIVICUS has launched the beta version of the CIVICUS Monitor – the first ever online tool specifically designed to track and rate respect for civic space, in as close to real-time as possible.

By Danny Sriskandarajah

With some of the world’s biggest economies now companies, not states, the benefits for civil society of working more closely with business are clear. Yet, perhaps less well understood, are the benefits for business of defending civic space – the freedom of citizens to organise, speak up and protest governance failings and corruption. The good news is that in one area at least, businesses and civil society are increasingly seeing eye to eye.

Read on: World Economic Forum

By Amy Taylor

We’re living through a crisis of democracy where progressive internationalism is under attack. It’s now clearer than ever that civil society organisations cannot realise the more just, inclusive and sustainable world by acting alone. Instead a collective effort is needed – between civil society, philanthropy infrastructure organisations and others – to achieve the kind of transformative change that we seek.

Read on: Philanthropy in Focus

 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Emerging challenges such as the impending rise of automation calls for new and innovative solutions. Yet sometimes, new problems can also call for old solutions. This is the case with universal basic income, an old idea, which has gained recent renewed interest by experts and policymakers – an idea which could help reduce equality and, by reducing economic insecurity, also promote empowered citizens. Two years into Agenda 2030, the world is changing in ways that would have been hard to predict when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were being agreed. From populist and protectionist politics, to rising inequality and climate change inaction, the changing political and economic landscape calls for bold and brave solutions.

Read on: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform

By David Kode and Mouna Ben Garga

In most African countries, freedom of expression, assembly and association are stifled by state and non-state actors through the use of restrictive legislation, policies, and judicial persecution as well as physical attacks, threats and detention of activists and journalists. While these restrictions generally occur when civil society groups speak out in direct opposition to public policy, there is strong evidence that restrictions increase during politically sensitive periods, like elections and prior to constitutional changes on term limits of political leaders. African citizens, activists and organisations are finding new and innovative ways to resist, organise and mobilise in the face of mounting restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Read on: Pambazuka 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Images of protestors flooding the streets – whether in Caracas, Bucharest, Istanbul or Washington DC – send a powerful message to those in power, especially when they are plastered across newspaper front pages. In far too many countries, the response has been to shut down the space for citizens to organise and undermine the ability for dissent to be reported. Even in the most mature of democracies, the ability of citizens to organise and mobilise, and the freedom of journalists to report when they do, are being undermined. In an era of rising populism and spreading curbs on fundamental freedoms, we need to do more to protect civic rights and press freedom.

Read on: Inter Press Service 

By Ellie Stephens and Katie Mattern

We’ve all heard it repeated multiple times in our lives:  we all work better together. The work we do is greater than one individual, and together we can solve the challenges our world and communities face. We’ve also heard this refrain multiple times in our sector, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it’s one that’s seemingly harder and harder to take ownership of in our work.

This adage has never been more important than it is today, as civil society faces an increasing challenge of legitimacy in an evolving world too often dominated by political and financial elites. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, only 3 percent of the world currently lives in countries where fundamental civic rights are respected and enforced, leaving 6 billion people living in countries where freedom of association, assembly, and speech are curtailed.

Read on: Disrupt and Innovate 

By Cathal Gilbert, David Kode and Teldah Mawarire

With reporters under attack the world over, it is imperative that citizens rally to protect press freedom. We live in a time when hard-won human rights protections are at risk of being swept aside by a rising tide of authoritarianism, fear mongering and xenophobia. The resulting global assault on fundamental civic freedoms is, in turn, devastating press freedom and exposing an increasing number of journalists to the threat of censure, the loss of livelihood and physical attack.

Read on: News24

People around the world are living longer. In 2015, 12.3% of the world’s population was aged 60+. By 2050 this will soar to 21.5%. It may be daunting, but it is a triumph of development.

By Cathal Gilbert, Dom Perera and Marianna Belalba

Today we launch ratings for all UN Member States on the CIVICUS Monitor – the first ever online tool specifically designed to track and rate respect for civic space, in as close to real time as possible.

Closing space for civil society is undermining the ability of citizens to organise and mobilise. In an interview with Guardian Global development professionals network, CIVICUS Secretary General Danny Sriskandarajah, speaks about the restrictions to civic space around the world. 

Read on: The Guardian 

By Cathal Gilbert, Dom Perera, and Marianna Belalba

Recent elections and referendums in a growing number of countries from Turkey to the USA and beyond are producing leaders and policies, which directly threaten some of the core principles of democracy.  In an increasing number of established and fledgling democracies, we see ruling parties violating the fundamental freedoms to speak-out, rally behind a cause and get involved in a social movement.

Read on: Inter Press Service 

By Mandeep Tiwana

It’s no secret that democracy is facing a global stress test. Divisive politicians are creating a chasm between the majoritarian impulses of electoral democracy and the inclusive strands of constitutional democracy. The former emphasises a simplistic ‘winner takes all’ mentality to advance partisan political agendas while the latter accommodates dissent and minority voices through checks and balances. Notably, civil society activists and organisations speaking truth to power and seeking inclusion in decision making are facing severe hurdles as civic space appears to be backsliding in several democratic countries.

Read on: Open Democracy

By Mandeep Tiwana and Andrew Firmin

Donald Trump’s presidency, recent protests in Russia and South Africa and the referendum to consolidate presidential power in Turkey have reignited debate about an emerging form of macho conservative politics called ‘Putinism’. This new form of politics is shaping contemporary notions of democracy while undermining the international rules-based system and harming civil society.

Read on: Diplomatic Courier

 

 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Ask yourself these four questions. Can I criticise my head of state on Twitter? Can I join a human rights group to campaign for change? Can I take part in a peaceful protest outside government buildings? And can I do all of these things while knowing that my government will not just protect me but will actually enable my right to organise, speak out and take action on issues that matter to me?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then congratulations. You are in the very lucky, and sadly very tiny, minority of people who live in the 26 countries which, today, have “open” civic space.

Read on: Huffington Post

By Teldah Mawarire and Sara Brandt

Around the world, civic spaces are shrinking. In many countries, activists are under threat as governments increasingly use the law and violence as tools of oppression, according to a new report. For women human rights defenders, this means their bodies have become the battleground on which the fight for civil liberties is being waged.

Read on: Mail and Guardian: Bhekisisa

 

By Danny Sriskandarajah and Julia Sanchez 

There has never been a better time for Canada to show progressive leadership globally in support of inclusive and open societies that respect human rights. As the government prepares a new budget and a new approach to international assistance, the stage is set for Canada to put its money where its mouth is and support its values, at home and abroad.

Read on: iPolitics

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Civil society is under fire—sometimes literally—in many countries and in all regions of the world. Governments are clamping down on fundamental civic freedoms. This year’s Global Risks Report highlights the threat to civic space, noting “a new era of restricted freedoms and increased governmental control could undermine social, political and economic stability and increase the risk of geopolitical and social conflict.”

Read more: BRINK

By Amjad Mohamed Saleem

For many people around the world, faith is embedded in cultures, practices and communities. Earlier this month, World Interfaith Harmony week taught us that religious practices and perspectives continue to be sources of values that nourish an ethics of multicultural citizenship commanding both solidarity and equal respect. Historically, spiritual heritage has often provided humanity the capacity for personal and social transformation. 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

It’s a global phenomenon, already exerting a profound social and economic impact in both rich and poor countries. So why are so few development professionals talking about population aging? Our planet’s rapidly shifting demography has profound implications for our development plans, yet the two issues seem to be linked consistently only by those specialist organizations that have a particular focus on aging. This needs to change. If our post-2015 development framework is to be effective and legitimate, evolving population dynamics will need to be taken into account across the board.

Read more: AARP International: The Journal

By Leave No One Behind Partneship and ADD International

Pushpa Rani had pneumonia when she was eight years old, which left her extremely weak. Eventually, she lost all movement in her legs. Pushpa joined a women's self-help group, and later a disabled person's organisation, supported by Action on Disability and Development (ADD) International.

By Cathal Gilbert 

In some Open Government Partnership (OGP) member countries, the threats to peaceful dissent and activism are extremely grave. Examples include the assassinations of five social leaders in just one week in Colombia, the police’s use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse student protests in Honduras, the four-hour detention and questioning of a newspaper editor in Liberia and the murder of a community radio journalist in Mexico. These OGP countries are part of a much broader, global trend in which we see that at least 3.2 billion people live in countries where there are serious violations of some of our most cherished and basic rights.

Read on: Open Government Partnership 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Oxfam’s latest estimate that just eight super-rich people – down from 62 last year and 388 just six years ago – own more wealth than the poorest half of the world population is a clarion call to change the way we think about and try to tackle inequality.

Read on: Inter Press Service

By Danny Sriskandarajah

The long-term health of all societies depends on the ability of individuals to come together to share new ideas, promote social cohesion and advance shared interests for mutual benefit. But the freedom and space to do this—civic space—is increasingly under attack.

Read on: BRINK

By Elizabeth Stephens 

In a speech shortly after the November election, President Barack Obama urged anti-Trump protesters not to be silent. Yet, the number and attendance of events meant to challenge the values embodied by a Trump presidency dwindled exponentially months after election night. Why is this?

Read on: Capitol Hill Times 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

The closing of civic space is not just about people’s right to organize or protest in individual countries. This year’s Gobal Risks Report, published last week by the World Economic Forum ahead of its annual Davos meeting, looks in detail at the risks posed by threats to governments clamping down on fundamental civic freedoms. The report points out that, “a new era of restricted freedoms and increased governmental control could undermine social, political and economic stability and increase the risk of geopolitical and social conflict.”

Read on: Open Democracy 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Many of the business and political leaders gathering in Davos this week will be focused on how to protect the global economic order - and their interests - after a year of major political and social upheavals. That is the last thing they should be doing. For me, the greatest lesson from 2016 is that we need to build new mechanisms for airing political grievances and addressing economic frustrations.

Read on: Huffington Post

By Gayoon Baek

On the 25th of September 2016, a 70-year old farmer died in South Korea of a brain haemorrhage after 317 days unconscious. Since then, people have held candlelight vigils and a daily mass in front of the hospital where he passed away. Those unfamiliar with his story might wonder why this old farmer’s death caused such a public response in South Korean society.

By Bihter Moschini


In 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Tunisian civil society. At the close of last year, one of the nominees for the same prize was another civic group, the Syrian White Helmets. These are important acknowledgements of civil society’s role in achieving peaceful, transformed and sustainable societies. Paradoxically though, we are living in a time where civic space is rapidly shrinking across the world and across the Arab region, and one wonders how the year ahead will fare. 

By Danny Sriskandarajah and Elisa Peter 

Today, natural resource campaigners are facing increasingly virulent push-back from political leaders and powerful corporations intent on defending vested interests. From dam construction on the Honduran Gualcarque River, to gold mining in the Apuseni Mountains of Western Romania; from pulpwood plantations in Indonesian Sumatra to oil drilling in the Caspian Sea, all over the world, projects involving the exploitation of natural resources are sparking strong reactions from local communities – and not without consequence. 

Read on: Thomson Reuters Foundation 

Español

By Tor Hodenfield

Tribal leaders’ protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have been showing how both environmental and human rights are so difficult to defend in the US.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

For those of us interested in social justice, democracy and human rights around the world, this Human Rights Day comes at the end of an annus horribilis. From the streets to the internet, the space for citizens to organise and mobilise is being shut down across the world, including in mature democracies.

Read on: The Elders

By Davis Adieno 

Demand is growing for gender data and targeted solutions for challenges unique to women, men, girls or boys. Data, accountability and sustainable development expert Davis Adieno explains the challenges and opportunities of achieving gender equality through the Sustainable Development Goals.

Read on: Open Data Institute  

By Ine Van Severen

Imagine the following scenario: as a donor you come across an informal community group with a great idea that would substantially benefit the community. Downside? It’s an informal group, a loose network of activists, with no prior experience but with an excellent reputation in the community. Sounds familiar?

Read on: Alliance Magazine 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Around the world, the freedom of citizens to protest, to mobilise and to speak out is being contested and restricted. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, over 3.2 billion people now live in countries where civic space is repressed or closed, with serious violations of civic space recorded in 109 countries. Governments are cracking down on protest, brutally silencing dissent, intimidating and murdering human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists. Civil society actors find themselves increasingly vilified as the destabilising agents of foreign powers. The scale of our global rights crisis is staggering.

Read on: Council on Foundations 

By  Ine Van Severen

It’s undeniable: the space for civil society organisations (CSOs) and philanthropy is shrinking. According to new research by CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks trends in the conditions for civil society in countries around the world, 3.2 billion people live in countries where citizens’ freedoms of association, assembly or expression are restricted.

Read on: Alliance Magazine 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

It is now confirmed that Fiji will be chairing the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany. This is welcome news as the islands of the Pacific arguably have the most to lose – and the most to gain – when it comes to sustainable development. As a region of the world that is home to some of our most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, destined to suffer the worst effects of climate change, the Pacific perhaps best embodies the importance of ‘leaving no-one behind’.  

Read on: Pacific Islands News Association

 

By David Kode 

The Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, is grappling with a political crisis, following a move by the Constitutional Court affirming the electoral commission’s decision to postpone the date for the next presidential elections by 16 months. This decision effectively extends the current — and supposedly last — mandate of President Joseph Kabila to April 2018, but it has been challenged and described as a “constitutional coup” by civil society organizations and two main political opposition parties.

Read on: Waging Non Violence

 

By Aimi Zhou

The open session during the second day of the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy centred on a rarely discussed, but frequently controversial topic: communities receiving funding from extractive companies. Increasingly, communities are looking for alternative funding sources within their own countries while extractive companies are shifting their businesses strategies to build inclusive partnerships with host governments and local village communities.  

Read on: Alliance Magazine 

 

By David Kode 

“Dead men don’t vote,” said a Gambian political activist known as Mama Africa. She spoke during an event on the side-lines of the 59th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) held in Gambia’s capital Banjul last month.  The focus was the crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

Read on: Inter Press Service 

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Two weeks after the Paris Climate Change Agreement officially came into force - marking the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises - the leaders of 195 countries are meeting in Marrakech for a critical climate change conference. Faced with the momentous task of implementing the commitments made in Paris last year, and reeling from a shock US Presidential election result, which could put the accord in jeopardy, leaders are set for a challenging few days.

Read on: Huffington Post

 

By David Kode 

On Saturday 5th October, police in Democratic Republic of Congo reportedly used tear gas and armoured vehicles to break up a demonstration organised by members of the opposition, who were gathering in spite of an official ban on protest in place since 22 September.

The country is in political crisis since authorities extended the mandate of the current president, Joseph Kabila, by more than a year and a half beyond what was supposed to be the end of his last term. This subverts the country’s constitution and puts it on a path already taken by its neighbours Burundi, Congo Brazzaville and Rwanda. The implications for the trajectory of democracy in DRC are severe.

A generation of African leaders that came to power in the late 1990s and early 2000s are failing to step down, research from CIVICUS and others has highlighted. A challenge to President Kabila would be a source of hope that this trend can be reversed. An extension of his term only serves to embolden other leaders looking to cling to power.

The coming weeks leading to 19 December – when President Kabila’s mandate was due to expire - are crucial. More protests calling for a democratic transition and for President Kabila to step down are expected to take place. Security forces will almost certainly respond with violence to silence dissent, and the victims will be peaceful protesters, representatives of civil society and members of the political opposition.

The African Union must learn lessons from Burundi, take a bold stand, condemn any form of violence and call for President Kabila and members of his government to respect democracy in line with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. 

After all, it was the African Union that declared 2016 as the year of Human Rights.  Meaningful action will increase the credibility and legitimacy of the African Union in resolving African crises and it is crucially important for African leaders, intellectuals and civil society to jointly ensure the rights of Congolese people are not violated.

Recently, 185 civil society organisations based in 33 African countries endorsed an urgent letter addressed to President Joseph Kabila urging him to respect the rights of Congolese people to assemble, associate and express themselves after protests held on 19 September were violently dispersed with deadly consequences.  The protests took place when the electoral commission (CENI) missed the constitutional deadline to announce the date for the next elections.

In the aftermath of the protests, the government confirmed that 17 people, including three police officers, were killed. Civil society groups and opposition parties argued that the number of protesters killed was much higher. Four more ­people lost their lives as the headquarters of three opposition parties were set alight at night on 19 September. 

This violent crackdown was at once the culmination of months of attacks on civil society, and a grim harbinger of rights violations to come.

CENI announced several days after this crackdown that due to technical and logistical constraints, it will not be able to organise elections in 2016.  This extension, CENI argued, is to ensure that about 10 million people not currently on the country’s electoral register will are captured in the system before elections are held.

This decision was made following a national dialogue between the government and smaller opposition parties. But major opposition parties and civil society groups reject the decision and argue that it is a calculated plan to extend the mandate of President Kabila.

They have described the decision to postpone the elections as a “silent coup” on the constitution.  The youth movement Lutte pour le Changement (LUCHA)  has led calls for change and criticised President Kabila for defying the constitution has published a picture of President Kabila online with the caption “au revoir, bye bye 19 December 2016”. Fourteen members of LUCHA were detained the week before last.

President Kabila has ruled the DRC for 15 years since taking over following the assassination of his father in 2001, and following disputed elections in 2006 and 2011.There were questions about the credibility of the election in 2011, and it was only accepted by the population after President Kabila promised to respect the constitution and step down after his mandate ends. 

On 18 October 2016 a court in the DRC affirmed CENI’s decision to postpone elections due in November 2016 to April 2018. 

ATTACKS ON CIVIL SOCIETY

Space for civil society in Africa often contracts in the run up to elections. CIVICUS has over the last two years monitored sustained attacks and restrictions against civil society groups, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition who express concerns over changes in the DRC’s electoral law, the need to hold elections and the extension of the mandate of President Kabila. The new CIVICUS Monitor rates civic space in the DRC as repressed.

Between 19th and 21st January 2015, dozens of protesters were killed and more than 300 were arrested.  Human rights defender Christopher Ngoyi Mutamba was arrested and initially detained in a secret location for monitoring human rights violations committed during the protests.  He was only released in August 2016. 

Youth groups including Filimbi and LUCHA have been accused of planning insurrections and their members, including Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, harassed, arrested and detained for lengthy periods – simply for holding peaceful gatherings and calling on the DRC authorities to respect the constitution on the issue of presidential term limits and elections.

Both activists were released in August 2016 after spending 17 months in jail but the charges of ‘association with an organisation formed to incite people to take up arms against the state’ and ‘conspiracy against the head of state’ against them remain, making them susceptible to arrests in the future. 

THE AU MUST ACT

Following the recent violence, the UN expressed concerns over the use of force by the government to silence dissenting views and noted that since the protests over the proposal to extend the mandate of President Kabila began, the authorities have arrested thousands of protesters and approximately 225 protests have been repressed or prevented from taking place.

The US has imposed sanctions on two prominent members of the Kabila regime and more sanctions will follow from the European Union.  Like in Burundi, sanctions, while laudable, have not achieved the desired results. 

The next few months are crucial for the DRC - violence in the East persists and brutal repression of protests will not only reverse any gains made since the end of the civil war, but lead the country along the path of instability. The AU must publicly and unequivocally call on the leaders of DRC to respect democracy, condemn any form of repression against citizens, and adopt measures to prevent escalation of violence. 

David Kode is a Senior Policy & Research Officer at CIVICUS' Policy and Research Unit. Prior to joining CIVICUS, he worked with UNICEF South Africa in the Office of the Deputy Representative. 

 

Many US citizens may instinctively believe they still live in the land of the free, but a new global rights rating system shows the country is far less tolerant than they may think. The world’s first systematic review of how well countries uphold fundamental civic freedoms – to protest, organise and speak out – reveals a significant deterioration in the protection of these constitutional rights in the US.

Read on: Inter Press Service

After two years of deep thinking and hard work, the global civil society alliance CIVICUS has launched the beta version of the CIVICUS Monitor – the first ever online tool specifically designed to track and rate respect for civic space, in as close to real-time as possible.The need for such a tool is more relevant today than ever. Based on a vibrant civil society research collaboration, the CIVICUS Monitor shows how over three billion people live in countries where civic space - in other words the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression - is repressed or closed.

Written by: Cathal Gilbert, Dominic Perera and Marianna Belalba

Read on: Equal Times 

NyaradzoMashayamombeWorld over, girls are faced with enormous challenges, and each continent has its specific issues which perpetuate these vulnerabilities. While these challenges come in shapes and faces that are different continentally, the end results are often the same for girls ranging from; high maternal mortality rates for those below the age of 24, HIV continues to be the face of girls, young women and women, with UN AIDS citing that 15% of women living with HIV are aged 15–24, of whom 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa. More challenges include illiteracy with many countries still struggling to ensure access to primary and secondary education. 

Comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights for young people especially young women remain a politically heated debate especially in Africa, with many leaders in these countries struggling to come to terms with the fact that young people are having sex at a very early stage and therefore deserve access to reproductive information and services. In many sub-regions in Africa and some first world countries, Female Genital Cutting continues to torment girls, exposing them to untold health problems and death. Child marriages are at the centre of the global agenda as a result of the fact that more than 30% of women are married before their 18th birthday. Patriarchal societies sponsored by corrupt governments and negative religious and cultural practices continue to expose girls to discrimination and untold suffering. 

Prime Minister Solberg is becoming an international development superstar. Two weeks ago, at the United Nations in New York, I saw her on countless stages championing progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals — with much acclaim from gathered diplomats, activists and businesspeople. Happily, the draft budget tabled by Solberg’s government this week proves that she’s prepared to make good on her promises. At a time when foreign aid budgets are coming under increasing pressure in the majority of donor countries, Norway’s retaining official development assistance at 1 percent of GNI is welcome.

Read on: Devex 

Civil society has been described as the oxygen of democracy by no less than UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. As the world’s largest democracy, India has a proud history of inspiring people’s movements and non-profit organisations looked up to by social change advocates across the globe.

Written by: Danny Sriskandarajah and Mandeep Tiwana

Read on: Inter Press Service 

For the last three years, Australia’s foreign aid budget has been in free-fall. As a proportion of Gross National Income, it has now sunk to its lowest level in decades. Indeed, on every measure of aid generosity that there is, Australia is tumbling down the international rankings. And, if the first budget of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government is anything to go by, this downward trajectory won’t be reversed. A further $224 million has been cut from the aid budget, leaving aid at just 0.22% of GNI in 2017-18, with no projected increase over the forward estimates.

Read on: Australian Council for International Development

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