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 

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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

Last year, it was estimated that there were 20 million refugees and 244 million migrants around the world. But beyond the numbers lies a more fundamental challenge. Political instability, economic inequality, uneven demography and globalisation are driving ever-greater human mobility. Yet, despite freeing up trade and capital flows, most countries of the world are seeking to restrict migration and struggling to deal with its consequences. 

Read on: Open Democracy | Português | Español

In many ways 2015 marked a watershed for civil society. Two major global compacts affecting the lives and livelihoods of billions of people were reached: the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Both these agreements are more ambitious, inclusive and grounded in human rights discourse than previous commitments. That they are is a consequence of civil society advocacy, and a testament to civil society’s participation and influence in global governance. These new commitments demonstrate that civil society can play a significant role in global governance, and almost all intergovernmental bodies express some kind of commitment to work with civil society. However, positive achievements contrast with the reality that civil society is being squeezed: one or more of the core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were seriously restricted in 109 countries around the world in 2015. 

Written by: Mandeep Tiwana and Andrew Firmin 

Read on: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung 

In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), counted 65 million people around the world forced to leave their homes. Of these 65 million, 21 million are refugees according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is the highest number of women, men and children on the move since the Second World War. About 94 per cent of these global refugees left their country seeking protection with neighbouring nations, mostly in the global south. Europe, on the other hand, accounts for the protection of around 6 per cent of the world’s refugees.

Written by: Julia Duchrow

Read on: New Internationalist Blog 

We are about to elect a new secretary-general for the United Nations. But, "we the people", despite our prominence at the opening of the UN Charter, have almost nothing to do with filling one of the most important public posts in the world; nor, indeed, will the successful candidate be compelled to look after the interests of the world's seven billion people.

Read on: Al Jazeera

The first World Humanitarian Summit has come and gone. Apparently, more than 1,500 commitments emerged from the two-day meeting which saw some 8,000 people, from 173 countries, discuss the future of the global humanitarian system at over 200 separate events. It was an intense two days; here is an attempt to synthesise my thoughts on the summit’s outcomes and what it might all mean for the work of the humanitarian community in the coming years.

Read on: Pan European Networks

Human rights and social justice focused organisations in the global south are facing double trouble. On the one hand, traditional sources of funding for their work from western democracies are becoming scarce. On the other hand, governments in the global south are increasingly using divisive rhetoric against civil society organisations (CSOs) uncovering corruption and serious rights violations by accusing them of being driven by foreign agendas. As regulations to limit international funding for civil society proliferate, there’s an urgent need for southern philanthropic institutions to step up to the plate to support the human rights and social justice agenda of civil societies at home.

Read on: Alliance Magazine

After being detained for 50 days, World Vision’s operations manager in the Gaza Strip, Mohammad Halabi, has been charged by the Israeli authorities with channelling millions of dollars of charitable funds to Hamas. Some will argue that this as an example of civil society organisations (CSOs) being vulnerable to corruption and political capture. But I see it as yet another example of states cracking down on civic space.
Read on: The Guardian Global Development

The phrase "leaving no one behind" is used no fewer than six times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development agreed by global leaders as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. While certainly a compelling phrase, as Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of CIVICUS, warned in the foreword of this year’s State of Civil Society Report, civil society needs to be in the vanguard of shaping and delivering this ‘Leave No One Behind’ agenda.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are designed to stimulate action in areas of "critical importance for humanity and the planet" such as measures to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies free from fear and violence; to ensure that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature, and to create a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity
Read on: Reuters

As the world tunes into the Rio 2016 Olympics, I feel ambivalent: torn between hoping the Games will deliver for Rio and for Brazil and knowing that, without radical reform, the selection processes for Olympic host cities will continue to have serious negative consequences, often for the most disadvantaged in our societies.

As the Games kick off, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, must be silently questioning whether his team made the best choice of host city. Of course, back in 2009 when Rio was first awarded the Games, not all the problems now facing the country could have been foreseen: the worst recession in 25 years, a presidential impeachment trial, an outbreak of Zika virus.
Read on: Huffington Post

With more and more governments narrowing space for dissent and activism, the UN has emerged as a key platform to air concerns about acute rights violations and develop protections for civil society and other vulnerable groups.

The core freedoms that enable civil society to conduct its work are under threat across the world. A report recently released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries. Individual activists and journalists are also increasingly being targeted to prevent them from exercising their legitimate rights and undertaking their vital work. In 2015, Global witness documented the killing of three environmental activists per week – while the Committee to Protect Journalists identified 199 journalists who were behind bars at the end of 2015.
Read on: IPS News

Mexico is experiencing a monumental human rights crisis. There is abundant evidence of widespread human rights violations in the country, including torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and violence against journalists and human rights defenders. As worrying as the hard data is, what’s even more worrying is the Mexican government’s continued refusal to acknowledge the situation. In the words of Yésica Sánchez Maya of Consorcio Oaxaca, a local civil society organisation, the State “is investing more efforts and resources in denying the existence of a problem that is apparent [to the whole world] than in actually solving it.”
Read on: IPS News

When the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Regional Coalition for Middle East and North Africa met this past week in Beirut, one seat was noticeably empty. While completing departure procedures at Cairo International Airport, authorities informed Mozn Hassan –passionate activist, co-founder and North Africa advisor for the Coalition, and executive director of the inspirational Nazra for Feminist Studies - that she was banned from travel.
Read on: Open Democracy: Arab Awakening

In recent years there has been an explosion of attention and focus on young people. As “43% of the world population is under 30 and only 1.8 billion people are between 10 and 24 years old”  young people are a global force that is striving to make their communities a better place. But as civil society faces constrictions and barriers, there is need to support youth organisations and movements to ensure they continue their good work.   

At CIVICUS, we are working to make sure that young people’s voices are heard, given a platform in our global civil society alliance and ultimately influence our work. Since 2007, CIVICUS has formally recognised the leading role that young people play within local, national and international civil society with the organization of CIVICUS Youth Assembly, which has become an established part of our work. With Youth Assemblies held in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 and most recently in Bogota in April 2016, CIVICUS have ensured a dedicated space for young people to be an integral part of the way we approach civil society discussions.

Read More

By Fideline Mboringong and Angga D. Martha

Earth is the one place that we all call home, but it is being suffocated by the exceptional pressure to provide natural resources to support demand from the ever increasing population. This excessive demand induced by the extreme capitalism logic, currently exceeds the earth’s regenerating capacity and the situation looks to be worsening. Unsustainable production and consumption patterns/ lifestyles are the order of the day as countries strive towards economic growth. Consumption and production patterns have a great impact on people and the environment now and will continue for future generations.

With this in mind, the United Nations launched the campaign for this year’s International Youth Day under the theme “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”, focusing on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production. 

READ MORE

Most of today’s intergovernmental institutions – the UN included – were designed in the 1940s and 50s, with the pre-eminence of states in their blueprint and post-War hierarchies at their heart. It is a global governance system that has produced some hugely significant and positive outcomes, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to CITES.

We live in an age of multiple paradoxes. In times of unparalleled wealth creation, according to Oxfam,  just 62 people own as much wealth as half of humanity while 700 million people or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population are said to live in extreme poverty on less than $1.9 a day.

Every generation has its iconic struggle for equality, from the civil rights movement to the push towards gender parity. Today, that struggle is for LGBTI rights. For our generation, this debate sits at the vanguard of society’s efforts to achieve greater equality and inclusivity.

I hear lots of talk – sometimes in public and often in private – about the role of big NGOs in development. For many, international NGOs (INGOs) have become part of the problem, rather than the solution. I thought it might be useful to look at the top five accusations I hear levelled against INGOs.

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