Issue No 581 | 12 April 2012

Time for a new social contract: CIVICUS report suggests a generational opportunity in the face of multiple crises

SOCS COVERCIVICUS is proud to present its inaugural report on the state of civil society. The report, State of Civil Society 2011, was published on 10 April 2012 and is available at www.stateofcivilsociety.org. It examines such key current areas for civil society as the rise of protest and dissent, the enabling and disenabling environment for civil society, the role of civil society in response to crisis, the funding situation for civil society and civil society's role in the multilateral arena. Developed by the CIVICUS secretariat in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders in the CIVICUS alliance, the report suggests that civil society faces a generational opportunity to prove its value as a source of alternatives at a time of profound global crisis. The report further concludes that there is a need for new, more broad-based, inclusive coalitions and communities that take account of the diversity of civil society and the strengths of different parts of civil society, such as CSOs, community groups, online activists, the new protest movements, faith-based groups and trade unions.

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Turning principles into practice: a successful platform strengthening CSO transparency and accountability practices in Latin America

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Rendir Cuentas platform (www.rendircuentas.org) has been working successfully for three years to bridge, connect and convene CSO practitioners to conceptualise transparency and accountability principles, map best practices and translate principles into shared initiatives. Rendir Cuentas convenes a network of 25 focal organisations and networks in six countries - Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay - which together represent over 900 organisations. A distinctive feature of the platform is its profound conviction of the need and power of self-regulation initiatives, rather than the usual dynamic of CSOs reacting to external regulation attempts.

Highlights from CIVICUS

CIVICUS interview with Jose Maungo
Jose Maungo is a human rights activist from the Cabinda region of Angola. He is the co-founder of the Mpalabanda Association, which has been denied permission to operate by the Angolan government. He speaks to CIVICUS about the challenges faced by civil society in the Cabinda region.

A slippery slope in Southern Africa
Several Southern African countries, including Angola, DR Congo, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, appear to be experiencing a backslide in democratic freedoms, damaging the reputation of the Southern African Development Community and its ability to bind its members to common values.

On the road to Rio

Roundtable discussion between CSOs and members of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All
On 23 March 2012, representatives from 14 CSOs participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the UN Secretary-General's High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. The meeting was the first engagement in a civil society consultation process on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, aimed at providing opportunities for civil society to engage with members of the High-level Group and provide inputs. Read the report.
Source: UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service

Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUETo commemorate International Mother Earth Day, 18 April 2012, the UN General Assembly will host an interactive dialogue on harmony with nature. The dialogue will aim to examine how human activity has damaged the Earth system, especially by focusing on those areas where damage has already affected the regenerative capacity of the planet.
Source: Rio+20


United Nations Voluntary Fund 2013 Call for Applications
The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is now accepting proposals under its 2013 Call for Applications. The Fund provides grants of up to $15,000 for organisations offering projects to provide humanitarian, legal and financial assistance to individuals whose human rights have been severely violated as a result of contemporary forms of slavery. The deadline is 31 May 2012.
Source: Funds for NGOs

Snapshot of Democracy global photo contest
The World Youth Movement for Democracy has launched its second global photo contest. Young people are invited to send in photographs on one of three themes: emerging human rights defenders, democracy in my life and challenges to democracy. Winners will be sponsored to participate in the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in October 2012. The deadline for entries is 11 May 2012.
Source: World Youth Movement for Democracy

Opportunity for an African journalist to cover African Development Bank meetings
The African Press Organisation will cover the costs of one African journalist to attend the 2012 African Development Bank Group (AfDB) meetings in Arusha, Tanzania, May 2012. The winner will have the opportunity to interview experts and senior officers of AfDB. The application deadline is 1 May 2012.
Source: African Press Organisation


11th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - pre-registration open
Pre-registration is open for the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Forum, to be held from 7 to 18 May 2012 at UN Headquarters in New York, will focus on 'the Doctrine of Discovery: its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests.' Participants will have the opportunity to discuss their human rights concerns with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The deadline for registration for organisations which have previously attended sessions is 23 April 2012.
Source: UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service


GLOBAL REPORTThe Global Report on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)
The Global Report on the Situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) seeks to advance the under-recognised situation of WHRDs. The report offers a contextual analysis of the environment in which WHRDs work and the violations they face because of their gender or their work defending gender-based rights.
Source: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

Caribbean Human Development Report 2012
Crime has become one of the main challenges in Caribbean countries. The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, published by the UN Development Programme, stresses the need to rethink methods of tackling crime and violence and providing security on the ground, and to follow approaches that are centred on citizen security and address the causes of the recent increase in violent crime, including social, economic and political exclusion.
Source: UNDP

Financial transaction tax: a human rights imperative
This briefing paper sets out how the establishment of a financial transactions tax would mark an important step in the direction of social justice. By placing a small levy on the trading of bonds, shares and derivative products, the FTT could raise significant funds which could then be deployed to offset the impacts of the austerity measures currently being implemented in many countries in response to economic crisis. The FTT would also help to discourage the kind of opportunistic speculation which helped cause the crisis.
Download primer here

Source: Center for Economic and Social Rights

Introducing Bribespot
Bribespot is an anonymous, location-based mobile and web-based application developed for reporting bribes, and to allow users to see where others have made reports of corruption. Using a smartphone, or via the Bribespot website, individuals can report locations where bribes are requested or paid, indicate the size of the bribe, and the area of government affected by it.
Source: The Communication Initiative Network

News in brief

We want to share your civil society news with thousands of subscribers! Email your civil society news for the weekly e-civicus bulletin to: editor@civicus.org.

Bahrain: UNESCO head condemns killing of citizen journalist
The Director-General of UNESCO denounced the killing of Ahmed Ismael Hassan Al Samadi, a citizen journalist who was shot while filming a demonstration in the village of Salmabad, and called for an investigation into his killing.
Source: UNESCO

CANADACanada: the demonisation of dissent
In its post-budget analysis, a prominent Canadian law firm concluded by saying, "given the political climate and these new rules, foreign charities funding advocacy in Canada and Canadian charities funding or doing advocacy (particularly environmental advocacy) should be very careful." A particular target seems to be environmental groups campaigning against an oil pipeline project, reflecting a pattern of demonising critical voices.
Source: Alliance Magazine

Egypt: Freedom House opposes aid waiver
The US-based civil society group Freedom House is opposing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's $1.3 billion aid waiver for Egypt because it says military and economic assistance makes it harder for Washington to press for protections for local and international CSOs.
Source: Middle East Voices

India: civil society seeks effective use of Right to Information Act
Civil society members have called for better vigilance to effectively use the Right to Information Act to increase accountability and transparency in governance, as corruption and under-utilisation of funds are inhibiting development.
Source: The Telegraph, Calcutta

JORDANJordan: civil society at heart of Syrian refugee response
Community-based organisations have arguably played the largest role in helping the thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into neighbouring Jordan, and act as the first point of contact for many refugees. CSOs are increasingly trying to coordinate their responses.
Source: IRIN

Malawi: a new dawn?
It would be too simplistic to think that Malawi's problems have ended with the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. But there is now an opportunity for newly appointed President Joyce Banda, who is also leader of the opposition People's Party, to demonstrate she can offer a new and more responsive style of leadership, including towards civil society.
Source: IPS

Maldives: don't follow our example, say Pakistan civil society
A number of CSOs in Pakistan have expressed alarm over the current political crisis in the Maldives, urging the country not to make the same mistakes as Pakistan, and calling for the Maldives’ suspension from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation until democracy is restored.
Source: Minivan News

JAY NAIDOOMexico: our future lies in nature
In Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, a small band of activists mobilised the community to oppose commercial fishing by powerful companies. They educated the community and visitors, and agreed a total ban on fishing. Now they face a new threat from a tourism development, and have been forming new alliances between local and global CSOs. The experience of Cabo Pulmo suggests a need to challenge the rules and systems that perpetuate inequality and increase divides between rich and poor.
Source: Huffington Post

South Sudan: CSOs express concern over invitation to Sudan President
In an open letter, South Sudanese CSOs, with the support of human rights organisations across the African continent, have expressed deep concern about the invitation that the government of South Sudan has extended to Sudan President Omar al-Bashir to attend an April 2012 presidential summit in Juba, South Sudan.
Source: Sudan Tribune

Syria: new signs of coordination in civil disobedience groups
Different non-violent groups seem to be getting together and organising common actions in Damascus, Syria, in the face of very tight security and restrictions on communications and movements. The loose Freedom Days consortium seeks to "topple the regime through peaceful resistance and civil disobedience."
Source: Al Jazeera

Ukraine: new, broader civil society law passed
After more than four years of public advocacy, parliament in Ukraine recently passed a new civil society act that seeks to remove legislative and administrative barriers for registering CSOs and broadens the scope, geographical reach and type of activities they can conduct. The bill was passed by an absolute majority of members of parliament and brings Ukraine's legislation closer to norms outlined by the Council of Europe.
Source: Kyiv Post

UK: charity tax relief anger could also spread to USA
UK government measures to cut down on tax avoidance by capping tax relief for charitable donations have directly cut across the same government's promotion of philanthropy and the 'big society' - and there are fears that the same could happen in the USA.
Source: Nonprofit Quarterly

Civil society demands transparency and consultation on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
In a joint statement, over 100 CSOs and networks across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region called for the release of the draft ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and the initiation of meaningful public consultations on its content. The draft declaration has been in development for almost a year, but has not been released to the public, and civil society has been largely excluded from the drafting process.
Source: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

Make cooperation with civil society a key pillar of Arab League reform
The development and reform of the Arab League requires a new vision for its relationship with civil society, in line with the traditions and experiences established by similar regional groupings and the UN, 37 CSOs from nine Arab countries have suggested.
Source: Social Watch

The unpredictable future of the Occupy movement
While the media lens has shifted away, Occupy has spawned a menagerie of energised movements and ambitious plans. Many occupations are now blossoming anew with fresh plans, and the movement retains a formidable power of disruption. Its unpredictability is also an asset.
Source: Truthout

Time to reboot environmentalism?
"If our message is not resonating, the first place to look is in the mirror," says conservation practitioner Dr Joe Zammit-Lucia, who argues that environmentalists can re-gain the initiative by re-inventing themselves into a more effective and more inclusive movement.
Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature

Former UNCTAD staff fear organisation's future
Former senior members of UNCTAD staff claim that developed countries are trying to marginalise UNCTAD because its analysis of global financial and economic issues has stood out too far against prevailing orthodoxies and the interests of wealthier countries.
Source: Tax Justice Network

Civil society representatives recommended for the UN panel on a post-2015 development framework
The Beyond 2015 campaign has recommended five civil society representatives to serve on a UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 development framework. The nominations have come from a collaborative and consultative process involving 48 organisations in the Beyond 2015 campaign.
Source: Beyond 2015

Take action

Human Rights Defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja close to death on hunger strike in Bahrain
Support Front Line Defenders' urgent appeal for the release of human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who was rushed to hospital on the 58th day of his hunger strike. Please join in their call for action whether individually or collectively.
Source: Front Line Defenders


Senior Executive Assistant (application deadline 16 April 2012)

CIVICUS is seeking to recruit a Senior Executive Assistant to provide high-level executive support to the office of the Secretary General/CEO. The Senior Executive Assistant will report to the Coordination and Planning Manager and provide support to members of the senior management team.

Human Rights Advisor (application deadline 21 April 2012)
The Human Rights Advisor will spearhead the development and implementation of strategies for research and campaigning activities to be carried out by Amnesty in Brazil, with particular emphasis in the areas of the right to the city and forced removals. 
Source: Amnesty International

Programme Coordinator (application deadline 22 April 2012)
The Sub-Saharan Africa Department of the Transparency International Secretariat is initiating a new five-year regional programme to provide support to the work of Transparency International’s national chapters in Africa. The Programme Coordinator will coordinate the work flow, financial and administrative management of the People Engagement Component of the programme in Africa.
Source: Transparency International
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CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
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2012 CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation