Philippines

 

  • #UN75: ‘Governments use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community’

    2020 marks 75 years since the founding of the United Nations (UN). CIVICUS is speaking with civil society activists, advocates and practitioners about the roles the UN has played so far, the successes it has achieved and the challenges ahead.

    cristina palabay pictureCIVICUS speaks to Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of theKarapatan Alliance Philippines, a national alliance of civil society organisations and activists working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. Established in 1995, Karapatanhas 16 regional chapters and includes more than 40 member organisations. It documents and denounces extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment and militarisation, helps organise mass actions to expose human rights violations and challenge the prevailing culture of impunity, and monitors peace negotiations between the government and the insurgent National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Karapatan is currently facing bogus court charges and state vilification in reprisal for its advocacy work at the UN Human Rights Council.

    What would you say have been the greatest successes of the UN in its 75-year history?

    I deem the international human rights covenants and declarations as among the greatest successes of the UN in its history. By establishing such norms, including the right of peoples to self-determination, the UN has laid down principles for the respect, promotion and protection of individual and collective rights.

    Can you mention an instance during 2019 in which the UN made a positive difference?

    In 2019, the UN made a positive difference when the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines, which is expected to put into motion stronger international accountability mechanisms with regard to the human rights crisis we face in the Philippines.

    The resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines was adopted in July 2019, and it urged the Government of the Philippines to “take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable, in accordance with international norms and standards, including on due process and the rule of law.” It also called upon the government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the mechanisms of the HRC, including by allowing country visits and refraining from intimidating or retaliating against human rights defenders (HRDs). Finally, the resolution requested the OHCHR to prepare and present a comprehensive report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines for follow-up.

    What things are currently not working at the UN and need to change?

    Positive actions of the UN to uphold human rights and peoples’ rights are stopped short when it comes to implementation by governments, including that of the Philippines. Governments use a variety of tactics to undermine human rights norms agreed upon through the multilateral platform.

    First, they deliberately ignore the UN’s calls, views and recommendations and continue committing human rights violations and crimes against their peoples by distorting human rights principles.

    Second, they appear to abide by the UN’s calls, views and recommendations on paper and they flaunt the numerous covenants and agreements that they signed to make it appear that they comply with international human rights instruments, but instead use their being part of the UN as licence for their warmongering and commission of crimes against humanity.

    Third, they use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community while still committing a wide array of human rights violations.

    All these need to change if the UN is to strive to continue to be a relevant institution. We are aware of several campaigns by civil society to reform the UN and remedy these problems, but without a concerted, multi-pronged civil society approach and action, and more importantly, the commitment of states to right these wrongs, a crisis may soon grip the UN.

    What challenges do you face in your own interactions with the UN system, and how do you navigate them?

    We face challenges related to all the above-mentioned tactics used by the Government of the Philippines and others.

    When governments deliberately ignore the UN’s calls, views and recommendations and continue committing human rights violations and crimes against their peoples and distorting human rights principles, we conduct more intense lobbying, advocacy and campaigning to leverage domestic and international pressure.

    When governments appear to abide by the UN’s, calls, views and recommendations on paper but flaunt the numerous covenants and agreements they have signed to make it seem that they are complying with international human rights instruments, while doing exactly the opposite, we work to expose them through lobbying, advocacy and campaigning.

    When governments use the UN as licence for their warmongering and commission of crimes against humanity, we strengthen international solidarity links and coordination among civil society and grassroots people’s organisations.

    When governments use the UN to sanitise their image before the international community while still committing human rights violations, we continue to expose them.

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Karapatan through itswebsite orFacebook page, or follow@karapatan and@TinayPalabay on Twitter

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 44th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The three-week human rights council sits from 30 June to 17 July, and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate, and for the 47 Council members to address. CIVICUS will be conducting and presenting evidence on a variety of thematic and country-focused issues. Full overview below:

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    Our members on the ground have documented serious human rights violations, including attacks on fundamental freedoms and against human rights defenders and journalists. Thousands of people have been killed in extra-judicial executions perpetrated by authorities with the full backing of the Duterte government in the context of their so-called ‘war on drugs'. Recently the country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist, while the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a damming report on the country. We urge member states to deliver a strong resolution during the council to hold the government to account.

    United States of America (Civic space rating:Narrowed)

    Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the United States to protest the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on 25 May. Their demands for justice for George Floyd and other Black people unlawfully killed at the hands of police have been met with force. The US has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s Watchlist as a result of attacks against protesters and the media. CIVICUS reaffirms that the right to protest, as enshrined in international law, must be protected.  CIVICUS urges the member states and observers of the Human Rights Council to raise such attacks in the Interactive Dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism.

    Eritrea (Civic space rating:Closed)

    As Eritrea has entered the second year of its Council membership term, its domestic human rights situation remains dire. A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations is widespread. Violations continue unabated, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice and due process, enforced disappearances. During this session, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea is up for renewal. We urge States to support its adoption, in light of the lack of progress and accountability in the country.

    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    50 UN experts have called on the Human Rights Council to take immediate action on grave human rights abuses in China, including Hong Kong and Xinjiang. This week Hong Kong's new national security law came into force, risks destroying Hong Kong's  free and open civil society, including media outlets. Already someone has been arrested for displaying a pro-independence flag. Urgent action is needed. CIVICUS fully support the proposal from UN experts to establish a UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China. At the very least, States should demand in dialogues that China fulfills its human rights obligations.

    Hungary (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    There has been a rapid decline in civic freedoms in Hungary. The government has criminalised fake news about the pandemic, with penalties of up to five years in prison. To date, the police have initiated criminal proceedings against nearly 100 people. During the pandemic, Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán was able to temporarily rule by decree, which has set a dangerous precedent for Orbán to further consolidate power, restrict rights and bypass constitutional safeguards. The country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist. CIVICUS recommends that UN member states raise concerns about Hungary and how it has used COVID19 as a smokescreen to close civic space and target its critics.

    Thematic mandates

    Civic freedoms in the age of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated human rights challenges worldwide. As countries have grappled to respond, CIVICUS has documented multiple instances of such responses restricting civic space, including: 

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship
    • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers

    In a report that will be presented at this Session, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression set out a number of recommendations for States in order to guarantee freedom of expression during a pandemic. Chief among these was ‘Ensuring accountability, such that no State is free to use this public health crisis for unlawful purposes beyond the scope of the health threat.’

    Peaceful Protests

    This Session will see a resolution on peaceful protests debated by the Council. The resolution provides an opportunity to push for reforms of protest laws and police tactics, and to strengthen accountability frameworks for violations during protests. We urge States to propose language which reflects the current situation of impunity for violence against peaceful protesters by state and non-state actors.

    Human rights and Migration

    This Session, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and migration will deliver a report on migration and freedom of association, which included key recommendations for States to ensure that freedom of association is protected. We call on States to use the Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report to make public commitments to protect the right to freedom of association for migrants, and to co-sponsor the resolution due for presentation at the Session which will renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 45th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 14 September - 6 October, 2020 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC45


    CIVICUS will be engaging on a range of issues in line with our mandate to protect and monitor the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association. In terms of country-specific situations, CIVICUS will be presenting evidence and recommendations on rights abuses in the Philippines, Burundi, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and China. With relation to thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on deliberations related to the prevention of human rights abuses, reprisals, and arbitrary detention. Full summaries below.

    Civil society Participation in times of COVID19
    Like last session, civil society participation has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Travel restrictions and distancing guidelines means that in-person participation is conspicuously limited, particularly for organisations from the Global South. Opportunities for remote participation via video messaging are providing a welcome alternative - because of this change, people and groups affected by issues being discussed will, to some extent, be able to address the Council without being limited by their ability to travel to Geneva, as is usually the case. But being able to meet with and hear directly from human rights defenders in the room and in-person, whether through side events or statements, has long been a strength of the Council. The human rights defenders who attend Council sessions strengthen resolutions by providing first-hand information and serve to hold states to account, and their participation reinforces valuable partnerships. Like last session, opportunities to do so in-person will be very much missed.

    see individual member country ratings - ...

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    • Extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders continue
    • Abuse of COVID19 emergency measures to target government critics
    • Serious concerns remain over domestic accountability mechanisms, and impunity still reigns for attacks on activists and journalists.

    CIVICUS welcomed the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2019 (41st Session) which mandated welcome monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines. The subsequent report by the Office of The Human Commissioner on Human Rights, presented in July 2020 (44th Session) shows clearly that human rights violations remain rampant, and that accountability for such violations remains distant. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing human rights conditions still further; in June, the Philippines was added to CIVICUS’s Watchlist, reflecting its sharp decline in civic freedoms.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS joins civil society partners in the Philippines and internationally in calling for a Council-mandated independent investigative mechanism to address the ongoing systemic human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. This is clearly warranted by the situation set out in the OHCHR report, the lack of political will to engage and the demonstrable lack of adequate domestic investigative mechanisms.


    Burundi (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Elections in May were marred by violence and rights violations
    • The Youth league, the Imbonerakure, continue to carry out brutal attacks on critics of the government
    • Activists and journalists remain imprisoned, while hundreds of thousands remain in exile.

    An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails in Burundi, where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves. Any criticism of the ruling authorities is severely punished and there is virtually no media freedom. The internet is heavily censored, many websites are blocked and online criticism of power holders is subject to severe penalties.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS calls for the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. In the context of recent political developments, such a renewal, building off the investments to date in and from the CoI, would provide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in the country.


    Cambodia (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    • COVID-19 government measures have provided an opportunity to crack down on civil society groups.
    • At least 22 people have been arrested for sharing allegedly ‘false news’ related to the pandemic.
    • Opposition Leader, Kem Sokha, on trial since January on unsubstantiated charges of treason. Sokha has been barred from politics and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted

    The Cambodian government continues to crack down on civil society groups, independent media, and the political opposition and human rights defenders to silence critical voices in the country. In the past three years it has adopted a series of repressive laws that unduly restrict human rights. In November 2019, the Cambodian authorities had arbitrarily detained nearly 90 people solely on the basis of the peaceful expression of their opinions or political views as well as their political affiliations. The latest activists to be convicted of ‘incitement’, three employees of NGO Mother Nature, were sent to pre-trial detention on 6 September.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages States to deliver statements jointly or in a national capacity under the Item 10 interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and the Item 2 general debate focusing on attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and other members of independent civil society, recommending a stronger approach to address the worsening situation. CIVICUS further encourages States to explore supporting a resolution which mandates yearly reporting from the High Commissioner, with updates in between Sessions.


    Saudi Arabia (Civic space rating: Closed)

    • It has been over two years since Saudi Arabia intensified its crackdown on women human rights defenders
    • Reports of detined activists and critics of the government being subjected to torture in prison
    • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to make direct orders for the arrest of activists

    It has been over two years since women human rights defenders have been in prison, simply for demanding that women be treated equally to men. Punishment in the country is severe, with torture being formed used for many offences, and the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. When it comes to freedom of assembly, protesting is considered a criminal act and those who defy the ban can face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

    Recommendations
    States that flagrantly abuse human rights in their own territories undermine and delegitimise the work of the Council must be held up to scrutiny. Along with civil society partners, CIVICUS recommends that States ensure sustained attention by the Council at its 45th session by jointly reiterating calls on the Saudi government to implement the above-mentioned benchmarks, and by supporting the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism over the situation.


    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Mass detention, torture and mistreatment of millions of Uighurs and Turkic Muslims in Xianjang
    • Chinese Communist Party continues to censor reporting about COVID-19
    • Excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests around Hong Kong protests

    On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, suppression of information in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country. They also raised concerns about the decision to draft a national security law for Hong Kong  – without any meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong – which imposes severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region. It was passed on 30 June 2020.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS endorses the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic. We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.


    Thematic situations

    Prevention of human rights abuses
    The ability to take Council action with regards to prevention of deteriorating human rights situations relies on an accurate flow of information from the ground, whether from human rights defenders or independent media. Civil society – including human rights defenders, journalists, and human rights monitors – are often the first affected by a worsening human rights situation. An increasingly inability to express dissent, gather in protest, or operate as independent civil society is often a clear signpost that further human right violations are to come, to be met by willfully restricted avenues of domestic resistance. As an immediate example, in the case in Tanzania, time is fast running out for the HRC to operationalize its protection mandate in order to prevent further deterioration.

    In the report presented in March 2020 (the Council’s 43rd Session), the Rapporteurs highlighted this importance of civic space. As such, a resolution on the Council’s prevention mandate should highlight civic space restrictions as indicators for a worsening human rights situation. This would enable the Human Rights Council to take action to prevent severe human rights violations, including by working with the state in question constructively to roll back restrictions to civic space, before the situation becomes beyond repair. Specifically, that civil society indices, such as the CIVICUS Monitor, could be used to develop a more specific set of indicators and benchmarks relating to civic space which would then trigger intervention.

    Further intervention could be operationalized through a Working Group on Prevention or the country level mechanism in New York.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages states to recommend that the use of such civic space indices is articulated in the resolution on the Council’s role in prevention. CIVICUS also recommends that states use civic space indicators in a systematic manner at the Human Rights Council in order to further operationalize its prevention mandate. This includes raising civic space concerns through individual and joint State statements at the Council, thematic debates, resolutions, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and special sessions and urgent debates.


    Reprisals
    UN initiatives are only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account. Reprisals have a significant impact on citizen participation at every level of the international human rights infrastructure and are another example of civic space being squeezed.

    There is no political cost to states engaging in reprisals, and we recommend that the new resolution incorporates an accountability mechanism. There are a number of emerging trends in types of reprisals leveled against individuals and civil society – false narratives driven on social media and the engagement of non-state actors being just two such escalating tends.

    Recommendations
    Often, the only deterrent to states engaging in this practice is to publicly name them. CIVICUS recommends that States use the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General to raise specific cases of reprisals – cases of reprisals in Egypt, Bahrain, Viet Nam and China are particularly prevalent. CIVICUS also recommends that reprisals taking place within the UN itself are highlighted.


    Arbitrary detention
    Popular action is on the rise across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. But this has been mirrored by an unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly-logged violations of civic rights was against the right to peaceful assembly. This trend looks set to continue, with States both weaponizing repressive laws in order to create justification for detention and arresting peaceful protesters on vague and ill-defined grounds.

    In July, the Human Rights Committee published its General Comment 37 on Article 21 of the ICCPR – the freedom of peaceful assembly. In its guidance relating to arbitrary detention around freedom of assembly, the GC highlights that ‘the procedural guarantees of the Covenant apply to issues such as detention in connection with peaceful assemblies’. It also states that ‘preventative detention of targeted individuals, to keep them from participating in assemblies, may constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which is incompatible with the right of peaceful assembly’, and that practices of indiscriminate mass arrest prior to, during or following an assembly, are arbitrary and thus unlawful’.

    The CIVICUS Monitor as well as other monitoring trackers show that states are falling well short of this guidance. In India, thousands have been held in preventative detention in the context of CAA protests. In Iraq, approximately 3,000 demonstrators were detained during mass protests between October 2019 and April 2020. In Zimbabwe, a number of activists were arrested or abducted to prevent the protests from taking place. Belarus’ practice of mass detentions in the context of protest has prompted condemnation from the UN. Reports from the United States of unidentified police officers detaining protestors may also give rise to arbitrary detention. In Hong Kong, new security law allows for retroactive detention of protestors, well after the protests had ended.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS recommends that States raise arbitrary detention in the context of protests in statements, jointly or in your national capacity, during the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and call on the Working Group to look specifically at this issue. CIVICUS further encourages States to name country situations in which individuals have been arbitrarily detained in the context of protests – for example the United States, Belarus, Zimbabwe.


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the crackdown on environmental activism, finds new report

    New research brief from the CIVICUS Monitor examines the crackdown of environmental activism and profiles important victories civil society has scored in the fight for climate justice.

    • Environmental protests are being criminalised and met with repression on all continents
    • State authorities and private companies are common perpetrators of violations to civic freedoms
    • Despite the risks and restrictions, activist groups continue to score important victories to advance climate justice.

    As world leaders meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Negotiations (COP26), peaceful environmental activists are being threatened, silenced and criminalised around the world. The host of this year's meeting is one of many countries where activists are regularly facing rights violations.

    New research from the CIVICUS Monitor looks at the common tactics and restrictions being used by governments and private companies to suppress environmental movements. The research brief “Defenders of our planet: Resilience in the face of restrictions” focuses on three worrying trends: Bans and restrictions on protests; Judicial harassment and legal persecution; and the use of violence, including targeted killings.

    As the climate crisis intensifies, activists and civil society groups continue to mobilise to hold policymakers and corporate leaders to account. From Brazil to South Africa, activists are putting their lives on the line to protect lands and to halt the activities of high-polluting industries. The most severe rights abuses are often experienced by civil society groups that are standing up to the logging, mining and energy giants who are exploiting natural resources and fueling global warming.

    As people take to the streets, governments have been instituting bans that criminalise environmental protests. Recently governments have used COVID-19 as a pretext to disrupt and break up demonstrations. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor indicates that the detention of protesters and the use of excessive force by authorities are becoming more prevalent.

    In Cambodia in May 2021, three environmental defenders were sentenced to 18 to 20 months in prison for planning a protest  against the filling of a lake in the capital. While in Finland this past June, over 100 activists were arrested for participating in a protest calling for the government to take urgent action on climate change. From authoritarian countries to  mature democracies, the research also profiles those who have been put behind bars for peacefully protesting.

    “Silencing activists and denying them of their fundamental civic rights is another tactic being used by leaders to evade and delay action on climate change” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Research Lead for the CIVICUS Monitor. “Criminalising nonviolent protests has become a troubling indicator that governments are not committed to saving the planet .”

    The report shows that many of the measures being deployed by governments to restrict rights are not compatible with international law. Examples of courts and legislative bodies reversing attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protests are few and far between.

    Despite the increased risks and restrictions facing environmental campaigners, the report also shows that a wide range of campaigns have scored important victories, including the closure of mines and numerous hazardous construction projects. Equally significant has been the rise of climate litigation by activist groups. Ironically, as authorities take activists to court for exercising their fundamental right to protest, activist groups have successfully filed lawsuits against governments and companies in over 25 countries for failing to act on climate change.


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  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

     

  • COP26 : « De fausses solutions sont utilisées pour détourner notre attention des responsables »

    Lia Mai TorresÀ la veille de la 26ème Conférence des parties des Nations unies sur le changement climatique (COP26), qui se tiendra à Glasgow, au Royaume-Uni, du 31 octobre au 12 novembre 2021, CIVICUS a interrogé des militants, des dirigeants et des experts de la société civile sur les défis environnementaux auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leur contexte, les actions qu’ils entreprennent pour y faire face et leurs attentes pour le sommet à venir.

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Lia Mai Torres, directrice exécutive du Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) - Philippines, une organisation de la société civile (OSC) qui aide les communautés philippines à relever les défis environnementaux. Fondée en 1989 à l’initiative d’organisations représentant les pêcheurs, les agriculteurs, les peuples autochtones, les femmes, les personnes en situation de pauvreté urbaine et les secteurs professionnels, le CEC s’engage dans la recherche environnementale, l’éducation, le plaidoyer et les campagnes. Elle est également membre du secrétariat du Réseau Asie-Pacifique des défenseurs de l’environnement (APNED), une coalition d’organisations travaillant de manière solidaire pour protéger l’environnement et ses défenseurs.

    Quel est le principal problème climatique dans votre pays ?

    Le principal problème environnemental auquel les Philippines sont confrontées aujourd’hui est la prolifération de projets et de programmes destructeurs de l’environnement. Cette situation a persisté et s’est même aggravée pendant la pandémie.

    Le gouvernement actuel a récemment levé un moratoire sur l’exploitation minière, arguant que cela aiderait l’économie à se redresser après avoir été durement touchée par la mauvaise réponse à la pandémie. Cela permettra de réaliser une centaine d’opérations minières dans différentes régions du pays. De nombreuses communautés se sont opposées à cette démarche en raison des impacts négatifs des projets miniers déjà en cours. Un exemple est le village de Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, dans le nord des Philippines, où un accord minier avec la société australo-canadienne OceanaGold a été renouvelé pour 25 années supplémentaires. Les communautés autochtones de Bugkalot et Tuwali souffrent déjà du manque d’approvisionnement en eau dû à l’activité minière et craignent que cette situation ne s’aggrave si l’activité minière se poursuit.

    Les projets d’infrastructure sont également une priorité pour le gouvernement, qui affirme qu’ils contribueront à améliorer l’état de l’économie. Cependant, il existe des projets financés par des prêts étrangers coûteux qui ne feront qu’aggraver la situation de la population locale. Un exemple est le barrage de Kaliwa, financé par la Chine, dans la province de Rizal, dans le sud de l’île de Luzon. Le réservoir empiètera sur les territoires ancestraux du peuple autochtone Dumagat, y compris sur leurs sites sacrés, ainsi que sur une zone protégée.

    Un autre exemple est celui des plantations en monoculture que l’on retrouve principalement dans les provinces de Mindanao. Les terres ancestrales des peuples autochtones Lumad ont été converties en plantations de bananes et d’ananas. Certains résidents font état de maladies causées par les produits chimiques de synthèse utilisés dans les plantations, et beaucoup sont déplacés de leurs terres agricoles.

    Ce sont là quelques exemples de projets prioritaires promus par le gouvernement pour nous conduire à ce que l’on appelle le développement. Cependant, il est clair qu’ils n’améliorent pas vraiment la situation des communautés locales, dont la plupart sont déjà en situation de pauvreté. En outre, la plupart des ressources naturelles du pays ne sont pas exploitées au profit de ses citoyens, les produits extraits étant destinés à l’exportation. Quelques entreprises locales et internationales en bénéficient. Les ressources naturelles sont utilisées pour le profit et non pour le développement national.

    Avez-vous été confrontée à des réactions négatives pour le travail que vous faites ?

    Le CEC travaille avec les communautés locales, car nous croyons que les luttes environnementales ne peuvent être gagnées sans les efforts conjoints de ceux qui subissent les impacts environnementaux. Le vrai pouvoir provient des organisations de base. Les OSC comme la nôtre et d’autres secteurs doivent soutenir leurs efforts, en reliant les luttes locales pour construire un mouvement environnemental national et international fort.

    En raison de notre soutien aux communautés locales, nous avons subi des représailles. En 2007, Lafayette Mining Ltd, une société minière australienne, a intenté un procès en diffamation contre le directeur exécutif du CEC de l’époque parce qu’il avait dénoncé les impacts des activités de la société. En 2019 et 2021, notre organisation a été victime d’une pratique courante par laquelle le gouvernement déclare des individus et des organisations comme étant terroristes ou communistes. Il l’a fait en représailles aux missions humanitaires que nous avons menées à la suite d’un typhon et pendant la pandémie. 

    Nous avons également été menacés d’une descente de police dans nos bureaux, en représailles au fait que nous avions offert un refuge aux enfants autochtones Lumad qui avaient été contraints de quitter leurs communautés en raison de la militarisation, des menaces et du harcèlement. Nos actions de protestation pacifiques sont souvent violemment dispersées par la police et les forces de sécurité privées, et en 2019, un membre du personnel de notre organisation a été arrêté.

    Derrière toutes ces attaques se cachent les forces de sécurité de l’État ainsi que les forces de sécurité privées des entreprises. La police et l’armée sont clairement devenues des forces de sécurité des entreprises, utilisant des mesures répressives pour assurer le bon déroulement de leurs opérations.

    Quel lien entretenez-vous avec le mouvement international pour le climat ?

    Étant donné que de nombreux pays, notamment dans le sud du monde, connaissent des problèmes environnementaux similaires, nous reconnaissons la nécessité d’établir des liens avec des organisations d’autres pays. En 2015, le CEC a fait partie des organisateurs de la Conférence internationale des peuples sur l’exploitation minière, qui a offert aux défenseurs de l’environnement la possibilité d’apprendre de leurs expériences respectives et de coordonner des campagnes locales.

    Le CEC a également contribué à la création de l’APNED, un réseau de campagnes de solidarité qui fournit un soutien mutuel pour les campagnes, soulève des questions au niveau international, plaide pour une plus grande protection des défenseurs, organise des formations et facilite les services. Nous pensons que la solidarité entre défenseurs est importante pour aider à renforcer les mouvements locaux ainsi que la lutte internationale pour nos droits environnementaux.

    Quels sont vos espoirs que la COP26 débouche sur des progrès, et quelle utilité voyez-vous à de tels processus internationaux ?

    Même avant la pandémie, l’inclusion des défenseurs de l’environnement de la base ou de première ligne dans les processus internationaux tels que les négociations sur le climat suscitait des inquiétudes. Le manque d’inclusion est devenu plus évident avec la pandémie, car de nombreuses OSC ont trouvé difficile d’y participer en raison des exigences et des dépenses supplémentaires. En outre, seules les organisations accréditées peuvent participer aux événements officiels, et très peu sont accréditées. Et les rapports gouvernementaux sont souvent très éloignés de la réalité. L’aggravation de la crise climatique est la preuve que les gouvernements n’en font pas assez.

    Malgré cela, nous continuerons à participer aux événements officiels et parallèles de la COP26, dans le but d’attirer l’attention sur la manière dont de nombreux pays développés et les grandes entreprises aggravent la crise climatique en s’emparant des ressources et en exploitant les ressources naturelles des pays pauvres, exacerbant ainsi la pauvreté existante, et sur la manière dont de fausses solutions sont utilisées pour détourner notre attention de leur responsabilité et de leur manque de responsabilisation. Nous souhaitons également souligner l’importance des défenseurs de l’environnement dans la protection de notre environnement et la défense de nos droits environnementaux, et donc la nécessité de veiller à ce qu’ils ne subissent pas de nouvelles violations de leurs droits humains pour des raisons politiques qui les empêchent de mener à bien leur important travail.

    Quels changements souhaiteriez-vous voir se produire pour commencer à résoudre la crise climatique ?

    Nous espérons que le cadre capitaliste axé sur le profit changera aux Philippines. Cela permettrait de s’assurer que les conflits liés aux ressources sont réglés, que la protection de l’environnement est maintenue pour assurer l’équilibre écologique, que de véritables programmes d’adaptation au changement climatique sont mis en place et que les groupes vulnérables reçoivent l’attention dont ils ont besoin. Il s’agit également de demander des comptes aux pays et aux entreprises qui aggravent la crise climatique, et d’aider les pays pauvres à s’adapter.

    L’espace civique aux Philippines est classé « réprimé »par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez le Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines via sonsite web ou sa pageFacebook, et suivez@CEC_Phils sur Twitter.

     

  • COP26 : « Mon espoir est que les gens se rassemblent pour demander justice »

    Mitzi Jonelle TanÀ la veille de la 26ème Conférence des Parties des Nations Unies sur le changement climatique (COP26), qui se tiendra à Glasgow, au Royaume-Uni, du 31 octobre au 12 novembre 2021, CIVICUS a interrogé des militants, des dirigeants et des experts de la société civile sur les défis environnementaux auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leur contexte, les actions qu’ils entreprennent pour y faire face et leurs attentes pour le sommet à venir.

    CIVICUS s’entretient avec Mitzi Jonelle Tan, une jeune militante pour la justice climatique basée à Metro Manila, aux Philippines, membre des Young Climate Champions Philippines et participante active du mouvement international Fridays for the Future.

    Quel est le principal problème climatique dans votre communauté ?

    Les Philippines subissent de nombreux impacts du changement climatique, qu’il s’agisse de sécheresses plus longues et plus chaudes ou de typhons plus fréquents et plus intenses. Outre ces impacts climatiques - auxquels nous n’avons pas été capables de nous adapter et qui nous laissent sans soutien pour faire face aux pertes et aux dommages - nous sommes également confrontés à de nombreux projets destructeurs de l’environnement, souvent entrepris par des multinationales étrangères, que notre gouvernement autorise et même encourage.

    Young Climate Champions Philippines, la version philippine de Fridays for Future, milite pour la justice climatique et pour que les voix des personnes issues des communautés les plus touchées soient entendues et amplifiées. Je suis devenue militante en 2017, après avoir travaillé avec des leaders autochtones aux Philippines, car ce travail m’a fait prendre conscience que la seule façon de parvenir à une société plus juste et plus verte est une action collective menant à un changement systémique.

    Avez-vous été confrontée à des réactions négatives face au travail que vous réalisez ?

    Oui, comme pour toute personne qui s’élève contre l’injustice et l’inaction, notre gouvernement, par l’intermédiaire de ses agents rémunérés, désigne les militants comme des terroristes : pour résumer, il nous traite de terroristes pour avoir demandé des comptes et poussé au changement. Être militant du climat s’accompagne toujours de la peur aux Philippines, le pays qui, pendant huit années consécutives, a été classé comme le plus dangereux d’Asie pour les défenseurs et militants de l’environnement. Nous ne vivons plus seulement avec la peur des impacts climatiques, mais aussi avec celle que la police et les forces de l’État s’en prennent à nous et nous fassent disparaître.

    Comment établissez-vous des liens avec le mouvement international pour le climat ?

    Je collabore beaucoup avec la communauté internationale, en particulier par le biais de Fridays for Future - MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas), l'un des groupes de Fridays for Future dans le Sud. Nous y parvenons en ayant des conversations, en apprenant les uns des autres et en élaborant des stratégies conjointes, tout en nous amusant. Il est important que le mouvement mondial des jeunes soit très bien mis en réseau, uni et solidaire, afin de s’attaquer réellement au problème mondial de la crise climatique.

    Quels sont vos espoirs que la COP26 débouche sur des progrès, et quelle utilité voyez-vous à de tels processus internationaux ?

    Mon espoir ne réside pas dans les soi-disant dirigeants et politiciens qui se sont adaptés au système et l’ont géré pendant des décennies au profit d’une minorité, généralement issus du Nord global. Mon espoir repose sur les gens : sur les militants et les organisations de la société civile qui s’unissent pour réclamer justice et dénoncer le fait que le système axé sur le profit qui nous a conduits à cette crise n’est pas celui dont nous avons besoin pour en sortir. Je pense que la COP26 est un moment crucial et que ce processus international doit être utile, car nous en avons déjà eu 24 qui n’ont pas donné grand-chose. Ces problèmes auraient dû être résolus lors de la première COP et, d’une manière ou d’une autre, nous devons veiller à ce que cette COP soit utile et débouche sur des changements significatifs, et non sur de nouvelles promesses vides.

    Quels changements souhaiteriez-vous voir se produire pour commencer à résoudre la crise climatique ?

    Le seul changement que je demande est un grand changement : un changement de système. Nous devons changer ce système qui donne la priorité à la surexploitation du Sud et des peuples marginalisés au profit du Nord et de quelques privilégiés. Un développement bien compris ne devrait pas être basé sur le PIB et la croissance éternelle, mais sur la qualité de vie des gens. C’est possible, mais seulement si nous nous attaquons à la crise climatique et à toutes les autres injustices socio-économiques qui en sont la cause.

    L’espace civique auxPhilippines est classé « réprimé »par leCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contactez les Young Climate Champions Philippines via leursite web ou leur pageFacebook, et suivez Mitzi Jonelle surTwitter etInstagram. 

     

  • COP26: ‘False solutions are brandished to divert our attention from those responsible’

    In the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines, a civil society organisation (CSO) that helps Filipino communities address environmental challenges. Founded in 1989 through an initiative of organisations representing fisherfolk, farmers, Indigenous peoples, women, people living in urban poverty and professional sectors, CEC focuses on environmental research, education, advocacy and campaigning. It is also part of the secretariat of the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED), a coalition of organisations working in solidarity to protect the environment and its defenders.

    Lia Mai Torres

    What’s the key environmental issue in your country that you’re working on?

    The main environmental issue that the Philippines is currently facing is the proliferation of environmentally destructive projects and programmes. This situation persisted or even worsened under the pandemic.

    Just recently, the current administration lifted a moratorium on mining, based on claims that it will help the economy recover, after it was hard hit by the poor pandemic response. This will usher in around 100 mining agreements in different parts of the country. This was opposed by many communities due to the negative impacts of existing mining operations. An example is in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, in the northern part of the Philippines, where a mining agreement with the Australian-Canadian company OceanaGold was renewed for another 25 years. The Bugkalot and Tuwali Indigenous communities are already suffering from a lack of water supply due to the mining operations and they fear that this will worsen with the continuing operations.

    Infrastructure projects are also a priority of the government, which claims that they will also help the economy. However, there are projects that are foreign funded under onerous loans that will worsen the situation of residents. An example of this is the China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Rizal province, in the southern part of Luzon island. It will encroach on the Dumagat Indigenous people’s ancestral domain, including sacred sites, as well as a protected area.

    Another example are the monocrop plantations that can be found mostly in the provinces of Mindanao. Ancestral domains of the Lumad Indigenous people have been converted into banana and pineapple plantations. Some residents report illnesses from the synthetic chemicals used in the plantations and many are being displaced from their farmlands.

    These are a few examples of priority projects that are pushed by the government to bring so-called development. However, it is obvious that these do not genuinely improve the situation of local communities, most of which are already experiencing poverty. In addition, the natural resources of the country are mostly not exploited to the benefit of its citizens, since the products extracted are destined for export. Only very few local and international corporations benefit from them. Natural resources are used for profit and not for national development.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    CEC works with local communities, since we believe that environmental struggles cannot be won without the united efforts of the people who are experiencing environmental impact. The real power comes from the organisations on the ground. CSOs like ours and other sectors should support their efforts, connecting local struggles to build a strong environmental movement at the national and international levels.

    Because of our support to local communities, we have faced reprisals. In 2007, Lafayette Mining Ltd, an Australian mining company, filed a libel case against CEC’s then-executive director for exposing the impacts of the company’s operations. In 2019 and 2021, our organisation was targeted through red-tagging, a practice by which the government declares individuals and organisations as terrorists or communists, in retaliation for our humanitarian missions following a typhoon and during the pandemic. 

    We also received information of a threat of a police raid in our office for providing sanctuary to Lumad Indigenous children who were forced out of their communities due to militarisation, threats and harassment. Our peaceful protest actions are often violently dispersed by the police and private security forces, and a member of our staff was arrested in 2019.

    Behind all these attacks are state security forces alongside the private security forces of corporations. The police and military have seemingly become part of the corporations’ security forces, using repressive measure to ensure that their operations run smoothly.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    As many countries, especially from the global south, are experiencing similar environmental problems, we recognise the need to connect with organisations in other countries. In 2015, CEC was among the conveners of the International People’s Conference on Mining, in which environmental defenders were able to learn from each other’s experiences and coordinate local campaigns.

    CEC also helped establish APNED, a solidarity campaign network that provides mutual support to campaigns, raises issues at the international level, advocates for greater protection to defenders, conducts capacity-building activities and facilitates services. We believe that it is important to have solidarity among defenders to help strengthen local movements as well as the international struggle for our environmental rights.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make progress on your issue, and how useful generally do you find such international processes?

    Even before the pandemic, there were concerns regarding the inclusion of frontline or grassroots environmental defenders in international processes such as the climate talks. Lack of inclusivity became more evident under the pandemic, as many CSOs have found it difficult to attend due to additional requirements and expenses. In addition, only accredited organisations can attend formal events, and these are only very few with accreditation. Further, governments’ reports are usually far from reality. The worsening climate crisis is proof that governments are not doing enough.

    Despite this, we will still participate in the formal and side events of COP26, aiming to bring attention to how many developed countries and big corporations are worsening the climate crisis through resource grabbing and the exploitation of the natural resources of poor countries, exacerbating existing poverty, and how false solutions are brandished to divert our attention from their responsibility and lack of accountability. We also want to highlight the importance of environmental defenders in protecting our environment and upholding our environmental rights, and therefore the need to ensure that they do not suffer more politically motivated human rights violations that hinder them from doing their important work.

    What one change would you like to see that would help address the climate crisis?

    We hope that the profit-oriented capitalist framework will be changed in the Philippines. This would ensure resource conflicts will be addressed, environmental protection for ecological balance upheld, genuine climate adaptation programmes established and due attention given to vulnerable groups. This also includes holding countries and corporations that contribute to the climate crisis accountable and providing support for poor countries to adapt.

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@CEC_Phils on Twitter. 

     

  • COP26: ‘My hope lies in the people coming together to demand justice’

    Mitzi Jonelle TanIn the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a young climate justice activist based in Metro Manila, Philippines, who organises with Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and is active in Fridays for Future International.

    What’s the key climate issue in your community?

    The Philippines is plagued by several impacts from climate change, from droughts that are getting longer and warmer to typhoons that are getting more frequent and more intense. Aside from these climate impacts – that we have not been able to adapt to and leave us with no support when it comes to dealing with the loss and damages – we also face numerous environmentally destructive projects, often undertaken by foreign multinational companies, that our government is allowing and even encouraging.

    Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, the Fridays for Future of the Philippines, advocates for climate justice and to make sure that voices of people from the most affected communities are heard, amplified and given space. I first became an activist in 2017 after working with Indigenous leaders of the Philippines, which made me understand that they only way to achieve a more just and greener society is through collective action leading to system change.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    Yes, just like anyone who speaks up against injustice and inaction, our government through its paid trolls red-tags and terror-tags activists – it basically calls us terrorists for demanding accountability and pushing for change. There is a fear that comes along with being a climate activist in the Philippines, which has been characterised as the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental defenders and activists for eight years in a row. It’s not just the fear of the climate impacts, it’s also the fear of police and state forces coming to get us and making us disappear. 

    How do you engage with the broader international climate movement?

    I organise a lot with the international community, especially through Fridays for Future – MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas), one of the global south groups of Fridays for Future. We do it by having conversations, learning from each other and creating strategies together, all while having fun. It’s important for the global youth movement to connect with one another, unite and show solidarity in order to truly address the global issue of the climate crisis.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make progress on your issue, and how useful generally do you find such international processes?

    My hope doesn’t lie with the so-called leaders and politicians who have continued business as usual for decades for the profit of the few, usually for the global north. My hope lies in the people: activists and civil society coming together to demand justice and to really expose how this profit-oriented system that brought us to this crisis is not the one that we need to bring us out of it. I think COP26 is a crucial moment and this international process has to be useful because we’ve already had 24 too many. These problems should have been solved at the very first COP, and one way or another we have to make sure that this COP is useful and brings meaningful change, not just more empty promises.

    What one change would you like to see – in the world or in your community – to help address the climate crisis?

    The one change I ask for is a big one: system change. We need to change our system from one that prioritises the overexploitation of the global south and marginalised peoples for the profit of the global north and the privileged few. The way we view development, it shouldn’t be based on GDP and everlasting growth, but rather on the quality of people’s lives. This is doable – but only if we address the climate crisis and all the other socio-economic injustices at its roots.

    Civic space inthe Philippinesis rated as ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines through itswebsite or Facebook page, and follow @mitzijonelle onTwitter andInstagram. 

     

  • Decluttering Diversity and Inclusion

    French | Spanish

    By Jose Maria “Lloyd” Nunag, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and CIVICUS member from the Philippines

    ‘What does Diversity and Inclusion means to you?’

    046bc8d0 d141 45db 9af2 8f41668951b1This is a question I have been pondering (and decluttering) in the last few years and even until now. Growing up as a young, queer person from a poor, rural family in the Philippines, and now as a migrant worker in the United Kingdom, my vision of diversity and inclusion has been emerging. Today, I define it as a world where everyone knows and claim their rights in which human rights and justice are enjoyed without discrimination.

    Global Learning Exchange

    In December 2018, I was able to take part in an ambitious CIVICUS programme of work on diversity and inclusion mainstreaming and integration across the civic movement called Global Learning Exchange (GLE) held in Montevideo, Uruguay.

    The program made me build on and re-energised my commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to transform our ways of working to better meet our strategic aims.

    It aimed to capitalise on the potential of diversity and inclusion across the CIVICUS movement and beyond: to create space for dialogue and peer-to-peer sharing among the participants; to identify effective approaches that can contribute to social justice; AND to strengthen ways of working, including sharing good practices as well as joint strategising, within the global CIVICUS CSO (Civil Society Organisations) network.

    What have I learned?

    In this learning journey towards a more accountable civil society sector, I have realised that we need to successfully challenge the inequality, structural oppression and intersectional discrimination which shapes our societies and is the primary cause of human rights violations. How effective we are in meeting these challenges will depend heavily on our own ability to understand these forces; to confront them and find ways to counteract their impact within the civil society movement and our ways of working; as well as meaningfully raising the voices of people who are marginalised around the world. Continually striving for excellence on how we mainstream and integrate diversity and inclusion in our work is therefore of fundamental importance to our aim of building a truly global movement for justice and human rights.

    Highlights and Recommendations

    In order to help implement this work that CIVICUS is doing, they gathered more than 15 informed and dynamic individuals who, through their experience and expertise, can help improve CIVICUS and partner CSOs’ culture, ways of working and impact so that we can better challenge structural inequalities and oppression, intersectional discrimination and demonising narratives. Hence the Global Learning Exchange (GLE) happened.

    As one of the participants in the GLE, I hope the steps that would be undertaken as a result of this program will be guided by the overarching goals and principles of:

    -promoting social justice and human rights

    -recognising and making visible that different aspects of people’s identities and lives interact to structurally affect their experiences of discrimination, marginalisation, privilege, and power.

    -making CIVICUS and other CSOs a better organisation to work with for staff, volunteers, and partners who experience systemic discrimination

    -transformation, not tokenism

    Overall, I would like to affirm the importance of CIVICUS’ efforts to improve its practices, culture, and outcomes with respect to diversity and inclusion, prioritising improvements related to their ways of working, governance, and areas of acute and chronic issues.

    I didn’t expect the event to have this kind of positive effect on my personal life; it’s pretty cool to derive personal benefits from an advocacy project.

    What’s next? Be involved?

    Over the next few months, CIVICUS is piloting a network alliance on diversity and inclusion. This would entail regular calls or communication, providing some time and expertise on Diversity & Inclusion for civil society and working towards a common commitment of dynamic accountability and support. If you would like to discuss this program in more detail please contact: Suhani Bhushan on . We are hoping this will be a participative process from inception.

     

     

  • Filipino activists stand firm after government adds them to list of terrorists

    The Philippines government recently listed activists and a UN Special Rapporteur as terrorists and has threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court. CIVICUS speak to Bestang Dekdeken, Secretary General of theCordillera Peoples Alliance on these threats and the drivers behind them.

    1. Tell us more about the recent crackdown on indigenous rights activists in the Philippines and the labelling of them as “terrorists” by the authorities

    A culture of impunity continues to reign in the Philippines, with indigenous peoples experiencing unrelenting human rights violations under the government’s counter-insurgency policy Oplan Kapayapaan, martial law in Mindanao, USA’s war on terror, and the crackdown against political dissenters. The latest in the series of attacks against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders is the recent Philippine Department of Justice’s petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organisations. The petition was pursuant to the National Security Act 2007. It listed around 650 names, including leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, and indigenous rights defenders, alleging that they are “terrorists”.

    The Department of Justice petition is baseless and malicious with intent to vilify, harass and intimidate the people struggling for their democratic rights and indigenous communities fighting for their rights to their ancestral lands and self-determination. It is meant to cripple the growing peoples’ movement in the country and criminalise the legitimate struggles of the people. It is an attack on the legitimacy of people’s organisations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and signals the intensifying curtailment of our fundamental and democratic rights and freedoms. Cordillera Peoples Alliance has been fighting for the defence of ancestral domains and self-determination of Cordillera indigenous peoples for more than three decades, which is an exercise of fundamental rights. The terrorist proscription list also puts at risk the lives of indigenous human rights defenders. It is for these reasons that we are soliciting international support to pressure the Philippine government to immediately dismiss the legal petition and uphold its human rights obligations.

    2. What do you think is driving the crackdown on indigenous rights and against human rights and civic freedoms more generally?

    President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to impose his dictatorship in the country through martial law, and Charter change (constitutional reform) under the guise of a shift to a federal form of government. He is hell-bent at silencing political dissent, especially those against human rights violations and his selling-out of Philippine sovereignty and patrimony in exchange for promises of foreign investments. Hence, there has been a snowballing mass protests against the regime’s total disregard of human rights and an intensifying resistance against the fascist rule of Duterte. Indigenous peoples and human rights defenders have also been strongly opposing the continued onslaught of development aggression in our ancestral lands and natural resources through corporate extractive projects, such as mining, dams and mono-crop plantations, coupled with the militarisation of indigenous communities.

    3. How is civil society responding to President Rodrigo Duterte’s onslaught against human rights?

    The serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines is galvanising the peoples’ movement to resist the fascist rule of Duterte and to stand up for our fundamental freedoms and democracy. At national level, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) was launched in August 2017, aimed at uniting all freedom loving Filipinos against tyranny and to counter the increasing fascism and militarist rule of the Duterte government. MAT opposes fascist measures such as the demonification of human rights victims and defenders as “terrorists”, “drug addicts/pushers/coddlers”, “extortionists” and the use of red-baiting to muddle issues and justify extrajudicial killings and other atrocities. Following the national launch, MAT formations are being established at regional and provincial levels. Series of direct mass actions on specific issues are being held almost on a weekly basis in the past year.

    4. Why has President Duterte threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and what has been the response in the Philippines? What is civil society is doing to resist this?

    On March 16, the government of President Duterte notified the United Nations Secretary General of its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in protest of the ICC’s decision to start its probe on the extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s War on Drugs. Withdrawing from the ICC is the latest move of President Duterte to try to evade accounting for the extrajudicial killings in the country and crimes committed against the people. It also further shows his disregard of international bodies that intend to investigate the human rights situation in the country, such as the ICC and the United Nations. It is a fact that a culture of impunity reigns in the country obliging concerned international bodies to conduct their own investigation. The civil society in the country have started expressing concern that Duterte is doing this to continue to act with impunity.

    5. What are three things that need to change for the rule of law and human rights to be respected and for democracy to flourish?  

    Public servants should seriously push for the government’s adherence to national human rights laws and international human rights agreements that the Philippines is a signatory of. The fundamental rights and freedoms of the people, democratic rights, and Philippine sovereignty must not be trampled upon and should be safeguarded by the people in the government instead of allowing tyrannical rule. The government should also put an end to the martial law in Mindanao, its counter-insurgency operations Oplan Kapayapaan, and the Inter-Agency Committee for Legal Action that have been victimising indigenous peoples and human rights defenders and legitimising and systematising political persecution and political extrajudicial killings.

    6. What can the international community and international CSOs do to support Philippines civil society?

    We appeal for solidarity support from the international community and international CSOs to help us put pressure on the Philippine government to uphold its human rights obligations, and put an end to political persecution, criminalisation and harassment of indigenous rights defenders and environmental activists, extrajudicial killings, militarisation of indigenous communities, and plunder of indigenous lands and resources.

    7. How are journalists and media outlets responding to the attempts by the government to restrict or shut them down?

    In light of President Duterte’s attacks on the press and freedom of expression in the country, journalists, media outlets and artists launched a new alliance called Let’s Organize for Democracy (LODI) in 2017. LODI aims to fight attacks against the freedom of expression and human rights violations. LODI and other press media workers have also been actively participating in the activities of the Movement Against Tyranny and mass protests to register their fight and solidarity with the wider Filipino movement for genuine freedom and democracy.

    8. Has there been an impact on civic space from President Duterte’s misogynist and derogatory statements concerning women?

    President Duterte’s misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements about women have catalysed a wider and stronger women’s movement against violations of women and people’s rights in the country. Duterte’s animosity towards women’s rights further exposed Duterte’s fascism by openly encouraging violence against women and human rights violations with impunity. With this, women’s organisations have gained wide support from various groups, sectors and advocates in denouncing Duterte’s blatant disregard of women’s rights.

     

  • Harassment goes virtual: Women activists and journalists speak out


    Harassment goes virtual series

     

    Women journalists, feminists, activists, and human rights defenders around the world are facing virtual harassment. In this series, global civil society alliance CIVICUS highlights the gendered nature of virtual harassment through the stories of women working to defend our democratic freedoms. These testimonies are originally published onGlobal Voices through a partnership between CIVICUS and Global Voices.

     

    Inday Espina VaronaFor this Filipina journalist, every day is a battle with fear

    There has been a relentless crackdown against independent media and journalists. Threats and attacks against journalists, as well as the deployment of armies of trolls and online bots, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to self-censorship—this has had a chilling effect within the media industry and among the wider public. In this first part of the series, Filipina journalist Inday Espina-Varona tells her story.

     
    Evgenija CarlCalled a prostitute by the prime minister, a Slovenian journalist tells her story (Ler em portugues)

    Evgenija Carl is an investigative journalist from Slovenia. After she produced a television report about the opposition SDS party in 2016, a leading politician at the time, Janez Janša, called her a “prostitute” on Twitter. When Janša later became Slovenian prime minister, the online abuse intensified. Read Evgenija Carl's story here.

     

     

    Maya El AmmarOnline rape threats connect Lebanese activist to ‘thousands of other women’ facing abuse (باللغة العربية)

    Since October 2019, anti-government protests known as the “October Revolution” have erupted across Lebanon. Protesters have called for the removal of the government and raised concerns about corruption, poor public services, and a lack of trust in the ruling class. Protests have been met with unprecedented violence from security forces. Feminists have been at the forefront of the revolution and have stepped up to provide assistance in the aftermath of the explosion. In the third part of this series,Maya El Ammar, a Lebanese feminist writer, activist and communications professional, tells herstory and the online abuse she continues to face. 

     

    Chantal MutamurizaPersonal attacks follow Burundi human rights defender into exile in Uganda (Lire en français)

    Under the regime of President Évariste Ndayishimiye, journalists and rights defenders continue to face challenges. The arrest of political activists and the recent public announcement of the sentencing of 34 exiled people—including journalists and human rights defenders—to life imprisonment illustrate the obstacles to free expression in the country. Chantal Mutamuriza, a feminist, human rights defender, and founder of the Light For All NGO, tells us her story of the continuous online harassment she faces day in and day out.

     

    Weaam YoussefIntimidation, censorship, and defamation in the virtual sphere

    In Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have died since 2011. Numerous human rights violations have taken place during the Syrian crisis - arbitrary detentions, torture, assassination of journalists, and the violent repression of protests, make Syria one of the most volatile countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Originally from Syria, Weaam Youssef is Programme Manager for Women Human Rights Defenders for the Gulf Region and Neighboring Countries. This is the story of Weaam.

     

    Lindsey Kukunda GV 768x786Herself a victim of cyberbullying, Lindsey Kukunda fights online violence against women in Uganda

    More than half of Ugandan women experience physical violence, while one in five is subjected to sexual violence; many also face psychological abuse, forced and early marriage, and female genital mutilation. In 2014, Uganda introduced a law against pornography that has been used to target and prosecute women, especially women whose nude photos have been shared online without their consent. Lindsey Kukunda is a feminist, writer, and human rights defender. She is also the managing director of Her Empire, a feminist organization that runs two programmes: Not Your Body and The Mentor’s Network. Lindsey tells us her story

     

     

  • ICC urged to resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines

    Honourable Karim A. A. Khan QC
    Prosecutor
    The Office of the Prosecutor
    International Criminal Court
    Oude Waalsdorperweg 10, 2597 AK Den Haag, Netherlands

    To ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan

    We, human rights organisations working on the Philippines, call on your office to resume its investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, in relation to the country’s ‘war on drugs’.

    In its 10 November 2021 letter, the Philippine Government raised issues of complementarity, citing that it has domestic mechanisms in place to investigate the killings. However, we reiterate concerns that of an estimated tens of thousands killed in the ‘war on drugs’, only a small number were covered in the review of documents by the country’s Department of Justice. Of these cases, the Justice Department cited only procedural errors, and most police officers involved in human rights violations merely received suspensions, raising concerns on the Philippines’ commitment to justice.

    The government likewise refuses to investigate the national policy landscape that enabled these killings, including the National Police Commission’s Memorandum Circular, which launched Operation Double Barrel, implementing the President’s ‘war on drugs’. On this account, the highest officials most responsible for the widespread human rights violations are escaping official domestic investigations.

    The Philippines’ human rights record speaks for itself. There has only been one criminal conviction out of the huge number of estimated extrajudicial killings. The government continues to refuse to work with the National Human Rights which has done intensive investigations into many cases of such killings.

    To date, there has been no independent body established and relatives of victims remain fearful of reprisals should they cooperate with independent investigations.The country’s President has incited violence against his critics while assuring protection to the police officers involved in the ‘war on drugs’. In light of this, what we see is a government that has used domestic mechanisms only to shield perpetrators from international accountability.

    We reiterate that the ICC investigation has wider implications beyond the Philippines. When the investigation was announced, it sent a message of hope to victims in the country and across the region where people continue to face State-sponsored violence. Civil society had hoped that the ICC would serve as a deterrent to human rights atrocities perpetrated by many authoritarian leaders across Asia. However, an order of deferment may be used to incite a disregard for international accountability.

    We have, over the past five years, documented cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other crimes against humanity. We work with victims, who, until this day, are afraid to speak because of the real threat of reprisals. The ‘war on drugs’ has expanded into a war on civic space and a war against its people, where critics and civil society opposing the ‘war on drugs’ have been systematically targeted.

    As perpetrators of these violations once again try to take power in the coming 2022 national elections, any deferment poses risks that this cycle of impunity will only continue. The ICC was established to provide justice to victims of the gravest violations. We remain committed in supporting the Court in the pursuit of this mission.

    Signatories

    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    BALAOD Mindanaw
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Karapatan Alliance Philippines
    DAKILA - Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
    Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH)
    In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend)
    LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)
    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
    Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Joint statement on human rights in the Philippines

    36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    ISHR and CIVICUS welcome the Philippine Government’s engagement in the UPR process. However, despite claims of the State party during the May 2017 review, Filipino human rights defenders continue to have serious concerns about the environment for human rights defenders (HRDs) in the country.
     
    Mr. President, the systematic and targeted killings of HRDs, under the cover of ‘counterinsurgency programs’, have long been a problem. On average, our partners documented 40 killings per year from 2001 to 2016.  In the past year, however, this number has risen to 50 HRDs, many who were leaders of peasant and indigenous communities. This is largely due to President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, which has also resulted in thousands more casualties of regular Filipino citizens.
     
    Since the May review, human rights activists have seen no reprieve in the harassment and threats by State security forces. This includes the Secretary General of people’s organisation Karapatan, Cristina Palabay.

    Duterte’s pronouncements endanger the lives of HRDs who speak out against his repressive policies, including the drug war and martial law declarations, as well as for respect of rights, such as to a safe and healthy environment. The filing of trumped-up charges to criminalize HRDs has been normalized by the government, hampering us from doing our work and violating our freedom of association.

    Most recently, the ominous signs of a nationwide martial law under Pres. Duterte hover like a sword of Damocles over HRDs and the Filipino people. Our history shows that such a decision will worsen the current state of human rights in the country. 

    We therefore urge the Council to ensure that the Philippine government respect its pledges and commitments, as stated in the UPR outcome report. We call for a halt to all forms of attacks on human rights defenders, the enactment of a law for their protection, and the acceptance of a full, independent visit to the Philippines by UN Special Rapporteurs, including on the situation of HRDs. 

     

  • Killing of another human rights activist highlights climate of impunity in the Philippines

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, denounces the tragic killing of human rights activist Zara Alvarez. Her murder highlights a wider pattern of attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and critics that has increased under the Duterte administration, and the need for an international investigation into the crimes.

     

  • Open Letter to President Aquino Concerning Civil Society in the Philippines

    Click here to download

     

  • Outcomes & Reflections from 39th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    This session, the Council adopted landmark resolutions on several country situations, further enhancing its contribution to the protection of human rights. 

    On Myanmar, we welcome the creation of the independent investigative mechanism, which is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

    On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

    Furthermore, we welcome the leadership by a group of States on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, and consider it as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

    While we welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi, to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability, we regret, however, that the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi's record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. 

    We also welcome the Council’s adoption of the resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

    However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

    On Sudan, we are deeply concerned about the weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a "deal" Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

    We also regret the lack of concerted Council action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government's 'war on drugs', and to monitor and respond to the government's moves toward authoritarianism. 

    In addition, we regret the Council’s weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

    We share the concerns that many raised during the session, including the High Commissioner, about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

    On thematic resolutions, we welcome the adoption of the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs but would have preferred a stronger endorsement and implementation of the guidelines.

    The resolution on safety of journalists, adopted by consensus, sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks. Journalism is not a crime - yet too many States in this room simply imprison those that criticize them. This must end, starting with the implementation of this resolution. 

    We welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

    Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice, and we urge more States to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them.

    Signatories:
    The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    Amnesty International 
    Article 19
    Center for Reproductive Rights
    CIVICUS
    DefendDefenders
    FIDH
    Forum Asia 
    Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
    Human Rights Watch 
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from the UN Human Rights Council

    Joint statement at the end of the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    By renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the Council has sent a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities cannot be tolerated. It reaffirmed that specific, sustained and systematic attention is needed to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people can live a life of dignity. We welcome the Core Group's commitment to engage in dialogue with all States, resulting in over 50 original co-sponsors across all regions. However, we regret that some States have again attempted to prevent the Council from addressing discrimination and violence on the basis of SOGI.

    This Council session also sent a clear message that Council membership comes with scrutiny by addressing the situations of Eritrea, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows the potential the Council has to leverage its membership to become more effective and responsive to rights holders and victims. 

    The Council did the right thing by extending its monitoring of the situation in Eritrea. The onus is on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with Council mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur, in line with its membership obligations. 

    We welcome the first Council resolution on the Philippinesas an important first step towards justice and accountability. We urge the Council to closely follow this situation and be ready to follow up with additional action, if the situation does not improve or deteriorates further. We deeply regret that such a resolution was necessary, due to the continuation of serious violations and repeated refusal of the Philippines – despite its membership of the Council– to cooperate with existing mechanisms. 

    We deplore that the Philippines and Eritrea sought to use their seats in this Council to seek to shield themselves from scrutiny, and those States who stood with the authorities and perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations with impunity, rather than with the victims.

    We welcome the written statement by 22 States on Chinaexpressing collective concern over widespread surveillance, restrictions to freedoms of religion and movement, and large-scale arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We consider it as a first step towards sustained Council attention and in the absence of progress look to those governments that have signed this letter to follow up at the September session with a resolution calling for China to allow access to the region to independent human rights experts and to end country-wide the arbitrary detention of individuals based on their religious beliefs or political opinions.

    We welcome the progress made in resolutions on the rights of women and girls: violence against women and girls in the world of work, on discrimination against women and girls and on the consequences of child, early and forced marriage. We particularly welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls under its new name and mandate to focus on the intersections of gender and age and their impact on girls. The Council showed that it was willing to stand up to the global backlash against the rights of women and girls by ensuring that these resolutions reflect the current international legal framework and resisted cultural relativism, despite several amendments put forward to try and weaken the strong content of these resolutions. 

    However, in the text on the contribution of developmentto the enjoyment of all human rights, long standing consensus language from the Vienna Declaration for Programme of Action (VDPA) recognising that, at the same time, “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights” has again been deliberately excluded, disturbing the careful balance established and maintained for several decades on this issue. 

    We welcome the continuous engagement of the Council in addressing the threat posed by climate changeto human rights, through its annual resolution and the panel discussion on women’s rights and climate change at this session. We call on the Council to continue to strengthen its work on this issue, given its increasing urgency for the protection of all human rights.

    The Council has missed an opportunity on Sudanwhere it could have supported regional efforts and ensured that human rights are not sidelined in the process. We now look to African leadership to ensure that human rights are upheld in the transition. The Council should stand ready to act, including through setting up a full-fledged inquiry into all instances of violence against peaceful protesters and civilians across the country. 

    During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial and summary executions, States heard loud and clear that the time to hold Saudi Arabia accountable is now for the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We recall that women human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily detained despite the calls by 36 States at the March session. We urge States to adopt a resolution at the September session to establish a monitoring mechanism over the human rights situation in the country. 

    We welcome the landmark report of the High Commissioner on the situation for human rights in Venezuela; in response to the grave findings in the report and the absence of any fundamental improvement of the situation in the meantime, we urge the Council to adopt a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism in September, to reinforce the ongoing efforts of the High Commissioner and other actors to address the situation.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association. This mandate is at the core of our work as civil society and we trust that the mandate will continue to protect and promote these fundamental freedoms towards a more open civic space.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. We acknowledge some positive signs of re-engagement in dialogue by Belarus, and an attempted negotiation process with the EU on a potential Item 10 resolution. However, in the absence of systemic human rights reforms in Belarus, the mandate and resolution process remains an essential tool for Belarusian civil society. In addition, there are fears of a spike in violations around upcoming elections and we are pleased that the resolution highlights the need for Belarus to provide safeguards against such an increase.

    We welcome the renewal of the quarterly reporting process on the human rights situation in Ukraine. However, we also urge States to think creatively about how best to use this regular mechanism on Ukraine to make better progress on the human rights situation.

    The continued delay in the release of the UN databaseof businesses engaged with Israeli settlements established pursuant to Council resolution 31/36 in March 2016 is of deep concern.  We join others including Tunisia speaking on behalf of 65 states and Peru speaking on behalf of 26 States in calling on the High Commissioner to urgently and fully fulfil this mandate as a matter of urgency and on all States to cooperate with all Council mandates, including this one, and without political interference.

    Numerous States and stakeholders highlighted the importance of the OHCHR report on Kashmir; while its release only a few days ago meant it did not receive substantive consideration at the present session, we look forward to discussing it in depth at the September session. 

    Finally, we welcome the principled leadership shown by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, in pursuing accountability for individual victims of acts of intimidation and reprisalsunder General Debate Item 5, contrasting with other States which tend to make only general statements of concern. We call on States to raise all individual cases at the interactive dialogue on reprisals and intimidation in the September session. 

    Signatories:

    1. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    2. DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    3. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    6. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    7. Center for Reproductive Rights 
    8. ARTICLE 19
    9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    10. Human Rights House Foundation 
    11. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    12. Franciscans International 
    13. Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
    14. Amnesty International
    15. Human Rights Watch
    16. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) 

     

  • Outcomes & reflections from UN Human Rights Council

    38th Session of the Human Rights Council
    End of Session Joint Civil Society Statement

    Our organisations welcome the adoption of the resolutions on civil society space, peaceful protest, on violence against women and girls and on discrimination against women and girls and the Council’s rejection of attempts to impede progress on protecting civil society space, peaceful protest and the rights to sexual and reproductive health.

    On civil society space, the resolution recognizes the essential contribution that civil society makes to international and regional organisations and provides guidance to States and organisations on improving their engagement with civil society.  On peaceful protest, it sets out in greater detail how international law and standards protect rights related to protests. 

    On violence against women and on discrimination against women, we consider that ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights are vital in efforts to combat violence and discrimination against women, online and offline, as well as to ensure targeted and specific remedies to victims. We appreciate that the work of women human rights defenders towards this is recognised. 

    We consider the adoption of the resolution on the contribution of the Council to the prevention of human rights violations as an important opportunity to advance substantive consideration on strengthening the Council’s ability to deliver on its prevention mandate.

    Following challenging negotiations, we welcome the adoption by consensus of the resolution on human rights and the Internet, reaffirming that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, and calling on States to tackle digital divides between and within countries, emphasising the importance of tools for anonymity and encryption for the enjoyment of human rights online, in particular for journalists, and condemning once more all measures that prevent or disrupt access to information online.

    We welcome continued Council attention to Eritrea's abysmal human rights record. This year's resolution, while streamlined, extends expert monitoring of, and reporting on, the country and outlines a way forward for both engagement and human rights reform. We urge Eritrea to engage in long-overdue meaningful cooperation. 

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus under item 4 with an increased vote - as it is still the only independent international mechanism to effectively monitor human rights violations in Belarus - while remaining concerned over a narrative to shift the mandate to item 10 in the absence of any systemic change in Belarus. 

    We welcome the consensus resolution on the Democratic Republic of Congo, putting in place continued monitoring and follow up on the expert’s recommendations on the Kasais. However, given violations and abuses throughout several regions in the country, occurring against the backdrop of an ongoing political crisis, delayed elections, and the brutal quashing of dissent, we urge the Council to promptly move towards putting in place a country-wide mechanism that can respond to events on the ground as they emerge.

    We welcome the strong resolution on Syria, which condemns violations and abuses by all parties, and appropriately addresses concerns raised by the COI about the use of chemical weapons, sexual and gender-based violence, and the need to address situations of detainees and disappearances. The Council cannot stay silent in the face of continued atrocities as the conflict continues unabated into its seventh year.

    We welcome the joint statements delivered this session on Cambodia, the Philippines,and Venezuela. We urge Council members and observes to work towards increased collective action to urgently address the dire human rights situations in these countries.  

    On the Philippines, we emphasise that the Council should establish an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings in the ‘war on drugs’ and mandate the OHCHR to report on the human rights situation and on moves toward authoritarianism.  

    The joint statement on Cambodia represents a glimmer of hope after the Council's failure to take meaningful action against clear sabotage of democratic space ahead of elections. Close scrutiny of the human rights situation before, during and after the elections is paramount and the Council must take immediate action on current and future human rights violations in this regard.

    We welcome the joint statement delivered by Luxembourg  calling on the HRC President to provide short oral updates on cases of alleged intimidation or reprisal, including actions taken, at the start of the Item 5 general debate of each Council session and also provide States concerned with the opportunity to respond.

    Finally, the new Council member to replace the United States should demonstrate a principled commitment to human rights, to multilateralism and to addressing country situations of concern by applying objective criteria. 

    Joint Statement by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Association for Progressive Communications, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 

     

  • PH still lagging behind in Millennium Development Goals

    The country is still lagging behind in achieving certain Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically in attaining universal primary education, maternal health, but most of all in battling inequality, according to a civil society group.


    Leonor Magtolis-Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, explained to members of the House of Representatives how far President Benigno Aquino III has taken his “daang matuwid” (straight path) and what the government needs to address as the MDGs draw to a close by 2015.


    The assessments Briones made were part of Social Watch Philippines’ report entitled “Breaking Through to Sustainability,” copies of which the group furnished the House of Representatives with on Wednesday.

    Read more at Inquirer News

     

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