human rights


  • Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections

    Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    This is a critical moment for Cambodia ahead of local elections this year and national elections next year.

    The resolution adopted last session has not resulted in any tangible human rights improvements on the ground. The Cambodian government continues to invoke laws to arbitrarily restrict human rights, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalise individuals’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    Human rights defenders, activists and journalists are regularly subjected to harassment and legal action. Labour strikes by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) have been disrupted and protesters met with state-sponsored violence, including sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Cambodia’s highly politicised judicial system leaves defendants deemed a threat to the interests of the government with virtually no prospect of a fair trial.

    The last round of elections, held in 2017 and 2018, were neither free nor fair. Since then, attacks on civil and political rights and the systematic dismantlement of any credible opposition have made Cambodia a de facto one-party State. Earlier this month, Cambodian courts convicted and sentenced 20 former members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to prison sentences of 5-10 years following a mass trial on bogus charges of incitement and plotting. Many other opposition activists are standing trial on politically motivated charges. Peaceful gatherings organised by families of jailed opposition activists to demand their release have frequently been met with excessive force by the authorities.

    If the elections take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power.

    There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections, which include removing restrictions on civil society; improving space for political participation; and ensuring that independent media can operate freely and without fear of reprisal.

    This Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

    We thank you.

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


  • CAMEROON: ‘Indigenous people should be at the forefront of our own movement and speak for ourselves’

    UnusaKarimuCIVICUS speaks about Indigenous peoples’ rights in Cameroon with Barrister Unusa Karimu, board member of Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA).

    MBOSCUDA is a civil society organisation with ECOSOC Status that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Cameroon. It aims to ensure that Indigenous peoples are integrated in the development of Cameroon by promoting their participation in decision-making processes.

    What is the current situation of Indigenous people in Cameroon?

    The situation of Indigenous people in Cameroon is not particularly good at the moment. There are people trying to get self-determination, and this has caused conflict in some parts of Cameroon. Unfortunately, the bulk of Indigenous people I work with, pastoralists, are in the English-speaking part of Cameroon, where calls for independence have led to conflict, and they have been caught in the middle of the violence.

    They are being abused. There is no respect for their territories and their basic human rights, and the government has failed to protect them. Civil Society organisations have collected data that indicate gruesome acts are being committed against Indigenous peoples during the ongoing armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon. Indigenous people are being killed and they cannot defend themselves.

    Indigenous people in Cameroon still live below the poverty line. Most people in the community struggle to get employed because of limited opportunities in the labour market. Some of them end up engaging in small income-generating activities such as livestock farming and the sale of hunting products. But this is not enough to sustain their lives.

    The reason it is sometimes difficult for Indigenous people to get employed is because they struggle to get access to education. There are not enough schools, teachers and educational resources in Indigenous communities. The government has tried to implement projects to address this problem, but these have not really been effective.

    Much work still needs to be done for Indigenous peoples to gain full recognition in Cameroon. It is saddening that health services and other social facilities are not adequately provided to Indigenous people. The government needs to do a lot more to ensure that Indigenous people have access to healthcare in their communities.

    The government has tried to give visibility to Indigenous peoples in Cameroon through the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, held annually on 9 August, but if their right to life is threatened then the visibility given to them is not having much of an impact. There is a need for structural changes to guarantee sustainable development for all people in Cameroon.

    What human rights violations do Indigenous people experience in Cameroon?

    One of the biggest human rights violations that Indigenous people face in Cameroon is the lack of legal recognition of their right to their territories and their right to life, especially in the conflict-ridden English-speaking regions of the country. Land legislation in Cameroon does not recognise Indigenous peoples’ land holdings and therefore does not protect their land and resources. It is challenging for Indigenous people to register their land because the activities they tend to carry out do not fall under the requirements set out by the government when it comes to effective occupation and exploitation, which is a condition sine qua non for land registration in Cameroon. Activities such as hunting and livestock grazing do not fall under the category of productive land use required for land registration. Commercial developments in Indigenous peoples’ territories affect their livelihoods, and their land is grabbed by people who are not part of the Indigenous community.

    The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP) is supposed to provide Indigenous people with better living conditions and protection against losing their territories. However, I do not think the declaration has been well implemented in Cameroon.

    UNDRIP urges governments to recognise and protect Indigenous peoples and their rights. Their land and territories should be protected by the government, but the government violates their rights on a daily basis. We understand that the declaration does not carry any legal obligations, but it should be used as guidance on how to respect Indigenous people and value their participation in the development of the country.

    Cameroon still has land laws that were colonially inspired and do not recognise the rights of Indigenous peoples as far as territories are concerned. This might be the reason the government does not take UNDRIP into account.

    Are Indigenous people well represented in policies?

    Unfortunately, there is no binding legal framework that recognises Indigenous peoples in Cameroon. We have policies in place that serve as guidance for the recognition of Indigenous peoples but there has not been that much progress yet. The government has recently started doing things such as the appointing Indigenous people to decision-making positions. Forest dwellers are represented in decision-making. But these positions are often limited, and their people are not in high positions.

    Pastoral people have a secretary general in the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries, which is something positive, but it is very limited. It is safe to say that Indigenous people still lack political representation.

    What should the Cameroon government do to help advance the rights of Indigenous people?

    It would be good if the government met the requirements set by international legal instruments aimed at advancing and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples. It should also revise the laws that discriminate against Indigenous people, along with its land tenure policies.

    Indigenous peoples should be considered in decision-making. Enabling Indigenous people to participate in national politics would ensure inclusive development, taking into consideration the needs of everyone in Cameroonian society. Often the government puts development strategies in place without conducting proper research and consulting Indigenous peoples, and as a result development strategies do not benefit Indigenous peoples and their way of life.

    In addition, administrative recognition of Indigenous communities would help preserve their cultural and historical heritage. When Indigenous peoples are mixed with neighbouring communities their culture becomes diluted and their history is easily neglected. Ensuring that they are not forcefully integrated with other communities would secure a future for the coming generation. The government should also promote land rights reform.

    Hopefully, with time Indigenous peoples will get economic support and their participation in the development of the country will become noticeable. I believe all of the above can be achieved if the government ratifies the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, ILO Convention 169.

    How is your organisation working to advance Indigenous rights?

    MBOSCUDA is a community and membership-based organisation present in almost all regions of Cameroon. It was established in 1992 to promote proper living conditions for Mbororo pastoralists. We work to have the socio-cultural, political and economic rights of the Mbororo people recognised. We have consultative status with United Nations Economic and Social Council and had an observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    We collaborate with various ministries of the Cameroonian government. Our hope is that we can secure some of the services Indigenous people need to have a dignified life. These include, but are not limited to, civil status registration so they can get married, educational resources and healthcare facilities. We also undertake lobbying and advocacy work. To raise awareness of Indigenous peoples’ rights we participate in seminars on Indigenous peoples in Africa.

    Unfortunately, the ongoing crisis in the Anglophone regions has reduced our activities in some parts of the country. There are places we cannot currently work in because of the conflict. If we decide to go regardless, the chances are high that we will not come back. In addition, some communities that act as if they own Indigenous peoples feel threatened by our work because they know they will not be able to continue exploiting them once Indigenous people have access to information and education.

    How can Indigenous groups work together to promote their rights globally?

    Indigenous people should collaborate and form a strong global alliance. Their voices will be stronger and the possibility of them getting recognised will be higher. We should offer each other a helping hand because we are all fighting the same battle, just in different territories.

    The platforms that international organisations provide us should be used as a tool to hold our governments accountable. It is very important that we share our narratives and do not let people speak on our behalf. We know our struggles and nobody but us can elaborate on what our needs are, so we should be at the forefront of our own movement and speak for ourselves.

    Civic space in Cameroon is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with MBOSCUDA through itsFacebook page.


  • CAMEROON: ‘The Anglophone discontent must be addressed through meaningful discussion with all parties’

    DibussiTandeCIVICUS speaks with the Cameroonian writer and digital activist Dibussi Tande about the ongoing crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. The conflict emerged in 2016 out of a series of legal and educational grievances expressed by the country’s Anglophone population, which is a minority at the national level but a majority in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions.

    Dibussiis the author ofScribbles from the Den. Essays on Politics and Collective Memory in Cameroon. He also has a blog where he shares news and analyses of the situation in Cameroon.

    What have been the humanitarian consequences of the escalating conflict in Cameroon?

    The main humanitarian issue is the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the conflict. According to the United Nations (UN) Refugee Agency, by August 2021 there were 712,800 internally displaced persons (IDPs). Although some have since returned, there are still over half a million IDPs spread across Cameroon.

    The priority needs of IDPs and returnees today are housing and access to healthcare, food, water and education. However, help has not been readily available, which explains why this conflict has repeatedly been classified as one of the most neglected displacement crises since 2019.

    Let’s not forget that the UN Refugee Agency has an additional 82,000 Cameroonian refugees registered in Nigeria. Add the millions of people trapped in conflict zones and caught in the crossfire, and you have the recipe for a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

    What will it take to de-escalate the situation?

    It’s quite simple. First, the parties involved in the conflict must be willing to look beyond the military option, which so far has not resolved anything, and seek a peaceful resolution instead. There can be no real de-escalation until they give meaning to the now derided calls for an ‘all-inclusive dialogue’ that have become a platitude and an excuse for inaction. That said, I think the onus lies primarily with the government of Cameroon, which is the party with the resources to at least initiate real dialogue.

    Second, the international community needs to revise its approach to the conflict. All attempts thus far at international mediation – for example, the ‘Swiss Process’ in which the government of Switzerland convened talks – have either dragged on for years or simply failed. The international community must step up the pressure on all factions, including the threat of individual and collective sanctions for their continued obdurateness. Without this two-pronged approach, there will not be a de-escalation anytime soon.

    What kind of challenges does civil society face when advocating for peace?

    Civil society faces numerous challenges. For starters, civil society organisations (CSOs) have limited access to conflict zones. They must also walk a fine line between government and Ambazonian groups – those fighting for the independence of Ambazonia, a self-declared state in the Anglophone regions – who both routinely accuse them of supporting the other side. Even when civil society gains access to conflict zones, it operates with very limited financial and other resources.

    That said, the most serious challenge to their operations is government hostility. Local CSOs have routinely complained about intimidation and harassment by Cameroonian authorities as they try to work in conflict zones. In 2020, for example, the Minister of Territorial Administration accused local CSOs of colluding with international CSOs to fuel terrorism in Cameroon. He claimed that these ‘teleguided NGOs’ had received 5 billion CFA francs (approx. US$7.4 million) to whitewash the atrocities of separatist groups while publishing fake reports about alleged abuses by the Cameroonian military.

    International humanitarian groups such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have also faced the wrath of the government. In 2020, Cameroon suspended MSF from carrying out activities in the Northwest region after accusing it of having close relations with separatists. And in March 2022, MSF suspended its activities in the Southwest region after four of its workers were arrested for allegedly collaborating with separatists. MSF complained that the government confused neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian aid with collusion with separatist forces.

    What were the expectations of English-speaking Cameroonians for 1 October, proclaimed as ‘Independence Day’ in the Anglophone regions?

    English-speaking Cameroonians come in different shades of political ideology, so they had different expectations. For independentists, the goal is simple: independence for the former British Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons. As far as they are concerned, any negotiation with the government must be about how to end the union and not about whether the union should continue.

    But other segments of the population still believe in a bilingual Cameroon republic, albeit under new political arrangements. Federalists believe that Anglophone expectations will be met if the country returns to the federal system that existed between 1961 and 1972. This system gave the former British Southern Cameroons constitutional protections within a federal republic, including the right to its own state government, an elected legislature, an independent judiciary, a vibrant local government system and state control over the education system.

    The government of Cameroon has accommodated neither the radical demands of independentists nor the comparatively moderate demands of the federalists. Instead, it is forging ahead with a ‘decentralisation’ policy that gives nominal power to the regions but does not even begin to address the fundamentals of the so-called ‘Anglophone problem’.

    What should Cameroon’s government do to ensure the recognition of the rights of English-speaking Cameroonians?

    For starters, the government should abandon its stopgap and largely cosmetic approach to resolving the conflict, because it only adds to the existing resentment. This is the case, for example, with the much-maligned ‘special status’ accorded to the Northwest and Southwest regions, supposedly to recognise their ‘linguistic particularity and historic heritage’, but which does not give them the power to influence or determine policies in key areas such as education, justice and local government, where this ‘particularity’ needs the most protection.

    The historical and constitutional origins of the Anglophone discontent within the bilingual Cameroon republic are well documented. This discontent must be addressed with a holistic approach that includes meaningful discussions with all parties, from the federalists to the independentists. Dialogue is a journey, not a destination. And the time to start that journey is now, no matter how tortuous, frustrating and challenging, and despite the deep-seated distrust, resentment and animosity among the parties.

    How can the international community support Cameroonian civil society and help find a solution?

    Cameroonian civil society needs financial, material and other resources to adequately provide humanitarian and other assistance to displaced people and people living in conflict zones. This is where the international community comes in. However, international aid is a double-edged sword, given the Cameroon government’s suspicion and hostility towards local CSOs that have international partners, especially those that are critical of how the government has handled the conflict so far. Civil society also needs resources to accurately and adequately document what exactly is happening on the ground, including war crimes and violations of international human rights laws.

    To be able to play a pivotal role in the search for a solution to the conflict, CSOs will have to figure out a way to convince the government – and Ambazonian groups that are equally suspicious of their activities – that they are honest brokers rather than partisan actors or trojan horses working for one side or the other. This is a Herculean, if not virtually impossible, task at this juncture. So, for now, civil society will continue to walk a fine line between the government and the independentists, all the while promising more than it can deliver to the people affected by the conflict.

    As for international support to finding a solution, there has been a lot more international handwringing, from the African Union to the UN, than real action. The international community has so far adopted a largely reactive stance towards the conflict. It issues statements of distress after every atrocity, followed by hollow calls for inclusive dialogue. And then it goes silent until the next tragedy. Hence, the parties have little incentive for dialogue, especially when each believes, rightly or wrongly, that it is gaining the upper hand militarily.

    Civic space in Cameroon is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Dibussi Tande through hiswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@dibussi on Twitter.


  • CAMEROON: ‘The international community hasn’t helped address the root causes of the Anglophone conflict’

    MoniqueKwachouCIVICUS speaks with Cameroonian feminist researcher and writer Monique Kwachou about the ongoing crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. The conflict emerged in 2016 out of a series of legal and education grievances expressed by the country’s Anglophone population, which is a minority at the national level but a majority in the Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions.

    Monique is the founder of Better Breed Cameroon, a civil society organisation (CSO) working on youth development and empowerment, and the national coordinator of the Cameroonian chapter of the Forum for African Women Educationalists.

    What have been the humanitarian consequences of the escalation of the conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions?

    The crisis in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon has internally displaced close to 800,000 English-speaking people, according to monitoring by humanitarian organisations. Many people are also emigrating to other countries in search of safety. Unfortunately, civilians have been used as a weapon so the only way they are able to protect themselves is by fleeing to safer regions within the country or fleeing the country altogether.

    People are also becoming increasingly hopeless and are no longer investing in the Anglophone regions as they used to. As a clear indication of how unsafe it is right now in the Anglophone regions, before stepping out of my house I have to do a risk assessment and decide whether what I have to do is worth taking the risk.

    Unlawful killings and kidnappings are now rampant and somewhat normalised: they no longer shock us as they once did and there is a general trauma fatigue that breeds apathy, which is dangerous.

    As we speak, some are trying to get a hashtag trending for Catholic clergy and worshippers who were recently kidnapped in the Northwest region. The kidnappers are demanding a ransom of 30 million CFA francs (approx. US$45,000) but the church is hesitant to pay because they know if they do it once, more people will be kidnapped and they will have to continue paying. Yet most social media comments on the news encourage payment based on the idea that there is nothing else that can be done. Apathy is the result of having heard too many such stories.

    Given that the security forces have a reputation for violence and contributed to the development of the crisis with their burning down of whole villages earlier on, people don’t have faith in them either.

    As a teacher I think one of the saddest impacts of this crisis has been on education. I don’t think anyone is receiving quality education. Many people have migrated to other regions, particularly to Douala, Cameroon’s largest city, and Yaoundé, the capital. As a result, schools there have become overpopulated. The teacher-to-student ratio has gone up and the quality of education has dropped. In the crisis regions, the future of students is put on hold with each and every strike and lockdown and their psychological wellbeing could be affected.

    What will it take to de-escalate the situation?

    I think the government already knows what needs to be done for the situation to de-escalate. Edith Kahbang Walla, of the opposition Cameroon People’s Party, has outlined a step-by-step process of de-escalation and peaceful political transition. But the problem is that the ruling party does not want a transition. However, as it looks like their plan is to stay in power forever, it would be better for them if they made changes to benefit all regions of Cameroon.

    Extreme measures have been adopted to bring attention to the problems faced by English-speaking Cameroonians. The Anglophone regions continue to observe a ghost town ritual every Monday, taking the day off to protest against the authorities. On those days schools don’t operate and businesses remain closed. The original purpose was to show support for teachers and lawyers who were on strike but it is now having a negative impact on the lives of residents of the Anglophone regions.

    If the government could consider a better strategy to negotiate with secessionists, the situation could be dealt with effectively. Unfortunately, the government has made negotiation impossible since the crisis began, as it arrested those who took part in the protests. Who is the government going to have a dialogue with now? They claim they won’t negotiate with terrorists while forgetting that they created the monster. They should acknowledge the root causes of the problem or otherwise they won’t be able to fix it.

    What challenges does civil society face while advocating for peace?

    Civil society is a victim of both sides of the ongoing conflict. CSO activities geared towards development have been greatly affected by the crisis, as CSO work is now geared mostly toward humanitarian action.

    On one hand, the government is undermining Anglophone activism through arrests and restrictions on online and offline freedom of speech. Anyone who speaks up against the government and what the military are doing in the Anglophone regions may be in danger. For example, journalist Mimi Mefo was arrested for reporting on military activity and had to leave Cameroon because her life was threatened.

    On the other hand, peace activists advocating for children to go back to school are also being attacked by secessionist groups who think their activities are being instrumentalised by the government. Hospitals have been attacked by both the military and secessionist armed groups because they helped one or the other.

    Aside from the challenge of danger that CSO members face in the course of their work, there is also the challenge of articulating messages for peace and the resolution of the crisis without being branded as pro-government nor pro-secessionists, particularly as the media tries to paint the conflict as a simply black-or-white issue. This has not been an easy task. Limited resources also make it difficult to carry out peacebuilding work.

    How can the international community support Cameroonian civil society?

    Humanitarian organisations started becoming visible in the Anglophone regions during the crisis. They are giving humanitarian aid, but it is like a plaster on a still-festering wound, because it happens after the damage has been done: it is in no way addressing the crisis.

    I have not seen the international community help Cameroon address the root causes of the conflict. It could help, for instance, by tracing the sale of arms to both sides of the conflict. Our main international partners could also use their influence to pressure the government to move towards actual inclusive dialogue and ensure the adoption of effective solutions to the crisis.

    Civic space in Cameroon is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch withMonique Kwachou through herwebsite and follow @montrelz on Twitter.


  • Cameroon: UN action is needed to address human rights crisis

    Joint letter

    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (Geneva, Switzerland)

    Multilateral action is needed to address the human rights crisis in Cameroon


    We, the undersigned civil society organisations, are deeply concerned over ongoing grave human rights violations and abuses in Cameroon. Ahead of the Human Rights Council’s (“HRC” or “Council”) 47th session (21 June-15 July 2021), we urge your delegation to support multilateral action to address Cameroon’s human rights crisis in the form of a joint statement to the Council. This statement should include benchmarks for progress, which, if fulfilled, will constitute a path for Cameroon to improve its situation. If these benchmarks remain unfulfilled, then the joint statement will pave the way for more formal Council action, including, but not limited to, a resolution establishing an investigative and accountability mechanism.

    Over the last four years, civil society organisations have called on the Government of Cameroon, armed separatists, and other non-state actors to bring violations and abuses to an end. Given Cameroonian institutions’ failure to deliver justice and accountability, civil society has also called on African and international human rights bodies and mechanisms to investigate, monitor, and publicly report on Cameroon’s situation.

    Enhanced attention to Cameroon, on the one hand, and dialogue and cooperation, on the other, are not mutually exclusive but rather mutually reinforcing. They serve the same objective: helping the Cameroonian Government to bring violations to an end, ensure justice and accountability, and fulfil its human rights obligations. In this regard, the establishment of cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Government of Cameroon, following High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s May 2019 visit to Yaoundé, and building on the capacity of the OHCHR Regional Office for Central Africa (CARO), is a step forward.

    However, since a group of 39 States delivered a joint oral statement to the HRC during its 40th session (March 2019), and despite the High Commissioner’s visit, the holding of a national dialogue, and OHCHR’s field presence, violations have continued unabated. Some of the violations and abuses committed by Government forces and non-state armed groups may amount to crimes under international law. Impunity remains the norm.

    In the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions, abuses by armed separatists and Government forces continue to claim lives and affect people’s safety, human rights, and livelihoods. The grievances that gave rise to the “Anglophone crisis” remain unaddressed. In the Far North, the armed group Boko Haram continues to commit abuses against the civilian population. Security forces have also committed serious human rights violations when responding to security threats. In the rest of the country, Cameroonian authorities have intensified their crackdown on political opposition members and supporters, demonstrators, media professionals, and independent civil society actors, including through harassment, threats, arbitrary arrests, and detentions.

    Cameroon is among the human rights crises the Human Rights Council has failed to adequately address. Given other bodies’ (including the African Union (AU) and the UN Security Council) inaction, it is all the more vital for the HRC to send a clear message by stepping up its scrutiny and engagement.

    We believe that further multilateral action is needed. At the Council’s 47th session, we urge Member and Observer States to, at a minimum, support a joint statement. This statement should make clear that should Cameroon fail to take concrete steps to investigate human rights violations and abuses, ensure accountability, and improve its human rights situation, more formal action will follow in the form of a resolution establishing an investigative and accountability mechanism.

    A joint statement should:

    • Address violations and abuses committed by Government forces and non-state armed groups in the North-West, South-West, Far North, and other regions of Cameroon, and urge all parties to immediately bring these violations and abuses to an end;
    • Remind the Cameroonian Government of its primary responsibility to protect its population from crimes and human rights violations;
    • Urge the Cameroonian Government, in cooperation with OHCHR and Cameroonian human rights groups, to design and implement a road map for human rights reforms and accountability with a view to preventing further human rights violations and abuses and ensuring accountability as part of a holistic effort to settle the crisis in the country, in particular in the North-West and South-West regions and the armed conflict in the Far North region;
    • In addition to designing and implementing a road map for reforms and accountability, outline concrete benchmarks to be fulfilled by the Government of Cameroon to ensure demonstrable progress on human rights, including by:
    • putting an immediate end to violations committed against members and supporters of the opposition, media professionals and outlets, demonstrators, and members of civil society, including lawyers, union leaders, teachers, and human rights defenders and organisations;
    • releasing prisoners of conscience;
    • fully respecting all Cameroonian citizens’ human rights, including their rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association, as well as the right to life, liberty and security of person;
    • fully cooperating with OHCHR, including granting it unhindered access to the North-West and South-West regions to conduct human rights investigations, monitoring, and reporting;
    • fully cooperating with the Council and its mechanisms, including granting access to special procedure mandate-holders, in line with Cameroon’s Council membership obligations;
    • granting unrestricted access to humanitarian aid and human rights organisations and workers, including restoring access for international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to report on the human rights situation in the country; and
    • engaging with regional bodies and mechanisms, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR); 
    • Encourage the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make the findings of the OHCHR 2019 investigations in the Anglophone regions public, and to provide regular updates to the Council, including by holding inter-sessional briefings or informal conversations with Council Members and Observers. These updates should include information about her engagement with Cameroonian authorities, the situation in the country, and OHCHR’s work in the country;
    • Encourage states to enhance their voluntary contributions for OHCHR’s activities, including for the OHCHR Regional Office for Central Africa’s work in Cameroon and Central Africa; and
    • Make clear that should Cameroon fail to take concrete steps to improve its situation and ensure demonstrable progress on human rights by the Council’s 48th session (13 September-1 October 2021), more formal Council action will follow, under the appropriate agenda item.

    We thank you for your attention and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as required.


    1. Africa Call – South Sudan
    2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    5. CDDH – Benin
    6. Center for Human Rights Defenders Zimbabwe (CHRDZ)
    7. CIVICUS 8. Club Humanitaire sans Frontières (CHF)
    9. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    10. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan
    11. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    12. Defenders Coalition – Kenya
    13. Dialogue and Research Institute (DRI) – South Sudan
    14. Dignity Association – Sierra Leone
    15. Economic Justice Network Sierra Leone
    16. Franciscans International
    17. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    18. HAKI Africa
    19. HRDSNET Uganda Ltd – Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network
    20. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
    21. Human Rights Watch
    22. Initiative for Plataforma das Organizações Lusófonas dos Direitos Humanos (POLDH)
    23. International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
    24. International Refugee Rights Initiative
    25. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    26. Kenya Human Rights Commission
    27. National Alliance of Women Lawyers (NAWL) – South Sudan
    28. Network of the Independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa
    29. Nouvelle Génération de la Cinématographie Guinéenne (NOGECIG)
    30. Oasis Network for Community Transformation
    31. Pan African Lawyers Union
    32. Partnership for Justice, Lagos – Nigeria
    33. Protection International – Kenya (PIK)
    34. Raise The Young Foundation
    35. REDRESS
    36. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Élections en Guinée (ROSE)
    37. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
    38. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
    39. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
    40. The Independent Medico-Legal Unit
    41. Togolese Human Rights Defenders Coalition / Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
    42. Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)
    43. West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    44. Watch Democracy Grow
    45. Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness (WCGLA) – Egypt

    62. 17 additional organisations join this letter, which brings the total number of signatories to 62. In light of the security environment they face, their name is kept confidential.


    Civic space in Cameroon is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.





  • Cameroun : L'action de l'ONU est nécessaire pour faire face à la crise des droits humains

    Lettre conjointe

    Aux Représentants permanents des États Membres et Observateurs du Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies (Genève, Suisse)

    Une action multilatérale robuste est nécessaire pour répondre à la crise au Cameroun

    Madame, Monsieur le Représentant permanent,

    Nous soussignées, organisations de la société civile, sommes gravement préoccupées par les viola-tions graves et persistantes des droits humains au Cameroun. Alors que le Conseil des droits de l’homme de l’ONU (ci-après « CDH » ou « Conseil ») s’apprête à tenir sa 47ème session, du 21 juin au 15 juillet 2021, nous exhortons votre délégation à soutenir une action multilatérale en réponse à la crise des droits humains dans le pays, sous la forme d’une intervention orale conjointe. Cette intervention devrait comporter des indicateurs de progrès qui, s’ils étaient remplis, constitue-raient pour le Cameroun un chemin vers l’amélioration de sa situation. Si, à l’inverse, ces indica-teurs restaient lettre morte, l’intervention orale conjointe ouvrirait alors la voie à une action plus formelle du Conseil, notamment (mais pas nécessairement uniquement) une résolution instituant un mécanisme d’enquête et de redevabilité.

    Au cours des quatre dernières années, les organisations de la société civile ont appelé le Gouvernement du Cameroun, les groupes séparatistes armés et les autres acteurs non étatiques impliqués à mettre un terme aux violations et atteintes aux droits humains1. Compte tenu de l’incapacité des institutions came-rounaises à garantir la justice et la redevabilité, la société civile a également appelé les organes et méca-nismes africains et internationaux de protection des droits humains à enquêter, surveiller et faire rapport publiquement sur la situation au Cameroun.

    Un niveau élevé d’attention au Cameroun, d’un côté, et, de l’autre, dialogue et coopération, ne s’exclu-ent pas mutuellement. Au contraire, ils sont de nature à se renforcer. Ils visent le même objectif : aider le Gouvernement camerounais à mettre fin aux violations, à garantir la justice et la reddition des comp-tes et à remplir ses obligations en termes de droits humains. À cet égard, l’établissement d’une coopé-ration entre le Bureau de la Haute-Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme (HCDH) et le Gouvernement du Cameroun, à la suite de la visite à Yaoundé de la Haute-Commissaire, Michelle Bachelet, en mai 20192, et s’appuyant sur les capacités du bureau régional du HCDH pour l’Afrique centrale (CARO)3, est un pas en avant.

    Toutefois, depuis qu’un groupe de 39 États a co-signé une intervention orale conjointe lors de la 40ème session du CDH (mars 2019) et en dépit de la visite de la Haute-Commissaire, de la tenue d’un dialogue national et de la présence du HCDH dans le pays, les violations se sont poursuivies. Certaines d’entre elles, commises par les forces gouvernementales et des groupes armés non étatiques, pourraient être constitutives de crimes de droit international. L’impunité demeure la norme.

    Dans les régions anglophones du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, les atteintes perpétrées par les sépara-tistes armés et les forces gouvernementales continuent de causer des pertes en vies humaines et d’af-fecter la sécurité, les droits et les moyens de subsistance des habitants. Les griefs ayant donné naissance à la « crise anglophone » demeurent intacts4. Dans l’Extrême Nord, le groupe armé Boko Haram conti-

    nue à commettre des violations à l’encontre de la population civile. Par leur réponse aux menaces sécu-ritaires, les forces de sécurité ont également commis de graves violations des droits humains. Dans le reste du pays, les autorités camerounaises ont intensifié leur répression des membres et soutiens de l’opposition politique, des manifestants, des professionnels des médias et des acteurs de la société civile, notamment via des actes de harcèlement, des menaces, des arrestations arbitraires et des détenions.

    Le Cameroun fait partie des crises des droits humains face auxquelles le Conseil des droits de l’homme a échoué à formuler une réponse appropriée. L’inaction d’autres organes (notamment l’Union africaine (UA) et le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies), rend d’autant plus indispensable l’envoi par le CDH d’un message clair, qui élève son niveau de surveillance et d’engagement.

    Nous pensons qu’une action multilatérale plus robuste est nécessaire. Lors de la 47ème session du Conseil, nous exhortons les États Membres et Observateurs à soutenir, au minimum, une inter-vention orale conjointe. Cette intervention devrait indiquer clairement que si le Cameroun échouait à prendre des mesures concrètes pour enquêter sur les violations des droits humains, garantir la reddition des comptes et améliorer sa situation des droits humains, une action plus formelle du Conseil s’ensuivrait sous la forme d’une résolution instituant un mécanisme d’en-quête et de redevabilité.

    Une intervention orale conjointe devrait :

    • Répondre aux violations et atteintes commises à la fois par les forces gouvernementales et par les groupes armés non étatiques dans le Nord-Ouest, le Sud-Ouest, l’Extrême Nord et d’autres régions du Cameroun, et exhorter toutes les parties à mettre un terme immédiat à ces violations et atteintes ;
    • Rappeler au Gouvernement camerounais sa responsabilité primaire de protéger sa population des crimes et autres violations des droits humains ;
    • Exhorter le Gouvernement camerounais, en coopération avec le HCDH et les organisations came-rounaises de défense des droits humains, à mettre au point et à appliquer une feuille de route pour les réformes en matière de droits humains et la redevabilité, dans le but de prévenir des violations supplémentaires et de garantir la reddition des comptes, ceci dans le cadre d’un effort global de règlement de la crise que traverse le pays, en particulier dans les régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, ainsi que le conflit armé dans la région de l’Extrême Nord ;
    • Au surplus, l’intervention conjointe devrait définir des indicateurs de progrès devant être remplis par le Gouvernement du Cameroun afin de démontrer la réalité de tout progrès en termes de droits humains, y compris en :
      • mettant un terme immédiat aux violations commises à l’encontre des membres et des soutiens de l’op-position, des professionnels et organes des médias, des manifestants et des membres de la société civile, notamment avocats, responsables syndicaux, professeurs et défenseurs et organisations des droits hu-mains ;
      • libérant les prisonniers de conscience ;
      • respectant pleinement les droits humains de tous les citoyens camerounais, notamment leurs droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression, de réunion pacifique et d’association, ainsi que leur droit à la vie, à la liberté et à la sûreté ;
      • coopérant pleinement avec le HCDH, y compris en lui permettant un accès sans entrave aux régions du Nord-Ouest et du Sud-Ouest, afin qu’il y conduise des enquêtes et un travail de surveillance de la situation et de rédaction de rapports publics ;
      • coopérant pleinement avec le Conseil et ses mécanismes, conformément aux obligations du Cameroun en tant que Membre du Conseil, y compris en permettant aux titulaires de mandats de procédures spé-ciales d’accéder au pays ;
      • fournissant un accès plein et sans entrave aux organisations et aux travailleurs humanitaires et de pro-tection des droits humains – ceci inclut la restauration de l’accès au pays pour les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) internationales afin qu’elles puissent faire rapport sur la situation des droits humains dans le pays ; et
      • coopérant avec les organes et mécanismes régionaux, y compris la Commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples (CADHP)5.
    • Encourager la Haute-Commissaire aux droits de l’homme à rendre publiques les conclusions des enquêtes menées en 2019 par le HCDH dans les régions anglophones et à fournir des mises à jour régulières au Conseil, notamment en tenant des briefings ou des conversations informelles avec les Membres et Observateurs, entre les sessions. Ces mises à jour devraient inclure des informa-tions sur son dialogue avec les autorités camerounaises, la situation dans le pays et le travail du HCDH dans le pays ;
    • Encourager les États à augmenter leurs contributions volontaires en faveur des activités du HCDH, notamment pour le travail du bureau régional du HCDH pour l’Afrique centrale au Cameroun et en Afrique centrale ; et
    • Indiquer clairement que si le Cameroun échouait à prendre des mesures concrètes pour améliorer sa situation et démontrer des progrès en termes de droits humains d’ici à la 48ème session du Conseil (13 septembre-1er octobre 2021), une action plus formelle du Conseil s’ensuivrait, sous un point de l’ordre du jour approprié.

    Nous vous remercions de l’attention que vous porterez à ces préoccupations et nous tenons prêts à fournir à votre délégation toute information supplémentaire.

    Dans l’attente, nous vous prions de croire, Madame, Monsieur le Représentant permanent, en l’assu-rance de notre haute considération.

    1. Africa Call – South Sudan
    2. AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    5. CDDH – Benin
    6. Center for Human Rights Defenders Zimbabwe (CHRDZ)
    7. CIVICUS 8. Club Humanitaire sans Frontières (CHF)
    9. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    10. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) – South Sudan
    11. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    12. Defenders Coalition – Kenya
    13. Dialogue and Research Institute (DRI) – South Sudan
    14. Dignity Association – Sierra Leone
    15. Economic Justice Network Sierra Leone
    16. Franciscans International
    17. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    18. HAKI Africa
    19. HRDSNET Uganda Ltd – Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network
    20. Human Rights Defenders Network – Sierra Leone
    21. Human Rights Watch
    22. Initiative for Plataforma das Organizações Lusófonas dos Direitos Humanos (POLDH)
    23. International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
    24. International Refugee Rights Initiative
    25. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    26. Kenya Human Rights Commission
    27. National Alliance of Women Lawyers (NAWL) – South Sudan
    28. Network of the Independent Commission for Human rights in North Africa
    29. Nouvelle Génération de la Cinématographie Guinéenne (NOGECIG)
    30. Oasis Network for Community Transformation
    31. Pan African Lawyers Union
    32. Partnership for Justice, Lagos – Nigeria
    33. Protection International – Kenya (PIK)
    34. Raise The Young Foundation
    35. REDRESS
    36. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour l’Observation et le Suivi des Élections en Guinée (ROSE)
    37. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
    38. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN)
    39. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
    40. The Independent Medico-Legal Unit
    41. Togolese Human Rights Defenders Coalition / Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)
    42. Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)
    43. West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    44. Watch Democracy Grow
    45. Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness (WCGLA) – Egypt

    62. 17 organisations supplémentaires se joignent à cette lettre, portant le nombre total de signataires à 62. En raison du contexte sécuritaire auquel elles font face, leur nom demeure confidentiel.

    L'espace civique au Cameroun est classé comme Réprimé par CIVICUS Monitor.


  • Campaign to Whitewash Saudi Arabia’s Image Does Little for Women in the Kingdom

    By Uma Mishra-Newbery, Interim Executive Director of Women’s March Global, which is a founding member of the Free Saudi Women Coalition & Kristina Stockwood works with the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    This article was facilitated by CIVICUS as part of a series on the current state of civil society organisations (CSOs)

    Amid a high-profile public relations campaign to convince the world just how much the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is modernising – highlighted in last year’s lifting of the ban on women driving – Saudi authorities continue their relentless persecution of women human rights defenders. A trial that has drawn international condemnation and intensified criticism of the country’s human rights record, features nine women who were arrested in 2018 for campaigning for the right to drive and an end to the Kingdom’s male guardianship system.

    Read on: Inter Press Service


  • Can SA uphold its reputation for human rights on the UN Security Council?

    By Masana Ndinga-Kanga, Crisis Response Fund Coordinator and Advocacy Officer for the Middle East/North Africa region and Lyndal Rowlands, CIVICUS UN Advocacy Officer.

    Can an influential African country that was once celebrated as a champion of human rights help hold a powerful Middle East nation to account for its atrocious human rights record? That will be the question on the lips of some observers when South Africa joins the United Nations Security Council in January for a one-year term as a non-permanent member. 

    Read on: News24


  • CANADA: ‘Indigenous people who are most marginalised experience significant human rights violations.’

    Melanie OmenihoCIVICUS speaks about Indigenous people’s rights in Canada with Melanie Omeniho, president of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak/Women of the Metis Nation (LFMO).

    Founded in 1999 and incorporated in 2010, LFMO is a national representative civil society organisation that advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and specifically for the right to equal treatment, health and wellbeing of women and gender diverse people and sexual minorities of the Metis Nation.

    What is the current situation of Indigenous people in Canada?

    In our experience at LFMO, Indigenous people who are most marginalised experience significant human rights violations. Indigenous people are trying to survive traumas and do not have the time or resources required to deal with the systemic racism that continues to violate their rights.

    For instance, we have heard numerous concerning experiences regarding difficulties to access Canada’s victim services scheme. In some provinces, policy dictates that if a person has had any prior engagement with the criminal justice system, even if decades earlier, and this remains on their record, they might not be eligible to receive victim services. This policy severely impacts on and violates the rights of Indigenous victims of crimes, including sexual assault.

    At LFMO we are keenly aware of the experience of anti-Indigenous racism. Some of us are attacked based on how we look or talk when we are going about our lives in mainstream society. We are particularly concerned about the lack of willingness to identify physical attacks on Indigenous women as hate crimes.

    We encourage change in policy and practice in all facets of the criminal justice system to identify hate crimes against Indigenous people instead of classifying them as regular assaults. To create change and hold offenders properly accountable, we need to ensure that anti-Indigenous racism is recognised as a hate crime.

    How is LMFO working to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada?

    LMFO is the national representative body for Métis women across the Métis Nation Motherland. Métis are one of the three recognised Indigenous peoples of Canada, along with First Nations and Inuit. According to the 2016 census, there are nearly 600,000 Canadians who self-identify as Métis.

    LMFO advocates for the equality of Métis women, Two-Spirit and gender diverse Métis people across the Métis Nation Homeland – our Métis Motherland. The term ‘Two-Spirit’ was coined in the 1990s to refer to Indigenous LGBTQI+ people, corresponding to an age-old concept in Indigenous communities that means someone who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit.

    LFMO plays a significant role in enhancing the social, cultural, economic, environmental and leadership space occupied by Métis women and gender minorities. Our overarching mission is to ensure the equal treatment, health and wellbeing of all Métis people, with a focus on Métis women, young people and those who are Two-Spirit and gender diverse.

    As part of our strategic plan, we have 10 objectives: advocating for the priorities and needs of women in the Métis Nation, Canada and the world; taking care of the land and waters; guarding the traditional knowledge of Métis women; promoting social justice and equality; creating opportunities for Métis women to develop leadership skills; helping Métis people lead healthier lives and supporting healthy and vibrant communities; ensuring that the perspectives and priorities of Métis women are included in economic development initiatives, and that support is provided for their entrepreneurship; fostering culturally appropriate early learning environments and lifelong learning to improve educational outcomes for Métis children, women and all Métis learners; developing a Métis-specific research strategy to build disaggregated data; and building a strong, successful, inclusive, responsible and transparent organisation.

    We are part of a global movement of Indigenous groups around the world who are all collectively fighting and advocating to be seen, heard and recognised. The more we speak up and share our stories and fight to preserve our traditions and cultures, the more likely it is that we will achieve the recognition of our rights and the creation of policies that serve us and protect us.

    What should the government do to help advance the rights of Canadian Indigenous peoples?

    We hope that in domesticating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government will implement policies to realise Indigenous rights and Indigenous women will be a part of those conversations. To that effect, LFMO advocates for a gender-based approach and an intersectional lens on policy development and the co-design of legislation.

    Civic space in Canada is rated ‘open’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@LesMichif on Twitter. 


  • CANADA: ‘The Pope didn’t deliver a clear apology to Indigenous people on behalf of the Catholic Church’

    Virginie LadischCIVICUS speaks with Virginie Ladisch of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) about the recent apology of Pope Francis to Canadian Indigenous peoples and the legacy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

    ICTJ is a civil society organisation (CSO) working in partnership with victims and survivors to obtain acknowledgment and redress for massive human rights violations, hold those responsible to account, reform and build democratic institutions and prevent the recurrence of violence and repression.

    What human rights violations committed against Indigenous people did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reveal?

    The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada very clearly details the human rights violations and cultural genocide that resulted from the ‘Indian residential school’ system, which was the focus of the recent apology by Pope Francis.

    The Indian residential schools and the abuses that occurred at them are among many other human rights violations suffered by Indigenous people in Canada, which include sexual and gender-based violations against Indigenous women and girls, land dispossession, violation of the right to safe drinking water, disproportionate rates of incarceration, excessive use of force against land rights protesters, discriminatory practices and lack of access to basic services, including healthcare.

    How significant is the Pope's apology?

    The Pope’s apology is a significant first step in the journey to acknowledge and repair past wrongs. In his apology, the Pope acknowledged the assimilationist intent of the residential school system and the harm it caused by systematically marginalising Indigenous people, denigrating and suppressing their languages and cultures, taking young children away from their homes, indelibly affecting their relationship with their parents and grandparents and subjecting them to physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse.

    The last residential schools closed in the 1990s, so it was important for him to acknowledge the intergenerational harm caused, which persists to this day. However, several survivors noted with disappointment his omission of sexual abuse – rampant in Indian residential schools – which continues to have detrimental impacts on survivors and their families.

    While the Pope highlighted the systematic nature of harm perpetrated against Canadian Indigenous people, his apology stopped short of naming the Catholic Church’s role as part of a system intended to ‘kill the Indian in the child’. He said: ‘I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools’.

    The Pope’s words reflect a personal apology and an apology on behalf of individual Catholics, but not a clear apology on behalf of the Catholic Church as an institution. Since the Pope represents the Catholic Church, it is possible to interpret this personal apology as an apology on behalf of the Church. However, given the deeply embedded systemic nature of the violations committed by the Catholic Church against Indigenous people, it is necessary to clearly acknowledge that the system was at fault and that there was a concerted institutional effort to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children. This was not the work of a few misguided individuals.

    There needs to be a concerted effort to unravel the colonialist ideas that underpinned the residential school system and are at the root of persistent racism today.

    What next steps should the Catholic Church and the Canadian government take?

    ICTJ recognises apologies as an important part of a transitional justice process because of their significant moral and symbolic value. But to be meaningful, they need to be followed by real action and material reparations. The Pope acknowledged this in his apology and noted that ‘a serious investigation into the facts’ and efforts ‘to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered’ would be key to prevent such situations happening again. Ultimately, the significance of the Pope’s apology will depend on how he leads the Catholic Church in turning those words into action.

    In terms of next steps, the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada should follow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, which address the lasting harms of residential schools and call on all sectors of society to invest in new and respectful ways of moving forward together. Where more information is needed, for example around missing children and unmarked graves, the Catholic Church should open its archives and undertake a rigorous investigation.

    How is ICTJ working to advance the rights of Indigenous people?

    ICTJ works side by side with victims and survivors in their quest for justice and helps ensure they have a say in the policies that affect them. We raise awareness about their rights and support efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, uncover the truth about the violations they and their communities suffered and obtain acknowledgment and redress.

    We also partner with civil society groups, including women’s, youth and minority groups, that have a stake in building a more just, peaceful and democratic society. Together, we press forward the institutional reforms and guarantees necessary to prevent the violations from happening again.

    Over the past three decades, transitional justice processes have been recognised as an opportunity to address longstanding historical injustices against Indigenous peoples around the world. Specific processes and institutions associated with transitional justice – such as truth commissions, special prosecutorial bodies, memorialisation and reparations – may be the catalyst for political, social, institutional and cultural changes that contribute to the recognition and materialisation of Indigenous peoples’ rights, as we point out in a report we published in 2012.

    ICTJ has worked to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in various countries, including Australia, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and the USA. In Canada, it accompanied the Truth and Reconciliation process from before its inception in 2008 to the end of its mandate in 2015.

    Recognising the importance of involving young people in Canada’s truth and reconciliation process, ICTJ partnered with the Commission to spearhead youth engagement activities. Initiatives included a series of youth retreats in which participants developed the technical and communication skills needed to better engage their peers on Indigenous issues, and a youth-led video project that covered the history of the residential schools and young people’s knowledge – or lack of knowledge – of this history and the contemporary situation of Indigenous people in Canada.

    As expressed by a high school student from Edmonton who participated in one of ICTJ’s events, ‘We are the next generation. After 10 years, we are going to be the adults – the lawyers, the prime ministers. We have to know when we are young, and when we are older, we can make sure this doesn’t happen’.

    Civic space in Canada is rated ‘open’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with ICTJ through itswebsite orFacebook and, and follow@theICTJ on Twitter.


  • Celebrating our 10,000 strong alliance!

    Secretary General’s Update: August 2020



  • Chile: New Constitution in the Hands of the Far Right

    By Inés Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

    On 7 May, Chileans went to the polls to choose a Constitutional Council that will produce a new constitution to replace the one bequeathed by the Pinochet dictatorship – and handed control to a far-right party that never wanted a constitution-making process in the first place.

    This is the second attempt at constitutional change in two years. The first process was the most open and inclusive in Chile’s history. The resulting constitutional text, ambitious and progressive, was widely rejected in a referendum. It’s now far from certain that this latest, far less inclusive process will result in a new constitution that is accepted and adopted – and there’s a possibility that any new constitution could be worse than the one it replaces.

    Read on Inter Press Service News


  • CHINA: ‘Its international role both originates in and enables domestic political control’

    CIVICUS speaks about China’s growing international role withSharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC), Adjunct Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and Professor of Law Emerita at the City University of New York School of Law. Founded in 1989by overseas Chinese students and scientists, HRIC isa Chinese civil society group that promotes international human rights and advances the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China. Through case and policy advocacy, media and press work, and capacity building, HRIC supports civil society as the driving force for sustainable change in China. HRIC has offices in New York and Hong Kong, and is active on local, regional, and global platforms.

    Have there been any recent changes in the ways China engages in the United Nations (UN) system?

    China has been increasingly active and sophisticated in its engagement with the UN human rights system. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council – where it formally replaced Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) in 1971 – China has invoked its ‘One China Policy’ to block the recognition and admission of the ROC by other international bodies. At the same time, the shift of key players within the UN human rights system, and particularly the withdrawal of the USA from the Human Rights Council (HRC), has weakened principled leadership by Western democratic governments. This is especially concerning in the face of China’s increasingly aggressive, multi-pronged and sophisticated challenges to international standards and norms. A key element of China’s strategy has been essentially to counteroffer a model of governance that it refers to as human rights, democracy and rule by law ‘with Chinese characteristics.’

    In addition to the HRC, China is active on human rights-related issues before various UN General Assembly committees, including the Third Committee, on social, humanitarian and cultural issues, and the Fifth Committee, on administrative and budgetary issues. Some key issues it engages in include counterterrorism, information security, treaty body strengthening processes and other human rights mechanisms and procedures, and civil society participation.

    China Interview SharonHom

    As part of the party-state’s overarching strategy to expand and strengthen China’s influence internationally, China has been promoting the appointment and influence of Chinese nationals to key UN bodies and UN specialised agencies. For example, Mr Zhao Houlin was the first Chinese national to serve as Secretary-General of the 150-year-old International Telecommunication Union (ITU), from 2014 to 2018 and 2019 to 2020. As a key agency for information and communications technologies promotion, collaboration and standardisation, the ITU was a leading UN agency involved in the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS). Endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolution 56/183 of 21 December 2001, the WSIS was convened in two phases. The first phase took place in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003 and the second in Tunis from 16 to 18 November 2005. China was active in pushing back against the inclusion of human rights-focused language in the outcome documents of phase one – the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Geneva Plan of Action – and opposed the accreditation of what it perceived to be hostile civil society groups, including HRIC.

    In addition, Mr Liu Zhenmin, appointed in 2017 as UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, advises the UN Secretary-General on social, economic and environmental issues and guides the UN secretariat’s support for follow-up processes under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Chinese nationals have also served on the International Court of Justice, including Ms Xue Hanqin, who has served as a jurist since 2010 and was named Vice President of the Court in 2018.

    The appointments of nationals of a UN member state to key positions in UN bodies and agencies is not, of course, inherently problematic. Issues from a human rights perspective only emerge when any member state challenges existing standards regarding the rule of law as ‘inappropriate’ or advances a model of development that rejects a rights-based framework, as China now does.

    What are the Government of China’s motivations in its international engagements? What agendas is it particularly pursuing?

    The Chinese party-state’s motivations in its international engagements are primarily aimed at advancing the ambitious vision of President XI Jinping to see China take a leading role on the global stage, as laid out in part in his vision for the realisation of a ‘China Dream.’ Internationally, the party-state wants to ensure the narrative of China is ‘properly’ told, without questioning of or pushback against some of the more problematic elements of its model of governance.

    Specific objectives include limiting civil society engagement with and input into UN human rights mechanisms to government-approved civil society groups; redefining the foundational principle of the UN human rights system from one of the universality of human rights to that of the ‘conditionality’ of human rights; and shifting human rights protection from state accountability to a cooperative enterprise among member states. If achieved, these objectives will undermine the integrity and efficacy of the existing human rights system and enable states to become the arbiters of what human rights to confer on their people, the ‘operators’ of their respective human rights systems, and the overseers of accountability.

    Is one of the benefits of China's increasing international role that there is less oversight of its domestic human rights record?

    The international role of the Chinese party-state both originates in and enables its agenda for domestic political control. China’s increasing efforts to undermine and redefine fundamental human rights and specific human rights mechanisms on the international stage limits the protections and redress available to Chinese people for violations of international rights guarantees. Its agenda for international influence also serves to legitimise as well as decrease scrutiny of its domestic policies and practices. In addition, the tendency for international actors to either appease or otherwise act in complicity with the Chinese state has also led to serious consequences both for Chinese people as well as others around the world.

    One of the most vivid examples of China’s attempts to redefine human rights accountability and the lack of pushback by governments is the passage of the China-led resolution A/HRC/37/L.36 in March 2016 at the HRC. The resolution, ‘Promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights’, which included language of the so-called ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, passed with 28 votes in favour and 17 abstentions; the only vote against came from the USA.

    What kind of alliances or partnerships is China making with other states to work internationally?

    One of China’s most ambitious and formidable global development strategies in recent years is the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, an international infrastructure and investment programme that has already involved almost 70 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe. Proposed by Xi Jinping in 2013, the Initiative is aimed at connecting major African and Eurasian nations through infrastructure development and investment, including a ‘digital silk road’ of Chinese-built fibre-optic networks. The Initiative has raised serious political and economic concerns among an increasing number of states, including Japan and the USA, about the Chinese political and strategic ambitions embedded in these economic partnerships. More recently, even some member states, the putative beneficiaries, are starting to push back against the ‘win-win’ arrangements that are now clearly ending up with them as client or debtor states.

    In addition, as one of the leading states in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) – a regional multilateral organisation with the primary goal of coordinating counterterrorism efforts and economic and military cooperation – China has been deployed in troubling joint military exercises, including simulated rescues of hostages being held by Muslim or Chechnian separatists. In accordance with SCO member and observer obligations, member states have returned Muslims to China to face uncertain fates, an action very much in conflict with the international non-refoulement obligations of all states. The SCO consists of eight member states and four observer states. However, though all the members of the multilateral regional organisation have incredibly troubling domestic human rights records, the SCO has been warmly welcomed by the UN as an observer at the UN General Assembly since 2005.

    What are the impacts of China’s involvement on international institutions and on the space for civil society in those institutions?

    China’s increasing involvement and influence in international institutions such as the UN poses a steep and growing challenge to the meaningful participation of civil society organisations (CSOs). As a member of the UN NGO Committee, China and ‘like-minded’ states act in concert to block UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accreditation to CSOs they deem critical or disparaging of China. When CSOs legitimately seek to participate as part of partner or league organisations, China has sought to challenge their participation. For example, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) often participates as a member of the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation. However, China has attempted to block interventions by the WUC in the HRC sessions and even to ban them from the buildings and grounds. China once even branded the WUC President Mr Dolkun Isa as a terrorist in an effort to block his participation in side events at the HRC in Geneva, and at General Assembly side events in New York. Ironically, these unfounded smear efforts served only to increase interest in various events.

    How is civil society working on issues around China’s international-level engagement, and what support does civil society need to be able to work effectively on this issue?

    Despite the many and significant challenges inherent in this work, CSOs around the world are increasingly working together to address China’s efforts to distort and subvert human rights norms on the international stage, and to address serious rights abuses. This includes collaborations between local, regional and international civil society groups to issue joint letters, briefings and submissions for UN human rights mechanisms and procedures, interventions at HRC sessions and side events and other targeted activities.

    The key support that civil society needs, especially smaller CSOs, is two-pronged: financial support to continue to carry out their missions and conduct the necessary research and projects related to understanding and responding to China’s actions on the international stage; and for governments of other states to act more aggressively and effectively to counter China when it acts inappropriately, and in particular to ensure a safe and enabling environment for domestic CSOs.

    Civic space in China is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Human Rights in China through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@hrichina on Twitter.


  • Chinese authorities must release “Blank Paper” protesters and allow free expression on COVID-19 pandemic


    CHINA statement IWD23

    On International Women’s Day, 25 organisations call on the Chinese government to release and drop all charges against editor Cao Zhixin (曹芷馨), writer Li Siqi (李思琪), accountant Li Yuanjing (李元婧), and teacher Zhai Dengrui (翟登蕊). Beijing police arrested the four women for participating in a memorial protest on November 27, 2022. We also call on Chinese authorities to release and drop charges against all other individuals in China detained for freely expressing themselves during the “Blank Paper” protests of November-December, many of whom were women, and to end its suppression of speech about the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Citizens' Security Law under reform, Rule of Law in Spain at stake

    Commissioner Didier Reynders
    European Commission
    Rue de la Loi 200 / Wetstraat 200, 1040 Brussels
    Cc: Vice President Vera Jourová, Commissioner Helena Dalli


    Objectif: Citizens’ Security Law under reform, the right to freedom of peaceful

    assembly and expression, rule of law in Spain at stake

    Honourable Mr Reynders,

    This letter is sent on behalf of No Somos Delito, a broad coalition of more than one hundred associations and social movements belonging to a significant segment of the Spanish civil society, together with Defender a quien Defiende, European Civic Forum, CIVICUS and Civil Society Europe.

    In 2015, a very restrictive law, the Organic Law on the Protection of Citizen Security(2015/4, commonly known as Gag Law), was adopted in Spain. This Law has strained freedom of assembly and expression, including targeting journalists covering police actions during public gatherings, with negative repercussions on the Rule of Law. The Law is currently in the process of reform.

    We are writing to call on the European Commission to implement its mandate of ensuring the Rule of Law is upheld in a key moment for the guarantee of fundamental freedoms and Rule of Law in Spain by:

    • Meeting relevant Spanish CSOs that have been working to mitigate the negative impact of the Law on fundamental rights and the Rule of Law;
    • Expressing publicly with a statement on the Law reiterating the analysis of the 2021 rule of law report on Spain, calling for impact assessment and engagement of civil society in the reform process and for ensuring the reform will address concerns raised;
    • Engaging in dialogue with the Spanish Government to ensure the guarantee of fundamental freedoms and Rule of Law in Spain.

    Already in 2015, several UN Special Rapporteurs denounced that this Law represents a threat to fundamental rights and should be rejected[1]. More recently, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued an opinion pointing at the disproportionate and arbitrary nature of the restrictions on fundamental freedoms imposed by this Law[2]The European Commission 2021 rule of law report on Spain also stated with regards to the Law that if a "norm leads to abuses in practice, this norm should be changed, circumscribed, or accompanied by additional safeguards" and called for an in-depth assessment of its impact on fundamental rights[3].

    After many years of pressure by civil society and human rights groups, finally, the Government started a process of reform of this Law. However, the reform in its current form does not overcome the repressive nature of the Law as it does not address the more detrimental articles concerning the right to freedom of assembly, expression, and information, as well as other human rights.

    • The draft reform does not put in place measures to guarantee the right to freedom of information with regards to the recording of images or video of police officers on duty, which is crucial to ensure police accountability. The sanction for recording police images and personal data "that could endanger the safety of the agents" is not eliminated but qualified. The recording will still be sanctioned when "it entails a certain danger", and it will be the police to decide on this possibility (art. 36.23, serious offence, fine of 601 to 30.000€). This provision has been applied against journalists covering the actions of the law enforcement forces during public demonstrations.
    • The draft reform fails to withdraw the 'presumption of the veracity of police officers (art. 52) from the Law, which continues to allow police arbitrariness and to violate the right to a fair trial(Art.6 ECHR) and the right to an effective remedy (Art. 13 ECHR).
    • The draft reform does not withdraw the most applied offences in the repression of protest, namely "Disobedience" (Art. 36.6) and "Disrespect" (art. 37.4). As pointed out by the Commission of Venice in March 2021, the vague terms allow police arbitrariness and undermine legal certainty[4],putting at risk the Rule of Law.
    • The draft reform fails to guarantee the principle of non-discrimination in the regulation of identifications (art. 16), searches (art. 18) and frisks (art. 20). It does not prohibit ethnic and racial profiling, nor does it implement effective mechanisms for its prevention, as recommended by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Spain in 2018[5]. Specific measures should also be taken to guarantee the rights of the LGTBIQ+ community. Such measures would contribute to implementing the EU Anti-racism action plan principles and the LGBTIQ Equality strategy.
    • The draft reform also fails to establish mechanisms of control to ensure police accountability, such as proper identification of police officers and to ban the use of rubber bullets as an anti-riot material. This weapon does not allow compliance with international human rights standards because of its lack of precision and traceability[6]. Rubber bullets have been used against journalists while performing their professional duties in public demonstrations[7], which constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of information as sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights[8].

    The Citizens' Security Law reform process is a crucial opportunity to strengthen the Rule of Law and protect civic space in Spain. However, without the inclusion of these provisions, the repressive nature of the Citizens' Security Law will remain unaffected and continue to have a negative impact on rights and freedoms. For this reason, we call on your institution to support civil society to protect the Rule of Law in Spain.

    Yours sincerely,
    No Somos Delito (Spain)
    Defender a quien Defiende (Spain)
    European Civic Forum (Europe) 
    Civil Society Europe (Europe)
    CIVICUS (Global)

    The civic space in Spain is rated as 'Narrowed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    1- For more information, see

    2- For more information, see

    3- European Commission,  Rule of Law Report Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Spain, 2021.

    4- Opinion by The Venice Commission (22 March 2021)

    5- See:

    6- Novact and Irídia (2021), Stop Balas de Goma. Report - Executive summary.

    7- For more information, see:

    8- Najafli c. Azerbaijan (oct.), no. 2594/07, ECHR 2012




  • Civic space – the bedrock of democracy – is scarce and contested

    By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief of Programmes, CIVICUS

    On 29 and 30 March, the US government, in partnership with Costa Rica, Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia, will co-host the second virtual Summit for Democracy. Several elected leaders and state representatives will come together to highlight achievements in advancing democratic principles.

    This online global gathering intends to ‘demonstrate how democracies deliver for their citizens and are best equipped to address the world’s most pressing challenges’. Yet evidence gathered by civil society researchers indicates that all is not well with the state of democracy worldwide. Civic space, a key ingredient of democracy, is becoming increasingly contested.

    Pundits have long argued that democracy is not just about majoritarian rule and nominally free elections. The essence of democracy lies in something deeper: the ability of people – especially the excluded – to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance to influence society, politics and economics.

    Civic space is underpinned by the three fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, with the state having responsibility to defend and safeguard these freedoms.

    Read on Inter Press Service


  • CIVICUS : Les États doivent placer les droits de l'homme au centre de toutes les réponses au COVID-19


    • Pendant la pandémie mondiale COVID-19, les États ne devraient pas imposer de loi d'urgence comme prétexte pour restreindre les droits civiques
    • Les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques doivent être libérés pour enrayer la propagation
    • Les gouvernements devraient faire preuve de transparence dans leur réponse aux menaces que représente le COVID-19
    • CIVICUS exhorte les États à lever les mesures d'urgence dès que les menaces liées au virus diminuent


    Alors que la communauté mondiale continue à prendre des mesures pour stopper la propagation du COVID-19 et finalement l'éradiquer, les États devraient s'assurer que la protection des droits de l'homme est au centre de toutes les réponses.

    En mars 2020, l'Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) a déclaré que l'épidémie du virus COVID-19 avait atteint le niveau d'une pandémie mondiale. L'OMS a alors demandé à tous les gouvernements de prendre les mesures nécessaires pour arrêter la propagation de la maladie.

    Cependant, comme on l'a observé dans d'autres situations d'urgence, certains gouvernements ont utilisé la crise pour restreindre les libertés civiques et maintenir les restrictions - même après que les menaces sanitaires qui justifiaient les actions des gouvernements se soient atténuées. Les États qui réagissent à la propagation du virus COVID-19 doivent veiller à ce que les lois et les normes internationales en matière de droits de l'homme soient au cœur de leurs interventions.

    Alors que l'attention de la communauté mondiale au cours des prochains mois sera dirigée vers le virus, les États pourraient multiplier les attaques contre la société civile et imposer des restrictions. Les États devraient prendre des mesures proactives pour s'assurer que les organisations de la société civile et les groupes vulnérables sont protégés de manière adéquate. En Chine, des militants ont été harcelés et intimidés pour avoir partagé des informations sur le virus, tandis que les reportages ont été censurés. Dans d'autres parties de l'Asie, des lois répressives sont déployées pour arrêter ceux qui sont soupçonnés de propager des mensonges sur le virus.

    En tant que maladie infectieuse, le risque de COVID-19 augmente dans les espaces fermés comme les prisons, les postes de police et les centres de détention. Le surpeuplement, la mauvaise alimentation et le manque d'accès à une hygiène adéquate augmentent le risque d'infection des prisonniers. Les États ont désormais l'obligation de libérer les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques des prisons afin d'enrayer la propagation de la maladie.

    Certains prisonniers des prisons iraniennes ont contracté le virus. Si nous félicitons les autorités iraniennes pour la libération temporaire de 85 000 prisonniers, les défenseurs des droits de l'homme - dont le seul crime est de défendre les droits des femmes et des jeunes - devraient également être libérés. D'autres Etats ayant un passé de détention de défenseurs des droits de l'homme et de membres de l'opposition politique, comme l'Egypte, le Vietnam et le Cameroun, devraient suivre cet exemple.

    Les déclarations d'état d'urgence pour des raisons de santé et de sécurité doivent être faites en conformité avec la loi : les États ne doivent pas imposer une loi d'urgence comme prétexte pour restreindre les droits civiques et cibler des groupes, des minorités et des individus particuliers. Les lois d'urgence ne doivent pas être imposées pour réduire au silence les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et elles doivent être levées dès que les menaces que représente le virus diminuent. En outre, les groupes de la société civile devraient être consultés dans la mesure du possible.

    Il est obligatoire pour toutes les personnes touchées, en particulier les groupes marginalisés et les groupes de la société civile qui travaillent avec eux, d'avoir accès à des informations significatives concernant la nature et l'étendue des menaces posées par le virus. Ils doivent également disposer d'informations sur les moyens de réduire les risques en temps utile. Les restrictions et les coupures d'Internet dans des pays comme le Myanmar, l'Inde et l'Éthiopie mettent des milliers de personnes en danger.

    A cet égard, CIVICUS appelle les Etats à:

    • Collaborer avec les médias et la société civile pour faire preuve de transparence dans la réponse aux menaces que représente le COVID-19. Lutter contre la désinformation à tout moment sans recourir à la censure et aux sanctions pénales.
    • S'abstenir d'utiliser les réponses au COVID-19 comme prétexte pour imposer des restrictions à la société civile, cibler les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et restreindre les libertés en ligne.
    • Libérer tous les défenseurs des droits de l'homme et les prisonniers politiques qui ont été emprisonnés pour leurs activités en faveur des droits de l'homme ou pour avoir exprimé des opinions contraires à celles de l'État.
    • Lever les lois d'urgence et assouplir les mesures imposées pour freiner la propagation du virus dès que les menaces diminuent.
    • Maintenir un accès fiable et sans entraves à internet et mettre fin à toute interférence délibérée avec le droit d'accès et de partage de l'information.




    Nina Teggarty, Responsable de la communication, des campagne et du plaidoyer de CIVICUS


    Phone: +27 (0)785013500

    CIVICUS media team:


  • CIVICUS Addresses the New UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    39th Session of the Human Rights Council  
    Opening Statement to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    High Commissioner Bachelet, CIVICUS warmly welcomes you to the Council and congratulates your appointment as 7th UN High Commissioner. You take up this position at a time when human rights and the institutions to uphold them are under attack, and we look to you to be the voice of the thousands of human rights defenders working on the front lines, risking their lives on a daily basis. 

    We also welcome your call for new strategies and stronger tools for prevention, early intervention and also accountability so that the power of justice can deter and prevent even the worst violations and crimes. 

    The CIVICUS Monitor, a platform that tracks and rates civic space globally, has developed a Watch List of countries where on which individual activists and civil society organisations are experiencing a severe infringement of their civic freedoms as protected by international law, and urgent action is needed to reverse the trend. The Monitor  recently placed Bangladesh, Cameroon, the DRC, Guatemala, Maldives and Nicaragua on its Watch List

    These violations include brutal attacks by police on peaceful protests in Nicaragua and Bangladesh; the killing of 18 human rights defenders since January 2018 in Guatemala; flagrant disregard for the rule of law in Maldives ahead of elections scheduled this month; killing of protesters, targeted campaigns of harassment and arbitrary detention of activists and political opposition in the DRC; and the prosecution of human rights defenders and journalists on trumped-up charges in Cameroon amidst an escalating civil conflict and humanitarian crisis. 

    We call on you, High Commissioner and on all delegations to address these attacks and restrictions as a bellwether for further violations to come, and act now to reverse these worrying trends.


  • CIVICUS and Colombian Confederation of NGOs concerned about aggressions and impending restrictions on civil society

    Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) are deeply worried about the growing challenges faced by civil society in Colombia. Several activists have been attacked while potentially restrictive legislation is underway and would curtail civil society organisations’ ability to contribute to the implementation of the peace agreements.


  • CIVICUS at Human Rights Council: Civil society helps fulfil human rights commitments

    35th session of the Human Rights Council
    Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education
    7 June 2017

    Thank you Mr. President,

    CIVICUS welcomes the reports of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.  We again commend the former Special Rapporteur, Maina Kiai, for his steadfast support for civil society across the world. We also welcome the new Special Rapporteur, Annalisa Ciampi, and remain committed to supporting the mandate to undertake its essential work.

    The Special Rapporteur’s report on mapping the achievements of civil society articulates an unassailable case for why civil society should be seen as an ally, rather than an adversary. As expressed by the mandate holder, civil society has played a crucial role in shepherding and realizing scores of progressive values and rights. The report provides a wealth of examples of these achievements, including through pursuing accountability, supporting participation and empowerment, driving innovation and fostering sustainable development. We urge all states to explicitly acknowledge the integral role that civil society plays in ensuring that states can actualize their domestic and international human rights commitments.

    We further reiterate the recommendations raised by the Special Rapporteur in his report on the  United States. National and public security concerns must not be misused to suppress freedom of assembly. The continued use of excessive force by police departments across the United States against peaceful protesters requires a concerted and proactive federal response. We also regret that immigrant workers face the specter of official harassment and deportation for attempting to exercise their right to freedom of association, including joining labor unions. 

    In the United Kingdom, we remain equally concerned by recent reports that Prime Minister Theresa May is willing to forfeit human rights in the pursuit of countering terrorism. Such a wholesale forfeit of human rights undermines the United Kingdom’s international obligations as well as efforts to address the roots causes of terrorism.

    We urge all States to pledge their support to the Special Rapporteur including by providing all necessary informational and financial resources to discharge the mandate and to work closely with civil society.

    We thank you.