human rights

 

  • Egypt: End Reprisals, Harassment and Threats Against Civil Society Leader Mostafa Fouad

    Arabic

    The undersigned civil society organisations call on Egyptian authorities to immediately end their harassment of Egyptian activist and Deputy Director of HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement, Mostafa Fouad.


     

  • Egypt: Mohamed El-Baqer: 1000 days of arbitrary detention

    Arabic

    Human rights defender Mohamed El-Baqer must be released immediately and unconditionally, stated 19 human rights organisations. His detention is arbitrary, aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights work and is only putting his life and psychological well-being at serious risk.

     

  • Egypt: Uphold rights to free expression at environmental summit

    Arabic

    36 organisations urge Egyptian authorities to end crackdown on civil society organisations and peaceful protests for a successful COP27


    Egyptian authorities should ease their grip on civic space and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to enable a successful climate summit, known as the COP27, in Egypt, 36 organisations said today.

     

  • EL SALVADOR: ‘Patriarchal justice persecutes, tortures and abuses women’

    SaraGarciaGrossCIVICUS speaks with Sara García Gross about the recent judgment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) against the Salvadoran state, and the struggle of Salvadoran women for the right to abortion.

    Sara García Gross is advocacy coordinator of the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in El Salvador. Founded in 2009, the organisation promotes public awareness to change abortion laws, provides legal support to women who have been convicted or charged with abortion or related crimes and disseminates information on the importance of women receiving adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare to prevent them resorting to unsafe, life-threatening abortions.

    What is El Salvador’s feminist movement demanding when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights?

    As feminists we are fighting to change the law that criminalises abortion under all circumstances. In El Salvador women are unjustly persecuted. Women’s reproductive rights are violated, especially for younger women and those who live in poverty and in the country’s rural areas. In this sense, we in the feminist movement are fighting to change a restrictive, absolutist and absurd regulatory framework.

    We are also fighting for women’s freedom. There are currently 12 women in prison serving sentences that are extremely unjust. Our fight is for women’s freedom and women’s lives. We want abortion to be legal in El Salvador. We fight for women to have the right to build our own lives. We denounce forced pregnancies; this is a form of torture. There are girls as young as 10 years old who face forced motherhood. There are young women who have not received any sexual education and do not have access to contraceptive methods. We are fighting for the right to comprehensive sex education.

    We also fight for the recognition of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, because hate crimes are another cruel form of torture that the state imposes or condones.

    What tactics does the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion use?

    In our struggle for women’s freedom, we have pursued multiple strategies, starting with strategic litigation to obtain everything from commutations of sentences to sentence reviews. Our focus is on achieving freedom, putting into practice the feminist slogan ‘I believe you sister’. We fight for the recognition of the innocence of women facing unjust and absurd sentences.

    But the legal route has not been our only key strategy; social mobilisation at national and regional levels has also played a major role. The feminist movement has organised and spoken out in relation to the cases of criminalised women. Sit-ins have been organised in front of embassies in El Salvador and other countries, letters have been sent to the courts and campaigns for reproductive justice have been carried out, including the ‘We are missing 17’ campaign.

    Another very important strategy has involved the Inter-American human rights system. We brought the case of a woman known as Manuela to the IACtHR, which recently condemned the Salvadoran state for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Strategic litigation in the Inter-American system has allowed us to address the problems of persecution, torture and judicial and police abuse faced by women in El Salvador. Justice in El Salvador is patriarchal justice.

    Another strategy has focused on collecting evidence. We have carried out an investigation called ‘From hospital to prison’, which allowed us to make this problem visible. Through a review and analysis of case files, sentences and investigations, we have been able to understand who anti-abortion legislation targets and who it persecutes: young and poor women living in rural areas. This constitutes intersectional discrimination.

    The campaigns, dialogues and debates we promote in academia as well as grassroots communities have also been part of our strategy. Advocacy processes are key, so that when we are able to identify windows of opportunity in the Legislative Assembly or other state institutions, we can promote the submission of new initiatives.

    In the past, several bills were submitted to reform article 133 of the Criminal Code to decriminalise abortion on four grounds. These bills were far from getting passed; in some cases they were quickly shelved and in others they languished for years in legislative committees. Women’s organisations were met with great hostility. However, our advocacy strategies allowed us to place the issue of abortion on the public agenda.

    What does Salvadoran public opinion think about abortion and what work are you doing to present an alternative narrative to criminalisation?

    Among public opinion, there is broad acceptance of abortion when it’s needed to save a pregnant woman’s life: more than half of the population has said so in various surveys.

    We live in a conservative country, with some fundamentalist groups calling themselves ‘pro-life’. The reality is that they are in favour of clandestine abortion, criminalisation and women dying. These groups maintain a double standard that we, as organised feminist civil society, work to expose. While women living in poverty are criminalised, those with economic resources are able to travel and access safe abortions. This double standard is unacceptable.

    For us, it is important to visualise other narratives and make women’s realities known. Reducing stigma requires showing, humanising and talking about life stories. These are women who had hopes and plans for their lives that state violence prevented them from realising.

    Talking about the issue in different places, humanising this reality and questioning this system that imposes the mandate of motherhood – a gender stereotype – allows us to address the issue without stigma or prejudice and, above all, from a human rights perspective.

    What are the implications of the IACtHR ruling in Manuela’s case?

    This ruling came after years of work and struggle. We started working on the case in 2011, providing psychosocial, political and legal support to Manuela’s family.

    Advocacy in the Inter-American system was key. The ruling in Manuela’s case is historic: the IACtHR has recognised that Manuela was innocent, that she really faced an obstetric emergency and that gender stereotypes, starting with the mandate of motherhood, permeated the entire process. The IACtHR has understood that the absolute ban on abortion results in criminalisation and obstacles to access to reproductive rights.

    The judgment will have both national and regional effects. The main regional effect is the establishment of jurisprudence that obliges both El Salvador and the rest of the countries in the region to take a series of measures. First, to guarantee professional secrecy of health personnel so that no woman seeking reproductive health services is denounced for alleged abortion-related crimes. Second, to ensure that gender stereotypes are not applied in the judicial sphere, including those claiming that women must act according to a reproductive role and, therefore, with maternal instinct. Third, to implement adequate protocols to attend to obstetric emergencies with accessible and quality health services.

    The Salvadoran state will have to carry out some additional actions in compliance with the IACtHR ruling. First, while it is in the process of regulating the obligation to maintain medical professional secrecy and the confidentiality of medical records, it must eliminate the practice of medical professionals denouncing women who seek reproductive health services. Second, it must provide full reparations to Manuela’s family. Third, it must make legislative and policy changes to ensure non-repetition, so that no one else goes through a similar experience, for instance by guaranteeing comprehensive care in cases of obstetric emergencies and adapting pre-trial detention so that it is only used in exceptional cases.

    We continue to fight so that women are never again criminalised. There are still 12 women who remain in prison, but we believe that Manuela’s case shines a light on these injustices and gives us the strength to continue fighting. For us, Manuela means justice and hope.

    What kind of support do abortion rights groups in El Salvador need from their peers around the world? 

    We believe feminist solidarity is key. We want to make this issue visible in the region and the world. We want people to talk about what is happening here. We want people to talk about the consequences of the absolute prohibition of abortion. We want people to talk about how this punitive system does not solve anything.

    It is not acceptable for the exercise of a reproductive right – a right to health – to be treated as a crime entailing prison sentences. We need to shine the spotlight on El Salvador and make the Salvadoran state feel it is being watched. Every chance we get, we must demand freedom for women, freedom for the 12 who are still in prison and reparations for all the women who have faced this kind of criminalisation. We must demand that abortion be legally recognised as a right.

    Civic space in El Salvador is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in El Salvador through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@AbortoPORlaVIDA on Twitter. 

     

  • El Salvador: No aceptó recomendaciones para proteger las activistas

    Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU - 43 ° período de sesiones 
    Declaración conjunta sobre la adopción del Examen Periódico Universal para El Salvador

    CIVICUS y FESPAD agradecen el compromiso de El Salvador con el proceso del EPU.

    Sin embargo, estamos profundamente preocupados por la continua violencia y la estigmatización de los defensores de los derechos humanos, en particular los defensores de los derechos LGBTQI, los derechos de las mujeres, los derechos sexuales y reproductivos y el medio ambiente. Lamentamos que El Salvador no aceptó las recomendaciones para adoptar legislación para reconocer y proteger a los defensores de los derechos humanos. Desde la última revisión del EPU de El Salvador, dos defensores de los derechos humanos han sido asesinados y varios más han denunciado campañas de estigmatización y criminalización, incluso a través de mensajes en las redes sociales que tienen la clara intención de disuadirlos de continuar su trabajo.

    En el caso de la violencia y la estigmatización contra los defensores del medio ambiente, muchos de estos ataques ocurren con impunidad y con la participación de grupos empresariales que ven sus intereses afectados por la defensa del medio ambiente.

    CIVICUS y FESPAD también están alarmados por los continuos ataques, la falta de protección y los asesinatos de periodistas, y los mecanismos de salvaguardia inadecuados. Según la Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES), entre enero de 2015 y diciembre de 2017, 10 periodistas fueron asesinados en El Salvador. La CIDH también ha informado sobre un número inquietante de amenazas, intimidaciones y ataques contra periodistas en el país, particularmente contra aquellos que han denunciado corrupción o ejecuciones extrajudiciales por parte de las fuerzas de seguridad, o que cubren temas relacionados con la crisis de seguridad y las pandillas. En los últimos años, FESPAD ha informado un aumento en las nuevas formas de amenazas y hostigamiento contra periodistas, como la inestabilidad laboral, que se utilizan para silenciarlos. Lamentamos que El Salvador rechazó una recomendación de adoptar legislación para proteger a los periodistas de tales ataques.

    El espacio cívico en El Salvador está actualmente clasificado como 'Obstruido' por el Monitor CIVICUS, lo que indica la existencia de serias limitaciones a los derechos fundamentales de la sociedad civil. Hacemos un llamado al gobierno de El Salvador para que utilice este proceso del EPU para proporcionar a los miembros de la sociedad civil, periodistas y defensores de los derechos humanos un entorno seguro en el que puedan llevar a cabo su trabajo sin temor u obstáculos indebidos, obstrucciones o acoso legal y administrativo.


    Ve nuestro recommendaciones para El Salvador

     

  • El Salvador: Violence and stigmatization continues against activists

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    El Salvador's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    CIVICUS and FESPAD welcome El Salvador’s engagement with the UPR process.

    However, we are deeply concerned about the continuing violence and stigmatization of human rights defenders, particularly defenders of LGBTQI rights, women's rights, sexual and reproductive rights and the environment. We regret that El Salvador did not accept recommendations to adopt legislation to recognize and protect human rights defenders. Since El Salvador’s last UPR review, two human rights defenders have been killed and several others have reported stigmatization and criminalization campaigns, including through messages on social networks that have the clear intention of discouraging them from continuing their work.

    In the case of violence and stigmatization against environmental defenders, many of these attacks occur with impunity and with the participation of business groups that see their interests affected by the defense of the environment. 

    CIVICUS and FESPAD are also alarmed by continued attacks, lack of protection and murders of journalists, and inadequate safeguard mechanisms. According to the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), between January 2015 and December 2017, 10 journalists were killed in El Salvador. The IACHR has also reported a disturbing number of threats, intimidations and attacks against journalists in the country, particularly against those who have reported corruption or extrajudicial executions by the security forces, or that cover issues related to the security crisis and gangs. In recent years, FESPAD has reported an increase in new forms of threats and harassment against journalists, such as job instability, used to silence them. We regret that El Salvador rejected a recommendation to adopt legislation to protect journalists from such attacks.

    Civic space in El Salvador is currently classified as 'Obstructed' by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of serious limitations on the fundamental rights of civil society. We call on the government of El Salvador to use this UPR process to provide civil society members, journalists and human rights defenders with a safe environment in which they can carry out their work without fear or undue obstacles, obstructions or legal and administrative harassment.

    See our joint recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in El Salvador.


    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

     

  • Enhance the process to select new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    In a letter to the UN Secretary-General, a coalition of more than 70 civil society organisations has put forward proposals to revitalise and enhance the process to select the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

    The appointment of the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, due to take place later this year, is a vital moment for the United Nations, with implications for the human rights of millions of people around the world.

    The new High Commissioner faces a world in which universal human rights norms are under threat or even in retreat, including in established democracies. The person appointed will have to confront global human rights challenges in the context of historic and on-going underfunding for the United Nation’s human rights pillar – now dubbed by many as “the forgotten pillar”. Against this backdrop, the need for global leadership and international cooperation in the area of human rights is greater than ever.

    It is therefore crucial that the most highly qualified candidate is selected who will be able to rise to the challenges of this demanding and important post. Under General Assembly resolution 48/141, the High Commissioner is expected to, inter alia: 

    • Monitor and speak out about human rights violations – ‘preventing the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world’;
    • Act as the secretariat to the ‘competent bodies of the United Nations system in the field of human rights and making recommendations to them;’
    • Provide capacity-building, advisory services and technical assistance, at the request of the State concerned, ‘with a view to supporting actions and programs in the field of human rights’;
    • Engage in human rights diplomacy (‘dialogue’) with governments and ‘enhance international cooperation,’ in order to promote the implementation of international human rights obligations and commitments, and respect for human rights;
    • Coordinate human rights mainstreaming across the UN system; and
    • Make recommendations and driving efforts to ‘rationalize, adapt, strengthen and streamline the United Nations machinery in the field of human rights with a view to improving its efficiency and effectiveness.’

    Additionally, given the pressure that civil society is under in many parts of the world, it is increasingly important that the High Commissioner be civil society’s champion. The High Commissioner is in a unique position to guarantee civil society space, not just through words but also through actions (e.g. by meeting marginalised or at-risk groups and human rights defenders while on country missions). 

    In recent years, international organisations, including the UN, have made major improvements and reforms to recruitment processes to enhance the transparency and accountability of high-level appointments. Of course, your own appointment as UN Secretary-General benefited greatly from a fairer, more open and more inclusive process. For the credibility of the United Nations as well as the standing and authority of the next High Commissioner, it is imperative that a rigorous selection process is undertaken which meets the high standards now expected by governments, civil society and the general public – standards which are also enshrined as part of universal human rights norms.

    In the opinion of the undersigned, a group of civil society organisations strongly committed to upholding the UN Charter and its values, the procedure adopted by the General Assembly in 1993 to appoint the High Commissioner can be enhanced – to make it more transparent, inclusive, meritocratic, and engaging for civil society and the general public. We believe this can be achieved in a manner consistent with existing UN documents, while avoiding politicisation and keeping the final decision in your independent hands.

    Specific proposals for consideration should include: publishing a formal set of selection criteria; improving the global visibility of the formal call for candidatures; publishing a clear timetable for the selection process that enables adequate assessment of candidates; publishing an official list of candidates; and requiring all candidates to produce vision statements.  We also believe, in the interests of transparency, inclusivity and public engagement, that the selection process should include wide consultation with all stakeholders, including civil society. 

    Such a process would, we believe, improve the authority, independence and credibility of the new High Commissioner, contribute to the existing reform agenda with regards to the revitalisation of the UN and, more broadly, improve the Organisation’s global legitimacy.

    Finally, we believe thought should be given to changing the mandate of the High Commissioner to a single non-renewable term of five years. This would help any new High Commissioner avoid political pressure and would strengthen her or his independence. We recognise that this would require bringing changes to the relevant General Assembly resolution, and should thus be carefully explored by the relevant actors.

    As the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year, we hope that you will seize this historic opportunity to bring the procedure for the selection of the High Commissioner more squarely into line with the high principles set down in that inspiring document, including by giving due consideration to the proposals outlined above. This will help ensure that the best and most qualified candidate is selected to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Yours sincerely,

    Asian Human Rights Commission
    Association for the Prevention of Torture
    Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors (UMDPL)
    Avaaz Bond · Society Building (United Kingdom)
    Canadian Council for International Co-operation
    Cecade (El Salvador)
    Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
    Child Rights International Network
    CIVICUS
    Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas de Guatemala
    Deca Equipo Pueblo (Mexico)
    European Centre for Non-for-Profit Law
    Fundación para la Paz y la Democracia
    Freedom House
    Geneva Infant Feeding Association
    Fundacion Multitudes (Chile)
    Helsinki Citizens' Assembly-Vanadzor (Armenia)
    Human Rights Information Centre (Ukraine)
    Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
    Institute of Social Sciences (India)
    International Centre for Non-for-Profit Law
    International Planned Parenthood Federation
    Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (Ukraine)
    National Forum for Voluntary Organizations (Sweden)
    Network of Democrats in the Arab World
    Open Estonia Foundation
    Open Lithuania foundation
    Quê Me: Vietnam Committee for Human Rights
    Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning - RFSU / The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
    Sexual Rights Initiative
    Small Planet Institute
    Solidarity Center (United States)
    Survival
    Tenaganita
    The Right Livelihood Award Foundation
    Transparency International Portugal
    United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK)
    Universal Rights Group
    World Movement for Democracy
    Human Rights House Tbilisi on behalf of:
    Article 42 of the Constitution
    Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
    Human Rights Centre
    Media Institute
    Union Sapari – Family without violence
    Human Rights House Azerbaijan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center
    • Legal Education Society
    • Women’s Association for Rational Development

    Human Rights House Belgrade (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
    • Civic Initiatives
    • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
    • Lawyers Committe for Human Rights
    • Policy Centre

    The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Belarusian Association of journalists
    • Belarusian Helsinki Committee
    • Belarusian Language Society
    • Belarusian PEN Centre
    • Human Rights Centre Viasna
    • Legal Initiative

    Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • Health and Human Rights Info
    • Human Rights House Foundation
    • The Norwegian Tibet Committee

    Human Rights House Yerevan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

    • PINK Armenia
    • Socioscope
    • Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):
    • B.a.B.e. Be active. Be emancipated.
    • Center for Peace Studies
    • Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity – CROSOL
    • Documenta - Center for Dealing with the Past

     

  • Eritrea: Extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

    Joint Letter
    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council 

    At the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council (24 June-12 July 2019), the Council extended a hand to the Eritrean Government. While renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the country, it signalled its willingness to offer Eritrea a constructive way forward, in particular by shifting the resolution from agenda item 4 to item 2. 

    While welcoming the adoption of Council resolution 41/1, and in particular the renewal of the mandate, many non-governmental organisations cautioned that any shifts in the Council’s approach should reflect corresponding changes in the human rights situation on the ground. 

    Regrettably, one year later, we, the undersigned non-governmental organisations, recall that the concerns expressed in a jointletter published last year remain valid, for the reasons set out below. Ahead of the 44th session of the Council (currently scheduled to begin in June 2020), we urge you to support the adoption of a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. 

    As Eritrea has entered the second year of its Council membership term, its domestic human rights situation remains dire. A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations is widespread. Violations continue unabated, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice and due process, enforced disappearances, lack of information on the fate or whereabouts of disappeared persons, violations of women’s and girls’ rights, and severe restrictions on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion or belief. Secondary school students, some still children, continue to be conscripted in their thousands each year into the country’s abusive national service system. Indefinite national service, involving torture, sexual violence and forced labour continues; thousands remain in open-ended conscription, sometimes for as long as ten years or more, despite the 2018 peace accord with Ethiopia. 

    In resolution 38/15 (6 July 2018), the Council invited the Special Rapporteur to “assess and report on the situation of human rights and the engagement and cooperation of the Government of Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, as well as with the Office of the High Commissioner [OHCHR], and, where feasible, to develop benchmarks for progress in improving the situation of human rights and a time-bound plan of action for their implementation.” The Council should ensure adequate follow-up by allowing the Special Rapporteur to pursue her work and OHCHR to deepen its engagement with the Eritrean Government. 

    As a Council member, Eritrea has an obligation to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and to “fully cooperate with the Council.” However, during the Council’s 43rd session, in February 2020, both the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Daniela Kravetz, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, reported that no concrete evidence of progress in Eritrea’s human rights situation, including against the benchmarks, could be reported. 

    By streamlining its approach and adopting resolution 41/1 under its item 2, the Council offered a way forward for human rights reform in Eritrea. In March 2019, Eritrea took an initial step by meeting with the Special Rapporteur in Geneva. More recently, in February 2020, a human rights dialogue took place between the Government and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in a more constructive spirit than during Eritrea’s 2019 review by the Human Rights Committee. Unfortunately, despite the window of opportunity provided by Eritrea’s CEDAW review and the Eritrean Ambassador indicating, at the Council’s 43rd session, that his country was committed to confidence-building measures and technical cooperation, Eritrea refuses to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, and recently launched yet another unwarranted attack on her and her mandate. The Government continues to reject findings of ongoing grave violations, as well as calls for reform, and human rights-based recommendations, including in relation to the Covid-19 crisis.  

    The Council should urge Eritrea to make progress towards meeting its membership obligations and to engage with the UN human rights system constructively. It should not reward non-cooperation by, but rather maintain scrutiny of, one of its members. We believe that a technical rollover of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, under the same item, would contribute to this aim. 

    At its upcoming 44th session, the Council should adopt a resolution: (a) Extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year; (b) Urging Eritrea to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur by granting her access to the country, in accordance with its obligations as a Council member; (c) Calling on Eritrea to develop an implementation plan to meet the progress benchmarks, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur and OHCHR; (d) Requesting OHCHR to present an oral update on Eritrea at the Council’s 46th session; and (e) Requesting the Special Rapporteur to present an oral update at the Council’s 46th session in an interactive dialogue, and to present a report on the implementation of the mandate at the Council’s 47th session and to the General Assembly at its 76th session. 

    We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues and stand ready to provide your delegation with further information as needed.

    Sincerely,

    1. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
    2. AfricanDefenders (the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network)
    3. Amnesty International 
    4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 
    5. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) 
    6. CIVICUS 
    7. Civil Rights Defenders 
    8. Committee to Protect Journalists 
    9. CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
    10. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    11. Eritrean Law Society (ELS) 
    12. Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) 
    13. Geneva for Human Rights / Genève pour les Droits de l’Homme
    14. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 
    15. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE) 
    16. Human Rights Watch
    17. International Service for Human Rights 
    18. Network of Eritrean Women (NEW)
    19. Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa / Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)  
    20. One Day Seyoum 
    21. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 
    22. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) 
    23. West African Human Rights Defenders Network / Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (ROADDH/WAHRDN) 
    24. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • Eritrea’s membership of the Human Rights Council at odds with the dire human rights situation in the country

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

    Interactive Dialogue on the oral update of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea

    Delivered by Helen Kidan

    CIVICUS and the EMDHR welcome the Special Rapporteur’s update.

     

  • Every single person is a potential activist today 

    Civil society actors and leaders from around the world gathered from 30 May to 3 June 2022 at the World Justice Forum in The Hague, the home of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, and online to share insights and recommendations on three important priorities for strengthening justice and the rule of law.

    The forum, which focused on fighting corruption, closing the justice gap, and countering discrimination, served as an ideal platform to collectively address the declining state of civil society. I had the privilege of participating in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Legacy conversation with Sherrilyn Ifill and the Recommendations, Commitments, and Investments to Advance Justice and Rule of Law plenary.  

    Throughout the conference, immense emphasis was placed on the constant threats to and continuously shrinking civic space. Our research from the CIVICUS Monitor shows that, currently, only 3% of the world’s population live in conditions of open civic space, where their governments broadly respect and promote the democratic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression and allow their citizens to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect them. Data from the CIVICUS Monitor also shows that in the last year, the top two violations in relation to civic space were the detention of protestors and the intimidation of human rights defenders. This points to a trend of a lack of investment in and strengthening of institutions that are meant to defend human rights and the people that speak on behalf of human rights.  

    In the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we are witnessing a number of states, and international institutions, particularly in European democracies, divert funding and resources away from institutions and mechanisms that are devoted to defending human rights and strengthening civic space. Not only does this pattern of behaviour display a negative vote against democracy, but it contributes to the continuous fall of trust in public institutions, and not enough is being done to challenge the lack of investment in civil society from those in power. At this point, the fight for democracy rests solely on the shoulders of individuals who are constantly putting their lives at risk to fight against the worldwide decline of civic space.  

    While international and public institutions have the power and resources to address the humanitarian crisis that faces us, their abstinence from actively investing in and protecting civil society displays a glaring lack of moral empathy for those on the ground.   

    In light of these global challenges, the panel discussions at the World Justice Forum brought forth much-needed insights and recommendations to rebuild and strengthen civil society and the rule of law with respect to the three main priorities of the forum.  

    One of the key recommendations from the World Justice Forum’s Outcome Statement highlighted the need for states to create enabling environments for innovation and for civil society to operate. During the pandemic, we witnessed some of the most significant protest movements despite extreme COVID-19 restrictions; this indicates that people are able and willing to mobilise regardless of restrictive laws intended to silence dissent.  

    Conversations during the forum also pointed to the dire need for people-centred approaches. A practical example is citizen assemblies whereby people-driven resolutions are prioritised at international levels. Access to information and access to solidarity mechanisms also play a vital role in enabling people on the ground to advocate for fundamental rights, and states must invest in creating spaces for citizen participation.  

    A stronger effort needs to be taken to ensure that institutions are open to scrutiny and to being held accountable. Too many a times do we witness leaders making promises of a better tomorrow on international stages but do not hold open dialogues with and remain accountable to those who elected them. This includes extending open standing invitations for UN experts to visit and provide recommendations to affected countries.  

    There is a need for norms, narratives and investments that will help stimulate larger segments of trust and support towards civil society from a wide range of state and non-state actors. Concrete examples of how this can be done are available from CIVICUS’ work on reviewing approaches to civil society sustenance and resilience, including in the context of the pandemic.  

    In the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals, we said that this would be the Decade of Action, it is actually the Decade of Agitation, and governments that wake up to this sooner will be wiser because every single person on the planet with a phone is a potential activist today.  


    Lysa John is the Secretary-General of CIVICUS. She is based in South Africa and can be reached via her Twitter handle:@LysaJohnSA. 

     

  • Extend the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

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

     

  • Fiji: Government rejects review of restrictive laws used to target journalists, activists and its critics

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Fiji's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

    PIANGO, CCF and CIVICUS welcome the government of Fiji’s engagement with the UPR process. 

    In our UPR Submission, we documented that since its second cycle review, where it received 22 recommendations relating to civic space, accepting 12, the Government of Fiji has to date partially implemented 10 of these recommendations and fully implemented one. 

    In its third cycle review, we welcome that recommendations pertaining to freedom of expression, assembly and association were accepted, including to ensure that criminal and speech-related legislation are not misused to supress criticism We also welcome the governments’ support to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders at the national level.

    However, sedition provisions in the Crimes Act and the Public Order (Amendment) Act have been used to target journalists, activists and government critics The Media Industry Development Act (Media Act) has also created a chilling effect for the media and press freedom We are disappointed that specific recommendations to amend or repeal these repressive laws were not accepted, many of which are based on draconian decrees enacted after the 2006 military coup and not fit for purpose.

    The right to peaceful assembly has been arbitrarily restricted with the use of the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2014, particularly against trade unions. We welcome that Fiji accepted recommendations to ensure that criminal statutes will not be used to curtail workers’ rights, but we regret that Fiji did not accept broader recommendations to promote and protect freedom of assembly by revising such restrictive laws. We encourage Fiji to genuinely support the right to peaceful assembly and to bring local legislation in line with international law and standards.

    Fiji’s UPR presents an opportunity for the country to make at the national level the commitments to civic space and human rights that it demonstrates through its engagement with and leadership within the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. We urge the government of Fiji to take this opportunity to create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society, in line with the rights enshrined in international human rights law.


    Civic space in Fiji is currently rated as Obstructed  by the CIVICUS Monitor

    See our joint recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Fiji.

    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • Five human rights trends in South Africa

    Students protest SA

    Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images

    By Mawethu Nkosana, LGBTQI+ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS & Safia Khan, Innovation and Communications Officer at CIVICUS

    From the rise in student activism to the rise in levels of xenophobia in South Africa, Mawethu and Safia list five human rights trends since COVID-19 took over.

    Read on The Daily Vox

     

  • France at UN Human Rights Council: Adoption of Universal Periodic Review Report

    In our Universal Periodic Review submission, we documented that since its last review, France only partially implemented one of the two recommendations it received relating to civic space. We regret that the recommendations pertaining to the ban on full face veils in public places were not accepted by the government, despite being criticised as a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and religious freedom.

    Mr. President, we are deeply concerned by the recent introduction of a new national security and counter terrorism law which effectively makes permanent extraordinary powers given to French security forces since the November 2015 state of emergency was implemented. Through this now-permanent legal regime, French police have expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance without adequate judicial oversight or due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms.

    CIVICUS also notes with concern the police’s use of disproportionate force against protestors including during labour protests in 2016; anti-racism demonstrations in 2013; and, most seriously, in October 2014 when ecologist Rémi Fraisse was killed after police threw a flash grenade into a crowd of demonstrators opposing the construction of a dam in Sivens. Mr. President, just two months ago, French police again used disproportionate force, firing thousands of tear gas canisters as part of an operation to forcibly remove a peaceful anti-capitalist community in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

    Finally, in its submission, CIVICUS set out a range of concerns that risk eroding the right to freedom of expression in France, including the use of legal proceedings to compel media to release their sources. In France, losing a libel case against a public official can result in a fine of up to four times the fine for losing a case against a private citizen; this has been criticised for creating a “chilling effect” on the media’s scrutiny of government.

    Mr. President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of France to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society in all circumstances.

     

  • Free Saudi Activists commemorate 2-Year anniversary of the Saudi government's arrest of women's rights defenders

    COALITION TO HOST A WEBINAR ON MAY 15 PROVIDING UPDATES ON PRISONERS, STATE OF WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS IN SAUDI ARABIA AND CAMPAIGN PROGRESS

     

  • Gates Foundation award to India’s Modi a setback for civic freedoms and democratic values

    The decision by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to award Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a Goalkeepers Global Goals Award on 24 September sends the wrong message. Prime Minister Modi's violation of civic freedoms should not be overlooked by one of the world’s largest philanthropic donors. Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party government have a dismal human rights record which includes persecuting activists and undermining the watchdog roles of the media and civil society groups.

    Prime Minister Modi is being awarded in recognition of his work to improve sanitation through the Clean India Programme. Many civil society organisations and individuals have over the last few weeks voiced serious concerns about the implications the presentation of the award would have on global philanthropic endeavours and the collective advancement of human rights. As a partner of the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator, CIVICUS has taken a decision in principle not to attend the awards ceremony.  

    We recognise that the Foundation has made significant contributions to enhance people’s lives around the world in the health and sanitation field. However, honouring Prime Minister Modi with this award ignores serious concerns raised by civil society on the decline of civic freedoms in India as well as the holistic nature of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Modi government is ignoring the democratic pillars of the goals by failing to implement commitments related to public access to information, inclusive decission making and fostering civil society partnerships - targets largely embodied in Goals 16 and 17.

    “All 17 sustainable development goals are interdependent and co-related, said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “The Modi government has a lot of ground to cover with regards to fulfillment of SDG commitments on inclusive governance, civil society partnerships, access to information and fundamental freedoms. In fact it has deliberately suppressed these.”

    CIVICUS has highlighted a pattern of attacks and violations against freedoms of expression, association and assembly in India. These attacks include a recent lock down on civic freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir, raids on the offices of Lawyer’s Collective and Amnesty International, persistence of arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment and attacks on civil society activists and journalists and those expressing democratic dissent. Activists seeking to protect the rights of minority communities and environmental justice face particular challenges.

    India is rated as obstructed on the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that rates and measures the state of civic freedoms in 196 countries.

    FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT:

    For more information or to arrange interviews with event organisers, please contact: 

     

  • Gaza: We condemn the killing of Palestinian protesters

    Special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
    Oral Statement

    CIVICUS, the Palestinian NGO Network and the Arab NGO Network for Development condemn the atrocities committed by the Israeli Occupation Forces against peaceful Palestinian protesters in Gaza. On 14 May alone more than 61 Palestinians including 8 children were killed and nearly 3000 wounded as Israeli forces used live ammunition on protesters who were demonstrating against the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

    Since 30 March 2018, when Palestinians embarked on a campaign of peaceful protests against forced evictions and demanding their right to return, more than 110 Palestinians have been systematically killed including at least 11 children, 2 journalists and several people with disabilities. In addition, over 12000 Palestinians have been wounded.

    The use of unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters is a grave violation of international law. Israel’s occupation forces have used snipers, plastic coated steel bullets, explosive bullets and gas grenades fired from drones in a calculated attempt to kill, maim and inflict serious bodily harm on Palestinians.

    Mr. President, the lack of concrete action from the international community and the defence of these atrocious acts by some states emboldens Israel’s occupation forces to maintain a shoot to kill policy, preserve its prolonged occupation and disregard for the rule of law.

    We urge Council members to call on the Israeli government to respect all United Nations resolutions and its obligations under international law, giving an immediate end to occupation and recognizing Palestinians right to self-determination. We call on the Council to urgently establish a Commission of Inquiry to facilitate independent international investigations and ensure accountability for perpetrators of violations of international law in occupied Palestine.

    For updates on the state of civic space, please see the Palestine and Israel and country pages on the CIVICUS Monitor. 

     

  • GHANA: ‘The ‘anti-gay’ bill will have far-reaching consequences if we do not fight it now’

    Rightify GhanaCIVICUS speaks with Danny Bediako, founder and executive director of Rightify Ghana, about the LGBTQI+ rights situation and the significance of Ghana’s ‘anti-gay’ bill. Rightify Ghana is a human rights organisation that advocates for community empowerment and human rights, and documents and reports human rights abuses in Ghana.

    What are the aims of Rightify Ghana?

    Rightify Ghana was formed because LGBTQI+ organisations were all based in the capital, Accra. Living in Kumasi, in the Ashanti region in Ghana, I felt that I had to do something, so I brought together some people I knew and urged them to reach out to others. We all came together and formed Rightify Ghana. 

    We do advocacy work and report and document human rights violations. We contribute to capacity building through community empowerment activities, including human rights education and sensitisation on safety and security. While as an organisation we do not directly offer sexual health or HIV/AIDS-related services, we facilitate access to them for the people who reach out to us.

    We have become a widely known organisation, with people reaching out for information and referrals to certain services. We also offer psychosocial support to people facing various forms of abuse and human rights violations. We undertake media monitoring to understand how the media reports on LGBTQI+ matters and identify rising challenges, and particularly security threats, to inform and educate the LGBTQI+ community.

    What are the major challenges facing LGBTQI+ people in Ghana?

    For several years the LGBTQI+ community has been targeted by homophobic people, both from state institutions and non-state groups and individuals. But there isn’t enough awareness on these issues, so we usually have to deal with them by ourselves. There are frequent reports of attacks against LGBTQI+ people, including outing them, blackmailing, kidnapping them for ransom and outright physical violence.

    Ghana had previously sold itself globally as a progressive country, one that respects democratic principles and constitutional rule. But this year the rights violations that the LGBTQI+ community has experienced for years came to light. Attacks came in quick succession and caught us off guard.

    We started 2021 with the closure of a community centre established by LGBT+ Rights Ghana. Then an alleged lesbian wedding, which attendees claim was a birthday party, was stormed and denounced by traditional rulers, police and media. Twenty-two people were arrested and later released.

    In May came the case of the Ho 21, in which police and a team of reporters disrupted an event of human rights defenders who document and report violations against the LGBTQI+ community. Twenty-one of them were arrested, becoming victims of the crime they work to document. This nearly broke the whole movement down because other organisations closed their offices out of fear and activists went into hiding; there was too much uncertainty, and most people fell silent.

    Most recently, the so-called Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghana Family Values Bill – the ‘anti-gay bill’ – was officially introduced to parliament and is now open to contributions from the public.

    What does the bill say, and what motivates those behind it?

    The first time I read the bill, I felt like I couldn’t breathe: my right to exist in this country would be taken away from me. The bill promotes ‘conversion therapy’, making it a state function to torture people who question their sexuality or identify as intersex or transgender. Conversion therapy is very dangerous: those who undergo it may experience depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. United Nations Special Rapporteurs have stated that conversion therapy is a form of torture.

    Even though it is bipartisan, the bill is being pushed mostly by the opposition: seven out of eight members of parliament (MPs) supporting the bill are part of the opposition, including the speaker, who brought together the lawmakers and the homophobic group, the National Coalition for Proper Sexual Human Rights and Family Values. To promote the bill, they are using disinformation and lies, including incorrect HIV data stating that eight out of 10 HIV/AIDS cases are of LGBTQI+ people.

    We asked the Ghana AIDS Commission to speak out and release a statement against misinformation stigmatising people living with HIV/AIDS, but they declined out of fear. We then asked an independent fact checker, Ghana Fact, which confirmed that the claims were false. It was in turn falsely accused of being funded by the LGBTQI+ community.

    If you ask me where all this hate is coming from, I would say it has been imported. The religious texts that are being used to condemn sexual minorities and the current bill are backed by the US far-right movement, and particularly the World Congress of Families, which held a conference in Ghana in 2019. Leading up to the conference, they hosted several key personalities in Ghana, including a former president, the national chief imam and a former speaker of parliament, to ensure that they would encourage homophobia in the ‘background’.

    We believe that the US far-right movement has lost its own fight against equality, diversity and progressive values in the global west, so they have turned to Africa, which they view as fertile ground for their agendas. As early as 2017, we started to notice individuals urging the government to do something against the LGBTQI+ community. They did not seem to have enough resources to succeed, but once they formed an alliance with the World Congress of Families and began receiving funding, resources and technical support, they have been able to propose the worst bill we have ever seen go into our parliament.

    What are the bill’s implications for LGBTQI+ people in Ghana

    The implications of the bill reach even beyond those who identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community and are already being felt, even before it has been passed. Blackmail has become a major issue faced by the LGBTQI+ community. We used to see two or three cases a week, but now we are getting about three per day. We are seeing homophobic people on dating sites and social media pose as gay to lure gay men into their homes, where they subject them to group violence. In one particular case, the victim was blackmailed and threatened with death. If the bill is passed, people like these will have free rein to harm others, because the law will condone their behaviour.

    Ghanaians give much importance to the value of sympathy, but this bill is also going to criminalise the exercise of this value. If an LGBTQI+ person is subjected to violence in public, nobody will come to their rescue because you can be prosecuted for that. The implications are very serious in the area of public health. According to the bill, if you know or suspect that someone is an LGBTQI+ person, you must report them to the police. This applies to nurses and other health workers, which will lead to fewer people seeking health services.

    HIV programmes targeting key populations are run by community-based organisations that are mostly peer-led, and if the bill bans them from operating and bans others from registering, people will not be able to access healthcare, which is a constitutional right, making it much harder to fight HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

    While our constitution prohibits censorship, this bill will ban the publication of LGBTQI+ content, including reports of crimes against the LGBTQI+ community. This also applies to social media. It will take away our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression, as well as our right to dignity and privacy. While the constitution speaks against discrimination of all forms, this bill is going to legalise discrimination against LGBTQI+ people.

    It will also target those who are not queer, including people who use sex toys or cross-dress for comedy, and youth groups and students. Our cultural traditional norms of people of the same gender walking and holding hands and putting our arms across each other’s shoulders are at stake – we sometimes also sit on each other’s laps if there is no space! All these will be outlawed due to being seen as indecent exposure and public show of amorous relations.

    What are the current priorities for Rightify Ghana and other LGBTQI+ organisations in Ghana?

    Our biggest priority is safety. Even before it is passed, we have already started seeing parts of the bill being implemented. For instance, we have seen an increase in arrests of our community members. In one of these cases, the police arrested two people and urged them to give them the names and addresses of other queer people. They were picked up by the police not for committing any crime, but because someone told them that they were queer.

    Each time we hear of people being arrested, activists rush to police stations to get them out. We are paying for our freedom. Although bail in Ghana is free, the police won’t let them go. Under Section 104 of the current Criminal Offences Act, they cannot arrest you just because someone told them you are gay, but they still do. They know they cannot prosecute you, but if you want to recover your freedom fast, they make you pay.

    We are also worried that if the bill is passed, its effects may reach further, into the homes of Ghanaian people across the world. The typical Ghanaian diasporic family upholds in their home the same principles they would in Ghana, so queer Ghanaians in the diaspora may also become victims of parents who don’t want to come back with a lesbian or gay child, and may be excommunicated from the family due to homophobia. Even in the UK, Canada and other western countries, Ghanaian families still attend Ghanaian churches where homophobia is preached. If the bill is passed, this is the law that will rule within their homes, and not that of the countries they live in.

    What are you doing to push back against the bill?

    We are working to take up space, encourage dialogue and start conversations. People have been brainwashed by the homophobic disinformation and genuinely think that queer people are paedophiles and other terrible things. We correct these lies and try to find ways so that people start listening to us and understand that people do not ‘become’ gay due to media influence and they are not ‘recruited’ by some Western power to become gay.

    Some people do not know or believe that the queer community faces human rights violations. When we show them the facts, tell them the names of those who have been beaten, evicted, lost their job, or been suspended from school and make them understand that this could be their family member, they might start listening and shift their stance, even if not to support us, at least to soften their position and listen.

    We are strategising against the bill and building alliances with mainstream organisations that have access to the legislature and the executive. This is not something one organisation can fight. It is a collective struggle. We mapped the legislative arena to identify those MPs we could reach out to, speak with and share information with, because we needed to have progressive MPs debating on our behalf.

    Awareness-raising and engagement are also taking place online. People have reached out to the LGBTQI+ community and offered donations, expertise and contacts so that we could reach out to key personalities who could help. Protests were also coordinated and held outside the country, for instance in Canada, the UK and the USA. Online organising allowed us to hold abroad the in-person protests that for security reasons we could not physically hold here.

    How can international civil society best support the struggle for LGBTQI+ rights in Ghana?

    When people ask us what they can do, we tell them to protest, to create awareness, to let people know what is happening in Ghana and urge their governments to do something about it. If they have worked in Ghana before and have contacts among powerful people in Ghana, they should use them. A consultant who has worked with a ministry can use their contacts there, and a civil society organisation that has worked here can use its networks to support local organisations. They should encourage their own governments to take up any opportunity to raise the human rights implications of the bill with the Ghanaian government. International civil society organisations and the global community should definitely put more pressure on the Ghanaian government. 

    This is a crisis and local organisations and activists were not prepared, so we need a lot of support, particularly technical expertise in the legal arena. It is also key to have allies who can speak on our behalf, so that not all those speaking up against the bill are part of the LGBTQI+ community.

    Another thing that the global community and international civil society can do is support us through funding. Rightify Ghana is currently self-financing its activities and cannot offer the level of support that people need. As soon as the bill was submitted to parliament, evictions of LGBTQI+ people increased alongside arrests, and we saw an increase in the number of people asking for help finding shelter, but unfortunately, our community doesn’t have safe houses.

    People are being evicted not just by their landlords but also by their own families under suspicion of homosexuality, and they are not finding new places to live. We receive a lot of desperate messages from people who are temporarily staying with friends but urgently need a more stable arrangement. Some of these people are under very high risk.

    In one such case, a woman who identifies as lesbian told us she considered leaving the country because a group of boys in her community threatened her with ‘corrective rape’. She lives with her family, and if she tells them about the threat, they will realise that she is a lesbian and will throw her out. Either way, she is in a very dangerous situation, and right now, there is not much that we can do to help her.

    Civic space in Ghana is rated ‘narrowedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Rightify Ghana through itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@RightifyGhana on Twitter. 

     

  • GLOBAL CAMPAIGN: ‘The future of work requires a shift away from a focus on time’

    Hazel GaviganCIVICUS speaks about the proposal for a four-day working week with Hazel Gavigan, Global Campaigns and Activation Officer of 4 Day Week Global.

    4 Day Week Global is a civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for a move towards a four-day working week to improve both workplace productivity and the wellbeing of employees.

    How would the proposed four-day week work, and why do you advocate for it?

    At 4 Day Week Global, it’s our ambition to make a four-day week the new default and reduced working time the new standard. The four-day week that we advocate for is very much a flexible model, not a rigid, ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ and is based on the general principle of the 100:80:100™ model – 100 per cent of the pay, for 80 per cent of the time and, crucially, in exchange for 100 per cent of the productivity or output.

    The disruption to societal and workplace norms by the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the potential for very different models of work, for both workers and employers, and reinforced the need to rethink old, established patterns. We believe the future of work requires a shift away from a focus on time, as this is not an effective way to measure people’s contributions at work. Instead, we need to focus on measuring and rewarding collective outputs.

    The four-day week we are campaigning for has countless cross-society benefits in terms of gender equality, sustainability and general improvements to health and happiness. Where implemented, it allows for better distribution of caring responsibilities, as reduced working time enables men to carry out a greater portion of labour within the home. This, in turn, helps remove barriers to women achieving senior positions in work, taking on leadership roles and pursuing training opportunities.

    Research also suggests that moving to a four-day week will reduce carbon emissions by around a fifth, by cutting back on commuting time and energy use in buildings. In her recent TED talk, one of our research partners, Professor Juliet Schor, also makes the point that when people are time-stressed, they tend to choose faster and more polluting modes of travel and daily life activities. Whereas when we get time rather than money, we tend to have a lower carbon footprint.

    And crucially, with an extra free day in the week, workers report feeling happier and less stressed and are more productive. This alone is an excellent outcome, but it also has a positive impact on businesses. Employers find that productivity is maintained, or in some cases, increased and they also have less costs associated with employee sick leave due to stress and burnout, and recruitment and retraining, as workers are satisfied in their jobs and less likely to leave for elsewhere.

    How are you advocating for the four-day week?

    Previously, we established national campaigns to generate interest and conversation in a country and then built on that to run a pilot programme there. However, the pandemic has turbocharged an organic momentum and now our pilot programme is the main driver of the campaign.

    Up to now, most case studies on the four-day work week were conducted at an individual company level, with a few exceptions, such as Iceland. The purpose of our pilot programmes is to demonstrate that the positive outcomes achieved by individual businesses we’ve observed can be replicated on a much broader scale in a variety of countries and industries.

    If we can prove the positive impact of reduced-hour, productivity-focused working on business outcomes, employee wellbeing and society in general, those results will be the driver of change that will get more and more big corporations and governments interested.

    So currently, the data and evidence our pilots produce is central to our approach in influencing the policy agenda.

    4 Day Week Global is currently running coordinated six-month trials of the four-day working week in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, with numerous others planned in the coming months.

    As part of this, we have developed a package of support for employers who agree to participate in the pilot, which provides those organisations with access to the expertise, tools and resources they need to run a smooth and successful trial.

    We offer a specialised training programme, designed and delivered by companies who already operate a four-day week. Companies receive mentorship and advice from a panel of experts and business leaders from around the world. There are networking opportunities with other companies participating in the trial and participants get access to world-class academic research and expert analysis.

    Leading scholars work with each participating company to define and establish their research baseline and relevant productivity metrics for the trial. The economic, social and ecological impact of the four-day week is also monitored throughout, assessing productivity, employee wellbeing and gender and environmental impacts, both through direct carbon emissions and indirect behavioural changes. Ultimately, the key to success is recognising that time invested in work actually matters less than the results produced.

    We also have hundreds of advocates who volunteer to help grow the movement, offering everything from starting a national campaign for a four-day week in their own country to simply sharing some content on social media. It’s through this network that we can sustain and expand our level of growth, so if anyone reading this article would like to join the cause, they can sign up here.

    How did you win support for the four-day work week trial currently happening in the UK? What do you hope to get out of it?

    There’s a 4 Day Week Campaign in the UK which has been active for a number of years and quite high profile in terms of commissioning research and engaging in debate in the public square. So that definitely played a role in priming the audience and generating interest and support for the trial that recently launched.

    This is also an idea whose time has come and the support seen for the four-day week in the UK is largely down to an exponential growth in the conversation about how we work.

    Business leaders are drawn to this for recruitment and competition purposes in the midst of the ‘great resignation’ – a time when many people are looking to switch jobs. Managers are more open-minded because they were forced to trust their workers during the pandemic and figure out how to measure actual output as opposed to how long employees were spending in the office. And workers now see that a four-day week is possible in a way that they previously didn’t.

    What kind of challenges have you faced?

    The biggest challenge is convincing business leaders that the four-day week can work for them. Many people like the concept but argue that it wouldn’t be possible in their organisation. However, almost all companies that move to a four-day week do three big things: radically shorten and reform meetings, use technology more thoughtfully and mindfully, and redesign the workday to build in distinct periods for focused work, meetings and social time.

    Studies show that the average worker loses between two and three hours each day to useless meetings, poor technology implementation and just plain old distraction. So, the four-day week is actually already here; we just can’t see it because it’s buried underneath these old and thoughtless practices.

    Sometimes when companies do commit to trialling a four-day week, they overthink it in the preparatory phase and try to come up with a solution to every potential problem, which is of course impossible. So, our advice in that situation is to trust your workers to solve issues as they arise. That’s what a trial is all about.

    Are you receiving support from other CSOs?

    Yes, we are. One good example of this is the 4 Day Week Ireland campaign, where a coalition of trade unions, businesses, environmentalists, women’s rights groups, other CSOs, academics and health practitioners all joined forces with 4 Day Week Global to start a national conversation about the widespread benefits of reduced-hour, productivity-focused working.

    The results of this saw widespread media coverage on the issue which, in turn, primed the public for the launch of the Irish four-day week pilot programme, which got underway earlier this year. The coalition was also afforded the opportunity to present to key political stakeholders in an enterprise, trade and employment context, the outcome of which resulted in a government-sponsored research tender seeking to better understand the social, economic and environmental implications of reduced working time.

    We’ve had great success up to this point with the rollout of our international pilot programmes. However, in order to secure widespread change, there are four areas which feed into the overall success of the movement: labour market competition, public demand, collective bargaining and government intervention. All four of these players have different degrees of influence depending on the sector, but we need collaboration from all parties if we’re to see a broad implementation of the shorter working week.

    Get in touch with 4 Day Week Global through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@4dayweek_global on Twitter.

     

  • HAITI: ‘The international community has never addressed the root causes of the crisis’

    NixonBoumbaCIVICUS speaks with Nixon Boumba, a human rights activist and member of Kolektif Jistis Min nan Ayiti (Haiti Justice in Mining Collective), about the political situation in Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Formed in 2012, Haiti Justice in Mining Collective is a movement of Haitian civil society organisations, individuals and partners pushing for transparency and social and environmental justice in the face of growing international interest in Haiti’s mining sector. It educates affected communities on the consequences of mining in five areas: the environment, water, work, agriculture and land.