United Nations

 

  • COP26: ‘The global north must remain accountable and committed to tackle climate change’

    LorenaSosaAs the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) gets underway in Glasgow, UK, CIVICUS continues to interview civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Lorena Sosa, Operations Director at Zero Hour, a youth-led movement creating entry points, training and resources for new young activists and organisers. At Zero Hour, Lorena has supported the work of activists in Jamaica, the Philippines and Singapore, looking to create immediate action and bring attention to the impacts of climate change.

     

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

    Zero Hour is currently committed to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in US policy and filling the gap in climate-organising resources. We have recently accomplished this by organising the virtual End Polluter Welfare Rally, featuring Senator Majority Lead Chuck Schumer and Congressman Ro Khanna, and the People Not Polluters Rally in New York City, and assisting with the organisation of the People vs Fossil Fuels mobilisation in Washington, DC. We are currently working on revising a series of training activities to help our chapters learn how to organise local campaigns unique to their communities.

    A lot of our actions demonstrate our desire to connect and collaborate with others involved in the movement, to uplift one another’s actions because it is hard to get coverage and attention on the actions that we are all organising. It is a beautiful thing to witness when organisers support each other; love and support is really needed to improve the state of the movement and the progress of its demands.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    Backlash to activist work certainly ranges on a case-by-case basis, especially for our international chapters, who face limits on protest and rallying because of government restrictions. Within the USA, the biggest backlash against the work we do is tied to the burnout of working and seeing no action from leaders who have the power to initiate action for our planet’s well-being. Burnout is really common in the youth climate space, especially because so many of us are trying to juggle between our academic, social and organising lives while trying to stay hopeful about the change that is possible.

    In terms of staying well and safe from the impacts of burnout, I’ve learned that the best thing to do is engage with the climate community I’m in; I know I’m not alone in the concerns I have because my fellow friends and organisers and I constantly express our concerns to one another. There is no be-all and end-all remedy to burnout, but I’ve learned that taking time to care for myself and connect with my family and friends back home is incredibly helpful in staying grounded.

    How do you engage with the broader international climate movement?

    Our Global Outreach team and Operations team, which are led by Sohayla Eldeeb and myself, have worked together to shape communications with our international chapters in Jamaica, the Philippines and Singapore. We have held one-on-one office hours with our international chapters to help them work through any conflict in their campaign work and provide support in any way possible.

    In terms of international campaigns, our Partnerships Deputy Director, Lana Weidgenant, is actively involved in international campaigns that bring attention to and foster education and action on food systems transformation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment. Lana served as the Youth Vice Chair of Shifting to Sustainable Consumption Patterns for the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, is a youth leader of the international Act4Food Act4Change campaign that has gathered together the food systems pledges and priorities of over 100,000 young people and allies around the world, and is one of the two youth representatives for the COP26 agriculture negotiations this year.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make progress in tackling climate change?

    I would want to see the global north remain accountable and committed to including US$100 billion for the global south to be able to implement their own climate adaptation and mitigation measures successfully.

    So many of our perspectives at Zero Hour are centred around justice, rather than just equity, because we know that the USA is one of the largest contributors to this crisis. Leaders of the global north, especially stakeholders in the USA, need to end support of the fossil fuel industry and start committing to solutions that prioritise people and not polluters.

    I would love to see all leaders attending COP26 take serious and impactful action to combat and eliminate the effects of climate change. Worsened weather patterns and rising sea levels have already proven that inaction is going to be detrimental to the well-being of our planet and all its inhabitants.

    The recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated sufficient evidence for our leaders to treat climate change as the emergency it is. I am hoping that all the global leaders speaking at the conference take the IPCC report’s statements into great consideration when drafting the conference’s outcomes.

    Civic space in the USA is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Zero Hour through itswebsite and follow@ThisIsZeroHour on Twitter.

     

     

  • COP26: ‘We hope for stricter obligations under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Charles Wanguhu, a social activist and coordinator of the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, a forum in which participating civil society organisations (CSOs) share information, plan and strategise together to conduct joint advocacy, engage with government agencies, companies and the media, and inform and sensitise the public.

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

    The Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas is a not-for-profit members’ organisation working towards a sustainable oil and gas sector in Kenya and just energy transitions. With the discovery of oil in Kenya’s Turkana County, our work includes advocating for policy and legal frameworks that ensure environmental justice and climate considerations in developing Kenya’s oil. We do this through policy and regulation reviews and by building the capacity of local communities to participate effectively in environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) processes to ensure that their environment is safeguarded. 

    We also directly participate in the review of ESIAs, in which we agitate for climate change considerations and environmental protection at the project level. For instance, as Kenya’s Turkana Oil Project is expected to proceed to the production phase, we have participated in the project’s stakeholder consultation forums, where we have raised the need for the project’s ESIA to incorporate climate change impact assessments. We have also been advocating for transparency in the sector through disclosure of petroleum agreements and licences to enable the public to understand the environmental and climate change obligations of oil companies, allowing for increased accountability by the state and these companies.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    Shrinking civic space remains a challenge in our operating environment. Civil society groups face backlash from government when they speak out about topical issues. These restrictions mostly take the form of refusal of permits for protests or for holding meetings related to projects of concern. In some instances, government agencies such as the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Board and Kenya’s revenue authority have been used to target CSOs.

    We also face restrictions from corporate entities, including the deliberate exclusion of CSOs from public participation events. Our members who have expressed concerns or are seen to be vocal about issues related to the extraction of oil and gas resources have found themselves not invited to participate or not allowed to give comments at public hearings.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    We are developing a pan-African just transition programme that will involve working with other regional and international groups to ensure that the global energy transition is just for Africa and is reflective of the impacts of the climate crisis on Africa.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26, and how useful generally do you find such international processes?

    Inclusion of climate change considerations at the project level already has a legal hook in Kenya through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement and Kenya’s Climate Change Act of 2016. The delayed implementation of the Act has been a challenge, but we are aware of various draft regulations on climate change that are currently under review for eventual enactment.

    Regarding just energy transition, we are hoping for stricter obligations complying with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, which acknowledges that diverse countries have different responsibilities and capacities to address cross-border issues such as climate change. This would ensure that Africa is not left behind in the transition, or even worse, that the transition does not happen at Africa’s expense.

    International processes have been useful to the extent that they have partly facilitated the domestication of climate change legal and policy frameworks, but we certainly hope for an increased commitment by states.

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

    We would like to see an increase in the speed of the implementation of climate change legal frameworks and obligations both locally and internationally. Further, we would like to see the developed countries of the global north commit to and meet their pledges on climate finance made under the Paris Agreement. This will come in handy to finance just energy transitions in Africa.

    Civic space inKenyais rated ‘obstructedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas through itswebsite, and follow@KCSPOG and@CharlesWanguhu on Twitter.

     

  • COP26: ‘We hope that at COP26 words will translate into commitments that will change behaviours’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Theophile Hatagekimana, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Environment Awareness Organisation (REAO), a Rwandan civil society organisation that works to create awareness about climate change and environmental issues and to promote sound environmental management policies.

    Theophile Hategekimana

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

    We work on climate change resilience and mitigation with respect for human rights. In recent years we have started collaborating with government efforts to reduce the amount of fuel used for cooking at the household level. We have joined forces with the Rwandan government in this and other initiatives because they are being very proactive in the area of climate change mitigation.

    Within this project, we teach vulnerable people, including young women, poor women, adolescent single mothers, and victims of sexual abuse, how to use improved cooking methods such as stoves instead of firewood, which not only saves trees and reduces their exposure to toxic emissions in their homes, but also saves them a lot of time. We encourage them to allocate the time saved in the process to self-development activities including education and social interaction, as well as to engage in income-generating activities.

    We also plant trees to restore forests and we plant and distribute agroforestry trees, which make the soil more resilient and able to tackle extreme climatic events such as drought and torrential rain, as well as providing food, forage, industrial raw materials, lumber, fuel, and mulch, helping diversify diets and income. One of our projects focuses on purchasing seeds and planting them in schools, within the framework of a programme that includes ecological literacy, the demonstration of environmental principles by developing green practices on a day-to-day basis, and the development of environmental ethics.

    Though it might seem that we work only on environment protection, we are in fact very concerned with the human rights dimension of environmental protection, so we oppose the practice of displacing people without proper compensation. We raise awareness among the public about their rights as provided in law and support them to claim them when necessary. A case in point is that of the Batwa Indigenous people who are often expelled from their land, so we provide them the tools so that they will know their rights as provided in international and Rwandan law.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    Many activists, including myself, maintain personal connections with international organisations and peers around the world. But also at the organisational level, we try to connect with other groups that have a similar mission to ours and take part in climate and environmental networks and coalitions. REAO is a member of the Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network, a national association of environment defenders’ organisations. At the international level, we network with other organisations that work on climate change protection and mitigation, and we have worked in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United Nations Development Programme, among others.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26 to make any progress in climate change mitigation?

    We welcome all international efforts aimed at making coordinated decisions to protect the environment and improve the wellbeing of communities, and we are hopeful that COP26 will result in the adoption of concrete measures to address climate change and environmental degradation. At the discursive level, of course, all that national leaders say on the global stage is exactly what we want to hear; none of it goes against our mission, vision and values. We hope that at COP26 those words will translate into commitments that will result in positive change in their countries’ behaviour on climate issues.

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

    On the global level, we want to see action by the countries that are the biggest polluters aimed at reducing it substantially. Countries like China, India, the USA and others should take clear decisions and act on climate change issues or we will all face the consequences of their inaction. We hope that big polluters will pay for climate solutions and the bill will be settled.

    At the local level, we hope to see the living conditions of less advantaged communities improve and adapt to climate change with the support of government policies and funding.

    Civic space inRwandais rated asrepressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Rwanda Environment Awareness Organisation through itswebsite andFacebook page. 

     

  • COP26: ‘We need a power shift to communities, especially to women, in managing climate resources’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Nyang'ori Ohenjo, Chief Executive Officer at Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), a Kenyan civil society organisation that advocates for the recognition of minorities and Indigenous peoples in political, legal and social processes and works to empower communities to obtain sustainable livelihoods.

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

    We focus on the worsening effects of climate change, especially on the most vulnerable, such as Indigenous peoples. Despite a myriad of climate programmes, Kenya is not achieving the desired goals. For instance, increased droughts are currently being experienced in the north of the country, with the usual dire consequences, and the president has already declared this year’s drought a national disaster.

    The overarching challenge is that policy frameworks do not connect with the agenda of Indigenous communities, including pastoralists, forest dwellers and fisher communities, which leaves them and their mainstay economic systems vulnerable and does not bring solutions that enhance their resilience. Programmes and policies often ignore cultural elements.

    Pastoralists, for instance, diversify herds in sex, age and species to spread risks and maximise available pastures. Herd size is balanced against family size, and herd composition is aimed at responding to family needs. Herds are sometimes split as a coping strategy, particularly in times of drought, and to allow an innovative use of available resources. Through mutual support systems, pastoralists take care of each other so they can recover quickly from disaster. Each pastoralist group has a different way of supporting its members, including by finding various ways of earning cash and diversifying livelihoods. However, food aid and handouts have become the policy norm in times of crisis such as the current drought, which makes no economic sense for anyone, least of all the pastoralists.

    Fifty years of a food aid-approach has not provided a sustainable solution, hence the need for a serious policy shift from disaster response, which is reactive, to preparedness, which is proactive. This means putting basic resources in place before crisis hits, including cash if necessary, to get communities through tough times while focusing on long-term investment and development to build communities’ resilience to absorb future shocks.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    We engage through various partnerships with numerous global civil society networks, notably CIVICUS, and Kenyan development organisations, grassroots organisations and groups demanding climate action, as well as with academic institutions, United Nations’ agencies and regional and international human rights institutions. The main objective of these engagements is to ensure that the voices of the Indigenous communities of Kenya are heard within the climate change movement and able to influence the international conversations.

    The participation of Indigenous peoples in the international climate movement, and Indigenous peoples being part of a conversation that, in a gender-responsive manner, recognises their rights and values their traditional knowledge as well as their innovative practices for climate resilience, are critical in designing and implementing responsive climate policy and action.

    At the national level, through the Climate Change Directorate, a department of the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Climate Smart Agriculture Multistakeholder Platform, CEMIRIDE has taken part in the process of shaping the Kenyan government’s position towards COP26 and within the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP).

    How are Indigenous communities engaging with the Kenyan government?

    The Ending Drought Emergencies initiative, which ends in 2022, showed success in climate policy development but made little progress in addressing the problem of drought. There is also the National Climate Change Action Plan (2018-2022), which provides for effective engagement and inclusion of marginalised Indigenous communities, but again, has resulted in very little progress in actually ensuring the structured engagement and involvement of these communities in the implementation and monitoring of the National Action Plan.

    The government is also implementing the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project, of which climate mitigation is a key component. Its implementation, however, also lacks structured engagement with Indigenous communities, who therefore have very minimal presence and input into its design and rollout.

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

    International processes like COP26 are important for creating visibility for Indigenous peoples in climate change conversations. While it took a long time for governments, especially in Africa, to recognise the role and need for the voice of Indigenous peoples at the international climate change decision-making table, it is now appreciated that Indigenous peoples can actually influence the direction of these processes. Specifically, the LCIPP was established to promote the exchange of experiences and best practices, build capacity for stakeholder engagement in all process related to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and harness the power of diverse knowledge systems and innovations in designing and implementing climate policy and action.

    CEMIRIDE hopes that the voices of Indigenous peoples will take centre stage and that governments will commit to local solutions that they can be held accountable for rather than make broad global promises that are never fulfilled and they can never be held accountable for. We especially hope that governments will commit to supporting and facilitating the operationalisation of an Indigenous communities’ national engagement framework on climate change actions.

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

    We wish to see a real power shift to communities, and especially to women, in managing climate resources. Indigenous peoples are a unique constituency not only because of the impacts that climate change is having on them but also because of the role they play in ensuring the success of intervention measures and because of the perspectives and experiences they bring on board through their Indigenous and local knowledge. No one knows their community better than the people who live in it and depend on its resources.

    Marginalised Indigenous communities have long developed distinct knowledge and expertise to preserve and conserve the natural environments from which they obtain their livelihoods, and around which have developed their social, cultural, and religious systems and structures. Their direct management of climate resources, therefore, will enable them to positively influence the development, revision, adoption, and implementation of policy and regulations addressing climate change, with a specific emphasis on improving their resilience to climate change impacts.

    Civic space inKenyais rated ‘obstructedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Centre for Minority Rights Development through itswebsite, and follow@CEMIRIDE_KE on Twitter. 

     

  • COP27: ‘Climate justice requires debt cancellation, reparations and non-debt climate finance for small island developing states’

    Tariq Al OlaimyCIVICUS speaks with Bahraini social entrepreneur Tariq Al-Olaimy about the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change.

    Tariq is Managing Director of 3BL Associates, an ecosystem of social and planetary enterprises working towards regenerative, inclusive and wellbeing-centred economies.

    What was the purpose of the Greenpeace United for Climate Justice ship tour you recently took part in?

    Greenpeace is sailing throughout Egypt together with climate leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to put climate justice high on the agenda in the lead-up to COP27, which will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The ship tour is a platform for climate leaders living in some of the world’s most affected regions to promote systemic change around climate adaptation, justice, access to energy and response to the loss and damage associated with the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. They are representing the voices of people from across the region, focusing on both climate impacts and the many solutions already at hand.

    It's important to spread these leaders’ messages around the world and to make sure their voices are not forgotten during COP27, especially in highlighting the need for climate justice for the global south. For these leaders, this is a collective fight for justice for their countries and communities.

    Young people from the across the global south in particular are among the most affected and most marginalised, but also among the most powerful voices. They are not victims, but collectives of solidarity and hope working for a brighter future for all.

    What issues should be prioritised at COP27? 

    COP27 must raise the call of climate justice for the most vulnerable, and also the least responsible for climate change: the people in Africa, in the South-west Asia and North Africa region, and on small islands, among others.

    I am from Bahrain, which makes me one of 65 million people who live in small island developing states, representing roughly one per cent of the world’s population. Climate justice, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage strategies require consistent and regular resources. Small islands typically lack those resources and, being particularly vulnerable to extreme climate events, often face reconstruction costs that lead to more borrowing and debt, which in turn increases their vulnerability.

    All small island states together only received US$1.5 billion in climate finance between 2016 and 2020. In the same period, 22 small island developing states paid more than US$26 billion to their external creditors – almost 18 times as much. Climate justice requires debt cancellation, reparations and non-debt climate finance for small island developing states.

    COP 27 is framed as an ‘implementation COP’, and the climate finance gap and unequal distribution of finance between countries are critical barriers to implementation.

    Are you hopeful meaningful commitments will be made at COP27?

    The window of opportunity to act is closing. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s6th Assessment Report offers an even clearer picture of the remaining carbon budget available to stay within a 1.5°C temperature rise and therefore avoid the worst impacts of climate change. While enhanced mitigation ambition is critical, the urgency of implementation is a key concern. Taking into account the pledges fully implemented as of 31 December 2021, total greenhouse gas emission levels are still projected to be 10 per cent higher than 2012 levels.

    To truly scale mitigation ambition, it is important that governments don’t just negotiate the text and numbers of pledges but negotiate the very system within which we implement climate action. We need degrowth of the most ecologically harmful sectors of our economy, a global and just transition and transformation towards a post-growth economy.

    In a context characterised by short-term political calculations we are completely missing the need for urgent and radical change. I do not expect COP27 to address all this. But there are still some issues that could be meaningfully advanced – in particular, the establishment of the basis for the operationalisation of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility, the details of which could be finalised at COP28 next year.

    This is an issue of climate justice towards the many countries in the global south that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change yet have done little to contribute to the crisis. At the same time, these countries do not have the financial or technological capacity to address these impacts, adapt and pursue a post-extractivist and low-carbon transition. Loss and damage financing can force a rethink around financial commitments and contributions, and pressure for both debt and tax reform as well as renewed financial commitments for mitigation and adaptation.

    How concerned are you about the conditions for civil society participation at a COP held in a country with highly restricted civil space?

    Civil society participation is always a critical concern at COPs. It’s clear that we can’t have a green and peaceful future without justice, equity, civil rights and empowered communities. That includes the full inclusion of independent civil society as a key stakeholder in climate negotiations. This is why business and civil society organisations have stressed the crucial importance of a rights-based approach to climate action.

    As the world transitions toward net zero, protecting the human rights of civil society, workers and communities is key to achieving a just transition. There is significant danger of pledges being made to close the emissions gap while irresponsible implementation strips the rights of civil society. Green transitions in rich countries and ‘green growth’ require significant mineral resources, supplied from the global south, so there is a risk of a neo-colonial mineral rush and a regression of labour rights. It is essential to develop norms, standards and safeguards so that the transition strategies implemented by governments and businesses comply with international human rights and labour standards.

    In the context of the COP, this starts with the United Nations taking a much stronger stance regarding the enabling of safe, inclusive and meaningful civil society participation throughout the negotiation process. The COP agenda is largely dominated by global north governments and interests, and civil society perspectives, especially those from the global south, need to find their way into the mix, bringing forward alternative pathways, experience and knowledge.


     Get in touch with the 3BL Associates through itswebsite and follow@tariqal on Twitter.

     

  • COP27: ‘The participation of civil society is important because it represents the voices of communities’

    Chibeze EzekielCIVICUS speaks about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 climate change summit with Chibeze Ezekiel, coordinator of the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND).

    SYND is a civil society organisation (CSO) that promotes youth participation and advocacy for environmental sustainability in Ghana.

    What are the environmental issues that you work on?

    SYND works for environmental sustainability by promoting youth participation in policymaking and project implementation. We focus on four thematic areas: climate change, biodiversity, forests and energy. In May 2019, with support from the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, we established the Youth in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance platform. It is a platform for young people to share and exchange learning on their respective actions and help them embark on joint, coordinated campaigns.

    To help build capacity so that young people can better advocate for environmental sustainability and help the government fulfil its climate obligations, we have also developedcapacity building projects. As part of our efforts to empower students to become climate activists and environmentalists, we have also worked with schools. For instance, through our Children for Climate (#C4C) Action campaign we are empowering children to become climate champions. And we publishreports that highlight our activities and their impacts in the communities we work in.

    Have you faced any restrictions when conducting your work?

    Fortunately, we have not faced any restrictions working in Ghana. We believe that this might be because of our approach. We confront the government and question public officials on their policies, but we do it in a manner that will not jeopardise the work relationship we have built or put ourselves in harm’s way. This has worked for us, because our work relationship not only with the government but also the private sector has strengthened over the years, which has helped us continue doing our work.

    How do you connect with the global climate movement?

    We work in connection with similar organisations in other African countries as well as with international organisations advocating for environmental rights. In the African region, some of the organisations we work with include theAfrican Youth Initiative on Climate Change,350 Africa,African Climate Reality Project and thePan African Climate Justice Alliance. We are also the West Africa Regional Node forACCESS Coalition, a global network with about 70 members advocating for people living in poverty to have access to safe, reliable and affordable energy, and for environmentally sustainable and efficient energy systems globally.

    Working with all these organisations has allowed us to transcend the local level and connect to the global. To contribute to this global work, we produce position papers and give input on policies, among other things.

    What issues would you like to see addressed at COP27?

    Over the years global leaders have made pledges and promises but they have not fulfilled them. We hope at this year’s COP more serious commitments will be brought forward. Global leaders shouldn’t be making promises they won’t keep and should instead get to work.

    Climate finance is still an outstanding issue. There should be a clear understanding of how the mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change will be rolled out. Global leaders must provide communities with resources to adapt to climate change and assist them with mitigation plans. All of this will only be possible if adequate climate finance is provided.

    Another priority is loss and damage. We are aware that vulnerable people and those living in underdeveloped communities are the ones suffering the most as a result of climate change. Many people have lost their homes, land and source of livelihood, and it is only fair they are compensated for the irreparable damage caused to them.

    A few weeks back we travelled around Ghana to analyse how climate change has affected communities and what demands people had for the government. We conducted interviews and asked people about the situations they are going through and the solutions they would like to see implemented. We plan to present our video documentary at COP27 to show world leaders the real situation on the ground. This will give a clearer picture of what we mean by loss and damage, and hopefully put pressure for urgent action.

    Energy transition, away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, is also an issue we expect to see discussed. Especially since there are industrialising ambitions in Africa, it will be interesting to see how leaders plan to make energy available and affordable during this transition. Africa has plenty of resources such as wind, solar and hydro, but its progress towards renewable energies has been very slow. According to theInternational Renewable Energy Agency, only two per cent of global investment in renewable energies is invested in Africa, and only three per cent of jobs in the continent are in the sector. We want to know how global leaders plan to use their resources to help Africa with its energy transition.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks important?

    The participation of civil society in COPs is important because it represents the voices of communities and is best placed to articulate people’s concerns and propose polices that will improve the lives of citizens. CSOs are also accountable to their communities, so when we attend global conferences such as COPs, we all go back to our respective countries to provide feedback and confront decisions made at the global level with the realities that people continue to live in. This pushes us to continue with our advocacy work. We continue carrying out engagement activities at the local, regional and international levels, holding our leaders accountable to their commitments and supporting their work to implement the policies agreed in global forums.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    Because of the role we play, there is a space for CSOs to participate in COPs, although improvements in access could certainly be made. It is, however, unfortunate that CSOs only have observer status and cannot take part in negotiations. If they were offered an opportunity to interact with negotiators, they would get a better chance to convey their priorities and share their ideas.

    COP27 in particular is tricky because it’s taking place in a closed civic space environment. But that is what the situation is in Egypt. More could have been done to offer a conducive environment for civil society, but we will have to work with what we are presented with. I believe there is still some room to have a discussion with the Egyptian authorities so they allow some form of demonstration and civil society can make the voices of people heard. The government should allow its citizens to participate without any restriction because their views are also important.


    Civic space in Ghana is rated ‘narrowed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Strategic Youth Network for Development through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@SYNDGhana and@chibeze1 on Twitter.

     

  • COP27: ‘We doubt that we will be able to mobilise as we did around COP26’

    CIVICUS speaks with Sohanur Rahman, Executive Coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice, about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change. YouthNet for Climate Justice is a global platform of youth-led organisations of the global south that aims to promote climate action among young people.

    SohanurRahman.jpg

     

    What environmental issues do you work on?

    YouthNet focuses on climate justice, the new human rights frontier. We want to hold global leaders accountable for the climate crisis we are currently in. We work on climate justice because we understand that young people, people from the global south and Indigenous people are bearing a disproportionate share of the consequences of the climate crisis, while not being responsible for what is going on.

    Climate change must be addressed through an intersectional and intergenerational lens because vulnerable groups are the ones experiencing its worst consequences. The climate crisis is rooted in capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy. This makes the struggle for climate justice inseparable from the struggle for human rights.

    We are now specifically working on the issue of loss and damage. We want world leaders to support adaptation and financing for loss and damage and provide funding facilities to help developing countries deal with the climate crisis.

    What issues would you like to see addressed at COP27?

    COP26 failed young people and vulnerable communities. It made clear to us that global leaders are not treating climate change as the global emergency it is. But sadly, we are currently facing one environmental catastrophe after the other. Most recently, there were massive floods in Pakistan and floods and a cyclone in Bangladesh. What else needs to happen so leaders realise we need urgent solutions to these problems?

    The COP26 presidency asked state parties to submit new climate plans and nationally determined contributions (NDCs), because the previously submitted ones were not ambitious enough, and would not reduce emissions to the extent needed to stay within the 1.5°C targets. However, Only 23 of the nearly 200 countries that signed the Glasgow Climate Pact have submitted enhanced NDCs. Rather than strengthening headline targets, most of these offered more policy detail. We need commitment from all parties involved to ensure that the climate crisis is addressed effectively.

    We can see the progress achieved in previous COPs is very limited. In the run-up to COP27, our major priority is loss and damage financing. Before we can pursue adaptation, we have to support communities with loss and damage. We are not asking developed countries for charity or debt, but for reparations for their historical responsibility in this climate crisis.

    In 2019, developed countries pledged US$100 billion towards adaptation and mitigation but they are not disbursing this. Everything at this point is theoretical – no practical mechanism has been put in place to ensure the money is paid up. And when the funds finally come, we would like to see a 50/50 split between adaptation and mitigation, because both require equal efforts. Finally, we would like to see the financing of locally led adaptation addressed at COP27. Communities should be given a platform to develop and implement solutions that will work for them, rather than implementing universal strategies that don’t fit everybody.

    This COP should be one where the focus shifts to implementation. We no longer want to hear promises that will remain unfulfilled. We want action towards solving our problems.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks so important?

    Civil society participation in COPs, and specifically the participation of young people, is important because they are there to hold leaders accountable. The global community is making empty promises and commitments and not taking action. Civil society’s mission is to hold governments and companies accountable, including by making polluters pay for the loss and damage they are causing to people and the environment.

    Because the current systems are failing, civil society must advocate for systemic change. To achieve such transformative change, we must be united. Those joining COP27 should use the platform to advocate for change; those observing from home countries should mobilise in their own countries to highlight the crisis we are in. We must all put pressure on decision-makers to deliver on their promises. COP27 will only bring a breakthrough if civil society is allowed to participate without any restrictions and a decision is made to start paying out climate reparations.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    We are very frightened about the situation in Egypt. The government of Egypt should release all arrested activists before COP27 takes place. Without our participation, it will be just more greenwash. And we cannot archive climate justice if human rights are ignored. The global community should stand up and speak against what Egyptian environmental activists are going through.

    COP26 was labelled as ‘inclusive’, but it was very exclusive. The pandemic came on top of persistent systemic barriers, notably the lack of resources that excludes many young people. World leaders negotiated on issues affecting us, but they did not include us at discussion tables. Unfortunately, the situation for civil society participation at COP27 will be even worse.

    The government of Egypt does not respect or support human rights defenders. This was clear in the multiple arrests of activists that have taken place over the past few months. Civil society can expect to experience several barriers during the conference, and LGBTQI+ activists have expressed their concerns regarding their safety while in the country. We fear that our presence, digital footprint and communications will be monitored. We doubt that we will be able to mobilise as we did around COP26 in Glasgow where we held a climate strike.

    Even though labelled ‘the African COP’, COP27 doesn’t truly represent African people. Many young African activists are still struggling to get accreditation and sponsorship. Rising hotel prices will affect the participation of people from less developed countries. There will be limited participation of young activists, Indigenous people and organisations from the global south. This event was never meant to be inclusive at all. The most affected people will be excluded. This raises the alarm that, instead of addressing the real issues people are dealing with, it may turn into a greenwashing event.


    Get in touch with YouthNet for Climate Justice through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@YouthNet4CC and@SohanBMYP on Twitter.

     

  • COP27: ‘We shouldn’t even be discussing why civil society needs to have a seat in climate talks’

    Ayisha SCIVICUS speaks about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 summit with Polluters Out co-founder Ayisha Siddiqa.

    Polluters Out is a global coalition founded in 2020 in reaction to the negative experience of COP25, when young and Indigenous activists were removed from the venue. Its aim is to put pressure on world leaders to adopt policies to fight climate injustice and hold them accountable.

    What key environmental issues should be addressed by the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change?

    A key issue is loss and damage finance. I would like to see COP27 mobilising theSantiago Network on Loss and Damage, a multi-stakeholder coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and governments launched at COP25 in 2019 to facilitate and support the efforts of global south countries to address loss and damages associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.

    A large number of those are affected by climate change are Indigenous people and people in the global south, who contribute proportionally little to environmental problems. Global north countries should use their resources to help those that have been put in these unfortunate circumstances. They should pay up the US$100 billion they committed to at COP26 so global south countries can develop and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as early warning mechanisms to help people get life-saving information in time.

    We also need to start thinking about taxing the money corporations make by exploiting emergency situations such as wars, natural disasters and economic fluctuations and channel those funds towards climate financing.

    My work currently focuses on raising awareness about the issue of tax havens. Governments have pledged a lot of climate financing but most of that money comes from taxes. Estimates show that every year around US$600 billion – six times the current climate finance target – are lost because corporations and high-net-worth individuals are using tax havens to escape their responsibilities to give back to the communities that make their profits possible. They should instead be made pay their share, and the additional funds should be used to help communities affected by changing climatic conditions.

    Have you faced any restrictions as a result of your work?

    Prior to working on climate finance, I worked on fossil fuel de-proliferation. According to a report by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coal, oil and gas account for 86 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. This means governments should adopt strategies to phase out fossil fuels and adopt clean energies. But this would affect very powerful interests. Due to my work on this issue, I have faced challenges both in my home country, Pakistan, and abroad.

    I also advocate for a UN conflict-of-interest policy so that COP hosts cannot take money from the fossil fuel industry when organising the summit and lobbyists cannot influence COP outcomes. So far, every single COP has been sponsored by the very same people causing the climate crisis. As a result, the outcomes of these events have been diluted and have failed to address the key issues.

    For this work I have faced multiple restrictions traveling. Iam from a tribal community in northern Pakistan where fighting against dams and coal and pipelines puts people’s lives in danger.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks important?

    Having people from the global south and members of Indigenous communities participate in climate talks is very important not just because they are the most affected by climate change but also because they are the main drivers of ambition for climate commitments.

    As civil society, our aim is to advocate for the good of people and the environment and hold those in power accountable. Civil society doesn’t only offer diversity – it also offers the tools, the language and the practical lens to push all of this forward. At the end of the day, every decision made in COPs affects everyone. Our lives are on the line so we should have a say. It is not only our right but also our duty to protect the earth. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t even be discussing why civil society needs to have a seat in climate talks.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    I don’t. COP27 has been labelled as the ‘African COP’ and one would think that African environmental organisations and activists would be given a platform to participate freely and make their voices heard. This was anopportunity for the global south to speak for itself and it would be a shame if that was limited. Many young people have been unable to get accreditation while others don’t have the funding to attend.

    Holding a COP in a country with closed civic space such as Egypt is problematic, and the reality of a restricted civil society cannot be ignored.

    Climate change is an urgent matter that must be addressed with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, who should be able to play their part without any restriction on free speech or the freedom of assembly, among many other indispensable freedoms. But many restrictions have been placed on Egyptian CSOs and activists – even on organisations outside of the country. As a result, there will most likely not be meaningful civil society participation at COP27.

    The situation we are now in is the responsibility of both the UN and the African governments that nominated Egypt to host COP27. They have let COP become an obstacle to climate justice so states who bid to host the COP make money from tourism and get media attention without caring the least about the crisis at hand and the policies needed to tackle it.

    The process leading to COPs is very opaque: for instance, we don’t know who the official sponsors are until the COP president announces them. And when civil society shows up with all of the hard work it has done, it can easily be erased with one vote from one state party.


    Get in touch with Polluters Out through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@Ayishas12 and@pollutersout on Twitter.

     

     

  • Côte d'Ivoire: des activistes sont arrêtés, et des préoccupations existent en amont des élections de 2020

    Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies
    Déclaration orale: Adoption du rapport EPU de la République de Côte d’Ivoire

    Mr le Président, CIVICUS accueille l’engagement pris par le gouvernement de la Côte d’Ivoire dans le processus de l’EPU. Nous saluons également des avances dans l'environnement pour les OSC et les DDH depuis la fin du conflit qui a englouti le pays de 1999 à 2011, notamment l’adoption, en février 2017, du décret d’application de la Loi pour la promotion et la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’homme.

    Cependant, dans notre soumission conjointe à l'EPU, nous avons documenté que, depuis son dernier examen, le gouvernement de Côte d’Ivoire n’a pas mis en œuvre la plupart des recommandations relatives à l‘espace civique.

    Un an avant les élections présidentielle d’octobre 2020, il y a des préoccupations sur une intolérance croissante à l'égard des voix dissidentes, notamment des menaces, des attaques et des arrestations arbitraires des activistes de la société civile, blogueurs et syndicalistes. Le 23 juillet 2019, six membres de la coalition de la société civile "Les Indignés" ont été arrêtés arbitrairement devant les locaux de la commission électorale alors qu'ils se rendaient à une réunion à la suite du report d'un rassemblement pacifique. Aristide Ozoukou de la Coordination des élèves et des étudiants de Côte d’Ivoire (COEE CI) a été arrêté le 9 février 2019 après avoir publié un message sur Facebook invitant les étudiants à rester chez eux à la suite d’une grève des enseignants. Le blogueur et activiste en ligne Soro Tangboho a été condamné, en appel, à deux ans de prison pour «troubles à l’ordre public» et «incitation à la xénophobie». Selon l'activiste, il aurait été arrêté le 8 novembre 2018 alors qu'il diffusait une vidéo, en direct sur Facebook, des policiers en train d’exhorter des automobilistes.

    En plus, le droit à la liberté de la réunion pacifique a été parfois refusé, en particulier à l'opposition politique. Par exemple, une manifestation de l'opposition prévue le 5 août 2019 dans la ville de Sanguoine a été interdite par les autorités locales. En avril 2018, 18 manifestants ont été condamnés à 12 jours de prison et à une amende pour ‘trouble à l'ordre public’ pour avoir participé à une manifestation de l'opposition le 22 mars afin d'exiger la réforme de la Commission électorale indépendante.

    Nous appelons le gouvernement à mener une enquête indépendante sur toutes les violations commises contre des journalistes, des défenseurs des droits de l'homme et des syndicalistes, et à traduire les auteurs de tels actes en justice, y compris pour les cambriolages aux bureaux des organisations des droits humains. CIVICUS reste également préoccupé par le coût élevé d’environ $US 10  pour l’obtention de Carte nationale d’Identité exigée pour l’enrôlement sur les listes électorales.

    Monsieur le Président CIVICUS invite le gouvernement de Côte d’Ivoire à prendre des mesures proactives pour répondre à ces préoccupations et à mettre en œuvre les recommandations visant à créer et à maintenir, en droit et en pratique, un environnement favorable pour la société civile.

     

  • Côte d’Ivoire: Activists being arrested and concerns ahead of 2020 elections

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement during Adoption of the UPR report of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

    Mr President, CIVICUS welcomes the government of Côte d’Ivoire’s engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome improvements in the environment for CSOs and HRDs since the end of the conflict that engulfed the country from 1999 to 2011, in particular the adoption, in February 2017, of the Decree implementing the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

    However, in our joint UPR submission, we documented that, since its last review, the government of Côte d’Ivoire has not implemented most of the recommendations on civic space.

    One year before the presidential elections in October 2020, there are concerns of increasing intolerance towards dissenting voices, in particular threats, attacks and arbitrary arrests of civil society activists, bloggers and trade unionists. On 23 July 2019, six members of civil society coalition ‘Les Indignés’ were arbitrarily arrested in front of the offices of the Electoral Commission. Aristide Ozoukou of the Coordination of Students of Côte d’Ivoire was arrested on 9 February 2019 after making a Facebook post in which he called for students to stay at home following a strike of teachers. Online activist Soro Tangboho was sentenced, in appeal, to a prison sentence of two years for « disturbing public order » and « incitement to xenophobia ».According to the activist, he was arrested on 8 November 2018 while livestreaming a video on Facebook of police officers racketeering car drivers.

    Additionally, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has at times been denied, particularly to the political opposition. An opposition protest, planned for 5 August 2019 in Sanguoine was banned by local authorities. In April 2018, 18 protesters were sentenced to 12 days in prison and a fine for ‘disturbance of public order’ for participating in an opposition protest, calling for a reform of the Independent Electoral Commission.

    CIVICUS remains concerned about the high fee of 10 USD for citizens to obtain a National ID Card, which is required for enrolment on the electoral list. 

    We call upon the government to conduct independent investigations for all violations committed against journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and wider civil society, including break-ins into the offices of human rights organisations, and to bring perpetrators to justice. 

    Mr President, CIVICUS invites the Government of Côte d’Ivoire 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.

     

  • Countries of concern at the Human Rights Council

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Countries of concern

    Civic space restrictions often precede wider human rights abuses. In order to prevent further repression, we would like to draw the Council’s attention to the following:

    Last year, several civil society organisations raised Tanzania’s worrying decline in respect for fundamental freedoms. Now, sweeping new legislation, rushed through its parliament in June, places new punitive restrictions on CSOs in the country. As the situation deteriorates further, the time left for the Council to take preventative action is running out.

    In Honduras, the government’s violent response to peaceful protests have left at least three dead, including a 17-year-old student, and many more injured. Honduras has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for human rights defenders facing constant violence, criminalization, and slander. 

    The past 40 days have seen severe restrictions to fundamental rights in Kashmir. Sweeping internet blackouts have had serious implications on freedom of expression and access to information. There have been reports of restrictions on movement and numerous ongoing arrests, including of activists, and we call on the Council to establish an independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations.

    We are concerned that elections in Kazakhstan were marred by serious restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly and of expression. Crackdowns on protests related to the elections, and persecution of journalists, marked yet another regressive measure to silence dissent in Kazakhstan.

    Finally, CIVICUS remains deeply concerned about the situation in Saudi Arabia. At the last Council Session, we joined other CSOs to call for a monitoring mechanism in Saudi Arabia. No action has been taken, women human rights defenders remain detained, the space for participation remains virtually non-existent, and investigations into the killing of Jamal Kashoggi remained shrouded in lack of transparency. It is past time for the Council to take action on Saudi Arabia and we reiterate calls on the Council to address human rights violations with the utmost urgency.

     

  • Country recommendations for UN Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years.  CIVICUS  and partners make UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Australia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, and Rwanda

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 37th UPR session (January 2021). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    AustraliaThis submission raises alarm over the increasing criminalisation of climate and environmental movements and defenders, including Indigenous peoples, scientists, student strikers and environmental organisations, in the wake of Australia’s recent bushfires. It further discusses the unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to an increase in police raids on independent media outlets. Moreover, its expresses concern over recent attempts to silence whistle-blowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act.

    Lebanon In its submission CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, International Media Support (IMS), Social Media Exchange (SMEX) examine how the  government has persistently failed to address the brutal and violent dispersal of peaceful protests, the arrest and prosecution of journalists and protesters and restrictions on the activities of CSOs advocating for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. It also discusses legal and extra-legal restrictions on the freedom of association and, in particular, the systematic targeting of associations and activities by the LGBTQI+ community. Moreover, it assesses the continued deterioration of the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the increase in judicial proceedings against media outlets critical of the authorities, threats to digital rights, raids and attacks by security forces and sometimes by members of the public on media outlets.

    Mauritania (FR) CIVICUS and Réseau Ouest-Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/ West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH / WAHRDN) demonstrates that since its last review, the Government of Mauritania has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space. Instead, civic space in Mauritania remains repressed, and civil society actors, especially those working on anti-slavery campaigns and seeking to end racial and ethnic discrimination are frequently targeted and intimidated by the state. Civil society actors face legal and practical barriers to exercising their rights to association and peacefully assembly, which is hampered by the 1964 Law on Associations and Law No. 73-008 on Public Assemblies.

    Myanmar The submission by CIVICUS, Free Expression Myanmar and Asia Democracy Network highlights the use of an array of unwarrantedly restrictive laws to arrest and prosecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists and government critics for the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of association and expression. It also documents the restrictions on peaceful protests in law and practice, the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of protesters and the use of excessive force and firearms to disperse protests against government policies and land disputes with businesses.

    NepalCIVICUS and Freedom Forum examine howrepressive laws, including amendments made to Nepal’s criminal code, have been used to limit the work of independent CSOs and suppress the freedom of expression. The submission further discusses how the ongoing attacks against journalists and the suppression of peaceful assembly continues to undermine civil space in the country. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in this submission demonstrate that the Government of Nepal has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space during its previous UPR examination.

    OmanThe Omani Association for Human Rights, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and CIVICUS highlight the closure of civic space in Oman and the use of restrictive legislation to target human rights defenders, journalists and writers and civil society organisations.  We outline concerns over the forced closure of human rights organisations, the shutting down of independent newspapers and the banning of books and other publications.  Human rights defenders and journalists are often subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution for their reporting and human rights activities. Due to these restrictions, several human rights defenders and their families have fled into exile.  Freedom of peaceful assembly is also severely restricted as provisions in the Penal Code are used to pre-empt and prevent protests and stop those that actually take place. 

    RwandaThe submission byCIVICUS and DefendDefenders (EHAHRDP) outlines serious concerns related to the unabated repression of the work of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists. The submission explores how restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and access to information have been codified and willfully misapplied under Law No. 68/2018  (on assembly), Law N0 04/12 (on association and activities of CSOs), and the Law on Prevention and Punishment of Cybercrimes (expression and access to information). The Submission makes a number of action-oriented recommendations in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Rwandan Constitution, the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6, 27/5 and 27/31. 

    See all of our UPR submissions here.


    Country civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor: 

    AustraliaLebanon, MauritaniaMyanmar, NepalOman, Rwanda

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for the UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 30th UPR session (May 2018). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations. Countries examined include: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan:

    Bangladesh (Individual/Joint): In this UPR, CIVICUS draws attention to a range of legislative restrictions which have been strengthened and imposed to curtail the operation of independent civic groups in Bangladesh. Of particular concern, are new restrictions on groups seeking funds from abroad, as well the repeated use of the penal code to arrest HRDs and place blanket bans on meetings and assemblies. We further examine the spate of extrajudicial killings against secular bloggers and LGBTI activists which is illustrative of Bangladesh’s downward spiral with respect to civic freedoms and systemic failure to protect civil society.

    Burkina Faso (EN/FR): CIVICUS, the Burkinabé Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and the West African Human Right Defenders Network examine unwarranted limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. Despite several positive developments since the popular uprising of 2014, such as the decriminalisation of defamation and the adoption of a law on the protection of human right defenders, restrictions on the freedom of expression including suspensions of media outlets by the national media regulator and attacks and threats against journalists continue.

    Cameroon: CIVICUS, Réseau des Défenseurs Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) and the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) highlight Cameroon’s fulfilment of the right to association, assembly and expression and unwarranted persecution of human rights defenders since its previous UPR examination.  We assess the ongoing judicial persecution and detention of human rights defenders on trumped up charges, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.  

    Colombia(EN/SP): CIVICUS highlights the hostile environment for human rights defenders, social leaders and unions workers who are routinely subject to physical attacks, targeted assassinations, harassment and intimidation by state and non-state actors. CIVICUS examines the increased number of attacks against journalists as well as the government’s lack of effective implementation of protection mechanisms to safeguard the work of journalists and human rights defenders.

    Cuba (EN/SP): CIVICUS and the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) highlight the constitutional, legal and de facto obstacles to the exercise of the basic freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The submission discusses the situation of CSOs, HRDs, journalists and bloggers, who face harassment, criminalisation, arbitrary arrests, searches of their homes and offices and reprisals for interacting with UN and OAS human rights institutions. The submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled both in the streets and in the media, offline and online. 

    Djibouti (EN/FR): CIVICUS, Defend Defenders and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submission describes how the government of Djibouti has patently ignored the 14 recommendations made during the second UPR cycle related to the protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Instead, in the intervening period, authorities in Djibouti have continued their campaign against dissent, regularly detaining human rights defenders, journalists and trade union activists because of their criticism of the government or human rights activists.  

    Russia: CIVICUS and Citizens’ Watch address concerns regarding the adoption and application of several draconian laws that have resulted in the expulsion and closure of numerous CSOs and restrictions on the activities of countless others. The submission also lays out the increasing criminalisation and persecution of dissenting views by means of growing restrictions, in both law and practice, on the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. 

    Turkmenistan: CIVICUS highlights restrictions to freedom of association in Turkmenistan including recent amendments to the 2014 Law on Public Associations which further limit CSOs’ ability to register, operate independently and receive funding from international sources. Additionally, we assess the use of the arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders as well as unwarranted limitations to online and offline freedom of expression.

    Uzbekistan: CIVICUS, The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and the International Partnership for Human Rights assess the conditions of freedom of association, assembly and expression in Uzbekistan. We highlight the lack of progress made in implementing recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle. It particular, we note that although there have been some notable improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes six joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space: Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Qatar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 6 countries in advance of the 33rd UPR session (April-May 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Cote d’Ivoire: CIVICUS and the Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des droits Humains (CIDDH) examine the steps taken by the government of Cote d’Ivoire to address restrictions on civic space.  We highlight the promulgation of the law on Human Rights Defenders and the subsequent Resolution passed to ensure implementation of the law. However, we note ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, the targeting of journalists and bloggers by the authorities, attempts to undermine freedom of association and the tendency to use excessive force to disperse peaceful protests.  

    Democratic Republic of Congo (FR): CIVICUS and Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) analyse the multiple unwarranted restrictions on civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Authorities have systematically banned protests, in particular protests organised by civil society, social movements and opposition, while security forces have used excessive force against peaceful protesters, leading to hundreds of deaths. Additionally, HRDs and activists are subject to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, aimed at preventing them from exercising their democratic and civic rights. These unwarranted restrictions have intensified since the start of the political and security crisis in 2015, precipitated by President Kabila’s attempts to remain in power despite a constitutional two-term limit. 

    Equatorial Guinea: CIVICUS, the Committee Protect Journalists (CPJ), Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo (CEID), ONG – Cooperación y Desarrollo and EG Justice examine ongoing restrictions on freedom of association, attacks and intimidation of journalists and bloggers and the general disenabling environment for freedom of expression and independent media agencies.  We further discuss threats faced by human rights defenders and the frequent violent repression of peaceful assemblies.

    Ethiopia: CIVICUS, the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), DefendDefenders, PEN International, Article 19, the Consortium of Ethiopian Rights Organizations (CERO), and Access Now examine the Government of Ethiopia’s fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on HRDs since its previous UPR examination in 2014. While the government recently committed to addressing a range of restrictive legislation, alongside releasing large numbers of political prisoners, at the time of writing, the restrictive legal framework remains in place. Acute implementation gaps were found regarding recommendations relating to civic space including the rights to the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

    Nicaragua (ES): CIVICUS and the Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development Federation (Red Local) address concerns about the violent repression of protests and the criminalisation of protest leaders and demonstrators, particularly of the student and peasant movements, as well as the intensification of the persecution and intimidation suffered by CSOs supporting social movements in Nicaragua. Along with the growing restrictions on freedom of expression that stem from media concentration in government hands and pressures against journalists and independent media covering issues such as corruption, elections and infrastructure or extractive projects, the submission further examines the alarming increase of unwarranted restrictions on the press linked to the coverage of protests and their violent suppression and related human rights violations.

    Qatar: CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights highlight the continued restrictions on freedom of association and expression in Qatar, which include unwarranted arrests on foreign journalists and confiscation of equipment, and restrictions on online content under the Cybercrime Prevention Law. The authorities in Qatar also continue to restrict the formation of independent civil society organisations committed to the advancement of human rights, and there have been severe and undue limitations to freedoms of assembly resulting in almost no protests in Qatar despite serious human rights violations.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

     

    CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.

    Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.

    El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.

    Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.

    Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.

    Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.

    Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Honduras, Malawi and Maldives

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 3 countries in advance of the 36th UPR session (May 2020). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Honduras (Español) - En Honduras, CIVICUS, la Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD) y la Asociación de Organismos No Gubernamentales (ASONOG) abordan sus preocupaciones relativas a la criminalización y represión de las protestas, fenómeno de larga data que afecta particularmente a estudiantes y personas defensoras del territorio y el medio ambiente, y que se intensificó en reacción a las protestas gatilladas por los cuestionados resultados de las elecciones de noviembre de 2017. El informe también aborda el tema de los persistentemente elevados niveles de violencia que hacen de Honduras uno de los países más peligrosos del mundo para las personas defensoras de derechos humanos y periodistas, y en particular para quienes denuncian la corrupción y los impactos de megaproyectos extractivos.

    Malawi- CIVICUS, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)address unwarranted restrictions on civic space since Malawi’s last UPR examination. Acute implementation gaps were found regarding the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression as well as issues relating to protection of HRDs. We remain alarmed that Malawi has failed to bring its criminal code into compliance with the principles of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) regarding criminal penalties for same-sex conduct, despite promising to uphold these agreements.

    Maldives - The submission by CIVICUS and FORUM-ASIA highlights that while there have been some civic space reforms undertaken by the new government that came to power in November 2018 there are still implementation gaps. There have been ongoing reports of harassment of and threats against human rights defenders, particularly by extremist groups, and there has been a lack of effective action by law enforcement agencies. There are also concerns by the slow progress in undertaking comprehensive reforms of the laws related to the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

    See all of our UPR submissions here.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on civil society space in Mozambique, Niger, Paraguay and Singapore

    The United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every 4.5 years.


    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on four countries to the UN Human Rights Council in advance of the 38th UPR session (April-May 2021). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the second UPR cycle over 4-years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Mozambique- CIVICUS and JOINT – Liga das ONG em Moçambique examine and raise concerns on the deteriorating environment in which journalists and civil society activists operate. Physical attacks, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and threats have become increasingly common, especially for civil society activists and journalists working or reporting on sensitive issues such as the Cabo election monitoring, transparency and accountability, election monitoring, transparency and accountability and corruption.

    Niger (French) - CIVICUS, the West African Human Rights Defenders Network and the Nigerien Network of Human Rights Defenders highlight the level of implementation of the recommendations of received by Niger during its previous review in 2016. Despite constitutional guarantees on freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association, the Nigerien government has targeted human rights defenders and subjected them to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution. Peaceful assemblies are repressed and bans are imposed on planned protests while journalists are detained for reporting on issues affecting the state. Restrictive legislation like the 2019 Cyber Crimes Law are used to prosecute representatives of civil society.

    Paraguay (Spanish) - CIVICUS and Semillas para la Democracia address concerns regarding the growing hostility, stigmatisation and criminalisation faced by HRDs, and particularly by the members of peasant, Indigenous, trade union and student movements, as well as by journalists reporting on protests, organised crime, corruption and human rights abuses. Along with the restrictions on the freedom of expression that result from the use of criminal defamation statutes and economic pressures from both private and public actors, the submission further examines the multiple ways in which dissent is stifled in the streets, as protests are prevented through the application of legislation imposing undue time and place restrictions and authorisation requirements, protesters are criminalised under the Penal Code, and demonstrations are violently suppressed by the security forces.

    CIVICUS y Semillas para la Democracia abordan sus preocupaciones relativas a las crecientes hostilidad, estigmatización y criminalización que enfrentan las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, y en particular las que integran los movimientos campesino, indígena, sindical y estudiantil, así como los periodistas que reportan acerca de protestas, crimen organizado, corrupción y violaciones de derechos humanos. Además de las restricciones de la libertad de expresión derivadas de la aplicación de estatutos de difamación penal y de presiones económicas de actores tanto privados como públicos, el documento examina las múltiples formas en que el disenso es ahogado en las calles, en la medida en que las protestas son impedidas mediante la aplicación de legislación que impone restricciones indebidas de tiempo y lugar y requisitos de autorización, los manifestantes son criminalizados bajo el Código Penal, y las manifestaciones son violentamente suprimidas por las fuerzas de seguridad.

    Singapore - CIVICUS and The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) highlight ongoing use of restrictive laws, including defamation laws, to criminalise criticism of the authorities by HRDs and critics and the draconian restrictions on peaceful assembly. It also documents new laws that have been deployed to restrict media freedom and freedom of expression online and to harass the political opposition, journalists and civil society.


    Civic space in Mozambique, Niger, Paraguay, and Singapore are rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    See all of our UPR submissions here.

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years. CIVICUS makes four joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Armenia, Laos, Kenya and Kuwait, which are up for review in January 2020.

    The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Armenia – CIVICUS highlights unwarranted restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and the use of violence, intimidation and harassment to disperse peaceful protests particularly in 2018 and 2016. We express concerns over the targeting of human rights defenders particularly those working on environmental and LGBTI rights. We highlight concerns over restrictions on freedom of expression and the targeting of journalists who covered protests.   

    Kenya -   In this submission, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, CIVICUS, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), express deep concern over the government’s continued unjustified restriction of peaceful protests, as seen in the unlawful interpretation of existing laws by security agents to restrict the right to peaceful assembly and the increasingly worrying trend of security agents violently disrupting peaceful protests. We further examine undue limitations on the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the high number of incidences of harassment, attacks and extrajudicial killings of journalists as well as clauses that are inimical to the freedom of expression in new legislation such as the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018.  

    Kuwait - Since its 2nd Universal Periodic Review, ISHR, Gulf Centre, MENA Rights Group and CIVICUS found that Kuwait did not implement any of the 13 recommendations related to civic space. Instead, restrictive legislation such as the 1979 Public Gatherings Act, the 1970 National Security Law, the 2015 Cybercrime Law and the 2006 Press and Publications Law, continue to place undue restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, HRDs face unwarranted restrictions, with women HRDs and activists from the stateless Bedoon minority facing heightened threats. Legal and policy limitations placed on the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression put HRDs at a continuous risk of detention, defamation, citizenship revocation and other forms of reprisals as a direct result of their work. 

    Laos – The submission by CIVICUS, the Manushya Foundation and FORUM-ASIA highlights how the Lao PDR government - which is a one-party state - dominates all aspects of political life and maintains strict controls on civic space. We examine how the extensive restrictions and surveillance of civil society and the absolute controls of the media including TV, radio and printed publications. We also highlight the ongoing failure to investigate the fate and whereabouts of human rights defender Sombath Somphone which has created a chilling effect and the continued criminalisation of government critics. Read press release

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

     

  • COVID-19 has presented opportunities and challenges for civil society

    Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19


     

    Thank you, Madame President; High Commissioner.

    The COVID 19 pandemic has presented opportunities and challenges for civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor, a research tool that provides real-time data on the state of civil society, has identified worrying trends which have undermined civic space, including, inter alia:

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship, notably in China and Brazil;
    • Detention of activists for disseminating critical information, for example in Iran and India;
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets in Niger, Honduras and Venezuela; and
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers, as in Hungary and Cambodia.

    Despite these barriers, we have seen civil society respond as a vital stakeholder in addressing the health and economic crisis precipitated by COVID-19.

    Community organisations are distributing food and delivering aid to people unable to work during lockdowns. CSOs are raising money for emergency relief, medical supplies and personal protective equipment for health workers. In India, CSOs have reportedly outperformed state government in providing humanitarian relief to migrant labourers and the poor in 13 states.

    Beyond relief efforts, rights groups are holding authorities to account. In Zimbabwe, the advocacy group Lawyers for Human Rights secured an urgent application to stop abuses by the country’s security forces.

    We thank the High Commissioner for recognising the fundamental role that an open civic space has in addressing emergencies. We echo her calls for states to refrain from using the crisis as an opportunity to crack down on critics. Indeed, in a time of crisis, participation of civil society is key to building back better. 


    Current council members:

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

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • COVID-19 restrictions cannot set new precedents for civil society participation at the UN

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

     

    Madame President,

    The Vienna Declaration recognizes the important role of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of all human rights activities at national, regional and international levels, and emphasizes the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Governments and non-governmental organizations.

    In a time of crisis, civil society is vital to developing and implementing the solutions. The President’s Statement on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by this Council last month, reaffirms this.

    We fully understand that the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation. Indeed, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing restrictions on participation worldwide with closing spaces on assembly, association and movement. Numerous countries have enacted emergency legislation which serve to stifle criticism and curtail freedom of the press. Not only do these measures counter the principles enshrined in the Vienna Declaration, they inhibit our collective ability to forge collective solutions.

    It is crucial that civil society voices are not excluded from the Council. That all those who are affected by the decisions made in this room are fully able to participate – virtually or otherwise. This is particularly the case for our civil society colleagues in the global south, who face intersectional barriers to participation.

    The Human Rights Council must lead by example and set the highest standards on civil society space and participation, including through its working methods, by ensuring a process that is accessible, transparent, inclusive and responsive to civil society voices.

    We urge Human Rights Council members and observers to make every effort to ensure that restrictions on participation do not set new precedents at the Council which would make it less effective and less inclusive, hindering its ability to address human rights.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Child Rights Connect
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    Humanists International
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights
    Save the Children
    Sexual Rights Initiative
    World Organisation Against Torture


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