United Nations

 

  • CSOs call for an open, transparent & merit-based process to appoint the next UN High-Commissioner

    In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, various civil society organisations urge the Secretary General to find a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world through a consultative process.


     Dear Secretary-General,

    Re: Appointment of next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical to the promotion and protection of human rights globally, particularly at a time when human rights standards and mechanisms face enormous pressure from powerful governments. This role is key for the implementation of the Call to Action for Human Rights and Our Common Agenda.

    The undersigned organisations represent and work closely with human rights defenders, victims of violations and affected communities, as well as with the UN. In this capacity, we write to you regarding the process for appointing the next High Commissioner, as well as the key qualifications and qualities required for the position.

    The post of High Commissioner should be filled by someone of high moral standing and personal integrity, and who is independent and impartial and possesses competency and expertise in the field of human rights. It requires a human rights champion who is courageous and principled. Your nominee should have a proven record of effective public advocacy, as well as demonstrated experience working with defenders and victims of violations. The post requires a strong commitment to addressing discrimination, inequality, oppression and injustice in all its forms, as well as combating impunity and pursuing redress and accountability for all human rights violations and abuses, including those committed by the most powerful governments. The High Commissioner’s role is to be the world’s leading human rights advocate, as distinct from the role of a diplomat or political envoy. Demonstrating solidarity with victims and publicly calling out abuses should take precedence over friendly dialogue with governments.

    The process of nominating the next High Commissioner is critical to identifying the most qualified candidate and ensuring the credibility of their appointment. This process should be open, transparent and merit-based. It should involve wide and meaningful consultation with independent human rights organisations and human rights defenders. Given that High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate will end on 31 August 2022, it is imperative that this process move quickly.

    Human rights are primary values, legal obligations, and indispensable for peace, security and sustainable development. It is vital that the next High Commissioner be a compelling leader for human rights within the UN system and throughout the world. In addition to identifying an outstanding candidate through a consultative process, we urge you to vigorously defend the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner, including through adequate resourcing. For our part, we pledge to support the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner in their principled and good faith efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

    We look forward to your response and to meaningful civil society engagement with this process.

    Yours faithfully,

    1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran

    2. Adalah  The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel


    3. Advocates for International Development


    4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights


    5. All Human Rights for All in Iran


    6. Amnesty International


    7.
     Arab NGO Network for Development

    8.
     ARTICLE 19

    9. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUMASIA)


    10. Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ)


    11. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies


    12. Center for Economic and Social Rights


    13. Center for International Environmental Law


    14.
     Center for Reproductive Rights

    15. Centre for Civil and Political Rights


    16. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)


    17. Child Rights Connect


    18. Citizen, Democracy and Accountability


    19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


    20. Colombian Commission of Jurists


    21. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


    22. Conectas Direitos Humanos


    23. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)


    24. Dominican Leadership Conference


    25. Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)


    26. Environmental Defender Law Center


    27. Franciscans International


    28. Front Line Defenders


    29. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


    30. Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


    31. Gulf Centre for Human Rights


    32. Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation


    33. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights


    34. HIV Legal Network


    35. Human Rights Activists in Iran


    36. Human Rights House Foundation


    37. Human Rights Law Centre


    38. Human Rights Watch


    39. ILGA World (The International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association)


    40. Impact Iran


    41. Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)


    42. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)


    43. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)


    44. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)


    45. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)


    46. Iran Human Rights
    47. JASS/Just Associates

    48. Just Fair


    49.
     Kenya Human Rights Commission

    50. Kurdistan Human Rights AssociationGeneva (KMMKG)


    51. Law & Society Trust Sri Lanka


    52. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada


    53. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)


    54. MINBYUN  Lawyers for a Democratic Society


    55. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)


    56. Open Society Foundations


    57. Plan International


    58. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos, PROVEA


    59. Siamak Pourzand Foundation


    60. United Nations Association  UK


    61. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)


    62.
     World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    63. World Uyghur Congress

     

  • CSOs Plan Input to Post-Rio and Post-2015 Sustainable Development Processes

    At the meeting, titled "Post-Rio to Post-2015: Planning International Stakeholder Engagement," representatives of the Major Groups, including CIVICUS, and global stakeholders discussed the inclusiveness of Member States' negotiations to determine the post-2015 development agenda and create the new High Level Political Forum to replace the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). Eessing concern that they have hit a "glass wall" now that these negotiations are taking place within the UN General Assembly (UNGA), stakeholders discussed their search for entry points to make their views and experiences heard.

    Source and Read more: Sustainable Development Policy and Practice

     

  • CSOs urge the UN to renew its Expert mandate on sexual orientation & gender identity

    1117 Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) urge the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity(SOGI) during its 50th session. 


     

    In every region of the world, widespread, grave and systematic violence and discrimination based on one’s real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity persists.

    Killings and extrajudicial executions; torture, rape and sexual violence; enforced disappearance; forced displacement; criminalisation; arbitrary detentions; blackmail and extortion; police violence and harassment; bullying; stigmatization; hate speech; disinformation campaigns; denial of one’s self defined gender identity; forced medical treatment, and/or forced sterilization; repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion or belief; attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists; denial of services and hampered access to justice; discrimination in all spheres of life including in employment, healthcare, housing, education and cultural traditions; and other multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination. These are some of the human rights violations and abuses faced by persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities.

    This dire human rights situation has motivated significant action at the United Nations, which we celebrate, to recognize and protect the human rights of these persons and communities. In 2016, the Human Rights Council took definitive action to systematically address these abuses, advance positive reforms and share best practices – through regular reporting, constructive dialogue and engagement – and created an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

    In 2019, the renewal of this mandate was supported by more than 50 States from all the regions of the globe and by 1,314 organisations from 174 States and territories. This growing support is evidence of the critical importance of this mandate and its work to support persons of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities, and those who defend their rights, both at international human rights fora and at the grassroots level.

    Over the past 6 years the two mandate holders have conducted in-depth documentation of discrimination and violence based on SOGI through reports and statements; have sent over 100 communications documenting allegations of such violations in all regions; have carried out 5 country visits; have identified root causes; and addressed violence and discrimination faced by specific groups, including lesbian, bisexual, trans and gender diverse persons.

    The mandate has also welcomed progress and identified best practices from all regions of the world, including in decriminalisation, legal gender recognition, anti-discrimination laws and hate crime laws. All while engaging in constructive dialogue and assisting States to implement and further comply with international human rights law and standards, as well as collaborating with UN mechanisms, agencies, funds and programs and other bodies in international and regional systems.

    Despite these positive advances, today over 68 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex conduct and relations of which 11 jurisdictions still carry the death penalty and more than 10 countries still criminalise diverse gender expressions and identities, and the abovementioned human rights violations persist. Furthermore, at least 4042 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered between 1 January 2008 and 30 September 2021. With many more cases going unreported, 2021 has been the deadliest year for trans and gender-diverse people since data collection began. It is clear that this mandate remains essential.

    A decision by Council Members to renew this mandate would send a clear message that violence and discrimination against people of diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities cannot be tolerated. It would reaffirm that specific, sustained and systematic attention continues to be crucial to address these human rights violations and ensure that LGBT people are in fact free and equal in dignity and rights.
     
    We, the 1,117 NGOs from 134 States and territories around the world, urge this Council to ensure we continue building a world where everyone can live free from violence and discrimination. To allow this important and unfinished work to continue, we urge you to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

     

  • CSW66: ‘Advocacy for policy change takes time and a long-term commitment’

    Helen McEachernCIVICUS speaks about women’s rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Helen McEachern, CEO of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

    Established in 2008, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women works with women entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries. It has already supported more than 200,000 women to start, grow and sustain successful micro, small and medium-sized businesses in over 100 countries.

    What does the Cherie Blair Foundation do, and what challenges have you faced?

    The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women works with women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries. We are committed to eliminating the global gender gap in entrepreneurship and creating a future where women entrepreneurs thrive.

    As a UK-based charity working in international development and women’s economic empowerment, we are very concerned about the decision the UK government made in November 2020 to cut the UK overseas aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of GDP. The impact of this decision on women and girls has been devastating. We welcome the commitment late last year to restore the women and girls’ development budget to what it was before the aid cut. The government should swiftly act on this commitment and restore the overseas aid budget, which will save lives and protect the rights of women and girls. We are also very much looking forward to the new gender development strategy due out from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office later in 2022.

    What issues did you try to bring into the CSW agenda?

    It is estimated that it will take 268 years until women have equality in economic participation and much remains to be done to address economic gender injustices in women’s entrepreneurship, and more holistically when it comes to women’s economic empowerment. In real terms, this statistic means millions of women and girls are exposed to exploitation and are not able to increase the education and health outcomes of their children or enjoy their rights and the choices that come with financial independence.

    The review theme of this year’s CSW was ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work’. Our current advocacy efforts are focused on tackling gender stereotypes that affect women’s entrepreneurship. Gender stereotypes undermine women’s economic rights in multiple ways: they affect their aspirations, sources of support, opportunities, perceptions and access to resources such as finance and markets, and impact on the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem.

    We wanted to use the 66th session of the CSW to recognise how gender stereotypes undermine women’s rights and embed strong calls for action in the session’s Agreed Conclusions.

    Based on detailed survey responses from 221 women entrepreneurs across 42 low and middle-income countries, our recent report, ‘Gender Stereotypes and their Impact on Women Entrepreneurs’, reveals that gender stereotypes are part of the social background for women entrepreneurs, with 96 per cent of respondents saying they had directly experienced them. Overall, 70 per cent of respondents said that gender stereotypes have negatively affected their work as entrepreneurs. Nearly a quarter – 23 per cent – also experienced gender stereotypes or discriminatory remarks while trying to access finance for their business, and more than 60 per cent said they believe that gender stereotypes impact on their business growth and affect how seriously they are taken as business owners.

    We also raised concerns about the challenges women face around entrepreneurship in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. For women entrepreneurs, the pandemic has meant further reduced incomes, temporary and permanent business closures, dismissal of employees, missed business opportunities and reduced access to often already limited finance and capital. 

    Women-owned firms face additional barriers to accessing government support, and are more likely to close, with many citing difficulties with managing additional unpaid care work. Women-owned enterprises are overrepresented in sectors most vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 – such as retail, hospitality, tourism, services and the textile industry. That’s why we wanted to advocate to ensure that a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment and gender-transformational post-pandemic recovery was embedded in the CSW session’s final conclusions.

    We also highlighted the unpaid care work that disproportionately affects women. Before the pandemic, women already spent about three times as many hours on unpaid domestic work and care work as men. The pandemic has increased the unpaid workloads – both for women and men – but it is women who are still doing the lion’s share. This impacts on the everyday lives of women in multiple ways, including by undermining women’s economic rights and opportunities, for instance, to access and pursue education, formal employment, entrepreneurship and leadership positions.

    These themes are critical when we consider the enormous gender economic gap.

    To what degree were your expectations regarding CSW met?

    This was the first time the Foundation undertook advocacy at CSW, so it was definitely a learning experience for us – but a very positive one.

    Our objective was to ensure that women’s entrepreneurship and gender stereotypes that affect women’s entrepreneurship and economic participation were raised, and that in addition to addressing gender justice, CSW’s final elaborations included commitments on these issues.

    We decided to do this by organising a side event and by sharing our advocacy calls with permanent missions by email and through social media. I am very grateful for the collaboration and support from the excellent colleagues at the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN, who hosted a side event with us. The side event was co-sponsored by the permanent missions of the Philippines and Sweden. We found many missions and colleagues receptive to this topic and willing to get involved.

    As our advocacy focused largely on tackling gender stereotypes as a critical barrier for women’s rights and economic empowerment, we were delighted to see multiple references to gender stereotypes in the final agreed conclusions of CSW’s 66th session. Also, it was great to see commitments to adopt measures to reduce, redistribute and value unpaid care work.

    Did you have the opportunity to participate fully, or did you experience any access issues?

    We did not travel to New York but decided to undertake advocacy virtually given the pandemic. I think that being present in New York would have enhanced our advocacy. Yet I know the virtual format has also enabled more people to join, as advocating in person in New York is beyond reach for most civil society organisations (CSOs).

    It is important to support partners from low and middle-income countries to attend and join these platforms – and provide sustained financial support to multi-year advocacy work in general. Changes in policies and practices rarely happen in a 12-month cycle or if you attend a global platform like CSW only once – advocacy takes time and a long-term commitment. It is only possible with funding to support a longer-term agenda.

    As participation was fully virtual this year, we lacked direct engagement with UN member states as well as opportunity to connect, share and network with advocacy targets and other CSOs. Time zones can pose a challenge too, but many side events provided an option to receive the recording afterwards, which was a really great way to learn about different key themes if people weren’t able to make an event.

    There is no way that online engagement can match in-person engagement, but if everyone is online then access is equal, and it does open more cost-effective avenues for many more grassroots organisations to join.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    I think the rhetoric of commitment to women’s political leadership and integrating women in decision making is there. Yet the right of women to participate politically and lead refers to participation in all levels and there are definitely gender gaps. I learnt at the CSW that only four women have been elected as president of the UN General Assembly in its 76-year history. Also, the UN has never had a woman Secretary-General. So there is more work to do to ensure women’s equal share and representation in decision-making processes at all levels. We also must make sure that the voice and agency of the most vulnerable women and girls is shaping the decisions of these international platforms. We have seen a rollback in advances in women’s rights in many areas, and thus feminist leadership and women’s political participation in UN processes are so critical. We know women’s political leadership can have an impact across many other areas where women lack opportunities and equal access.

    One way to do better is to tackle gender stereotypes more effectively as they undermine women’s rights, opportunities and confidence. It is important to increase the understanding of how gender stereotypes shape women’s lives, including their access to decision making and leadership, and take concrete measures to prevent and eliminate gender stereotypes and their negative impacts, both in private and public spheres. Further efforts are also needed to promote women’s leadership and agency to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in policy-making platforms and processes.

    Get in touch with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@HelenMcEachern and@CherieBlairFndn on Twitter.  

     

  • CSW66: ‘Global-level policy-making is disconnected from women’s realities’

    CIVICUS speaks about women’s human rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Wanun Permpibul of Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) and Misun Woo of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

    APWLD is an independent civil society organisation (CSO) committed to building feminist movements to advance women’s human rights and development justice in Asia and the Pacific as well as globally. CWT, a member organisation of APWLD, is a CSO that works with local communities and women to call for urgent climate action and climate justice.

    Thailand CSW66 interview

    What do you see as the main women’s rights issues in Thailand and the Asia Pacific region, and how does APWLD work to address them?

    Women in Thailand still do not have access to political spaces. Women work on farms and take care of their families, but when policies are made regarding farm work and domestic work they are not engaged in policy discussions, either in the planning process or the implementation stages.

    We tend to look at the symptoms of issues, in this case of the violations of women’s human rights, but we need to look at both the structural causes and the consequence of these violations and injustices. The exclusion of women in policy formulation and decision-making processes perpetuates gender injustices and rights violations. We need to shift power relations so that every person can exercise their inherent power with dignity. Most women do not have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and access political leadership because they are systematically undermined.

    APWLD’s work consists of identifying the systems of oppression – patriarchy, fundamentalisms, militarism, colonialism and capitalism – and fighting to dismantle them while finding alternative solutions to advance women’s human rights and development justice. Through our work we have been able to build capacity and solidarity among feminist movements.

    We focus on several thematic areas, including climate justice. Part of our work is about identifying and promoting the adoption of mitigation and adaptation strategies to advance women’s human rights as well as address the loss and damage and historical responsibilities. We see women experience the impacts of climate change disproportionately and they must be a source of solutions to help deal with the climate crisis. However, the reality is that they are not sufficiently engaged and the policies implemented in most instances do not cater to their needs and concerns.

    What issues have you tried to bring into the CSW agenda this year?

    This year’s focus for CSW’s 66th session (CSW66) was on the impact of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on women’s human rights. We have highlighted the ways women have been experiencing the impacts of climate change and the solutions they have devised. What we really wanted to see highlighted at CSW66 was the acknowledgment of the root causes and consequences of climate change on women and their effects leading to widening inequalities and increasing violations of women’s human rights.

    A very critical point we wanted to see addressed was loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change and delays in mitigation efforts. It would have been good if CSW66 had supported a financial mechanism to address loss and damage due to the climate crisis as well as an accountability mechanism to hold accountable those responsible for causing the climate crisis, particularly large fossil fuel industries. We need to address the root causes of climate change for our societies to achieve sustainability.

    Another issue we wanted to highlight at CSW66 was the ongoing attacks against women human rights and environmental defenders in Asia and the Pacific in the context of the climate crisis. They are at the frontline of climate crisis, working day in and day out to raise awareness about and resist the catastrophic impacts of extractive industries and fossil fuel burning, and they must be protected.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    We had high expectations, even though so many restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic. We viewed CSW as a space or momentum to elaborate on the causes and the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on women’s human rights. We expected it to meet the dual missions of advancing global commitments to address climate change and advancing women’s human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

    Unfortunately, CSW66 failed us on both counts. It did not look into the deeper causes of the climate crisis and the extent of its impacts on women’s human rights and gender equality. Mostly what it did was just add wording on climate change, environmental degradation and disasters at the end of the existing text of CSW66 conclusions. It failed to address the structural causes of the crisis, so the conclusions and recommendations are not designed to address and rectify those structural issues.

    We need to pay attention to, for instance, how CSW66 Agreed Conclusions effectively let governments off the hook from their human rights obligation to regulate the private sector. Instead, they seek to strengthen the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and just encourage them to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence, where appropriate.

    Another practical example is the net-zero goal included in the text. Most states are welcoming this goal that seeks to balance the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. In doing so, they are placing the responsibility of determining the future in the hands of those that are causing climate change.

    If CSW66 were serious about addressing climate impacts and really thought this is a climate emergency, it would not go for a net-zero goal, which is buying time for those exploiting fossil fuels and polluting the planet to continue their business as usual, and would instead focus on the just and equitable transition to decentralised and renewable energy systems.

    Did you have the opportunity to participate fully, or did you experience access issues?

    We made a political decision to attend CSW66 in person, even though we were concerned about COVID-19 restrictions and there were lots of uncertainties regarding CSO participation in CSW66. The decision came from the fact that we, women from the global south, have lost significant opportunities and access to influence multilateral processes during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Our experience is that CSW66 was not well organised, especially from the perspective of CSOs from the global south. It was all very uncertain and CSOs were not provided with enough information, while UN Women continuously advised us against traveling to New York. We were given access to the UN building only two or three days before CSW66 started. Only through an informal announcement we got to know that special event tickets would be distributed to two representatives per organisation with ECOSOC accreditation to access the conference room to observe. If the announcement had been made officially by the UN in time, it could have reached a larger audience of CSOs that had the right to be there.

    We were also disappointed to see that CSOs continued to be excluded from the negotiation room. Civil society in the global south faces many structural restrictions on participation, including time constraints and language barriers. We really wanted to see CSW66 facilitate women’s meaningful and democratic participation, particularly because this year saw the negotiation of a Methods of Work resolution. However, this was yet another failure. To us, it was a further indication of how disconnected from women’s realities global-level policy making is.

    If we compare CSW66 to other UN spaces, such as climate conferences, the lack of engagement between CSOs and national governments in CSW66 becomes readily apparent. It was challenging to have a dialogue with government representatives and negotiators because of the travel restrictions and the inability of some countries to participate in person.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    If we look at UN climate conferences, for instance, we will find that the proportion of women delegates is always low. Even though it has been increasing, it is still significantly small. We have seen attempts in successive climate conferences of the parties (COPs) to try and have a gender and climate focal point for every country, but the UN has not supported the initiative to introduce a protocol for national governments to implement it. The CSW66 Agreed Conclusions reiterate the need to have a gender and climate focal point in national governments. Thailand still does not have one.

    Arrangements may be better for women in the global north, but from our global south perspective they are pretty bad. The CSW66 Agreed Conclusions note the importance of women’s and girls’ meaningful participation in decision making. However, the reality of women’s participation at CSW is far from encouraging.

    It’s easier to say that UN Women or the CSW methods of work resolution encourage member states to include CSO representatives on their delegation. Many countries in Asia and the Pacific have seen a rise in autocratic and misogynistic leadership, and having CSO representatives on such government delegation is not something that will happen at all or in a meaningful way. It is not enough to hear the voices of women; women must be given actual power to make policy decisions grounded in women’s realities. This is the only way structural changes will happen.

    Civic space in Thailandis rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor
    Get in touch with APWLD through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@apwld on Twitter. Get in touch with Climate Watch Thailand through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@ClimateWatchTH on Twitter. 

     

  • CSW66: ‘Grassroots environmental defenders are highly underrepresented in decision-making’

    interview MALAWI CSW66CIVICUS speaks about women’s rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Joy Hayley Munthali and Dorothy Kazombo Mwale of the Green Girls Platform.

    Founded in 2018, the Green Girl Platform is a female-led civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for climate justice for women and girls in Malawi by building capacity, providing leadership skills and promoting sexual and reproductive health rights.

    What are the main women’s rights issues in Malawi, and how does Green Girl Platform work to address them?

    In Malawi, women and girls are highly affected by the effects of climate change and environmental degradation due to their role in society. Girls are expected to help fetch firewood and get clean water for their households. Due to the effects of climate change, including erratic rains and depletion of natural resources, women and girls often have to walk long distances to find clean water and firewood. Because of these challenges, most girls are forced into early marriages and some drop out of school.

    The vulnerability of women and girls to environmental degradation, as well as to sexual violence and exploitation and gender-related violence, is on the rise. This is happening due to a lack of understanding of the implications of climate change for their lives, lack of information, lack of leadership skills, low participation in governance structures, limited women-led climate-related platforms and a lack of understanding and application of their rights.

    Women and girls are left out of decision-making processes although they are the ones who are most affected. The Green Girls Platform was founded to address the violence against women and girls that emanates from climate change and increase the number of women and girls engaged with climate change issues.

    The Green Girls Platform is working to ensure that gender and women’s rights are placed on the local, national and global environmental and climate change agendas by advocating for gender-responsive governance and policies. We conduct capacity-building workshops and training on climate change to equip girls with skills and knowledge on climate justice and all it encompasses. Through our initiatives, we have been able to reach around 5,000 young women and girls in Malawi, increasing their active participation in addressing climate change.

    What issues did you try to bring into the CSW agenda this year?

    As an organisation we noticed that there is underrepresentation of young women and girls in decision-making processes. Their participation and active engagement in climate change governance structures is minimal. Structural changes are needed so that more women are included in decision-making bodies.

    Climate change is affecting young women’s access to education, and we need to come up with adaptation strategies that work for girls and young women in their specific contexts. Strategies have to be sustainable and demand-driven to build the adaptive capacity of women and girls and enhance their access to education.

    We are aware of the violence that girls and young women environmental defenders face either within their homes or in their communities. We would like to see the adoption of measures to protect the rights of adolescent girls and young women from climate-related violence. Civil society donors could help us navigate these challenges.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    Our expectations were that our concerns would be listened to and we would collectively come up with solutions to some of the overarching challenges. Although our needs were met to a good degree, we were not highly impressed by the output. But we are positive that things will improve.

    In terms of access, we faced some challenges. Only one of our staff was able to attend the CSW sessions in person, and she did so for only three days due to insufficient funding. We also attended some online events, mainly side events, but we had issues accessing main events due to time differences and late notices, and because some of them were not open to civil society.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    UN Women has taken steps in the right direction in terms of integrating women into decision-making spaces. However, we still have challenges getting all voices represented at the table. Women and girl environmental defenders working at the grassroots level are highly underrepresented in decision-making spaces, even though they are the ones working at the local level and facing the adverse impacts of climate change. Access to climate financing for girls and young women working on climate issues is still minimal and inaccessible, leading to more issues falling through the cracks and not reaching decision makers.

    Civic space in Malawi is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Green Girl Platform through itsFacebook page and follow@GirlsPlatform on Twitter.

     

  • CSW66: ‘UN member states should make efforts to honour their commitments at home’

    Eucharia AbuaCIVICUS speaks about women’s rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Eucharia Abua, Senior Programme Officer on Gender and Reproductive Justice at African Girls Empowerment Network (AGE Network).

    Founded in 2015, AGE Network is a young feminist civil society organisation (CSO) committed to advancing gender equality in girls’ education and promoting young women’s bodily and economic rights and leadership in Nigeria. It works to end child marriage and keep girls in school, and provides support to rape survivors, teenage mothers, victims of domestic violence and female genital mutilation, LGBTQI+ women, sex workers, women and girl refugees from Cameroon, internally displaced women and girls, and other economically disadvantaged and vulnerable women and girls.

    What do you see as the main women’s rights issues in Nigeria, and how does AGE Network work to address them?

    One of the main issues is women’s right to pregnancy by choice. In Nigeria, there’s an imbalance in the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls. This is evident in the country’s discriminatory abortion law, which only allows medical abortion under certain circumstances. This strict law, alongside shame, social stigma and a lack of access to timely and non-judgemental information about safe, self-managed medical abortion and legal support, steers young women towards unsafe abortions.

    Many young women with unintended pregnancies, particularly those in vulnerable settings and displaced communities who are pregnant as a result of sexual violence, rape or incest, and those with critical medical conditions who cannot carry a pregnancy to term, seek unsafe abortions from quack doctors in hideouts and become vulnerable to irreparable harm or death. This has contributed to the current maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 100,000 live births, according to a 2020 report by the Federal Ministry of Health.

    To address this situation, AGE launched the #BellebyChoice campaign, an initiative to advance women’s and girls’ bodily rights and autonomy by securing their rights to pregnancy by choice, not by chance. The campaign seeks to curb unintended pregnancies by improving access to and uptake of family planning and modern contraception and end unsafe abortions through the provision of timely and non-judgemental information and legal support so that women can access safe and self-managed medical abortions. We have a dedicated hotline and use local and pidgin languages to address communication barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services among women and adolescent girls.

    Additionally, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, AGE has stood in solidarity with vulnerable young women, including female sex workers, and has helped them access timely sexual and reproductive health services. We partnered with Women First Digital and incorporated their AllyChatBot for safe abortion via WhatsApp into our campaign. So far they have supported our efforts to end abortion stigma and help young women access non-judgemental sexual and reproductive health information and care through their mobile phones.

    In the face of COVID-19, we have also advocated with the Nigerian government to relax the discriminatory abortion law. We have campaigned and engaged with key stakeholders to call on the government to set aside laws and policies that restrict access to safe abortion and allow the use of telemedicine and self-managed abortions in line with the guidelines put forward by the World Health Organization.

    Why do you think the Nigerian government is not sufficiently responsive to women’s rights demands? 

    Here is where another major women’s rights issue comes in: there’s a great imbalance in female representation and too many obstacles prevent women from having effective political participation. Inclusive governance is still a pending issue in Nigeria, and it continues to face strong resistance. For instance, just this March, Nigeria’s Senate and House of Representatives rejected proposed bills to grant additional legislative seats to women and other forms of affirmative action.

    This is also apparent in the area of climate justice and environmental protection: rural women form the majority among farmers, but they have not been fully integrated or carried along in the process to develop the national climate change mitigation and adaptation action plan.

    What issues have you tried to bring into the CSW agenda this year?

    This year AGE has called for climate justice, in the form of a more inclusive climate change mitigation and adaptation action plan. This was the official theme for International Women’s Day 2022 (IWD 2022), to which the priority theme for the CSW’s 66th edition (CSW66) was closely aligned.

    We carried out an online campaign, joined our civil society partners’ side events at CSW66 and hosted a virtual summit to commemorate IWD2022, in which we reflected on climate change and its disproportionate impact on women and girls, reviewed the progress made so far in mitigating climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa, celebrated women’s achievements, raised awareness of gender bias, engaged leading feminists working on climate justice and environmental protection in both government and the private sector in discussion and called for investment in Nigeria’s renewable energy sector.

    Against all odds, women in Nigeria have played a key role in addressing the impacts of climate change and advancing climate justice. However, in spite of their contributions, women and girls – and particularly those in vulnerable settings and displaced communities – are still being disproportionately affected by the lack of climate action.

    What were your expectations of CSW and to what degree have they been met?

    Our expectations were to be able to connect, collaborate with and learn from women’s rights organisations and activists from around the world, joining together in a unified call for climate justice.

    We re-echoed the achievements and contributions of our women, reviewed the reality and impacts of climate change on women, and called for a more level playing field and gender-responsive climate change mitigation and adaptation for a sustainable future for all.

    But we were unable to participate fully due to internet connection problems and time zone differences during most of the events.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women into their decision-making processes?

    As the leading international body, the UN has created an enabling environment for women’s participation in leadership and decision making and inclusive governance, including through Sustainable Development Goal number 5 on gender equality. However, UN member states should match this with efforts to honour their commitments at home, reducing gender inequalities, tackling human rights violations, and upholding the rule of law.

    Civic space in Nigeria is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the African Girls Empowerment Network through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@TheAGENetwork on Twitter.

     

  • CSW66: ‘Violence against women continues at pandemic levels in the UK as elsewhere’

    Zarin HainsworthCIVICUS speaks about women’s participation and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Zarin Hainsworth, director of the National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO), a UK civil society network that works for women’s empowerment by advocating for women’s rights at the national and international levels.

    What do you see as the main women’s rights issues in the UK, and how does NAWO work to address them?

    In the UK there is a lack of an institutional mechanism for the advancement of women’s rights. The Women’s National Commission, which used to be an independent advisory body that represented women and made sure their views were heard by the UK government, was closed by the Conservative government in December 2010. 

    The Government Equalities Office (GEO), established in 2007, is identified by the government as the institutional mechanism although the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee continues to question this. The GEO is a department of government, with employees who are civil servants and all communications must abide by the usual government codes with all reports agreed by ministers. It cannot therefore claim to be independent. Some civil society members have complained that there is a lack of consultation with them and this affects how women are included in the policy-making process. Furthermore, GEO does not have remit in devolved nations, meaning it does not cover Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. The CEDAW Committee has raised concerns about the UK not being compliant with the treaty, but the government responded that they are adequately provisioned by the GEO.

    The UK Civil Society Women’s Alliance has a good relationship with the GEO, especially in regard to CSW, which we believe to be an example of best practice. However, many would argue that in light of the recommendations of CEDAW and the definition within the Beijing Platform for Action, there is still need for an independent body representing the voice of women and girls to government. NAWO would suggest that it is well placed to be such an organisation. 

    Violence against women continues at pandemic levels in the UK as elsewhere in the world. Sexism is institutionalised in the police force, but this is still a postcode lottery – how women are treated depends largely on where they live. Rape is still underreported and too few cases get to trial, and adolescent girls are not taught about gender-based violence. NAWO is part of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, which seeks to create awareness of these issues and urge the government to address them. Recently a number of members of Parliament have raised awareness on this issue and the government is keen to state it is in the process of effecting positive change in this regard.

    We are aware that the UK has not ratified the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The government says that the new Domestic Violence Bill covers the same ground as the Istanbul Conversion, but civil society groups working on women’s rights and gender-based violence claim that the Bill does not robustly cover all the areas of the Istanbul Convention. NAWO is part of IC Change, a campaign pushing the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention; in the past, we also participated in advocacy work towards legislation to implement the Istanbul Convention across the UK.

    Regarding employment, occupational segregation continues to hinder women from progressing and becoming leaders in their workplaces. Despite efforts to increase the presence of girls in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), women still do not occupy equitable work positions because of pre-existing structures put in place to accommodate men rather than women.

    Finally, there is evidence that women’s voices are not heard in the health sector and that women are suffering the most when services and budgets are cut. Health education is biased towards the male experience and female indicators of stroke or heart attack are only slowly starting to be taught in medical school. Most drug trials are based on male responses.

    NAWO raises awareness of these issues through coalition-building and advocacy work. We also engage government stakeholders to ensure they are aware of these issues and put mechanisms in place to promote women’s equity and rights.

    To address these issues at CSW, NAWO has helped establish and worked within the UK Civil Society Women’s Alliance, seeking ways of working with the government to promote equality and ensure that women’s rights are advocated for at CSW. As an organisation, we have understood the need to develop a good relationship with the GEO and we are developing relationships across the government to advance our advocacy work.

    What issues did you try to bring to the CSW agenda this year?

    We are aware that CSOs are not adequately involved in the decision-making process, and we highlighted a need to involve grassroots organisations in policy formulation stages because they are the ones that truly know what people’s needs are. We wanted to bring to attention the fact that many CSOs are restricted by their national governments and cannot carry out their work effectively. Governments and international bodies must support CSOs and integrate them into policy-making processes.

    We have seen COVID-19 affect marginalised women and girls disproportionately, so this is an issue we emphasised at CSW this year. The pandemic revealed pre-existing gender gaps regardless of mechanisms put in place to promote women’s empowerment. Women from marginalised groups did not have access to proper healthcare and their employment chances have severely decreased. Pandemic recovery structures are not working for them because they are being put in place with little to no consultation with them.

    We also raised the concern of women’s access to decent work. There is a need to promote the participation of women in the labour force, but this should be done in an inclusive manner and with respect for human dignity. Many women still struggle with sexual harassment at work and there are not enough measures in place to counter this. Women have much lower prospects of advancing at work than their male colleagues. We hope CSW will see the need to help women in the workforce and find sustainable and realistic ways to protect them.

    As we have done every year since 2005, we enabled a youth delegation and we are keen to ensure the informed voice of young women is present at CSW.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    We wished to work and collaborate with other CSOs with the aim of bringing women’s issues to the forefront and promoting women’s empowerment. In our opinion, we were successful in that regard. We also wanted to reach out to UN member states, and to some extent we were successful in that regard as well.

    We hosted side events that offered young people a space to talk about the issues they experience and how they affect them. In these side events we were able to discuss how women experience climate change and their views and demands concerning gender equality, sustainable development and women’s empowerment.

    We participated virtually and faced some issues concerning broadband and connectivity issues. We believe there were challenges with the online platform and most CSOs had problems accessing it.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    We believe women are still not adequately integrated in decision-making processes both at the national and global levels. Many plans have been put in place to ensure women are in decision-making positions. These are always good in theory, but their implementation does not necessarily go accordingly. This could be due to lack of commitment and accountability from international bodies. Hopefully as time progresses, we will see real change. But for the time being we believe the UN system needs reforming.

    Civic space in the UKis rated ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with NAWO through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@NAWOorg on Twitter. 

     

  • CSW66: ‘Women need more access to real political decision-making power’

    CIVICUS speaks about women’s rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Terry Ince, founder, and convenor of the CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (CCoTT), a civil society organisation (CSO) focused on advocacy, education, and public awareness on and for the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

    The CCoTT seeks to ensure the mandates of the CEDAW are upheld and the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women are implemented. To do so, it partners with a wide range of stakeholders in the government, private sector, and civil society.

    Terry Ince

    What do you see as the main women’s rights issues in Trinidad and Tobago?

    On the surface, you see women in high-profile positions in every area of society in Trinidad and Tobago. However, when you scratch beneath the surface, you realise these women are not the real decision makers.

    In 2010 we elected our first woman prime minister. Women make up 38 per cent of the current cabinet. We currently have a woman president for the first time in the history of the country. There are women in the positions of speaker of the House, president of the Senate and Ombudsperson. There are women assisting the Superintendent of Commission of Police. Women lead ministries including trade and industry, planning and development, housing and urban development, public administration, education, gender and child affairs, social development and family services and sports and cultural affairs, and Legal Affairs in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs. And this is just in the public sector. In politics, you find women on the ballot; political parties actively recruit women to run for political office.

    However, women are still not getting enough support. They certainly do not get the required support to run for political office. They may be selected as candidates, but the road to success is often steep and filled with deterrents. Women candidates are often asked to run in districts their parties find particularly difficult to win, so they are almost guaranteed to lose. Women are running but not necessarily winning. To win, they would need financial and coordination support.

    On top of this, many of these women are often mothers, wives, care givers, so they have additional duties that nobody is helping them with either. They are playing all these roles simultaneously and expected to be successful at all of them. 

    Women need more access to political decision-making power. It is not just about being in the room, but at the table, contributing, being listened to, and having their ideas examined, pushed forward and implemented.

    It is not enough to have a woman on the ballot. It is also not enough to elect a woman without providing an enabling environment which values her unique perspective on issues. 

    There continue to be barriers, but I think women can leverage their positions to make headway. I also think that women can and should support other women more within their capacity.

    How does the CCoTT work to address these issues?

    The CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago advocates for sustained implementation of CEDAW, a convention that Trinidad and Tobago signed in 1985 and ratified in 1990. More generally, we advocate for women’s development and empowerment. CCoTT’s work is grounded in human rights and CEDAW. We focus on advocacy, public awareness, sensitisation, and education on the Convention, with the overarching mission of achieving the implementation of its mandates and all the recommendations made to the state by CEDAW’s monitoring body.

    CEDAW addresses all aspects of women and development, including political engagement, so we work on the understanding that our government’s obligation is to ensure that the appropriate policies and laws are in place for women to have an equal opportunity to access political office. Our citizens, and particularly women, need to know and understand this. And governments must honour its responsibility for having signed this Convention and held accountable. Achieving substantive equality is the goal and CCoTT collaborates with stakeholders to achieve that goal.

    So, among other things, we campaign to improve female participation and representation at all levels of governance. We focus on preparing women to claim those spaces and offer training for female candidates. We collaborate – locally, regionally, and globally – with other organisations to bring good global practices to women in Trinidad and Tobago. For example, we have collaborated with the Women’s Human Rights Institute to bring CEDAW training to Trinidad and Tobago.

    What issues did you try to bring into the CSW agenda this year? 

    Not only did we bring the issues I just mentioned, but also climate-related issues – the climate crisis, disasters, and risk mitigation. This was the first time that CSW focused on the nexus between women’s empowerment and climate change, climate justice and disaster management. As a Caribbean country, we are acutely aware of the impacts of climate change and disaster, as we have recently witnessed a volcanic eruption in St Vincent and the Grenadines and floods in Dominica and other countries, which wiped-out whole communities.

    In Trinidad and Tobago, we have seen unprecedented levels of flooding. How are women prepared for this? How are women empowered to navigate these kinds of crises when they occur? How are we ensuring that girls’ and women’s needs are addressed appropriately? For example, when disaster hits, how do you ensure their safety in shelters? Do your emergency kits include menstrual products? Who is thinking about these things? These are the kinds of questions we are bringing to the table. Therefore, it is so important that women have a voice when decisions around these issues are made.

    We also need to assess how emergencies are managed after the initial cause has been assessed – because the fact that a volcanic eruption has ended, for example, does not mean everything goes back to normal. What happened to the communities most impacted by the eruption? How are they coping? We must rethink the mechanisms we use to ensure people get back on their feet.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    Fortunately, we were able to have meaningful discussions of all these issues at this year’s CSW. CCoTT hosted a parallel event examining women’s empowerment in times of crises – climate crisis and Covid-19.

    Our expectations included gaining access to a wide variety of discussions, hosted by other Caribbean and Latin American countries as well as cross-sectional discussions with countries from other parts of the world – because climate change and climate justice impacts all of us, and we all need to understand this. If something is happening in Latvia, for example, it does not mean it may not happen in Trinidad. We can learn from how the issue is/was addressed in Latvia. Whatever the climate action is, we can use it as a mitigating factor to prevent or better manage adverse effects. 

    Were you able to participate fully, or did you experience any access issues?

    The virtual nature of this year’s CSW made it possible for more people and CSOs to attend. It was different from past editions because there were none of the usual barriers involved in getting visas, traveling to the USA, and gaining access to the UN’s headquarters – which you cannot do if you are not an organisation accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

    Those barriers were eliminated this year. From this perspective, virtuality made it much more accessible. CSW66 opened many doors and raised several questions that now must be answered. The UN should assess its own barriers to women’s access, such as the need to have ECOSOC accreditation to get inside UN headquarters during CSW.

    Because CSW66 was virtual, participants had the opportunity to hear about different solutions, network with global peers, learn from their stories and share globally what is occurring in Trinidad and Tobago and how we have successfully addressed issues at a local level. In this regard, CSW66 met my expectations.

    However, having access to high-level discussions was not easy. Even though they were virtual. Often this required registration which closed at certain number of attendees. Time zones were also a challenge. Events hosted by countries that are 12 hours ahead required some creativity. These were specific challenges of a virtual event, which would normally not be an issue during in-person gathering.

    Overall, it was remarkably successful. If it continues to be virtual, we will learn how to navigate the challenges based on this years’ experience.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women into their decision-making processes?

    In 2020 the UN acknowledged it was behind in terms of women’s integration in leadership and aggressively implemented changes. However, in 2021, when it had the opportunity, a woman was not elected as its Secretary-General, despite qualified candidates. 

    With recognition comes responsibility. Global eyes are on the UN, so it needs to set an example throughout its bodies, divisions, and units. However, as I already said, just selecting women is not the answer. We also hear ‘get youth more involved,’ but young people should be prepared, mentored, encouraged, and supported. Similarly, we need to help women along the way and ensure that when they occupy a space where they can contribute, their contributions are valued. The gap is shrinking.

    This is a work in progress, and the UN is trying. One way to ensure this happens properly is to involve civil society more – and not just lawyers or PhD holders. Learning does not only occur in the classroom. Application takes place on the ground in communities often led by community organisers or members of organisations. We need the academics collaborating with the community and others to strengthen capacities. Making room for grassroots, women and youth led initiatives. In this regard, there is more work to be done.

    Civic space in Trinidad and Tobago is rated ‘narrowed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. 
    Get in touch with the CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@CCoT_T on Twitter. 

     

  • Dear African Commission on Human Rights: Don’t provide cover for repressive Egyptian government

    Joint letter to Chair of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights: Don’t provide political cover for brutal repression of Egyptian government(below letter sent to Chair Soyota Maiga, while ACHPHR meets in Banjul, Gambia)

    Dear Chair Soyota Maiga,

    We are writing to urge you to reject the bid to hold the upcoming African Commission on Human Rights and People's Rights (ACPHR) 64th ordinary session in Egypt. This decision, if taken could tantamount to ignoring the current violations taking place in the country. Egypt, under the rule of President Sisi, is in the throes of the most widespread and brutal crackdown on human rights committed by any Egyptian government in its modern history. Reflecting this reality, the United Nations (UN) human rights system, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures, has become increasingly vocal and robust in its criticism of the human rights situation in the country. This includes  recent  statements that strongly denounce the recent issuance of mass death sentences for individuals who have participated in protests within the country –and a rare call by experts representing six thematic mandates of the UN Human Rights Council to “urgently respond” to the government’s “appalling” behaviour. The EU’s European External Action Service has made similar criticism.

    The Egyptian government’s continuous disregard to constitutional law and international human rights obligations lead to a series of appalling human rights violations (see annex attached to this letter). The judiciary has largely failed to hold to account those responsible for grave violations of international and national law and, in many cases, the courts have served as an instrument of repression for the authorities. Egyptian NGOs have documented 1,520 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt between July 2013 and August 2018. More than 60,000 political prisoners are currently detained in Egypt, in dreadful conditions. The Egyptian NGO Committee for Justice documented at least 129 cases of death in custody in 2017 alone. Moreover, The UN Committee Against Torture’s 2017 annual report concluded “torture is a systematic practice in Egypt” fed by security forces’ impunity and high-level State acquiescence, and may amount to crimes against humanity.
     
    Amid a national milieu distinguished by endemic torture and enforced disappearance and impunity, Egypt is currently in the middle of the most sweeping and repressive crackdown on fundamental freedoms, including dissent and other political expression in its modern history. This systematic repression threatens to wipe out any form of independent journalism and civil society in the coming period and had sweeping effects on the enjoyment of all individuals to their right to freedoms of expression, association and reunion. Indeed, the Egyptian government’s rejection of fundamental democratic processes and human rights principles is represented by its recent presidential elections held in March this year, which were assessed by fourteen regional and international organizations as neither free nor fair. Leading Egyptian human rights organizations previously warned the elections had become a dangerous "charade” likely to “exacerbate violence, terrorism and instability" in the country. Now the authorities are widely expected to soon make concrete moves to amend Egypt’s Constitution to abolish presidential term limits and allow President Sisi to run for a third term in 2022.

    In face of this, a free and effective participation of Egyptian and non-Egyptian civil society organizations during the ACHPR sessions is also put into question. Our organizations have serious doubts all conditions would be met to allow NGOs to access the ACHPR, according to its mandate and practices. The security and safety of human rights defenders participating in this session may also not be guaranteed. The ACHPR has a key role to play and should reinforce its engagement with Egyptian national authorities, in order to contribute to upholding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.

    The ACPHR should not turn a blind eye to these atrocities. We fully support the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s recent denunciation of the injustice of the Egyptian court. We urge the ACHPR to follow the High Commissioner lead in denouncing these violations in Egypt instead of rewarding it with hosting the 64th ordinary session. The African Commission should not raise its flag over the gravestone of human rights in Egypt.

    Thank you for your consideration of our request.

    We remain at your service should you require further information.

    See Annex for more detailed information on the state of human rights and civic space in Egypt.

    With Assurances of our Highest Consideration:

    1    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS);    
    2    Committee for Justice (CfJ)
    3    Action for Community Transformation (ACT-NOW)
    4    Adalah Center for Rights & Freedoms (ACRF)- Egypt
    5    African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
    6    Afrique arc-en-ciel
    7    Afrique Arc-en-Ciel Togo
    8    Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH)
    9    Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights-Nedal- Egypt
    10    Associação Justiça, Paz e Democracia (AJPD) Angola
    11    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
    12    Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana – (ARCI)
    13    Belady Island for Humanity
    14    Border center for support and consulting- Egypt
    15    Center for Civil Liberties-Ukraine
    16    CIVICUS
    17    CNCD-11.11.11
    18    Coalition of African Lesbians
    19    Independent Commission for Human Rights in Western Sahara
    20    Conectas Direitos Humanos
    21    Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
    22    Defend Defenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    23    Dignity
    24    Egyptian Front for Human Rights
    25    EuroMed Rights
    26    Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD)
    27    Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)
    28    Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum- Uganda
    29    Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
    30    Human Rights Defenders Network- Sierra Leone
    31    HuMENA for Human Rights and Sustainable Development
    32    Initiative For Equal Right- Nigeria
    33    Initiative for Equality and Non- Discrimination- Kenya
    34    Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA)
    35    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
    36    International Commission of Jurist (ICJ)
    37    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    38    International Institute for Child Protection
    39    International Lawyers (Geneva)
    40    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    41    Iranti-South Africa
    42    Kenya Human Rights Commission 
    43    Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation
    44    Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH)
    45    Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH)
    46    Nadeem Center- Egypt
    47    National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders-Uganda
    48    National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders - Kenya (NCHRD-K)
    49    National Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
    50    National Human Rights Defenders Somalia/ Somaliland
    51    Network for Solidarity, Empowerment and Transformation for All – NewSETA
    52    Odhikar-Bangladesh
    53    Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH)
    54    Queer Youth Uganda
    55    Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    56    Réseau Doustourna (Tunis)
    57    Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network
    58    Synergia Initiatives for Human Rights
    59    The Freedom Initiative
    60    The Regional Center for Rights And liberties
    61    Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
    62    Uganda National NGO Forum
    63    West African Human Rights Defenders ‘Network (ROADDH/WAHRDN)
    64    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    65    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

     

  • Declaración: Nicaragua no implementa recomendaciones de derechos humanos

    42 Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU
    Declaración: Adopción del informe EPU de Nicaragua

    Red Local y CIVICUS saludan el compromiso del gobierno de Nicaragua con el proceso EPU. Sin embargo, nuestra presentación conjunta documenta que, desde su evaluación anterior, Nicaragua no ha implementado ninguna de las 26 recomendaciones recibidas en relación con el espacio cívico, 17 de ellas referidas a la libertad de expresión y acceso a la información. También lamentamos que, durante el ciclo actual, las recomendaciones sobre el acceso de y la cooperación con mecanismos regionales e internacionales de derechos humanos, la investigación de los abusos de derechos humanos cometidos contra manifestantes, y la seguridad y libertad de periodistas y personas defensoras encarceladas, no fueron aceptados por el Gobierno.

    Como lo detalla nuestra presentación, la legislación nicaragüense sigue tratando a la calumnia y la injuria como delitos penales, y la libertad de prensa continúa limitada por la manipulación de la distribución de publicidad oficial, la denegación de acceso para cubrir actividades gubernamentales, el control estricto del flujo informativo desde la cúspide del aparato estatal, y la concentración de medios en manos de la familia presidencial y sus aliados. También se han registrado actos de censura explícita.

    Asimismo, nuestra presentación documenta que la legislación que regula la creación, el funcionamiento y la disolución de OSC es aplicada de manera arbitraria, con el objeto de obstaculizar e intimidar al personal de OSC independientes, las cuales también se han visto afectadas por restricciones legales o de facto para recibir financiamiento externo y mantener colaboraciones internacionales. Las personas defensoras del derecho al territorio, activistas por los derechos de las mujeres y las personas LGBTI, periodistas y blogueras también son rutinariamente estigmatizadas, acosadas, criminalizadas, arrestadas arbitrariamente y atacadas físicamente.

    El ejercicio de la libertad de reunión pacífica enfrenta obstáculos en la ley y en la práctica, desde requisitos de autorización para realizar manifestaciones y una Ley de Seguridad Soberana que define ampliamente las amenazas de seguridad para criminalizar tácticas comunes de los movimientos de protesta, hasta el uso ilegal de fuerza excesiva y mortal contra manifestantes, que entre abril y agosto de 2018 causó la muerte de por lo menos 300 personas.

    Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno de Nicaragua para que tome medidas proactivas para abordar estas preocupaciones e implemente recomendaciones para crear y mantener, en la ley y en la práctica, un entorno propicio para la sociedad civil.

     

  • Detention and disappearance of activists is widespread

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    -Statement on report of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    CIVICUS thanks the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for their report. We are concerned that it shows Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia - Human Rights Council member states from the Middle East – as well as Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and the UAE, all using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to silence civil society and shut down dissent with impunity. 

    Bahrain arbitrarily detained Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab on 9 April 2011 and 13 June 2016 respectively. They are among dozens of human rights defenders whom the authorities have arbitrarily detained, including Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, both subject to mistreatment by officials. The authorities denied them medical treatment and interfered with their family visits. We are particularly alarmed by the Working Group’s reports of reprisals against those who have been subject of an urgent appeal or opinion in Bahrain. This falls far short of the standards that every state, but particularly members of the Human Rights Council, should uphold.

    We condemn Egypt's arbitrary arrest of lawyer Ibrahim Metwally in 2017 en route to attend an HRC session, to present cases of enforced disappearance, and his ill-treatment. His and the cases of 12 others arbitrarily arrested in June 2019 reflect Egypt's closure of civic space.

    In Iraq, we condemn the detention of journalists, protesters and civil society activists. During protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained including Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani.

    Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on women’s and other human rights defenders forms its systematic use of arbitrary detention in which thousands have been detained.

    Those detained in 2018 included Aziza al-Yousef; Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and other women’s rights advocates who also campaigned to end the driving ban, as well as writers, academics and family members of WHRDs. “Charges” were only brought against them in March 2019. They remain in prison, alongside members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA); Mohammed al-Qahtani, and Abdullah al-Hamid; blogger Raif Badawi and human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair.

    Iran systematically arbitrarily detains trade unionists, HRDs, minority rights activists and lawyers like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi.

    Kuwait’s arbitrary arrest in July, of stateless rights activists including Abdulhakim al-Fadhli exemplifies the intersectionality of rights and how guaranteeing civil space bolsters other rights. 

    The UAE’s March 2017 arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of HRD Ahmed Mansoor continues to tarnish the UAE, showing that its “year of tolerance” does not include human rights.

    Mr. President, the report of the Working Group shows that the use of arbitrary detention – often without charge, recourse to access independent legal representation, and in poor conditions of detention – remains an active method to quell dissent across the Middle East. 

    CIVICUS joins civil society in calling for full cooperation with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and we call on states who have instrumentalized arbitrary detention to immediately release those detained and provide justice and remedy to victims and their families. 

    We ask the Working Group: what more can be done to ensure implementation of its appeals and opinions in states where arbitrary detention remains so widespread?

     

  • Dialogue with U.N Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed

    40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    CIVICUS statement during dialogue with UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed

    After the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations delivered a statement on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, representatives from governments, UN agencies and civil society were able to respond and ask questions. CIVICUS was able to participate and issued the following statement:


    The “future we want” outcome document, which led to the adoption for the Agenda 2030, is unequivocal that democracy, good governance and rule of law are essential for sustainable development.

    This explicit acknowledgment of the need to nurture democratic freedoms and institutions is indicative of the growing recognition that civil society must play a prominent role in developing and implementing policies and practices to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Notably, civil society often provides essential services, based on and in response to the needs of their communities and perform an important watchdog role over public resources.  However as crucial civic space is to the realisation of the SDGs, the CIVICUS Monitor finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where these freedoms are adequately protected.

    Although democracy, good governance and rule of law are most readily realised through civic space and civil society partnerships as enshrined in Agenda 2030 in Goal 16.7, 16.10 and 17.17 we are witnessing more development actors coming under attack. Some are being swept up in drag net tactics that include disproportionate enforcement of anti-terrorism laws while others are being deliberately targeted by States and non-state actors alike. This is a worrying trend that threatens the full realization of the SDGs.

    Additionally, the pledge to 'Leave No One Behind' will not be met if we do not actively enable the agency of women and other traditionally excluded groups to organise and hold governments to account.

    CIVICUS encourage States to set positive examples in relation to civic space and civil society participation, including through moves to adopt enabling NGO laws and by involving civil society representatives in decision making structures. But how can you as Deputy Secretary General, as spokesperson for the SDGs, help us to further,  accelerate the civic space agenda and the rights-based approach to development and the 2030 Agenda also into the NY discussions?

     

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

    CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, and FIDH welcome the government of Djibouti's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the government’s commitment during its 3rd cycle review to ensure that no restrictions will be imposed on visits by Special Rapporteurs and to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, Djibouti has not implemented any of the recommendations it received relating to civic space. 

    We regret that anti-terrorism measures continue to be used as a smokescreen for severe restrictions on civic space. Indeed, a November 2015 decree effectively banned all public meetings and gatherings and heavily restricted the political opposition’s activities ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. 

    During its 3rd cycle review, the government claimed that ‘to date, no human rights defender has been detained or even prosecuted.’ Yet in our joint submission, we documented numerous arrests and detentions of human rights defenders, journalists and political opposition members Authorities rarely followed due process and at times subjected prisoners to ill-treatment and torture.

    On 15 April 2018, just two days after returning home from Djibouti’s UPR Pre-session in Geneva, security agents briefly detained HRD Mr. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim, confiscated his passport and raided his home. Since then, he has been unable to leave the country.

    Finally, we deplore the lack of transparent and credible investigations into security forces’ killing of at least 27 people and injuring of 150 others at a religious festival in Balbala on 21 December 2015. The government has accepted recommendations to ensure the respect for and protection of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and we urge the government to rapidly and thoroughly investigate and bring to justice any violators.

    Mr. President, CIVICUS, DefendDefenders and FIDH call on the Government of Djibouti 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.

     

  • DRC: ‘The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission has failed’

    CIVICUS speaks about the ongoing protests against the United Nations (UN) Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), MONUSCO, with social activists Espoir Ngalukiye and Sankara Bin Kartumwa.

    Espoir and Sankara are members of LUCHA (Lutte Pour Le Changement), a civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for human dignity and social justice in the DRC. It has played a role in peaceful protests against MONUSCO.

    LUCHA Lutte Pour Le Changement

    What triggered the anti-MONUSCO protests?

    The eastern region of the DRC has faced security issues for over three decades. People are protesting for MONUSCO to leave because its strategy to maintain peace has failed.

    MONUSCO was deployed to restore peace in the DRC by protecting civilians, facilitating safe electoral processes and fighting rebel groups. But it has been in the country for close to 20 years and the opposite has happened: the number of armed groups has risen, people continue to live in unsafe conditions and innocent lives are being lost despite the presence of MONUSCO.

    It was the peacekeeping mission’s job to prevent that happening, but it has not served us diligently and has proven to be useless. Right now, extremely high levels of violence are causing many people to migrate in search of safety. This alone is evidence enough that the peacekeeping mission has failed.

    Many people in local communities do not have a good relationship with MONUSCO because they believe the mission has not taken up its role to protect them. Civilians’ lack of trust, in turn, makes it challenging for MONUSCO to carry out its mandate. But if it was effective, people would not be protesting against it.

    How have the authorities responded to protesters’ demands?

    The immediate response has been violence by both MONUSCO and the Congolese authorities. We have seen people injured and killed just because they were part of the protests. People are angry because security issues have been ongoing for years, and MONUSCO should have seen this coming: it was only a matter of time before people started acting on their anger towards the mission. MONUSCO should have come up with ways to deal with the situation without people having to lose their lives. 

    As for the Congolese authorities, they have arrested people unlawfully. Most people who have been detained are facing terrible conditions in prison and our concern is that they all get justice. We do not want them to be tortured for fighting for their rights.

    The UN Secretary-General has condemned the violence and called for the Congolese government to investigate it. But the demand for MONUSCO’s departure has not been addressed, and protesters say they will not stop demonstrating until MONUSCO leaves.

    Unfortunately, the Congolese authorities have not addressed our concerns either. From our standpoint, they will be the next to be targeted because they have been elected and are paid to protect us. If they cannot live up to their responsibilities, we will hold them accountable. They must join their voice to ours and ask MONUSCO to leave.

    What is civil society in general, and LUCHA in particular, doing to help improve the situation?

    LUCHA is a CSO that advocates for change in a non-violent manner. We have tried to show people it is possible to advocate for change without using violence. Our members have participated in protests against MONUSCO, which we believe are legitimate and constitutional, so we also demand non-violence and respect for the law on the government’s part. Our country has a violent history, and we would like to change that narrative.

    We are an organisation led by young people who have experienced war and conflict and want to see a better society emerge, and a better future for all. We struggle for Congolese people and their right to have access to basic needs, starting with living in a safe environment. We have members on the ground in the areas where the protests are happening, and their role is to monitor the situation and report on the events taking place.

    LUCHA is using our social media accounts to inform people in and outside the DRC about the situation and how it is impacting on so many innocent lives. We hope this will create awareness and push the authorities to address our demands.

    Our monitors on the ground also work to ensure protesters do not employ violence, but this has proven to be a challenge because most people are tired and at this point they are willing to do whatever it takes to get MONUSCO to leave, even if it means using violence.

    What should the international community do to help?

    The international community has been hypocritical and has always prioritised their own needs. It is unfortunate that the recent events are happening in a mineral-rich area of our country. Many powerful people have interests there and are willing to do anything to ensure they are protected. That is why so few countries are speaking up against what is happening.

    Geography also puts us at a disadvantage. Maybe if we were Ukraine our voices would have mattered but we are the DRC, and international players only care about our resources and not our people. But the people who are getting killed in the DRC are human beings who have families and lives and dreams just like the ones being killed in Ukraine.

    The international community must understand that we need peace and security, and that MONUSCO has failed to deliver and needs to leave our country. It must listen to the voice of the people who are sovereign. Listening to the people will be the only way to stop the protests. Trying to stop them any other way will lead to more violence and more deaths.

    Civic space in the DRC is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with LUCHA through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@luchaRDC on Twitter. 

     

  • DRC: 500 political prisoners released under new administration but concerns persist

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Statement during Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report of the Democratic Republic of Congo

    The Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) and CIVICUS welcome the government of DRC's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome some positive initial steps with regards to civic space taken by President Félix Tshisekedi during his first nine months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. 

    In our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, DRC has not implemented, nor taken any concrete steps to implement, recommendations relating to civic space. We welcome the government’s acceptance of recommendations on civic space in this UPR cycle, and look forward to their implementation, although we regret that the DRC did not accept recommendations relating to engagement with Special Procedures mandate holders. 

    Press freedom in DRC is seriously hampered by restrictive legislation, which contains provisions criminalizing press offenses. Journalists are subjected to threats, intimidation, physical attacks, arbitrary arrest and judicial prosecution, with almost complete impunity. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison – later reduced to a six- month suspended sentence - on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.

    Under the former administration, protests were systematically banned, protesters arbitrarily arrested and often met with excessive force by security personnel, leading to hundreds of deaths. Although protests are no longer systematically banned, excessive use of force, including the use of live ammunition, is still a recurrent issue. One person was killed during opposition protests in Kinshasa and Goma on 30 June 2019.

    Some restrictive draft legislation should be amended or withdrawn. The draft law on the protection of HRDs contains restrictive provisions and limitations that are not in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The draft modifying the Law on Associations would restrict civic space if approved in its current state. 

    Mr President, the DRC’s UPR review provides an opportunity for the DRC to put into practice its promises. LDGL and CIVICUS call on the Government of DRC to take proactive measures to implement recommendations relating to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

     

  • DRC: No steps taken to end impunity enjoyed by state actors for human rights violations

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

    CIVICUS welcomes some positive first steps with regards to civic space taken by President Felix Tshisekedi during his first six months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. The President pledged, during his inauguration speech, to 'ensure that every citizen is guaranteed the respect of the exercise of their fundamental rights’, and that the government would have among its priorities the fight against impunity and the promotion of the press and the media to turn into a ‘real fourth estate’.

    Despite these initial positive developments, no steps have been taken to end the widespread impunity enjoyed by state actors for human rights violations, including by security forces. Despite some noticeable improvements in the area of peaceful assembly, restrictions including the use of excessive use of force to disperse protesters, are at times still imposed.

    One person was killed when police dispersed protesters during opposition protests in Kinsasha and Goma on 30 June 2019.  It was reported that security forces used tear gas against protesters and some of those involved in the protests were physically assulted. Although there has been a decline in media violations, press offenses are still criminalised. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison and the sentence was later reduced to a six-month suspended sentence, in Mbandaka, Equateur province, on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.

    We call on the Tshisekedi administration to take concrete and sustained measures to implement human rights commitments made and to ensure that the freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and association are respected. This includes reviewing all restrictive legislation–  notably the draft Law on Associations and the draft Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders – to bring them in line with international human rights law.

    We further urge the DRC  to take concrete measures to end widespread impunity by fully investigating all human rights violations and bringing those responsible swiftly to justice.

     

  • DRC: Statement on human rights violations

     

    Statement at the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Response during the Interactive Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo

    CIVICUS welcomes the decree signed by newly-elected Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to pardon about 700 political prisoners detained for participating in peaceful protests or expressing dissenting opinions. While we commend the President for fulfilling a pledge made in his inaugural address, we urge that this is swiftly followed by the actual release from prison of those detained.

    Mr.  President, the people of DRC have experienced years of widespread human rights violations and repression, including serious restrictions on freedom of association, assembly and expression. The use of violence to disperse peaceful protesters was a hallmark of the former regime and continued after the December 2018 elections.  Those targeted have largely been representatives of civil society groups and supporters of the political opposition.  

    The right to freedom of expression and access to information was severely restricted in the aftermath of the elections, when authorities shut down electronic and radio communications under the pretext of preventing the spread of false information.  The government should now lift all restrictions on media freedom, including the 2017 Decree on Freedom of the Press, as a crucial step towards creating an enabling environment for all to express their views without fear of violence and intimidation.

    The human rights violations perpetrated in the DRC have been compounded by the impunity enjoyed by government officials and members of the security forces, including the army, presidential guard and intelligence services.  A major priority for the new administration should be to investigate all human rights violations, including killings, sexual violence, abductions, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions, and to ensure that all perpetrators be held accountable for their actions.  

    The new administration has a responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is strengthened, and freedom of expression, assembly and association upheld. If this is to happen, the new leadership must guarantee the independence of institutions that promote and protect human rights, and to ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without any interference from the state.


    The CIVICUS Monitor rates the state of civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo as Closed.

     

  • El Reino Unido responde a las preguntas realizadas por los miembros de CIVICUS al Consejo de Seguridad

    En el marco de sus consultas con la sociedad civil durante su presidencia del Consejo de Seguridad del mes de agosto, la Misión Permanente del Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte ante las Naciones Unidas respondió a las preguntas presentadas por los miembros de CIVICUS sobre la situación de seguridad en la República Democrática del Congo, Eritrea, Etiopía, Gaza y Birmania.


    La sociedad civil ocupa un papel importante en los programas del Consejo de Seguridad y CIVICUS desea agradecer al Reino Unido y a todos los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad por su compromiso constante con la participación de la sociedad civil en el trabajo del Consejo.

    El Consejo de Seguridad sigue de cerca la situación en la República Democrática del Congo (RDC).  En la resolución 2409 solicitamos al Secretario General que se nos proporcionaran informes cada treinta días.  El Consejo también aborda con frecuencia la situación de la RDC. El Consejo de Seguridad insiste en la importancia de que se celebren elecciones pacíficas, creíbles, inclusivas y oportunas el 23 de diciembre de 2018, en conformidad con el calendario electoral, que conduzcan a un traspaso pacífico del poder, según las disposiciones de la Constitución congoleña.  El Consejo de Seguridad también destaca la importancia de proteger a los civiles, incluso mediante el mandato de la MONUSCO, para la cual su protección es una prioridad estratégica. Durante la presidencia británica tuvo lugar una sesión informativa del Consejo de Seguridad sobre la RDC centrada en las próximas elecciones. Aquí puede consultarse la declaración del embajador.
     
    El Consejo de Seguridad publicó una comunicado sobre la firma de la Declaración conjunta de paz y amistad entre Eritrea y Etiopía del 9 de julio de 2018

    El OOPS fue creado por mandato de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas.  La posibilidad de que se suspendan sus servicios debido al actual déficit financiero del OOPS es motivo de gran preocupación para los miembros del Consejo de Seguridad, como así se expresó durante las consultas del Consejo celebradas el 22 de agosto sobre la situación en Oriente Medio.

    El Reino Unido sigue firmemente comprometido con el OOPS y con los refugiados palestinos de todo Oriente Medio. Ante las crecientes presiones financieras, el Reino Unido ha aportado alrededor de 60 millones de dólares americanos en 2018. Instamos a otros países a que proporcionen financiación adicional y a que efectúen desembolsos periódicos para garantizar que el OOPS siga llevando acabo su labor esencial.

    El Consejo de Seguridad sigue de cerca y con preocupación la situación en Gaza, por ejemplo, a través de las reuniones informativas periódicas como la que la Secretaria General Adjunta, Rosemary DiCarlo, ofreció ante el Consejo el 22 de agosto.
     
    El principal objetivo a largo plazo del Reino Unido es el retorno seguro, voluntario y digno a Rakáin, bajo supervisión internacional, del mayor número posible de refugiados rohinyás que se encuentran actualmente en Bangladés. En la actualidad, consideramos que las condiciones no son las adecuadas para el regreso de los refugiados. Apoyaremos a Birmania para que así lo haga, pero necesita realizar mejoras tangibles sobre el terreno. De manera más inmediata, Birmania debería permitir el acceso sin trabas de la ONU al norte de Rakáin.

    El Reino Unido ha acogido con satisfacción el anuncio de Birmania de crear una comisión de investigación sobre la violencia en Rakáin. Ahora es esencial que el gobierno birmano establezca las condiciones para que dicha investigación sea creíble, transparente e imparcial. Aún esperamos la decisión de la CPI con el fin de saber si tiene jurisdicción sobre las deportaciones de rohinyás a Bangladés (país signatario del Estatuto de Roma).
     
    Este mes, los miembros de CIVICUS preguntaron por las libertades cívicas en Colombia, la retirada de las tropas de la UNAMID de Darfur, la inseguridad alimentaria en el Sahel, la reubicación de la embajada de los Estados Unidos en Jerusalén, el deterioro del espacio cívico en Uganda, el caso de Omar Al Bashir en la Corte Penal Internacional y la amenaza mundial que supone la ciberdelincuencia.

    Estas preguntas y respuestas son el resultado de un llamamiento mensual a los miembros de CIVICUS para que envíen sus preguntas al presidente del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU. Esta es una oportunidad para que los miembros entren en contacto con un importante foro internacional de toma de decisiones. El personal de CIVICUS plantea las preguntas en nombre de los miembros de CIVICUS durante el informe mensual del presidente. ¡Hágase socio de CIVICUS para mantenerse informado y participar en esta acción!

     

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

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

    Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Yours sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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