United Nations

 

  • Uyghur Violations a Litmus Test for Global Governance and Rules-Based International Order

    By Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Programs and United Nations Representative at CIVICUS

    This week is a momentous one for the world’s premier human rights body. At stake is a resolution to decide whether the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva can hold a debate on a recently released UN report. The report concludes that rights violations by China’s government in its Xinjiang region ‘may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity’.Unsurprisingly, China’s government is doing everything in its power to scotch plans for a debate on the report’s contents. Its tactics include intimidating smaller states, spreading disinformation and politicising genuine human rights concerns – the very thing the Human Rights Council was set up to overcome.

    The historic report, which affirms that the rights of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim population are being violated through an industrial-level programme of mass incarceration, systemic torture and sexual violence, attracted huge controversy before it was released on 31 August 2022, minutes before the end of the term of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

    Read on Inter Press Service

     

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

    The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International Partnership for Human Rights and CIVICUS welcome the government of Uzbekistan’s engagement with the UPR process, including its decision to accept over 200 recommendations on a range of human rights issue. 

    While we note the release from detention of 28 activists, political opponents and journalists in the last two yars, as well as the authorities’ steps to allow for greater  independent dissent, we regret that freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association remain willfully suppressed by the State limited. Of the 28 people released in the last two years, many remain under surveillance. According to human rights monitors, at least five people remain behind bars for exercising their right to freedom of expression. We are concerned that since 25 August 2018 at least twelve bloggers have also been detained in connection with posts they made on social media. 

    We regret that national legal mechanisms remain partial and subject to political interference. Courts continue to place arbitrary restrictions on protests, including  rulings that unwarrantedly limit people’s support for demonstrations off and online under the guise of    incitement to public disorder. During detention, torture is frequently used and procedural rights for detainees are often disregarded. Those who submit written complaints to the President or speak to the press are sometimes added to the “black list” of people deemed “undesirable” and are denied freedom of movement.

    We regret that tight state controls on CSO  registration, funding and activities, coupled with ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, prevent independent media outlets and human rights CSOs s from operating unencumbered .  

    Although some activists have been allowed to travel abroad in recent months, restrictions on international travel remain in place for other human rights defenders. 

    Mr President, we call on Uzbekistan to implement recommendations it accepted on promoting the right to freedom of association and participation in public affairs to lift prohibitive registration requirements of CSOs, to ensure CSOs and journalists can fully exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and to create a safe environment for human rights defenders, including for women human rights defenders.
     

     

  • Venezuela failed to implement over 80% of UN recommendations on civic rights

    International human rights groups raise alarm about the state of civic rights in Venezuela ahead of the country's review at the United Nations Human Rights Council on 25 January, 2022.

    CIVICUS, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD) and Espacio Público call on UN member states to urge the government of Venezuela to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 25 January 2022 as part of the 40th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    The last time the country’s rights record was reviewed was in November 2016, when UN member states made a total of 274 recommendations, 40 of which related to civic freedoms. Venezuela subsequently accepted 23 recommendations and committed to taking concrete measures. Among these measures, to “fully guarantee freedom of expression and free access to information and protect journalists against threats and attacks” and to ensure “a proportional use of force by security forces and ensure that cases of torture are investigated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

    In a joint submission to the Human Rights Council this UPR cycle, our organisations assessed the implementation of these recommendations and compliance with international human rights law and standards over the last five years. The submission found that since 2016, Venezuela has persistently failed to address unwarranted restrictions on civic space, particularly those related to the rights to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression. Of the 40 recommendations received, Venezuela only partially implemented seven and did not implement 33.

    We are deeply concerned by the restrictions facing civil society organisations, particularly those working on humanitarian and human rights issues. Judicial persecution and financial restrictions against civil society, rights defenders and journalists have intensified, combined with a stigmatising discourse that seeks to justify attacks against the legitimate exercise of the freedoms of association and expression. We are also alarmed by the continuing systematic suppression of peaceful protests.

    The 2017 Anti-Hate Law for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance uses vague wording about ‘hate’ offences to give the government ample power to censor dissent and curtail independent media. It has been used to criminalise peaceful protests and prosecute human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists. Since the law was enacted, at least 42 people have been prosecuted under its provisions, including HRDs, journalists, protesters, healthcare workers and individuals who expressed dissatisfaction on social media.

    The operation of civil society organisations is restricted through a repressive regulatory framework and a hostile environment. The 2010 Law for the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination remains in force, bans organisations working on promoting and protecting political rights from receiving foreign funding. In 2020 and 2021, authorities created additional registration and reporting requirements that create bureaucratic hurdles for organisations and restrict their operation. 

    Despite commitments to freedoms of expression guaranteed in the Constitution, the government has also continued to use restrictive laws such as criminal defamation provisions under the Penal Code to criminalise criticism of the authorities. Tactics to curtail independent press such as financial strangulation, cancellation of broadcasting licences, equipment confiscation, and censorship are widespread.

    ‘States must take the opportunity of Venezuela’s human rights review to hold the government to account for violations. The authorities have not only failed to deliver on the human rights commitments it made but has continued to use the judicial system to silence dissent,’ said David Kode, Advocacy & Campaign Lead at CIVICUS

    Between 2016 and 2020, Venezuela has experienced waves of mass demonstrations and frequent localised social protests demanding a range of rights. These were invariably met with brutal repression, including widespread and systematic excessive use of force by security agents against protesters. In 2017 alone, at least 120 people were killed and 5,000 detained in the mass protests sparked by a constitutional crisis after the government and the country’s highest court disavowed the National Assembly. In this period, the response to protests was characterised by a pattern of violations that included arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.

    ‘It is time for Venezuela to take action to reverse this environment of violations. The authorities must stop creating a legal framework that suppresses the defence of human rights,’ commented Ángela Rodríguez, Research Assistant at REDLAD.

    As highlighted in our joint submission, CIVICUS, REDLAD, and Espacio Público urge states to make recommendations to Venezuela, which, if implemented, would guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and the state’s duty to protect.
    Key recommendations that should be made include:

    • Cease actions to suspend and close civil society organisations and remove all undue restrictions on their ability to receive international and domestic funding.
    • Provide civil society members, HRDs and journalists with a safe and secure environment to carry out their work and ensure that they can carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction, or legal and administrative harassment.
    • Review and amend laws to remove undue restrictions on civil society and the press, including the Law for the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination and Penal Code articles on criminal defamation
    • Repeal the Anti-Hate Law and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained under the law for exercising their fundamental rights.
    • Reinstate all media outlets that have unwarrantedly been closed and cease practices of confiscating equipment and materials and censoring media.
    • Immediately and impartially investigate all instances of extrajudicial killing and excessive force committed by security forces in the context of protests. Provide recourse to judicial review and effective remedy to victims.

    The examination of Venezuela will occur during the 40th Session of the UPR. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, which examines the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every four and a half years. The review is an interactive dialogue between the State delegation and members of the Council and addresses a broad range of human rights topics. 11 other countries will also have their rights record reviewed, including Haiti, Syria and Zimbabwe. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council (June 2022).

    Civic space in Venezuela is rated as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • VIETNAM: ‘We hope UN member states will listen to civil society’

     

    Ahead of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam’s human rights record at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on 22 January 2019, CIVICUS speaks to Anna Nguyen from VOICE, a civil society organisation that promotes civil society development and advocates for human rights, including refugee protection, and the rule of law in Vietnam. Founded in 2007, VOICE’s mission is to empower individuals to build a strong, independent and vibrant civil society.

    A Vietnamese-Australian lawyer, Anna Nguyen is VOICE's Director of Programs. She oversees a training programme for Vietnamese activists in Southeast Asia, a refugee resettlement programme in Thailand and advocacy efforts, including at the UN, to raise awareness of the human rights situation in Vietnam.

    Along with VOICE, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation and VOICE Vietnam, CIVICUS made aUPR submissionon to the Human Rights Council in July 2018.

    What is the current situation for human rights and civil society in Vietnam?

    The human rights situation in Vietnam is dire. While the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are supposedly protected by the constitution, they are not respected in practice. In 2018, 88 human rights defenders (HRDs) were arrested, and at least 194 remain in prison for peacefully exercising their civil and political rights. This is a staggering number and surely shows that the government of Vietnam is doing as much as it can to stifle political dissent.

    Civil society in Vietnam has been steadily growing since mass protests over territorial disputes with China were held in Hanoi and Saigon in 2011, and thanks to the increasing use of social media such as Facebook and YouTube. There are more independent civil society groups now than there were seven years ago, and more people are willing to speak up on Facebook and attend protests to raise awareness of atrocities committed by the government, as well as attend training programmes relating to human rights. On the other hand, the Vietnamese government has used many tactics to stifle the development of an independent civil society movement, including the brutal suppression of protests, the physical harassment and imprisonment of HRDs and its refusal to pass a law on association.

    How is the government persecuting online and offline dissent?

    Peaceful protests are subject to brutal suppression, and their participants are victims of harassment and continuous surveillance. In June 2018, following a mass protest opposing proposed cybersecurity and Special Economic Zones legislation, the authorities cracked down heavily on peaceful protesters by using teargas and excessive force to prevent and punish participation, resulting in a range of human rights violations, including torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

    Peaceful dissidents are often harassed, physically assaulted, criminalised with vague national security laws and imprisoned. In 2018, nine of the many peaceful activists imprisoned received the longest prison terms available, ranging from 12 to 20 years.

    Bloggers in Vietnam who have been at the forefront of exposing abuses by the state, including human rights violations, corruption, land grabbing and environmental issues have faced intimidation, threats and imprisonment.

    Prominent blogger and entrepreneur, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, was sentenced to 16 years jail for “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration in January 2010 while Hoang Duc Binh, a blogger and environmental activist, was sentenced to 14 years after being convicted on two separate charges of “resisting officers acting under their duty” and for “abusing freedoms and democratic rights”

    In July 2017, Tran Thi Nga, a blogger and labour rights activist was convicted of “anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment for sharing articles and videos online highlighting ongoing rights abuses tied to environmental crises and political corruption.

    A draconian Cybersecurity Law, inspired by China’s, entered into force on 1 January 2019. This law tightens the government’s control of information and its ability to silence its online critics. Among other things, it allows the government to demand the removal, within 24 hours, of any posts that are deemed critical.

    Why is the UPR process important for civil society?

    The UPR process is open to all actors, not just states, which is why it is a great opportunity for civil society, and especially unregistered civil society groups, to get involved in the process by bringing in a perspective that is different from that of governments. It gives civil society an opportunity to highlight a state’s human rights record, as well as to provide recommendations to improve it.

    Has Vietnamese civil society been able to participate in the UPR process? Has it encountered any challenges in doing so?

    While the Vietnamese government held national consultations during the UPR process, it did not include independent and unregistered groups such as VOICE. This has been a challenge, because we haven’t had an open dialogue with the state.

    In addition, reprisals are a big factor. Some HRDs who have been involved in the UPR process have faced difficulties upon returning home to Vietnam, including the confiscation of their passports and continuous surveillance and harassment. Reprisals are just another tactic that the government uses to stifle the growth of a civil society movement and punish civil society for peacefully raising its voice about the state’s failure to meet its human rights obligations.

    What are some of civil society’s key recommendation to states participating in the upcoming review of Vietnam at the Human Rights Council?

    Civil society is calling on states to urge Vietnam’s government to amend the Penal Code to ensure that ambiguous provisions relating to national security - notably articles 79 (109), 87 (116), 88 (117), 89 (118), 91 (121), 257 (330) and 258 (331) - are clearly defined or removed so they cannot be applied in an arbitrary manner to stifle legitimate and peaceful dissent and the freedom of expression.

    We also want states to recommend that the government amend or repeal legislation specifically related to the freedoms of expression and information, and related to privacy and surveillance, in line with international standards such as articles 17, 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are particularly concerned about the Press Law, the Law on Publications and the Cybersecurity Law, as well as about Decree No. 72/2013/ND-CP on the management of internet services and information and Decree No.174/2013/ND-CP, which imposes penalties for the violation of post, telecommunication, information technology and radio regulations.

    State representatives at the Human Rights Council should also call on Vietnam to ensure that civil society activists, HRDs, journalists and bloggers are provided with a safe and secure environment in which to carry out their work. They should also conduct impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all cases of attacks on and harassment and intimidation against them and bring the perpetrators to justice.

    Finally, there should be recommendations to ensure the independent and effective investigation of and implementation of remedy for arbitrary detention and physical or mental abuse by the state, with special attention to the protection of HRDs. Specifically, the government of Vietnam should be urged to release, unconditionally and immediately, all HRDs, including journalists and bloggers, detained for exercising their fundamental rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and drop all charges against them.

    What would you like to see come out of the UPR review?

    We hope that UN member states in the Human Rights Council will listen to civil society and our recommendations, and that a diverse range of civil society’s human rights concerns, including the rights of women, young people and LGBTQI people, and civil and political rights, will be addressed by strong recommendations - by recommendations that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. This will allow civil society groups and other stakeholders to monitor easily whether the government of Vietnam follows through with their implementation.

    We would also like Vietnam to have more dialogue with unregistered and independent groups, to ensure there is a balanced representation of civil society in national dialogues for future reviews. This will strengthen the impact of the UPR process and improve the integrity of the mechanism.

    What are you plans following the UPR review, and what support is needed from the international community and international civil society?

    VOICE will raise awareness of the commitments made by Vietnam through translation and dissemination among the public, media, parliamentarians, embassies and civil society.

    We will make sure to follow up on the recommendations made to Vietnam to ensure they are being followed through by holding regular stakeholder meetings, including with other civil society groups and embassies in Hanoi. We will continue to update the states that have made specific recommendations during advocacy meetings, to let them know whether progress has been made and urge them to put some additional pressure if it has not.

    We would like the international community, including international civil society organisations, to keep up the pressure so the government of Vietnam follows through with the recommendations they have received, and to provide a platform for civil society groups and HRDs to raise awareness about the state’s progress or lack of progress in human rights.

    Civic space inVietnam is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor

    Get in touch with VOICE through their website  orFacebook page, or follow@VoiceVietnam on Twitter

     

  • Wanted: Strong UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

    38th Session Human Rights Council
    Joint Statement*

    We want to highlight key features for the next High Commissioner – one of the world’s premier human rights defender – whose mandate includes providing technical assistance and capacity building to States, as well as standing up for universal human rights and those who defend them. 

    The work of the next High Commissioner, and of human rights defenders more broadly, is essential to justice, fairness and dignity for all. Defenders contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. They combat corruption and the misuse of power. They promote good government, transparency and accountability. They seek to ensure that no-one gets left behind. 

    Despite this, around the world, defenders face mounting attacks and criminalisation for standing up to power, privilege, prejudice and profit. Their work has never been more important, nor more imperiled. 

    Mr President, it is in this context we say that the next UN High Commissioner needs to be a dedicated human rights defender. S/he need to be committed to working with and for human rights defenders; consulting and partnering with them, supporting their causes, and speaking out and protecting them when they are threatened or attacked.

    The next High Commissioner needs to build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics and business enterprises with a shared interest in human rights and the rule of law. S/he need to be fiercely independent, but also collaborative and capable of building influential partnerships and coalitions. 

    With the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights being linked to the attainment of peace, security and sustainable development, the next High Commissioner needs to be strongly supported by the UN Secretary-General and key UN agencies. Mr President, while the High Commissioner may be the UN’s premier human rights defender, it is time for the entire organisation to put human rights defenders up front.

    *International Service for Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights House Foundation, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), CIVICUS, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), West African Human Rights Networks

     

  • What's the status of the Sustainable Development Goals? UN & civil society annual meeting

    The 2018 High Level Political Forum will be held at UN headquarters in New York from Monday 9 to Wednesday 18 July.

    At the annual forum, governments, civil society and business, review progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    UN member states self-report their progress towards the goals by presenting a report known as a Voluntary National Review (VNR). In 2018, 47 countries will present their Voluntary National Reviews, the highest number so far. The goals that will get particular attention from 47 countries* participating in the review, include:

    • Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
    • Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
    • Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
    • Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
    • Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
    • Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. This goal is considered each year.

    CIVICUS' Activities at the HLPF
    CIVICUS is hosting a complete programme of events, together with a number of civil society partners and coalitions:

    See the full calendar of civil society events and resources

    *Full list of countries under review at this year’s High Level Political Forum:
    Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Ireland, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, State of Palestine, Sudan, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, and Vietnam

     

  • Why don’t we get a say at the UN?

    By Caroline Vernaillen, Democracy International

    Capture decran 2019 05 21 a 12.05.45When it comes to global issues, citizens have to trust that their governments will do their bidding. But what if our governments, willingly or accidentally, overlook an issue that is important to us? As citizens, our options to take influence on the global stage are limited. Together with Democracy Without Borders, we at Democracy International are launching an initiative to help remedy that. We need a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that allows citizens to table something at the UN General Assembly if they can gather enough support. I had the honor of presenting our idea at the CIVICUS International Civil Society Week in Belgrade, Serbia.

    In the past months, young people all over the world have been cutting school to protest against global warming. Week after week, they implore their political leaders take urgent action on climate change. But the overall political response has been indifference at best. In Belgium, the country I’m from, the Flemish Minister for Environment in an unheard-of outburst of vitriol, alleged that the protests were an “orchestrated conspiracy” against her. She has had to step back for proffering that lie, but what hasn’t been rectified is her insistence that Belgium is doing everything it can to prevent global warming. And this seems to be the fate of climate marches in many places: citizens are turning out in huge numbers to urge their governments to act, but governments insist they can’t do more.

    The appropriate arena to deal with an issue of the magnitude of climate change would be the United Nations (UN). The institution was built to collectively deal with global issues and is the most important hub of international politics. But here’s the thing: at the UN we are represented by our governments.

    Now, I may agree with 90% of what my government works towards at the UN, but if climate change happens to fall under the 10% where I feel that I’m not represented. Going on the growing crowds at demonstrations everywhere, I’m probably not the only one. The UN at least is aware of this issue and has made efforts to include civil society in some of its deliberations, but individual citizens remain markedly voiceless at the UN.

    With a World Citizens’ Initiative, a tool that would allow individuals who’ve gathered enough support to table a proposal at the UN General Assembly, citizens would be allowed to complement member states’ proposals with issues that they feel are missing. This is not a radical idea – instruments like this exist in numerous countries and even in other trans-national institutions. Since the entry-into-force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2012, EU citizens have the possibility to propose legislation to the EU Commission through the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). If a group of citizens manages to gather one million signatures in at least seven EU member states, the Commission has to respond to their proposal. Now, the ECI is far from perfect: it’s not well-known, very few initiatives succeed and those that do often don’t see concrete follow-up. But it’s a start and it has proven to be a useful tool for civil society and citizens alike to put their issues on the EU’s agenda.

    CIVICUS’ International Civil Society Week was the perfect place to pitch our idea for the first time and the response we received was incredibly encouraging. So many people came up to us to tell they liked the idea of a mechanism like this one, that it could be useful for their work. And this is exactly what we hope for: the introduction of a democratic tool that empowers citizens and civil society alike and includes them as important stakeholders in global decision-making.

    So, we’re gearing up to launch a campaign for a UN World Citizens’ Initiative. We’ve asked two legal experts to look into the technicalities of the tool and we’ve started building a broad, global coalition of civil society organizations who support this idea. But, much like anything else in this world, we can’t do this alone, so if this sounds interesting to you, we need you: Go to our website, sign up for our updates, write us, join us!

     

  • Why the Human Rights Council matters to grassroots activists

    By Clémentine de Montjoye, CIVICUS

    On 19th June 2018, the United States announced it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing the foremost international human rights body’s political bias and questionable membership. But as an institution made up of member states, none of which have perfect human rights records, its value is greater than the sum of its parts.

    During this session, for example, Eritrea, a country sometimes referred to as the ‘North Korea of Africa’, is on the agenda. For Helen Kidane, an exiled Eritrean human rights activist, this represents a unique opportunity to meet with diplomats and lobby for international action against a repressive government. The Council created a commission of inquiry in 2014 which found reasonable grounds to believe that the Eritrean government had committed crimes against humanity.

    "Resolutions may not be always implemented but at least they’ve kept Eritrea on the agenda", Helen told me after the U.S. announcement. "Otherwise it would just be swept under the carpet, and the situation would definitely be worse if no one spoke about it."

    While flawed, the Council presents an unequalled platform to raise human rights violations at a multilateral level, enable human rights defenders from the ground to address representatives from 193 countries, and interact with key decision-makers to push for justice.

    It has played a key role in shining a light on some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, whose mandate is up for renewal during this session, has been prominent in raising awareness of violations and giving a voice to victims in Eritrea. By allowing its position to be influenced by global political fault lines, the U.S. is also withdrawing its support for victims of oppression.

    This vital UN body cannot end conflicts and crises, and as a multilateral institution, regional dynamics and geopolitical manoeuvring will always restrict it. For instance, since the refugee crisis hit Europe and states have been working with repressive governments to repatriate refugees, some have indeed been less inclined to draw attention to human rights violations in Eritrea and other source countries. Eritreans refugees, who flee indefinite military service and face a shoot to kill policy at the border, represented the largest group of African refugees in Europe in 2015. 

    As is often the case in the microcosm that is the Council, the support we see for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea will be a good gauge of international attitudes towards this pariah state, and how migration policies are affecting them.

    But the Human Rights Council is also a place where those who have been persecuted, threatened, arrested, and tortured for speaking out on human rights violations at home can be heard, and sometimes get results. Beyond the politicking and horse trading, this is a place where grassroots activists can make sure that the human suffering they are working to alleviate isn’t reduced to operative paragraphs and resolutions, but that the voices of the victims remain an integral part of the process. By leaving, the U.S. is turning its back on victims and refusing to work with the system to deliver justice for human rights violations.

    As we finish our coffee, Helen tells me ‘As a human rights defender I don’t think human rights should be politicised. We can’t escape this but it doesn’t help anyone to disengage like the U.S has done, we need to work to improve the Council from the inside.’ Sadly, the U.S.’s decision to leave creates a vacuum which will likely be filled by traditional backers of national sovereignty like Russia and China who are increasingly working to undermine the legitimacy and substantive work of the Council.

     

  • Yemen: Urgent need to address humanitarian crisis

    39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's Report on Yemen

    Urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and its impact on the most vulnerable populations: A call for renewal and strengthening of the mandate for the Group of Eminent Experts

    This statement is made on behalf of Save the Children and 15 civil society organisations, including organisations
    with current operations in Yemen.

    Fighting around Hodeidah city has increased since early September and throughout the country, the welfare of
    at least 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation, including at least 4.2 million children, is at stake. This year
    alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

    Humanitarian access remains extremely challenging with more than 1.4 million people in need of assistance
    living in districts with high access constraints [1]. Parties to the conflict continue to deny or delay basic humanitarian
    services, access to essential supplies into and within the country.

    We have repeated on many occasions that the humanitarian situation has escalated to an unacceptable level
    of widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Since
    June, at least 425 attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals have been documented and verified [2].
    450 civilians have lost their lives in the first nine days of August alone [3].

    We call on Member States to take immediate action to hold all parties to the conflict to account for violations of
    international law. In particular, we urge Member States to:

    • Call on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and take immediate measures to prevent and end violations against civilians, notably children, including by supporting all authorities in Yemen to implement the Safe Schools Declaration and associated Guidelines for Protecting Schools and University from Military Use during Armed Conflict;
    • Urgently renew and strengthen the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen;
    • Suspend the sale or transfer of arms, munitions and related materials to all parties to the conflict; and
    • Engage all parties to the conflict to find an inclusive peaceful, sustainable and implementable political solution that involves women, youth, children, minority groups and civil society.

    Adventist Development and Relief Agency
    Action contre La Faim
    Danish Refugee Council
    Defence for Children International
    CARE International
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    INTERSOS
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK
    ZOA


    [1] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/20180806_humanitarian_update_final.pdf
    [2] https://www.unicef.org/yemen/YEM_sitreps_Jun2018.pdf
    [3] http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/8/5b8503637/unhcr-calls-protection-civilians-fleeing-yemens-al-hudaydah.html

     

  • Yemen: Urgent need to address humanitarian crisis

    39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during Interactive Dialogue on High Commissioner's Report on Yemen

    Urgent need to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and its impact on the most vulnerable populations: A call for renewal and strengthening of the mandate for the Group of Eminent Experts

    This statement is made on behalf of Save the Children and 15 civil society organisations, including organisations with current operations in Yemen.

    Fighting around Hodeidah city has increased since early September and throughout the country, the welfare of at least 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation, including at least 4.2 million children, is at stake. This year alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

    Humanitarian access remains extremely challenging with more than 1.4 million people in need of assistance living in districts with high access constraints [1]. Parties to the conflict continue to deny or delay basic humanitarian services, access to essential supplies into and within the country.

    We have repeated on many occasions that the humanitarian situation has escalated to an unacceptable level of widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Since June, at least 425 attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals have been documented and verified [2]. 450 civilians have lost their lives in the first nine days of August alone [3].

    We call on Member States to take immediate action to hold all parties to the conflict to account for violations of international law. In particular, we urge Member States to:

    • Call on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law, and take immediate measures to prevent and end violations against civilians, notably children, including by supporting all authorities in Yemen to implement the Safe Schools Declaration and associated Guidelines for Protecting Schools and University from Military Use during Armed Conflict;
    • Urgently renew and strengthen the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen;
    • Suspend the sale or transfer of arms, munitions and related materials to all parties to the conflict; and
    • Engage all parties to the conflict to find an inclusive peaceful, sustainable and implementable political solution that involves women, youth, children, minority groups and civil society.

    Adventist Development and Relief Agency
    Action contre La Faim
    Danish Refugee Council
    Defence for Children International
    CARE International
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    INTERSOS
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK
    ZOA


    [1] https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/20180806_humanitarian_update_final.pdf
    [2] https://www.unicef.org/yemen/YEM_sitreps_Jun2018.pdf
    [3] http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/8/5b8503637/unhcr-calls-protection-civilians-fleeing-yemens-al-hudaydah.html

     

  • Young People and Inequalities: Recommendation for the Post- 2015 Development Agenda

    Leading up to the year 2015, the United Nations and Civil Society are organizing a series of consultations to help shape the post-2015 development agenda. Part of this process is aGlobal Online Conversation, which provides a platform for people all over the world to share their visions for building a just and sustainable world free from poverty.  The following contribution was made by IWHC to the online thematic consultation on Inequalities, specifically within the sub-discussion on “Inequalities faced by girls”.

    Young people all over the world face a range of unique challenges to exercising their rights.  Barriers to age-appropriate health services, meaningful education, and viable livelihoods opportunities are among the most pressing impediments to youth empowerment.

    Read more at Akimbo

     

  • Your Questions Answered at UN Security Council

    CIVICUS member questions, addressed to the President of the UN Security Council
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    We were very pleased with the warm response to our first open call for CIVICUS members to submit questions to be posed to the President of the UN Security Council. In total we received questions from 24 members about the council’s work in places including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Burundi, Cameroon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Malawi, Nigeria, Palestine and Syria, as well as the situation for refugees in Europe.

    CIVICUS NY posed questions on behalf of 3 members related to the situation in Burundi and the situation in Gaza. You can watch the video of the briefing here (English). The questions from CIVICUS members and responses from Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations are included below. We also wish to thank the World Federation of United Nations Association for organising this monthly briefing.

    Question 1 - On behalf of Lebanese youth activist Nouhad Awwad Founder of Nature’s Advocate and an Ambassador at Arab Youth Sustainable Development Network @Awwad_Nouhad
    (Read by Lyndal Rowlands, CIVICUS NY Office)

    How does the UN security council plan to protect the civilians in Palestine and especially Gaza against attacks from the Israeli army? The last month was particularly devastating. Additionally, how does the council plan to support the Human Rights Council investigation into deadly shootings of Gaza protestors by Israeli forces.

    Response:

    On Gaza, well we share the concern on the situation in Gaza of course and I’m sure that you have heard our speaking up  against the violence there and the use of force against innocent civilians. Again we will continue to do that. Again we will also try to work with the special envoy Mr Mladenov who has presented a few thoughts on how we can de-escalate the situation there. We want the Security Council to support there and i think that there are also things that can be done in terms of the humanitarian relief of the situation  in Gaza, pending a peace negotiation that has to include an improvement of the situation for the people in Gaza. We have also committed very strongly for supporting UNRWA in their support to Palestinian refugees not just in Gaza but elsewhere. We are disappointed with countries that are moving away from that commitment so it’s important that others come in and that those who have committed stay committed.

    Question 2 - On behalf of two Burundian human rights defenders
    (Read by Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS NY Office)

    Although  Burundi is not on the top of the council’s agenda there is the Security Council resolution 2248 which was adopted in 2015 which requires the government to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms, however the situation in  Burundi remains grave at the moment and civic space remains completely closed. In fact New laws have been adopted further curtailing civic space, and human rights defenders have been sentenced to up to 32 years in prison. How is the council ensuring that resolution 2248 is upheld? What can the council do now, with the least delay, to ensure that the Burundian government lives up to its commitments.

    Response:

    On Burundi, it is on the Security Council agenda, it’s just that we have not scheduled it this month (current program of work) and that is partly because there is a sequence here that puts it on the agenda in August, so I mean that’s a pretty lame answer to be honest, given the situation as you describe but it’s just that unfortunately the situation in the world is such that we also have to prioritise. I’m not saying that Burundi’s not important I’m just saying that we’re overwhelmed, with situations that are relating to human rights violations and international law, but thank you for reminding us about the human rights situation in Burundi and we’ll see if there is a way that we can raise this somehow.

    We plan to continue our advocacy with  the council both through monthly calls for questions from members to pose at these briefings as well as through other opportunities throughout each month!