United Nations


  • UNITED NATIONS: ‘Ocean Treaty negotiations are largely a backroom discussion that excludes civil society’

    JohnPaulJoseCIVICUS speaks John Paul Jose about civil society’s role in the ongoing negotiations towards a United Nations (UN) High Seas Treaty. John is an environmental and climate activist from India who currently serves as one of the youth ambassadors of the High Seas Alliance (HSA) and a member of the Youth Policy Advisory Council of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance. The HSA is a partnership of more than 40 civil society organisations (CSOs) plus the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It aims to build a strong common voice and constituency for ocean conservation.

    What is the significance of the proposed treaty?

    Seventy-one per cent of the surface of the Earth is covered by ocean, 64 per cent of which are high seas. The ocean regulates the global climate and sustains life on the planet. It sequesters much of the historic and cumulative carbon emissions: phytoplankton, marine forests and whales, in particular, play a significant role in locking carbon in the ocean. However, the ocean has been systematically ignored in efforts to address the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity, which have focused almost exclusively on the land.

    As the high seas are a global commons, it is largely governed by the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency responsible for regulating shipping that was established in 1948, and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its autonomous intergovernmental body, the International Seabed Authority, established in 1994.

    But high seas are experiencing unprecedented threats that were not foreseen when those agreements were reached, such as the accumulation of plastics, chemical and industrial waste, acidification, deep sea mining, bottom trawling and, last but not least, the overall impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures and the overexploitation of marine habitats and species increase the danger of ocean collapse.

    This is why it is urgent to develop a global treaty on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction – a High Seas Treaty. This would provide the legal basis for the conservation of marine ecosystems and the protection from extinction of countless species yet to be discovered. Only one per cent of the high seas are currently protected, and the treaty aims to make it 30 per cent by 2030.

    This would be the equivalent of the Paris Agreement for the oceans. Through marine conservation and the sustainable use of marine resources, it will preserve the carbon cycle. By creating marine protected areas, it will contribute to the restoration of marine habitats and the replenishment of the marine resources on which many communities around the world rely for their livelihoods. It will further contribute to global climate resilience. Once it comes into effect, many practices harmful to the ocean will cease to exist within the protected areas.

    Why is the treaty process taking so long?

    It has been 15 years since the negotiations started, but cooperation has been lacking regarding many aspects of the treaty. Differences would need to be resolved in between sessions, and a treaty should be finalised to include all the aspects where agreements have been reached, leaving space for future amendments as differences over more contested elements are subsequently resolved. And intergovernmental conferences should definitely happen more often.

    One element being discussed is the equitable distribution among states of marine genetic resources, which are essential in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, agricultural and other industries. The current overemphasis on benefit sharing is an illusion, as we don’t know enough about such benefits, since much of the ocean is still unexplored. But it is a fact that 10 countries account for 71 per cent of global fishing and 98 per cent of patents of genetic codes of marine life in the high seas. Those few countries’ greed and unwillingness to share benefits and marine technology and knowledge, and the obvious concerns this creates among less powerful countries, are one big reason for the deadlock.

    There is also a stalemate on defining criteria for environmental impact assessments and the implementation of marine protected areas. What is at stake here are the interests of deep-sea mining industries and industrial fisheries.

    However, the treaty process has seen a lot of success in convening discussions and negotiations. As of now, more than 100 states are highly committed to backing the treaty as it stands and some, such as Costa Rica, are leading by example by pushing forward regionally, opening up additional avenues for conservation.

    The treaty is likely to be finalised at the next session, so further efforts should be put into funding delegations from global south countries so they can be a stronger voice and bring more balance into negotiations.

    How has civil society in general, and the HSA in particular, advocated for the development and adoption of a treaty?

    Since its inception, the HSA has advocated for protecting at least 50 per cent of the ocean, engaging decision-makers, experts and civil society. We are now focused on keeping up the momentum of the intergovernmental conferences, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a legally binding treaty to protect the planet by changing the way we govern the high seas. This process has created a lot of awareness about the importance of the high seas, so governments that used to be unfamiliar with them are now supporting a robust treaty.

    That said, it should be noted that only states are considered as parties to the treaty, so non-state voices have no space in the negotiations. Treaty negotiations are largely a backroom discussion that excludes civil society and experts. Many of us cannot even witness live negotiations and documents are only made available once discussions have been closed.

    There are also clear inequalities among participating states. Many states with limited resources bring very small delegations and lack the expertise to engage productively in the discussions. It would make a difference to all parties involved if civil society were able to bring its expertise into the process.

    What can environmental CSOs and activists do to ensure the treaty’s adoption?

    There are clear limits to what we can do to expedite the treaty’s adoption. We believe it is crucial to have a treaty as soon as possible, and it is better to have an incomplete one than to have none. So states should move forward on all the issues where agreements have been reached and design an amendment process to integrate further issues and stakeholders’ concerns in the future.

    CSOs and activists can contribute to the process by bringing diverse perspectives to the table. As current negotiations are closed discussions among states in which civil society, scientists and the private sector don’t have a seat, we only can do so by advocating with receptive states that do have a seat at the table.

    We can also campaign to bring bottom-up pressure into the process, by bringing the concerns the treaty tries to address into the discussion of the global climate movement and getting the wider public engaged. Resources such as the HSA’s Treaty Tracker provide access to useful information regarding the treaty and negotiations. This information should reach across the globe and empower people to demand that world leaders finalise the treaty, and to call on their own governments to hear them in environmental policy process.

    A treaty would provide a legal basis for action, but even without one, states, communities and corporations can act to protect the high seas. Many countries already have marine protected areas within their national jurisdictions, and more can be established with public participation. Civil society should engage in these processes but should not be limited by national boundaries. It’s time for us to transcend borders and advocate for the global commons as well.

     Get in touch with the High Seas Alliance through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@HighSeasAllianc and@johnpauljos on Twitter.


  • UNITED NATIONS: ‘Outstanding issues on the binding treaty on business and human rights are mainly political’

    Fernanda HopenhaymCIVICUS speaks with Fernanda Hopenhaym, chair of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Business and Human Rights, about the process to develop a binding international treaty on business and human rights.

    Why is a binding treaty on business and human rights so important?

    The process to develop this treaty stems from the conviction that a legally binding instrument is needed to regulate the obligations of private companies and, above all, to facilitate access to justice for victims of their abuses. Its aim is to incorporate human rights protections in the context of business activity.

    An international treaty would transcend the jurisdictional limitations of states. Transnational capital operates across borders. Huge numbers of companies in most sectors operate global supply chains. When abuses occur somewhere in these chains, it is very difficult for victims to access justice, as there are no justice mechanisms that transcend borders. Corporate operations are transnational but justice is not.

    Of course, states must take measures at the domestic level, strengthen their regulations, improve their laws and develop public policy and action plans to ensure effective protection of human rights. And companies must also make commitments to improve their practices. The treaty under negotiation would be part of a package of measures that are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

    The treaty process began in June 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council established an open-endedintergovernmental working group mandated to negotiate and agree on an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises under international human rights law.

    What role is the Working Group on Business and Human Rights playing?

    TheWorking Group on Business and Human Rights is a UN special procedure, established by a 2011resolution of the Human Rights Council, with a mandate to promote, disseminate and implement theGuiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, exchange and promote good practices and lessons learned from the implementation of the Guiding Principles, and assess and make recommendations on these. Its mandate has been successively renewed in 2014, 2017 and 2020. It is composed of five independent experts, mostly academics, and has balanced geographical representation. I have been a member of the Working Group since 2021. The other four current members are from Australia, Nigeria, Poland and Thailand. Three of the five of us are women.

    While it does not have any decision-making authority over the Treaty, the Working Group plays an important role. We participate in almost all negotiating sessions through roundtables and discussions and we provide technical opinions. We have commented on the draft articles and we encourage the proactive participation of states from different regions of the world.

    One of the premises of the Guiding Principles is the development of measures that can be combined in order to address the problems that exist in relation to the protection of human rights in the context of business activity. A legally binding instrument is just one of those necessary measures.

    The Working Group has been very clear in sending out a message favourable to the treaty negotiation process.

    What progress has been made in negotiating the treaty?

    In the previousinterview we had in 2018, the process had been going on for four years. At that time the fourth session of negotiations, based on the ‘zero draft’, was about to start in Geneva. And I was not yet part of the Working Group. Four more years have passed, and at the eighth session held in October 2022, the third draft, which emerged in advance of the 2021 negotiations, was discussed.

    The pandemic affected the negotiation processes, partly because face-to-face contact was not possible for a long time. Representatives and delegates in Geneva, for example, were unable to meet in person for more than a year, so the possibilities for exchanges were severely limited. In turn, the pandemic affected the participation of civil society and other stakeholders in the discussions. Processes slowed down and therefore were extended.

    Currently, the third draft is still being discussed, and Ecuador, which chairs the Intergovernmental Working Group, has apparently said that it will not bring yet another new draft to the table, but that changes, modifications and additions will continue to be made to this third draft. Eventually, all these adjustments will lead to a final draft.

    The current draft has come a long way on issues such as acknowledging vulnerable groups, women, children and Indigenous peoples. Its scope, which was a very tough issue to negotiate, has also been clarified. In general, civil society’s position is to prioritise transnational corporations, while the current draft proposes that all companies should be under the umbrella of the treaty. The current draft reflects the position shared by our Working Group. A number of issues have been untangled, although there are still many things to be resolved.

    What are the unresolved issues?

    There are many discussions that are more political than technical. Some states and the private sector have said that the text is too prescriptive and rigid. Civil society has expressed that it wants more clarification and specificity on some issues such as the definition of the courts where cases covered by the treaty would be adjudicated and the consideration of the victims’ perspective, as the burden of proof remains a contentious issue. On this point the Working Group has been very clear: states have an obligation to facilitate access to justice and to remove barriers and obstacles for victims to access justice.

    While the European Union (EU) and the USA participate in this process, they lack conviction on the direction of the text. The EU is very active, but I see divergent positions among its member states. Many countries, such as France, support it, but the EU as a whole maintains reservations.

    One of the great triumphs of the early process was that China did not block it, but rather abstained. The same was true of India. This was partly because the treaty was supposed to be about transnational corporations. China has not approved of the extension of the treaty’s scope to all companies and has lately taken a more negative position.

    African states have participated very little in the last two rounds of negotiations. We believe that South Africa, which was co-leader with Ecuador when the resolution that initiated the process was negotiated, is also unhappy with the expanded focus beyond transnational corporations. Ecuador has recently called for the formation of a ‘friends of theChair‘ group and Africa is the only region without participating members.

    Latin America in comparison is participating quite proactively, although the region has experienced many political changes, including in Ecuador itself, which are likely to influence negotiating positions.

    In sum, there are ongoing technical discussions on the draft articles, but most of the outstanding issues are mainly political discussions. For this reason, I think the process will take several more years.

    Do you think that the final version of the treaty will meet civil society expectations?

    My hope is that we will not be left with a treaty that sets out good intentions without establishing clear rules. As is the case in all negotiations of this nature, some of the issues civil society is calling for will probably be left pending. There is a lot to accommodate: the perspectives of states, the expectations of business and the private sector in general, and the demands of civil society and all rights holders.

    I would expect a pretty good text, which in some ways reflects the character of the process, which has included a very strong civil society and social movements. From my perspective, the process has been sustained not only by the commitment of states to negotiate, but also by the impetus of civil society and dialogue among all involved.

    My expectations are intermediate. With some caution as to the scope of the articles, I think the treaty will contain some elements that satisfy civil society, and particularly victims.

    What work will need to be done once the treaty is adopted?

    To begin with, I think there is a long way to go before this treaty is adopted. It may still take several more years. There is a long way to go in the negotiations and regarding the content of the text.

    Once the treaty is adopted, ratification will have to be pushed through. Let us remember that international treaties only enter into force when a certain number of states ratify them, and only those states that ratify them are bound by them. This is where I see a huge challenge ahead. Hopefully, once we get to produce a good, comprehensive text, the process of ratification will not be so slow and cumbersome.

    For this to happen, we will need a strong civil society to push states to ratify the treaty so it enters into force and becomes binding on the signatory parties. Again, I would expect this process to be long and arduous, as the issue of human rights protection in the context of business is a thorny one, given that there are many interests at stake. What lies ahead will be a big challenge for all involved.

     Follow@fernanda_ho and@WGBizHRs on Twitter.



  • UNITED NATIONS: ‘The existing human rights system must be criticised, while still being defended’

    CIVICUS speaks with Brian Schapira, Director of Institutional Relations at the Center for Latin America´s Opening and Development (Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina, CADAL), a foundation based in Argentina that works to defend and promote human rights. With a focus on supporting those who suffer severe restrictions to their civil and political liberties, CADAL promotes international democratic solidarity in collaboration with activists and civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world.


  • UNITED NATIONS: ‘The power of anti-rights groups is growing; difficult times lie ahead’

    CIVICUS speaks with Tamara Adrián, founder and director of DIVERLEX-Diversity and Equality Through Law, about the successful civil society campaign for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations’ (UN) Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    Tamara Adrián is a lawyer and university professor, and the first trans woman to be elected to a national parliament in Latin America.

    DIVERLEX is a Venezuelan civil society organisation dedicated to research, training, advocacy and strategic litigation on issues of sexual diversity. Due to the complex humanitarian crisis affecting Venezuela, most of its leaders are currently based outside Venezuela, where they continue to work to improve the living conditions of LGBTQI+ people in exile.

    Tamara Adrian

    Why is the mandate of the UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity so important?

    This is an extremely important figure. The weapon of choice of all bigots is to make certain groups and the violation of their rights invisible. This has been a constant in relation to women, Indigenous peoples, racial minorities and religious minorities. As long as the intolerant can say a problem does not exist, their power system remains active and nothing changes. In the universal human rights system, what bigots want to keep invisible is made visible through the work of independent experts and rapporteurs.

    The first Independent Expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn, was in office for a couple of years and produced a report on violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which he shared with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He kicked off the process of shedding light on the injustices, inequities and violence against LGBTQI+ people globally.

    The three reports submitted by the current Independent Expert, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, pointed at many countries that are failing in their duty to protect all their citizens. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted that states have a positive obligation to ensure equal rights to all people.

    We understand there is still a long way to go and that reports – those by the Independent Expert, the High Commissioner and regional bodies such as the Organization of American States – are important to this process.

    So important are they that this work triggered strong backlash from fundamentalist groups that reorganised in the form of ‘non-governmental organisations’. These sought to obtain consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council in order to interfere in their processes.

    How do these groups operate within the UN?

    Anti-rights groups have been changing their strategy. Rather than identify as religious organisations, they have sought to present themselves as defenders of religious freedom and, above all, of the freedom of expression. They have promoted strategies of religious unity, bringing together Catholic fundamentalists and representatives of the Holy See with neo-evangelical fundamentalists and the most regressive Muslim groups.

    They have also refined their arguments. First, they argue that the concept of sexual orientation and gender identity is a western concept and not a universal one, and therefore should not be protected by the UN. Second, they claim that no existing treaty or international instrument provides protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Third, they say that countries with traditional values should be able to maintain discriminatory laws or criminalise same-sex relationships or diverse gender identities.

    These three claims were implicit in the arguments of the countries that opposed the renewal of the Independent Expert's mandate and proposed amendments, alongside a fourth: that no country should protect criminals, and the determination of what is a criminal act is subject to the criminal law of each country and is not subject to verification before the international human rights system.

    Historically, this issue has been resolved on the basis of the recognition that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, but no one can impose their beliefs or deny others their rights on the basis of their faith. Fundamentalists want this situation reversed so that believers can discriminate against and deny rights to other people

    Have anti-rights groups grown in power in recent years?

    The power of anti-rights groups is growing, which is possibly linked to the regression that is taking place in the USA. Indeed, in the vote to renew the mandate we saw two groups of states putting up resistance: countries that have never made progress in recognising rights and where there is a lot of resistance to change, and countries that are moving backwards, such as the USA.

    In the USA, links connecting white supremacism, neo-Pentecostal groups and the more radical segments of the Republican Party have been growing closer for at least a decade. Anti-rights groups have been taking up space in the courts, from the lowest levels to the Supreme Court, as well as in governorships and state legislatures, resulting in more and more anti-trans, anti-sex education and pro-religious freedom rulings, laws and policies. They have been outspoken in their plans to reverse abortion rights, reject the concept of gender and repeal sexual and reproductive education and contraceptive rights, and even women’s rights, equal marriage and protections against racial discrimination.

    The USA has also played a key role in the international funding of the anti-rights movement and the development of neo-Pentecostal churches around the world, particularly in Africa and Latin America. It has also influenced the establishment of a phenomenon that has not been given enough attention: the movement of biology-fixated feminists, who deny the concept of gender with the same arguments used by the most conservative churches.

    This unity of argumentation is highly suspicious, and all the more so when one looks at the funding streams coming from the USA feeding biology-focused feminist groups in places including Brazil, Central America, the Dominican Republic, Spain and the UK. The target of these groups is not LGBTQI+ people generally, but trans people specifically. By upholding the biological and natural character of differences they seek to destroy the whole structure of gender-based protections.

    I honestly think this is a very well-thought-out plan. I understand that they have mimicked the strategy we initially adopted to give visibility to our struggles. However, they have the advantage of being in power. The number of states that have signed a ‘pro-life’ resolution at the UN and declared themselves ‘pro-life’ states shows that their aim is not just to oppose just LGBTQI+ rights but all rights based on the concept of gender.

    How was the campaign for the renewal of the Independent Expert’s mandate organised?

    The organisations that lobbied for the renewal of the mandate have worked together ever since the campaign for the appointment of the first Independent Expert. Every time, the process starts long before the appointment. In this case, we started working about three years ago: practically the year after the mandate was renewed we were already working to create the core group to work for a new renewal.

    With Latin American organisations, a recurrent limitation is lack of knowledge of the English language, which restricts the ability of activists to internationalise their struggles. To overcome this problem, our core group is made up of both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking activists. This was very important because the coalition was mainly made up of Latin American groups.

    It was a very difficult process, and while the vote eventually turned out to be favourable, over several months the outcomes of the sessions did not make us feel confident. We saw growing resistance from countries with fundamentalist positions that were increasingly embracing the idea of rolling back rights.

    What are the next steps following the mandate’s renewal?

    I believe we should not relax. Difficult times lie ahead. Many rights we thought had already been secured are likely to be reversed in the USA, including those linked to racial equality. It is no longer even a question of returning to a 20th century vision, but to a 16th or 17th century one.

    This will have a strong impact at the global level, especially in countries with less developed institutions. Countries with stronger institutions will probably be better able to resist the onslaught to roll back sexual and reproductive rights. 

    As next steps, I would emphasise organising. In many places people tell me, ‘don’t worry, that would never happen here’, but I insist we cannot relax. We must focus on forming coalitions and organising stronger alliances to stop advances by neoconservative groups and challenge them to gain back the spaces of power they have occupied.

    Get in touch with Tamara Adrián through herwebsite or herFacebook page, and follow@TamaraAdrian on Twitter. 


  • Unprecedented use of excessive force against peaceful protests

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The meaningful participation of people in governance is essential for securing human rights, social stability and peace. We share your alarm at the deterioration of civic space and we call on members and observers of the Human Rights Council, over the coming weeks, to listen to the voices of those who are the most affected by the decisions made in this room. 

    We have witnessed popular action increase across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. We are alarmed by the unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly logged violations of civil society rights was against the right to peaceful assembly.

    High Commissioner, we share your serious concerns on India, particularly the discriminatory citizenship law and the violent repression of protests with impunity. In Iran, hundreds of people were killed when security forces unleashed lethal force against unarmed protesters in cities across the country. In Iraq, para-military forces fired live ammunition during protests throughout the country in 2019, killing and injuring hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.

    Finally, High Commissioner, heard throughout the high-level segment commitments made by states to strengthen the Council’s prevention mandate. We have seen time and time again that unwarranted restrictions on civic space, including crackdowns on peaceful protest and attacks against human rights defenders, enable wider human rights violations. The actualization of an early warning system, which takes restrictions of fundamental freedoms into account, would send a clear signal that the Council stands ready to protect, promote and fulfil the right to protect around the world.

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


  • Upcoming UN review critical moment for Honduras to address civic freedom gaps

    CIVICUS, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD) and the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (ASONOG) call on UN member states to urge the Government of Honduras to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN on 5 November 2020 as part of the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    At the county’s second UPR five years ago, UN member states made 30 recommendations that directly related to civic space. Honduras subsequently committed to taking concrete measures to guarantee the freedom of expression and the media, to ensure laws, policies and mechanisms that recognise and protect the work of civil society and to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment, in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity. In a joint submission to 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. Although some positive change occurred and a protection mechanism for HRDs and journalists was established, the mechanism remained ineffective, and not enough progress has been made to investigate and punish those responsible for attacks and crimes against HRDs.

    The situation of indigenous, environmental and land rights HRDs remain critical, as evidenced by the brutal murder of Berta Cáceres in March 2016 and the several that others that followed; Honduras has remained one of the deadliest countries in the world for environmental activism. In addition to physical violence, HRDs have continued to face arrests on fabricated charges, travel bans and other restrictions of their freedom of movement, defamation lawsuits, smear campaigns, threats and acts of sabotage, illegal searches and illegal surveillance.

    Freedom of expression remains restricted by legislation, including through the use of defamation statutes, and by threats and violence against journalists – particularly those who denounce corruption and the impacts of extractive megaprojects.

    Although there have been some positive legal changes with regards to freedom of association, organisations and activists working on politically sensitive issues remain limited in practice due to stigmatisation, criminalisation and harassment. Workers continued to face severe obstacles when trying to exercise union freedom and collective bargaining rights.

    Current legislation imposes time and place restrictions on demonstrations, criminalises common protest tactics and authorises the police to prohibit demonstrations obstructing free circulation and to dissolve any assembly incurring in a variety of broadly defined crimes against public order. Peaceful demonstrations, particularly by students, indigenous, peasant and environmental movements, are frequently dissolved with excessive force, typically leading to people being arrested or injured, and occasionally resulting in fatalities.

    In light of these concerns, UN member states must use the UPR of Honduras to call on the government to protect HRDs and civil society activists and to undertake the necessary legal and policy reforms to guarantee civic freedoms. The UPR will be an opportunity to hold Honduras accountable for the persistently high levels of violence make Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the world for HRDs and journalists.

    The examination of Honduras will take place during the 36th Session of the UPR. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, that 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. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, which is discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council.

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


  • Upcoming UN review critical moment for Malawi to address civic freedom gaps

    CIVICUS, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) call on UN member states to urge the Government of Malawi to double its efforts to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 3 November 2020 as part of the 36th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

    At the county’s second UPR five years ago, UN member states made 53 recommendations that directly related to civic space. Malawi subsequently committed to taking concrete measures to protect freedom of assembly by ensuring that relevant constitutional provisions relating to freedom of assembly are allowed to thrive without undue interference.  It also agreed to fully investigate all cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice and to ensure the protection of human rights defenders. 

    In a joint submission to 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. Since Malawi’s second UPR, the authorities routinely restricted freedoms of assembly, association and expression by violently dispersing peaceful protests, arresting human rights defenders and targeting independent media outlets.  These restrictions on fundamental freedoms increased substantively after the controversial elections of May 2019.  In the aftermath of the elections, human rights defenders were subjected to smear campaigns, judicial persecution and detention by the authorities.  

    “Human rights defenders are, particularly under threat. Member states should take this opportunity to make recommendations to support them, including by calling on the Government of Malawi to enact a long-overdue specific law for the protection of Human Rights Defenders,” said Gift Trapence, Executive Director, Centre for the Development of People.

    The June 2020 elections and the coming to power of a new government presents an opportunity for Malawi to reset its human rights record and place the respect for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms at the centre of government actions and policies. In our joint UPR submission, we expressed concerns over the use of the NGO Act (2000), the Penal Code and the use of other legislation which limit the operations of CSOs.  The increase in registration fees for CSOs provided for in the Non-Governmental Organizations (Fees) Regulation and the requirement for CSOs to submit a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with relevant government ministries and departments increase the administrative burdens on CSOs and restrict their abilities to respond to the needs of communities in an agile manner. 

    Restrictive provisions in the Penal Code and the Cyber Security Law adopted in 2016 were used to limit freedom of expression and target journalists, bloggers and media houses.  The Penal Code provided for prison sentences to those found guilty of “insulting” the Head of State while the Cyber Crimes law allows for the imprisonment of those who simply post “offensive” content. In addition, there were several instances where journalists were subjected to judicial persecution while others were attacked by state and non-state actors. 

    The Malawian authorities must do more to protect journalists from state and non-state actors and create an enabling environment for journalists and independent media outlets to report on issues affecting citizens without fear of intimidation or harassment.  In August 2020 for example, two journalists from the independent Mibawa Television Station were subjected to threats, harassment and smear campaigns following utterances they made on-air about the Covid-19 pandemic.  Other journalists were threatened under similar circumstances for comments made about the pandemic. 

    The Operationalization of the Access to Information (ATI) law is a move in the right direction and will ensure that journalists and citizens will have access to information from state actors.  The operationalization of the ATI should be followed by an annulment of restrictive provisions in the Penal Code and the Cyber Crimes Law to enhance freedom of expression and media freedoms. 

    “We are concerned that all of the recommendations Malawi accepted during the previous UPR review relating to journalists and human rights defenders have not been implemented. This highlights the need to reiterate to Malawi that its continued disregard of the rights of journalists and human rights defenders remains unacceptable.  It also highlights the need keep a close eye on the human rights situation in Malawi after the outcome of the review has been adopted to ensure compliance with the recommendations,” said Michael Kaiyatsa, Acting Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.  

    The examination of Malawi will take place during the 36th 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. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, which is discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council. 

    Civic space in Malawi is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor


  • Upholding fundamental rights is crucial for global crisis response

    Joint Statement at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Madame High Commissioner,

    Thank you for your timely report. This is a statement on behalf of the Civic Space Initiative, including CIVICUS, Article 19, ICNL, ECNL and the World Movement for Democracy.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated existing challenges to civic freedoms.

    The CIVICUS Monitor shows that it has exacerbated the ongoing use of restrictive laws; restrictions on funding; reprisals, attacks and acts of intimidation; the ongoing violent repression of mass mobilisations for change; and the wilful exclusion of civil society from decision making processes. It has provided cover for executive overreach and spurred new growth in the use of surveillance technologies. According to ICNL-ECNL’s Civic Freedom Tracker, at least 145 countries have enacted 280 measures in response to COVID that further affect civic freedoms and human rights.

    But it has also revealed the centrality of civil society in crisis response: in providing critical information and services to communities, running feeding schemes and health screenings, providing aid and monitoring abuses.

    Civil society has again proved itself to be an integral stakeholder. And time of crisis is a time of opportunity. As has been so often said, this is the time to build back better.

    We have seen many examples of good practice to draw on. Several States are developing specialised online platforms for better consultation on emergency measures. Others are establishing oversight bodies inviting the public to share views on the measures governments have taken, or conducting surveys to gauge public response on government handling of the crisis.

    We call on all States, in their response to the crisis, to:

    1. Create avenues for inclusive participation and feedback and reach out to those most at risk and those most likely to be excluded.
    2. Ensure transparency and access to information to enable civil society to respond with the most accurate information available.
    3. Ensure that existing channels of civil society participation, at local, national and international levels are maintained – and possibly expanded – in the COVID-19 context.
    4. Undertake thorough human rights impact assessments to ensure that measures and actions in response to the crisis do not infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms.

    We have seen time and time again positive change emerge when people are able to organize, speak out and take action. A strong and vibrant civil society is a core pillar of a thriving democracy. We must not allow emergency responses to undermine democratic gains.


  • Urgent Request for UN Intervention in the case of activist in Tanzania

    Mr. Michel Forst
    United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

    Professor Rémy Ngoy Lumbu
    African Commission Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa

    Dear Sirs,                    

    Re: Urgent Request for Intervention in the Case of Human Rights Defender, Tito Elia Magoti.

    We, the undersigned civil society organizations (CSOs) working to promote and defend human rights across the globe, including in Tanzania, urgently write requesting your intervention in the arrest and detention of human rights defender, Tito Elia Magoti. We are not only concerned that his arrest and detention is in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work but that the manner of his arrest, indicates a pattern by the State of disregarding due process procedures. We are further concerned that the charges against him, more specifically that of “money laundering” which automatically denies him the right to bail under Tanzanian law, poses an existential threat to all human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Tanzania. Those charged under this law, regardless of the frivolousness of the allegations, can be indefinitely detained without trial.

    On December 20, 2019, Mr. Tito Magoti, a young lawyer and Program Officer with the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), was reportedly abducted by four unidentified men, handcuffed and driven off in what seemed to be a civilian vehicle.[1] LHRC is a Tanzanian based organization that works to promote, reinforce and safeguard human rights and good governance in the country.[2] Members of LHRC and other human rights organizations frantically visited various police stations in search of Mr. Magoti but were unable to locate him. It was feared he had been abducted. In the evening of December 20, 2019, the Dar es Salaam Zone Police Commander, SACP Lazaro Mambosasa, eventually released a press report indicating that he had not been abducted but was in police custody with several other arrested individuals.[3] No mention was made of where he was being detained or what allegations he was facing.[4] Police Commander Mambosasa’s statement was subsequently contradicted by the Regional Police Commander for Kinondoni region, where Mr. Magoti was arrested, alleging that he had no knowledge of the arrest.[5]

    On December 23, 2019, having failed to locate their employee, LHRC filed an urgent petition against the Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander and the Attorney General demanding the release of Mr. Magoti whose whereabouts and charges against him had yet to be divulged.[6] It is only after this application was made that Mr. Magoti together with his colleague, Mr. Theodory Faustin Giyan, a software developer and commentator of matters of public interest, were brought before the Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court in Dar es Salaam, on December 24, 2019, and jointly charged with (i) leading an organized crime; (ii) possession of a computer program designed for the purpose of committing an offence; and (iii) money laundering. (The charges are attached as Annexure “A”)

    We are gravely concerned with the manner of arrest and detention of Mr. Magoti. Regional and international human rights standards are clear that an accused person has the right to be immediately informed of the reason for his arrest; the immediate right to legal representation; and the right to inform his family of his arrest; and where he is being detained.[7] The State also has a legal obligation to present an accused before a court of law within 48 hours of arrest.[8] Mr. Magoti’s arrest by unidentified men who subsequently held him in incommunicadodetention for four days was not only a violation of his due process rights, but such practices raise the risk of cruel and inhuman treatment or torture while in custody as well as disappearances.[9] (The Tanganyika Law Society's statement clearly outlining the failure of the Tanzanian government to respect due process procedures in the arrest of Mr. Magoti is attached as Annexure "B")

    There have been numerous reported cases of abductions in Tanzania including those of prominent government critics.[10] In July 2019, investigative journalist, Erick Kabendera was forcefully removed from his home by unidentified men who claimed to be the police.[11] Similarly, for several days, his family and lawyers did not know where he was being detained as he was moved from station to station and denied access to his lawyers.[12] In November 2017, investigative journalist, Azory Gwanda disappeared under suspicious circumstances and has not been seen since.[13] Given this environment, it is of paramount importance that the Tanzanian government when arresting citizens refrain from abductions by the police and respect fundamental due process procedures recognized under its own constitution and regional and international standards.

    We strongly believe that the allegations against Mr. Magoti are in retaliation for his legitimate human rights work. During Mr. Magoti’s unlawful detention, he was reportedly questioned for his use of social media (Twitter) and his association with media owner and activist Maria Sarungi-Tsehai; former Tanganyika Law Society President Fatma Karume; and opposition politician Zitto Kabwe, all of whom are vocal critics of the Tanzanian government, and are all currently facing various forms of retaliation for demanding government accountability and transparency.[14] We are even more concerned with the specific charges of “money laundering” against Mr. Magoti and his colleague. According to the charges, the joint accused, between February 1, 2019 and December 17, 2019, “willfully organized a criminal racket namely possession of a computer program that is designed for the purpose of committing an offence, thereby acquiring a sum of money amounting to Tanzanian Shillings, Seventeen Million, Three Hundred Fifty-Four Thousand, Five Hundred Thirty-Five only”. It is further alleged that the accused acquired the above sum knowing that the money was proceeds of a predicate offense, namely “leading organized crime” and as such charged with “money laundering” under the Anti-Money Laundering Act as read with the Economic and Organized Crimes Control Act.[15] Under Tanzanian laws, money laundering which is an economic crime is a non-bailable offence.[16] As such, Mr. Magoti is not entitled to bail and the resident magistrate postponed his case to January 7, 2020.[17] His case was again postponed to January 24, 2020 for further investigation.[18]

    Erick Kabendera mentioned above, who was also charged with “money laundering”, has been in detention since his arrest in July 2019, with his case being postponed at least 10 times while the prosecution “carries out investigations”.[19] Individuals charged with non-bailable offences have reportedly spent months and even years in detention without trial.[20] We fear that Mr. Magoti and his colleague can be held in pretrial detention indefinitely. A fundamental principle of any criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence which dictates that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty by a competent and independent court. The right to pre-trial release is recognized under regional and international law which dictates that as a general rule, bail should be granted and only in certain circumstances denied. Each case must be judged on its own merits with courts taking into consideration factors such as (1) the seriousness of the alleged crime (2) whether there is overwhelming evidence against the accused (3) possibility of the accused interfering with witnesses and evidence; and (4) where the accused poses a flight risk or is a danger to the community if granted bail.[21] Even then courts must strive to put conditions that favour the liberty of an accused in order to minimize the risk of an innocent person serving a sentence prior to conviction. Tanzania’s blanket denial of bail for certain crimes without individual assessment of each case is thus inconsistent with international standards.

    There is an undeniable clampdown of civil society in Tanzania. Organizations have documented the “unwarranted closure of media outlets, judicial persecution and harassment of independent journalists, the targeted assassination of opposition party members, blanket restrictions on peaceful protests and the introduction and invocation of a raft of laws to undermine freedom of online speech”.[22] It is our deep fear that the arrest of Mr. Magoti and his colleague are but one of many cases of the continued targeting of government critics. We are additionally concerned with the developing pattern of charging government critics with the crime of “money laundering” thereby denying them the right to bail and condemning them to indefinite prison sentences.

    Civil society especially human rights defenders play an important role in promoting and protecting the rights recognized under international human rights treaties, and help ensure that States respect economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders)[23] specifically recognizes the right that everyone, including human rights defenders, have to “discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance … of all human rights … and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to these matters…”[24] The government of Tanzania has an obligation to create a conducive environment where civil society can contribute to the development of Tanzania which involves holding the government transparent and accountable. Under international law, no one shall be arrested for exercising their fundamental rights and if so, that arrest is arbitrary.[25] It is deeply troubling when the criminal justice system is being used in such a manner. If left unchecked, this is a very dangerous practice that threatens civil society and the very fabric of Tanzania’s democracy.

    In light of the above, we respectfully request that your offices urgently intervene in the case of Tito Magoti and other human rights defenders and journalists in Tanzania, who are facing criminal prosecution for exercising their fundamental rights and urge the government to immediately drop these charges. We also urge that you strongly remind the government to ensure that all citizens, from the moment of their arrest for any crime, are afforded the full due process of the law without derogation.


    1. Africans Rising
    2. mobi
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) - ACT-Southern Africa
    5. Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS), USA
    6. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) 
    7. CIVICUS
    8. Civic Education Network for Eastern and Southern Africa
    9. Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
    10. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
    11. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    12. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    13. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Coalition
    14. Friends of Angola
    15. GEARS Initiative Zambia
    16. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea (HRCE)
    17. Human Rights Defenders Network-SL
    18. Human Rights Defenders Solidarity Network Uganda
    19. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
    20. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    21. Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
    22. Nelson Mandela University Refugee Rights Centre
    23. Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    24. Safe Space for Children and Young Women Tanzania
    25. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
    26. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC)
    27. Zambia Civic Education Association
    28. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)

    Cc. Mr. Diego García-Sayán
    United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

    Mr. David Kaye
    United Nations Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. 

    [1] Tanganyika Law Society, Statement of the National Bar on the Abduction of Mr. Tito Magoti, the Program Officer Legal and Human Rights Centre, December 24, 2019.

    [2] Legal and Human Rights Center, website, available at https://www.humanrights.or.tz/page/introduction

    [3] Id. Note 1. As it stands, no mention has been made of who these individuals are nor have they been presented before the courts.

    [4] The Citizen, Police bosses differ over knowledge over Tanzanian rights activist Tito Magoti arrest, December 2019, available at https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/1840340-5395966-9wuow7/index.html.

    [5] Id.

    [6] The Citizen, Tito Magoti: Case filed against Dar Police Chief and the AG over his detention, December 23, 2019, available at https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/1840340-5395848-format-xhtml-imvy00/index.html.

    [7]Article 4 and 7, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Adopted 27 June 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58, 1982, entered into force 21 October 1986. Article 14, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171. See also United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, UNODC (2013) and African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa, 2003.

    [8] Article 9(3) of the ICCPR states that anyone arrested “shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law”. The UN Human Rights Committee, the body charged with authoritative interpretation of the ICCPR, has explained that delays should not exceed a few days from the time of arrest and that 48 hours is ordinarily sufficient. See Freemantle v. Jamaica, H.R. Comm. 625/1995, paragraph 7.4 (2000) where the committee held that four days was not prompt.

    [9] The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that longer detention in the custody of law enforcement officials without judicial control unnecessarily increases the risk of ill-treatment. See concluding observations: Hungary, CCPR/CO/74/HUN, paragraph 8 (2002).

    [10] Vanguard Africa, In Tanzania, Abductions and Disappearances of Government Critics Continue Unabated, July 30, 2019, available at http://www.vanguardafrica.com/africawatch/2019/7/30/in-tanzania-abductions-and-disappearances-of-government-critics-continue-unabated.

    [11] Committee to Protect Journalists, Unidentified men take Erick Kabendera from Tanzania home, July 29, 2019, available at https://cpj.org/2019/07/tanzania-erick-kabendera-police-abducted.php.

    [12]Committee to Protect Journalists, Tanzania switches track, charges Kabendera with economic crimes, August 5, 2019, available at https://cpj.org/2019/08/tanzania-switches-track-charges-kabendera-with-eco.php.

    [13] Human Rights Watch, Tanzanian Journalist’s Disappearance Remains Unsolved, April 8, 2019, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/08/tanzanian-journalists-disappearance-remains-unsolved.

    [14]Kwanza Broadcasting Limited whose director is Ms. Maria Sarungi-Tsehai was earlier in the year suspended for 6 months by the Communications Regulatory Authority for allegedly violating regulations under the Electronic and Postal Communications Online Content Regulations 2028. See Reporters Without Boarders, Tanzania Slaps Harsh Sanctions on three online TV Channels, September 30, 2019, available at https://rsf.org/en/news/tanzania-slaps-harsh-sanctions-three-online-tv-channels. Ms. Fatuma Karume, who is the former president of the Tanganyika Law Society, was recently arbitrarily suspended from practicing law in mainland Tanzania for her submissions in a constitutional court case challenging the appointment of the Attorney General. See The Citizen, Uproar over Fatma Karume Suspension, September 22, 2019, available at https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/1840340-5282716-9d4ama/index.html . Mr. Zitto Kabwe is currently facing criminal charges following statements he made demanding police accountability for extra-judicial killings. See also The EastAfrican, Zitto Kabwe charged with incitement, freed on bail, November 2, 2018, available at https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/ea/Tanzania-opposition-MP-charged-with-incitement/4552908-4834324-m74a5jz/index.html.

    [15] In the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Dar es Salaam at Kisutu, Economic Crime Case 137 of 2019, Republic vs Tito Elia Magoti & Theodory Faustin Giyan.

    [16] Section 148 (5) (a)(v) of the Criminal Procedure Act lists money laundering as one of the non-bailable offences. Read also FB Attorneys, Non bailable offences in Tanzania, July 22, 2019, available at https://fbattorneys.co.tz/qa-22-july-2019/.

    [17] The Citizen, Rights activist charged with money laundering, December 24, 2019, available at https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/1840340-5397074-9wvvi9/index.html.

    [18] allAfrica, Tanzania Investigation on LHRC Official’s Case in Top Gear, January 8, 2020, available at https://allafrica.com/stories/202001080418.html.

    [19] BBC News, Tanzania journalist to spend Christmas in jail, December 18, 2019, available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50837986.

    [20] The Guardian, Tanzanian journalist could face up to five years in jail, September 12, 2019, available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/12/tanzanian-journalist-could-face-up-to-five-years-in-jail-without-trial-erick-kabendera.

    [21] United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32, Article 14: Right to Equality Before the Courts and Tribunals and to a fair Trial, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/CG/32 (2007).

    [22] CIVICUS, Tanzanian: Civil society groups express concern over rapid decline in human rights, May 10, 2018, available at https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/media-releases/open-letters/3163-civil-society-groups-express-concern-over-worrying-human-rights-decline-in-tanzania

    [23] The Declaration was adopted with broad support by the United Nations General Assembly, UN Doc.A/Res/53/144, 8 March 1999. It represents a strong commitment by states to its implementation on the principles and rights enshrined in legally binding, key international human rights instruments such as the ICCPR and the African Charter. The Declaration represents a clear commitment by States to acknowledge, promote and protect the work and rights of human rights defenders around the world.

    [24] Id.

    [25] United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 35, December 16, 2014, CPR/CGC/35. Paragraph 17 specifically states that the “arrest or detention as punishment for the legitimate exercise of the rights as guaranteed by the Covenant is arbitrary, including freedom of opinion and expression (Article. 19), freedom of assembly (Article. 21), freedom of association (Article. 22).”


  • 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
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK

    [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
    The International Rescue Committee
    Islamic Relief
    Médecins du Monde
    Mercy Corps
    Oxfam International
    Relief International
    War Child UK

    [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