United Nations

 

  • CIVICUS UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 9 countries in advance of the 28th UPR session (November 2017). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Countries examined: Benin, Gabon, Guatemala, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Zambia.

     

  • CIVICUS Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 5 countries in advance of the 29th UPR session in January 2018. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Countries Examined: Burundi, France, Israel, Serbia, and the UAE 

    Burundi: CIVICUS, APRODH, LigueITEKA, DefendDefenders and FIDH examine the failure of the Government of Burundi to implement the vast majority of recommendations it accepted and noted during Burundi’s previous UPR cycle. In the submission, we highlight the restrictions on fundamental freedoms, the targeting of human rights defenders and Burundi’s refusal to cooperate with international human rights institutions and mechanisms. We further examine the high levels of impunity enjoyed by government officials, members of the security forces and the armed wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, the Imbonerakure. 

    France: While France has faced serious terrorist threats since its last UPR review, measures taken to protect the public from attacks have had negative consequences for the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. In its submission to Frances third UPR review, CIVICUS outlines a series of concerns related to France’s decision to repeatedly extend its state of emergency, which has expanded powers of arrest, detention and surveillance of security forces without adequate judicial oversight and without due regard for the proportionality of measures taken to restrict fundamental freedoms. 

    Israel: CIVICUS, PNGO and ANND raise concern over ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since Israel’s previous UPR examination. Worryingly, the authorities continue to subvert the right to freedom of expression through the criminalization of dissent online. Human rights defenders and peaceful protesters also routinely face arbitrary arrest and are held in administrative detention to suppress their legitimate work.

    Serbia: CIVICUS, the Human Rights House Belgrade (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Civic Initiatives, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and Human Rights House Foundation document the continued intimidation, attacks and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists who report on sensitive issues, such as transitional justice, corruption or government accountability. Additionally, we assess how vilification of and smear campaigns against human right defenders, CSOs, and independent media outlets is undermining the work of civil society.

    United Arab Emirates: In its joint UPR submission, CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and the International Service for Human Rights examine the continued suppression of fundamental democratic freedoms in the United Arab Emirates. This report explores the ongoing systematic campaign to persecute human rights defenders through arbitrary arrests, torture, deportation and the continued use of draconian legislation to restrict freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

     

  • CIVICUS, ANPED and Consumers International continue to serve as Rio+20 NGO Partners

    CIVICUS together with ANPED and Consumers International have been asked by the United Nations to continue to serve as Rio+20 NGO Partners through the end of May 2013 when the 20th and final session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) is scheduled to take place.

    The NGO Organizing Partners will communicate to the NGO Major Group through the following communications channels:

    • Regular updates on Post-Rio+20 developments through the ANPED-list of CSD/Rio+20
    • Facebook group on Rio+20
    • NGO MG Members for 2012 UNGA google group

    UN DESA had a mandate to facilitate the Major Group engagement with CSD, but with the Rio+20 outcomes under the UN General Assembly (UN GA), DESA does not have that mandate and is not currently in a position to comprehensively facilitate and finance Major Groups involvement. Consequently, In the fast-moving context of post-Rio, the Major Groups Organizing Partners have engaged in a series of consultations organized by UN DESA to organize themselves to share information inclusively and transparently with their respective constituencies, to facilitate the development of advocacy positions, to track political developments within the UN processes established by Rio+20, and to mobilize & coordinate lobbying strategies to the extent possible at UN HQ and national levels.

     

  • CIVICUS' United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 4 countries in advance of the 39th UPR session in October 2021. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

     

  • CIVICUS’ submission to the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism

    The High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism launched a wide range of public consultations on ideas for more effective multilateralism with experts, leaders, practitioners, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders. CIVICUS’ submission examines the main challenges facing multilateralism and provides a United Nations (UN) reform agenda to ensure greater access to civil society. Read the submission here.

     

     

  • Civil society assess outcomes of UNGA76 Third Committee session

    17 NGOs that closely follow and engage with the Third Committee have joined together to publish a joint statement on outcomes of this 76th session.

     

  • Civil society calls on UN Human Rights Council to resolve human rights crisis in Cambodia

    Civil society calls on the UN Human Rights Council to address Cambodia’s human rights crisis

    The undersigned civil society organizations, representing groups working within and outside Cambodia to advance human rights, rule of law, and democracy, are writing to alert your government to an unfolding human rights crisis in Cambodia.

    As detailed below, there has been a marked deterioration in the civil and political rights environment over the last two years, culminating in recent weeks in the closure of several independent media outlets and the arrest of Kem Sokha, the leader of Cambodia’s main political opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). (Another key opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, is in exile because of a spurious legal case against him, and would be arrested if he were to return.) 

    As you may know, national elections in Cambodia have been scheduled for July 29, 2018. During the upcoming 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, a new resolution on Cambodia will be under consideration.

    We call on you to support a resolution that directly addresses the human rights crisis in Cambodia, urges the Cambodian government to curb its rights violations, and take steps to create a more enabling environment for free and fair elections.

    A new resolution at the Human Rights Council, when tabled, is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia for two years. Given the gravity of the situation, we are recommending that the resolution request a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that will, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur, assess the civil and political rights situation in Cambodia in the pre-election period, and identify concrete actions that the Cambodian government and international community need to take to ensure that the conditions in which the election takes place accord with international human rights standards.We have included specific draft language in an appendix below.

    Since the last Council resolution, adopted on October 2, 2015, the environment for civil and political rights in Cambodia has worsened significantly. Developments include:

    • The severe beating of two opposition parliamentarians on October 26, 2015, which human rights groups and later court hearings demonstrated was carried out by forces in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit. The attack took place after Cambodian diaspora in France held anti-government protests during a visit to Paris by Prime Minister Hun Sen, after which Hun Sen warned of retaliatory violence.  Only three of several identified perpetrators ever stood trial for the attack, all of whom received partially suspended sentences and were later promoted to more senior positions upon release from prison.
    • The resurrection of an arrest warrant for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, connected to an old, politically motivated criminal case against him. The arrest warrant led to Rainsy’s decision in 2015 to remain outside of Cambodia, and was followed by additional convictions on spurious legal charges. If he returns to Cambodia, Sam Rainsy will face immediate arrest and imprisonment for these trumped-up charges. In addition, the government in 2017 passed two amendments to the 1997 Law on Political Parties that  were clearly motivated by partisan interests against the opposition (see sections below), and that have compelled Rainsy to step down as CNRP leader.
    • The government’s arrest on September 3 of CNRP’s other leader, Kem Sokha, on charges of treason. Kem Sokha, who had taken sole leadership of the party after Sam Rainsy’s exile and resignation, had already faced de facto house arrest and an in absentia criminal conviction in 2016 that was accompanied by a prison sentence of five months, for “refusing to appear as a witness” following his non-compliance with a subpoena in a politically motivated criminal investigation. Kem Sokha faced threat of arrest for much of 2016 and for many months was unable to leave his office at CNRP’s headquarters, which on several occasions was surrounded byarmed forces, including military helicopters and convoys of bodyguard unit troops.
    • The earlier politically motivated prosecutions of several other elected opposition leaders, including MP Um Sam An, Senator Hong Sok Hour, Senator Thak Lany, Commune Councilor Seang Chet, as well as other opposition party organizers and activists. These cases appear to be part of an unprecedented surge in the detention of opposition supporters and civil society activists, with at least 35 documented cases since July 2015. At least 19 remain in detention as of this writing, 14 of whom were convicted of insurrection offenses following their peaceful participation in an opposition-led demonstration in 2014 that turned violent following state-instigated crackdowns.
    • Cambodian authorities’ use in August and September of Cambodia’s General Department of Taxation to intimidate—and shut down—civil society groups and independent media outlets, including the independent Cambodia Dailynewspaper, which was forced to cease its operations on September 4, 2017.
    • The authorities’ campaign against independent radio, including August orders to close and revoke the license of Mohanokor Radio and its affiliates, which broadcast Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the closing of the independent radio station Voice of Democracy (VOD). Several other radio stations broadcasting programming from VOA or RFA have come under pressure from the government, and stopped broadcasting this month. Almost all domestically-broadcast media in Cambodia is now under government control, with an already entirely government controlled television media and now near elimination of independent radio.  
    • The detention, prosecution, and harassment of four senior staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) in 2016 and 2017: Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony, as well as a former ADHOC staff member who is now the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), Ny Chakrya. This group of human rights defenders, commonly referred to as the “ADHOC Five,” were held in pre-trial detention  for 427 days until released on bail, in the wake of sustained international pressure, on June 29. While their release on bail was a welcome step (especially considering some of detainees’ seriously deteriorating health conditions in prison), authorities are proceeding with their prosecution and the five still face 5 to  10 years in prison, and their freedom of movement and ability to carry out human rights work remains hindered.
    • The continuing imprisonment of Boeung Kak Lake activist and women’s rights defender Tep Vanny, who has spent over one year in prison. Tep Vanny was arrested on August 15, 2016 during a “Black Monday” protest, a non-violent campaign that called for the release of the ADHOC Five. She and a fellow community member, Bov Sophea, were convicted and sentenced to six days’ imprisonment; while Bov Sophea was released upon having served her sentence in pre-trial detention, authorities transferred Tep Vanny back to prison and reactivated a case against her stemming from 2013, when she engaged in a protest calling for the release of another human rights activist, and continue to prosecute several other spurious legal cases against her.
    • The assassination of prominent political commentator Dr. Kem Ley on July 10, 2016, a killing that came five days after a senior Cambodian general publicly called on Cambodian armed forces to “eliminate and dispose of” anyone “fomenting social turmoil” in Cambodia. Kem Ley had been a frequent critic of Hun Sen and in the weeks before his killing had given several media interviews about a groundbreaking report by Global Witness outlining the vast wealth of Hun Sen’s family, fueling concerns that the killing was ordered by higher authorities. A deeply flawed investigation saw merely the identification of one suspect, Oeuth Ang, also known as “Chuob Samlab” (“Meet to Kill”). In March 2017, Oeuth Ang was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in proceedings that ignored improbabilities and inconsistencies in his confession and shortcomings in the investigation. A month before the Oeuth Ang trial, Hun Sen brought a civil charge of defamation against a political commentator, Kim Sok, who had suggested publicly that the Cambodia People’s Party was behind the killing, and authorities also filed a criminal charge of incitement against him. In August, Kim Sok was sentenced to a year and a half in prison and ordered to pay Hun Sen US$200,000 in the civil case. Opposition Senator Thak Lany has also been convicted in absentia for similar offenses after commenting on this case.
    • Government para-police attacks on protesters and human rights observers during an October 10, 2016 peaceful celebration of World Habitat Day. Two human rights defender victims of this attack, Chan Puthisak and Am Sam Ath, were subject to spurious criminal investigations.
    • The government’s passage in 2017 of two rounds of repressive amendments to Cambodia’s Law on Political Parties, which allow authorities to dissolve political parties and ban party leaders from political activity without holding hearings and without an appeal process. The amendments contain numerous restrictions that are tailored to create stumbling blocks for opposition parties, most notably provisions that compel political parties to distance themselves from members who have been convicted of a criminal charge. This impacts opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, effectively allowing the government to dissolve the main opposition party at any time they choose. Many observers suspect that the government will allow the opposition to contest the 2018 elections but has crafted these provisions to weaken the opposition or to use them to dissolve the parties outright in the event that they pose a more significant threat to the ruling party’s hold on power.
    • Prime Minister Hun Sen’s July orders to the Ministry of Interior to investigate two members of a group of civil society organizations coordinating efforts of election monitoring on an ad hoc basis under the head of the so-called “Situation Room.” The government alleges that the ad hoc group violated the vague and undefined concept of “political neutrality” enshrined in Cambodia’s widely criticized Law on Associations and Non-Government Organizations (LANGO), which allows for the dissolution or denial of registration of NGOs, as well as for failing to register under LANGO.
    • Questionable legal investigations into trade unions conducted under Cambodia’s Trade Union Law, which has prevented some unions from legally registering and excluded them from collective bargaining and formally advocating for rights and improved working conditions.
    • Increasingly threatening political rhetoric, including repeated threats of violence and other forms of intimidation by government officials directed at dissidents and civil society, including in the lead-up to this year’s flawed commune elections and afterwards. Both Prime Minister Hun Sen and several senior military leaders have repeated claims that any election victory by the political opposition would lead to “civil war,” while making clear threats to use violence against any individuals who “protest” or seek a “color revolution,” a term which authorities disingenuously employ to portray peaceful dissent as an attempted violent overthrow of the state. Before his baseless accusations in September of Kem Sokha’s “treason” and “conspiracy,” Hun Sen made a number of statements that appear to equate peaceful political opposition and exercise of freedoms of speech and assembly as unlawful acts of violent rebellion. In May 2017, Hun Sen, during campaigning for the country’s 2017 commune elections, stated he would be “willing to eliminate 100 to 200 people” to protect “national security,” for the opposition to “prepare their coffins”, or against anyone who, and later repeated this claim and made a transparent reference to Sam Rainsy suggesting that Rainsy knew he would be targeted for violence. On August 2, Minister of Social Affairs Vong Sauth said that protesters who dispute the outcome of the scheduled 2018 elections will be “hit with the bottom end of bamboo poles”—a reference to a technique used during the Khmer Rouge regime—and threatened civil servants in his ministry with termination if they do not support the ruling CPP. 
    • An August 23 Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement ordering the closure of the US non-governmental organization the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and expulsion of its non-Cambodian staff “within seven days.” The statement cites LANGO and the 1997 Tax Law, both of which the government has cited in other threats against civil society groups mentioned above.

    The Cambodian government’s actions outlined above should be considered together, as a comprehensive campaign of intimidation, violence, and misuse of legal mechanisms in the lead-up to next year’s national election, meant to weaken or neutralize political opposition and hamper civil society efforts to monitor the election and freedom of speech, association, and assembly. More broadly, the government’s actions are an open-ended assault on the United Nations-backed democratic process in Cambodia that began with the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

    We strongly urge your government to acknowledge the severity of the situation and the risks these conditions pose to the integrity of Cambodia’s 2018 elections. It is crucial that the international community support a UN Human Rights Council resolution that explicitly condemns the Cambodian government’s attacks on democratic and human rights norms and takes steps to address them.

    As noted above, the appendix contains draft language recommending that the resolution request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the escalating crackdown, and outline actions the government and international community should take to ensure that the conditions in which the elections take place accord with international human right standards.As outlined in the proposed text in the appendix, we also recommend that the High Commissioner should provide an oral update to the Council at its 37th session in March 2018, and present his report at the 38th session in June 2018.

    We further recommend that your government, during the September session at the Council, speak out clearly and jointly with other governments against the latest abuses, and put the Cambodian government on notice that the Cambodian government’s failure to fully address these concerns will make it impossible to determine that the 2018 elections were free and fair. 

    We also recommend that the Human Rights Council, at those future sessions, hold an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue including stakeholders such as staff from Cambodia’s OHCHR office, the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, other relevant UN Special Procedures and members of local and international civil society.

    We look forward to discussing this matter with you or your staff in more detail.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • Civil Society Organisations call for the immediate operationalisation of the HRC’s new mandate on Belarus

    Resolution on Belarus adopted at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • Civil Society Responses to US Withdrawal From UN Human Rights Council

    Following the announcement of the United States withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a number of civil society organisations with offices in Geneva, the headquarters of UNHRC, offer their opinions on the resulting impact on the work of the Human Rights Council. For media enquiries, please contact

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

    “The USA did not engage in the Human Rights Council under the Bush administration and only returned under the Obama Administration. The Council survived then and it will survive now. The worrying part is that global power dynamics have shifted significantly since then and with the US withdrawal, the vacuum will certainly be filled by Russia and China who have not demonstrated commitment to advancing the human rights discourse. This could negatively impact on Council priorities. Democratic states committed to protecting and promoting human rights will need to show increased commitment to safeguarding human rights norms.”

    • Susan Wilding, Head of Geneva office, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

    Amnesty International

     “Once again President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold. While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.

    “The US should urgently reverse this decision, which places it squarely on the wrong side of history. It is wilfully choosing to undermine the human rights of all people everywhere, and their struggles for justice.”

    • Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International

     International Commission of Jurists

    "The withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council is unlikely in itself to have much impact on the Council, or human rights in the world. The real issue is the Trump administration's broader rejection of multilateralism and rule of law (international or otherwise), and how it acts in practice, both at home and abroad.”

    • Matt Pollard, Senior Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists

     International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

    "The withdrawal of the US is deeply regrettable. The constructive engagement of States with a genuine commitment to human rights and the rule of law is essential for peace, security and sustainable development."

    ‘While the Human Rights Council is far from perfect, it makes a significant contribution to protecting human rights, providing justice to victims, and promoting accountability for perpetrators."

    • Phil Lynch, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) Director 

     DefendDefenders

    "The Trump administration decision to turn its back on the UN's top human rights body is childish, hypocritical, and self-defeating. Today, only the enemies of human rights, some of whom sit on the Council, are pleased. 

    “Nature abhors a vacuum, and the same goes for multilateral fora. While the US will lose voice and influence, China, Russia, Egypt will likely try and assert greater control over the Human Rights Council's agenda and dynamics." 

    • Nicolas Agostini, Representative to the UN for DefendDefenders 

     Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    "By withdrawing the US put appeasement of Israel before the need to protect and support those struggling for human rights and democracy around the world."  

    • Jeremie Smith, Director, Geneva Office, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

     

  • Civil society’s expectations for the Human Rights Council in 2022

    To the incoming President of the Human Rights Council, His Excellency Mr Federico Villegas, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva

     

  • Communiqué on the Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

    This note provides a brief overview of the first meeting of the Secretary General's High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, on 25 October 2012. The High Level Panel is committed to an open, transparent, and inclusive process. We are particularly keen that stakeholders are kept up to date with substance and process of the Panel's work. To that end, we propose to send out regular updates in this form.

    Read the Report

     

  • Comprehensive UN resolution needed to protect civic space

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

    Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    A group of governments (Ireland, Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone, Tunisia) and over 50 civil society organisations reaffirm the need for the Human Rights Council to adopt a comprehensive resolution that promotes and protect civic freedoms.


    Madame High Commissioner,

    This core group first took the initiative of a Council resolution on civil society space in 2013.

    We did so in light of what we saw as two equally true but very different realities:

    • first, the transformative role which civil society can and does play, alone or in partnership with other stakeholders; and
    • second, that civil society space is all too regularly, and unfortunately increasingly, restricted and threatened.

    In the intervening period, our commitment to this initiative has not diminished, in fact quite the opposite, we have established new frontiers.

    We remain deeply committed to highlighting at this Council, the critical importance of protecting and promoting a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

    In normal times, we would have presented a resolution to this Session of the HRC.

    But these are not normal times, so, for practical reasons, we have decided to raise these important issues by way of a Joint Statement.

    In this Joint Statement, we take the opportunity to draw attention to the concerns that persist for civil society including inter alia: diversity of participation; attacks, reprisals and acts of intimidation against civil society actors; shortcomings in access and accreditation processes; the use of legal and administrative measures to restrict civil society activity; and the particular challenges that have emerged in recent weeks and months by the almost wholesale move to online methods of communication and engagement.

    We also pay tribute to the significant steps forward that international organisations and States have taken to foster and encourage the meaningful participation of civil society, set out in the

    High Commissioner’s report presented at this Session. This report also noted that significant further steps are needed, such as: increasing support to and empowering civil society, including human rights defenders, in particular women’s rights and environmental defenders and journalists; and expanding the space in which civil society operates through better laws and policies and improved protection mechanisms.

    Realisation of these steps would bring to bear the immense benefits of this participative approach to policy formulation and implementation, as emphasised by the Secretary-General in his “Call to Action”.

    Madame High Commissioner,

    The people that States in this room represent are facing the challenge of a generation in dealing with COVID19 and its devastating impact, particularly in terms of the many, many lives lost, on every continent.

    In responding to, and rebuilding from this crisis, we must recognise, as articulated by the UN Secretary-General, and as emphasised by this Council in the recently adopted Presidential Statement on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of human rights in shaping the response to the pandemic, both for the public health emergency, and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

    We welcome your statement, Madame High Commissioner, that civil society must be included in every stage of response to the COVID19 pandemic.

    We would encourage you therefore Madame High Commissioner, to ensure that the essential role of civil society, and States’ efforts to protect and promote civil society space, are reflected in the report that you will present to the 46th Session of the HRC, as mandated by the recent Presidential Statement.

    There will be many lessons to be learned from our experience of recent weeks and months if we are to build back better, by protecting fundamental freedoms in the face of crises and addressing structural inequalities.

    We stand ready to learn.

    And we undertake to bring to a future Session of this Council, a resolution that will build on a more comprehensive examination of the key challenges and opportunities that have emerged and will set out concrete steps for States to take to realise open civic space for the benefit of all.

     

  • Conclusions from the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council

     

    Joint NGO Statement - End of 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    We welcome the positive step the Council has taken in the direction to effectively protect environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs) from the grave reality they face every day. By adopting the resolution by consensus, the Council has collectively and explicitly recognized the vital role of EHRDS, including in attaining the SDGs sustainable development goals and ensuring that no-one is left behind, and called for their protection. We also welcome the call on States to provide a safe and empowering context for initiatives organised by young people and children to defend human rights relating to the environment. We, however, regret that the resolution does not squarely address the obligations of international financial institutions and investors.

    We welcome South Africa’s leadership to put on the Council’s agenda emerging human rights issues, in bringing attention to the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women and girls face in the field of sports, especially on the basis of race and gender.

    The Council has ensured its continued attention to grave rights violations across the globe.

    While we welcome the extension of Council attention on Sri Lanka for another two years, a concrete, transparent, and time-bound action plan is urgently needed to implement its commitments under resolution 30/1 in collaboration with OHCHR. Given the lack of progress and political will to implement these commitments, in the absence of immediate progress, the Council should consider additional measures or mechanisms for ensuring victims' rights to truth, justice and reparations. Individual States need not wait to exercise universal jurisdiction.

    We welcome the resolution on Myanmar and its strong focus on ending impunity and ensuring accountability, and we call for the swift operationalisation of the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM). We welcome steps taken to review the UN's involvement in Myanmar. We urge the UN Secretary-General to ensure that it is independent and transparent, and present the findings and recommendations at the Council’s 43rd session.

    We welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, a vital mechanism for human rights reporting and evidence gathering. It sends the right message to the government and all parties to the conflict: There can be no lasting peace without justice.

    The Council continued this session to initiate action on country situations based on objective criteria through resolutions and joint statements.

    By adopting a resolution on Nicaragua, the Council sent a signal to victims of the current crisis that the international community will not allow impunity for the serious ongoing violations to prevail. We look forward to robust reporting from the OHCHR and we urge the Nicaraguan government to fully engage with the Office to ensure the victims’ rights to truth, justice and reparation.

    The Council sent a strong message of support to human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia through the joint statement by 36 States, led by Iceland, calling for the release of detained women human rights defenders and called on the Saudi government to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in her investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We urge the Saudi authorities to respond fully to these calls, and States to follow up with a resolution at the June session to maintain attention to the situation until meaningful progress, including the release of defenders, is made.

    LGBT people in Chechnya are being abducted, locked up in secret detention sites, tortured and sometimes killed purely because of their sexual orientation.  We welcome the joint statement on Chechnya delivered by more than 30 States and join the call on the Russian authorities for the persecution to stop: for the immediate and unconditional release of all detained for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and for swift, thorough, and impartial investigations.  

    We welcome the Cameroon joint statement which advances both Council membership standards and its prevention mandate, and urge the Council to keep the matter under scrutiny.

    While we have welcomed the Council’s attention to several situations of gross rights violations, we remain concerned about the lack of consistent and principled leadership by States, in particular by Council members.

    We are disappointed that even though the demands of several EU and WEOG States to move the resolution on accountability for crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from item 7 to item 2 was met, they still failed to support the resolution. This suggests that no matter the item number, some WEOG members continue in failing to protect the human rights of Palestinians, effectively shielding Israel from accountability.

    We regret that States have yet again failed to initiate Council action on the Philippines amidst continued unlawful killings in the government's so-called war on drugs, and increased targeting of independent media, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders. We reiterate our call on the Council to take action to mandate an independent investigation to establish the facts of human rights violations including extrajudicial executions and attacks against media and civil society, address impunity, and take steps towards justice and reparations for the victims and their families, and hope action will be taken in this regard at the next Council session.

    We are deeply disappointed that the resolution adopted on Libya again lacks any meaningful accountability mechanism or mandate, despite the impunity for the widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that prevail there.

    We deplore that despite credible reports of the detention of up to 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in western China, the Council has yet again given a pass to China, permitting impunity for widespread and severe human rights violations. The efforts China has made to keep States silent, exemplified by intimidation and threats on the one hand and whitewashing the situation on the other, demonstrate the degree to which Council action could have had meaningful results if States had instead called clearly and collectively for an independent, unrestricted fact-finding mission.

    On the resolution on the rights of the child, we regret the Council’s inability to emphasize the empowerment, autonomy and capacity of children with disabilities, and including to ensure that their sexual and reproductive health and rights must be respected, protected and fulfilled.

    We applaud Mexico and other States’ resolve to safeguard the independence of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism and to resist any attempts to dilute, distract or distort its essential focus, ensuring that the Rapporteur can continue to have positive impacts both in preventing and responding to human rights violations committed in the name of countering terrorism and in relation to the human rights of victims of terrorism. We urge States to remain vigilant to resist future attempts to undermine the Special Procedures system- the eyes and ears of the Council.  

    We welcome the Council’s renewal of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Iran and the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, so that both can continue to perform their vital work fulfilling their respective mandates and addressing the dire human rights situations in both countries.  We urge the Iranian and Syrian authorities to change their posture of noncooperation with the respective mandate .

    Several of our organisations have urged the UN High Commissioner to publish the database on businesses in Israeli settlements and were alarmed at its further delay.  We urge the High Commissioner to release the database with all due haste.

    We welcome the renewal of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief mandate, and the maintenance of consensus on the Council resolution 16/18 framework for addressing religious intolerance . Rising intolerance and hate is a global concern, and States must move beyond rhetoric to action in implementing these standards.

    The High Commissioner’s update on Venezuela during this session reflected the dire human rights situation in Venezuela. We urge all States to consider what more the Council can do to address the worsening human rights crisis in the country and to support all victims.

    We note the highly disturbing report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing concerning grave reprisals by the Egyptian government against those who cooperated with her during her recent visit to the country and urge this Council to take action to address these attacks.  

    We welcome the passage of the resolution on Georgia and the continued attention devoted to the importance of full and unimpeded access for the Office of the High Commissioner and international and regional human rights mechanisms.

    Signatories:

    1. Amnesty International
    2. ARTICLE 19
    3. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    4. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    5. Center for Reproductive Rights
    6. CIVICUS
    7. Human Rights House Foundation
    8. Human Rights Watch
    9. International Commission of Jurists
    10. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    11. International Service for Human Rights

     

  • COP26: ‘A key priority is to address vulnerability at the community level’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Mubiru Huzaifah of Uganda’s Ecological Christian Organisation (ECO), a civil society organisation working for sustainable livelihoods for marginalised, under-served and vulnerable groups in Uganda. ECO’s current initiatives focus on natural resource governance, climate change resilience and adaptation, and ecosystems management and restoration.

     

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

    The issue that most worries us is the high vulnerability levels that climate change is causing in human systems. The long-term change of climatic elements from previously accepted means is causing environmental and human systems to change. According to state of environment reports issued by the Ugandan National Environmental Management Authority, the main issues related to the changing climate include industrial pollution, widespread bush burning, the inefficient use of fuel and poorly planned transport networks, all of which result in high emission levels.

    Are there any government initiatives on climate change mitigation?

    There is a mitigation project being implemented under the Ministry of Water and Environment – Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation – which gives out free seedlings to be planted to enhance the absorption capacity of the soil. There is the Sawlog Production Grant Scheme, aimed at increasing the incomes of rural people through commercial tree planting by local communities as well as medium and large-scale businesses, which at the same time helps to mitigate climate change effects through intensive reforestation. There are also several solar projects in the Mayuge, Soroti and Tororo districts, which have increased the country’s solar production, and a wetland project – supported by the Green Climate Fund – supporting wetlands conservation and addressing wetland degradation.

    Other relevant interventions include the implementation of gravity water flow schemes to enable water supply without use of energy sources; the development of highways with water drainage channels and solar lights and congestion-free road networks that will enable the smooth flow of traffic and cut down on emissions from automobiles; and the adoption of electric or emissions-free motorcycles to further reduce emissions from fossil energy sources, which the Ministry of Energy is working on alongside the private sector.

    What kind of work does ECO do on these issues?

    ECO’s work is aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities to the impacts of climate change, strengthening disaster risk reduction, enhancing good governance and management of natural resources, especially in the extractives sector, and promoting ecosystems management and restoration.

    For instance, as part of a project aimed at promoting and supporting community-conserved areas in the Lake Victoria Basin, we have provided support for legal fishing practices, promoted and provided training on sustainable farming promotion and supported good local resource governance practices. Another project is aimed at increasing transparency, social inclusion, accountability and responsiveness among those responsible for mining in the Karamoja region.

    In these and in many other projects we are working on, we always seek drive to change by putting people at risk at the centre and building on local and traditional resources and knowledge. We try to link the humanitarian and development domains by focusing on livelihoods. We work to ensure adaptive planning, trying to link local realities with global processes and integrate disciplines and approaches to encompass different risks. We partner with communities, civil society organisations, government agencies, universities and research institutes, the private sector and the media.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    We connect with the global climate movement through the Climate Action Network-Uganda, which encompasses over 200 national CSOs. We currently chair this. This allows us to participate in COP meetings as observers.

    We also participate in the pre-COP consultative meetings organised by the Ugandan government in preparation for international climate change negotiations. In these meetings, we help assess progress in dealing with climate change and complying with our nationally determined contributions.

    We turn our lessons learned into advocacy actions that can be adapted for international climate change forums. Some local problems can feed into the national agenda, be turned into policy actions and go on to influence international policy actions.

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

    We hope that COP26 will come up with a new marketing platform for emission trading to replace the Clean Development Mechanism, which allowed countries with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement emission-reduction projects in developing countries. We also hope it will result in the commitment of more funds to accelerate the scaling up of renewable energies.

    These international processes are relevant as long as they contribute towards the financing of climate mitigation efforts and produce novel funding strategies, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund, and its pilot programme to foster innovation in adaptation practices in vulnerable countries. Coming from a developing country, I believe that it is critical to increase adaptation funding immediately, since the disruptive impacts of climate change on human systems are already apparent.

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

    A key priority is to address vulnerability at the community level. Our vision is that of a community with enhanced adaptive capacity to address climate change impacts and its subsequent effects. This can be done by increasing access to working technologies and providing mitigation and adaptation funding through community structures.

    Civic space inUgandais rated as ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Ecological Christian Organisation through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@EcoChristianOrg on Twitter.

     

  • COP26: ‘Awareness that we need to protect the climate to protect ourselves is still missing’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Executive Director of Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe), an organisation that supports sustainable ways of life and economic systems that respect ecological boundaries. It has advocated for the preservation of biological diversity and the protection of climate and natural assets for more than 40 years.

    Sascha Muller Kraenner

    Photo: Stefan Wieland

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

    Germany and Europe need to phase out fossil gas to have any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5°C. Politicians don’t accept this reality yet, and the public debate is muddied by the gas lobby pushing a misleading campaign to portray fossil gas as clean, cheap and climate friendly. But getting serious about climate protection means that the entire energy system needs to be transformed, and fossil gas has no place in this transformation. We need to stop subsidising it and building new infrastructure for it.

    Renewables and energy efficiency need to be scaled up massively to reduce gas demand and provide clean power generation. In the heating sector, we need to ban the sale of new gas heaters and replace existing ones with sustainable technologies such as heat pumps rather than false solutions such as hydrogen.

    The emergence of ‘green gases’ such as hydrogen presents a threat and an opportunity in this regard, and designing regulation that is fit for a climate-neutral future is a key challenge. As the supply of green hydrogen will be very limited, because it is very expensive to produce, we need to use it only for sectors that are hard to decarbonise, like high-temperature industrial processes, rather than heating or transport, where other options are available.

    Did the devastating floods Germany experienced in July lead to any greater acknowledgement of the climate crisis and willingness to take action?

    Acknowledgement, yes. The floods were widely, and correctly, attributed to climate change. However, the debate has not changed much after the immediate crisis was over. The government had to commit €30 billion (approx. US$35 billion) to fix flood-related damages and rebuild the affected regions. Yet, in the context of the federal election, climate policy was debated as a ‘cost’ that society has to pay for altruistic reasons.

    Pitting climate policy against economic development is a false dichotomy. The truth is that we need to reduce emissions, even in areas where it is difficult, precisely to avoid massively costly events like floods and droughts becoming more and more frequent. This awareness that we need to protect the climate to protect ourselves is still missing.

    To what extent did the climate crisis feature in the campaign for Germany’s October election, and how is the climate movement pressuring the likely new government that will result from the election to do more?

    According to polls, climate change was the most important issue in the election. This was partly because of frustration with the outgoing ‘grand coalition’ government, which was complacent about the climate crisis, unable to achieve its own targets and unwilling to take far-reaching decisions in critical areas such as renewables, buildings, transport and agriculture.

    The climate movement, particularly Fridays for Future, has become much stronger since the 2017 election. Young people are mobilised and they will keep up the pressure because they rightly fear for their future. The Green party will very likely form part of the new government after achieving its best election result ever. This bodes well for climate policy and also for the influence of the climate movement. The Green party has by far the most expertise and willingness to adopt ambitious climate policy, and it is also the most open to the concerns of the climate movement.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    Deutsche Umwelthilfe is connected with the climate movement in Europe through membership in umbrella associations like Climate Action Network-Europe and the European Environmental Bureau. We participate in regular exchanges and working groups with our European partners on a variety of issues, such as phasing out gas, regulating methane emissions, sustainable finance and sustainable heating.

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

    There is no doubt that international cooperation is crucial if we are to limit global heating effectively, and the Paris Agreement is testimony to that. Despite that, however, since the beginning of the series of Conference of the Parties meetings we have seen a continuous rise in emissions globally. Many also criticise these events on the basis that they are heavily sponsored by industry, and that their outcomes are therefore somewhat tilted towards the expectations of industry.

    Thus, international processes are one the one hand crucial, but on the other hand, they are also an opportunity for the fossil fuel industry to gain or at least retain their reputation as part of the solution to the climate crisis, while they continue to block progress in a lot of cases.

    We have to be careful then when considering the outcome that COP26 can realistically provide. I do hope that progress will be made towards emission reduction commitments to stay in reach of the Paris Agreement, but it will take civil society to demand and implement the necessary changes, regardless of the outcome of COP26. We are and will continue to be part of that change.

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

    In recent years we have seen incredible efforts by the young generation to finally act on the promises made in the Paris Agreement. Yet decision-makers far too often disregard their knowledge and demands around the climate crisis and instead continue with business as usual. I think we would all benefit if young people were given greater influence in decision-making processes that have the potential to halt global heating.

    Civic space in Germany is rated ‘open’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Environmental Action Germany through itswebsite orFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@Umwelthilfe and@sascha_m_k on Twitter. 

     

  • COP26: ‘Decision-makers have national objectives whereas the issues at stake are transnational’

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

     

  • COP26: ‘False solutions are brandished to divert our attention from those responsible’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Lia Mai Torres, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines, a civil society organisation (CSO) that helps Filipino communities address environmental challenges. Founded in 1989 through an initiative of organisations representing fisherfolk, farmers, Indigenous peoples, women, people living in urban poverty and professional sectors, CEC focuses on environmental research, education, advocacy and campaigning. It is also part of the secretariat of the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED), a coalition of organisations working in solidarity to protect the environment and its defenders.

    Lia Mai Torres

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

    The main environmental issue that the Philippines is currently facing is the proliferation of environmentally destructive projects and programmes. This situation persisted or even worsened under the pandemic.

    Just recently, the current administration lifted a moratorium on mining, based on claims that it will help the economy recover, after it was hard hit by the poor pandemic response. This will usher in around 100 mining agreements in different parts of the country. This was opposed by many communities due to the negative impacts of existing mining operations. An example is in the village of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, in the northern part of the Philippines, where a mining agreement with the Australian-Canadian company OceanaGold was renewed for another 25 years. The Bugkalot and Tuwali Indigenous communities are already suffering from a lack of water supply due to the mining operations and they fear that this will worsen with the continuing operations.

    Infrastructure projects are also a priority of the government, which claims that they will also help the economy. However, there are projects that are foreign funded under onerous loans that will worsen the situation of residents. An example of this is the China-funded Kaliwa Dam in Rizal province, in the southern part of Luzon island. It will encroach on the Dumagat Indigenous people’s ancestral domain, including sacred sites, as well as a protected area.

    Another example are the monocrop plantations that can be found mostly in the provinces of Mindanao. Ancestral domains of the Lumad Indigenous people have been converted into banana and pineapple plantations. Some residents report illnesses from the synthetic chemicals used in the plantations and many are being displaced from their farmlands.

    These are a few examples of priority projects that are pushed by the government to bring so-called development. However, it is obvious that these do not genuinely improve the situation of local communities, most of which are already experiencing poverty. In addition, the natural resources of the country are mostly not exploited to the benefit of its citizens, since the products extracted are destined for export. Only very few local and international corporations benefit from them. Natural resources are used for profit and not for national development.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    CEC works with local communities, since we believe that environmental struggles cannot be won without the united efforts of the people who are experiencing environmental impact. The real power comes from the organisations on the ground. CSOs like ours and other sectors should support their efforts, connecting local struggles to build a strong environmental movement at the national and international levels.

    Because of our support to local communities, we have faced reprisals. In 2007, Lafayette Mining Ltd, an Australian mining company, filed a libel case against CEC’s then-executive director for exposing the impacts of the company’s operations. In 2019 and 2021, our organisation was targeted through red-tagging, a practice by which the government declares individuals and organisations as terrorists or communists, in retaliation for our humanitarian missions following a typhoon and during the pandemic. 

    We also received information of a threat of a police raid in our office for providing sanctuary to Lumad Indigenous children who were forced out of their communities due to militarisation, threats and harassment. Our peaceful protest actions are often violently dispersed by the police and private security forces, and a member of our staff was arrested in 2019.

    Behind all these attacks are state security forces alongside the private security forces of corporations. The police and military have seemingly become part of the corporations’ security forces, using repressive measure to ensure that their operations run smoothly.

    How do you connect with the broader international climate movement?

    As many countries, especially from the global south, are experiencing similar environmental problems, we recognise the need to connect with organisations in other countries. In 2015, CEC was among the conveners of the International People’s Conference on Mining, in which environmental defenders were able to learn from each other’s experiences and coordinate local campaigns.

    CEC also helped establish APNED, a solidarity campaign network that provides mutual support to campaigns, raises issues at the international level, advocates for greater protection to defenders, conducts capacity-building activities and facilitates services. We believe that it is important to have solidarity among defenders to help strengthen local movements as well as the international struggle for our environmental rights.

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

    Even before the pandemic, there were concerns regarding the inclusion of frontline or grassroots environmental defenders in international processes such as the climate talks. Lack of inclusivity became more evident under the pandemic, as many CSOs have found it difficult to attend due to additional requirements and expenses. In addition, only accredited organisations can attend formal events, and these are only very few with accreditation. Further, governments’ reports are usually far from reality. The worsening climate crisis is proof that governments are not doing enough.

    Despite this, we will still participate in the formal and side events of COP26, aiming to bring attention to how many developed countries and big corporations are worsening the climate crisis through resource grabbing and the exploitation of the natural resources of poor countries, exacerbating existing poverty, and how false solutions are brandished to divert our attention from their responsibility and lack of accountability. We also want to highlight the importance of environmental defenders in protecting our environment and upholding our environmental rights, and therefore the need to ensure that they do not suffer more politically motivated human rights violations that hinder them from doing their important work.

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

    We hope that the profit-oriented capitalist framework will be changed in the Philippines. This would ensure resource conflicts will be addressed, environmental protection for ecological balance upheld, genuine climate adaptation programmes established and due attention given to vulnerable groups. This also includes holding countries and corporations that contribute to the climate crisis accountable and providing support for poor countries to adapt.

    Civic space in the Philippines is rated ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@CEC_Phils on Twitter. 

     

  • COP26: ‘In response to pressure from below, COP26 should develop interventions for just climate action’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Caroline Owashaba, team leader at Action for Youth Development Uganda and volunteer coordinator of the Girls Not Brides Uganda Alliance.

    Caroline Owashaba

    What is the key environmental issue in your country that you are working on?

    A key issue in Uganda is the use of large quantities of single-use plastic bags, which have extreme environmental effects. Plastic bags take many years to decompose; they release toxic substances into the soil and, if burned, into the air; they block drains and may cause flooding; and they kill animals that eat them confusing them for food or that get entangled in them.

    A measure to ban the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags was passed back in 2018, but manufacturers lobbied hard to get more time before the ban went into effect, and as a result its enforcement has been slow and largely ineffective. So earlier in 2021, the government decided to enforce new measures to that effect, alongside a bigger package of environmental measures. 

    While the government works to enforce the ban on single-use plastic bags, we are working on an initiative to produce alternative, eco-friendly and biodegradable materials. This is quite urgent, because right now, if the ban on plastic bags was actually enforced, the supply of biodegradable packaging options would by no means be enough.

    Action for Youth Development Uganda (ACOYDE) is implementing a project named CHACHA (Children for Alternative Change), which uses banana fibre to produce a variety of useful items, such as door and table mats, pillows, interior decorative items and, of course, bags. The waste generated from the banana fibre extraction and the manufacture of these items is recycled to produce high-quality charcoal briquettes that are used as a heat source by young people and women involved in the project in both their homes and workplaces, reducing consumption of fuel while increasing their household income. 

    The whole community takes part in the production process, because they are the major suppliers of banana stems. And the project enables young people, and especially young women, to earn a living for their families. There are possibilities for its expansion, as the emergence of eco-hotels has created an increased demand for eco-friendly products 

    How do you engage with the broader international climate movement?

    We have engaged with the international movement through regional climate change exchanges such as Africa Climate Change Week and as part of the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network. We also follow the discussions of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group on adaptation, mitigation and financing.

    It has also worked the other way around: ACOYDE has supported efforts to domesticate the international climate framework and fed into the National Climate Change Bill, which was passed in April 2021. The new bill gave the force of law to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, to which Uganda is a signatory. We then worked to localise the bill. It is key for it to be effectively implemented at a local level because it will help us overcome the climate change injustices in our communities.

    We also connect with the broader climate movement from a gender perspective. I am personally interested in the intersections between gender and climate change. In previous COPs, I was able to contribute to the Gender Action Plan (GAP) that has guided and influenced issues of women and youth in UNFCCC negotiation processes. I participated in GAP progress discussions on gender balance, coherence, gender-responsive implementation, monitoring, and reporting. I have also been active in the Uganda National Gender Working Group and other national climate change processes to ensure the domestication of global standards of gender and financing consistent with the Paris Agreement, including by reporting on the implementation of the GAP provisions in Uganda.

    What hopes, if any, do you have for COP26?

    COP26 should offer spaces to take gender issues to the global level and provide further opportunities for discussion. It should increase women’s participation, undertake gender mainstreaming and ensure GAPs are implemented. It should help amplify the voices of women in climate change negotiations. Women are doing much of the heavy lifting at the grassroots level, but they get too little in return, not just because too little goes to their pockets but also because they continue to be underrepresented and therefore their voices go unheard.

    International forums such as COP26 should provide spaces for grassroots participation and, in response to those pressures from below, COP26 should develop strong interventions for just climate action that are respectful of human rights, including Indigenous people’s rights and the promotion of gender equality. 

    Civic space inUgandais rated as ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Action for Youth Development Uganda through itswebsite andFacebook page.

     

  • COP26: ‘Much more money is being invested in destroying the planet than in saving it’

    The 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) has just ended in Glasgow, UK, and CIVICUS continues to interview civil society activists, leaders and experts on the outcomes of the summit, its potential to solve the environmental challenges they face and the actions they are taking to address them.

    CIVICUS speaks with Ruth Alipaz Cuqui, an Indigenous leader from the Bolivian Amazon and general coordinator of the National Coordination for the Defence of Indigenous Peasant Territories and Protected Areas (CONTIOCAP). The organisation was founded in late 2018 out of the convergence of several movements of resistance against the destruction of Indigenous territories and protected areas by extractive projects and the co-optation of traditional organisations representing Indigenous peoples. Initially composed of 12 movements, it now includes 35 from all over Bolivia.

    RuthAlipaz

    What environmental issues do you work on?

    As a defender of Indigenous territories, Indigenous rights and the rights of nature, I work on three different levels. First, on a personal level, I work in my community of the Uchupiamona Indigenous People, the whole of which is within one of the most diverse protected areas in the world, the Madidi National Park.

    In 2009 my people were on the verge of giving out a logging concession that would devastate 31,000 hectares of forest, in an area that is sensitive for water preservation and particularly rich in bird diversity. To stop that concession, I made an alternative proposal, focused on birdwatching tourism. Although currently, because of the pandemic, tourism has proven not to be the safest bet, the fact is that we still have the forests thanks to this activity – although they always remain under threat due to pressure from people in the community who need the money right away.

    My community currently faces serious water supply issues, but we have organised with young women to restore our water sources by reforesting the area with native fruit plants and passing on knowledge about these fruit and medicinal plants from our elders to women and children.

    Secondly, I am a member of the Commonwealth of Indigenous Communities of the Beni, Tuichi and Quiquibey rivers, a grassroots organisation of the Amazon region of Bolivia that since 2016 has led the defence of the territories of six Indigenous Nations – Ese Ejja, Leco, Moseten, Tacana, Tsiman and Uchupiamona – from the threat of the construction of two hydroelectric plants, Chepete and El Bala, that would flood our territories, displace more than five thousand Indigenous people, obstruct three rivers forever and devastate two protected areas, the Madidi National Park and the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve. On 16 August 2021, Indigenous organisations supporting the government authorised the launch of these hydroelectric power projects.

    The Tuichi River, which is within the Madidi protected area and is essential to the community ecotourism activity of my Uchupiamona People, has also been granted in its entirety to third parties outside the community for the development of alluvial gold mining. The Mining and Metallurgy Law discriminates against Indigenous peoples by allowing any external actor to acquire rights over our territories.

    Finally, I am the general coordinator of CONTIOCAP, an organisation that has denounced the systematic violations of our rights in the Indigenous territories of the four macro regions of Bolivia: the Chaco, the valleys, the Altiplano and the Amazon. These violations come hand in hand with oil exploration and exploitation, the burning of forests and deforestation to free up land for agribusiness, the construction of roads and hydroelectric plants and the alluvial gold mining activity that is poisoning vulnerable populations.

    Have you faced negative reactions to the work you do?

    We have faced negative reactions, mainly from the state, through decentralised bodies such as the National Tax and Migration agencies. I recently discovered that my bank accounts have been ordered to be withheld by the two agencies.

    During a march led by the Qhara Qhara Nation in 2019, I was constantly followed and physically harassed by two people, while I was in the city to submit our proposals alongside march leaders.

    And recently, when Indigenous organisations sympathetic to the government gave authorisation to the hydroelectric plants, our denunciations were met with actions to disqualify and discredit us, something the Bolivian government has been doing for years. They say, for instance, that those of us who oppose the hydroelectric megaprojects are not legitimate representatives of Indigenous peoples but activists financed by international non-governmental organisations.

    How do your actions connect with the global climate movement?

    Our actions converge with those of the global movement, because by defending our territories and protected areas we contribute not only to avoiding further deforestation and pollution of rivers and water sources, and to preserving soils to maintain our food sovereignty, but also to conserving ancestral knowledge that contributes to our resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

    Indigenous peoples have proven to be the most efficient protectors of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as of resources fundamental for life such as water, rivers and territories, against the position of the state whose laws rather serve to violate our living spaces.

    Have you made use of international organisations’ forums and spaces for participation?

    Yes, we do it regularly, for example by requesting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to follow up on the criminalisation of and violence against defenders of Indigenous peoples’ rights in Bolivia and by participating in the collective production of a civil society shadow report for the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Bolivia, which we presented during the Council’s pre-sessions in October 2019.

    Recently, in a hearing in the city of La Paz, we presented a report on violations of our rights to the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples.

    What do you think of the spaces for civil society participation in the COPs, and how do you assess the results of the recently concluded COP26?

    Once again, at COP26 states have exhibited their complete inefficiency in acting in compliance with their own decisions. I have stated on more than one occasion that 2030 was just around the corner and today we are only eight years away and we are still discussing what are the most efficient measures to achieve the goals set for that date.

    Much more money is being invested in destroying the planet than in saving it. This is the result of states’ actions and decisions in favour of a wild capitalism that is destroying the planet with its extractivism that is predatory of life.

    Let’s see how much progress has been made since the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed in 2005 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, companies have used the supposed concept of the ‘right to development’ to continue operating to the detriment of the planet and, above all, to the detriment of the most vulnerable populations such as Indigenous peoples. We are the ones who pay the costs, not the ones who cause the disasters.

    The results of COP26 do not satisfy me because we want to see tangible actions. The Bolivian state has not even signed the declaration, even though it has used the space of COP26 to give a misleading speech that the capitalist model must be changed for one that is kinder to nature. But in Bolivia we have already deforested around 10 million hectares, in the most brutal way imaginable, through fires that for more than a decade and a half have been legalised by the government.

    I think that as long as these forums do not discuss sanctions on states that do not comply with agreements, or that do not even sign declarations, there will be no concrete results.

    Civic space in Bolivia is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with CONTIOCAP through itsFacebook page and follow@contiocap and@CuquiRuth on Twitter. 

     

  • COP26: ‘My hope lies in the people coming together to demand justice’

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

    CIVICUS speaks with Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a young climate justice activist based in Metro Manila, Philippines, who organises with Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines and is active in Fridays for Future International.

    What’s the key climate issue in your community?

    The Philippines is plagued by several impacts from climate change, from droughts that are getting longer and warmer to typhoons that are getting more frequent and more intense. Aside from these climate impacts – that we have not been able to adapt to and leave us with no support when it comes to dealing with the loss and damages – we also face numerous environmentally destructive projects, often undertaken by foreign multinational companies, that our government is allowing and even encouraging.

    Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, the Fridays for Future of the Philippines, advocates for climate justice and to make sure that voices of people from the most affected communities are heard, amplified and given space. I first became an activist in 2017 after working with Indigenous leaders of the Philippines, which made me understand that they only way to achieve a more just and greener society is through collective action leading to system change.

    Have you faced backlash for the work you do?

    Yes, just like anyone who speaks up against injustice and inaction, our government through its paid trolls red-tags and terror-tags activists – it basically calls us terrorists for demanding accountability and pushing for change. There is a fear that comes along with being a climate activist in the Philippines, which has been characterised as the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental defenders and activists for eight years in a row. It’s not just the fear of the climate impacts, it’s also the fear of police and state forces coming to get us and making us disappear. 

    How do you engage with the broader international climate movement?

    I organise a lot with the international community, especially through Fridays for Future – MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas), one of the global south groups of Fridays for Future. We do it by having conversations, learning from each other and creating strategies together, all while having fun. It’s important for the global youth movement to connect with one another, unite and show solidarity in order to truly address the global issue of the climate crisis.

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

    My hope doesn’t lie with the so-called leaders and politicians who have continued business as usual for decades for the profit of the few, usually for the global north. My hope lies in the people: activists and civil society coming together to demand justice and to really expose how this profit-oriented system that brought us to this crisis is not the one that we need to bring us out of it. I think COP26 is a crucial moment and this international process has to be useful because we’ve already had 24 too many. These problems should have been solved at the very first COP, and one way or another we have to make sure that this COP is useful and brings meaningful change, not just more empty promises.

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

    The one change I ask for is a big one: system change. We need to change our system from one that prioritises the overexploitation of the global south and marginalised peoples for the profit of the global north and the privileged few. The way we view development, it shouldn’t be based on GDP and everlasting growth, but rather on the quality of people’s lives. This is doable – but only if we address the climate crisis and all the other socio-economic injustices at its roots.

    Civic space inthe Philippinesis rated as ‘repressedby theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines through itswebsite or Facebook page, and follow @mitzijonelle onTwitter andInstagram.