1 April 2015. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS has boldly declared that the space for citizens and organisations to speak out, organise and take action is finally expanding and is no longer going to be a world-wide problem. CIVICUS’ analysis is based on several recent positive developments. A number of states have issued synchronised statements to indicate “a new era of engagement” on civic space.
The governments of Uganda and Nigeria in their joint statement released last week termed persecution of the LGBTI community and CSOs promoting their rights as wrong. “This is a clear case of discrimination. Just as we oppose the discrimination of anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, place of birth, economic status or religion, we opposed the discrimination of human beings just because they are born gay,” said the joint statement.
In another positive development, the United States has announced that it will speak out strongly in favour of the rights of Bahraini, Palestinian and Saudi human rights defenders. “A violation of their rights is no different from similar violations taking place in Cuba, Russia and Venezuela,” said a US State Department communique.
India and South Africa have decided to break ranks with the ‘like minded group’ at the UN Human Rights Council. “It does our democracies and our long term interests no good to be in the company of some of the most egregious violators of human rights in the world. Henceforth our foreign policies will be predicated on our constitutional values,” said their joint statement.
Meanwhile, the governments of China, Egypt, Ethiopia and Rwanda have decided to release all imprisoned journalists, civil society activists and members of the political opposition. This followed the release of a recent UN report titled: 'Economic development and democratic dissent are indeed compatible.' The report unearthed huge hidden costs for societies underpinned by state oppression.
The above developments have caused huge consternation in global civil society. A major conference supported by the European Union is being planned to discuss potential ramifications, including loss of funding for international NGOs.
“This is real cause for celebration even though it means that I no longer have a job,” said a civil society activist who declined to be identified. “I will probably head for the bush.”
Happy April Fool’s Day. We can dream, can’t we?