Defending civil society, democratic rights, and our fundamental freedoms can be challenging, let alone having to do it while under “lockdown” practicing social distancing in the midst of a global health crisis spreading rapidly across the world. In times like these, solidarity and social compassion play the most important role. To help connect and inform the alliance and civil society during this time, we will be collecting information, resources, and support to share.
First, some basic prevention information from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Socially distant but together ✨ pic.twitter.com/YlLN8RJ8L5— Amnesty International (@amnesty) March 17, 2020
- The CIVICUS Secretariat is responding to the fast moving emergency and arising needs across various locations. This includes supporting our staff as they deal with personal and professional challenges that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key institutional measures that are in effect so far include a moratorium on staff travel, suspension of convenings for the next few months and systems to enable colleagues to work from home and balance responsibilities to their families and communities. An internal COVID-19 response team is in place to ensure that our operational and people processes are responding to changing realities and supporting staff and partner needs in accordance with WHO guidelines for prevention and protection.
- In the interest of the CIVICUS alliance and the support needed by small and medium sized organisations in particular, we are calling on donors and intermediaries to exercise flexibility and understanding as the COVID-19 outbreak will necessitate reprioritisation and adjustments in programming and outreach activities by civil society organisations around the world. At this moment, we need funders and supporters to work together to ensure that civil society stays strong and resilient as we deal with current and future crises and uncertainties, including in the social, political and economic sphere.
- While doing this, we are also mindful of the need to support each other with messages of hope, resilience and solidarity in dealing with the potential negative outcomes for social cohesion, trust and civic struggles. Now more than ever we need to put in place measures that reduce the impact of the pandemic on groups rendered especially vulnerable by inequality, discrimination, disability and the absence of social security measures.
- Finally, as many in our networks are actively engaged in speaking truth to power and challenging power inequities, we are concerned about how emergency measures may be repurposed in some context to further close space for civil society. We understand that the exercise of civic freedoms, especially public mobilisations, will need to move online temporarily. This requires additional efforts to call out and control enhanced illicit surveillance. Attacks on civil society actors could also be ramped up as the attention of the world is diverted elsewhere. Political prisoners, arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, journalists, and prisoners of conscience are extremely vulnerable in this context and we join calls to immediately and unconditionally release these actors, dropping all charges against them in the face of overcrowding and limited access to healthcare already existing in prison systems.
- It is imperative that we remain vigilant and act together, drawing effectively on our reserves of innovation and resilience.
In the midst of this pandemic, it is very easy to find ourselves face to 'fake news' and disinformation about the virus. Open Democracy has shared this quiz that will help you spot common Coronavirus disinformation circulating on the internet.
CIVIL SOCIETY RESPONSES
Civil society and human rights analyses:
- UN experts: States should not abuse emergency measures to suppress human rights (The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
- Coronavirus is a historic trigger event and it needs a movement to respond (Waging Violence)
- The coronavirus pandemic can empower us to demand change (Al Jazeera)
- COVID-19: Emergency powers must be kept in check (Article 19)
- COVID-19 highlights the failure of neoliberal capitalism: We need feminist global solidarity (APWLD)
- COVID-19 and the disability movementCOVID-19 and the disability movement (International Disability Alliance)
With COVID-19 sweeping the entire world, different national systems are having different responses to this crisis. and the state of civil society is therefore impacted by governments reaction or lack of. Read the different cases reported from different countries:
- Shrinking civic space in Lebanon, Facebook targets Palestinians, and Iran’s information control deepens Coronavirus crisis (IFEX)
- Pandemics and human rights (Just Security)
- South Korea shows that democracies can succeed against the coronavirus (The Washington Post)
- How coronavirus is infecting South Africa’s economy (New Frame)
- United States: COVID-19 Threatens people behind bars (Human Rights Watch)
- Coronavirus: Israel enables emergency spy powers (BBC)
- Indonesia: Civil society groups call on govt to clear up confusion over social distancing (The Jakarta Post)
- International Rescue Committee mobilizes global response to combat spread of Coronavirus to world’s most vulnerable (International Rescue Committee)
- Around the clock updates about the pandemic (Alliance Magazine)
- G20: Hundreds of civil society organisations pledge to avoid Saudi Arabia-led process (CIVICUS)
- UK: Legislation to pass without vote amid coronavirus (BBC)
- Iran: Coronavirus could be used by authoritarian leaders as excuse to undermine democracy, experts warn (The Independent)
- Hungary govt seeks to extend special powers amid coronavirus crisis (Reuters)
- Ford Foundation: Support to Grantees (Ford Foundation)
- Advice for Grant Makers (Philanthropy)
- Barr Foundation (Barr Foundation)
- Philanthropy's response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) (CANDID)
Civil Society statements and messages
- Statement by UN experts (The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
- The British People's Assembly statement on the Coronavirus crisis (The People's Assembly)
- International Center for Not-for-profit Law Statement (International Center for Not-for-profit Law)
- How the public sector and civil society can respond to the coronavirus pandemic (Harvard Kennedy School)
- Amnesty International’ responses to COVID-19 and states’ human rights obligations: Preliminary observations (Amnesty International)
- Dignity in the time of COVID 19 (OMCT)
- RACI Protocol (In Spanish)
- Wikimedia letter to staff
- Meeting notes: Agency initiatives across the SDG Hub
- A call to action: Philanthropy's commitment during COVID-19 (Council on Foundations)
- Philanthropic opportunities to systemically mitigate pandemic impact (AVPN)
- How all donors - no matter what they fund - can help right now (Firelight Foundation)
- Bahrain: Urgent action on prisons, Bahrainis citizens requiring repatriation and adherence to human rights principles needed to uphold public health standards and human rights in the fight against Covid-19 virus (Salam for Democracy and Human Rights)
Now that we all have to be physically distant and isolated from each other, our daily routine will have to change. These resources offer tips and guidance on dealing with isolation, working from home and carrying on our fight for civil society while practicing social distancing.
- Working from home? Some resources to help you:
Civil society and online activism:
- Online activism for the time being (The Verge)
- Preparing for Coronavirus crisis: as organizers, it’s time to do what we do best (Bay Rising
- Coronavirus Tech Handbook
- Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Resources to Help Nonprofits (Philanthropy)
- Coronavirus and Climate Strikes (Afrika Vuka)
- How to care for your community in a crisis (350 org)
- Comprehensive non-profit and philanthropy resources
following the guidelines of @WHO and not taking to the streets in larger crowds. but we want to keep the momentum going and so have created #ClimateStrikeOnline— dominique palmer (@domipalmer) March 13, 2020
join me and my friends by solo striking! #FridaysForFuture @GretaThunberg @AnnaKernahan @isabelle_ax @elijahmckenzee pic.twitter.com/k8eyELlpt0
Being confined to home, a good way to learn about human rights and civic space is through podcasts and online courses. See below a list of resources exploring and uncovering facts and realities around human rights stories, driving change and much more.
- The Hum: a podcast that cuts straight to the heart of human rights stories.
- Declarations: the Human Rights Podcast
- Rights Not Reserved
- RightsUp: The Oxford Human Rights Hub