CIVICUS interview with José De Echave, co-founder of CooperAcción

Read the interview in Spanish.  

Jose De EchaveJosé De Echave, co-founder of CooperAcción speaks to CIVICUS about the many challenges faced by civil society and disadvantaged populations in Peru from the activities of extractive industries. CooperAcción is a Peruvian civil society organisation that since 1997 promotes knowledge and exercise of social, environmental, political, cultural and economic rights; as well as a gender and intercultural approach to sustainable land management.

1. Can you tell us about the events in Tia Maria that have led to a Presidential decree suspending the constitutional rights for 60 days?  

What is happening in the region of Tía María is an attempt by the Peruvian government and the Southern Copper company to impose a mining project on the people that has already been rejected by the vast majority of the population. The opposition is not new. It is something that had already emerged during the previous government, where there was public consultation, mobilization, and postponement of the project. Thus, this is a conflict that was waiting to happen. 

 

CIVICUS interview with Emily Howie (HRLC)

Emily HowieEmily Howie, director of advocacy and research at the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia speaks to CIVICUS about civic space challenges in her country. The Human Rights Law Centre protects and promotes human rights in Australia and in Australian activities overseas through legal action, advocacy, research and capacity building.

1. How would you describe the state of civic space and the environment for civil society in Australia today? 

In Australia there is a widening discrepancy between the government’s purported support for “freedoms” and the reality of laws and practices that stifle free speech, association and peaceful assembly. 

For civil society, it has become more risky, and sometimes even unlawful, to publicly scrutinise or discuss some government action or to protest against the activities of vested corporate interests. Governments have introduced measures to stifle, silence and intimidate dissenting voices, to threaten whistle-blowers with prosecution, to restrict peaceful protest and assembly, and to diminish the advocacy potential of non-government organisations by imposing funding pressures.

Australia’s actions at home are inconsistent with our international rhetoric. Australia co-sponsored the 2013 UN Human Rights Council resolution on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. That resolution recognised the critical importance of civil society organisations to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

 

CIVICUS interview with Mohamed Lofty (ECRF)

mohamed lofty 2Mohamed Lofty of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) speaks to CIVICUS about the travel ban imposed on him on 2nd of June 2015 while he was travelling to Germany to conduct a series of advocacy visits parallel to President Al-Sisi’s visit. He highlights the challenges of being a human rights defender in Egypt’s repressed political environment. 

Can you please tell us what happened on 2nd of June while you were travelling to Germany? What was the purpose of your trip?
On 2nd of June 2015, the police at the Cairo International Airport stopped me at passport control for 3 hours. I was presented to an officer in plain clothes whom I believe works for the National Security. During our interaction, he informed me that I won’t be able to board my flight due to “security reasons.”  As I was in shock, I told the police officer that this is the first time I am experiencing such an incident. The response I got from the police officer was “God willing, this will be the last time.”

When I tried to figure out if I was actually on the travel ban list, the officer told me I will get more information in due time. I was also informed that I will receive an explanation later when the officers return my passport. The man in plain clothes also did not provide me any information about which government office he works for. When I raised this question with the police officer I merely received the response,  “you will know in due time.” The officer asked me about my phone number, my home address which I provided to him. I was also inquired about my dual (Swiss) nationality.

 

Insights on the current protests in Macedonia: An interview with two leading civil society activists

macedonia montage 2

Emina Nuredinoska (left) of the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation and Tanja Hafner Ademi (right) of the Balkan Civil Society Development Network speak to CIVICUS about ongoing protests against the Government and the current state of civil society in Macedonia.

 

Collaborate to curb restrictions on civic space in Turkey: An interview with Savaş Metin (KYM)

s-metin 1Savaş Metin, the General Secretary of Kimse Yok Mu Association (KYM) in Turkey, speaks to CIVICUS about the ongoing judicial harassment of their organization and the Turkish government’s systematic crackdown on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Turkey.

1)   How would you describe the overall operating environment for CSOs in Turkey? Can you please elaborate on current main challenges?
The number of civil society organizations has significantly increased in Turkey since the 2000s due to a series of legal reforms in line with EU accession plans and growing awareness of the role of CSOs in the democratization processes and in addressing humanitarian challenges. However, over the past few years there has been a backlash against many of the reforms which aimed to create a more enabling environment for CSOs. Sadly, the operating environment for CSOs has shrunk dramatically.

It must be noted that the current legal framework regulating fundraising activities for CSOs imposes a number of debilitating requirements through Law No. 2860: The Law on Collection of Aid. It is not clear to us why Turkey needs such a heavy handed legal framework for collecting donations when there is already the Turkish Penal Code that can be used to punish individuals who illegally utilize funds.

 

Interview with leading civil society activist in Sudan: Abdel-Eahman El Mahdi

Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi, Director of the Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA), speaks to CIVICUS about escalating restrictions on civil society and the prospect of engaging in a multi-stakeholder national dialogue to address pressing human rights issues in Sudan.

 

Extrajudicial powers being abused by India's Armed Forces: An Interview with Human Rights Activist Ravi Nitesh

Ravi Nitesh of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) speaks to CIVICUS about the vicious cycle of judicial harassment Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila faces merely due to her peaceful resistance to India’s draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958, (AFSPA). 

1. Can you tell us what AFSPA is, and how it has affected civic freedoms in India?
AFSPA is a special law passed by the Indian Parliament in 1958. It provides extraordinary powers to the armed forces in 'disturbed areas'. Currently, AFSPA is predominantly exercised in Jammu and Kashmir but is imposed in all 8 states of northeastern India except Sikkim.

RaviAFSPA has not only negatively affected civic freedoms, but has also resulted in large scale, grave human rights violations, and has been detrimental to democracy in North East India. Of critical concern are the overly broad and extraordinary powers granted to security officials through AFSPA including the right to kill on mere suspicion of a disturbance of “public order”. Moreover, AFSPA grants impunity to armed forces as no charges can be brought against any security personal without the approval of the central government.

Over the past years, human rights organisations have documented incidents of murder, rape, looting, custodial killings and enforced disappearances by India’s security forces involved in counter-insurgency operations. Unfortunately, our understanding is that the judicial system as well as the security apparatus of the state is very well aware of the violations committed under AFSPA, but fail to undertake the necessary measures to address ongoing violations. The lack of accountability with the use of excessive force under AFSPA by security forces remains a glaring problem.

AFSPA is spreading a culture of fear and intimidation in North-East India, and its psychological affects on the local community are injurious. The presence of AFSPA is a major obstacle to expressing dissent, as a lot of human rights defenders are afraid of losing their life if they are engaged in any kind of advocacy calling for the repeal of the law.

 

Call on Egyptian government to end all human rights violations - CIVICUS interview with Hussein Magdy (ECRF)

ECHRHussein Magdy of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) speaks to CIVICUS about how Egyptian civil society is dismayed at the ongoing crackdown on fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed by Egypt’s national and international human rights obligations.

1. Given the intensified crackdown on peaceful dissent in Egypt, what are some current challenges faced by Egyptian civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) today?

Currently the overall operating environment for civil society in Egypt is dire. The current regime exercises full control over political liberties enjoyed in the public sphere and orchestrates an intensified crackdown on CSOs and HRDs. The authorities have institutionalized arbitrary restrictions on civil society operations by proposing legal provisions that contradict Egypt’s international human rights obligations. In the past months there have also been a considerable number of cases where authorities have threatened to close down CSOs. They have also issued harsh prison sentences and pecuniary fines on HRDs for their peaceful advocacy activities. In its current state, it is fair to say that Egyptian civil society is going through a severe human rights crisis.

 

"Push for the repeal of the CSO Proclamation" - CIVICUS Interview with Soliyana Gebremichael (EHRP)

FreeZone9Soliyana Gebremichael, founding member of the Zone9 bloggers collective and Coordinator of the Ethiopian Human Right Project, speaks to CIVICUS about the Ethiopian government's ongoing persecution of civil society and independent media in the run-up to general elections scheduled for May 2015.

1) Six members of the Zone9 Bloggers collective were imprisoned last April. Can you tell us why you believe they were arrested and share any recent developments in the case?

With nearly 20 journalists behind bars, Ethiopia maintains one of the most repressive environments in the world for freedom of expression. The arrest of six Zone9 Bloggers and three journalists in April 2014 is unquestionably symptomatic of the government’s growing intolerance of dissenting voices in the run-up to general elections scheduled for May 2015. Zone9, which was established nearly three years ago by a group of young, concerned activists in Ethiopia, was targeted in large part because we were mobilizing youth online to demand the rights endowed to us under the constitution.

During our first year, we operated largely unencumbered. However, the year preceding the arrest of the Zone9 bloggers was marked by routine harassment, including online surveillance and active monitoring and intimidation by security officers.

 

Cambodia: Human rights situation remains critical - CIVICUS interview with Chak Sopheap (CCHR)

ChakSopheapCIVICUS speaks to Ms. Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), about ongoing restrictions on civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Cambodia since general elections held in 2013.

1. Following contested general elections in July 2013 the government appeared to escalate repression of critical voices. How would you describe the overall environment for independent civil society in Cambodia today?

The overall environment for civil society in Cambodia remains critical, especially for grassroots organizations that work in the provinces. Throughout Cambodia, NGO representatives, human rights defenders and other activists continue to be threatened and harassed by local authorities and private security guards as a result of their work. Judicial harassment, including through the misuse of criminal charges as well as the abuse of provisional detention, also remains a serious concern and a challenge for independent civil society in Cambodia.

 

The persecution of civil society activists in Azerbaijan: An interview with Turgut Gambar (Founding member of NIDA)

Turgut PictureTurgut Gambar, founding member of NIDA Civic Movement, speaks to CIVICUS about the growing restrictions on civil society in Azerbaijan and the government’s ongoing judicial harassment of activists. NIDA supports democraticisation through non-violent means and is comprised of 400 members, many of whom are young individuals. Recently, nine members of NIDA were arrested on politically motivated charges.

The crackdown on independent dissent and human rights activism appears to have escalated in Azerbaijan in recent months. Can you give us a brief overview of the recent legislative and extra-legal restrictions imposed on activists and civil society in the country?

The human rights situation in Azerbaijan has been problematic since the current regime came to power in the country in 2003. But the latest crackdown, which began in 2013 and has dramatically escalated in recent months, has been unprecedented in its magnitude and scope. Scores of people from different politically and socially active groups, including youth activists, political party leaders and members, NGO leaders, religious activists, journalists and bloggers have been subject to imprisonment and harassment. In addition to the escalating persecution of activists, the authorities have also adopted a number of restrictive laws to regulate the activities of NGOs. 

 

Government restrictions on foreign funding alarms Pakistani CSOs: A CIVICUS interview with Qamar Naseem

Qamar Naseem of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) speaks to CIVICUS about growing restrictions imposed on civil society organisations and the Pakistani government’s attempts to curb access to funding from international sources. Qamar is the recipient of the prestigious ‘No Peace without Justice’ Human Rights Award in 2014 and his work mostly focuses on advocating for women’s rights in Pakistan. He is also the co-chair of End Violence against Women and Girl Alliance (EVAW/KP and FATA).

1. Tell us about the controversial draft Foreign Contribution Act, 2014. How will its enactment affect civil society organizations in Pakistan?
In February 2014, The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) issued the draft Foreign Contributions Act, 2014 (FCA) under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Mr. Zahid Hamid.  If enacted, the FCA will require CSOs to obtain prior government permission to utilize foreign funding. The proposed law will also require CSOs to use foreign funding only for the purposes or in locations permitted by the government.
Even though FCA is pending parliamentary review, in the interim the “Policy for Regulation of Organizations Receiving Foreign Contributions” approved by the ECC in November 2013 regulates and severely restricts the ability to seek, receive and utilize foreign funding.

 

CIVICUS interview with Bangladeshi civil society activist and Secretary of Odhikar, Adilur Rahman Khan

Prominent Bangladeshi civil society activist and Secretary of Odhikar, Adilur AdilurRahmanKhanRahman Khan, speaks to CIVICUS about growing restriction on civil society in Bangladesh and his continued judicial harassment under the Cyber Crimes Tribunal.

1. Today marks one year since you and your colleague Mr ASM Nasiruddin Elan were charged with violating the widely contested Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Act. Can you tell us why you believe these charges were brought against you and where the case stands today?
On June 11th 2013, our organisation Odhikar published a fact finding report documenting the violent crackdown on demonstrators by government forces which began in the capital, Dhaka at 2:00am on May 5th 2013. After this ‘operation’ the government only reported 11 fatal casualties during the two day demonstration.

Odhikar carried out its own fact finding mission after the incident and documented 61 deaths. When the Ministry of Information requested the names and addresses of the families of those killed, Odhikar, fearing state reprisals against the victims’ families, committed only to providing the list to an independent commission set up by the government to investigate the use of violence during the protests. The Ministry, however, did not respond to Odhikar’s request. At 10:20 pm on the night of August 10, 2013, I was picked up by men outside my home claiming to be from the Detective Branch of Police (DB) but they did not produce any identification or a warrant. Later, at the Detective Branches’ office, I was questioned about the fact-finding report, the list of deceased victims and Odhikar’s human rights defenders. I was sent to Kashimpur Jail-1 from DB remand on 13 August 2013, while my colleague Elan was sent to Kashimpur Jail-2 after he surrendered before the court in November 2013.

 

Hungarian civil society shocked at the pace of increasingly restrictive measures: An interview with Veronika Mora of the Okotars Foundation (Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation)

Veronika Mora

Veronika Mora, of the Okotars Foundation( Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation) speaks to CIVICUS about the Orban government’s clampdown on Hungarian civil society and their sources of funding.

1. What precipitated the recent challenges for civil society in Hungary? 

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been steadily increasing its influence over media and civil society since 2010. In particular the government has been attempting to control sources of funding and has made a number of changes to the funding arrangements from the Norwegian funds. Earlier, 9 strands of funding within the mechanism were delivered by the Hungarian National Development Agency, but since early 2014 the government unilaterally shifted these funds to a new agency without prior consultation with the donor governments (besides Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). 

Following the most recent election in April 2014, the government moved to challenge the Norwegian donor on the NGO Fund and wrote a letter to the Norwegian Government claiming that the NGO Fund was being used to support opposition political groups; and called for a re-negotiation of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding. 

 

Nawaz Sharif must provide support to CSOs instead of disenabling the environment they operate in: An Interview with Professor Mohammed Ismail

Professor Mohammed Ismail of the Pakistan NGOs Forum (PNF Pakistan), speaks to CIVICUS about the overall operating environment of civil society in Pakistan and the recent bills which severely curb civic space.

1. How would you describe the overall operating environment of civil society in Pakistan? Have you observed a noticeable shift in policy regarding the protection of HRDs and promotion of civil society space since PM Nawaz Sharif assumed office in June 2013.

Public perception about CSOs and their role changed with natural disasters of the past decade. Earthquakes, floods and the inevitable displacement of thousands of people necessitated a humanitarian response from CSOs, but also resulted in corrupt relations between CSOs and government agencies. With time, the government also tightened its control over CSOs, and organizations that advocate the protection of fundamental human rights were adversely affected.

Pakistani CSOs extensively cooperated with lawyers to restore judicial independence.  Unfortunately, CSOs failed to take collective action to address pressing issues in Pakistan. Today, many NGOs and networks risk become irrelevant.

Nawaz Sharif’s neoliberal policies aim to increase industrial growth and attract foreign investment. While doing so Sharif fails to create space for a vibrant civil society in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif enacted numerous laws which restrict civic space since he came to power in 2013. 

Right wing policies of Sharif’s government and his favorable stand against Islamic fundamentalists are encouraging him to take actions that oppress civil society in Pakistan. Imran Khan is also providing space for religious extremists and the Taliban in the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his party is in power.

Islamic fundamentalists are threating civic space as they continuously attack human rights defenders (HRDs). Many HRDs relocated to Islamabad from Peshawar as they feared their lives were under threat. International award-winning women rights activists Malala Yousafzai was not acknowledged by the Pakistani government; however NGOs from various political backgrounds gathered and paid their tributes to her. Malala was subject to a smear campaign in the social and electronic media where she was accused of being a “Jewish spy” and a “Western agent” attempting to destroy Pakistan and Islam. There is no doubt that the civic space for CSOs and HRDs are shrinking.

 

CIVICUS interview with Mark Heywood, Executive Director of SECTION27

Mark HeywoodMark Heywood is the Executive Director of SECTION27 and a national executive member of the Treatment Action Campaign, an activist movement formed in 1998 that fights for the rights of people living with HIV (PWAs). The organisation also works toward improving the country’s health system. Both organisations are based in South Africa. 

Q: You head an organisation called SECTION27. Can you tell us about its work and mandate?

A: SECTION27 - named after section 27 of the South African Constitution - is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect and advance human rights. The organisation focuses on five work areas: the right to health; implementation of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections and TB; the right to basic education; the right to food and accountability and good governance. We firmly believe that the Constitution is the framework to achieving a just and equitable society with accountability and transparency.

SECTION27 was established in 2010 after it became apparent that its predecessor, the AIDS Law Project needed to broaden its scope and deal not only with human rights in relation to HIV but also with rights to health, education and its social determinants as well. 

 

An interview with Laurent Munyandilikirwa on the state of civil society in Rwanda

Laurent Munyandilikirwa, former president of Rwandan CSO, LIPRODHOR, speaks to CIVICUS about the state of civil society in Rwanda and the government’s continued targeted harassment of LIPRODHOR.

1. At the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, CIVICUS co-hosted an event which examined the growing restrictions on civil society in East Africa. Can you tell us a bit about the main challenges faced by civil society in Rwanda?

Although Rwanda has ratified the ICCPR and the ICESCR and the Rwandan Constitution enshrines the principles essential to creating an enabling environment for civil society including the rights to expression, assembly and association, independent civil society groups continues to be subjected to unjust restrictions. While the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed in the constitution, the government is simultaneously attempting to silence the very people working on the implementation of these rights.

The government restricts the work of CSOs through a number of legal obstacles including overly bureaucratic registration processes, unwarranted limitations on financial funding, and laws permitting excessive and broad interception of information and communication. Such laws hugely impact the daily activities and operations of civil society organisations, in particular those working on civil and political rights. As a result of these and other extra-legal measures, civil society organizations in Rwanda have been forced into a downward spiral: the increasing control exerted over them by the government increases their overhead expenses while it decreases their access to funding, which in turn diminishes their ability to execute projects that attract new financial support. If this continues in the long term, the survival of independent human rights organisations in Rwanda is looking increasingly doubtful.

 

CIVICUS interview with Amal Elmohandes, Director of the Women Human Rights Defenders Program at Nasra for Feminist Studies

Amal ElmohandesIn light of the ongoing threats faced by civil society activists, journalists and ordinary citizens in Egypt from state and non-state actors, CIVICUS interviews Amal Elmohandes, Director of the Women Human Rights Defenders Program at Nasra for Feminist Studies, to get a better understanding on the current situation.


1) What is the current state of human rights and particularly Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in Egypt?


The current human rights situation in Egypt is pretty dismal. However, violations targeting WHRDs and women in the public space have been systematic and uniform throughout the different governments in the past three and a half years. These atrocities have been prevalent during the rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), during President Mohammad Morsi’s tenure, and during the reign of the interim government that preceded the election of the new Egyptian president in May 2014. Sexual violence has been carried out by both state and non-state actors, including threats of rape, sexual assault and physical beating. In December 2013 a case of oral rape was well documented and other cases of sexual assaults and gang rapes took place in Tahrir Square and its vicinity. 3 cases of sexual assault were reported in June 2012, 19 in November 2012 and 24 in January 2013.  Between 28 June and 7 July 2013 186 cases of sexual violence against women were reported and 3 cases documented on 25 January 2014.  One of these was broadcast live on television.  In addition, tens of mob-sexual assaults and gang rapes took place during the June 3-8 celebrations marking the election of Egypt’s new president.

 

"Speak up for the Venezuelan people" - An interview with Feliciano Reyna

4 March, 2014

Feliciano Reyna1Feliciano Reyna is a human rights advocate working on HIV and AIDS related issues in Venezuela since 1995. He has been involved in CIVILIS since 2009, a non-profit organisation in Venezuela promoting and defending human rights.

CIVILIS´ mission is the development of information and capacity building skills for organized citizen actions aimed at the promotion and defense of human rights, based on multidisciplinary approaches and on civic, democratic values. CIVILIS seeks to contribute to the expansion and strengthening of frameworks of respect, and guarantees to the dignity of human life, in their civic, political, social, economic and cultural dimensions. 

Feliciano Reyna speaks to CIVICUS about the ongoing protests and the fragile political situation in Venezuela. 

1. What prompted Foro Por La Vida and other Venezuelan organizations to issue a call for urgent international action to support human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela? 

The impetus for the call arose from the pattern of criminalization of protests in Venezuela, which started in 2005, that led the government to suppress protests in the Western part of the country in early February. The largest protest to date took place on February 12 this year in the capital, Caracas. During this protest, three people died, many were wounded and others were detained. This was then followed by an information blackout where TV stations and media were heavily censored or self-censored themselves. 

This environment of criminalization has not just been about criminalising protests but also takes the form of government officials, from the President down, condemning the protests as part of an “attempted coup” and as “fascist movements sponsored by foreign agents and enemies of the state.”

Instead of promoting dialogue with the protesters, the state resorted to extreme use of force, arbitrary detentions, cruel and degrading treatment of detainees, which include some cases of torture, denying due process of law, as well as utilising state terrorism laws against protestors. In effect, many of the close to 1,000 arrested are forbidden now from exercising their right to freedom of expression and to protest. 

 

CIVICUS interviews Andrew Khoo, Co-Chairperson of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee

Andrew Khoo, the Co-Chairperson of Malaysian Bar Council's Human Rights Committee (BCHRC), speaks to CIVICUS about the growing restrictions on civil society and obstacles to realizing UPR recommendations in Malaysia.

How would you describe the overall operating environment for civil society in Malaysia? What are the main challenges faced by civil society?

We have seen the overall operating environment for civil society in Malaysia deteriorate significantly in recent years. The government has increasingly responded to criticism from civil society organisations (CSOs) with unwarranted and targeted restrictions. The most common tactics employed by the government to obstruct the work of dissenting groups include unsolicited accounting and tax audits, unjustified inspections to check compliance with registration requirements, questioning of organizational staff and demands for confidential documents and warrantless seizures of equipment and records.

While CSOs in Malaysia are permitted to receive foreign funding, the authorities routinely level unfounded accusation that CSOs which receive international support are agents of foreign governments working to undermine the sovereign interests of the country or national security in Malaysia. CSOs are also subjected to slander and smear campaigns in the media. The government-controlled press regularly accuses CSOs of being enemies of the state or enemies of Islam.

 

"Open spaces for dialogue with citizens and civil society" - A CIVICUS interview with Brazilian lawyer and activist Natasha Zadorosny

In June 2013, protesters took to the streets in Brazil to protest against increases in the prices of bus tickets in the major cities. The protests later spread as demonstrators expressed their displeasure over high corruption in the government, poor public services, high living costs and police brutality. CIVICUS speaks to Brazilian lawyer and activist Natasha Zadorosny who provides an insider’s perspective into the protests and the police’s response.

Intern hit by police

1. What is the nature of your work and how involved are you with the demonstrations in Brazil?
The protests in Brazil started on 6 June 2013 and at the initial stages I was just another protester. However, since mid-July, I have been actively involved as a lawyer on a voluntary basis. At the moment there are two main groups made up of volunteer lawyers who participate in the protests and assist activists and other participants. These groups are the Institute of Human Rights Defenders (IDDH) and the Habeas Corpus. IDDH is an NGO which advocates for the defence of human rights and protects the rights of protesters who are victims of police harassment and brutality. Habeas Corpus was created in June at the start of the protests to defend and protect the rights of activists arbitrarily arrested during the protests in Rio de Janeiro. I work as an independent lawyer but collaborate with Habeas Corpus. During the protests, I am identified publicly as a lawyer and my presence provides a sense of security to the protesters. I clarify doubts about legal issues for the protesters and pass on information about the protests using social media, including facebook and “whatsapp” to other volunteer lawyers.

 

Interview with Nassima AlSadah, Adala Centre for Human Rights

1. How do you operate as a female activist in Saudi Arabia?
We have never had an organisation or union between women. We tried to organise something like that but there are a wide range of different beliefs amongst Saudi women. Women are afraid of the persecution that might result and so we were unable to establish a formalised group.

women to drive

However, I know the women that are interested in women’s issues and they know me, and we keep in touch. When I travel in Saudi, I meet them in Jedah or Riyadh, and we use Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype to keep in touch. I am pretty sure the authorities monitor everything. Legally, in Saudi we cannot arrange a meeting of over 30 people and must get permission for meetings over that number.

 

CIVICUS interview with Saira Rahman

Saira Rahman, wife of detained activist Adilur Rahman Khan speaks to CIVICUS about the circumstances surrounding his arrest and detention and the on-going persecution of his Bangladesh-based organisation, Odhikar.

Why are the authorities targeting Adil?
On June 11 2013, Odhikar published a fact finding report documenting the violent crackdown on demonstrators by government forces which began in the capital, Dhaka at 2 am on May 5 2013. Following the protests, the government only reported 11 fatal casualties during the two day demonstration.

In stark contrast to the government’s official statement, Odhikar documented 61 persons killed that night. While the Ministry of Information requested the names and addresses of the families of those killed, Odhikar, fearing state reprisals against the families of the victims, committed only to providing the list to an independent commission set-up by the government to investigate the use of violence during the protests. The ministry, however, did not respond to Odhikar’s request.

The government has arrested Adil, who is the driving force behind Odhikar, on specious charges including falsifying information, inciting violence and marring the image of the state. However, the charges against Adil undoubtedly stem from his legitimate human rights work including protecting the identities of individuals willing to speak to Odhikar about the May demonstrations.

 

"Protestors want the change that the revolution did not yet achieve"- An interview with an Egyptian activist

Ahead of the mass protests expected in Egypt on Sunday, CIVICUS spoke with Hicham Ezzat, an activist for Egypt’s pro-revolution movement.

Hicham Ezzat 21) Why did you become an activist?

It was a call more than a choice. The overwhelming nature of the causes brought out by the Egyptian revolution was beyond my individualism and I felt like my person was not as important as these causes.

Even more personally, the Egyptian revolution reconciled me with Egypt. I hadn’t found a place for myself as a French-Egyptian bi-national. There was no box for bi-nationals in Egypt before. I felt most of the people protesting around me were looking for a box to identify with or some acceptance that they had not found in the old Egypt.

For me, there is a very strong feeling that I now feel more Egyptian than some of these “pure Egyptians”. They were always accusing me of being less Egyptian than they. But the revolution made me realise that I love this country more than some of them do. Many travelled away and left, but I stayed.

 

"Spread the news about Turkey" | A CIVICUS interview with Turkish civil society activists

Aysegul Ekmekci and Semanur Karaman from Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV) speak to CIVICUS about the on-going protests in the country and what they mean for the youth, politics and civil society in Turkey.

      Taksim Square

 

1)    Some analysts are comparing the situation in Turkey with the Arab Spring. What are your thoughts?
The Arab Spring was quite unique in the sense that it was a series of unprecedented events to see in the whole region. Within a matter of months, repressive governments of the region faced strong resistance from their citizens and had to respond to their calls. Although the international media is comparing the events in Turkey with the Arab Spring, they are actually quite different. The events, that started to take place in Istanbul as a reaction to the demolishing of the last green park in the center of Istanbul, did not initially begin with a political demand. However, public reaction to the government has escalated after the police forces used excessive violence against protestors who wanted their voices to be heard by the government.

 

Youth unemployment in SubSaharan Africa is cancerous | A CIVICUS member interview with Awa Ndah of Impact Creators

Awa Innocent Ndah of Impact CreatorsAwa Ndah is the Founder and Executive Director of Impact Creators, a youth educational and professional development organisation based in Cameroon. He is also the co- founder and country coordinator of the African Trainer's Network. In the past he has played numerous roles in various local and international advocacy events and campaigns as a trainer, facilitator, team leader and presenter. Lastly, he works with AIESEC in Cameroon as an alumnus coach/ trainer and sponsor.

Given the wide variety of challenges that youth in Africa face, socio-economic instability through the lack of employment appears to be common amongst all states. What are some of the current major repercussions of this challenge for African youth, and what are common debates held by African leaders to curb it?

Unemployment is a current global challenge and its repercussions leave no one indifferent. The global economic crisis affected Africa's economy and it's slow but steady rebound struck a serious blow during and after the Arab Spring. North African youths are the highest of those hit in Africa. ILO's Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013, states that North Africa "has a youth unemployment rate as high as 23.7 per cent in 2012" while the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Councils - Youth Unemployment Visualization 2013 pits unemployment rates in North Africa at 27.9% and in Sub-Saharan Africa at 11.5%. Undoubtedly and regrettably, Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Unemployment is therefore blighting a whole generation of youngsters in Africa. The socio-economic, political and psychosocial repercussions of unemployment are far-reaching particularly to the man [or woman] on the street. In the face of economic stagnation and downturn, financial uncertainty crowned by skyrocketing unemployment and underemployment, the future of the African youth leaves little or nothing to ride home with, all whilst populations just keep increasing. African Economic Outlook (AEO) estimates that there are "almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 and that Africa has the youngest population in the world." This number according to AEO "...will double by 2045."

 

Young people need to get informed | A CIVICUS member interview with Esther Agbarakwe of NYCC

Esther Agbarakwe co- founder of the Nigerian Youth Climate CoalitionEsther Agbarakwe is a co-founder of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition, the biggest youth climate movement in Nigeria. She also serves as a technical Advisor to the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). Recently she returned from Washington, DC where she served as an Atlas Corps Fellow with Population Action International. Currently Ms Agbarakwe is also a young climate change policy advisor and trainer with experience in creating, facilitating and managing youth-led projects. She has over eight years of experience working on sexuality and environmental issues. In the past, apart from being selected as one of the 'Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders' in 2010, Ms Agbarakwe was also a recipient of The Dekeyser and Friends Foundation Leadership Award in 2009, the Ford Foundation/LEAP Africa Nigerian Youth Leadership Award in 2010, Commonwealth Youth Climate Fellowship 2010, the Atlas Corps Fellowship Award in 2012 and received two nominations in the Future Awards in Nigeria under the Category of "Best Use of Advocacy" for 2011 and 2012 respectively. In addition, Ms Agbarakwe represented Africa at over 20 global governance meetings on sustainable development. She has also served roles as African coordinator of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) Youth and Children Major Group, and representative of African youths at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 15, COP17), African Development Forum (ADF) and Rio +20, where she worked with a delegation from The Elders; Gro Harlem Brundtland, President Mary Robinson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Fernando Cardozo 20 as one of the famous four "Youngers" demonstrating true intergenerational dialogue on sustainability.

 

Independent dissent being silenced in South Sudan | An interview with Victor Lowilla of SSLS

South Sudan Law Society SSLSVictor Lowilla, senior legal aid attorney at the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), speaks to CIVICUS about the trajectory of civil society in South Sudan since independence and the growing restrictions on independent media and journalists in the country.

How would you describe the overall operating environment of civil society in South Sudan?

While the current legal framework governing civil society in South Sudan is not particularly restrictive, the government is taking an increasingly hostile approach to organizations which advocate on sensitive issues leading to a severe constriction of operational space for independent dissent. Civil society groups which report on contentious issues, deemed off-limits by the government, do so at the risk of reprisal. The National Security Intelligence, in its mission to insulate the government from criticism, is becoming increasingly vigilant and willing to arrest anyone who openly speaks out against the government.

 

Post-2015 Agenda needs to address the 1 billion people with disabilities

Dag WakeneDagnachew-WakeneDagnachew B. Wakene is a researcher from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, specialising in studies of inclusive development, human rights and law. As a person with disability, Dagnachew currently works as a part-time Research Associate at World Enabled – a disability and youth focused initiative based in Berkeley, California. He is also a Board Member and Youth Representative at the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD), as well as an active participant in ongoing regional and global deliberations on the ‘Post-2015 Development Agenda,’ representing the cause of inclusive development and continent.

The term impoverished is often used to describe all groups of society that are victims of poverty. How do impoverished persons with disabilities experience poverty differently or in comparison to persons without disability?

Needless to say, numerous studies over the past decade or two have increasingly reported an alarming rate of disability among individuals living in poverty, affirming the peculiar bi-directional/vicious link between poverty and disability. One is both the cause and consequence of the other such that poverty causes disabilities (through, for instance, poor living conditions, health endangering employment, malnutrition, poor access to healthcare and education opportunities etc.);while disability, on the other hand, results in severe poverty. This means that the most pressing issue faced globally by persons with disabilities is not their specific disability but their lack of equitable access to education, employment, health care and the social and legal support systems. The World Disability Report (2011) stated, in no ambiguous terms, that persons with disabilities comprise 15 to 20 percent of the poorest individuals in developing countries and are often relegated to the margins of society, where they are a perceived as being a 'burden', instead of potential and capable contributors to family and national economic activities.

 

Children and Youth Concerns are about Sustainability: An interview with Kiara Worth

Kiara WorthKiara Worth is one of the Organising Partners for the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY). The MGCY is the official youth constituency for sustainable development negotiations, including the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Her role as Organising Partner involves facilitation and advancement of the participation of young people within these processes, including policy amendments and youth activism. In the past, she has engaged with thousands of youth across the globe fostering dialogue, collaboration, participation and unity and diversity amongst young people, and mobilising them to act. She also works as an independent consultant for sustainable development, focusing on rural resource management and communications. She applies alternative forms of social development that use the creative arts and theatre as a means of enabling social transformation. Her publications, dramatic performances and community theatre have focused on environmental integrity and sustainable living. Her work has been featured at numerous panel events at the UNCSD and related events.

How has the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework enhanced the voices of children and youth globally since its inception in 2000?

The MDG framework has helped to raise a number of key concerns and issues affecting children and youth globally, and has attempted to enhance their voice to overcome these challenges. Increasingly, youth are recognised as key participants in decision-making and development, yet capacity building of and creating sustained partnerships with young people in achieving the MDGs have yet to be realised.

Youth have been involved directly in the MDGs and have had a variety of platforms to promote their participation. While this has been extremely positive, there is continuous need for successful models of youth participation to be adapted and replicated to specific political and socio-economic realities, taking into consideration the challenges facing youth-led and youth-serving organisations. More support needs to be given to children and youth organisations to further enhance their real participation, and the MGCY is hopeful that the post-2015 agenda will do this.

 

On Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: An Interview with Un Women’s Lakshmi Puri

United Nations officials, civil society groups and worldwide media coverage hailed last month's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for taking a significant step forward in the campaign to end gender-based violence. The outcome document from the 57th CSW -- supported by UN Women -- included substantial agreements regarding the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, including the need to guarantee women's reproductive rights and access to health services.


Following the CSW, Lakshmi Puri, who had been instrumental in facilitating months of preparations as well as the final two weeks of tough but successful negotiations, took over as acting head of UN Women after Executive Director Michelle Bachelet stepped down. Puri, who is also assistant secretary-general of the UN, has been a force in elevating UN Women's prominence over the last couple years. The agency is making women's rights a central focus of the post-2015 development agenda -- an effort particularly critical at a time when both women and their rights are being subjected to a number of high-profile attacks.


Talking to Puri gives one the deep sense of the interconnectedness that UN Women prioritizes in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. By working with other UN agencies, governments and civil society groups globally, UN Women is proving the profound societal benefits of enhancing women's economic and political standing, along with education and health services. Puri spoke with The InterDependent about these issues and more.


Read more at Huffington Post

 

CIVICUS Member Interview: Omaid Sharifi of Sela Foundation in Afghanistan

Omaid SharifiMr Omaid Sharifi is a member of CIVICUS and the Co-Founder of Sela Foundation in Afghanistan. He is also the Country Representative of the Hungary based International Centre for Democratic Transition; Asia Society 21 Fellow and Co-Chair of Afghanistan Young Leader's Initiative and a Board Member of the Paywand Afghanan Association. He also holds memberships with: the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network; the Clinton Global Initiative University; the South Asian Good News Channel; and the South Asian Youth Conference.

What experiences and emotions have drawn you to working with the challenges that face the youth in civil society today?

Since my days selling cookies on the streets of Kabul to the current days working full-time as a youth and civil society activist, I am no stranger to hard work. I have invested my time and limited resources to the redevelopment of my country. I have stretched my time and energy to its utmost limits as I am involved in a number of initiatives as a civil society member through the various organizations that I work with.

 

Interview: Global conversation conducive to shaping post- 2015 agenda

The World We Want 2015 initiative aims to create a collective vision of the most important priorities of people in every part of the world, including indigenous populations, women and youths, to ultimately inform what the development agenda should include when the current MDGs expire in 2015. The initiative is part of the UN efforts to gather viewpoints from people worldwide to help shape the future global development agenda after 2015, the deadline for the MDGs, a set of eight anti- poverty targets to be reached in two years. “We have the technological means that allows us to reach out like never before to citizens,” said [Olav] Kjorven [assistant secretary- general for development policy at the UN Development Programme]. “What we are hoping is that through this mobilization of citizenry, in terms of their interest in this discussion, is that we’ll be getting a lot of valuable insights and inputs that can help us understand what people would like to see.”

Read more at NZ week

 

Decent work and social protection should be included in the Post-2015 Agenda | An interview with Matt Simmonds

Matt Simmonds of the Trade Union Developments Cooperation NetworkMatt Simmonds is the liaison officer for the platform of civil society organisations that sits in the OECD Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP- Eff), BetterAid in Paris. He is housed in the office of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), where his responsibilities include facilitating and strengthening the advocacy work of the platform primarily through liaising on a regular basis with the OECD secretariat and other stakeholders of the WP- Eff. Prior to this role, he worked at the United Nations office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), where, in his capacity as policy associate, he followed several UN processes such as the UN Financing for Development Process. He holds a Master's Degree in International Development from the New School in New York.

To what extent has the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework influenced the international community towards improving liveable and workable conditions for workers in marginalised areas of the world?

The MDGs, as originally developed in 2000, very much overlooked the employment dimension when trying to address poverty under MDG 1. No surprises then that, also overlooked, were conditions of employment and the challenges workers face the world over especially in those parts of the world where they are most marginalised. So it is safe to say that at least from the very outset, the MDG framework would not have had much influence on the international community in addressing the challenges faced by workers.

However, at the point when the MDG review process began, it was clear that issues around employment and decent work needed to be addressed head on if progress was to be made against MDG 1. So in 2008 the sub target (1b) to Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people was integrated into the MDG Framework, along with a number of indicators to measure progress on this sub target.

 

Animal welfare and the Post-2015 Agenda: A CIVICUS interview with Arjan Van Houwelingen of the WSPA

Arjan Van Houwelingen of the World Society for the Protection of Animals NetherlandsArjan Van Houwelingen of the World Society for the Protection of Animals Netherlands shares why the Post-2015 Agenda needs to include animal welfare and detailed targets for international cooperation towards sustainable development.

Have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) served as a strong framework for encouraging corporations to prioritise climate change and environmental sustainability? Please elaborate.

While this question is slightly outside of the scope of the work of WSPA, my reaction would be that the MDG process has done very little to encourage the private sector towards environmental sustainable practices. Increasing attention to the issue of climate change may have encouraged the 'greening' of corporate brands but the likelihood of a continued absence of strong international agreement on mitigation will encourage the private sector to continue to postpone real action in this area.

 

Leo Williams shares his thoughts on CSOs and a post-2015 framework

Leo Williams Beyond 2015Leo Williams in the International Coordinator of the Beyond 2015 campaign, which brings together over 260 civil society organisations from more than 60 countries that work together to influence the creation of the Post- 2015 Development Framework. Prior to this role, Mr Williams worked as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Officer for Bond, the UK membership organisation for NGOs working in international development, and the Scotland Malawi Partnership, a large network of organisations and individuals working between Scotland and Malawi. Having studied Arabic, he also worked to promote peace and justice between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel together with the Givat Haviva and the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

How has the establishment of the MDGs framework enhanced the voices of CSOs in the global South since its inception in 2000? Please elaborate on whether or not there was a significant increase of involvement from global South actors during the past 13 years, in a way that was lacking at the creation of the MDGs.

I have certainly seen a marked increase in the engagement of actors from the global south in the Beyond 2015 campaign. For example, in late 2010, the majority of governments, UN departments and CSOs were of the opinion that it was too early to start talking about 'post-MDGs' for fear that it would mean less focus on achieving the MDGs before the 2015 deadline. Relatively quickly this became an untenable position as CSOs started to realise that it had taken governments over a decade of 'summitteering' to agree the Millennium Declaration which led to the MDGs. In 2010 and 2011 we did not have the luxury of a decade – we needed to ensure that these conversations started as soon as possible, to ensure the process to develop the next framework was participatory, inclusive and responsive to the voices of those most affected by poverty and injustice – rather than to have been written by a small group of UN insiders.

 

Stop the ORMAS Bill! - An interview with Longgena Ginting

Longgena Ginting Greenpeace Indonesia"Indonesia is home to massive environmental and cultural resources. By protecting civil society, we can help to ensure a greater degree of protection for these local and global assets, many of which are fundamental to supporting life on this planet."

Longgena Ginting, Country Director of Greenpeace Indonesia, speaks to CIVICUS about Indonesia’s Mass Organisation Bill and the serious risks that it poses to civil society in Indonesia.

What kind of environment does civil society in Indonesia operate in?

With the fall of the Suharto Regime in 1998 and the advent of our current political era, sometimes referred to as the “New Indonesia”, a robust and variegated civil society sector has emerged including student activist groups, traditional governance organizations and  independent trade unions. These groups play a fundamental role in balancing state authority and in supporting the development and implementation of equitable and just government policies.

 

Language, Culture and Millennium Development Goals- An Interview


Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Dave Pearson, who is a long-time staff member at SIL International, a large nongovernmental organization which has pioneered advocacy for minority language rights and resources around the world. He also serves as SIL’s permanent representative to UNESCO, where he consults on issues at the intersection of minority languages and development work.

The impetus for this conversation was a recent refresh of SIL’s website, which made me newly aware of some great resources they have published on this theme, including a booklet entitled Why Languages Matter: Meeting Millennium Development Goals through Local Languages and a larger project conducted with UNESCO, called Why Language Matters for the Millennium Development Goals. We sat down to talk about this important issue, often overlooked by the global health community.

Read more at GlobalHealthHub.org

 

Ivana Savić shares her thoughts on Youth participation in the Post-2015 Agenda

Ivana SavicIvana Savic is a Policy Officer at Change Mob and Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Development Studies. She serves as a board member to the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) at CIVICUS. Prior to these roles, she served as Junior Advisor at the Gender Equality Department to the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia. Since 2009 she served as the representative for the Child Rights Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, which was an Organizing Partner for the Major Group on Children and Youth at the Rio +20 Conference in Brazil last year.

How have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework assisted in the development of youth organizations, capacities and livelihoods since its inception in 2000?
MDGs have been important in advancing the livelihoods and capacities of young people, but also mobilizing young people to be involved in the implementation and progress reporting of the MDGs. However, Beyond 2015 goals should have at least one goal committed to youth and one committed to human development governance, particularly issues pertaining participation in decision making.

What are some of the key issues facing youth throughout the world today, which should be prioritised in a Post-2015 Agenda?
People all over the world, especially young people, are faced with increasing environmental degradation, human rights violations and economic crises and those issues should be prioritised in the Post-2015 Agenda. A clean, safe, healthy, adequate and sustainable environment is a prerequisite for life, survival and development. It also bares consequences for the fulfilment of human rights. Unfortunately, however, the environment is not an indefinite resource and its degradation negatively influences human health and life as well as the future and the lives of future generations. Furthermore, human rights, especially rights such as right to life, survival and development, right to adequate standard of living, right to health, right to work and social security, freedom from violence; and also the right to participation should be emphasised in the post MDGs agenda. It would be better to say that protection, fulfilment and advancement of human rights should be a foundation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. After all, development goals could be perceived as efforts made toward fulfilling the vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

 

Uchita de Zoysa of Global Sustainability Solutions shares his thoughts on the MDGs and Corporate Sustainability

Uchita de Zoysa Global Sustainability Solutions Sri LankaUchita de Zoysa is the Chairman of Global Sustainability Solutions (GLOSS), the Executive Director of the Centre for Environment and Development, and Initiator of the People's Sustainability Treaties. He is the author of several books and international reports, and has played a leading role in the formulation of global independent sector collective agreements such as The NGO Alternative Treaties and the Oslo Declaration on Sustainable Consumption. Prior to these roles, Mr de Zoysa created and led the largest environment and development NGO in Sri Lanka, the Public Campaign on Environment & Development. In addition, he has also held numerous international posts including Advisory Board Member and Head of the Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption for SC.Asia.

To what extent has the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since 2000, promoted the issues of sustainability and responsibility amongst corporations within global production and consumption practices?

The MDG's had no doubt helped create awareness on sustainability and responsibility amongst all critical stakeholders including business and industry.

 

Richard Morgan of UNICEF shares his thoughts on the Post-2015 Agenda, Women and Children

Richard Morgan UNICEFRichard Morgan is the Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the Post- 2015 Agenda. He is a member of the UN Secretary- General's Task Team on the Post- 2015 Agenda and has chaired various UN inter agency groups on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the past. Prior to this, Mr Morgan served as UNICEF's Director of Policy, UNICEF in Africa and for the Government of Botswana during the 1970-1990s. His focus lies within the areas of how rights based, normative approaches can be effectively applied to international development1. Source2

 To what extent have governments increased commitment to child and gender sensitive policies after the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000?

This is not easy to answer rigorously, and would depend on careful, comparative cross-country analysis of national policies between 2000 and 2012. Certainly there have been a number of individual advances in national child- and gender-sensitive policies, both across sectors and in specific areas such as juvenile justice reform and legislation designed to prevent violence against children and women. However, much more remains to be done in terms of policies, legislation, administrative measures, pro-child budgets and programmes.

 

CIVICUS interviews Dr. Changyong Rhee about the Post-2015 agenda

Dr. Changyong Rhee, Asian Development BankDr. Changyong Rhee is the Chief Economics and spokesperson on economic forecasts, trends at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He has over 20 years of professional experience in government and academia and served as the Secretary General of the Presidential Committee for the G- 20 Summit where he played a role in shaping and advancing the agenda for the 2010 G- 20 Seoul Summit. In previous years, Dr. Rhee also served as Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Commission of the Republic of Korea and played an instrumental role in developing strategic policy responses to the 2008 global economic crisis. In the private sector, Dr. Rhee advised the Shinhan Bank and Woori Investment and was also the director of the financial market think tank, the Korea Fixed Income Research Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

How have the Asian and Pacific regions changed since the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework in 2000?

Asia has been experiencing fast growth, contributing to the shift of global gravity to the region. The GDP growth rate of 8.3% averaged over 2000-2011 is faster than any other region in the world and has helped lift almost 300 million Asians out of extreme poverty.

 

Civil society has the potential of finding new solutions to global challenges which are based on the principles of equity, participation and sustainability: An Interview with CIVICUS Secretary General, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

New CIVICUS Secretary General Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah who officially began his mandate as head of the global alliance this week speaks to the CIVICUS Policy Unit about the role of civil society in redressing the challenges affecting citizens around the world.

What are your preliminary reflections about the role of CIVICUS in particular and global civil society in general in responding to the convergence of crises affecting the world today?

I am very excited about the chance to work at an organisation like CIVICUS. I have long-admired the work that CIVICUS does to protect civil society space and promote citizen participation. I also feel positive about the role of civil society in addressing some of the great challenges facing the world today.

Civil society voices were screaming about the big problems – from financial meltdown to climate crisis – long before governments and business woke up. But, with governments lacking the will or resources to do anything and most businesses still addicted to short-term profits, I am certain that it will be civil society that will find new solutions based on equity, participation and sustainability.

One of my main aims at CIVICUS is to help amplify those voices, especially from the global South, which are coming up with novel ways of promoting citizen voice and innovative ways of fighting injustice.

 

CIVICUS Interviews Felix Dodds about the MDGs, Post-2015 and Sustainable Development


Felix Dodds Felix Dodds is an independent consultant focusing on stakeholder engagement in the sustainable development process. He is also a current Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute. Prior to these roles, he served as Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and has been active at the UN since 1990, having attended a myriad of World Summits. He has also participated in all UN Commissions for Sustainable Development and UNEP Governing Councils; and has chaired the 64th UN DPI NGO Conference on Sustainable Development. Additionally, he is a member of a number of advisory boards such as the Great Transition.

1. How have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) assisted in creating an environment conducive to the actions of civil society since its inception in 2000?

It should be remembered that unlike Agenda 21 there was little stakeholder involvement in the development of the MDGs. They by and large came from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (DAC OECD) targets so there was considerable opposition by stakeholders to the MDGs to begin with. From the sustainable development world, who had mostly bypassed the MDG Summit to focus on the World Summit on Sustainable Development, there was little in MDG7 to be happy with. MDG7 was slightly strengthened by the addition of a sanitation target. It is clear in the years since 2000 that development funding refocused around the MDGs and climate change and therefore so did much stakeholder involvement and actions.

 

Distinguishing between civil society groups is divisive and will weaken cohesion among different sectors: An interview with Lewis Mwape of the Zambia Council for Social Development

Lewis Mwape of the Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), speaks to CIVICUS about the status of the 2009 Zambian NGO Act and the campaign to amend the law.

In 2009 the government passed the NGO Act. Can you tell us a little about the restrictions on civil society under the law?

If implemented, provisions governing the registration of NGOs under the new law will be extremely problematic. Under the law CSOs must re-register every five years. In addition, prior to registering, CSOs must explicitly state their sources of funding and proposed activities. Such intrusive requirements will create severe administrative and organizational hurdles to the registration of new NGOs. The prospect that NGOs will be required to secure sustainable funding prior to registration is impractical.

The NGO Act also greatly narrows the definitions of CSOs. Labour unions, faith based organizations and professional groups are not recognized under the NGO Act and are expected to register according to separate legislation with the Ministry of Labour and under the Society Act for Faith Based Organisations. Distinguishing between civil society groups is divisive and will weaken cohesion among different sectors.

 

Interviews with youth delegates at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum (2)

Natalie Akstein, CIVICUS Junior Convening Officer and youth focal point, interviews youth delegates at the Global Youth Forum in Bali, Indonesia. Delegates provide perspectives on the Forum's issues and suggestions for CIVICUS to strengthen its work on youth participation.

Samuel Kissi from Ghana is interviewed in this video.

*For more information on the Global Youth Forum go to this site: www.icpdyouth.org

 

Interviews with youth delegates at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum (1)

Natalie Akstein, CIVICUS Junior Convening Officer and youth focal point, interviews youth delegates at the Global Youth Forum currently taking place in Bali, Indonesia. Delegates provide perspectives on the Forum's issues and suggestions for CIVICUS to strengthen its work on youth participation.

Omer ÇİFTÇİ from Turkey is interviewed in this video.

*For more information on the Global Youth Forum go to this site: www.icpdyouth.org

 

Human rights defenders in Bangladesh are at constant risk: An interview with Adilur Rahman Khan on Bangladeshi CSO Odhikar

Can you tell us a little bit about the mission and work of Odhikar?
Odhikar Logo BangladeshOdhikar was formed by a group of human rights activists who fought against Bangladesh’s autocratic regime and struggled to restore democracy. Together, the group initiated discussions underscoring the need to uphold the civil and political rights of the people of Bangladesh along with their social, cultural and economic rights. A decision was then made to form an organisation to advance such rights and on October 10, 1994, Odhikar (a Bengali word that means ‘rights’) came into being. Its aim was to create a wider monitoring and awareness raising system on the abuse of civil and political rights.

Odhikar’s mission is broad and includes the promotion of human rights through the introduction of participatory democracy and good governance as well as advocacy and lobbying for the incorporation and ratification of international human rights instruments into domestic human rights compliant laws. Odhikar also stands to fight impunity, promote justice and criminalise torture within Bangladesh and, through affiliated networks, at regional and international levels.

The organisation’s day to day work focuses on documenting, fact-finding, monitoring and researching human rights abuses that include enforced disappearances, custodial deaths, violence against women, torture, prison conditions, violations of freedom of expression, election monitoring and fostering mass awareness campaigns on rights and duties.

 

Change begins with the individual: An interview with Suzanne Salz, ICLEI

How would you evaluate the Future We Want outcome document in two sentences?

The Future We Want outcome document is far from certain to actually lead us to the Future We Want due to its lack of ambition and commitment by the national government leaders of the world. Yet, it does contain some seeds which allow us to hope and which could form the basis of important action by many.

Do you think the conference was a success or a failure? Does the outcome give you hope or do you feel that it has regressed in terms of the progress?

Rio +20 was not the success the world and its young people needed it to be, but neither was it a catastrophic failure. Instead, it continues making little improvements, and for the world to continue muddling through, which is really not good enough.

Which stakeholder should have the biggest responsibility and make more efforts after Rio+20?

All stakeholders should do what they can: national governments, local and subnational governments, companies, individuals and civil society as a whole. Rio+20 encouraged this multifaceted action, in side events as well as in provisions in the official text such as specific sections on all nine Major Groups, on corporate sustainability reporting, on sustainable cities and on voluntary commitments.

 

It is too simplistic to declare Rio+20 an utter failure or a roaring success: An interview with Farooq Ullah, Stakeholder Forum

Farooq Ullah is Editorial Advisor at the Stakeholder Forum. He is also a Specialist Advisor to the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee and a member of the Alliance for Future Generations.

What are your overall impressions about the Rio + 20 Conference? Were the gains commensurate to the energy and resources spent?

It is too simplistic to declare Rio+20 an utter failure or a roaring success. It is important to look deeper than a superficial assessment to understand what really happened. Sustainable development is complex; I wish it were easier. There are, without a doubt, some successes that must be celebrated, minor though they may be.

Rio+20 launched numerous processes. It is the outcomes and success of these processes which will be the ultimate judge of the success of Rio+20.

How is the Stakeholder Forum planning to follow-up on the decisions made at Rio + 20?

Stakeholder Forum is planning much follow-up work to Rio+20, particularly on the Sustainable Development Goals, the intergovernmental process on Mobilisation of Resources, the Green Economy and Corporate Sustainability.

 

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