The role of constituency building in advancing gender equality

Sifiso Dube, Gender and Diversity Officer, CIVICUS

Many methods have been crafted as a way of achieving gender equality by civil society, governments and the private sector. Continuous review of these processes always links to the need for constituency building as a means of achieving gender equality. Constituency building should be viewed as a means of influencing public opinion and motivating people to take collective action to achieve a desired social or policy change, which in this case is gender equality. Constituency building is about building a support base for progress towards gender equality. It involves resourcing for social advocacy on gender equality and intensive efforts towards partnerships and alliance building.


Ireland: Big questions, no easy answers

Travelling to Ireland this week I find myself speculating on the likelihood that it could see an outbreak of people power of the scale, intensity and persistence that has been witnessed in the Arab world and, more recently, in Spain.

Caught in a tightening vice of public spending cuts and stalled economic recovery it will, I think, take more than a social call and pleasantries from Barack Obama or Queen Elizabeth II to lift Irish spirits right now.


This week in e-CIVICUS

  • The Coming Global Food Fight - John Cavanagh and Robin Broad
  • G8 declaration won't work without effective development aid
  • Botswana: Mounting tension must end says South African civil society coalition
  • Aid Policy: What the numbers don't tell you
  • Are you part of positive change in the Arab world?
  • The 12th AWID International Forum On Women's Rights And Development: Submission deadline extended
  • Civil Society vacancies and other opportunities

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Corporate unaccountability continues as civil society sidelined

In the culmination of an intensive six-year process to devise a widely-accepted framework to govern the relationship between businesses and human rights, United Nations Special Representative Professor John Ruggie presented his Final Report on 30 May. While over the course of his two term mandate Ruggie has succeeded in building the requisite level of consensus and momentum, there is much work to be done to move from rhetoric to action.

By Ciana-Marie Pegus, Intern, CIVICUS Organisation Coordination Office

On Monday, there was much excitement at the Palais des Nations in Geneva as a plethora of diplomats, journalists and human rights campaigners gathered to hear and respond to the Final Report on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights authored by UN Special Representative Professor John Ruggie. Developed as part of Ruggie's mandate to identify standards on corporate accountability for human rights abuses, it possesses an unduly heavy focus on and faith in states. The report is shockingly silent on the role of civil society in acting as a watchdog over the antics and activities of rogue corporations. Indeed, it ignores the fact that civil society has always been and will continue to serve as the principal social force advocating for global justice and accountability for transnational corporations. It is the trade unionists, non-profit organisations, charities, community foundations, academics, research institutes, religious bodies, internet activists and social movements that are the vanguard in challenging the established impunity of corporations and the passivity of states.


The Coming Global Food Fight

As food prices force millions more under the threshold of absolute poverty into hunger, with predictable consequences even as aid promises are reneged upon, John Cavanagh and Robin Broad outline a route beyond food security to food sovereignty through rooted communities in this week's guest editorial. The commentary comes as Oxfam launched its global GROW campaign which I'd also suggest you look at: .


Inaction at Least Developed Countries summit hurting global development

It's time for a new international development paradigm for Least Developed Countries, writes David Kode, Policy Officer at CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

World Leaders and policy makers have a remarkable capacity to emulate progress without actually achieving anything. Earlier this month leaders of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), parliamentarians, UN officials and representatives of civil society descended on Istanbul for the high level LDC IV Summit, the agenda being to evaluate progress on the Brussels Programme of Action (BPoA) – a programme adopted a decade ago that explicitly outlined commitments made by the international community to help countries graduate from the LDC bracket. Now, although the determination to make progress towards the goals of poverty eradication, peace and development is on paper, the stark reality is that the challenges and constraints that instigated BPoA remain ten years on. So where are we at?


No Silver Lining to the IMF Cloud

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General CIVICUS

European powers appear set on perpetuating their arbitrary "entitlement" to the position of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the controversy that precipitated the resignation earlier this month of Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Despite claims from the IMF that the selection this time around would "take place in an open, merit-based, and transparent manner" as well as a longstanding commitment to open the position to nationals of all member states, most developed country representatives had expressed clear preferences for European candidates even before nominations opened on 23 May.

Their stances will do nothing to allay fears among developing countries and civil society that pledges to address unrepresentative governance at the Bretton Woods institutions are mere window dressing. They are in direct contravention of the explicit recommendation that resulted from extensive civil society consultations last year that the election should be conducted "without pre-selection by any sub-group of powerful countries". Particularly since the arguments being proffered in favour of European candidates fly in the face of reason and logic. In an act of collective amnesia, some Europeans have argued that their current economic woes demand a European at the helm of the Fund, having asserted that objectivity was necessary in the IMF's approach following the Asian economic crisis of the late '90s. This repeats the U-turn in logic that accompanied their shift to becoming net contributors from net recipients when these institutions were founded following World War II. It is somewhat ironic that the current front runner for the Managing Director's position is French, since France was the first recipient of an IMF loan.


Zimbabwe March 2011: Silent Fear

Adele Poskitt

This week I tasted the bitter-sweet fear that is keeping Zimbabwe on its knees. Narrowly avoiding detention in a notorious Harare prison, fleeing the country in hiding, and escaping persecution due to a case of mistaken identity, are all in a day of the life of a civil society activist in Southern Africa's failing state.

My first visit to Zimbabwe was defined by fear and shaped by the all-powerful authoritative regime that most of us only read about. I arrived in Harare after the short journey from my new home in Johannesburg into a seemingly calm and attractive city. Yet the tree-lined, tranquil streets hide one of the world's most prevailing disasters.

The tragic story of Robert Mugabe's destruction of Africa's bread basket is well-known, but what happens to those who struggle for the education, health and equality for the country's population is what we should be talking about. I spent just two days listening to the people who work for non-governmental organisations that seek to improve the quality of education for women, run peace-building projects with church youth groups and ensure access to essential ARVs for people living with HIV, before I had to flee the country. Speaking out on behalf of the people the state fails to provide for is a dangerous feat in Zimbabwe and civil society activists frequently put their lives at risk.


Spotlight on the Civil Society Index - 24 Country Reports complete

Civil society has been defined as the space between state, private sector and family or community. Today, we are witnessing what we could call a phase transition in the make-up of civil society space worldwide. Traditional boundaries between the state and the private sector have been blurred.

CIVICUS released over 15 Civil Society Index country reports this week, bringing the total number of country reports now available to 24. The reports from countries from around the world, including Chile, Russia, Zambia and Japan, are available on the CIVICUS website, with summaries of the highlights on the CSI blog.

Also marking this occasion, Netsanet Demissie Belay, Director, Policy and Research for CIVICUS will be a guest speaker at a seminar and workshop entitled "Concept, Relevance and Use of the Civil Society Index" coming up on April 7 in Madurodam, The Hague. Learn more about the event.


Syria: CIVICUS calls for immediate release of journalist Fayez Sara

"Arbitrary arrests, detentions and intimidation of activists, journalists and political opponents in Syria by security forces and members of the intelligence unit is no way to respond to legitimate calls for reforms by citizens in Syria," said Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. "We call on the Syrian authorities to immediately release Mr. Fayez Sara and the many activists and journalists arrested, to stop using live ammunition on protesters and allow the wounded unfettered access to medical care."


CIVICUS Announces the Nelson Mandela – Graça Machel Innovation Award Winners

CIVICUS is pleased to announce the winners of its latest round of Innovation Awards. These awards are in the form of seed funding of US$5,000 granted to outstanding for initiatives born out of the CIVICUS World Assembly. Last year's Assembly was held in Montreal, Canada, and organisations who attended were invited to submit proposals.


CIVICUS calls on Iran government to stop its Establishment and Supervision of NGOs Bill. If passed bill would “pose major threat” to independent civil society in Iran


Civil society enabling environment now on global agenda - preparing for Busan

Civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world are mobilising resources, actions and advocacy to influence key global processes this year. One key event slated for the latter part of 2011, where major issues including Development Effectiveness and the role of and operational environment for civil society need to be taken up in earnest, is the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea (HLF-4), from 26 November-1 December. After 18 months of engagement and advocacy by civil society, including CIVICUS, the Task Team has finally agreed on collective key messages for consideration by all participating stakeholders in HLF-4.


CIVICUS: IFC Review Process must align with the UN Framework on Business and Human Right

CIVICUS has had the opportunity to study the draft sustainability framework and in particular the draft Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability put together by the IFC. Although there are some improvements in the current draft over the existing 2006 policy, we are deeply concerned that the draft falls far short of the standards recommended by Professor John Ruggie, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the issue of human rights and transnational and other business enterprises (UN Framework on Business and Human Rights)

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CIVICUS condemns the arrest of Andrey Yurov in Belarus

CIVICUS condemns the arrest and detainment of Andrey Yurov, Head of the International Observation Mission of the Committee on International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus. Currently, he is in the process of being deported from the country. CIVICUS laments the ongoing crackdown on civil society in Belarus and calls the international community to find effective means ensuring that legitimate civil society has a place in Belarus. Human rights defenders such as Andrey Yurov should not be menaced with constant surveillance and groundless deportation.

Learn more


Latest in e-CIVICUS

  • A CIVICUS inventor passes away – remembering a great civil society leader -  Ingrid Srinath
  • Defrosting the Chilling Effect -  Adele Poskit, Policy officer, CIVICUS
  • NANGO Calls for end to Harassment of Civil Society Activists by Zimbabwe Republic Police
  • Internal displacement on the rise in Libya
  • Changing political spaces of Civil Society Organisations: Report
  • New Zealand Aid Development Scholarships
  • Jobs and internships and;
  • Loads of civil society related news
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Voices from the field: Change has started and it will never go back

Rowena McNaughton interviews human rights activist and director of Arab NGO Network for Development, Ziad Abdel Samad.
As citizens of Tunisia and Egypt successfully demand an end to totalitarian leadership, veteran human rights activist in the Arab region, Ziad Abdel Samad, says the events have already been a catalyst for widespread democratic change in the Arab region and there is no going back.

Q1. What broader implications does the stepping down of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt have for the Middle Eastern region?

It’s very important to note that something very important is happening in the region. Changes in Tunisia have had an impact, but it’s the changes in Egypt which have had a greater influence, simply because Egypt carries a lot of weight in terms of regional geo-politics.
Also, now civil society is more confident of its power and, of course, its capacity to enforce change. This will also affect the vision and role of Arab civil society in general. In the last decade there has been a lot of oppression on CS in general but now we see CS has the power and can mobilise and society can feel this power - they can take control.  More power will affect the vision of CS in other countries.

From my perspective, a lot has already changed in the region. But we have to bear in mind we are in a very challenging situation and the process has not ended yet. We have to remember the process is ongoing. For democratic change, an important step has been achieved by imposing the resignation of the president, but we now have to keep on going and we must keep up the pressure and ensure sustainability of the changes and that the right changes are made to the constitution, electoral law,….there needs to be a lot of effort and time and we can not let the process slow down.
I believe the changes in Egypt will lead to change in other countries in the (Arab) region even if it does not change the people in power. Regional and foreign policies will be revised as well. Even if the main objective of the revolution has been focusing on social and economic justice and political freedom and liberties, there are going to have to be changes in long-held global affiliations.
Now all leaders (in the region) will have to reconsider their policies as they are aware and feel the threats. They will have to start improving policies - particularly social and economic, and will have to open space for political participation, including for civil society.

Q2. Are you seeing any changes happen?

A. Yes. In many countries measures are taken to slow down the popular anger from the social and economic conditions and from the lack of political liberties and freedom as well. Like in Syria just two days ago, Facebook was allowed for the first time in three years. In Kuwait and in Bahrain, the government has started distributing money and food aid for each family. In Jordan the king changed the government and issued a decree to subsidise gasoline during the cold season. Even in Yemen, the president has released many statements and declared that he would not run for the presidency in the next election and will not allow  transition of power to his son .. However all these are changes that came before the beginning of the protest.
In Bahrain, although the situation is tense, protests started last week. In Yemen they started protesting as well. Under the pressure of popular movement the process will now go faster and further.

However the situation in many Arab countries is not the same as in Egypt. In Egypt the political situation and the society is more coherent, Divides are more social based not religious and tribal which are harder to move. In countries like Yemen the tribal system can be used to protect power since they can always use tribal divides to weaken popular pressure. The same in Bahrain, the confessional divide can be used to protect the king.


Press release CIVICUS urges the International Community to unequivocally pressure Egypt's President Mubarak to step down

Johannesburg. 1 February 2011. President Hosni Mubarak is still clinging onto power despite continuing unprecedented protests caused by widespread dissatisfaction in Egypt against his 30 years of authoritarian rule. 


Civil society: the OSCE Moscow Mechanism - a way out of the "Belarusian deadlock"

Olga Zakharova, Eurasia Idea Network Correspondent

Civil Society representatives from 27 OSCE member countries sent an appeal for urgent action in response to the human rights crisis in Belarus to the embassies of OSCE member countries. The appeal includes a petition to initiate the Moscow Mechanism for independent monitoring. More than 100 organisations have already signed the petition.


Ingrid Srinath at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland

Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General, CIVICUS Speaking during the session 'Insights on India' Ingrid shared her concerns about the government's inability to keep its promises. "Despite the government's pledges to the contrary, growth in India had not been inclusive.




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