CIVICUS ALERT: Hong Kong: Listen to, not attack peaceful demonstrators

hongkong20 October 2014. CIVICUS is deeply worried about attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong. Police have ramped up their efforts to disperse pro-democracy demonstrators calling for universal voting rights and an open ballot to elect Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017.

Over the weekend, from 17- 19 October, more than 200 protesting citizens were injured in police raids on the camps of demonstrators.  At least 30 demonstrators were arrested and face a wide-range of questionable charges ranging from damaging property, disorderly conduct, weapons possession and resisting arrest.  

Even with a large majority of Hong Kong citizens calling for open and transparent elections, the Chinese government is unwilling to implement democratic reforms and is blaming a so called ‘third-force’ for instigating the protests. As the protests move into its fourth week, law enforcement agencies have begun using excessive force to try and silence law abiding citizens. 

 

Bahrain: Free Nabeel Rajab Immediately and Unconditionally

NabeelRajab9 October 2014. The undersigned more than 100 organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, arrested on 1 October 2014 in Bahrain.

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was summoned on 1 October 2014 to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and focused on two tweets that the authorities claim have offended the Ministry of Interior.
One tweet, from 28 September 2014, said: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS have come from the security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

 

Hong Kong activists calls on government to "Listen to the voices of its people"

hongkongprotestPro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong as protesters remain steadfast in their calls for fair and transparent elections of the Chief Executive and for China to stop meddling in the political affairs and electoral processes.  Ahead of planned talks between protesters and government representatives scheduled for Friday 10 October, CIVICUS interviews a human rights activist resident in Hong Kong who provides an insider’s view of the dynamics of the protests and response of the authorities. The activist chooses to remain anonymous because of the delicate state of human rights and out of concern for possible reprisals from the Chinese authorities.

1)    What triggered the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and what at the key demands of the protesters?

The Hong Kong “Occupy Central” campaign is a Hong Kong people’s movement which calls for transparent and fair elections of the Chief Executive through universal suffrage without any censorship of candidates in 2017. On August 31, 2014, however, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of China placed restrictions to deprive democrats from being nominated in an open and transparent manner for the Chief Executive position when elections are held in 2017.

 

Call for proposals: Application for implementing partner for civil society assessment in South Africa

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The legal, regulatory, and policy environment in which Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operate is key to their ability to register, operate, access resources, and effectively engage in advocacy, all of which are key to civil society’s ability to flourish and be successful. Moreover, the laws and regulations that govern CSOs and the ways in which they are implemented, which form part of civil society’s enabling environment, potentially shape a host of other significant factors as well: a CSO’s ability to communicate and associate with others, to engage in peaceful assembly, to seek tax exemptions, to engage in philanthropy, and to access information. All of these factors, as well as the relationship between CSOs and their government, help to define the nature of civil society’s enabling environment within a particular country. Importantly, these factors, when taken together, significantly affect the public’s receptivity, the lifeblood of a well-functioning civil society, to the important work performed by CSOs.

 

Open letter from the Human Rights Caucus to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

"We write to you as the Post-2015 Human Rights Caucus, a cross-constituency coalition of development, environment, trade union, feminist and human rights organizations worldwide. We welcome your efforts to involve civil society in the important discussions about the future development agenda. This is a generational opportunity to ensure that the international community is progressing towards a sustainable future for people and planet, and we encourage your offices to ensure that people’s voices are heard in these deliberations..." Read more

HR Caucus

 

Submission on Sri Lanka to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)

commonwealth-ministerial-action-groupCIVICUS and a number of national and international civil society groups have urged the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka upholds Commonwealth values on democracy and human rights.

Their joint submission makes a number of recommendations and highlights recent cases of attacks on human rights defenders, encroachments on civil society space, threats to journalists, and pervasive military control over the civilian administration in areas inhabited by the Tamil minority.

Read the full submission

 

 

 

Syria: Free Prominent Rights Defenders

Arabic

Verdict Scheduled in Charges Before Anti-Terrorism CourtSyrian HRDs

Geneva, September 5, 2014. The Syrian government should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 79 organizations said today. The Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court is expected to issue its verdict on September 24, 2014 in their trial for “publicizing terrorist acts.”

Darwish is the director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Syrian Air Force Intelligence arrested the three men and other colleagues during a raid on the group’s office, in Damascus on February 16, 2012. The three men have been on trial before the Anti-Terrorism Court on charges of “publicizing terrorist acts” under article 8 of the country’s 2012 Anti-Terrorism Law. The charges are based on their peaceful activities that include monitoring and publishing information about human rights abuses in Syria.

 

Joint civil society letter on Bahraini Human Rights Defenders

The representatives of international human rights organisations write to urge the Bahrain government to comply with its international treaty obligations to provide victims of torture with physical and psychological rehabilitation. In particular, they urge the Bahrain government to allow and facilitate an independent assessment of the therapeutic needs of all persons who were mistreated during their detention by the Bahraini authorities, as confirmed by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Read the full letter

 

CIVICUS Brief - Thailand: End crackdown on civil society and restore democratic freedoms

20 August 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, strongly condemns the continued denial of basic democratic freedoms by the military junta in Thailand and calls on the military to immediately remove unwarranted restrictions on civil society and the independent media. 

Since the May 22 coup, the military junta led by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has overseen the wholesale suspension of fundamental civil liberties in an attempt to stifle criticism and popular protest. The NCPO’s continued invocation of overbroad legislation to criminalize dissent represents a severe breach of international human rights law.  

Judicial persecution of human rights defenders

Despite firm constitutional protections against arbitrary detention, the NCPO has invoked restrictive legislation to endow the military with excessive powers to imprison human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents. 

Under the 1949 Martial Law Act brought into force two days prior to the coup, the military is permitted to arrest and detain individuals without charge for up to seven days. Moreover, under an order issued by the NCPO on 25 May, military courts are authorized to oversee a number of crimes which previously fell under the jurisdiction of civilian courts. These include offences under the Criminal Code and those related to national security and sedition. 

 

CIVICUS Alert: CIVICUS condemns crackdown on peaceful protests in Missouri, USA

14 August 2014. The use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest of peaceful demonstrators and journalists in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, represents a severe breach of the right to freedom of assembly says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“The authorities have a responsibility to protect and facilitate the right to peaceful assembly,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS. “However, police in Ferguson have actively sought to undermine the ongoing protests in an apparent attempt to quash independent dissent.” 

Over 50 people have been arrested and numerous others injured since peaceful demonstrations began on 11 August in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of the state capital, St. Louis. The protests stem from the fatal shooting of an unarmed African- American teenager, Michael Brown, by police officers on Saturday, 10 August. Protestors are calling for greater accountability for the shooting, including the immediate disclosure of the identity of the officer responsible. 

 

CIVICUS ALERT: Sri Lanka: Worrying developments for Civil Society

31 July 2014 – Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS is shocked over moves in Sri Lanka to stifle civil society and muzzle democratic freedoms, particularly the rights to freely express, associate and assemble.

“With the political opposition effectively marginalised in Sri Lanka, civil society is thus the only alternative source of objective analysis of government policies and practices. But activists and independent civil society organisations are being targeted on an unprecedented scale,” said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS.

On 1 July 2014, the National Secretariat for NGOs which operates under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development issued a circular calling on NGOs to desist from “conducting press conferences, workshops, trainings for journalists and dissemination of press releases.” Indicative of Sri Lankan authorities’ intolerance of dissent, these activities are now being regarded as “unauthorised” and “beyond the mandate” of NGOs.

 

41 African and international CSOs call on the Ethiopian Prime Minister to release detained journalists and Zone 9 bloggers

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn 

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 

Office of the Prime Minister 

P.O. Box 1031 

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

24 July 2014 

Re: Detained Journalists and Bloggers 

Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 

We write to you to express our grave concern regarding the terrorism charges laid against seven bloggers associated with the “Zone 9” website and three independent journalists in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights—which both expressly protect the right to freedom of expression. We therefore urge your government to fulfill its obligations under international law and release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained in violation of their fundamental rights. 

As you may be aware, six of the bloggers (Zelalem Kibret, Atnaf Berahane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Befeqadu Hailu, and Abel Wabela) and the three journalists (Tesfalem Waldyes, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, and Edom Kassaye) were arrested in late April, shortly after it was announced that the Zone 9 website would resume its activities after suspending operations because of increasing harassment and surveillance. All nine detainees were subsequently held for nearly three months before any specific allegations were presented or formal charges filed against them. Most concerning, however, are reports that some of the detainees have complained of serious mistreatment by investigators and that defense lawyers and their clients have been excluded from some of the proceedings. 

 

29 NGOs submit letter to newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a change of policy on Bahrain

16 July 2014, London – A group of 29 NGOs have sent a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain. 

The letter calls for a ‘fresh’ approach to be adopted by the new Foreign Secretary in light of the FCO’s failure to heed a Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that the U.K. should “designate Bahrain as a country of concern” in its 2014 human rights report if the situation had not improved by the start of this year. Despite this recommendation, the FCO subsequently failed to acknowledge Bahrain as a country of concern, and instead, listed it as a “case study” praising specific areas of reform.

The letter highlights the inconsistencies in UK policy towards Bahrain in recent years, specifically referencing recent statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who claimed that the human rights situation in Bahrain is a situation of “grave concern” and that recommendations made by the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry are in a “state of non-implementation”. 

 

A Call for Human Rights Concerns to be reflected in the Fortaleza Declaration of Sixth BRICS Summit

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Brazil, India and South Africa, call upon our governments to ensure that the Fortaleza Declaration addresses the following issues: 1) the Syrian crisis and the urgent need to secure greater humanitarian aid; 2) the Implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); and 3) the role of civil society in BRICS agenda setting.  We support and encourage our countries’ collective commitment to promote and protect human rights worldwide, including at the upcoming Sixth BRICS Summit to be held in Brazil from 14 to 16 July 2014.

 

Read the full letter

 

CCHR and CIVICUS condemn the Cambodian government’s rejection of key recommendations during its 2nd Universal Periodic Review

Today, 26 June 2014, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) and CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance,  condemn the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (the “RGC”) decision to reject key recommendations on the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia put forward  by United Nations member States during Cambodia’s 2nd Universal Periodic Review (the “UPR”).

While CCHR and CIVICUS commend the RGC for its acceptance of the majority of the recommendations, they are seriously disappointed by its refusal to accept recommendations mainly relating to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are fundamental in improving the current human rights situation. 

The UPR is a process by which all UN member States undergo a review of their human rights record.  The UPR occurs every four years, and Cambodia completed its second review at the beginning of this year.  A total of 206 recommendations were made to the Cambodian delegation. 164 enjoy the support of the RGC. However, the RGC today chose to take note of 38 recommendations, meaning it has not committed to implementing them, and to reject four.

 

Danny Sriskandarajah connects civil society, governance and social change in Africa

Danny Sriskandarajah , Director-General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, joins Breaking Views with UNICEF to talk about the role of civil society in Africa, social engagement, social challenges and the impact communities can have in the world.

 

Webinar: How to influence the post-2015 development agenda

sd2015

Introducing two new practical guides for good advocacy

Thursday 12 June 2014
Webinar [in English]: 10am (EDT- New York) / 3pm (BST- London)          
Webinar [in French]: 10am (CEST- Central Europe) / 10am (CAT- Central Africa)

Thursday 19 June 2014
Webinar [in Spanish]: 4pm UTC+2


SD2015 has produced an Advocacy Toolkit and Media Guide for civil society and other stakeholder organisations, coalitions and individuals that want to influence the post-2015 development agenda, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Representatives from CIVICUS and Stakeholder Forum will introduce these two new publications and walk you through how to use this information and the guiding activities to develop an effective advocacy strategy that will help you and your organisation shape the post-2015 agenda.

There will be time at the end of the webinar for Q&A and sharing of post-2015 advocacy experiences, with reflections on approaches that have worked well and practical advice on lessons learnt from SD2015 partners and networks.

 

CIVICUS Alert - Burundi : Release human rights defender immediately

pierre claver mbonimpa

26 May 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Ligue des Droits de la Personne dans la Region des Grand Lacs (LDGL) urge Burundian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa.  He was arrested on 15 May 2014 on baseless charges of endangering state security following an interview on Burundian radio station, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) on 6 May.

During the interview Pierre Mbonimpa noted that youth from Burundi were being armed and sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for military training and expressed concerns over the distribution of weapons to young people in Burundi.  He was initially summoned by the police on 7 May and interrogated about the statements he made over radio. He was summoned again on 12 May and on 14 May. Pierre Mbonimpa was later charged with inciting public disobedience and endangering state security under Article 579 of the country’s constitution. He is currently being held at Mpimba Prison in Bujumbura. 

 

University of Waterloo Signs Internship Agreement with CIVICUS

The University of Waterloo is pleased to announce that it has signed a five-year partnership agreement with CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. The agreement establishes an annual internship with CIVICUS for students enrolled in the Masters of Arts in Global Governance (MAGG) program, based at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA).

“We are thrilled to be partnering with such a world-class international non-governmental organization,” said Dr. John Ravenhill, Director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs. “We are very excited that our students are going to be able to assist CIVICUS in carrying out the vital work that it does to create space for citizen participation in global governance.”

Students in the MAGG program are required to do a four-month internship. Under the terms of this agreement, the program will select one student each year to intern at CIVICUS’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

Belarus Must Play Fair, in Sports and Beyond

Fair play


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s authoritarian rule in Belarus, the “last dictatorship of Europe.” As if to celebrate the occasion, and despite multiple urgent calls from around the world, the International Ice Hockey Federation granted Lukashenka’s wish to host the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship (IHWC) in Belarus this May. Hockey is his favorite sport. 

Read more

 

Oral Statement by CIVICUS to the 55th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

"CIVICUS, an international movement dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, expresses its appreciation for this opportunity to address the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 55th Ordinary Session."

 

AUC

Read the full statement here.

 

A word from the board chair, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda1Dear CIVICUS friends,

As Chair of the CIVICUS Board of Directors, I am delighted to share with you some results of our Board of Directors meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of March, 2014.   I congratulate CIVICUS voting members for electing a truly diverse, international and inter-generational Board. This diversity will benefit us all at CIVICUS.

As the Board we adopted key priorities for our term in office, which include fundraising, strategic engagement and sustainable financial growth. We also adopted new ways of work focusing on a Board that provides thought leadership as we maintain our core responsibility of oversight and policy advice to the organisation.

The Board received a management report, and we are encouraged by the strategic approaches and positioning of CIVICUS by the Secretary-General, Danny Sriskandarajah, and the management team. The Board has given their full support for International Civil Society Week 2014, complete with CIVICUS World and Youth Assemblies. We are excited to host this event in Johannesburg, South Africa, with local and international CIVICUS partners. We therefore encourage our members, partners and friends to actively engage with CIVICUS through these exciting opportunities. CIVICUS is already exploring the next location for International Civil Society Week, planned for early 2016.

 

Looking forward to Mexico City

I am looking forward to joining some 100-odd civil society colleagues in Mexico City next week to attend the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The GPEDC grew out of a series of meetings on improving aid effectiveness that culminated in Busan, South Korea in 2011. Next week’s meeting will attract some 1300 senior officials from 161 Governments and 54 organisations who will review progress on the commitments made in Busan and how to make sure that the post-2015 global development agenda is implemented as effectively as possible. 

Will this meeting really mark a major milestone in the global fight against poverty’ as promised on the GPEDC website? Or will it be just another minor stop on the road to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda? For many of us in civil society, there are three areas where the GPEDC could make a big impact. If next week’s meeting could show tangible progress on these, I for one would leave happy.

Show us the progress

As I have argued elsewhere, we need a paradigm shift in the way that development is delivered, moving from a supply-side driven model built around official development assistance (ODA) to one that reflects the changing geopolitical and economic realities, is shaped not only by donors, and involves flows beyond aid. By signalling a commitment to mutual accountability, transparency, and better institutions, and by going beyond donor governments (other donors, civil society, foundations, business), the GPEDC has the potential to drive this paradigm shift.

 

CIVICUS and HURISA urge South Africa and SADC to protect Swazi activists

CIVICUS and the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA) express shock at the continued harassment and re-arrest of Swazi journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko. 

 

Third Anniversary of Arrest: Calls for the Release of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

The undersigned civil society organizations express their serious concern for the health and well-being of imprisoned Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Mr. Al-Khawaja was arrested three years ago today, on 9 April 2011, and continues to require medical attention for injuries sustained during his arrest and subsequent torture. 

 

Why restricting foreign funding of NGOs is wrongheaded

Danny By Danny Sriskandarajah

There is a new weapon of choice for governments that want to undermine bits of civil society that irritate them - restricting funding from foreign sources. By making it more difficult for human rights organizations or public watchdogs to access money from abroad, these governments hope to curb dissent and reduce accountability. These measures not only go against established international conventions and commitments, but what governments do not seem to realize is that the measures will not work.

There has been a plethora of funding restrictions recently, so much so that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedoms of assembly and association devoted his report to the subject last year. Colleagues at the International Center for Not-for-profit Law have documented more than 20 attempts to restrict foreign funding in the last two years.

For example, in Bangladesh advance government approval is needed before a non-governmental organization (NGO) can access foreign funding, in Ethiopia and Israel there are limits on the areas foreign-funded NGOs can work in; in Zimbabwe foreign-funded NGOs cannot work on ‘governance’ issues, and in Russia the government has tried to stigmatize these NGOs (requiring them to register using a Russian word that means ‘spy’).

Such measures may play well politically by reinforcing the idea of undue foreign (Western) interference in domestic affairs, but they are based on a set of flawed assumptions about how civil society works. They will only make a marginal difference in curbing dissent, and will have disproportionate effects on civil society. They may even end up back-firing completely.

 

CIVICUS endorses call to free Syrian Human Rights Defenders

Geneva, Switzerland – The government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally release the arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mazen Darwish and his colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer, 61 human rights organizations said today. The United Nations Security Council demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria on February 22, 2014.

Read the full statement here

 

Raising awareness on Syria

with SyriaCIVICUS is supporting a new campaign  to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Syria. You can see who else is part of the campaign by visiting www.with-Syria.org

The 15th March marks the third year anniversary of the Syria crisis - a crisis that has been labelled one of the worst of our generation; half the country has been forced to flee their homes; over 100,000 people have been killed.

In the run up to the anniversary, Syrian groups, prominent international NGOs, former world leaders and celebrities around the world are holding vigils in over 30 countries, turning global landmarks into symbols of hope, from the Eiffel Tower to Za’atari camp, from Trafalgar Square to Dadaab camp in Kenya. The artist, Banksy, has donated the use of his iconic image of the girl with the red balloon as a motif for the campaign.

The campaign calls on everyone to redouble efforts to raise awareness about the crisis. As part of the #WithSyria campaign, we are asking world leaders to make every effort to ensure the people of Syria do not lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. This means pressing all parties to the conflict and all those with influence to:

  1. Stop the bloodshed: This means ending attacks on civilians, including schools and hospitals. It means respect for the laws of war and the rights of those affected by the conflict.
  2.  Ensure all those in need can access life-saving assistance.
  3. Commit to inclusive peace talks: This means making sure the voices of those affected – including civil society and women – can be heard and heeded.

Please lend your support to the #WithSyria campaign by:

  • Adding your voice to thousands of others to help #WithSyria trend the week of 10th March.  Anytime from 10th  March please get as many people as possible to tweet: “Don't let the people of Syria lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. I stand #WithSyria. Retweet if you do.”You can also add your Facebook or Twitter profile picture to the Faces for Syria thunderclap. Find out how here.  

  •  Watching and sharing the beautiful animation of Banksy’s girl with the red balloon find hope with Syria. The video will go live on 12th March at www.TheSyriaCampaign.com

  • Organising a vigil around the 13th March, so you can join with people around the world in saying, with Syria, there is always hope. This can be a simple candle-lit vigil of one person or as many as you can get together, bringing in balloons to copy Banksy’s image. There is further information regarding organising a vigil here

Thank you!

 

Being Bold: New Initiatives Post-2015

Danny NEW highresBy Danny Sriskandarajah

Last weekend, I took part in two back-to-back meetings in Istanbul on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. It was an intense and, sometimes, tense few days, but I have a feeling that the two meetings mark the start of two initiatives that have the potential to transform the role of civil society in the post-2015 process.

The first was a convening of some 50 people representing more than 30 platforms and organisations that work on post-2015 issues, and was aimed at identifying what scope there was for a new global campaign over the next 18 months. We had a great mix of participants, ranging from large networks such as Climate Action Network International (CAN) and Global Call to Action on Poverty (GCAP) to individuals like Amina Mohammed (the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on these issues) and Richard Curtis (the acclaimed filmmaker who has been working on ideas for a new campaign).

There has been talk of a new global campaign on post-2015 for a while, including at meetings like the ones we co-hosted in Johannesburg in November 2013, but nothing firm had materialised. One of the reasons was that there had yet to be a broad-based conversation involving a range of civil society actors, including those from the worlds of development, climate and gender justice. This is why the Istanbul meeting was so important.

In Istanbul, there was consensus that civil society needed to come together urgently to ensure that the two processes culminating in 2015 (the climate negotiations and the agreement of a new set of development goals) deliver an ambitious and transformative set of outcomes that will serve the interests of people and planet. We agreed to build a genuinely global movement through which people would put pressure on our leaders to deliver; to be radical and radically inclusive. We agreed to build a light-touch governance structure that would help coordinate and amplify existing and planned initiatives, without centralised command-and-control functions. And we agreed to produce campaign materials that would be powerful enough to capture the imagination of billions of people around the world.

 

A call for observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela

Member organizations of Foro por la Vida, together with other Venezuelan organizations, have made the following statement in light of events in the country.

We, the undersigned organizations, given the worsening of the Venezuelan situation resulting from violence, misinformation, arbitrary detentions and other major violations of human rights that have occurred in the month of February 2014 make a call for urgent action in support of the observance of human rights, justice and peace in Venezuela.

The events taking place in Venezuela showcase the deterioration of public institutions to effectively arbitrate the diversity of political positions that exist in the country. In light of this situation it is important that various sectors of the national and international community take a stand to challenge human rights violations, calling for an independent investigation, requesting the cessation of repression and the opening of genuine dialogue.

For the full statement: in English or in Spanish 

 

 

Joint written statement on civil society space to the UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS and the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) have submitted a written statement to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (3 – 28 March 2014). The statement examines the rising restrictions on the activities of civil society across  the world, including: i) worsening policy and legal environment for civil society; ii) dissolution of civil society groups without justification; and iii) judicial persecution of civil society members. The statement further provides a number of key recommendations to be considered by the UNHRC to ensure the creation of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

Rising Restrictions on Civil Society which require the Human Rights Council’s further attention

 

Ethiopia’s EITI Process Needs Larger Role for Civil Society

February 14, 2014

Ethiopia’s renewed push for admission to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) should be closely scrutinized due to the limited role Ethiopia has granted to civil society and a hostile legal environment that minimizes meaningful debate, Freedom House and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation said.

Freedom House and Civicus urge the government of Ethiopia to live up to the commitment made in its 2013 EITI application to “improve the legal environment” for the citizen-based watchdog role in the process. We also call on the EITI International board to ensure that Ethiopian civil society organizations are granted free, full and effective participation, as required by the EITI standard.

“Free, meaningful participation by Ethiopia’s civil society is impossible in the current environment,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa Programs at Freedom House. ‘The Ethiopian government should use the EITI application process to identify and complete concrete action toward making substantive changes to the tightly restricted role of citizens’ groups.”

 

Call for Inputs to the State of Civil Society Report 2014

CIVICUS is currently in the process of developing the content for our flagship State of Civil Society Report. With humanity poised at a critical juncture due to multiple integrated economic, social, political, environmental and humanitarian crises, and as conversations take place around the world on a new paradigm for sustainable development, our 2014 report will focus on the broad theme of citizens’ transforming the global governance arena. 

The 2014 report slated for release in the second quarter of the year will be presented through a series of interactive webpages and downloadable sections, along with an engaging and accessible summary which will be widely disseminated.  The report will also include key findings from CIVICUS’ inaugural civil society-intergovernmental scorecard, which assesses the depth and quality of engagement of intergovernmental organisations with civil society organisations. We invite you to participate in our survey here.

CIVICUS is interested in hearing from you. Please share with us three key reforms that you believe are critical to democratise global governance. Write to us at   We also welcome your suggestions on possible topics or issues to include in the report.

 

Mauricio Alarcón-Salvador of Fundamedios speaks to CIVICUS about civil society conditions in Ecuador

Mauricio Alarcon Salvador Programme Director FundamediosAs part of our regular interview series, CIVICUS speaks to Mauricio Alarcón-Salvador about threats to human rights activists and NGOs in Ecuador. Mauricio is a lawyer and human rights defender who focuses on citizen participation and the rights of people with disabilities. He is the Programme Director of Fundamedios, a position he has held since 2009. Fundamedios or the Andean Foundation for the observation and study of the media is a civil society organisation which works to defend and promote freedom of the press, speech and association in Ecuador.

Lately, a lot of media attention has been focused on restrictions on democratic freedoms in Ecuador. Can you tell us more about the situation there?

In the recent years, there has been a consistent deterioration in the respect of fundamental freedoms in Ecuador.  Freedom of expression is mostly affected because of increasing threats to and attacks on journalists, media agencies and ordinary citizens who are critical of the government.  Journalists are increasingly persecuted, radio and TV Stations have been shut down and citizens arrested for allegedly “offending the President.” The government is equally trampling on the rights of association and the right to protest.  Civil society activists and human rights defenders have been subjected to judicial persecution and jailed for simply participating in public protests. As we speak, there are more than 200 leaders of social movements and activists who are being persecuted for simply expressing their rights to protest and associate. Most of those who are persecuted are charged with threatening state security.

 

CIVICUS announces the 8 partners selected to conduct local multi-stakeholders dialogues

French | Spanish    

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is pleased to announce the selection of 8 convening partners to conduct local multi-stakeholder dialogues between January and June 2014, as part of its action-based research project, the New Social Contract. 

Through the project, CIVICUS seeks to find new ways of partnership, engagement and commitment between different stakeholders to address collective challenges at the local level and together set up collective goals. CIVICUS proposes a methodology for these multi-stakeholder engagements and has been funding a series of local conversations about collaboration and systems that underpin the relationship between different forces in society, also known as social contracts. 

The Call for Expressions of Interest to organise locally-initiated multi-stakeholders dialogues was officially launched on 20 September 2013, and was well received as 948 applications from 120 countries were submitted. Between October and December 2013, the proposals were moderated on account of the relevance of the proposed challenge, the candidates’ willingness to address it and their motivations to establish a local multi-stakeholder platform.

 

UN Special Rapporteur Urges Rwanda to Lift Restrictions on Peaceful Assembly and Association

Global Update by the Civic Space Initiative Maina Kiai Rwanda

As he concluded his official visit to Rwanda, the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai urged the government of Rwanda to lift restrictions on peaceful assembly and association.

The purpose of the UNSR’s visit was to provide observations and recommendations for how Rwanda can better respect, promote, and implement international human rights law and standards regarding the freedoms of assembly and association. He met with government officials as well as leaders from national and international non-governmental organizations. Rwanda is the first African country to have invited the UNSR since the establishment of the mandate in 2010.

The UNSR commended the country’s remarkable economic progress since the 1994 genocide. However, he expressed concerns that the government generally does not allow peaceful protest, and asserted that “peaceful assemblies should not be feared. Rather, they should be encouraged. There is value in expressing disagreement and differences peacefully and publically.”

Mr. Kiai also noted restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs) and political parties, including barriers to registration, limits on CSO activities, excessive government interference, and a lack of space for dissenting views. He urged Rwanda to uphold its international legal obligations regarding freedom of association, reiterating that “it is crucial that individuals exercising the right to associate…are able to operate freely and without fear.”

The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) supports the UNSR mandate by providing technical expertise and human resource support. The CSI also works to ensure meaningful participation of civil society actors in the work of the UNSR. Members of the CSI are ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and the World Movement for Democracy.

Relevant Links:

Full End-of-Mission Statement by the Special Rapporteur

 

 

Eritrea: Under International Scrutiny, Allow Independent Human Rights Monitoring

4th February 2014

The Government of Eritrea should accept recommendations to cooperate fully with the United Nations human rights system, said Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, following its examination at the Universal Periodic Review yesterday.

Under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the human rights record of each UN member state is reviewed every four and a half years. Given the situation of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Eritrea, the UPR process is an important opportunity for scrutiny and dialogue. During the three and a half hour working group session in Geneva, the delegation of Eritrea, headed by Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu, stated its commitment to human rights and to engagement, dialogue and cooperation, and was commended for its participation in the review. However, Eritrea simultaneously continues to refuse to cooperate or allow access to the country to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea. 

 

Civil Society Groups Call On Azerbaijan’s President Not To Sign Restrictive Law

27 January 2014. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Civil Rights Defenders and the Azerbaijan Civil Society Defense Committee, a coalition of 42 Azerbaijani civil society organizations, are appealing to Azerbaijan’s President not to sign into law a number of restrictive amendments to the NGO Act passed by Parliament on 17 December 2013 to control the activities of NGOs. The Bill is currently in the President’s Office and likely to be approved at any moment. 

azerbaijan

The amendments subject NGOs to increased bureaucratic controls through requirements to re-register every three months with the Ministry of Justice, creating increased uncertainty for the sector. Furthermore, the amendments impose enhanced fines ranging between 2500-3000 AZN (approximately 3190 – 3830 USD) on NGOs and between 1000-2000 AZN (approximately 1280 – 2560 USD) on the leadership of NGOs for failing to submit information or for submitting “false information.” The amendments also state that if NGOs are served notices for infringing any legislative requirements more than twice in a year, they may be shut down at the discretion of the courts. 

 

Davos Is The Epitome Of A World Run By Elites Says Global Civil Society Leader

22 January 2013 

The annual gathering of world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos lacks any meaningful citizen engagement and is a shameful reinforcement of the status quo it purports to change, says the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

“The world’s political and business elite in Davos are not interested in citizen voice and participation judging by the lack of inclusiveness and transparency they display,” says Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, the CIVICUS Secretary-General.

“It is almost laughable that they talk about inequality, poverty and other critical social issues while not including the very people most affected by them. It is no wonder that levels of trust in political and economic leaders is at an all-time low,” states Sriskandarajah.  

“Political and business leaders need to face up to the urgent need for meaningful citizen engagement and think about what a democratic Davos would look like. And they also need to pay more than lip service to inequality. At the moment Davos is the epitome of a world run by elites,” says the CIVICUS Secretary-General.

The issues of inequality, elitism and the co-option of the political process by wealthy elites is in focus at Davos, especially following on from a report released by Oxfam that shows that the richest 85 people in the world own as much as half of the world’s population.

END

 

 

Leaders at Davos must address the critical issues the world face –Call from Civil Society Leaders

21 January 2013

Niger

To the political and business leaders gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos 

As representatives of civil society organisations attending the World Economic Forum, we are writing to urge you to ensure that the following issues of critical global importance are central to discussions at the forum and that, as per its stated purpose, the forum helps to deliver the insights, initiatives and actions necessary to respond to them

  1. Securing a safer world: As the forum takes place thousands of innocent people in Syria, including many children, continue to die.  As vital peace talks kick off in Geneva, the crisis in Syria emphasises why we must work together to guarantee both immediate humanitarian access and aid, as well as secure long-term solutions to end crises – especially in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan -  and find ways to prevent future outbreaks of conflict and violence.

     

CIVICUS speaks with Thilmeeza Hussain about civil society in the Maldives

Thilmeeza HussainFollowing the election of a new president in the Maldives in November 2013, national and international civil society groups hope the new government will respect the fundamental rights of its citizens and ease restrictions on citizens' rights which characterised the outgoing regime. CIVICUS speaks to civil society activist and founder of the Voice of Women (VoW) Maldives, Thilmeeza Hussain, about the challenges faced by civil society during the previous regime and the sense of optimism among civil society groups about the opening up of spaces for civil society by the new government.

1) What are the objectives of the Voice of Women (VoW) and what are some of the main activities VoM has undertaken to strengthen civil society in the Maldives?

The main objectives of the VoW are: to create a society where men and women work side by side, mutually respecting each other's rights; to empower women so they are able to stand up for their rights; to generate opportunities to effect change for the advancement of women through development, support and inspiration of women as leaders; to promote women's leadership in sustainable development, the environment and climate change; to build respect for human rights in the Maldives in general by creating awareness of the rights of women and to document human rights violations, domestic violence, or sexual abuse that takes place specifically based on gender. Below we highlight a few activities we have undertaken in advancing human rights in the Maldives:

 

Call for Expressions of Interest for Partnership Involvement in CIVICUS International Civil Society Week 2014

International Civil Society Week

CIVICUS is the only global network of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. We are proudly based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and have over 1000 members in more than 120 countries.  International Civil Society Week 2014 (ICSW 2014) is a key global gathering for civil society, governments, donors and business to engage constructively in finding common solutions to global challenges. The week will bring together concerned citizens across sectors, themes, regions and backgrounds. The key theme of the week is “Citizen Action, People Power”.

ICSW 2014 will be a ‘partnered event’–a model that was tested in the conceptualisation and implementation of ICSW 2013. Between 8-15 November 2013, CIVICUS, CONCORD/ DEEEP, Global Call to Action against Poverty and International Civil Society Centre convened 13 different conferences, workshops and events, which brought together over 300 civil society actors from around the world. ICSW 2014, hosted in November, will build upon the successes of ICSW 2013, bringing together over 500 people in Johannesburg and thousands more through online engagement.

South Africa has a rich legacy of activism and involvement to bring about social change, as exemplified by the liberation struggle. Active involvement did not end there and there are still many examples of positive citizen activism and engagement today. The proposed date for ICSW 2014 coincides with a pivotal moment in South Africa’s history–the 20th Anniversary of Democracy and Freedom. This provides an opportune time for the world to look back, reflect and celebrate what South Africa and the world has achieved in the past twenty years, and also to explore how we can deepen our gains in freedom and democracy to provide a more just and equitable society for all.

 

Announcing CIVICUS new Board Officers

After an energetic and engaging Board Meeting we are proud to announce new Board Officers for the term of 2013-2016 below.

Board Chair & Chair of the Executive Committee
Nyarardzayi Gumbonzvanda 
Follow Nyarardzayi on Facebook and Twitter @NyaradzayiGumbo

Vice Chair
Feliciano Reyna 
Follow Feliciano on Twitter, @fjreyna 

Secretary
Elisa Peter 
Follow Elisa on Twitter, @elisapeter 

Treasurer & Chair of the Operations Committee
Uygar Özesmi 
Follow Uygar on Twitter, @uygarozesmi 

The Chair of the Governance & Membership Committee will be Anabel Cruz. Follow Anabel on Facebook.

The CIVICUS Board is keen to engage with CIVICUS members and partners to lead, guide and advise the organisation as it moves forward in engaging and advocating for civil society worldwide. Watch this space!

 

Nasiruddin Elan, Bangladeshi activist, detained and at risk of torture

It is with extreme alarm that CIVICUS demands the Bangladeshi government halt its campaign of harassment against Odhikar, Bangladesh’s leading human rights organization. Odhikar has been drawing attention to human rights abuses since 1994.

elan bhai 
Odhikar’s Director, Nasiruddin Elan, and its Secretary, Adilur Rahman Khan, stand accused of committing offences under the controversial and recently amended Information and Communication Technology Act 2006. Nasiruddin Elan’s plea for bail was rejected this morning by the Cyber Crimes Tribunal which ordered that Elan be detained and taken to jail.
 
CIVICUS is deeply concerned that Nasiruddin is at risk of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment whilst in detention, and that Adilur Rahman Khan, currently released on bail, is in danger of further politically motivated harassment on spurious charges constructed by the state.
 
CIVICUS reiterates its call to the Bangladeshi authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Adil and Elan and to end all harassment against Odhikar.
 
For more information please contact

 

UN expert says elections cannot be legitimate if freedoms of peaceful assembly and association are curtailed

A Global Update by the Civic Space Initiative

The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) welcomes the recent report on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of elections by Mr. Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association (UNSR).  The report was presented to the United National General Assembly (UNGA) on October 29. 

In his presentation of the report, Mr. Kiai stated that he had received “numerous complaints from individuals and groups concerning the excessive force used by law enforcement officials in dispersing protests that advocate for electoral reform or challenge election results.”  He argued that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are often violated before, during, or after elections particularly in a highly tense political environment.  As “the electoral process is a major avenue” for citizens to participate in democratic governance and “elections confer legitimacy on governments,” he urges UN Member States to ensure the conduct of legitimate elections by protecting those rights.

FreeAssembly dot netCoinciding with the presentation of the report, Mr. Kiai launched FreeAssembly.net, which will serve as a portal for information related to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  The October 29 report to the UNGA, along with his previous reports to the UN Human Rights Council, is available on this website. It also includes press releases and public statements by Mr. Kiai as well as information related to countries that he has visited or seeks to visit.  Through the website, various stakeholders, especially civil society groups and national human rights institutions, can communicate and share their information directly with UNSR.

 

No more time outs from poverty - Case Study

Living In a Shanty Town (L.I.S.T)

No more time outs from poverty
27 June 2013
Nairobi, Kenya

In the absence of active engagement with slum dwellers and serious consideration of their points of view and aspirations, most poverty alleviation and youth empowerment programs fail to offer a real chance for breaking the poverty cycle. This dialogue aimed at sparking a conversation between stakeholders that don't usually interact directly with each other in order to jointly share views on how to tackle poverty in Kibera, Nairobi's biggest slum, identifying who can play a role in that change and exploring ways of further engagement with the hope to build and validate an otherwise unlikely partnership. It was hoped that such a dialogue could shift the relations between the beneficiaries of poverty alleviation programs and donors and government agencies.

 

Incoming CIVICUS Board of Directors 2013-2016

Dear CIVICUS member,

I am writing to you as the current Chair of CIVICUS Board of Directors. As an outgoing Board Member, I am also on the Nominations Committee. The Nominations Committee was established by the CIVICUS Board of Directors to oversee the nominations and elections process for the CIVICUS Board of Directors 2013-2016. The Nominations Committee was given the very challenging task of reviewing the large amount of nominations received, selecting a maximum of 26 candidates that reflected the diversity and balance we seek for the CIVICUS Board and reviewing the election ballots received from CIVICUS voting members.

I am very pleased to announce the incoming CIVICUS Board of Directors. The exceptional quality and talent of the candidates on the ballot paper was reflected in a very tight election. The Nominations Committee examined the election results closely, which resulted in a multi-person tie for the 13th position. To avoid this tie-break, the Nominations Committee ultimately decided to elect 14 candidates to work on the Board of Directors. The names of elected candidates can be found below.

CIVICUS Board of Directors 2013-2016

      Anabel Cruz      Uygar Özesmi       
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda Elisa Peter
Nabila Hamza   Feliciano Reyna
Wael Hmaidan João Felipe Scarpelini
Joanna Kerr Caroline Usikpedo-Omoniye
Anselmo Lee Pauline Wanja
Anne Firth Murray Sam Worthington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We are hoping that most of the newly elected Board Members will be able to join CIVICUS in Johannesburg for the first Board Meeting this November, when they will take on their official duties as elected CIVICUS representatives.

Many thanks to all CIVICUS members for participating in this important process. We received a record number of nominations, and had a large voter turnout in the elections.

Yours sincerely,
 David Bonbright Signature
David Bonbright
Chair, Board of Directors
Member, Nominations Committee

 

CIVICUS speaks to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights - Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona

Magdalena CarmonaAhead of the release of her next report due to be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014, CIVICUS speaks to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights - Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona. 


1)    What is the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights?

My role is part of one of the so-called “United Nations special procedures”. Special Procedures are human rights monitoring mechanisms established by the UN Human Rights Council and endorsed to individual experts called “Special Rapporteurs”, “Independent Experts” or “Working Groups", whose common mandate is the investigation and reporting of human rights situations either in a specific territory (country mandates) or with regard to a phenomena of violations (thematic mandates).

The scope of the action of special procedures is truly universal: all the States of the world are monitored by these bodies and they cover civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. As mandate holders, we report on our activities and findings to the most important United Nations bodies dealing with human rights, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. We also carry out country visits to investigate the situation of human rights in specific domestic contexts. We are independent, we serve in our personal capacity, and we do not receive salaries or any other financial compensation for our work.

2)    How would you describe your working relationship with civil society and how can they make better use of your mechanism to advance human rights of vulnerable groups?

Creating linkages with civil society and using the mandate on extreme poverty as a platform for civil society issues is a definite priority for me as Special Rapporteur. I see immense value in collaborating with and taking up issues being pursued by civil society organisations and grassroots movements. I have enjoyed very productive working relationships with a number of civil society organisations to date, both with respect to my thematic reports and to my country missions, where collaboration with civil society is an essential element of a successful mission.

 

CIVICUS Webinar: "A new paradigm shift for development: views from civil society"

When: 12PM GMT, 23 October 2013 Where: Online

CIVICUS is pleased to invite you to webinar on "a new paradigm shift for development" which will bring together representatives of civil society organisations to discuss the need for a new approach to development and key reforms needed in global governance. More specifically, the webinar will seek to address the following questions:

  • Why is a new paradigm shift for development necessary?
  • How should key global institutions be reformed to reflect this new shift?
  • How can the voices of citizens be included in decision-making processes?

Please use the following link to register for the event: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/5jmmo7ed08hc&eom

Presenters:

Gina Govender, former trade unionist and anti-apartheid activist
Antonella Valmorbida, Association of Local Democracy Agencies
Aldo Caliari, Rethinking Bretton Woods Project
Jenni Williams, Women Of Zimbabwe Arise
Myrna Cunningham, Indigenous Rights Activist
CESR

Moderator: CIVICUS

For more information, contact:
Lerato Pagiwa, CIVICUS Communication Officer:
David Kode, CIVICUS Policy and Advocacy Officer:

 

Prominent Bangladeshi civil society activist released on bail!

On October 11th, Adilur Rahman Khan, Secretary of Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar, was released on bail following over one month in pre-trial detention.
    Adil free        
Adil was originally arrested on 10 August 2013 in apparent reprisal for publishing reports critical of the government’s response to May 2013 demonstrations in Dhaka in which over 60 people were reportedly killed.

While CIVICUS welcomes the decision to release Adil on bail, we reiterate our call that the government drop all charges against him and end the harassment of Odhikar and other human rights defenders persecuted for their legitimate work.

For more information please visit the CIVICUS Civil Society Behind Bars page

 

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