CIVICUS Alert: USA: Investigate incidents and protect the right to protest

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the Government of the United States of America to thoroughly investigate instances of heavy-handed action by police officers in dealing with protests against the killing of black individuals by law-enforcement agents.


The international community must keep watch on Mexico’s violations of human rights

yesicaCIVICUS speaks to Yésica Sánchez Maya about the recent repression of the teachers’ protest in Oaxaca and the situation of human rights defenders in Mexico. Sánchez Maya is a member of the leading team of the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Fairness in Oaxaca, and a member of the organisation’s Program of Movement Building and Public Advocacy.


Twenty-Six NGOs Call for Immediate and Unconditional Release of Bahraini Human Rights De-fender Nabeel Rajab, Prior to His Trial

NabeelRajabTomorrow, 12 July 2016, the trial of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab begins. Facing charges related to comments on the social media website Twitter, Rajab may be sentenced to more than ten years in prison. We, the undersigned NGOs, hold the government of Bahrain responsible for the dete-rioration of Rajab’s health due to poor detention conditions. We call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab, and to drop all charges against him.


Closure of Zambia’s Post newspaper a worry for freedom of expression

LewisMwapeCIVICUS speaks to Zambian civil society activist Lewis Mwape of The Zambian Social Development network. Recently, the government tax body attempted to close the outspoken Post newspaper and banned protests and rallies in Lusaka for 10 days until 18 July 2016. This led to a huge outcry from civil society that the state is clamping down on freedom of expression ahead of the Zambian general election in August. In this interview Mwape speaks about the state of freedom of expression in the country and the general operating environment for civil society ahead of the poll.

1. Can you detail what happened this month concerning the closure of Zambia’s biggest daily newspaper The Post?

In June agents from the Zambia Revenue Authority pounced on the offices of the post and closed the paper saying it owes taxes. It is also important to note that the newspaper argues that most of its debt had been settled before the raid. While I must highlight that it maybe true that the Post owes money, the timing and style of the pouncing raises concerns. Ahead of the elections, this newspaper was a critical voice providing information to citizens to balance out information they receive from the state media.

Failure to pay tax by any institution is unlawful. However, I get worried when government institutions are used to victimise those perceived to be opponents of the party in power. In many circumstances those that have accumulated huge tax arrears have been once friends of the same governments and sometimes same political parties that saw no problem in not paying tax but they are now persecuted because their opinion has changed. Victimisation is not the answer.


Catastrophic human rights situation in Bangladesh

CIVICUS recently spoke to a civil society activist in Bangladesh, who asked to remain anonymous, on the recent events in the country, including the recent killing of academics and bloggers and the implications for civic space.

1. Can you give background to what happened earlier this year when academics and bloggers were hacked to death in the country?

The political turmoil in Bangladesh threatens the freedom of expression, assembly and of association and a huge number of human rights violations are taking place, such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, targeted killings and mass arrest among others. The members of the opposition political parties mainly Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jaamat-e-Islami, dissenting voices and the young people make up the majority of victims of human rights violations. The present government came to the power through controversial and farcical elections in January 2014 which were boycotted by all major political parties, and as a result, political confrontations have increased. The government has become more repressive in order to keep power at any cost. The rule of law is non-existent. Therefore there is a huge political vacuum which allows for political extremism to grow. At the same time the government wants to project itself as the only custodian of “secularism” and therefore seeks to project the mainstream political opponents and the anti-government youth as “extremist” so that it can use lethal actions to silence them.


CIVICUS Alert: Guatemala: Life-threatening situation for civil society activists and journalists

In a matter of a month, a trade union lawyer, an indigenous land rights activist, and two journalists were murdered in Guatemala. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the life-threatening situation for civil society activists and journalists in the country.

The most recent, Brenda Marleni Estrada Tambito, a legal advisor to the Guatemalan union federation UNSITRAGUA, was followed and shot five times from a moving car in Guatemala City on 19 June.  On 8 June, indigenous leader Daniel Choc Pop, a member of the Highlands Peasants’ Committee in the San Juan Los Tres Ríos community of the department of Alta Verapaz, was killed by a security guard during an alleged invasion of a private ranch. The day before, 7 June, Víctor Hugo Valdés Cardona, who directed a culture and news programme on local television, was shot dead outside his home in Chiquimula. A week earlier, on 30 May, a radio host named Diego Salomón Esteban Gaspar had been intercepted and shot dead while riding his motorcycle in Ixcán. 


Addressing exclusion an urgent political issue, says new report

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  • The 2016 State of Civil Society Report, produced by CIVICUS, provides a comprehensive `year in review’ as well as 33 guest essays focusing on the topic of exclusion. 
  • Addressing exclusion is an urgent political issue, which gained renewed emphasis with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.
  • In the past year, civil society responded to profound human rights abuses caused by conflicts and worked to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters, yet faces major challenges including dubious attempts to silence dissenting voices.
  • CIVICUS documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015.

In an increasingly unequal world where human rights are being undermined, civil society is challenging exclusion in innovative ways. 

“Much of civic life is about promoting inclusion. It is about amplifying the voices of the marginalised, tackling the causes of discrimination, and promoting equal rights and access to services,” said Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary-General on launching the organisation’s 2016 State of Civil Society Report. “But, for many millions of people exclusion remains a painful, everyday reality.” 


Egypt: Civil society faces existential threat

In recent months, civil society in Egypt has faced unprecedented attacks by the authorities, who are attempting to crush them. Many people working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been detained and ill-treated, charged with offences under the draconian Counter-terrorism law, or subject to a judicial request to ban them from travel and freeze their assets. The undersigned 11 international non-governmental organizations urge the Egyptian authorities to end such attacks against human rights defenders and uphold their obligations under international and Egyptian law, and to respect the right of human rights defenders, individually and in association with others, to work for the protection and realization of human rights. 


South Korea breaching the right to protest

south korea - lae-goon park295X295CIVICUS speaks to Lae-goon Park, director general of Human Rights Center (SARAM) and a steering committee member of Coalition 4.16 on the Sewol Ferry Disaster, about the environment for civil society and the ongoing mass protest movement in South Korea. Park was recently sentenced to three years in prison for exercising his legitimate right to protest.

Q: A protest movement has emerged in South Korea in response to the government’s failure to adequately investigate the causes of 2014 Sewol Ferry disaster, in which hundreds of children drowned. Can you tell us about the origins and current state of the movement?

When the Sewol Ferry sank off the South-West Coast of South Korea on 16 April 2014, people voluntarily held a series of candlelight vigils across the country, calling for the safe return of the passengers. However, when 304 people were discovered dead (including nine who remain missing), these candlelight vigils evolved into protests criticising the government’s failed rescue measures and calling for an independent investigation into the tragedy. Based on these protests, and pan-national petition campaigns, the Special Law on the Sewol Ferry Tragedy was enacted in November 2014 creating an independent investigative body into the tragedy, the Special Investigation Committee. The investigative was expected sanction those responsible, and establish a framework of laws to enhance due diligence for public safety. However, the government is not fully cooperating with the Special Investigation Committee and has attempted to undermine its independence and efficacy by appointing pro-government officials, not allocating sufficient resources and or allowing full access to all necessary sources of evidence and information. In addition, the ruling party has issued a number of public statements critical of the work of the Special Investigation Committee in attempts to undermine its credibility.


Core Civil Society Rights Violated in 109 Countries - Civil Society Watch Report

CSW ReportCoverThe latest CIVICUS monitoring shows that in 2015 one or more of the core civil society freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly were seriously violated in at least 109 countries. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS has documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015.

The list shows that instead of heeding calls to reverse the trend of closing civil society space, more and more states are failing their commitments under international law and reneging on their duty to protect and enable civil society. Several non-state actors also stand accused of seriously violating civil society freedoms.

The following table briefly summarises the nature of the violations captured in this report:


Repression hinders growth of civic space in Nicaragua



CIVICUS speaks to the executive team of Coordinadora Civil, a national articulation platform formed in Nicaragua in 1998 for emergency relief assistance as Hurricane Mitch hit the region. Its mission later adapted to the changing needs of Nicaraguan civil society, and it is currently a coordination body encompassing NGOs, territorial networks, trade associations, youth groups and social organisations with a focus on human rights, gender, and cultural and generational diversity

1. The Interoceanic Canal seems to have become the main object of claims in Nicaragua. Is there free and open discussion on this and other issues affecting the population and how has the government reacted to protests?

In Nicaragua there is a lot of debate going on, that is promoted both by individual experts and by civil society organisations such as Coordinadora Civil, and social movements such as the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which brings together the peasant communities that would be displaced from their land if the Interoceanic Canal is built. Through different mechanisms these various actors have developed a wide variety of actions to inform citizens about the law, bring up discussion around the information disseminated by the Chinese company in charge of the project, HKND, and circulate studies and evaluations conducted by state agencies, academic institutions as well as local and international independent scientists.


After the media, Sudan’s intelligence body clamps down on civic space

sudan-interview485X381In light of the recent crackdown on students protesting peacefully in Sudan, attacks on civil society organisations and judicial persecution of human rights defenders, CIVICUS speaks to a Sudanese human rights defender, who asked to remain anonymous, to shed light on the challenging environment in which civil society operates.

Q: How would you describe the state of human rights in Sudan at the moment?

There are a number of urgent human rights challenges that Sudan faces at the moment and with some it has been facing  for a long time. These human rights challenges are compounded by economic and political crises. To start with, the Human Rights Commission, created as a mechanism to protect and promote human rights is very weak. There are consistent violations of the rights to expression, association and assembly and these restrictions are at variance with international human rights standards.


Despite violent repression, we continue protesting for change - Camila Rojas (FECh)



CIVICUS speaks to Camila Rojas, a public administration student and the president of the biggest student federation in Chile, that of the University of Chile (FECh), about the environment for activism and the reasons why protests usually turn violent and are repressed in the country

1. From your experience in the student movement, what do you think are the causes of violence in demonstrations in Chile?

For many years now Chilean society has been mobilised around the social right to education, with milestones in 2006, when high school students mobilised massively, and 2011, when even more massive mobilisation at all levels led to a social movement for public education. This movement managed to maintain its autonomy and prevented its demands from being processed in the neoliberal terms that are typical of the Concertación, the centre-left coalition that has ruled the country for almost the entire post-transition democratic period. However, over the years successive governments have been unable to satisfactorily respond to our demands, since they did not have the political will to jointly work on reforms. All of this happened in the context of a system that daily oppresses us and takes away our sovereignty over our own lives by subjecting everything to the rules of the market and therefore contributing to the build-up of violence.


LGBT activists in Tunisia under pressure

In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a Tunisian activist who works for an LGBT organisation speaks about the conditions for LGBT activists and organisations in Tunisia. CIVICUS also asked her about the general situation for civil society post-revolution and post the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Tunisian civil society actors half a year ago.

1. What are the conditions for civil society organisations and human rights defenders working on LGBT issues in Tunisia?

There is currently a public campaign against LGBT persons and civil society activists and organisations working on LGBT issues on national television claiming that we are a threat to Muslim and Arabic identity. This has led to increased aggression against LGBT activists in the streets and especially those activists who go on television to speak about LGBT issues. Some activists have also been beaten in public spaces. The campaign against LGBT activists has not only been supported by ordinary people but also by the military and police who have said that they would fight against LGBT people where they meet them. Some LGBT activists have even been expelled from their schools and universities. The LGBT people and activists who look a bit different to what are gender norms in Tunisia, such as women with short hair, people with piercings or a man who is a bit feminine, can be arrested at check points.


Papua New Guinea: Investigate violence against peaceful protesters

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to respect the right to protest peacefully and condemns the use of extreme violence by security forces in PNG to supress demonstrations by students. 

On 8 June 2016 lethally armed police attacked student protestors with live ammunition as they demonstrated peacefully from the University of PNG’s Waingani Campus in Port Moresby.  The protesters had planned to march from their campus to Parliament.  At least 38 protesters were injured, several of them with bullet wounds and some remain in a critical condition. Other protesting students were physically assaulted as the police attempted to disperse them.  


Environmental matters a risky affair for Kenyan activists

PhyllisOmidoCIVICUS speaks to Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan grassroots environmental activist about the challenges faced by activists for environmental rights in the country. She is a co- founder of the Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), an organisation that advocates for the rights of marginalised communities in the coastal belt of Kenya. She was Africa’s recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 and is known for organising protests and shutting down a lead smelting plant located in the middle of Owino Uhuru, a slum near Mombasa.

1. Can you explain the rise in numbers of environmental rights activists in Kenya and the circumstances they are operating under?

The main cause for the rise in the numbers of environmental rights activists  is business encroaching on human territory, pollution, displacement of communities by the state and corporate activities, wanton destruction of mangrove trees and deviation of water bodies among other reasons. This affects the livelihoods of poor communities forcing them to seek protection of their fundamental rights. When trying to follow available channels to advocate for rights, access to information, lack of public participation and access to justice are impeded by business with facilitation of the state.


Help us shed light on the situation in Venezuela: Diana Vegas(Sinergia)


CIVICUS speaks to Diana Vegas, the vice-president of Sinergia, a Venezuelan organisation that aims at expanding spaces for citizen participation, providing a space for civil society articulation and strengthening civil society.

1. There have recently been many news reports regarding the State of Emergency decree, skyrocketing inflation, food shortages and increasing violence in Venezuela. How are these developments affecting civic space in the country?

Indeed, several concurrent crises are having an impact on Venezuelans’ daily lives. Their effects include a hike in poverty (a survey jointly conducted by several universities has revealed that up to 75% of the population are poor, while structural poverty is almost 30%), deteriorating working conditions, one of the highest inflation rates in the world, shortages of basic goods including food and medicine, deteriorating health and education services, increased fear, and loss of public space. The main response of the State to all of these has been systematic repression. The most central explanatory element of these severe crises lies in the institutional destruction caused by arbitrariness and the prevalence of social relations based on force. Today Venezuela is among the countries with the highest proportion of violent deaths in the world: in 2015, the homicide rate was 90 per 100 000 inhabitants, a historical record.


Joint Statement: Venezuela Should Revoke Emergency Decree


The international community should press Venezuela to revoke the recent “State of Exception and Emergency Decree” that granted the government powers to restrict rights, suspend international cooperation for civil society groups, including human rights organizations, and limit the constitutional powers of the National Assembly, 125 human rights and civil society organizations from around the world said today.


Ethiopia: End use of counter-terrorism law to persecute dissenters and opposition members



The Ethiopian Government must end its escalating crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media, peaceful protestors as well as members and leaders of the political opposition through the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) says a group of civil society organisations (CSOs).

“The government’s repression of independent voices has significantly worsened as the Oromo protest movement has grown,” said Yared Hailemariam, Director of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE). “The international community should demand the end of this state-orchestrated clampdown and the immediate release of peaceful critics to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.”


What Argentina’s government can do to improve civic space




Fernando Bracaccini a lawyer and coordinator of the Area for the Strengthening of Democratic Institutions at ACIJ (Civil Association for Equality and Justice), a non-profit organisation, speaks to CIVICUS on the environment for civil society organisations in Argentina. The ACIJ was founded in 2002 to defend the principles of the national Constitution and the rule of law, back all struggles against discrimination, promote legislation favouring the most disadvantaged groups, and developing participatory and deliberative democratic practices in Argentina. 

1. Following two recent incidents – the arrest of social activist Milagro Sala in the Jujuy Province and the drafting of a so-called “anti-protest protocol” – to what extent are the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly threatened in Argentina? 

Although these two events are different, arising from disparate decisions and jurisdictions, both have had a restrictive effect on the right to protest. Even though legal charges were actually raised against Milagro Sala, the fact remains that the decision to arrest her was based solely on her participation in the protest that took place on 14 December 2015. ACIJ publicly stated that this was an arbitrary restriction of the right to protest. The decision is also a show of the lack of independence of the judiciary in many Argentine provinces.


Alert: State of emergency in Venezuela

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is concerned about the negative impact of Venezuela’s “state of exception and economic emergency” on civil society freedoms. On 13 May 2016 President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree calling for  the state of exception on the basis that “extraordinary circumstances of social, economic, political, natural and ecological nature […] seriously affect the constitutional order, social peace, national security, public institutions and citizens of the Republic.” 


Resilience of Kyrgyzstan CSOs pays off as parliament throws out ‘foreign agents’ Bill

DinaraOshurahunovaDinara Oshurahunova, of the NGO Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, speaks with CIVICUS on recently failed attempts in Kyrgyzstan to pass a foreign agents law and the civil society environment in the country

1. Could you tell us more about the draft Foreign Agents Law that was rejected by Parliament on May 12 in its final reading?

In 2013 the draft Foreign Agents Law was first introduced. The law would mandate NGOs that are funded by foreign resources to register as “foreign agents”. Additionally, the draft law opened the door for the prosecution of NGOs engaged in “political activities”. The notion of "political activities" was vaguely worded in the draft law meaning it was open to different interpretations. Since then the draft law went through changes: the term "foreign agent" was removed, while the provision regarding "political activity" was also eliminated. The recently rejected version of the draft law imposes heavy reporting requirements for NGOs.


Justice for Land Rights Activist, Sikhosiphi Rhadebe: Civil Society writes open letter to South African President Zuma

Nearly two hundred civil society organisations from 74 countries, including South Africa, have written an open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma to mark the second-month anniversary of the brutal assassination of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe. Mr Rhadebe was killed on 22 March 2016 by unknown assailants using firearms.


Still a small window open to reverse China’s new NGO law

In this anonymous interview with CIVICUS, a human rights defender working for a civil society organisation in China details what China’s new NGO Law means and its likely impact on NGOs. Although the law was passed in April and should take effect in January 2017, it can be repealed if the President is convinced not to sign the order to enact it.

Q: Please detail briefly what China’s new NGO law says for local and foreign NGOs

First of all, it has to be clarified that calling the law the “foreign NGOs” as has been peddled in most media is a misleading translation. In its original Chinese language, the law is literally about “extra-territorial” not “foreign” NGOs, meaning that it covers NGOs in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as China sees it.


Free Emirati human rights defender Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, on trial for online posts in violation of his right to free expression

قراءة بيان باللغة العربية

We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the authorities to immediately release human rights defender and professor of economics Dr. Nasser Bin Ghaith, who remains in detention in an unknown location in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his social media posts and human rights activities. He has been denied proper access to his lawyer or family since his arrest in August 2015, and reportedly subject to torture in custody. The continued detention and charges violate his human rights, including his right to free expression.


Swazi monarch a barrier to a vibrant civil society

ThulaniMasekoCIVICUS speaks to Thulani Rudolf Maseko, a human rights defender and founding member of the Lawyers for Human Rights, Swaziland about persistent civic space challenges in the Kingdom of Swaziland and his experiences as a victim of the actions of monarchy. He spoke to us on the sidelines of a side event on Swaziland at the United Nations Human Rights Council

1. What are some of the human rights challenges faced by Swazis?

The main problem for Swaziland is the lack of a democratic space for the people to express themselves. The system of government is one based on the supremacy of the King and royal institutions. It is now generally acknowledged that a system that concentrates power in one center is inconsistent with the ideals of the rule of law and democratic governance. Supremacy anywhere is not in line with the respect, promotion, protection and fulfilment of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It is significant to mention that the problem with Swaziland started on 12 April 1973 when King Sobhuza unlawfully repealed the Constitution, dissolved Parliament and assumed all state and governmental power. His son, King Mswati III who assumed power on April 25, 1986 reaffirmed this position as soon as he had assumed the throne in 1987 when he promulgated Decree No. 1 of 1987. Through this amendment Proclamation, he confirmed that in terms of Swazi law and custom, the King is the supreme power in Swaziland.


Global Day of Citizen Action: thousands gathering in over 35 countries to protect their fundamental freedoms

Today, citizens will be gathering in streets and squares around the world to exercise their fundamental rights to speak out, organise and take action on issues affecting their everyday lives. The events are being organised as part of the Global Day of Citizen Action, which is bringing together thousands of citizens in over 35 countries across approximately 80 events to raise awareness about the importance of civic space and the role of citizens in driving change within their communities and governments.


Battle for natural resources endangers Guatemala’s CSOs

CarmenAidaIbarraCarmen Aída Ibarra (pictured) is the Executive Director of the Pro Justicia Movement Coalition, a grouping of citizen participants that brings together three civil society organisations fighting impunity in Guatemala. She speaks to CIVICUS about the operating environment for civil society in the country. 

Read the interview in English or Spanish


Justice for Sikhosiphi Rhadebe

Sikhosiphi-Rhadebe3As you may be aware, 22 May 2016, will mark the second-month anniversary of South African community and land rights activist Sikhosiphi Rhadebe’s brutal murder in the Eastern Cape province. To mark this sad occasion, we are hoping to get a critical mass of civil society organisations from around the world to express their solidarity through a sign on letter.  

Mr Rhadebe was the chair of the Amadiba Crisis Committee which is engaged in an unequal struggle against titanium mining operations in South Africa’ s pristine Wild Coast region. The local community is concerned that dust generated by open cast mining will cause severe health problems and use up scarce communal water sources. Mining activities could also possibly lead to relocation of the local community and interfere with agricultural activities.


Azerbaijan: Civic space in focus as country is listed as ‘inactive’ by OGP

Publish What You Pay (PWYP), ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS welcome yesterday’s unprecedented decision by the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to list Azerbaijan as ‘inactive'.  Through this decision, the OGP – a voluntary initiative promoting government transparency and accountability – reaffirms how vital civil society is for an open government and the importance that OGP members attach to the protection of civic space.


Alert: CIVICUS urges respect for civil society freedoms in Mauritania

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the authorities in Mauritania to release blogger and freelance journalist Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed and overturn a death sentence against him upheld by the Appeals Court in Nouadhibou on 21 April 2016. In upholding the sentence, the Appeals Court referred the case to the Supreme Court, which has the authority to repeal the sentence or reduce it.


Activists honoured for their innovation and impact

Bogotá 28 April 2016; Three activists from India, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone were awarded the coveted Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award, honoring their ground-breaking work on social issues. The winners were publicly announced at the Awards ceremony held on 28 April as part of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which was hosted by CIVICUS in collaboration with the Confederación Colombiana de ONG, from 25 to 28 April 2016in Bogotá, Colombia. 


joint letter to King of Bahrain on the arrest of Zainab Al-Khawaja

Dear King Hamad,

We, the undersigned Bahraini and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), would like to unequivocally condemn your government’s arrest of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja along with her infant son. The implementation of Ms. Al-Khawaja’s prison sentence for merely exercising her right to free expression and assembly amounts to arbitrary detention is wholly unacceptable. While Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa indicated an intention to release her, she has not yet been freed from prison and we are concerned that these arbitrary charges remain against her. We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to secure her immediate and unconditional release.


Effort of Colombia’s civil society in peace negotiations not acknowledged




CIVICUS speaks to Carlos A Guevara coordinates the information

system for Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders), a non-governmental protection program for human rights defenders in Colombia. He is a journalist, audio-visual producer and social communicator specialising in human rights, armed conflict, public opinion, digital rights, peace building and humanitarian assistance based on the “do no harm” principle. He has extensive experience in supporting, training and consulting with social and human rights organisations in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico on issues of advocacy, management of public opinion and human rights, communication for protection, risk analysis, self-protection and management of communications in crisis situations.

1. What is the current status of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the guerrillas?

The negotiation process with the world’s oldest guerrilla group, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) began in 2012 and has so far produced many results. Some people remain sceptical but the truth is that agreements have already been reached regarding the most sensitive issues, such as illicit crops, drug trafficking and reparations for victims. The last issues are being addressed including physical safety for those who demobilise. Two days ago another very positive development took place, as the ELN (National Liberation Army), the other guerrilla group that still stands in Colombia, announced the establishment of a second dialogue table that is going to start working on the basis of what has already been negotiated with the FARC. Merging both tables however does not seem feasible because the two guerrilla movements are quite different in both aims and structure: the FARC are much larger and have more territorial power and a vertical structure, while the ELN’s more horizontal structure means that negotiations and decision-making processes are more complicated and take longer.


Weak judicial system makes being a human rights defender in Honduras risky


RolandoBuCIVICUS speaks to Rolando Bú, the director of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH), a civil society umbrella organisation that brings together 86 Honduran NGOs. He has over 26 years of experience in civil society and volunteers at environmental and youth support NGOs. He discusses the security situation for Honduran human rights defenders and what can be done to improve the environment NGOs operate in.

1. Several recent assassinations of human rights defenders seem to corroborate the description of Honduras as the most dangerous country in the world for indigenous and environmental activists. What are the obstacles faced by human rights activists in Honduras?

The climate of insecurity in Honduras has multiple causes. One of the biggest problems is the fact that judicial institutions are weak, which makes them very vulnerable to penetration by organised crime ─ which in turn has grown exponentially over the last decade. These infiltrated institutions have not been able to prevent or promptly investigate killings, which has been apparent in the cases of human rights defenders assassinated for their work for land rights and against the exploitation of natural resources. Another, closely related factor is the concession of environmental licences allowing large domestic and foreign companies to make large investments to exploit those natural resources, often to the detriment of the ancestral territories of indigenous people.


Still a long road ahead for Cuban civil society


Armando Chaguaceda Noriega is a Cuban political scientist and historian who specialises in the study of civil society and the political regimes of Cuba and other ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas) countries. He has extensive experience of participating, both in his native country and in other parts of Latin America, in several organisations and activists’ networks built around a progressive, anti-authoritarian perspective. He is a member of Amnesty International and a professor at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico.

1.  After decades of isolation, Cuba returns to the Organization of American States and has received the visits of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Do you think this “opening to the world” will have any short- or medium-term effects in respect of democratic reforms or civil society freedoms?


A Human Rights Agenda for the next United Nations Secretary-General

letter to secretary general

The new Secretary-General of the United Nations will inherit a significant array of human rights challenges, and must urgently deal with the capability of United Nations institutions to protect and promote human rights globally. It is vitally important that she or he places human rights at the heart of the United Nations’ agenda.


Media statement on Chad: Release civil society activists ahead of April 10 elections

Ahead of the Chadian presidential elections scheduled for 10 April 2016, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the release of five arbitrarily detained civil society activists. The activists have been detained for peacefully opposing the candidature of incumbent President General Idriss Déby Itno, who is also the current rotating chair of the African Union.


CIVICUS ALERT: EU must not overlook rights violations in Turkey

Even as the European Union (EU) finalised its refugee agreement with the Turkish government, freedom of expression and civil society space continue to shrink in the country. CIVICUS urges the EU not to compromise its core values in its cooperation with Turkey. 

Part of the refugee plan includes speeding up Turkey’s accession process to the EU, but such steps are usually conditioned by positive human rights developments. On the contrary, democratic rights violations are currently becoming commonplace in Turkey, with security forces acting with impunity. 

The media is facing an unprecedented crackdown in Turkey. Authorities have severely restricted the operations of newspapers perceived to be supportive of the political opposition by taking over their management, imposing heavy fines, and preventing their distribution. Several TV channels have been forced off the air. 


Joint NGO Statement Urging a Halt of Pre-Election Civil Society Crackdown in Equatorial Guinea

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The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea should immediately cease its suppression of independent voices ahead of presidential elections, a group of human rights and democracy organizations said today. The government should also reverse its March 16, 2016 order requiring a leading independent civic group to suspend operations indefinitely, the groups said.


CIVICUS condemns sentencing of 17 Angolan activists, urges their release

The Provincial Court of Luanda sentenced 17 Angolan youth activists to prison sentences ranging from between two to over eight years on Monday for engaging in “preparation of a rebellion and criminal association.” CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, strongly condemns this latest instance of repression by Angola’s totalitarian state apparatus, headed by president José Eduardo dos Santos since 1979.


Media statement: Recent attacks on South African civil society worrying

South Africa may be celebrating human rights month to commemorate the sacrifices made in the struggle for democracy, yet attacks on rights defenders point to a worrying trend for civil society. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on South Africa’s government to treat two recent incidents with utmost seriousness. 


One year after abduction, calls to “#BringBack” Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara yield little


March 2016 marks a year since Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara’s enforced disappearance. Itai (pictured) is the founder of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement. His protest style included sitting in the Africa Unity Square in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, with posters calling for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation and respect of human rights. In Harare recently, CIVICUS spoke to Patson Dzamara, who is brother to Itai, on the activism work of his brother and efforts to locate Itai.



1. Tell us about Itai’s background

Itai is a journalist by profession and born in 1979. His journalism journey started when he was still in high school. At some point he led the journalism club at his school, Highfileds High One School. He studied journalism soon after his Advanced-Levels. After completing his studies, he worked for various publications including The Zimbabwean, The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent. Itai also founded his own publication, The News Leader.

Some say his activism started when he founded the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement but I do not think that Itai’s activism started with Occupy Africa Unity Square. He has always been an activist even through his writing. When he started Occupy Africa Unity Square, it was just an escalation of his activism. He chose to grab the bull by its horns.

He is married to Sheffra and they have two children, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.




Votre organisation œuvre-t-elle à construire un monde plus juste et plus pacifique? Votre travail contribue-t-il à donner plus de pouvoir aux citoyens et les incite-t-il à prendre des mesures sur les questions qui nous concernent tous?

Si oui, vous pouvez vous inscrire au Concours photo des Citoyens actifs de CIVICUS!

Le concours est organisé dans la perspective de la Semaine internationale de la société civile 2016 selon le principe suivant: «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».

Le concours est ouvert à tous les membres votants de l'Alliance mondiale CIVICUS. Tous les membres votants et membres associés (organisations ou membres individuels) sont invités à soumettre des photos relatives aux thèmes de la conférence : «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».

Admissibilité, juges et prix

Chaque membre votant ou associé(organisation ou membre individuel) peut présenter jusqu'à 3 photos maximum.

  1. Paix : créer des moyens positifs d’influer sur le changement social durable et non-violent, et faire respecter les engagements des droits de l'homme universels;
  2. Environnement favorable: protéger le droit de réunion, de prendre des mesures et de prendre la parole, tout en reconnaissant nos responsabilités et en améliorant notre efficacité;
  3. Inclusion: adopter plusieurs voix et faire preuve d'un courage fondé sur des principes pour traiter des questions controversées en vue d'une véritable représentation et d'actions légitimes;
  4. Participation: créer des opportunités pour un engagement de la société civile significatif en matière de gouvernance et de processus de prise de décision, et tenir les personnes au pouvoir pour redevables.

Au total, trois prix en espèces seront à gagner : un premier prix de 500 $ (USD), et deux seconds prix de 250 $ chacun.

Les gagnants seront sélectionnés par un jury composé de membres du personnel de CIVICUS. Les photos gagnantes seront sélectionnées et les candidats informés des décisions du jury d'ici juin 2016.

Remarque: CIVICUS se réserve le droit de ne pas décerner de prix si les juges estiment qu'il n'y a pas de gagnant

Que recherchons-nous?

Nous recherchons les images qui représentent le mieux la société civile en action et les efforts de nos membres pour protéger et promouvoir l'espace civique. Les photos pourront être affichées lors de l'ICSW 2016, et être également publiées sur les médias sociaux, notamment le site Web, les comptes Twitter et Facebook.

Les photos peuvent également être utilisées pour d'autres publications de CIVICUS et/ou lors d'événements CIVICUS à l'avenir. Les photographes et/ou les organisations qui soumettent les photographies conservent la propriété de toutes les photos, et leur utilisation sera accompagnée des mentions pertinentes à leur égard par CIVICUS.

Nous vous demandons de nous envoyer:

  • Des photos de qualité et fortement évocatrices illustrant les efforts efficaces et enthousiasmants accomplis par et pour la société civile.
  • Des images qui illustrent des actions passionnantes sur les thèmes de la conférence : «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables»
  • Des photos qui racontent une histoire, capturent un moment, ou illustrent les réussites ou les défis de l'action de la société civile.

Gardez à l'esprit que toutes les photos soumises doivent respecter les règles suivantes :

  • Être des œuvres originales du candidat
  • Ne pas enfreindre les droits d’autrui
  • Être respectueuses des droits, des sensibilités et de la culture des personnes représentées
  • Donner une image exacte de l'objet et de la scène du sujet telle qu'elle est apparue, sans modification (autre que l'optimisation standard, notamment l'enlèvement de la poussière, le recadrage, les ajustements de couleur et de contraste, etc.)

Pour obtenir des conseils sur la prise de belles photos, veuillez consulter les pages suivantes:

Les inscriptions débuteront lundi 21 mars 2016 et se clôtureront vendredi 15 avril 2016 à minuit GMT. Les photos présentées après la date de clôture ne seront pas prises en compte.

Règles de participation

  • La participation est limitée aux photos originales dont le candidat (photographe, organisation soumettant les photographies, ou les deux) détient tous les droits.
  • Chaque candidat est limité à la présentation d'un total de 3 photos, accompagnées de la légende descriptive nécessaire pour chaque photo (les photos valides soumises doivent être soumises avec une description d'une ligne à propos de la photographie, et le nom du photographe si le photographe doit être mentionné).
  • Taille du fichier: jusqu'à 2 Mo par photo
  • Format de fichier : JPEG/300 dpi (les gagnants peuvent être invités à fournir des images en plus haute résolution à des fins de publication ou d'affichage).



Lisez les termes et conditions




¿Trabaja tu organización para construir un mundo de paz y más justo? ¿Colabora tu trabajo con el empoderamiento de ciudadanos y ciudadanas para la acción en temas que nos afectan a todos?

Si es así, ¡considera participar en el Concurso Fotográfico de CIVICUS “Ciudadanía Activa”!

El Concurso se desarrolla en el marco de la Semana Internacional de la Sociedad Civil bajo el lema “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”.

El concurso está abierto para todos los miembros de CIVICUS. Miembros (personas y organizaciones) están invitadas a enviar sus propuestas relacionadas con la tema de la conferencia: “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”

Elegibilidad, Jurado y Premios

Cada miembro puede presentar hasta 3 fotos.

Habrá un total de tres premios en metálico: un primer premio de USD 500 (quinientos dólares americanos), y dos segundos premios de USD 250 cada uno (dos cientos cincuenta dólares).

Los ganadores serán seleccionados por un panel integrado por personal de la Secretaría de CIVICUS. Los trabajos ganadores serán seleccionados y las personas concursantes serán informadas de las decisiones del panel en el mes de junio de 2016.

Nota: CIVICUS se reserva el derecho de declarar desierto el concurso si los miembros del jurado la gente a entender que no hay un claro ganador.

¿Qué es lo que estamos buscando?
Estamos buscando las imágenes que mejor representen a la sociedad civil en acción y los esfuerzos de nuestros socios en la promoción del espacio cívico. Las fotos serán exhibidas durante la Semana ICSW2016 y anunciadas en las redes sociales, como por ejemplo sitio web de CIVICUS, su Twitter y su cuenta de Facebook.
Las fotos también podrán ser usadas en el futuro en otras publicaciones de CIVICUS o en eventos organizados por CIVICUS. La propiedad de las fotografías seguirá siendo de las y los artistas que las tomaron o de la organización que las presentó al concurso, y CIVICUS aclarará el uso correspondiente.
Así que por favor pedimos que nos envíen:

  • Fotos enérgicas, contundentes y de alta calidad, que ilustren los esfuerzos efectivos e inspiradores que desarrolla la sociedad civil.
  • Imágenes que ilustren acciones motivadoras dirigidas a lograr “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”
  • Fotos que nos cuenten una historia, que capturen un momento o representen los éxitos o desafíos de acciones de la sociedad civil.

Recuerden que todos los trabajos deben cumplir con ciertas condiciones, a saber:

  • Ser un trabajo original de quien lo presenta
  • No deben contravenir o transgredir los derechos de otras personas / artistas / organizaciones
  • Respetar los derechos, sensibilidades y la cultura de las personas captadas o plasmadas en las obras
  • Entregar una reflexión certera y fidedigna del tema y escena presentadas, sin alteraciones que no sean con el objeto de optimizaciones estándar, ajustes de color o tamaño, contraste, y similares.

Se pueden leer consejos de cómo tomar fotos muy buenas en los siguientes sitios web:

Período de presentación de los trabajos

El período de presentación de trabajos comienza el lunes 21 de marzo de 2016 y culmina el viernes 15 de abril de 2016 a medianoche horario GMT. Los trabajos que se presenten fuera de plazo no serán considerados para el concurso.

Reglamento de presentación de los trabajos

  • Los trabajos a presentarse pueden ser solamente fotos originales, sobre las cuales quien se presenta al concurso (sea la persona fotógrafa, la organización o ambos) tiene todos los derechos.
  • Cada persona u organización puede presentar un máximo de 3 fotografías.
  • Tamaño del archivo: Máximo 2 MB cada foto
  • Formato del archivo: JPEG/300dpi (se puede solicitar a las personas u organizaciones ganadoras que proporcionen imágenes de más alta resolución para fines de publicación o exhibición).



Lea los términos y condiciones



Photos banner less saturation


In the lead-up to International Civil Society Week 2016, CIVICUS launched the Active Citizens Photography Competition, inviting eligible participants to share images of Alliance members in action. We received close to 100 photographs from around the globe showing CIVICUS Members engaging in the civic space in diverse ways.

As expected, CIVICUS Members made the judges’ task a difficult one! But decisions had to be made, and it is with great pleasure that we announce the top 3 photographs, touching upon women’s struggles for equality in political life, children and youth engaging in peace-building and civic space, and promoting acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of the Active Citizens Competition!

The top prize of $500 USD was awarded to Gender Links for this powerful image of women demanding their rightful place in politics.


Caption:Women in Mavula, Swaziland make their voices count during a debate on the equal representation of women in politics.

Photo credit:Thandokuhle Dlamini (for Gender Links)

Rationale:Gender Links (GL) is committed to an inclusive, equal and just society in the public and private space in accordance with the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Protocol on Gender and Development. This vision is achieved through a people-centred approach guided by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing+20 and Africa Agenda 2063. The organisation’s vision is grounded in the ideal that power and responsibility is much more effective than demagogic rule. Whether in the political arena, in the workplace or in the home, there is ample evidence to show that unbridled power is never a healthy state of affairs. GL firmly believes that democracy in our region can only be real if it starts in the home.


winner photographs with badges3

Caption: In celebration of Europe Day in the city of Vinnitsa, a group of girls held a flash mob for tolerance in support of the LGBT community. The girls attracted the attention of passers-by, when together they lifted up their palms painted in rainbow colours.

Photo credit:Evgen Gomoniuk (for Sustainable Development Club)

Rationale: The Sustainable Development Club has implemented the ESKOM project ("Energy Efficiency: Building coalitions on the earth") with the support of the EU. From July 2015, SDC has worked on the "Union parent community Lymaniskoho rural kindergarten to save it from destruction" project. In the autumn of 2015 SDC led the "Our days in the lens" project for training young photographers. Currently, the organisation is completing the project "To be an eco-journalist", which aims to train young activists in the basics of journalism and media literacy.


CaptionYAD’s Kids for Peace project works with the kids, for the kids, by the kids. The picture captures children celebrating that they are peace activists, promoting peace from the start, from childhood until the end of life. This picture was taken after the children took a peace pledge.  

Photo Credit:Atta ul Haq (for Youth Association for Development)

RationaleYAD’s Kids for Peace Pakistan project has a Mission to cultivate every child’s innate ability to foster peace through cross-cultural experiences and hands-on arts, service and environmental projects. The project’s Vision is a safe and peaceful world where all people respect and care for each other and our planet. Kids for Peace serve as a model and inspiration for creating this reality with children leading the way, not only for today, but for generations to come. Our Motto is Kindness Matters.


It was so difficult for the judges to make the final decisions that the panel chose to award three additional “honourable mentions”. These three contestants will be awarded one year’s free Voting Membership to the CIVICUS Alliance.


runnerup2   runnerup4.300X200 
Caption:Eco-campaigners support zero net carbon emissions by 2050 Caption:Peaceful demonstration against terrorism Caption:Making a camouflage net amidst conflict in Ukraine
Photo credit:CliMates ( Photo creditLAM ECHML ( Photo creditIryna Makarova


Syria: Renewed calls for Bassel Khartabil’s release on 4th anniversary of detention

Syria’s authorities should reveal the whereabouts of Bassel Khartabil, a software developer and free speech activist, and release him immediately, 31 organizations said on the fourth anniversary of his detention.


Freedom of expression in Turkey on a slippery slope

Liana VaronCIVICUS speaks to Liana Varon the Deputy Secretary General of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV), a network of over 100 foundations and associations in Turkey on the situation concerning freedom of expression and the environment for CSOs.

1. Can you provide details on the case surrounding the arrest of 27 academics early this year?

Academicians for Peace Initiative was established in 2012 to produce and disseminate academic knowledge on ending armed conflicts and peace building processes through analysing different examples from around the world.  On January 11, 2016 the initiative made public the petition entitled “We will not be a party to this crime!” 



Does your organisation work to build a more just and peaceful world? Does your work help empower and engage citizens to take action on issues that affect us all? 


If so, consider entering the CIVICUS “Active Citizens” Photography Competition!


The competition is being held in the run-up to International Civil Society Week 2016 under the banner: “Active Citizens, Accountable Actions”. 


The competition is open to all voting members of the CIVICUS World Alliance. Voting members (organisations or individual members)  are invited to submit entries relating to the conference’s themes: peace, inclusion, enabling environment, and participation.


Eligibility, Judging & Prizes


Each individual voting member or organisation may submit up to 8 photos (max. 2 photos per category: 

  1. peace: creating positive pathways to affect durable and non-violent social change, and upholding universal human rights commitments; 
  2. enabling environment: protecting the right to come together, take action and speak out, while acknowledging our responsibilities and enhancing our effectiveness;
  3. inclusion: embracing multiple voices and exercising principled courage in addressing controversial issues for true representation and legitimate actions;
  4. participation: creating opportunities for meaningful civil society engagement in governance and decision-making processes, and holding power-bearers to account.. 


There will be a total of three cash prizes: A top prize of $500 (USD), and two runner-up prizes of $250 each. 


Prize winners will be selected by a panel of CIVICUS staff. Winning entries will be selected and contestants informed of the panel’s decisions by June 2016.


Note: CIVICUS reserves the right to not award prizes if the judges rule that there is no winner in a specific category.



What We’re Looking for 


We’re looking for images that best represent civil society in action and our members’ efforts to protect and promote civic space. Photos may be displayed during ICSW 2016, as well as featured on social media, including the CIVICUS website and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels. 


Photos may also be used for other CIVICUS publications and/or at CIVICUS events in the future. Ownership of all photos remains with the photographers and/or the organisations submitting the photographs, and their use will be credited accordingly by CIVICUS. 


So please send us:

  • High quality, powerful photos that illustrate effective and inspiring efforts by and for civil society;
  • Images that illustrate exciting actions towards: i) peace, ii) enabling environment, iii)  inclusion, and iv) participation;
  • Photos that tell a story, capture a moment, or represent the successes or challenges of civil society action.  


Keep in mind that all entries must:

  • Be the original work of the applicant
  • Not infringe on the rights of others
  • Be respectful of the rights, sensitivities, and culture of persons depicted
  • Give an accurate reflection of the subject matter and scene as it appeared, without alteration (other than standard optimization, including removal of dust, cropping, adjustments to colour and contrast, etc.)


You can read tips about what makes a great photo at the following links: 


Entry Period


The entry period starts Wednesday 16 March, 2016 and will close on Friday 8 April 2016 at Midnight GMT. Entries submitted after the closing date will not be considered. 


Submission Rules

  • Entry is limited to original photos to which the applicant (photographer, organisation submitting the photographs, or both) holds all rights.
  • Each applicant is limited to submitting a total of 2 photographs per category (8 in total), with required descriptive caption for every photograph. (Valid entries require a one line description about the photograph, and the photographer’s name, if the photographer is to be credited).
  • File size: Up to 2 MB per photo
  • File format: JPEG/300dpi (Winners may be requested to provide higher resolution images for publication or display purposes.)




Once your application is complete, please upload it here:


Media Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo: CIVICUS urges AU to act on the first anniversary of the imprisonment of youth activists

On the first anniversary of the detention of Congolese youth activists, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the African Union (AU) to demand their immediate and unconditional release, along with several other imprisoned civil society activists.




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