The restriction of basic freedoms has become the global norm

By Cathal Gilbert, CIVICUS Head of Civic Space Research

Imagine inviting your ten closest friends to dinner but only four of them show up. The other six can’t make it because they’ve either been arrested for criticising the government during a protest, are caught up in a protracted legal battle to clear their name after a smear campaign or have gone into hiding because of anonymous threats to their life on social media.

 

Read on: Mail and Guardian 

 

Renewing democracy: proposals and ideas from civil society

By Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Chief Programmes Officer

 If we could reimagine the kind of democracy we live in and the way we experience democracy, what would it look and be like?

This was the question our global civil society alliance CIVICUS put to thought leaders and activists from nearly 80 countries across the globe, in a year-long Reimagining Democracy initiative. Our report entitled, Democracy for all: Beyond a crisis of imagination, draws from insights gleaned from almost 100 interviews, 54 essays and 26 ‘democracy dialogues’ from across the world to discuss the state of democracy.

 Read on: Democracy without borders

 

Turning data-driven accountability into meaningful action for civil society

By Merle Rutz, CIVICUS Accountability and Impact Coordinator

Are we representing and amplifying the right voices? Are our programmes and campaigns geographically inclusive? How can we support our vision with actual data in order to make good strategic decisions?

These are some of the pressing questions we in civil society today are having to ask – and answer. Accountability and data-driven decision-making have become buzz words in the civil society sector. And yes, the idea of turning information into real-time and meaningful action to deepen our impact and achieve our mission seems a valuable ambition.

Read on: Accountable Now 

 

Climate of repression a dark cloud over upcoming elections in Fiji

By Josef Benedict, Civic Space Research Officer,CIVICUS  

Powdery white beaches. Crystal clear turquoise water. Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

This is the postcard picture of paradise that comes to mind when tourists think of Fiji. But for many citizens of the South Pacific’s largest island nation, and its media, the reality is anything but blissful.

And the repressive climate in which elections are about to take place serves to highlight the decline in democracy there in recent years.

In fact, since incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power a coup in 2006, Fijians have seen their civic freedoms increasingly restricted through repressive laws and policies.

Read on: Inter Press Service

 

Latin America | The Escazú Agreement: a light of hope for those standing up for the environment

By Natalia Gomez Peña, Advocacy & Network Engagement Officer, CIVICUS

In Latin America, environmental activists risk their lives as a consequence of the vital work they do. In a significant step toward their protection, States in Latin America and the Caribbean have adopted a regional agreement known as the Escazú Agreement to fight against the spiral of violence against environmental defenders.

Read on: International Service for Human Rigths 

 

African Union Makes Moves to Neutralise Africa’s Main Human Rights Body

By David Kode, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns lead

For many African activists based on the continent, getting to a major human rights summit just underway in The Gambia is likely to have been a challenging exercise. The journey by air from many African countries to the capital, Banjul, for the 63rd Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), could have been prohibitively expensive, involved transiting through multiple cities and taken days.u

Read On: South South News and  Inter Press Services News Agency

 

5 Ways New Movement Leaders Are Effecting Change

By Michael Silberman, Global Director of Mobilisation Lab, a network that equips social change-makers and their organisations to deliver more effective, people-powered campaigns in order to win in the digital age.

The publication of this piece was facilitated by CIVICUS as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations. 

The Parkland students and others are reinventing models for people-powered activism that adapts to today’s rapid pace of change.

Read on: Yes Magazine 

 

Moving beyond resistance

By Danny Sriskandarajah 

Just a few years ago, it felt like the dawn of a new era of citizen participation. There were uprisings across the Arab World, the Occupy movement, the radical impact of digital campaigning: it was an inspiring and optimistic time. But for those of us exposed to the challenges facing civil society day in day out, the new dawn has given way to dark clouds. A systematic, global crackdown on civic space is testing our resolve and ingenuity, demanding that we construct a radically new approach to tackling critical threats.

Read on: Swiss Alliance of Development Organisations 

 

Agenda 2030 marred by MDG mindsets on steroids

By Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS' Chief Programmes Officer

Business as usual is bad news for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, arguably the greatest human endeavour ever attempted to create just, equal and sustainable societies.
Read on: Open Democracy

 

“Listen to us and let us have a direct say,” say citizens worldwide

By Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS' Editor-in-Chief

A group of women fighting back against sexual harassment in Trinidad and Tobago. Marginalised members of the discriminated Dalit caste in Nepal who believe politicians only talk to them when they want their vote. People concerned about the impacts of corruption in Mexico. What do all these people have in common? They all live in societies that describe themselves as democracies, where every few years people get to vote for a leader and party. Yet still they feel no one listens to them. People see political power as something impossibly distant from them.

Read on: Equal Times 

 

Are women the last line of defence against Brazil’s authoritarian shift?

By Ana Cernov, human rights activist and Inés Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist at CIVICUS

In a matter of days, 2.5 million Brazilian women had gathered on Facebook to discuss how to best present their case against Bolsonaro and how to take their action offline and organise themselves locally.

Read on: Open Democracy 

 

Cameroon elections promise more trouble, not solutions for Anglophones

By Teldah Mawarire, Campaigns and Advocacy Officer and Ine van Severen, Civic Space Research Officer

For nations in crisis, free and fair elections usually can bring much-needed reprieve. Voting offers hope and chance to end strife and conflict. We’ve seen this in recent times in countries like The Gambia, The Maldives and Malaysia, where increasingly autocratic presidents were booted out of office at the ballot box by fed-up voters.

Read on: The Government and Business Journal

 

Treaty pushes for environmental justice in Latin America and the Caribbean

By Danny Sriskandarajah, CIVICUS Secretary General

Despite closing space for civil society, the new Escazú Agreement—which offers protection measures for environmental groups and defenders—is a shining example of citizens organizing in creative ways to fight for social justice.

Read on: Open Global Rights 

 

Can SA uphold its reputation for human rights on the UN Security Council?

By Masana Ndinga-Kanga, Crisis Response Fund Coordinator and Advocacy Officer for the Middle East/North Africa region and Lyndal Rowlands, CIVICUS UN Advocacy Officer.

Can an influential African country that was once celebrated as a champion of human rights help hold a powerful Middle East nation to account for its atrocious human rights record? That will be the question on the lips of some observers when South Africa joins the United Nations Security Council in January for a one-year term as a non-permanent member. 

Read on: News24

 

Our heritage is a successful civil society

By William Gumede, Executive Chairperson of Democracy Works Foundation

The publication of this piece was facilitated by CIVICUS as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations

As we celebrate our diverse cultures during Heritage Month, worth celebrating too is a civil society culture that has not only promoted cultural diversity but is also itself diverse, with a hard-won heritage of tirelessly fighting for the rights of the people in this country.

Read on: Mail and Guardian

 

Alarm bells ring as EU governments take aim at funding to ‘Political’ NGOs

By Cathal Gilbert, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS and Giada Negri, Research and Advocacy Officer with the European Civic Forum

Increasingly, public figures across Europe are twisting the meaning of “political activity” by claiming that NGOs overstep the mark when they campaign publicly for social or policy change: that they somehow encroach on territory reserved exclusively for political parties.

Read on: Diplomatic Courier 

 

 

Orinoco mining arch: the crisis that few speak of in Venezuela

By Marianna Belalba Barreto, researcher at CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Rafael Uzcategui, general coordinator of Provea, the Venezuelan Program of Education-Action in Human Rights.

In 2016, the extraction of minerals was approved on a surface equivalent to 12.2% of the national territory, inhabited by 54,686 indigenous people and has a great ecological diversity.

Read on: El País  

 

 

Rural Colombia, Iván Duque and the peace agreements

By Natalia Gómez is an Official of the Vuka Coalition! for civic action, part of the Global Alliance for Civil Society-CIVICUS.

The author expresses fears that the new president will alter what was negotiated between the FARC and the government and endanger the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Read on: El País 

 

Pacific Island leaders are tightening the screws on press freedom, dissent

By Josef Benedict, CIVICUS  civic space research officer. 

It’s not only climate change and rising sea levels that threaten the lives and well-being of Pacific Islanders. Rising levels of official intolerance of dissent and free speech across the region poses a threat to the well-being of their democracies.
Read on: Asian Correspondent

 

Photos: Lives rent asunder by climate change in Bangladesh

In 2018, two global agreements - one focused on the protection of refugees and the other on migration - are in the final stages of negotiation between governments, under the auspices of the United Nations. Each offers a rare opportunity to protect migrants from one of the biggest sources of displacement today - climate change. Through these images GMB Akash presents stories of loss from among the around 18 million Bangladeshis who risk displacement as the sea moves inward, expected to submerge as much as 17% of the country’s land by 2050.

See on: Hindustan Times 

 

SADC fiddles while the DRC burns

By Teldah Mawarire, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer and Ine van Severen, Civic Space Research Officer 

When a home catches fire, neighbours dash out to fight the blaze. They are motivated not only by a concern for the occupants’ welfare but also for their own — if the fire is not contained, it could engulf their homes too.

Read on: Mail and Guardian 

 

 

Marginalised Malaysians hope promised reforms will include their rights

By Josef Benedict, Civic Space Reearch Officer 

There is optimism following the 100 days of Malaysia’s new government – but the country’s marginalised groups wonder if it will go far enough to fight for equal rights.

Read on: SouthEast Asia Globe 

 

Lack of progress on human rights commitments during gov't's first 100 days

By David Kode, CIVICUS and  Matthew Bugher, Article 19

Dear Prime Minister, we congratulate you on your election victory on May 9, 2018, and your first 100 days in office. During the election campaign, your Pakatan Harapan coalition promised to implement a comprehensive programme of legislative and institutional reform after coming to power. Among the commitments made in your manifesto were pledges to ratify international human rights conventions and to revoke repressive laws including the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publication Act, the University and University Colleges Act and the National Security Act. Further, your government committed to reform the Royal Malaysia Police, which has operated with impunity for years.

Read on: Malaysia Kini

 

G20: Why civil society should be at the table

Spanish

by Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist

As the G20 – the world’s wealthiest and most powerful states – meet in Argentina throughout 2018, in preparation for their leaders’ summit in late November, the important role that civil society plays in creating healthy and peaceful societies should also be on their agenda. As the host of this year’s summit, Argentina has an opportunity to engender better understanding and recognition of why it is crucial to enable civil society’s work and open up more space for civil society in the G20 processes.

Difficult conditions for civil society

These are not easy times for civil society, and this should concern all of us. The difficulties that civil society is facing are similar to, and have the same roots as, those that democracy is going through.

Read on: C-20 Argentina 2018

 

We need new ways to protect people in the digital era

By Danny Sriskandarajah

In an age of ever-advancing, ever-encroaching technology, how do we ensure that our basic rights are protected? New technologies and the speed of progress these days may have many positive impacts on our lives but the fact that they are poorly regulated and hardly understood by the public, poses serious threats.

Read on: The Sydney Morning Herald 

 

 

Unanswered Questions: How Civil Society’s Contributions to Sustainable Development are Undermined at the HLPF

By Lyndal Rowlands, CIVICUS UN Advocacy Officer 

As Colombia joined 45 other countries in New York last month to review progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, four grassroots activists were killed as they fought for sustainable development in Colombian communities. A question posed by an Indigenous representative to the government about such killings – of which there were more than 100 last year – went unanswered, illustrating the many layers at which civil society is obstructed from meaningful participation in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, from the local level to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Read on: International Institute for Sustainable Development

 

After elections, hard work starts for Zimbabwe’s civil society

By Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Officer

For many Zimbabwean voters, casting their ballots on July 30 is sure to be a somewhat surreal experience. For the first time since the country’s independence, the ever-present face of Robert Mugabe will not be staring back at them on the ballot paper. But that new experience – while perhaps inspiring hopes for positive change among some – is likely to be preceded by an old, familiar feeling of déjà vu. The road to the 2018 general election has been littered with the same potholes of electoral irregularities and restrictive laws of previous polls.

Read on: Inter Press Service 

 

Can Zim exiles finally return home?

By Teldah Mawarire, Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator 

I know many Zimbabweans in the diaspora. I am one of them. Many such exiled Zimbabweans have written public break-up letters with the country of their birth and “filed for divorce” because the relationship had become too “toxic”. With each passing election, nothing changes despite all the promises. Yet with every election, that tortured relationship is rekindled with hope. Perhaps this one will deliver the chance to return home.

Read on: City Press

 

Should not meeting the Sustainable Development Goals get you fired?

By Danny Sriskandarajah

The problem with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), was that no one ever lost their job for failing to meet an MDG target. When I say this at high-level meetings, participants shift uneasily in their seats. Their unease really shows when I ask why, if we truly want the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed, would we not hold accountable those of us in governments, intergovernmental agencies, global business, or civil society organisations (CSOs) responsible for achieving them—even to the point that our jobs would depend on it?

Read on: Brookings Institution

 

Why the Human Rights Council matters to grassroots activists

By Clémentine de Montjoye, CIVICUS

On 19th June 2018, the United States announced it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing the foremost international human rights body’s political bias and questionable membership. But as an institution made up of member states, none of which have perfect human rights records, its value is greater than the sum of its parts.

During this session, for example, Eritrea, a country sometimes referred to as the ‘North Korea of Africa’, is on the agenda. For Helen Kidane, an exiled Eritrean human rights activist, this represents a unique opportunity to meet with diplomats and lobby for international action against a repressive government. The Council created a commission of inquiry in 2014 which found reasonable grounds to believe that the Eritrean government had committed crimes against humanity.

"Resolutions may not be always implemented but at least they’ve kept Eritrea on the agenda", Helen told me after the U.S. announcement. "Otherwise it would just be swept under the carpet, and the situation would definitely be worse if no one spoke about it."

While flawed, the Council presents an unequalled platform to raise human rights violations at a multilateral level, enable human rights defenders from the ground to address representatives from 193 countries, and interact with key decision-makers to push for justice.

It has played a key role in shining a light on some of the most egregious human rights violations in the world today. The Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, whose mandate is up for renewal during this session, has been prominent in raising awareness of violations and giving a voice to victims in Eritrea. By allowing its position to be influenced by global political fault lines, the U.S. is also withdrawing its support for victims of oppression.

This vital UN body cannot end conflicts and crises, and as a multilateral institution, regional dynamics and geopolitical manoeuvring will always restrict it. For instance, since the refugee crisis hit Europe and states have been working with repressive governments to repatriate refugees, some have indeed been less inclined to draw attention to human rights violations in Eritrea and other source countries. Eritreans refugees, who flee indefinite military service and face a shoot to kill policy at the border, represented the largest group of African refugees in Europe in 2015. 

As is often the case in the microcosm that is the Council, the support we see for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea will be a good gauge of international attitudes towards this pariah state, and how migration policies are affecting them.

But the Human Rights Council is also a place where those who have been persecuted, threatened, arrested, and tortured for speaking out on human rights violations at home can be heard, and sometimes get results. Beyond the politicking and horse trading, this is a place where grassroots activists can make sure that the human suffering they are working to alleviate isn’t reduced to operative paragraphs and resolutions, but that the voices of the victims remain an integral part of the process. By leaving, the U.S. is turning its back on victims and refusing to work with the system to deliver justice for human rights violations.

As we finish our coffee, Helen tells me ‘As a human rights defender I don’t think human rights should be politicised. We can’t escape this but it doesn’t help anyone to disengage like the U.S has done, we need to work to improve the Council from the inside.’ Sadly, the U.S.’s decision to leave creates a vacuum which will likely be filled by traditional backers of national sovereignty like Russia and China who are increasingly working to undermine the legitimacy and substantive work of the Council.

 

Mexico’s elections: The battle at the ballot box, the easiest one ahead

By Inés Pousadela 

In a study released earlier this month, researchers from El Colegio de México (Colmex) were emphatic about what they found to be the biggest challenge facing Mexico, as voters prepared to go to the polls on July 1. "The main problem in the country is inequality," said well-known journalist and academic Ricardo Raphael, presenting the report entitled Desigualdades en México 2018. “The second biggest problem in the country,” Raphael continued, “is inequality.”

Read on: Open Democracy 

 

Tanzania’s Illiberal Tilt

By Teldah Mawarire 

Immediately after his 2015 election, Tanzanian President John Magufuli appeared poised to lead one of Africa’s most stable democracies to a bright future. Instead, he has launched an intensifying campaign of repression against journalists, human rights activists, and civil-society organisations.

Read on: Project Syndicate 

 

 

Corruption in Zambia: 42 fire trucks for $42m

By Teldah Mawarire and Laura Miti

The African Union (AU) will host a heads of state summit in Mauritania on June 25, under the theme Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa's Transformation. Zambia's President Edgar Lungu will also be at the summit, showing support for its cause. Yet on the very same day his country will be moving further away from the anti-corruption ideals of the AU. As Lungu sits down with other African leaders to talk about possible ways to eradicate corruption, six Zambian activists will sit in a dock in Lusaka to be prosecuted for protesting against corruption.

Read on: Al Jazeera

 

Incertidumbre en Colombia: La paz en tiempos de elecciones

Por Inés Pousadela 

Lo que en cualquier democracia “normal” sería considerado un dato rutinario devino recientemente en Colombia un hecho de significación histórica: las elecciones legislativas de marzo de este año, en las cuales las ex guerrillas FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) debutaron como partido político, se desarrollaron sin incidentes graves. 

Leer en: Open Democracy 

 

 

The Coming Wave of Climate Displacement

By Kumi Naidoo

Not since 1951 has the international community produced a treaty to protect the legal status of the world's refugees. Now, two agreements are currently under discussion at the United Nations, and each offers a rare opportunity to protect global migrants from the biggest source of displacement today.

Read on: Project Syndicate 

 

Civic Space Restrictions in Africa

By David Kode

Across Africa, major advances in democracy have been affected by restrictions on civic space and on the activities of civil society organisations (CSOs), the media and individual activists. Civic space is the foundation for civil society to make its contribution to society, provoking discussion and debate, advocating for a more inclusive society, providing services, building community spirit and challenging those in authority on the decisions they make.

Read on: African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) 

 

China’s growing power is a new challenge for civil society

By Andrew Firmin 

In one of the world’s most powerful countries, merely wanting to speak your own language can be risky. After spending more than two years in detention, Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk was recently sentenced to five years in prison. His crime, in the eyes of China’s authorities: giving a video interview about the eradication of the Tibetan language in schools and public places.

Read on: Asian Correspondent

 

Police reforms must go beyond IPCMC

By Josef Benedict

The change of government on May 9 has offered a real opportunity for Malaysians to fix the gaps and problems that currently plague the various state institutions in the country.

Read on: Malaysiakini

 

Burundians kept in the dark ahead of controversial referendum

By David Kode 

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has intensified his brutal campaign to stay in power by stifling international news reporting of his government’s repressive actions, events ahead of his controversial referendum to extend presidential term limits.

Read on: Pambazuka 

 

 

Reclaiming civic space: global challenges, local responses

By Danny Sriskandarajah and Mandeep Tiwana 

From attacks on human rights defenders to limits on civil society’s work, we are facing an emergency on civic space. As evidence from the CIVICUS Monitor suggests, threats to civic freedoms are no longer just happening in fragile states and autocracies, but also in more mature democracies. While there has been growing attention on how to respond to this phenomenon, we believe there needs to be more attention on underlying drivers and on supporting local responses. Civic space can’t be “saved” from the outside.  

Read on: Open Global Rights

 

Why community philanthropy enables people-powered, sustainable development from the ground up

By Clara Bosco

Across the board, civil society groups are finding it increasingly difficult to organize in ways that pursue a radical transformation of the current social and economic structures, while also mobilizing the resources needed to keep on keeping on.

Read on: Global Fund for Community Foundations

 

2018 points to a new wave of citizen activism

By Ines Pousadela

When looking back at 2017, it is hard to lose sight of the fact that restrictions on fundamental freedoms were imposed at an ever-growing pace, even in countries that believed themselves to be immune to authoritarian temptations. However, along with increasing restrictions on civil society rights, we can also see civil society fighting back and continuing to claim rights.

Read on : Equal Times 

 

 

Steady old hand of repression seeks to strangle new media in East Africa

By Teldah Mawarire and Grant Clark 

In African countries where journalists are targeted with killings and beatings while traditional news outlets have been muzzled by governments and other actors unhappy with criticism, bloggers and social media users have become the new independent media by providing much-needed coverage, commentary and analysis. 

Read on: Inter Press Service 

 

Report: The Fight Back Against Rising Repression in On

By Andrew Firmin 

In the face of rising restrictions and brazen attacks on fundamental freedoms, citizens across the globe are responding with resolute resistance, in creative, and powerful ways. This is the main takeaway of CIVICUS’ 2018 State of Civil Society Report. 

Read on: Disrupt and Innovate 

 

As global tensions rise, the UN stands on the sidelines

By  Mandeep Tiwana

It’s tempting to lay the blame for unresolved conflicts at the UN’s door but the reality is that the UN can only deliver when it has the support of member states and the buy-in of citizens.
Read on: Jerusalem Post

 

Human rights at risk for ASEAN citizens

By Ichal Supriadi (Asia Democracy Network) and Josef Benedict (CIVICUS)

As the 10 heads of state from ASEAN gather for the group’s latest summit in Singapore this week to discuss security, trade, and tensions in the South China Sea, the state of human rights and democracy in the region will once again be sidelined. 

Read on: The Jakarta Post 

 

 

Why we need a digital Geneva Convention

By Danny Sriskandarajah

As Western governments look for ways to punish Russia for its brazen attacks abroad, one idea that has been getting a lot of media attention is the possibility of state-sponsored cyberattacks on Russia. Cyber operations may well be one of the most effective tools left in a depleted foreign policy toolbox but we cannot afford for rights and freedoms to become collateral damage in the new cyber arms race. We urgently need new norms and conventions that will protect civilian interests: a Geneva Convention for the digital world.

Read on: Diplomatic Courier 

 

The Commonwealth's 2.4 billion citizens — what are their rights?

By Cathal Gilbert and Trinanjan Radhakrishnan

There has been a lot of talk of shared values ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), due to be held in London from 16th to 20th April. Described as the biggest heads of government meeting the UK has ever hosted, leaders from 53 countries will meet to hold talks aimed at creating a “prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future”, particularly for young people. Expect a lot of pomp and circumstance. But what about substance?

Read on: The Hindu

 

 

Civil Society, Resolute Resistance and Renewed Purpose

By Mandeep Tiwana

Each year, CIVICUS publishes the State of Civil Society Report, which chronicles major global developments and key trends impacting civil society. The report draws from interviews with civil society leaders at the forefront of social change from around the world and CIVICUS’ ongoing research initiatives. This year it reaches an important conclusion: even as fundamental freedoms and democratic values are being encroached upon, peaceful acts of resolute resistance by civil society give us reasons for hope.

Read on:  International Institute for Sustainable Development 

 

International NGOs should ensure women are at the centre of daily operations

By Mouna Ben Garga (CIVICUS) and Ngozi Izuora (Innovation for Change- Hub Afrique)

Many states are known for their strategy to exploit women’s rights for political purposes. But, the international community practices are not that different either–not to the same end for sure. If international NGOs (INGOs) keep using the strategies and approaches they are using now to fight against gender inequality, progress on gender parity will surely grind to a halt and we will need another 200 years to close the gap.

Read on: Disrupt and Innovate 

 

 

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