Collective Activism Paying Dividends In Tanzania And Zambia

By David Kobe, Advocacy and campaigns Lead for CIVICUS

When President Samia Suluhu Hassan took over as President of Tanzania on 19 March 2021, following the death of President John Magufuli, civil society in Tanzania was under siege. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association were at an all-time low with restrictive policies and laws in place, stifling the ability of the media and civil society to raise concerns over human rights issues.  

At the time President Hassan took power in Tanzania, more than 1,000 kilometers away in Zambia, the human rights situation was similar.  Respect for fundamental freedoms was appreciably deteriorating in the run-up to the August 2021 election, with the opposition being targeted and concerns about the potential for electoral violence. The election however resulted in a change of government, with Hakainde Hichilema becoming the new president.

In Tanzania, between 2015 and 2020, at least four laws harming freedom of expression were introduced, including regulations that imposed exorbitant fees on bloggers and social media users.  The Tanzanian authorities also imposed a ban on several media outlets and passed at least four laws restricting freedom of association.  Ahead of the 2020 election, parliament amended the Political Parties Act, given the authorities extensive powers to deregister political parties. This was followed by violence, arrests, attacks and intimidation of members of the opposition.  

Read on Montage Africa

Year in review – Protesters take to the streets across Africa in 2022 despite restrictions

By Ine Van Severen, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

Over the past year, protests have been recorded in more than 30 countries across the continent, finds a new global report by the Civicus Monitor. Despite the right to peaceful assembly being protected by many national constitutions and international law, such as the 75-year-old Universal Declaration on Human Rights, protesters face a range of unlawful risks and restrictions.

In numerous countries, restrictive laws or emergency regulations have been deployed to make it difficult for people to protest, including the need for permits and levying fees. Authorities have also used outright bans to prevent protests from taking place, often using grounds such as disturbing the public order, security concerns or public health reasons.

Read on Daily Maverick

Uyghur Violations a Litmus Test for Global Governance and Rules-Based International Order

By Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Programs and United Nations Representative at CIVICUS

This week is a momentous one for the world’s premier human rights body. At stake is a resolution to decide whether the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva can hold a debate on a recently released UN report. The report concludes that rights violations by China’s government in its Xinjiang region ‘may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity’.Unsurprisingly, China’s government is doing everything in its power to scotch plans for a debate on the report’s contents. Its tactics include intimidating smaller states, spreading disinformation and politicising genuine human rights concerns – the very thing the Human Rights Council was set up to overcome.

The historic report, which affirms that the rights of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim population are being violated through an industrial-level programme of mass incarceration, systemic torture and sexual violence, attracted huge controversy before it was released on 31 August 2022, minutes before the end of the term of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Read on Inter Press Service

9/11’s anti-human rights legacy in Eswatini

By Kgalalelo Gaebee, Communications Officer and David Kode, Lead of Advocacy and Campaigns at CIVICUS

Twenty-one years on, the legacy of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 still reverberate. This year’s anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the unfortunate legacy in the proliferation of anti-terrorism laws. These laws have been used by numerous states, including many in Africa, to target dissent and limit the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Between 2001 and 2018, African states were among over 140 countries worldwide that passed such counter-terrorism laws and other security-related legislation.

While the global counter-terrorism framework is clear about the fact that any strategy to combat terrorism must be based on respect for the rule of law , many countries in Africa, including those without a history of terrorist threats, now use anti-terrorism and related ‘security’ laws to silence critics. Eswatini is among the worst offenders.

Read on African Vanguard 

Chad’s transition to nowhere

By Ine Van Severan, Civic Space Researcher & David Kode, Lead of Advocacy and Campaigns cluster

Chad’s return to civilian rule is under threat. 15 months into a political transition that is supposed to last 18 months, the Transitional Military Council (CMT) has done little to prepare for elections and is repressing voices expressing concern. We are no closer to the possibility of Chad’s caretaker leader, Mahamat Déby, ceding the position his late father, Idriss Déby, held for over 30 years.

On 20 April 2021, when the military assumed power following the killing of Idriss Déby by Chadian rebels, the country was already facing dual challenges from inside and outside the country.

Read on African Arguments

This Mandela Day lets redouble efforts to free imprisoned human rights defenders

By Benjamin Tonga and Mandeep Tiwana

On 18 July, people in South Africa and around the world will mark Nelson Mandela Day to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of one of the greatest political leaders and human rights defenders of our times. Nelson Mandela was unjustly imprisoned for over a quarter of a century until South Africa’s apartheid regime finally acknowledged the travesty of his incarceration and ordered his release. It took concerted global pressure and organising by concerned citizens and civil society groups to achieve this feat.

Food crisis promises a global wave of unrest

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-In-Chief at CIVICUS

For the past couple of weeks, mass protests have brought the South American nation of Ecuador to a standstill. Soaring food and fuel prices have pushed many to the edge. With indigenous groups at their head, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in protest, blocking roads; at one point almost cutting off access to the capital Quito. Violence has flared among security forces and protesters alike.

Read on Thomson Reuters Foundation

Tunisia on the brink: swift action needed to halt democratic erosion

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS

Tunisia will slide further into authoritarianism if nothing is done by the international community – and especially Tunisia’s main allies, the US and the EU before a crucial referendum is held in a month’s time.

Over the past year, protests have been held in Tunisia against rising socio-economic challenges, the government’s mismanagement of its response to the Covid pandemic and the ruling Tunisian elite.

Read on Daily Maverick

Are you a good grassroots ally? Think twice about it

By Yessenia Soto, Community Engagement Officer on Civil Society Resourcing

We are witnessing a widespread recognition of the importance to shift power to local communities, localise resources and agendas, decolonise aid, make philanthropy more participatory and trust based. But does this mean that we are really becoming better allies of grassroots groups? Maybe not.  

Despite good intentions, pledges, catchy hashtags and progressive initiatives aimed at supporting grassroots activists and communities, their views and needs are still neglected – grassroot activists receive minimal funding and resources, lack acknowledgment for their fundamental role in social change, and struggle to make their visions, voices and agendas resonate loudly in international development circles. 

Read on Bond

Five takeaways from the 2022 State of Civil Society Report

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

2022 is halfway through. It’s clear this is a year of immense disruption, mayhem and contestation. Horrendous war crimes are taking place in Ukraine.

The conflict is spurring soaring living costs, impacting the most vulnerable people, already faced with the adverse impacts of the pandemic and extreme weather caused by climate change.

In this scenario, concerned citizens and civil society organisations are responding by protesting misgovernance, campaigning for justice and helping out those worst affected. CIVICUS’s 2022 State of Civil Society Report analyses global events and outlines the current state of play.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Zimbabwe's PVO Act: Another repressive tool in the hands of government

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Cluster Lead

In Zimbabwe, the electoral commission remains one of the least trusted institutions in the country; it is heavily staffed by former military members and, historically, has never demonstrated independence from the state. With less than a year to go before the next election, the typical oppressive tactics are now well underway.

Read on Vanguard Africa Foundation

India: Hijab row the latest show of Hindu nationalism

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

In an election season, India’s ruling party has again resorted to the right-wing populist playbook, stirring up divisions for political gain. This time it is the turn of Muslim women, caught in the crossfire of a backlash against both the rights of religious minorities and women’s rights. The controversy over the wearing of the hijab in schools is just the latest chapter in the saga starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party in their quest to consolidate power. Their attempts will continue, as will civil society resistance and struggles for rights.

Read on Inter Press News

Sri Lanka: Economic Meltdown Sparks Mass Protests

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Economic crisis has provoked a great wave of protests in Sri Lanka. People are demanding the resignation of the president, blamed for high-handed and unaccountable decision making, exemplified by his introduction of an agricultural fertiliser ban in 2021 that has resulted in a food crisis. People don’t just want the president’s removal: they want a change in the political balance of power so that future presidents are subjected to proper checks and balances. Hope comes from the wide-reaching and diverse protest movement that has put aside past differences to demand change. Recent weeks in Sri Lanka have seen anger and protests alongside struggles to secure the basics of life – but also hope that change is coming. An economic meltdown has brought normal life to a halt. People are living with lengthy power cuts, almost no access to fuel and soaring prices that have made essential foods unaffordable, forcing many to cut down on their daily meals.

Read on Inter Press Service News 

Stop the war: Act for justice, climate & peace

By Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS & Oli Henman, Global Coordinator for Action 4 Sustainable Development

 Russia’s war in Ukraine has left many communities facing catastrophe. In a world already wracked by multiple crises such as searing inequality and escalating climate change, this conflict is tearing through communities.

Millions of people are directly affected. They face fragile circumstances, with immeasurable sadness caused by the death of loved ones, loss of livelihoods, displacement, destruction of homes, interruption of education, and more.

The conflict has also placed huge new burdens on the multilateral system, putting a further break on progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals that has already been set back by the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read on Indian Nation

Has the pandemic done lasting damage to democratic freedoms in Europe?

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research for CIVICUS Monitor

As the coronavirus pandemic moves into its third year, there is no doubt that it will have lasting effects on civic and democratic freedoms. Governments around the world, including in Europe, have used the public health emergency to undermine fundamental rights. Even as these governments ease pandemic countermeasures, their attempts to restrict civic freedoms continue. The pandemic has fused with a range of other factors to chip away at democratic rights.

According to the CIVICUS Monitor—an online tool created by the civil society organization CIVICUS that tracks the space available for civil society—civic freedoms continue to decline worldwide.

Read on Carnegie Europe

CSW Africa: There is no climate solution without Global South women

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research for CIVICUS Monitor

Women land, environmental, and Indigenous defenders are on the frontline in tackling the climate crisis and calling out the failure of governments to take adequate action – but they face repression aimed at silencing them.

The inclusion of their voices and stories are fundamental in attaining gender equality and tackling the climate crisis. This is being recognised by the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) this year, which for the first time in 66 years focuses on the theme of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.

Read on Alliance Magazine

Putin's war and the future of the rules-based international order

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

With thousands dead and millions displaced in Ukraine, Europe is now in the throes of its most acute refugee crisis since the Second World War. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure have yet again exposed major weaknesses in the rules-based international order. The ability of the UN to act as the guarantor of international peace and security is being called into serious question.

Read on Diplomatic Courier

Commission on the Status of Women: The Streets Have Already Spoken

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researche Specialist at CIVICUS

The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was just launched. Due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main annual global forum on gender equality is once again taking place in a hybrid format – both at the UN’s New York headquarters, where government delegations will be meeting, and online, where most civil society activity will take place.

For more than two years non-stop, the pandemic impacted disproportionately on the rights of women and girls. Gender-based violence raged and femicides increased. The burden of unpaid work on women’s shoulders multiplied, economic hardship differentially affected women, who are heavily employed in the informal sector, and the virus itself disproportionately affected women who are over-represented in frontline jobs.

When women most needed a space where they could advocate for their rights and demand that the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery were tackled through a gendered lens, the main such global space almost completely collapsed.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Firm, unified response needed to Russia’s aggression

By Andrew Firmin, Editor in Chief, CIVICUS

It is now clear diplomacy matters little to Vladimir Putin. Despite the efforts of a string of presidents and prime ministers to prevent conflict, on 24 February, Putin started the war he’d been itching for.

What now seems evident is that Putin expects to maintain a Cold War-style sphere of influence around Russia’s borders. It isn’t only his treatment of Ukraine, seemingly punished for orienting a little more towards the west and entertaining a vague idea of joining NATO, that shows this.

In the context of conflict, there’s a need to monitor and collect evidence of human rights violations – with the aim of one day holding the perpetrators and commissioners of crimes to account in the international justice system.

Civil society can play a vital part here – not only in defending human rights and monitoring violations, but also in building peace at the local level and providing essential humanitarian help to people left bereft by conflict.

Read more on Inter Press Service 

EU leaders must pay attention to threatened civic freedoms in Slovenia

By Aarti Narsee, civic space research for CIVICUS Monitor

Janša was once branded a national hero, having played an important role in leading his country to the path to independence: an independence formally recognised by the European Union 30 years ago, on January 15, 1992.

Today, however, many Slovenians say Janša must go. He and his far-right Slovenian Democratic (SDS) Party have repeatedly targeted the very civic freedoms he once defended. In June 2021, Slovenia was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which issues alerts on countries where there has been a recent and rapid deterioration in civic freedoms.

Read on Euronews

NGOs and the Future of Trust

By Lysa John and Mandeep Tiwana 

Despite a percentage point decline in trust in NGOs in the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, these institutions actually delivered a strong performance during the COVID-19 pandemic — especially in comparison with the well-documented failures of many governments and businesses in dealing with the crisis. Should those notable contributions continue — and we believe they will — then NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) globally may well be in for a reputational rebound in 2022.

Read on Edelman Trust Institute 

Spare a thought for those who are fighting for and dying to protect human rights across the globe

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns lead at CIVICUS

International Human Rights Day 2021 on 10 December is commemorated at a time when being a human rights defender in many countries is risky and, for many, a matter of life and death. In 2020 alone, more than 331 human rights defenders were killed for advocating for the rights of others and their communities.

The human rights community should have been excited about the commemoration of International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021, as the day is supposed to represent a moment of reflection about the state of human rights and human rights defenders in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sadly, for hundreds of human rights defenders, the day will be another reminder of the plight of those who advocate for human rights and the failure of states to adhere to the same commitments to which they are signatories.

Read on Daily Maverick

Can the Summit for Democracy deliver?

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS, Susannah Fitzgerald, Coordinator of UK Anti-Corruption Coalition & Karla Mclaren, Government and political relations manager at Amnesty International UK

The US-led Summit for Democracy, taking place on the 9-10 December 2021, promises to kick off a year of action to reduce corruption, defend against authoritarianism and protect human rights that will end in an in-person summit in December 2022.

The Prime Minister and other world leaders committed to tackling these challenges and to strengthening open societies globally at the G7 earlier this year. The Summit for Democracies is an opportunity for states to put these words into action, with each participating country required to make new international and domestic commitments. The summit must deliver a step change for people whose lives are already affected by restrictions on their basic freedoms. Scant progress has been made to date, while democratic institutions and human rights are under renewed pressure in many countries around the world, including established democracies like the UK.

Read on Bond

Two years on, escalating assault on freedoms by the administration

By Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

Two years on from the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka, the state of civic freedoms in the country continues to regress. Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor organisation – which rates civic space in Sri Lanka as being “obstructed” – shows a worrying pattern of increasing restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly, and association, often with impunity.

Read on the Morning

Activists Fuel Global Movement to Fight Violence Against Women

By Aarti Narsee, civic space researcher at CIVICUS

This year marks 30 years of fighting to live free of gender-based violence through the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which commences every November 25 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since 1991, organizations and countries around the globe have come together to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. However, the numbers paint a disturbing picture on the situation for women and girls around the world, with UN Women estimating that one in three women aged 15 years and older have faced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, nonpartner, or both at least once in their lifetime. This does not account for the other forms of violence that women and girls face, such as being denied reproductive choice, being subjected to violence on online platforms, or being denied the right to education or work.

Read on:  Women's Media Center 

How women are suffering for human rights in Poland

By Aarti Narsee, civic space research at CIVICUS & Camille Butin Advocacy Advisor at International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF)

In its latest politically motivated ruling, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal last week ruled that the Polish Constitution was not subject to EU law. This is only the most recent in a series of developments that trample on the rule of law and human rights in Poland, rubber stamped by a tribunal riddled with ruling Law and Justice (PiS)-party supporters. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets in Poland to protest against this. Authorities have responded with detentions and physical violence reminiscent of their response to the pro-abortion protests in October 2020.

Read on EUObserver

From “We the Peoples” to “Our Common Agenda”, the UN is a Work in Progress

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer

Although, people around the world generally hold positive opinions about the UN, its ability to respond to global crises remains constrained by state-centric bureaucratic impulses and the assertion of narrow interests by powerful countries.

This has worked to the detriment of people who seek the assistance of the international community to alleviate their suffering, including recently in Burundi, Libya, Myanmar, Palestine, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and elsewhere.

Read on Inter Press Service News

The twin tests facing the UN in Afghanistan and Myanmar

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

Following the negotiated departure of international security forces and overthrow of the internationally backed government in Afghanistan, the Taliban ominously claimed freedom and sovereignty. They then went on to appoint an all-male cabinet comprising controversial figures under international sanctions for overseeing grave human rights abuses. The situation in Afghanistan—which has parallels with events in Myanmar some 2,000 miles east—presents several dilemmas for the rules-based international order overseen by the United Nations (UN) since the end of the Second World War.

Read on Diplomatic Courier

9/11’s legacy: How anti-terrorism laws have become anti-human rights laws

By Kgalalelo Gaebee, Communications Officer at CIVICUS & David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for CIVICUS

As the global community commemorates the two decades since the abhorrent attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, it should also be time to reflect on the impact of what followed on human rights and rule of law in Africa. One of the legacies of 9/11 has been government’s use of counter-terrorism laws to target human rights defenders, opposition politicians, and others who express views contrary to those in power.

Many countries in Africa and across the world have used these laws as a pretext to criminalise dissent. Since 2001, there has been a marked increase in restrictions on civil society across Africa, directly correlated to the actions taken by states in the aftermath of the 9/11. Terrorism is typically broadly or vaguely defined in these counter-terrorism bills, and their provisions are frequently misused.

Read on African Argument

It’s time to change the future of funding for youth action

By Vanessa Stevens, Elisa Novoa, Freya Seath, and Sonya Friel

This year’s International Youth Day provided an opportunity to recognize how young people have endured the pandemic and to celebrate their actions for community recovery and resilience. It was also a call to the global community – including funders – to recognize the importance of the meaningful, universal, and equitable engagement of young people.

Read on Alliance Magazine

Pandemic and protests show the essential value of civil society

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Economic inequality soared while the super-wealthy cashed in. Meanwhile, international cooperation was largely lacking and vaccine nationalism became the order of the day. Civil society didn’t just supply help; civil society organisations instinctively connected their humanitarian response with demands that rights be upheld, for migrant workers, women, and LGBTQI+ people at risk of gender-based violence and Indigenous groups homeless people, among others.

The need for civil society was made clear; many people’s experience of this global emergency would have been much worse if civil society hadn’t acted. This made it all the more shameful that many states intensified restrictions on civil society and sought to prevent civil society holding states to account for their pandemic actions and omissions.

Read on World Benchmarking Alliance

10 world-changing protests you should know about

Los Angeles BLM 1251568759

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Protest works. In Myanmar, Palestine, Thailand, and around the world, people are taking to the streets to resist repression and win change. Because protest works, governments try to stop it: In country after country, new restrictions have been introduced and protesters face police violence.

Things got worse under the pandemic, as governments used lockdown restrictions as a pretext to restrict rights. But despite the constraints, people still protested, and often in the face of difficult odds, won breakthroughs. Here are recent examples of major protests that led to change.

Read on yes! Magazine

Fighting for democracy from afar: Myanmar activists in the diaspora

Myanmar women activists top banner

In Myanmar, thousands of pro-democracy supporters have taken to the streets since February to demand an end to the military coup. So far, the junta’s forces have killed over 800 people and abducted and detained thousands, often using brutal force to quell dissent. Despite the ongoing violence and repression, Burmese people remain resilient, continuing to gather to make their voices heard. 

Women are leading the call for freedom, making up more than 60 percent of protesters - and across the world, a growing network of women and girls is joining them in solidarity. Some are writing resistance poetry, others are selling traditional food at fundraisers, and even more are spilling onto the streets to make their voices heard.

Some of these women are seasoned protesters from renowned political families - but they are being joined by a younger generation of activists, appalled that democracy in Myanmar is still not a reality for their families back home. 

Here are their stories:

Par Tha Hniang

It is up to you and I to be the pillar for those struggling in Myanmar right now

University student Par Tha Hniang has been selling traditional Burmese food to raise money for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. She is from the Chin community, a persecuted ethnic group from western Myanmar, where she lived until she was seven. Now she lives in Lewisville, Texas, home to around 4,000 Chin refugees. 

Myra Dahgaypaw

There are no words left to describe the brutality of the Burmese military

Myra Dahgaypaw is the director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an organisation that works to raise awareness on the human rights violations and mass atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities committed by the Burmese military. She is from the Karen community, a persecuted group living in eastern Burma, and has first-hand experience of the violations committed by the military junta. 

Bawi Hnem SungTeenagers my age are dropping out of school to protest

17-year-old high school student Bawi Hnem Sung and her family fled Myanmar when she was only three. She is also from the Chin community in Lewisville, Texas, and is part of the Lewisville High School Chin Club.


Thant TunThe coup is a catastrophe for our motherland

Born into an activist family, Thant Tun has been involved in the struggle for democracy in Myanmar since birth. The current coup has had devastating ramifications for Thant - her god-daughter Khin Nyein Thu was detained in Yangon on 17 April and has been subjected to torture and abuse. From the U.K., Thant is a nurse who devotes her spare time to fighting for freedom in Myanmar.  

Supyae Yadanar

The coup in Myanmar spurred me to action

Supyae Yadanar writes resistance poetry and organises protests in Dublin, Ireland, where she is currently studying medicine. She is Advocacy Co-Lead of the Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4DM), an international coalition of grassroots organisations and individuals working to support Myanmar’s democracy.


Wai Hnin PwintWe need help from the international community

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon’s father, Mya Aye, is a former and current political prisoner who has been at the forefront of Burma’s democracy movement for over 30 years. He was arrested in Yangon on the first day of the coup, February 1st.  Based in Geneva, Wai Hnin works for Burma Campaign UK, where she has advocated for the release of political prisoners for over ten years. 

To find out more about these activists and their work, read Newsweek's article ‘Myanmar Refugees Who Fled to Texas Fight for Democracy From Afar.

Tracking 10 years of protests: here’s what we’ve learned

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief of CIVICUS

Protests have been rebuffed, brutally, by states. The consequences of the violent response to those peaceful uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa 10 years ago are still lived with today. Under the pandemic, despite no evidence linking mass protests to infection spikes, many states have enforced rules violently and used Covid-19 as a pretext to introduce further restrictions on events, which are likely to linger far beyond the pandemic.

But despite repression, change has still come. 

Read on Alliance Magazine 

#BLM beyond the US: Anti-racist struggles in Latin America

BLM Brazil

By Inés Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist at CIVICUS

In the year that has passed since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has circled the globe. In country after country, people have stood up to oppression and demanded an end to systemic racism. A year on, those movements for justice remain active.

Something about the way George Floyd’s needless and cruel death was widely documented and shared on social media, made it resonate. What might have initially seemed to be one more dreadful case in the long and routine string of murders of Black people by US police had unexpected consequences, and far beyond the USA.

Read on Open Democracy

People Power: Why mobilisations matter even in a pandemic

India Farmers mobilisation

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

Major political transformations in modern history have been catalysed through largely peaceful protests. Sustained mass mobilisations have resulted in significant rights victories including expansion of women’s right to vote, passing of essential civil rights laws, dismantling of military dictatorships, ending apartheid, and legalisation of same-sex marriage.

In the past year, despite the disruptions of COVID-19, populist demagogues have faced stiff resistance from people driven by a hunger for justice and democracy. In Brazil, thousands came out to the streets to protest against horrendous bungling by the Bolsonaro administration in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a monumental loss of lives. In India, thousands of farmers remain steadfastly defiant in camps outside Delhi to protest against hurriedly drawn-up laws designed to undermine their livelihoods and benefit big business supporters of Prime Minister Modi’s autocratic government.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Fightbacks led by the young offer hope for democracy in Africa

Uganda president Yoweri Museveni

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief of CIVICUS

Elections should offer opportunities for citizens to make demands of their political leaders, debate alternatives and express dissent. People should go to the polls in the belief that their votes will count and their voices will be heard, and if presidents are proved to be corrupt, self-serving and unwilling to listen, they should be able to unseat them. All efforts should go into making the coming elections live up to these standards.

Although a look back at the recent history of Africa’s elections offers limited grounds for optimism, there have been some bright spots.

Read on Daily Maverick

Why are African countries undermining the rights bodies they created?

DavidKode OpEd May2021

By David Kode, Advocacy & Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS

The 68th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has just concluded. For civil society organisations, the commission provides an important forum where they can discuss human rights concerns and hold governments to account.

The African Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights play a vital role in upholding fundamental freedoms; the court is the African Union’s continental human rights body, providing an alternative institution that citizens can turn to when they have exhausted all legal avenues in their country. 

Regional human rights bodies such as the African Court issue judgments that support fundamental freedoms. Often these decisions overrule rulings made by governments, and in reaction there is now a noticeable trend of African states withdrawing after a decision goes against them and attacking the institutions they helped to create. 

Read on Mail & Guardian


Press freedom vital in the fight against the pandemic

hopewell chinono

Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin'ono. Credit: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

By , Researcher with CIVICUS

Access to accurate information is vitally important during the pandemic, so that people can understand how to protect themselves and their families, and to hold their governments to account for their response to the health emergency.

Just like the virus, the persecution of the press has no borders, affecting journalists in many countries across the region. In its latest global report, the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civic freedoms, documented that journalists had been detained in at least 28 African countries. This was the top civic rights violation recorded in Africa during the past year.

Read on Inter Press Service News 

What Oscar-nominated film ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ tells us about protest rights

trial of the chicago7 Susan Wilding oped

Source: Open Democracy

By Susan Wilding, Head of CIVICUS' Geneva office

The Trial of the Chicago 7’ is up for six Oscars at the Academy Awards, to be announced on 25 April. The film, which dramatises the trial of seven social activists who opposed the Vietnam War, sheds light on key issues about the right to protest. It has particular resonance today – as is shown by the fact it is reportedly one of Netflix’s most-watched movies – when mass mobilisation is increasingly common across the globe.

Read on Open Democracy

Chad elections: President Déby seeks a sixth term in a region for old men

chad elections deby

President Idriss Déby of Chad has been in power since 1990. Credit: Paul Kagame.

By David Kode, Advocacy & Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS

In a familiar pattern than continues to be repeated, President Idriss Déby looks set to be elected for yet another term in Chad following this Sunday’s presidential elections. In power since 1990, this will be the 68-year-old incumbent’s sixth term.

President Déby’s victory at the ballot box may be all but assured, but that’s not to say he doesn’t face significant opposition. When he was nominated to be the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement’s flagbearer this February, the announcement sparked widespread demonstrations. In the capital N’Djamena and other major cities, protesters took to the streets chanting “no to a sixth term!” and “Leave, Déby!”.

Read on African Arguments

Five human rights trends in South Africa

Students protest SA

Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images

By Mawethu Nkosana, LGBTQI+ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS & Safia Khan, Innovation and Communications Officer at CIVICUS

From the rise in student activism to the rise in levels of xenophobia in South Africa, Mawethu and Safia list five human rights trends since COVID-19 took over.

Read on The Daily Vox

We are tired, so we must take turns to rest: Women's advocacy during crisis

womens rights are human rights

Source: Wikicommons

By Masana Ndinga-Kanga, the Crisis Response Fund Lead and Advocacy Officer for the Middle East/North Africa region at CIVICUS

In recognising how moments of crisis heighten already existing inequalities, it is worth reflecting on how women activists have been able to conduct advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time, as advocacy meetings have predominantly moved online within the context of a gendered digital divide, the consequences for women activists and their ability to work are yet to be fully understood.

Read on Advocacy Accelerator

CIVICUS calls on social media platforms, govt to address 'hostile virtual environment for women'

Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Reseacher at CIVICUS spoke to JacarandaFM about the challenges faced by women human rights defenders, activists, feminists and journalists when online.

This comes on the back of a collection of essays from women across the world that detailed their experiences of online harassment. The common thread in the essays show that women journalists, feminists, activists, and human rights defenders around the world are facing virtual harassment more than their male counterparts.  

Read/Listen on JacarandaFM



Harassment goes virtual: Women activists and journalists speak out

Harassment goes virtual series


Women journalists, feminists, activists, and human rights defenders around the world are facing virtual harassment. In this series, global civil society alliance CIVICUS highlights the gendered nature of virtual harassment through the stories of women working to defend our democratic freedoms. These testimonies are originally published on Global Voices through a partnership between CIVICUS and Global Voices.


Inday Espina VaronaFor this Filipina journalist, every day is a battle with fear

There has been a relentless crackdown against independent media and journalists. Threats and attacks against journalists, as well as the deployment of armies of trolls and online bots, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to self-censorship—this has had a chilling effect within the media industry and among the wider public. In this first part of the series, Filipina journalist Inday Espina-Varona tells her story.

Evgenija CarlCalled a prostitute by the prime minister, a Slovenian journalist tells her story (Ler em portugues)

Evgenija Carl is an investigative journalist from Slovenia. After she produced a television report about the opposition SDS party in 2016, a leading politician at the time, Janez Janša, called her a “prostitute” on Twitter. When Janša later became Slovenian prime minister, the online abuse intensified. Read Evgenija Carl's story here.



Maya El AmmarOnline rape threats connect Lebanese activist to ‘thousands of other women’ facing abuse (باللغة العربية)

Since October 2019, anti-government protests known as the “October Revolution” have erupted across Lebanon. Protesters have called for the removal of the government and raised concerns about corruption, poor public services, and a lack of trust in the ruling class. Protests have been met with unprecedented violence from security forces. Feminists have been at the forefront of the revolution and have stepped up to provide assistance in the aftermath of the explosion. In the third part of this series, Maya El Ammar, a Lebanese feminist writer, activist and communications professional, tells her story and the online abuse she continues to face. 


Chantal MutamurizaPersonal attacks follow Burundi human rights defender into exile in Uganda (Lire en français)

Under the regime of President Évariste Ndayishimiye, journalists and rights defenders continue to face challenges. The arrest of political activists and the recent public announcement of the sentencing of 34 exiled people—including journalists and human rights defenders—to life imprisonment illustrate the obstacles to free expression in the country. Chantal Mutamuriza, a feminist, human rights defender, and founder of the Light For All NGO, tells us her story of the continuous online harassment she faces day in and day out.


Weaam YoussefIntimidation, censorship, and defamation in the virtual sphere

In Syria, hundreds of thousands of people have died since 2011. Numerous human rights violations have taken place during the Syrian crisis - arbitrary detentions, torture, assassination of journalists, and the violent repression of protests, make Syria one of the most volatile countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Originally from Syria, Weaam Youssef is Programme Manager for Women Human Rights Defenders for the Gulf Region and Neighboring Countries. This is the story of Weaam.


Lindsey Kukunda GV 768x786Herself a victim of cyberbullying, Lindsey Kukunda fights online violence against women in Uganda

More than half of Ugandan women experience physical violence, while one in five is subjected to sexual violence; many also face psychological abuse, forced and early marriage, and female genital mutilation. In 2014, Uganda introduced a law against pornography that has been used to target and prosecute women, especially women whose nude photos have been shared online without their consent. Lindsey Kukunda is a feminist, writer, and human rights defender. She is also the managing director of Her Empire, a feminist organization that runs two programmes: Not Your Body and The Mentor’s Network. Lindsey tells us her story


Is the USA fit to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council?

A month into Joe Biden’s presidency, the U.S. has rejoined nearly all the multilateral institutions and international commitments that it withdrew from under Trump. These include the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords. Most recently, on February 8th, the U.S. announced it would also rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as an observer. The U.S.’ role in the human rights forum looks different than it did four years ago in light of its recent track record on civil liberties.

Read on Inter Press News Service

The advocate championing citizen action and organizing to enable change

Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and have helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organisations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Pathfinders spoke with Lysa John to learn more about her work and what drives her. 

Read on Medium


Angola decriminalises homosexuality

Angola has officially decriminalised same-sex relationships and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ advocacy lead for CIVICUS, Mawethu Nkosana spoke with eNCA's Sally Burdett on Angola's repeal of Anti-gay law.

Saudi activist, Loujain Al-Hathloul spends 1000+ days in prison: Masana Ndinga-Kanga

Prominent Saudi female activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned for women's right to drive, was sentenced to more than five years in prison in December 2020, after having already spent two years in detention. She is probably one of Saudi Arabia's most famous human rights defenders. She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contacts with organisations hostile to Saudi Arabia. She was eventually convicted of various charges, including trying to harm national security and advance a foreign agenda. As she spends her 1000th day in prison activists from around the world are campaigning for her unconditional release. Masana Ndinga-Kanga the Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Lead at the global alliance of civil society organisations, CIVICUS, told SABC News that al-Hathloul's case is symbolic of the repression and silencing that women in Saudi Arabia face when they dare to speak out for their human rights.

Abortion Law | Mass protests across Poland

Protests against new abortion laws have erupted across Poland. eNCA speaks to Aarti Narsee, a researcher at civil-society alliance CIVICUS.



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