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 

 

 

The aid sector must enforce standards, rebuild trust to survive abuse scandals

By Anabel Cruz, Chair of the Board of CIVICUS

Critics are using the recent scandals to delegitimise aid and humanitarian efforts. We, in civil society, must all be prepared to have this debate - seriously and honestly.

Read on: Thomson Reuters Foundation News  

 

 

Decisive leadership needed from SADC to address DRC crisis

By David Kode

The announcement of a date for general elections in a country roiled in political conflict and ruled by an unpopular leader should be regarded as a positive move. But not so in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Read on: Pambazuka 

 

 

Russia’s presidential election: a decline in citizen rights

By Natalia Taubina and Bobbie Jo Traut

The re-election of Vladimir Putin has been preceded by a significant crackdown on freedom of assembly and rule of law. The CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks and rates civil society conditions across all UN member states in close to real-time, has found that civic space in Russia has closed dramatically as civil society groups have been publicly vilified and marginalised.

Read on: Open Democracy 

 

 

Citizen rights and the upcoming presidential elections in Africa

By David Kode

It is a big year for democracy on the African continent. Millions will head to the polls in at least eight presidential elections. In many of these countries there are big aspirations for political change, while in others there are concerns about whether the elections will be fair and transparent. 

Read on: East African Standard

 

Why Bahraini rights activists need international support

By Tor Hodenfield

Last month - specifically, 14 February - marked the seventh anniversary of the peaceful protests that swept across Bahrain in 2011, calling for an end to authoritarian rule. Since the popular uprisings, however, intense and sustained state repression has left the Bahraini human rights movement increasingly challenged, amid dwindling international support.

Read on: Middle East Eye

 

Peers and Partners: Empowering Children To Take Civic Action and Engage in Open Government

By Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS, and Ulrika Cilliers, Save the Children

In 2015, 264 million primary and secondary age children and youth were out of school. In 2016, 5.6 million children died before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes and treatable diseases. In 2015, it was estimated that close to 1,7 billion children had experienced inter-personal violence in a previous year.

Read on: Open Government Partnership

 

Five key battles for re-imagining democracy in a radically changed world

By Danny Sriskandarajah

The challenges facing civil society now aren’t about reviving our weakening democracies—they are about re-imagining democracy for a radically changed world.

Read on: Open Global Rights

 

Global challenges, local responses

By Danny Sriskandarajah and Mandeep Tiwana

We are facing a global emergency of civic space. This is now a universal phenomenon, no longer restricted to autocracies and fragile democracies. While there is growing interest in the nature and impact of these restrictions, there is limited analysis of the deeper drivers of the phenomenon, and even less about how to support local responses.

Read on: International Journal on Human Rights

 

The Press and the New President: A Review of Freedom of Speech in Kyrgyzstan

By Ann-Sofie Nyman and Bobbie Jo Traut

In November, Kyrgyzstan inaugurated its new president Sooronbay Jeenbekov who has promised to continue the previous presidential administration’s policies. This does not bode well for independent journalists and other critical voices who were publicly labeled as national enemies, threatened and taken to court under the previous president’s tenure. 

Read on: Diplomatic Courier 

 

Internet shutdowns: the “new normal” in government repression?

By David Kode

The Ethiopian government is among at least 30 administrations that have disrupted or shut down domestic internet access in the past two years, in order to restrict communications related to dissent, citizen action or politically sensitive events.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

What future for civil society in Zimbabwe?

By Teldah Mawarire and David Kode

During the stand-off between the military and President Mugabe that led to his historic resignation, there was reason for hope. Zimbabwe's civil society must now re-invent itself to ensure this hope lives on.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

You will agree: escalating repression

By Mandeep Tiwana

Mandeep Tiwana sorts through the many cloaks of authoritarianism donned by the political class as repression becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Read on: New Internationalist 

 

Civil Society Meeting Calls for Solidarity, Radical Change to Deal with Global Crises

By Amy Taylor

Our strategies have failed us. We can no longer respond to the crises facing us in the same way. We have to be more radical, more creative — together — to build the future we want. This was one of the resounding messages to emerge from a key global gathering of more than 700 leading thinkers, influencers and doers from more than 100 countries in Suva, Fiji in early December.

Read on: Inter Press Service

 

The struggles of Women Human Rights Defenders in Nepal

By CIVICUS and ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (AHRC) 

Women in Nepal face many challenges due to issues of inequality and injustice in the society. Gender discrimination and gender-based violence are just some of the serious and widespread problems for women. Nepali women are not treated equally, not just in practice, but under law as well. The law regarding nationality, for example, discriminates against women, making some of them “second-class” citizens in society.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

These 6 gender activists are shaking up the world

Space for the feminist movement is shrinking, yet these brave women and non-binary activists continue to fight for equality.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

Climate refugees need global protection – with or without the US

By Danny Sriskandarajah

The United States’ abandonment of global migration and climate change agreements in the same year could be disastrous for climate refugees. When it comes to addressing the growing problem of climate change induced displacement, neither the UN’s Global Compact on Migration nor the Paris Climate Change agreement go far enough. With or without the support of the United States, we need both of these agreements to be more ambitious and implemented faster, to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Read on: Open Democracy 

 

Why SADC must reinvent or remain irrelevant

By Teldah Mawarire 

In times of political crises, as was recently experienced in Zimbabwe, citizens expect the regional body to take a bold stance against leaders who disregard human rights and hinder the advancement of democracy. Zimbabweans were quick to remember the numerous previous failures of the regional community. They roundly rejected SADC’s intervention.

Read on: Pambazuka

 

As NGOs speak out, expect clampdowns to grow

By David Kode

Across the globe, from East Africa to eastern Europe, there is a trend of increasing attacks on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that support reforms governments are opposed to.

Read on: Open Global Rights

 

 

Warm and cuddly global goals? The international community must get real

By Danny Sriskandarajah

Two years into their life, and amid the grim political realities of the last year, the sustainable development goals seem increasingly like warm words with little if any bite. With the clock counting down till 2030, we urgently need to find ways of driving real changes in behaviour, policy and investment if we are to create a more just and sustainable world. We need nothing short of an accountability revolution.

Read on: The Guardian

 

How NGOs and social movements can learn to work together better

By Danny Sriskandarajah

There are no shortages of challenges facing civil society, but one that we don’t talk enough about is the relationship between the formal and informal parts of civil society. If civil society is to have to have any chance of tackling the biggest challenges facing the world, we have to work out to how to work together more effectively.

Read on: Open Democracy

 

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