Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS expresses deep concern over the unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention of environmental rights defender Raleva. We condemn this action and call for his immediate release. 

Raleva, who only goes by his last name, was arrested on September 27, 2017 in Vohilava village in Madagascar’s Mananjary district for his advocacy work with communities affected by the illegal mining activities of a Chinese gold mining company in the area. 

He was arrested during a meeting called by the mining company and the head of the local district, to inform the community that it would resume its mining operations, which were suspended by the government in 2016. Madagascar’s Mines and Petrol Ministry in 2016 ordered mining be stopped after community-led protests claiming the company was operating without necessary authorisation.

Police arrested Raleva when he demanded that the company show proof that it had received the relevant permit required to re-start gold mining operations. He was held at the Mananjary police station for five days and then transferred to Mananjary prison on October 3, where he is currently detained. He is being charged with “falsely impersonating the district head”, a charge he denies as the said district head was present at the meeting hence impersonating him would have been impossible.

Raleva is a member of the human rights organisation, Justice et Paix and Observatoire Independant des Droits Economiques, Sociaux et Culturels à Madagascar (OIDESCM), which works with the Centre de Recherches et d’Appui pour les Alternatives de Developpement - Océean Indien (CRAAD-OI). 

No date has been set for his court hearing.

Said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Lead: “When an activist like Raleva speaks out about the rights of communities and calls for accountability and transparency in the activities of mining companies, he is arrested and detained for no just cause.  This subjective and unjust application of the law is not acceptable under any circumstances.”

Madagascar’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society worldwide, and is a particularly risky environment for human rights defenders working on land and environmental rights. 

On November 4, 2016, the Court of First Instance in the Anosy region sentenced environmental rights activists Tsihoarana Andrianony and Pierre Robson to one year in prison – suspended, after they were found guilty of organising “unauthorised” protests against Chinese mining company - Jiuxing Mining.  A week later, three activists from the environmental rights association VONA were arrested and detained for taking part in peaceful protests. Andrianony and Robson were acquitted of four other charges and released after spending nearly five weeks in pre-trial detention in prison.

The arrest of Raleva and the persecution of environmental activists in Madagascar comes at a time when activists defending land, environmental and indigenous rights across the world raise their voices in appeals to the international community, calling for action against the unprecedented rise in killings and attacks on those protecting land and natural resources of their communities.

CIVICUS calls on the government of Madagascar to drop the charge against Raleva, release him unconditionally and ensure that human rights defenders are able to speak out without intimidation or fear of persecution. 

ENDS

Contact

David Kode
Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS,
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Tel: + 27 (0)11 833 5959.

Grant Clark
CIVICUS Media Advisor
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We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs), strongly condemn the Ugandan authorities’ flagrant and repeated attempts to suppress the peaceful and legitimate activities of civil society organisations in Uganda through the recent unwarranted raids on the offices of four independent CSOs. We urge the Government of Uganda to end its campaign to silence independent civil society groups and publicly recognise the indispensable role that civil society plays in promoting and protecting fundamental human rights.

In the last two weeks, the Ugandan Police and Security Services have raided and searched the offices and documentation of four prominent organisations, including ActionAid Uganda, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, Solidarity Uganda and the UHURU Institute.

Initially on 20 September 2017, nearly two dozen police and state security officials cordoned off and entered the ActionAid Uganda offices in Kansanga, Kampala. Police served a warrant alleging that ActionAid is involved in unnamed illicit activities. Upwards of 25 staff members were held in the office for several hours, while police interrogated staff, searched the premises and confiscated organisational laptops, phones and documents. On the same day, the offices of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies were raided and police prevented staff from leaving the premises.  On 21 September, the police raided the offices of Solidarity Uganda in Lira and detained a member of staff. 

Most recently, on 2 October 2017, police raided the offices of the UHURU Institute. During the raid, they cordoned off the premises and confiscated computers and phones belonging to staff of the Institute. 

The explicit reason for the raids has not been disclosed, and we remain deeply concerned that they are part of a wider crackdown to silence a civil society campaign which opposed a parliamentary proposal to remove presidential age limits. The organisations targeted in recent raids supported civil society in expressing concerns over the removal of age limits for the presidency and have called for the constitution to be respected. 

The authorities’ attempts to suppress the work of Ugandan civil society through harassment and intimidation represent a clear violation of fundamental civic rights and casts severe doubt over the Government’s commitment to supporting civil society. As allies and supporters of Uganda human rights we urge the authorities to immediately end its campaign to persecute CSOs in the country and their staff. 

  • ARTICLE 19 – Eastern Africa
  • Afro Leadership – Cameroon
  • Brainforest Gabon
  • Campaign for Good Governance – Sierra Leone
  • CIVICUS
  • Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Malawi
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  • Dynamique OSCAF Gabon
  • Frontline Defenders
  • Greenpeace Africa
  • Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  • The International Civil Society Centre
  • JOINT - League of NGOs in Mozambique
  • KEPA – Finland
  • Mauritius Council for Social Services
  • Nigerian Network of NGOs
  • Orhionmwon Youth Forum Nigeria
  • Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humain
  • Solidarity Center
  • Zambian Council for Social Development

David Kode

Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: + 27 (0)11 833 5959.

 

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Media Advisor

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This weekend, tens of thousands of people will come together at hundreds of events across 5 continents, as part of a new global campaign to give a voice to everyone, everywhere.

From youth summits to informal dinners, public mobilisations to private meetings, national dialogues to music festivals, SPEAK! is a global campaign to amplify the voices of ordinary people speaking out to counter repression of their basic freedoms.

The potential and opportunity for people to speak out and effect change has never been greater. Thanks to evolving technology, we are more connected than ever before – our voices able to travel faster and further, through media that has never been more impactful.

But this is under threat. Globally, we are seeing increasing attempts to repress that fundamental right to speak out on events that shape our world: the right to freedom of expression and the media.

This year alone, dozens of journalists have been killed, most of them because of their reporting. Countless others, including citizen journalists and activists using media, have been arrested, detained, harassed, intimidated and prosecuted – all attempts at silencing them.

SPEAK! has been created by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, in response to this current global context, and seeks to raise awareness of these challenges and to build solidarity among all who face them.

Said Nic Mackay, SPEAK! Coordinator: "Our hope is that SPEAK! will be like a global megaphone for change: amplifying the voices of people who most need to be heard; warning those who seek to limit freedom and dissent; and articulating the vision of a more just and sustainable future for all."

The campaign will culminate in four Days of Action from September 22-25, with people engaging both physically and online.

On Friday, September 22nd, the world will fall silent in solidarity with those who have been killed and jailed for raising their voice. This includes journalists, bloggers and activists campaigning on social media, who authorities have silenced or attempted to silence.

Actions will include a social media blackout by individuals and organisations, silent public protests in Indonesia, and a flash mob in Macedonia. The particular case of Pastor Evan Mawarire will be highlighted, who faces trial in Zimbabwe’s high court for daring to criticise the Mugabe regime.

Then, from Saturday 23rd until Monday 25th, the world will speak as one, with hundreds of events happening around the globe. These include a performing arts concert in Tunisia promoting freedom of association, a series of school-based workshops in India to tackle rape culture, and a 10 simultaneous events across Brazil tackling water security with a focus on amplifying unheard voices.

See a full list of SPEAK! events planned globally here.

The days of action come at a critical moment, as world leaders meet in New York to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Global Goals (SDGs). The collective actions as part of the SPEAK! campaign will send a clear message: the voices of ordinary citizens are powerful and essential in ensuring a just and sustainable future for all - now it's time for governments to listen and act!

If you’re on Twitter, you can join the conversation and search for posts using the hashtag #TogetherWeSpeak.

ENDS.

FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT:

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Media Advisor

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Nic Mackay

CIVICUS SPEAK! Coordinator

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TanzaniaFlag_Wikipedia

The attempted assassination of outspoken government critic Tundu Lissu on 7 September 2017 is the latest in a series of efforts aimed at constraining freedom of expression and association in Tanzania.  Tundu, a member of the political opposition and head of the Tanganyika Law Society was attacked by unidentified assailants near his home in Dodoma and is now recovering in a hospital in neighbouring Kenya. He has been arrested six times this year for openly criticising the government of President John Pombe Magufuli.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns this violent attack on Tundu, which follows his string of arrests for his dissenting views as well as steps taken by the Tanzanian government over the past few months, to curtail fundamental human rights and stifle activists and civil society organisations that express views critical of government actions.  

At the moment, new applications for the registration of NGOs have been suspended until 30 November 2017 as NGOs currently registered undergo a mandatory “verification process.”  The vetting of NGOs began on 21 August 2017 after the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children published a notice stating that the Registrar of NGOs will examine all NGOs in order to correct and update the database for NGOs.

CIVICUS is concerned by the manner in which the verification process is being carried out as local NGOs were not involved or consulted in the planning of the process. Furthermore, the sheer amount of documentation required of NGOs including the presentation of proof of payment annual fees and receipts since registration is cumbersome and presents an added administrative burden.   

Several NGOs may be deregistered if they fail to provide all the information required by the authorities.  In addition, the requirement for a letter of recommendation from a Community Development Officer is also problematic, especially for NGOs working on rights and governance and who may have been critical of the human rights practices by the government in the past.   

Said Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator: “This verification process is extremely unfair and raises many questions because any NGO that had not been previously registered cannot go through the vetting exercise and will be outlawed even before the process begins. There is no grace period whatsoever availed by the state to those who have been unable to register in the past.”

The government has also set out five zones where NGOs must travel to for verification. This presents difficulties for NGOs who operate in remote areas and may not be able to afford to pay for this travel and the gathering of documents.

CIVICUS calls on the government of President John Pombe Magufuli to respect the freedoms of association and expression in line with the Tanzanian Constitution and its international human rights obligations. 

In July 2017 CIVICUS placed Tanzania on a watch list of countries in which there are growing and worrying threats to civic space. CIVICUS remains concerned over growing restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

Civic space in Tanzania is rated as obstructed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

ENDS

For more information contact:
Teldah Mawarire
Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator, CIVICUS
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Tel: 0027 11 833 5959

Según el Informe 2017 de la alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS, el mundo se enfrenta a una crisis democrática sin precedentes debido a las restricciones que están sufriendo las libertades de expresión, asociación y reunión pacífica, generando una situación de emergencia global.

El Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil 2017 pone de relieve cómo cada vez es más peligroso desafiar al poder en todo el mundo, y el riesgo a sufrir represalias que ello conlleva. En diversos países, los líderes populistas y neofascistas de derechas han adquirido importancia alcanzando el apoyo necesario para impulsar sus ideas en el debate público e incluso, en algunos casos, ganando las elecciones. Su visión política y global se opone frontalmente a la sociedad civil que busca promover los derechos humanos, la cohesión social y el internacionalismo progresista.

Los puntos clave del Informe incluyen:

* El aumento del número de ataques a activistas y a organizaciones de la sociedad civil por parte del aparato represivo de Estados, fuerzas extremistas y corporaciones, sobre todo en el sector extractivo, (un fenómeno, este último, especialmente visible en América Latina);

* Solo el 3% de la población mundial vive en países con un espacio cívico "abierto";

* Más de la mitad de la población de las Américas vive en países con un espacio cívico obstruido (32%) o represivo (21%);

* El profundo descontento de la ciudadanía frente al impacto de la globalización sobre sus vidas ha sido aprovechado por los populistas de derechas, tal como se observa en pronunciamientos populares tan diversos como el Brexit y el referendo sobre la paz en Colombia;

* Más que ignorar ese descontento, la sociedad civil debe hacer frente al desafío de construir un movimiento alternativo de esperanza, sin miedo y respetuoso de los derechos humanos.

El Informe indica que para los nuevos populistas de derechas, la esfera internacional supone una peligrosa fuente de valores progresistas que desafían sus estrechas nociones de soberanía. Las instituciones internacionales, así como los valores de derechos humanos que representan, los consideran intrusivos. El Acuerdo de París sobre el cambio climático, por ejemplo, ha sido definido como un elemento que limita el crecimiento económico y se encuentra en peligro por la actitud del actual gobierno de Estados Unidos. Los líderes de Israel, Filipinas y Estados Unidos también han atacado a la ONU. Los gobiernos de Burundi y Sudáfrica han amenazado este último año con retirarse de la Corte Penal Internacional. En ningún lugar es más evidente el fracaso del multilateralismo como en la crisis siria, que ha costado medio millón de vidas y ha desplazado a la mitad de la población del país, donde se está normalizando la impunidad frente a los crímenes de guerra.

El secretario general de la ONU, Antonio Guterres, definió el desprecio actual por los derechos humanos, alimentado por el creciente populismo y extremismo, como una "enfermedad que se está propagando". En Filipinas más de 7000 personas han muerto como consecuencia de la violencia fomentada por el presidente Rodrigo Duterte. En Turquía, tras el intento de golpe de Estado, se han implantado restricciones a las libertades fundamentales y a la sociedad civil: unos 195 medios de comunicación han sido cerrados, 80 periodistas han sido encarcelados junto con miles de académicos y ciudadanos considerados disidentes.

El informe desarrolla en profundidad algunos casos de América Latina, enfatizando tanto los desafíos que enfrenta la sociedad civil por efecto de las restricciones del espacio cívico como la creatividad de sus estrategias para enfrentarlos, así como sus redoblados esfuerzos de movilización a la hora de defender y promover derechos. Así, por ejemplo, el informe trata, entre otros puntos centrales para la región, los desafíos de la construcción de la paz en Colombia, la situación de impunidad por la violación de los derechos humanos en México, los aprendizajes y desafíos de las movilizaciones estudiantiles en Chile y por los derechos de las mujeres en Argentina, así como los factores subyacentes a la criminalización de la opinión y la violencia física ejercida con intensidad creciente contra activistas ambientalistas y defensores de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y del derecho a la tierra en Honduras, Nicaragua y Brasil, entre otros países.

Acerca del Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil 2017

Cada año, el Informe sobre el estado de la sociedad civil de CIVICUS analiza los principales acontecimientos que afectan a la sociedad civil en todo el mundo. La primera parte de nuestro informe hace un resumen del año pasado, centrándose en los espacios para la sociedad civil y en el impacto del resurgimiento de las políticas populistas de derechas; el derecho a disentir; los movimientos de protesta, y las acciones que realiza la sociedad civil a nivel internacional. La segunda parte de nuestro Informe trata específicamente la relación entre sociedad civil y sector privado.

Nuestro Informe es de la sociedad civil y está hecho por y para la sociedad civil. Se alimenta de una serie de entrevistas con personas involucradas en las principales historias del momento y de los resultados de nuestra encuesta anual a los miembros de las redes nacionales y regionales de la sociedad civil que integran nuestro Grupo de Afinidad de Asociaciones Nacionales (AGNA), así como de 27 artículos encargados a una serie de invitados especiales que tratan diferentes aspectos sobre el tema de la relación entre sociedad civil y sector privado. La mayoría de nuestros aportes proceden de la sociedad civil, aunque también recogemos las opiniones de personas que trabajan en el gobierno y en el sector privado.

Nuestro Informe también se basa en los datos sobre las condiciones de la sociedad civil proporcionados por el CIVICUS Monitor, nuestra nueva plataforma en línea que monitorea el espacio cívico en todos los países del mundo.

También se basa en los hallazgos de las Evaluaciones Nacionales sobre el Ambiente Habilitante (ENAH), que es una herramienta de análisis promovida por la sociedad civil para evaluar el entorno legal, reglamentario y político de la sociedad civil.

Para obtener más información o para solicitar una entrevista con el personal de CIVICUS y/o con sus colaboradores, comuníquese con This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Abajo encontrará los enlaces al informe.

NAIROBI – Leading global and regional civil society groups have strongly condemned the targeting of two Kenyan national human rights organisations by the authorities.

The National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya (NCHRD-K), DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and Civil Rights Defenders condemn the de-registration of the NGOs and an attempted raid on the offices of one of them.

On 16 August, in the wake of general elections, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), accompanied by Kenyan police officers, attempted to gain entry to the offices of the African Centre for Global Governance (AfriCOG) without notice and with a defective search warrant. The attempted raid came two days after AfriCOG, together with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), was served with a notice of deregistration by the NGO Coordination Board.

The Board has accused the organisations of operating “illegal bank accounts”, employing expatriates without the necessary permits and tax evasion, among other offences. KHRC denies the allegations.

The attempted raid was eventually prevented by instructions from Acting Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiangi, who called for the formulation of an inclusive and representative committee to work with the NGO Coordination Board to ascertain the compliance of the two organisations with NGO regulations. Secretary Mitiangi’s instructions suspended any actions against AfriCOG and KHRC for a period of 90 days to enable the committee carry out its functions.

The accusations in question had already been adjudicated before the high Court of Kenya in 2015 (KHRC vs. NGO Coordination Board 495 of 2015) when the KHRC was first deregistered by the Board. On April 2016, Justice Louise Onguto entered that the adverse actions taken to deregister KHRC and freeze its bank accounts is unconstitutional, null, and void.

Said Kamau Ngugi, Executive Director of the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya: “The persistent harassment of civil society organisations at the hands of Fazul Mahamed, the Executive Director of the NGO Coordination Board, is unacceptable. CSOs should be able to take part in public affairs and hold government to account without fear of reprisal.”

Further, in a letter dated 15 August 2017, the NGO Coordination Board wrote to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to order it to close down the operations of AfriCOG and arrest its members and directors for contravening section 22 (1) of the NGO Coordination Act, which requires any person operating an NGO to be registered under the same Act. It further called on the Central Bank to freeze the accounts of the organisation.

Civil society is free to select under which regime to register an association and AfriCOG is registered under the Companies Act as a company limited by guarantee. Therefore, the NGO Coordination Board has no mandate over the operations of the institution. Furthermore, such direction is in contravention of Article 47 of the Constitution of Kenya that provides for fair administrative action and contravenes the fundamental right to freedom of association protected by Article 36 of the Constitution of Kenya as well as under international treaties to which Kenya is a State Party.

The move against the two organisations comes a week after the 8 August national elections, which were contested by the opposition. Throughout the electoral process, KHRC and AfriCOG have been vocal in their demand for transparency and have acted as monitors of the elections. KHRC Executive Director George Kegoro told Capital FM news in an interview that moves to deregister his organisation aimed to prevent it from issuing a legal petition challenging the recent election results in the Supreme Court.

The undersigned organisations hereby call on the NGO Coordination Board to:

  1. Desist from harassing civil society organisations and immediately lift any restrictions on the activities of KHRC and AfriCOG until they are given the right to due process;
  2. Respect Article 47 of the Constitution of Kenya, which provides for the right to “administrative action that is expeditious, efficient, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.”
  3. Publicly acknowledge the important role played by civil society in promoting rule of law and accountability; and ensure an enabling environment in which human rights defenders and civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity.

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Civil Rights Defenders

DefendDefenders (the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – Kenya

 

For more information contact:

Kamau Ngugi

Executive Director, National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya

Telephone: +254 712 632 390

 

 

Authorities in Vietnam have increasingly been using the country’s draconian security laws to attack and silence human rights defenders in recent weeks.  

Ahead of Vietnam’s Independence commemorations on 2 September 2017, global civil society alliance CIVICUS demands the release of all bloggers and activists prosecuted on fictitious charges and jailed following questionable judicial processes. We have observed with serious concern, the state’s ongoing campaign of persecution of those who highlight human rights violations and are critical of the government and the Communist Party.  

Said Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Advocacy and Campaigns officer: “Vietnam has always been a repressive state but the ongoing increased onslaught against activists and bloggers is very disturbing. The Communist Party continues to use security laws to prosecute human rights defenders and security forces attack, intimidate and harass bloggers.”

On 29 July 2017, Hanoi police arrested four activists - Pham Van Troi, pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, writer Truong Minh Duc and lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, accusing them of "plotting to overthrow the people's government". Nguyen Trung Ton, president of the Brotherhood for Democracy NGO, is accused of associating with Nguyen Van Dai, a lawyer detained by Vietnamese police since 2015 for anti-state propaganda.

Nguyen Trung Ton has, in the past, been a victim of judicial persecution and violent attacks for his peaceful human rights activism. He was jailed for two years in 2011 for "propaganda against the state" and in February 2017 was abducted and beaten, suffering multiple injuries including broken bones.

On 25 July 2017, human rights activist Tran Thi Nga was sentenced to nine years imprisonment plus an additional five years of house arrest after she was convicted for spreading “anti-state propaganda” in online videos and articles she posted, in which she condemned Vietnam’s abuse of human rights. A member of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, she was initially arrested in January 2017. Before that, she was arrested in 2014 and tortured for documenting human rights violations.

Vietnam has also increased its stranglehold on bloggers. On 27 June blogger Ngoc Nhu Quynh - known as ‘Mother Mushroom’, - was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Penal Code, following a one-day trial that was sealed off to the public. She was known for using the famous tagline ‘Who will speak out if you don’t?’ Her blog entries concerning deaths of people in police custody and interviews given to foreign media were presented as evidence of anti-state propaganda.

CIVICUS demands that the Vietnamese authorities:

  • Release the four activists arrested on 29 July and all others being detained for their human rights activities.
  • Review the country’s Penal Code with a view to amending the vague anti-state propaganda clause.
  • Stop persecuting and harassing human rights activists, lawyers and bloggers.

Civic space in Vietnam is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks the state of civil society in all countries.

For enquiries, contact:

Teldah Mawarire

Advocacy & Campaigns Officer, CIVICUS

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 27 (0)11 833 5959

As Kenyans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in general elections, global civil society alliance, CIVICUS calls on the authorities, leaders of political parties and communities to adhere to democratic principles and respect the will of all Kenyans.

Kenya has a history of violence during election seasons and fear of a recurrence has dominated the period of political campaigns. Kenyan authorities and leaders of political parties have a responsibility to ensure a peaceful and transparent election, which will enhance Kenya’s democratic credentials.

Human rights violations committed over the last few months have raised security concerns and increased calls for all involved in the vote to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the 2007-2008 elections in which over 1,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 internally displaced.  

Last week, Chris Msando, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) head of Information, Communication and Technology, was found dead after being missing for three days.  Msando had played a key role in the development of a new electronic ballot and voter registration system and complained of death threats shortly before he was killed. 

Since Msando oversaw the new electronic system regarded as key to eliminating vote rigging and ensuring the credibility of the elections, his killing raises serious concerns over threats of violence related to electoral malpractices. Prior to the adoption of the new system, Kenya’s High Court nullified a contract awarded to Dubai-based Al-Ghurair Printing and Publishing, a company with alleged links to President Uhuru Kenyatta.  Following the court’s 9 July ruling, President Kenyatta and his Jubilee Coalition questioned the independence of the judiciary and accused it of supporting the political opposition.  

The election campaign period has also been dominated by an exchange of accusations between President Uhuru Kenyatta and main opposition leader, Raila Odinga.  The President accused Odinga of trying to divide Kenya and provoke violence and Odinga, in turn, accused the President of planning to rig the vote. While the 2013 elections were largely peaceful, violence erupted following the 2007 elections after political figures encouraged supporters to protest election results.  

“Kenya’s politics is largely based on ethnic affiliations and the views of political figures are taken seriously.  It will be very important for leaders to avoid using language that may incite the population and instigate violence during and after tomorrow’s elections.   Said David Kode, CIVICUS’ Head of Advocacy and Campaigns.

There has been violence among rival parties’ supporters during the nominations of candidates for positions of president, legislators and local councillors.  Human rights defenders and journalists have also been attacked, intimidated and vilified as they sought to access voter registration stations and polling booths and report on political campaigns. On 18 June 2017, Walter Menya of the Nation newspaper was arrested and held at an undisclosed location for two days before being released without charge. Some communities have heightened tensions by accusing activists and journalists of anti-nationalist agendas for making representations at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 polls. 

CIVICUS calls on the Kenyan authorities, politicians and leaders to act in a responsible manner and respect the will of the electorate during and after the elections. 

Kenya’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe. It is currently on the Monitor’s Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

Watch our interview with activist and poet Sitawa Namwalie talking about about her hopes and fears for 2017 Kenyan Elections. 

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

Grant Clark

Senior Media Advisor

CIVICUS

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T: +27 63 567 9719

 

David Kode

Head of Advocacy and Campaigns

CIVICUS

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The family of Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian software engineer and free speech activist, confirmed that he had been subjected to an extrajudicial execution in October 2015. The undersigned human rights organisations condemn the extrajudicial execution of Khartabil and call for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.

On 1 August 2017, Noura Ghazi Safadi, Khartabil’s wife, announced on Facebook that her husband has been killed. She wrote: “Words are difficult to come by while I am about to announce, on behalf of Bassel's family and mine, the confirmation of the death sentence and execution of my husband Bassel Khartabil Safadi. He was executed just days after he was taken from Adra prison in October 2015. This is the end that suits a hero like him.”

On 15 March 2012, Military Intelligence arrested Bassel Khartabil and held incommunicado for eight months before moving him to Adra prison in Damascus in December 2012. During this time he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. He remained in Adra prison until 3 October 2015, when he managed to inform his family that he was being transferred to an undisclosed location. That was the last time his family heard from him.

His family subsequently received unconfirmed information that he may have been transferred to the military-run field court inside the Military Police base in Qaboun in Damascus. These courts are notorious for conducting closed-door proceedings that do not meet minimum international standards for a fair trial.

Before his arrest, Bassel Khartabil used his technical expertise to help advance freedom of speech and access to information via the internet. He has won many awards, including the 2013 Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award for using technology to promote an open and free internet, and was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012 “for insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”

Since his detention, human rights groups at a national, regional and international level campaigned for his immediate and unconditional release. On 21 April 2015, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared his detention a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and called for his release, yet the Syrian authorities still refused to free him.

The signatory organizations express the deepest sorrow at the death of Bassel Khartabil and believe that his arrest and subsequent execution are a direct result of his human rights work and his efforts to promote freedom of speech and access to information.

We urge the Syrian authorities to:
  • Immediately disclose the circumstances of the execution of Bassel Khartabil;
  • End extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests, and torture and other ill-treatment;
  • Release all detainees in Syria held for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association.
Signed:

1. Access Now

2. Amnesty International (AI)

3. Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF)

4. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

5. Article 19

6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

7. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

8. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

9. English PEN

10. Euromed Rights

11. Front Line Defenders (FLD)

12. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of

            Human Rights Defenders

13. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

14. Hivos International

15. Index on Censorship

16. Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM)

17. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)

18. Maharat Foundation

19. Metro Centre to Defend Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan

20. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)

21. PAX for Peace

22. PEN International

23. Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)

24. SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom

25. Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

26. Syrian Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights

27. Syrian Center For Legal Studies and Researches

28. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)

29. Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ)

30. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

31. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

32. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the

            Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

 

 

JOHANNESBURG – Three civil society leaders in Cameroon remain imprisoned in solitary confinement and on trial for leading peaceful protests, following their court appearance on 27 July.

The trial of Felix Balla Nkongho, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy in a military court in the capital, Yaoundé, was adjourned for the third time since it began over six months ago. The activists face various spurious charges, some which, like treason and terrorism, carry the death penalty. A fourth activist, Justice Ayah Paul Abine is being held incommunicado at the Secretariat for Defense while hundreds of others remain detained at the Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé. 

The activists were arrested in January 2017 after publicly raising concerns against the marginalisation of Cameroonians in the country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions, by the Francophone regime of President Paul Biya. They had called for the reforms in the legal and education system. Their organisation, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), has been banned. 

 “We strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary arrests and unjustified prosecution of individuals opposing the atrocities in defiance of human rights standards. The international community has a responsibility to help end the cycle of persecution in Cameroon.”  Said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS:

The trial itself has been marked by irregularities and a lack of due process. In the latest proceedings, the judge began by kicking one of the defence attorneys out of court. The defence team’s representations in English were also mistranslated into French by the court interpreter.  In addition, the judge claimed that the state was not aware of the trial of the activists. 

CIVICUS also expresses growing concern at the deepening human rights crisis. Reports of human rights violations in the Anglophone regions include the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters; arbitrary arrests; detention without trial; torture; legal harassment and unjust prosecutions; the targeting of journalists and media outlets; and the shutdown of the internet for months. 

We call on the Cameroonian authorities to release all detained protesters and ensure that democratic rights to freedom of expression and assembly are respected. 

We further call on the international community to increase efforts to engage the Biya regime to find lasting solutions to the conflict. We particularly urge the United Nations to intervene on behalf of barrister Nkongho, who has served the UN as a human rights and legal advisor to the UN Mission in Afghanistan, and the other activist leaders on trial. 

Note: Civic space in Cameroon is rated as “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global tracking tool of violations against the freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Ends.

For more information, contact:

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Media Advisor

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The declaration of State of Public Threatened Emergency in Zambia is a glaring indication of plans by the government to increase restrictions on civic space in an effort to consolidate the regime of President Edgar C Lungu, global civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Zambian Council for Social Development (ZCSD) noted today.

Attacks by the authorities on protesters, critics, NGOs and the media in Angola, Kenya and Tanzania have led global civil alliance, CIVICUS, to add the nations to its Watch List of countries where there are serious and ongoing threats to civic space.

The updated Watch List, which is regularly reviewed in response to current events, was released today.

Tanzania has been placed on a watch list of countries in which there are growing and worrying threats to civic space. The country is rated as obstructed on the CIVICUS Monitor, a global platform tracking civic violations around the world, who issue a quarterly watch list to highlight ongoing concerns in countries demonstrating worrying trends.

Portuguese 

The arraignment of two journalists in Angola on spurious charges is the latest assault on fundamental freedoms as the government increases restrictions on civic space ahead of crucial elections scheduled for 23 August 2017.  Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of journalists, and calls on international observers to ensure freedom of expression is respected in the run up to the elections.

On 20 June 2017, journalists Rafael Marques de Morais and Mariano Bras Lourenço were indicted by the Office of the Attorney General and charged with “outrage to a body sovereignty” and “insult against public authority” under the Law on Crimes Against the State and Penal Code respectively.

The charges stem from an article published by Rafael Marques on 26 October 2016 on his website Maka Angola, in which he exposed details of the dubious circumstances in which the Attorney General Joao Mana Moreira de Sousa purchased a piece of land in 2011. Mariano Bras Lourenço, Director of the O Crime newspaper, was charged after he re-published Rafael’s article. Both journalists could face up to six years in jail.

“The judicial persecution of journalists is one of several strategies used by the Angolan government to silence critical voices in the lead -up to elections next month,” says Ine Van Severen,

Policy and Research Analyst at CIVICUS. “Angola is one of the most repressive states in the Southern Africa region as the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos has shown complete disregard towards human rights norms.”

Marques has been a victim of judicial persecution in the past. In 2015, he was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence after he was found guilty of defamation for publishing a book titled Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, in 2011. In the book, he revealed details of hundreds of killings by security guards and soldiers and human rights violations in the diamond fields of the Lundas region. 

The Angolan authorities continue to use violence to disperse peaceful protests.  On 24 June 2017, protests led by the Movimento do Protectorado Lunda Tchokwe (MPL-T) in the provinces of Moxico, Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul, were violently repressed by security forces.  One person died, at least 13 were wounded, and over 78 protesters were detained.   MPL-T has been demanding for autonomy for the Lundas region.  More protests are planned for 29 July 2017.

In February 2017, security forces again used brute force to disperse peaceful protests in Luanda and Benguela. Demonstrators were calling for the resignation of the Minister for Territorial Administration because of a perceived conflict of interest in his position as a candidate for the ruling party in the August elections and his responsibilities to oversee the voter registration process.

Even though President José Eduardo dos Santos has agreed to step down after 38 years in power, his government is doing everything possible to ensure that the ruling party, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), maintains its grip on power. 

CIVICUS calls on the Government of Angola to stop the judicial persecution of media and respect the rights of all citizens to peacefully assemble. 

Angola is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor, a global platform tracking track civic rights violations around the world.

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

Ine Van Severen

Policy and Research Analyst

CIVICUS

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Grant Clark

Media Advisor

CIVICUS

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The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in Middle East and North Africa and Global Civil Society Alliance CIVICUS, express grave concerns over the arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and call on the Moroccan authorities to release all those in detention.  So far at least 127 protesters have been detained in the wake of the brutal crackdown on demonstrations in the north of Morocco.  

The undersigned civil society organisations express our serious concern over the recent escalation of restrictions on civil society and the public vilification of human rights defenders in Egypt. We call on the Egyptian authorities to uphold their international obligations and ensure that civil society and human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of reprisals.

On 24 May 2017, President Abdel Fatah El Sisi signed a highly restrictive law that provides the government with extraordinary powers over NGOs and stifles the activities of civil society. The bill was approved by Parliament in November 2016 but was put on hold after an outcry by local and international civil society organisations to prevent the President from passing it into law. Law 70 of 2017 severely limits the functioning of civil society organisations and unduly restricts the rights to freedom of expression and association. It introduces hefty fines and prison terms for civil society groups who publish a study or a report without prior approval by the government or engage in activities that do not have a developmental or social focus. These new restrictions make it practically impossible for human rights organisations to carry out their work.

The law provides unprecedented authority to government bodies to interfere in the day-to-day operations of civil society organisations, including their cooperation with any entities outside of Egypt. Worryingly, the law includes overly broad and vague provisions that could lead to its arbitrary application and targeting legitimate activities. Article 13 of the law broadly prohibits civil society organisations from conducting activities that could be deemed harmful to national security, public order, public morality, or public health. The law further violates the right to freedom of association and criminalises activities considered to be of a “political nature” as well as legislative reform work thereby impeding the important work of independent civil society groups in Egypt.

In addition, the government has imposed unwarranted restrictions on the right to freedom of expression online and the ability of individuals to communicate freely and seek and receive information. On 25 May, the government blocked 21 websites and accused them of spreading “terrorism and extremism” and “publishing lies". The block was carried out without any legal process or judicial oversight. These websites include Mada Masr - one of the few independent news outlets that carries out investigative journalism.

On 25 May 2017, more than 10 media outlets published articles and reports as part of a smear campaign against human rights defenders who had travelled to Rome a few days before to participate in a meeting with civil society representatives from other countries. The articles labelled the human rights defenders “traitors,” and urged the Egyptian intelligence service to try them on criminal charges upon their return. This smear campaign is intended to discredit and delegitimise the work of peaceful activists by tarnishing their reputation.

Human rights defenders continue to be intimidated and harassed by the authorities. On 24 May, human rights activist and Director of the Egypt Programme for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Mohamed Zaree, was released on bail of 30,000 EGP (1,650 USD) after being interrogated for several hours by a judge. He was accused of receiving foreign funding for CIHRS, together with other civil society organisations, and for using the funds to promote activities that the authorities perceive to be against national security. He was also accused of tarnishing the reputation of Egypt by preparing human rights reports for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Over the past few years, Egyptian authorities banned 24 human rights defenders and NGO staff from traveling abroad, and froze the assets of seven human rights organizations and 10 human rights defenders. These punitive measures have been implemented by an investigative judicial panel appointed to investigate the activities of human rights organizations.

What is also clear from recent events in Egypt, is that the Egyptian state seems determined to close down the civic space of feminists and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in particular. The stifling of the activism of Egyptian feminists and WHRDs such as Azza Soliman and Mozn Hassan who work on critical issues of violence against women, the closure of the El Nadeem center, and the travel ban against WHRD, Aida Seif el-Dawla, etc, are typical of the tools normally used against WHRDs under repressive governments.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to repeal Law 70 of 2017, close the ongoing criminal investigation into the work of human rights groups and ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society organisations and human rights defenders can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.

Signatories

Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti Violence Studies
Amnesty International
Article 19
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
CIVICUS
EuroMed Rights
Front Line Defenders
International Women’s Health Coalition
Nazra For Feminist Studies
MENA Women Human Rights Defenders Coalition
Muslims for Progressive Values, Nederland
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Transparency International
Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

The world is facing a democratic crisis through unprecedented restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly which constitute a global emergency says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS’ 2017 report.

The 2017 State of Civil Society Report highlights that around the world it is becoming increasingly dangerous to challenge power, and to do so risks reprisals. In several countries, right-wing populist and neo-fascist leaders have gained prominence by winning elections or commanding enough support to push their ideas into the mainstream. Their politics and worldview are fundamentally opposed to civil society seeking to promote human rights, social cohesion and progressive internationalism.

Key points from the report, include:

  • Increasing attacks on civil society activists and organisations from repressive state apparatuses, extremist forces and criminal elements linked to businesses;
  • Just 3% of the world’s population lives in countries with ‘open’ civic space;
  • Recent political shifts indicate genuine anger from citizens about the impact of globalisation on their lives that have been harnessed by right wing populists; and
  • The challenge for civil society is not to dismiss that anger and but to build an alternative movement of hope, not fear that is respectful of human rights.

The report notes that to the new right-wing populists, the international sphere is a dangerous source of progressive values that challenges their narrow notions of sovereignty. International institutions and the human rights values they represent are deemed intrusive. The Paris Agreement on climate change, for example, has been painted as obstructive to economic growth and put at risk by the current attitude of the US government. The leaders of Israel, the Philippines and the US have attacked the UN.  The governments of Burundi and South Africa have in the last year threatened to pull out of the International Criminal Court. Nowhere is the failure of multilateralism more apparent as in the Syrian crisis which has cost half a million lives and displaced half the country’s population, raising the spectre of impunity for war crimes being normalised.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres characterized the current disregard for human rights, fuelled by rising populism and extremism, as a “disease that is spreading”. In the Philippines over 7000 people have been killed as a result of violence encouraged by President Rodrigo Duterte.  In Turkey, following an attempted coup, there are now sweeping restrictions on fundamental freedoms and civil society – some 195 media outlets have been shut down, 80 journalists have been imprisoned along with thousands of academics and others deemed as dissidents.

CIVIC SPACE UNDER ATTACK

A consistent pattern is emerging of attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists engaged in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Restrictive measures range from detentions, arrests and extrajudicial killings of activists to disenabling legislation to squeeze the funding and the functioning of CSOs as being experienced in Egypt. In Ethiopia,  more than 600 people have died in violent suppression of protests against economic and political marginalisation. Ethiopia’s civic space is rated as closed by the  CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that tracks civic space in every country.

Some states, including in parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe, are now introducing laws to make it harder to hold protests. An example is Poland’s anti-terrorism law, passed in June 2016. It gives the state enhanced powers to ban public assemblies, along with increased surveillance and internet control powers. In Venezuela, protests are being met with brute force by government forces.

Another significant trend has emerged over the past year: freedom of expression is being applied selectively. Dissent that serves right-wing populist agendas is encouraged; that which does not is to be dismissed or repressed. Increasingly, dissent is seen as a political act rather than a normal part of a functioning democracy. Methods range from attacks on journalists and activists to the shutting down of entire Internet or mobile phone networks, as experienced in Cameroon’s Anglophone region in the first quarter of 2017. These restrictive measures often increase during politically sensitive times, such as elections. The CIVICUS Monitor records 101 attacks on journalists, between June 2016 and March 2017. In some countries, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, both extremist forces and an authoritarian state present a threat to freedom of expression.

The report notes that the right to express democratic dissent needs to be asserted in many countries.

A MOVEMENT OF HOPE NOT FEAR

But the democracy of the street is alive and well. Around the world, whenever new leaders have come to power on polarizing right-wing populist platforms they have been met with major demonstrations - none have been bigger than those that mobilised as Sister Marches in the USA and around the world, against the politics of President Donald Trump. In South Korea, protests were intrinsic to the campaign that forced former president Park Guen-hye from office on corruption charges. From Romania to Brazil and South Africa, protests have been a key method for citizens to express dissatisfaction with governance dysfunction and corruption.

The report calls on civil society to make the case for a new, progressive internationalism that has human rights at its heart, challenges exclusion and injustice while supporting an active citizenry.

Civil society must also mount a new challenge to current practices of economic globalisation which further privileges elites, and the failures of political systems to give ordinary citizens voice. The response needs to understand the anger that people feel about their lives and livelihoods while being careful not to appease racism, sexism and xenophobia.  A positive message of hope rather than fear is needed. This requires building broad-based alliances that connect classic CSOs with protest movements, journalists, trade unions, youth groups, social enterprises and artists.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The full State of Civil Society Report 2017 can be found here.

About CIVICUS’ 2017 State of Civil Society Report

Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. Part one of our report reviews the past year, focusing on the space for civil society and the impact of a resurgence of right-wing populist politics; the right to express dissent; protest movements; and civil society’s international-level actions. Part two of the report has the special theme of ‘civil society and the private sector’.

Our report is of, from and for civil society, drawing from a wide range of interviews with people close to the major stories of the day, a survey of members of our network of national and regional civil society coordination and membership bodies - the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) - and 27 specially-commissioned guest articles on different aspects of the theme of civil society and the private sector. Most of our inputs come from civil society, but we also sought the views of people working in government and the private sector.

Our report also draws from CIVICUS’ ongoing programme of research and analysis into the conditions for civil society. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our new online platform that tracks the space for civil society - civic space - in every country, and the Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA), a civil society-led analysis of legal, regulatory and policy environments.

For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff or contributors please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

In times of democratic crisis, the growing influence of business over commercial, political and social spheres can play a key role in safeguarding civic freedoms says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS’ 2017 report.

The 2017 State of Civil Society Report highlights a global emergency on civic space as democracy is being undermined by right-wing populist and neo-fascist leaders even as the power of businesses continues to grow. Business, particularly transnational corporations, have a greater impact on all spheres of life than ever before – most of the world’s 100 biggest economic entities by revenue are companies, not governments.

It is also a time when just 3% of the world’s population live in countries with “open” civic space, meaning that the exercise of their freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly is not being unduly restricted.

The CIVICUS State of Civil Society 2017 report further notes:

  • There is a strong business case for protection of civic space, as social risk can add 10% on average to business operating costs, bribery which civil society helps prevent is estimated to account for around US$1 trillion a year
  • Ongoing concerns over harmful business practices resulting in attacks on rights defenders, land grabs, displacement and environmental harm; and
  • Acknowledgement of the role of businesses in Agenda 2030 should not be seen an avenue for profit making by a few transnational corporations but rather as an opportunity for businesses to contribute to the well-being of communities.

The report also points out that forces of globalisation and neo-liberal economic orthodoxy are fuelling inequality, and sparking citizen anger. For civil society, it is a matter of urgency to pay attention to the private sector and find new ways of engaging with it.

“Too often business as usual can result in human rights abuses, leading to land grabs affecting indigenous people, the killing of human rights defenders, low wages and attacks on workers rights. Massive global tax avoidance continues to lead to cuts in public spending and is driving global inequality,” says CIVICUS Secretary General Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah. CIVICUS supports the move towards an international legally binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights in the report.

The report also highlights that the private sector is playing a major role in delivering Agenda 2030, with businesses increasingly drawing development resources. Due to increased focus on public-private partnerships, civil society organisations (CSOs) are having to compete with profit focused private sector contractors to deliver public services in a development market structured more around questionable efficiency concerns than values. The risk is that sustainable development becomes less about realising rights than receiving corporate charity.

BUSINESS CASE FOR CIVIC SPACE

The report identifies several areas of partnership for positive social change between business and civil society. It highlights the need for business to adopt a ‘first do no harm’ approach and then go beyond that by demonstrating an active commitment to protecting civic freedoms.

Nicolas Patrick of global law firm, DLA Piper which is part of a business network on human rights defenders insists that businesses can only succeed where there is strong rule of law. His company sees civil society as an indicator and facilitator of the rule of law. It supports civil society organisations by providing them with strategic advice in obtaining registration in high risk jurisdictions and support in instances of arbitrary detention.

Bill Anderson of the Adidas Group points to his company’s long track record working with several civil society groups to guarantee worker’s rights and better occupational health and safety conditions as part of global supply chains. He believes that open and tolerant societies, where civil society thrives, are also pre-conditions for the long-term success of business.

These initiatives show how, at its best, the private sector can help tackle the biggest issues we face from climate change to economic inequality, and the current crisis of democracy.

UN Global Compact research suggests that poor governance and corruption – which an empowered civil society offers a bulwark against – add on average 10 per cent to the cost of conducting business. The difference between operating in a low corruption climate versus one with higher levels of corruption can be 20 percent of profit. Research puts the economic cost of internet shutdowns, as experienced in Anglophone region of Cameroon this year, at US$2.4billion. This puts a clear price on the failure to defend online civic space.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For the full State of Civil Society Report 2017 click here.

About the State of Civil Society Report 2017

Each year the CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report examines the major events that involve and affect civil society around the world. Part one of our report reviews the past year, focusing on the space for civil society and the impact of a resurgence of right-wing populist politics; the right to express dissent; protest movements; and civil society’s international-level actions. Part two of our report has the special theme of civil society and the private sector.

Our report is of, from and for civil society, drawing from a wide range of interviews with people close to the major stories of the day, a survey of members of our network of national and regional civil society coordination and membership bodies - the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) - and 27 specially-commissioned guest articles on different aspects of the theme of civil society and the private sector. Most of our inputs come from civil society, but we also sought the views of people working in government and the private sector.

Our report also draws from CIVICUS’ ongoing programme of research and analysis into the conditions for civil society. In particular, it presents findings from the CIVICUS Monitor, our new online platform that tracks the space for civil society - civic space - in every country, and the Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA), a civil society-led analysis of legal, regulatory and policy environments.

For further information or to request interviews with CIVICUS staff and contributors please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, marks today’s World Press Freedom Day with a call for greater protection and respect for journalists and the vital contribution they make to healthy societies.

Rising authoritarianism and regressive politics signal a new front in the fight to protect and extend press freedom – and the right of citizens to be informed. Globally journalists are on the front line of a sustained assault on civic freedoms from state and non-state actors.

The determination of populist leaders to shape and control dominant narratives, together with the rise of fake news, extremist groups and increasing commercial pressure means journalists now not only face detention without trial and criminalisation for doing their jobs, they also face physical attacks, loss of life and livelihoods.

The CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that assesses the quality of civic space in every country, records 101 attacks on journalists between June 2016 and March 2017. It indicates that journalists are often at risk of attack for reporting on political issues, protests, conflicts and state corruption.

The International Press Institute (IPI) provides further evidence of the risks that journalists face, reporting that at least 83 journalists died as a direct result of their practice in 2016, with almost half of all deaths occurring when journalists were covering armed conflict, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The findings underline the inextricable link between media freedom and civil society freedom - where one is weakened, so is the other. If dissent is to be accepted as an essential part of participatory democracy, then the essential civil society freedoms – of association and peaceful assembly, as well as expression – must be fought for.

“At a time when independent, critical journalism is desperately needed, such journalism is desperately assailed. A free and independent media is a key ally of civil society in the quest for sustainable development, social justice and human rights. Attacks on the media usually go hand-in-hand with attacks on civil society, and are a barometer of the levels of injustice, corruption and authoritarianism in any society,” warns Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

"The fight against the current regressive politics, in defence of human rights, can only be won if stronger connections are made between civil society and the independent media. We are being attacked together, we must fight back together," concludes Tiwana.

ENDS

EDITORS’ NOTE:

CIVICUS is the global alliance of civil society organisations and activists

www.civicus.org

Contact:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Protest movements around the world are finding themselves on the frontlines of a global attack on democracy and human rights, according to a new report by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. In the face of acute restrictions on democratic dissent at the national level, there is worryingly little support for protest movements from international stakeholders, including other protest movements, foreign states, UN  bodies and international civil society organisations.   This study concludes that such support is important to uphold the international human rights framework, of which the right to peacefully express democratic dissent is a key component. 

The report, Keeping up the Pressure: Enhancing the Sustainability of Protest Movements, explores factors that contribute to or undermine the sustainability of contemporary protest movements. The research examines these issues in three countries, Bahrain, Chile and Uganda, drawing from a series of surveys of and interviews with leaders of contemporary protest movements.

“With formal spaces for participation closing across the globe, citizens are more likely to take to the streets to have their voices heard and press for change,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Research Analyst at CIVICUS, and author of the report. “This study shows that the international community and national stakeholders must foster a safer and more enabling environment for people to engage in public protests.”

Recent years have seen the world swept by new waves of citizen protest. In countries around the world, large numbers of people have marched, demonstrated, occupied and blockaded to call attention to governance failures, demand democracy, stand against autocracy, claim human rights and urge that their fundamental needs are met. While the triggers of protests vary, the new protest movements that have sprung to life in many parts of the globe in have much in common, including the imaginative and creative tactics they employ, their ability to connect local and immediate issues to larger and longer-term concerns, and their determination to sustain action over time.

“Governments must recognise that protest movements play an essential role in shaping democratic life and addressing public concerns,” said Sebastián Vielmas, Chilean right to education activist, “We must forge broad alliances at home and abroad with international civil society and human rights bodies to ensure the sustainability of protest movements and enable the fundamental right to peaceful assembly.”

This study concludes that such support is essential for enhancing the sustainability of national protest movements, across all three contexts. 

Additional key findings include:

•     The states covered by the research are failing to facilitate the right to peaceful assembly.
•    The major ways in which states undermine the sustainability of protest movements are excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest of protesters and imposition of legal restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly.
•    Civil society organisations at the national level need to play a larger role in mobilising support for protest movements through networking.
•    The sustainability of protest movements would be enhanced if legal and extra-legal restrictions on the right to the freedom of assembly are removed or eased. 
•    Protest movement leaders believe that they and their movements have capacity enhancement needs that are currently not being met.

For more information, contact:

CIVICUS Media 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Tor Hodenfield 
Policy & Advocacy Officer 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Deborah Walter
Communication Manager
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Editor’s Notes

CIVICUS can organise interviews with research partners in Bahrain, Chile, and Uganda. 

###

Spanish 

Update: Since the issuance of this release, as of 28 April Enrique Asumu has been released from jail. Alfredo Okenve is still in detention.

 Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of civil society activists Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve, and severe restrictions on civic space in Equatorial Guinea. Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve are the President and Vice President of the civil society organisation, the Centre for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). 

The two activists were arrested on 16 April in the capital Malabo following activities commemorating the twentieth anniversary of CEID.  They were interrogated by the Minister of Interior for several hours before being taken to a prison in Malabo where they are detained. 

“The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power for almost 40 years has created unacceptably stifling conditions for political and civil society participation, which are an anathema in this day and age,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

Several members of CEID are also at risk of arrest following summons from the authorities to explain their participation at CEID’s 20th anniversary celebrations. CEID facilitates civic engagement on human rights, good governance, community and rural development. The organisation also raises awareness about the management and use of natural resources in Equatorial Guinea.

The arbitrariness of the detention of Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve is symptomatic of the political environment in Equatorial Guinea.  Earlier this year, in February 2017, CIVICUS spoke to Alfredo Okenve about the situation in the country revealing a sorry picture of public protests being violently repressed;   a majority of civil society organisations being heavily influenced by the state; close monitoring of independent civil society by the authorities; restriction of online freedoms through routine blocking of websites and social media; and the labelling of those expressing democratic dissent as ‘enemies of the state’.

Last year, in March 2016, Equatorial Guinean authorities issued an order to suspend the activities of CEID indefinitely. They accused the organisation of violating the country’s public order law by disseminating messages aimed at inciting youth to violence and civil disobedience during its Youth Forum on tolerance and development on 29 January 2016.   In September 2016, CEID announced that it had resumed operations and has since then organised several events attended by public officials including the Prime Minister. 

CIVICUS urges the release of the detained activists and respect for internationally guaranteed human rights standards by the government of Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea is rated closed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

For more information, please contact

Deborah Walter

Communication Manager, CIVICUS

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Inés M. Pousadela

Policy and Research Officer, CIVICUS

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  • Almost six billion people live in 106 countries where there are serious violations of freedoms of expression, assembly, and association
  • This first ever global dataset on civic space shows that countries with fewer fundamental civic rights restrictions have less inequality

Johannesburg, 4 April 2017 – Just three percent of people live in countries where the rights to protest, organise and speak out are respected, protected and fulfilled. This is according to the CIVICUS Monitor, which today releases the first-ever global dataset on civic space, a concept central to any open and democratic society which means that states have a duty to protect people's’  fundamental rights to associate, assemble peacefully and express views and opinions. CIVICUS also finds that serious violations of these rights are taking place in 106 countries - well over half of all UN Member States.

The CIVICUS Monitor rates how open civic space is in countries based on how well they uphold the three fundamental civic freedoms that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.

Of the 195 rated, it finds that civic space in 20 countries - Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam -  is closed, a rating characterised by an atmosphere of fear and violence, and severe punishment for those who dare to disagree with authorities.

A further 35 countries are rated repressed. Fifty-one countries are rated obstructed and 63 narrowed. Just 26 countries are rated as open, meaning the state safeguards space for people in the country to share their views, participate in public life and influence political and social change.

Click here for responsive visualisations of all of our findings: https://monitor.civicus.org/findings

In order to highlight countries of immediate concern to us, today CIVICUS is also launching our new Watch List. This advocacy tool enables us to highlight up to five countries on the CIVICUS Monitor where there is a serious and rapid decline in the ability of people to actively engage in a country’s social and political processes, and have their voices heard. Countries on the first iteration of this Watch List include: Cameroon, Macedonia, Myanmar, the USA, and Turkey.

“Our research shows that restrictions on fundamental civic freedoms are truly a worrying global phenomenon affecting almost 6 billion people,” said CIVICUS Secretary General and CEO Danny Sriskandarajah. “They cut across established democracies and repressive states, undermining participatory democracy, sustainable development and efforts to reduce inequality.”

The CIVICUS Monitor provides updates on attacks against civil society organisations and activists every weekday.  Analysis of almost 500 updates published on the CIVICUS Monitor over the past four months has found:

  • Detention of activists, use of excessive force against protesters, and attacks on journalists were the three most common violations of civic freedoms.
  • Activists were most likely to be detained over criticism of authorities, human rights monitoring or demands for social or economic needs to be met.
  • Excessive force was most likely to be used against protesters who criticise government decisions or corruption, call for action on human rights abuses or call for basic social or economic needs to be met.
  • Journalists were most likely to be attacked for political reporting, covering protests or conflicts, or because of their ethnicity, religious or political affiliation.
  • In the majority of cases, the state is the perpetrator of violations, although non-state actors also frequently attack journalists, with many of these crimes going unpunished.

“Swift action should be taken by authorities and the international community to address the rapid decline in respect for civic space in the five countries on our Watch List,” said CIVICUS Monitor lead researcher Cathal Gilbert. “Escalating attacks on protest rights in the United States, the repression of activists in Anglophone areas of Cameroon and Turkey’s all-out assault on dissent must end without delay.”

CIVICUS Monitor ratings and daily updates are based on a combination of inputs from local activists, regional civil society experts and research partners, existing assessments by national and international civil society organisations, user-generated input and media-monitoring. The CIVICUS Monitor now provides ratings for all UN Member States and regular updates from a network of twenty research partners around the world.

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Annex I – CIVICUS Monitor ratings, 4th April 2017

Closed (20 countries): Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Repressed (35 countries): Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Iraq, Liberia, Mauritania, Mexico, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

Obstructed (51 countries): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Gabón, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania,
Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine and Zambia.

Narrowed (63 countries): Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montenegro, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Romania, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

Open (26 countries): Andorra, Barbados, Belgium, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Sweden, Switzerland and Tuvalu.

Regional breakdown

 

Africa

Americas

Asia

Europe

Oceania

Closed

9

1

10

0

0

Repressed

15

3

14

3

0

Obstructed

18

9

19

3

2

Narrowed

10

21

3

19

10

Open

2

1

0

21

2

****

Notes to editors:

The CIVICUS Monitor is available at https://monitor.civicus.org. If you have a question about the CIVICUS Monitor - see our FAQ page here.

For more information or to set up interviews with CIVICUS staff and research partners, please contact Deborah Walter, Communication Manager, CIVICUS on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Tel: +27 - 11 - 8335959

CIVICUS is a global alliance of over 3,600 civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world.

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Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges an end to the pervasive crackdown against English speaking Cameroonians as three respected civil society members - Barrister Felix Agbor Balla, Dr Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy - are due to appear before a Military Tribunal in the capital Yaoundé on 23 March 2017.

Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS, the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) today highlight a near total absence of civic space in Turkmenistan, as the country prepares to go to the polls for presidential elections this Sunday, 12 February 2017.

On Saturday, 21 January 2017, millions will gather in Washington D.C. and in hundreds of other cities around the world to take part in the Women’s March. CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the demonstrators who in the spirit of democracy, seek to honour the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice, and reject the sexist and bigoted rhetoric used during the US election against minorities and excluded groups.

Globally, the sister marches carry a message of solidarity in celebration of our multiple, diverse and intersecting identities and reject all forms of patriarchy and the discriminatory systems that support them worldwide. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the release of recently arrested leaders of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) and all activists and citizens unlawfully detained in a wide ranging crackdown on peaceful protests ongoing since October 2016. 

“The situation in Cameroon is extremely serious and is being closely followed by the Chairperson of the African Union who has urged restraint and dialogue,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “We are deeply concerned about the arbitrary actions of the government and about the well-being of detained, citizens, protestors and civil society members.”

On 17 January 2017 authorities in Buea, the South West Region, arrested CACSC leaders Agbor Balla and Fontem Neba.  Both were taken to the Military Mobile Intervention Unit, also known as the GMI, in Buea before being transferred to the capital, Yaoundé. There are serious concerns about the well-being and safety of the two civil society members as others arrested under similar circumstances have been tortured, and several remain unaccounted for. 

Agbor Balla is the President and Fontem Neba is the Secretary General of CACSC, a network of civil society organisations, unions and citizens of Anglophone Cameroon advocating for, and seeking dialogue around, the rights of English speaking Cameroonians. The South West and North West regions are the only 2 Anglophone territories -  the other 8 regions are French-speaking.   The arrest of the two CACSC leaders has been swiftly followed by the arrest of activist Mancho Bibixy, in Bamenda, North West region, shortly after midnight on 19 January 2017.  He has been taken to an unknown destination.

Since October 2016 citizens, lawyers and teachers’ unions of Anglophone Cameroon have stepped up their efforts to raise concerns over the suppression of the identity of Anglophone Cameroon. They have called for a review of the imposition of civil law practices and civil law trained judges in courts which have common law tradition, as well as raised concerns about the challenges faced by teachers, students and civil servants in Anglophone Cameroon. 

Over the last three months, security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters, resulting in several deaths. There are also reports of arbitrary detention and torture while in custody. The whereabouts of several detainees remain unknown. Following the violent response of the authorities towards peaceful protests, CACSC is now coordinating a boycott of schools and academic institutions and a campaign of non-participation in economic, legal and social activities in the two Anglophone regions of Cameron. 

Cameroonian authorities have responded by imposing power outages and internet blackouts in the North West and South West provinces in order to impede debate on social media and online platforms.  On 10 January 2017, the authorities closed down private radio station Radio Hot Cocoa, accusing it of unethical behaviour for broadcasting Anglophone Cameroonian concerns. The government has authorised aggressive security tactics in the affected regions including the maintaining a high military presence and carrying out of random house-to-house searches, arbitrary arrests and torture of occupants. 

CIVICUS calls on the international community, including the African Union, the United Nations and the Commonwealth to urgently engage President Paul Biya to resolve the crisis and end violations of democratic rights.

Cameroon is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

ENDS 

Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

Seventy Latin American and international civil society organisations have endorsed a letter urging President Correa of Ecuador to constructively engage with indigenous communities opposing the development of extractive industry projects on their lands. The letter also calls for the removal all legal and policy measures limiting these communities’ fundamental rights to association, assembly and expression. 

“The government has responded to the indigenous communities’ legitimate demands for consultation with mounting repression and further restrictions on fundamental freedoms,” said Marlon Vargas, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). “Indigenous community leaders and organisations resisting the advances of extractive industries and demanding the implementation of consultation mechanisms for the expression of their communities’ free, prior and informed consent are being routinely criminalised and judicially harassed,” Vargas added.

Most recently, in the context of ongoing protests and activism orchestrated by indigenous Shuar communities in opposition to the activities of mining companies in Ecuador’s Southern Amazon region, the government has declared a state of emergency suspending basic freedoms in the Morona Santiago province, and threatened to dissolve Acción Ecológica, a well-respected national organisation that has advocated for the rights of nature and the collective rights of peoples for nearly three decades.

The letter highlights the following issues:
•    Abuses were committed against the Shuar community of Nankints, who were denied consultation rights, evicted to make way for a mining venture, repressed as they attempted to reclaim their territory, and further criminalised following clashes with security forces guarding the newly established mining camp resulted in casualties.
•    Under the state of emergency that was decreed in the Morona Santiago province, military presence was reinforced in the Shuar communities, basic freedoms were suspended and local dwellers were terrorized.
•    In retaliation to its work to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of mining projects and lack of consultation of indigenous communities, the environmental organisation Acción Ecológica was threatened with the initiation of dissolution procedures.
•    Domestic legislation, including Executive Decrees No. 16 and No. 739, currently allows for the arbitrary dissolution of civil society organisations, and should be repealed and replaced by a comprehensive Associations Law removing all undue restrictions on the freedom of association.

“Over the past few years, the Government of Ecuador has increasingly targeted dissenting civil society, overstepping the boundaries protecting the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression,” said Inés Pousadela, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “We all need to stand in solidarity with the people of Ecuador and call on the government to uphold its constitutional and international human rights commitments.”

The signatories to the letter urge Ecuador’s Government to implement consultation mechanisms with indigenous communities, refrain from criminalising indigenous community leaders and organisations challenging extractive industry projects, and replace current restrictive legislation with an alternative NGO law upholding constitutional and international standards on freedom of association.

Civic Space in Ecuador is rated as ‘obstructed’ in the CIVICUS Monitor.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to respect constitutional norms and the will of the Gambian people. As the 19 January deadline for the inauguration of incoming President Adama Barrow approaches, Gambian authorities are silencing independent media houses and arbitrarily arresting public spirited citizens calling on incumbent president Jammeh to hand over power in line with the results of the 1 December 2016 elections.

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and Nouvelle Société Civile Congolaise (NSCC), condemn the senseless killing of at least 34 protesters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in recent days. The killings have come as citizens have called for President Joseph Kabila to step down, following the formal end of his mandate on 19 December.

Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Mexican CSO Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca (Consorcio Oaxaca) are deeply concerned about the widespread use of arbitrary detention and torture against human rights defenders in Mexico. A recent report, jointly published by 11 Mexican and international human rights organisations, sets out how such practices are extensively used to restrict the work of human rights defenders.

Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) are deeply worried about the growing challenges faced by civil society in Colombia. Several activists have been attacked while potentially restrictive legislation is underway and would curtail civil society organisations’ ability to contribute to the implementation of the peace agreements.

Aumentan las restricciones pese al predominio de la democracia

En América Latina y el Caribe la sociedad civil está bajo creciente presión a pesar de la prevalencia de la democracia en la región, afirma un nuevo informe publicado hoy por la alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS.

Si bien en la mayor parte de los países las libertades fundamentales que componen el espacio cívico –las de asociación, reunión y expresión- tienen reconocimiento constitucional, las barreras legales, administrativas y de hecho que limitan su ejercicio han aumentado en todo el continente. Estas restricciones han resurgido tras una nueva ola de protestas ciudadanas en torno de problemas profundamente arraigados en la región: la desigualdad, la corrupción y los abusos del poder político.

Restrictions on civic space rising despite prevalence of democracy

Click here to read a Spanish language version of this release

Civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean is coming under increasing pressure despite the prevalence of electoral democracy in the region, says a new report released today by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

While the core civil society freedoms of association, assembly and expression are constitutionally recognised in most countries, legal, administrative and de facto barriers to the exercise of these freedoms have risen throughout the continent. These restrictions are appearing after an upsurge of citizens’ protests over entrenched issues of inequality, corruption and abuses of political power.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is deeply concerned at the harassment of Egyptian activist Azza Soliman. Ms Soliman, a well-respected defender of women’s rights, is the founder of Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA). She was arrested on 7 December by Egyptian police from her home in Cairo in a worrying escalation of the continuing crackdown on civil society in Egypt. Ms Soliman was later released on 20,000 EGP (1,100 USD) bail.

“Azza Soliman has been an ardent advocate of women’s rights in Egypt for over 20 years and is no stranger to persecution for her work," said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “We believe that the current acts of intimidation against her, including through the imposition of questionable legal charges, are another ploy to silence her and prevent her from carrying our her legitimate work in the defence of human rights.”

Ms Soliman has been presently charged with contravening Article 78 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which criminalises receipt of international funding for perceived “activities against national interest.” She is also being questionably accused of tax evasion. Last month, on 19 November, she was prevented from leaving Cairo Airport to travel abroad. In an attempt to further harass her, Egyptian authorities have also frozen her private assets and those of the legal firm that she directs.

In 2015, Ms Soliman had to endure a lengthy trial and was subjected to judicial persecution for providing testimony as a witness in the murder of poet and writer Shaimaa al-Sabbagh during a public protest by the police. She was ultimately acquitted of the charges of unauthorised protest and breach of security and public order framed against her.

CIVICUS believes that Ms Azza Soliman is being persecuted for her legitimate work as a human rights defender. CIVICUS urges the Egyptian Government to end acts of persecution against Ms Soliman and to take steps to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society in the country.

Egypt is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

Rise in authoritarian values coupled with intensifying natural resource exploitation crippling civil society

Johannesburg / London, 3 December 2016: The scramble for natural resources coupled with the rise of authoritarian values around the world endangers activists and prevents them from playing their rightful role in the management of natural resources, says a new report from CIVICUS and Publish What You Pay.

Against All Odds: The Perils of Fighting for Natural Resource Justice documents the ways in which governments and business in virtually all resource-rich countries restrict civil society, and how this actively undermines efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.

Those who speak out over unsustainable and unscrupulous natural resource governance suffer a range of attacks – from smear campaigns to murders that go uninvestigated.

“In the face of closing civic space, activists end up spending more time protecting themselves and their organisations,” said Elisa Peter, Executive Director of Publish What You Pay. “This prevents them from carrying out their vital work: scrutinizing the environmental and economic impact of extractive industries, ensuring that the voices of affected communities are heard, and blowing the whistle on corruption.”

Based on first-hand exchanges with those on the front lines of natural resources activism, Against All Odds documents two types of repression: use of the law as a tool against activism and use of extra-legal tactics against activism.

Regarding the use of the law, the report records regulations that seek to control civil society in Australia, Canada, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Azerbaijan. Tightening controls on public space are documented in Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, Australia, the United Kingdom, Niger, Kazakhstan and Chile, and criminalisation of activists is recorded in Peru, Panama, El Salvador, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Azerbaijan.

Regarding extra-legal tactics, the report documents intimidation and violence in Colombia, DRC, Indonesia, Honduras, Philippines, Brazil and South Africa, the public vilification of those who speak out in Congo-Brazzaville, Ecuador, Argentina, Canada and the USA, and unwarranted surveillance in India, Nicaragua and Canada.

The replication of repressive policies and practices from state to state suggests that nations are quickly learning from one another the most effective methods to stifle independent civil society.

Whether intrinsically opposed to natural resource exploitation, or rather concerned with a fair distribution of its costs and benefits, activists seem just as likely to be harassed or even killed, the report finds. As layers of discrimination overlap, indigenous women activists appear to be the most at risk. Civil society is developing its own self-protection mechanisms in response to attacks, collected in the report.

“It is a tragedy that those trying to protect natural resources are themselves in need of protection from corporate greed and political collusion,” said Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS. “From Australia to Uganda, courageous activists have refused to play the victim. It is imperative that international civil society stands in solidarity with those on the frontlines of the struggle for natural resource justice.”

CIVICUS and PWYP call on governments to repeal restrictive legislation and live up to their commitments to protect and enable civil society under international and national law.

Companies and governments must foster strong civil society engagement in natural resource governance, through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) among others. This includes refraining from vilifying environmental activists. Companies and investors must obtain free, prior and informed consent from communities affected by their projects.

CIVICUS and PWYP also strongly encourage civil society actors to work in unison towards a better protection of colleagues on the ground. This can be achieved through better documentation of cases of repression and by holding to account those in charge of a country’s natural resources.    

Notes to editors:

Against All Odds: The Perils of Fighting for Natural Resource Justice can be accessed online here: http://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications/2655-against-all-odds-the-perils-of-fighting-for-natural-resource

The report will be presented 3 December at an event organised by CIVICUS and Publish What You Pay at Transparency International’s International Anti-Corruption Conference in Panama.

PWYP’s Executive Director will also join a panel on civic space at the OGP Summit 2016 in Paris to share the key findings of the report.

CIVICUS is an international alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.

Publish What You Pay is a global network of civil society organisations united in their call for an open and accountable extractive sector so that oil, gas and mining revenues improve the lives of women, men and youth in resource-rich countries.

Press contacts:

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  • Fundamental civic freedoms seriously undermined in over a third of OGP countries – Colombia, Honduras, Liberia and Mexico fare worst
  • Worrying picture revealed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a new online research tool that rates civic space around the world and documents systemic violations of rights

Johannesburg, 2 December 2016 – People’s rights to protest, organise and speak out are currently being significantly violated in 25 of the 68 active Open Government Partnership (OGP) countries, according to the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool to track and compare civic freedoms on a global scale.

The new tool launched in October by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS rates countries based on how well they uphold civic space, made up of three fundamental rights that enable people to act collectively and make change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression.

The OGP brings together governments and civil society with the shared aim of making governments more transparent, accountable and responsive to their citizens. OGP countries make multiple commitments relating to civil society and public participation, which include consulting with civil society and enabling citizens to input on policy.

Of the 68 active OGP countries, the CIVICUS Monitor finds that civic space in four - Colombia, Honduras, Liberia and Mexico -  is repressed, which means that those who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, injury and death. Civic space is also rated as repressed in Azerbaijan and Turkey, both recently declared ‘inactive’ by the OGP’s steering committee.

In the past six months, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented a wide variety of attacks on civil society in these four countries, ranging from the assassinations of five social leaders in just one week in Colombia, to the police’s use of tear gas and water cannons to disperse student protests in Honduras, and from the four-hour detention and questioning of a newspaper editor in Liberia to the murder of a community radio journalist in Mexico.

A further 21 OGP countries are rated obstructed, meaning that space for activism is heavily contested through a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.

Other commitments on civic participation and civic space that OGP countries make include releasing and improving the provision of information relating to civic participation; bringing in or including citizens in oversight mechanisms to monitor government performance; and improving legal and institutional mechanisms to strengthen civil society capabilities to promote an enabling environment for participation. 

“The existence of significant restrictions on civil society in more than a third of OGP countries is deeply troubling and calls into question their commitment to the principle of empowering citizens upon which the OGP was founded,” said Cathal Gilbert, lead researcher on the CIVICUS Monitor. “OGP countries should be harnessing the potential of public participation in governance, rather than silencing government critics and harassing human rights defenders.”  

Of the remaining OGP countries, civic space in 31 is rated as narrowed. A total of 12 countries are rated as open, which means that the state safeguards space for civil society and encourages platforms for dialogue. Positively, no OGP countries fall into the CIVICUS Monitor’s closed category.

“Notably, OGP countries as a group fare better than the rest of the globe on civic space,” said Gilbert. “However, much more needs to be done collectively to ensure that commitments on public participation made by OGP countries in their national development plans are carried through.”

As heads of state and government, members of parliament, academia, business and civil society representatives meet at the OGP Summit in Paris, France from 7-9 December, CIVICUS urges delegates to focus discussions on best practices to improve civic space conditions in OGP countries.

###

For more information, please contact CIVICUS’ media team on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Notes to editor

During the OGP Summit, lead researcher Cathal Gilbert will present these findings from the CIVICUS Monitor during a session from 11:15 - 12:35 on Thursday 8th December in Room 1, Palais d’Iena, Paris. For more information see here: https://en.ogpsummit.org/osem/conference/ogp-summit/program/proposal/459. CIVICUS Secretary-General Danny Sriskandarajah will take part in a high-level panel on civic space at the OGP Summit on Friday 9th December.

The CIVICUS Monitor is available at https://monitor.civicus.org. Ratings are based on a combination of inputs from local civil society activists, regional civil society experts and research partners, existing assessments by national and international civil society organisations, user-generated input and media-monitoring. Local views are prioritised. The CIVICUS Monitor is regularly updated during the week and users are invited to contribute. More information on the methodology is available here.

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Annex I – CIVICUS Monitor ratings, December 2016 (Active OGP countries highlighted in bold)

All (134) Countries:

Closed (16 countries): Bahrain, Burundi, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, UAE and Vietnam

Repressed (33 countries): Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cambodia, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, China, Colombia, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, Iraq, Liberia, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe

Obstructed (29 countries): Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Ukraine

Narrowed (40 countries): Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Montenegro, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA

Open (16 countries): Andorra, Belgium, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world.

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www.twitter.com/CIVICUSalliance

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#CIVICUSMonitor

 

To read this in Portugese, click here.

CIVICUS is extremely concerned about the rise in attacks on civil society organisations (CSOs), academics and journalists in Mozambique. Several activists and members of the media have recently faced various forms of intimidation, including death threats, harassment, assassination attempts and arbitrary detention for criticising the governance system, corruption and vhuman rights violations.

Bangladesh’s new Foreign Donations law is in breach of international norms and agreements, says global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.  CIVICUS remains deeply alarmed that the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act which was enacted last month will have serious negative consequences for Bangladeshi civil society and prevent them from undertaking their essential and legitimate work.

“Worryingly, the law endows the government officials with broad powers to sanction civil society groups which are critical of the state or its policies and imposes arbitrary restrictions on access to vital funding to engage in sustainable development activities,” said Tor Hodenfield, Policy & Advocacy Officer from CIVICUS. “We urge the government to undertake a review of the law’s restrictive provisions in light of constitutional and international commitments and in the interests of the people of Bangladesh whom the country’s vibrant civil society serves.”

Bangladesh is party to several international agreements, including the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation which obliges states to create an enabling environment for civil society organisations to maximise their contribution to development, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals framework which promises effective and meaningful civil society partnerships and protection of fundamental freedoms.

Under the new law, foreign-funded NGOs which make ‘inimical’ and ‘derogatory’ remarks against the constitution and constitutional bodies, including the President, Prime Minister, Parliament, and the Supreme Court, can be subjected to criminal and administrative sanctions. Specifically, the law stipulates that the authorities may unilaterally deregister, withhold the registration or ban the activities of an NGO if it makes such comments. These provisions breach fundamental freedoms of expression and association and preclude civil society groups from publically scrutinising state policies and practices.

In addition, the law places unwarranted and targeted controls on NGOs which receive funding from foreign sources. Under the law, all foreign-funded NGOs must register with the NGO Affairs Bureau (a state institution seated within Prime Minister’s office), submit regular activity reports and secure the Bureau’s prior approval before initiating any project which will use foreign donations. The law further imposes arbitrary and onerous limitations on how NGOs can use their own resources. Without justification, the law precludes NGOs from spending more than 20% of their budget on administrative costs.

We urge the Government of Bangladesh to initiate (i) a dialogue with Bangladeshi civil society who will be severely impacted by the law’s restrictive provisions, and (ii) undertake a review process of the law to evaluate its compatibility with Bangladesh’s constitutional and international commitments. 

Bangladesh is listed as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.

 

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS urges the South African government to reject attempts at the UN to block the appointment of the first-ever independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. A vote is due today at the UN General Assembly in New York to overturn the appointment of the expert which was mandated by the Geneva based UN Human Rights Council in June this year following a resolution.  

The current situation has arisen out of a move by the 54 members of the Africa Group to suspend the September 2016 appointment of Thai international lawyer, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Independent Expert, who began his work on 1 November, is responsible for monitoring and reporting on implementation of international human rights standards to overcome violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

“The creation of the mandate of the Independent Expert reflects the sustained and concerted efforts of a broad coalition of civil society stakeholders, UN bodies and states against violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community,” said Mandeep Tiwana Head of Policy and Research for CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. “We hope South Africa will stand firm on its constitutional commitment against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

In a global climate of continued prejudice and hostility against the LGBTI community, a vote to suspend the work of the Independent Expert would undermine the development of crucial international mechanisms to ensure that LGBTI individuals and groups subject to discrimination, harassment and attacks at home access have access to necessary protections and scrutiny. According to global civil society group the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), over 70 countries maintain laws that criminalise same sex relations.

CIVICUS urges South Africa to take a principled position in line with its constitutional values by (i) voting against the resolution to defer the appointment of an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and (ii) by engaging the states opposed to the expert’s mandate on the need to uphold not undermine the international human rights framework.  

Note to editors

In June 2016, the UN Human Rights Council, the world’s premier human rights body adopted Resolution 32/2 establishing the mandate of the Independent Expert. The resolution, presented by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay, was approved by the 47 member UN Human Rights Council. The resolution expands and elaborates on two prior resolutions including in 2011, led by South Africa, and in 2014 led by Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay to counter and violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

 

 

Many in civil society will mourn the loss of the PPA. DFID core funding helped build capable and confident organisations that were able to plan long-term and holistic interventions. Any new system will introduce new uncertainties and administrative burdens that will hamper the effectiveness of civil society.
 
We do welcome DFID’s commitment to supporting a diverse range of civil society actors, especially smaller and Southern organisations, and to doing more to support civic space. The focus on feedback loops and new forms of accountability has the potential to yield some exciting and transformative change.

- Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary General, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

For further information and to request interviews, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Spanish

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is deeply worried about rising repression in Cuba. Despite the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States and the expectations generated by the possibility of an imminent lifting of sanctions, Cuban journalists and civil society activists and their organisations are facing a serious clampdown for exercising their rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

“As activists attempt to reclaim public space following recent political developments, short-term detentions have been on the rise as a way to discourage acts of democratic dissent,” said Inés Pousadela, policy and research officer with CIVICUS. “In addition to high-profile activists and protest-oriented organisations who have been traditionally targeted, groups engaged in research, monitoring and providing information to citizens have also faced increased government repression.”
 
In October, several journalists were victims of raids on their homes and subjected to verbal threats, physical violence and the confiscation of equipment in clear acts of intimidation intended to stop them from doing their work. The Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP) denounced a wave of repression directed against nine independent journalists for cooperating with the organisation. A group of journalists of the new independent media project Periodismo de Barriowere detained for reporting on the effects of Hurricane Matthew without a permit.
 
In September, the offices of the Center of Legal Information (Cubalex), which provides free legal advice to Cuban citizens and reports on human rights issues, were raided. Police sought to justify breaking into Cubalex’s offices, intimidating its staff and confiscating paperwork and equipment on the grounds that its lawyers were carrying out “illicit economic activity” even though Cubalex does not charge for its services. The organisation’s application for legal status has been rejected by the Cuban Justice Ministry and its Director, Laritza Diversent has repeatedly faced harassment for engaging with regional and international human rights bodies.
 
CIVICUS calls on the Cuban government to enable the exercise of civic freedoms to speak up, organise and petition the authorities. Accordingly, we urge Cuban authorities to (i) cease the harassment of activists and journalists carrying out their regular legitimate activities, (ii) begin a process of dialogue to create a more enabling environment for civil society and the independent media, and (iii) initiate reforms to give legal recognition to a wider plurality of civil society endeavours.
 
Cuba is listed in the ‘closed’ category of the CIVICUS Monitor

CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) are deeply concerned about impending legislation to restrict freedom of association in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s National Assembly is currently considering a bill to provide for “the establishment of the Non-Governmental Organisations Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of Non-Governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations etc. in Nigeria and for related matters.” First introduced in July 2016, the bill has since passed through the second reading in the House of Representatives. The bill has now been referred to the Committee on CSOs and Development Partners for further legislative input.

“The bill is in conflict with Nigeria’s Constitutional and international law obligations,” says Oyebisi Oluseyi, Executive Director of NNNGO. “We must instead strengthen civic space in Nigeria, as our sector’s role in finding solutions to the enormous challenges facing our nation cannot be overemphasized”.

French | Spanish

The CIVICUS Monitor is a new global platform tracking violations of freedoms of assembly, association and expression in real-time.

Johannesburg, 18 October 2016 - In light of widespread global restrictions on civil society, CIVICUS is launching a new tool to measure the freedoms that people around the world have to protest, organise and speak out. The tool will go online at 00.01 Central Africa Time (CAT) on 24 October 2016 (UN World Development Information Day).

The CIVICUS Monitor will rate country respect for civic space in five broad categories from Closed to Open, based on how well they uphold the three fundamental rights that allow citizens to come together and demand change: freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression. In addition to the 104 country ratings available on launch day, the latest updates on civic space will be available for most countries in the world.

CIVICUS will also be releasing numbers on which types of violations were most common and the driving forces behind them, based on analysis of more than 200 national-level updates on civic freedoms gathered over the past four months (June – October 2016).

By signing up to the Sustainable Development Goals last year, world leaders agreed that people must be able to take part in making the decisions that affect their lives, and to ensure access to information (Goal 16). The CIVICUS Monitor will show how the key civic freedoms that should allow for this are coming under sustained assault.

Ratings are based on a combination of inputs from local civil society advocates, regionally-based research partners and civil society experts, existing assessments, user-generated input and media-monitoring. Local views are prioritised and all users are invited to contribute information on the situation in their countries. The number of countries rated by the CIVICUS Monitor will increase over time and news updates will be added each weekday.

CIVICUS Monitor

Launching online at https://monitor.civicus.org/

00.01 Central Africa Time (CAT), 24 October 2016

Notes to editors: 

For advance access to the CIVICUS Monitor web platform under embargo or to set up an interview, please contact CIVICUS’ global press office on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Interviews can be arranged in advance with CIVICUS Secretary General Danny Sriskandarajah and CIVICUS Monitor Researcher Cathal Gilbert, as well as regional researchers.

A one-minute video explainer on civic space and the CIVICUS Monitor is available here.

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world.

www.civicus.org 

www.twitter.com/CIVICUSalliance 

www.facebook.com/CIVICUS 

 

The crackdown over the past week against several newspapers in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir is a worrying development that has blocked free communication in the region. Since earlier this month, authorities also limited and blocked mobile phone access, social media and telephonic landline services, as well as access to cable television networks. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance condemns this media and communication clampdown and denounces the excessive lethal force used on protestors by law enforcement agencies. 

Since July 16, authorities have been on the offensive against several newspapers - among them the Kashmir Observer, the Kashmir Reader, the Rising Kashmir, the Daily Kashmir Images and the Greater Kashmir. Security forces raided the premises of publications, confiscated printed copies, detained staff and stopped circulation of the print media. 

CIVICUS logo colour on transparency lowresFOPRIDEHGlobal civil society alliance CIVICUS and the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH) strongly condemn the recent assassination of environmental activist Lesbia Yaneth Urquía and urge the Honduran government to conduct a full investigation into her death, as well as ensure a safe environment for human rights defenders to do their work.

On 6 July, the body of Lesbia Yaneth Urquía, a member of the Council of Indigenous People of Honduras (COPINH), was found in a rubbish dump some 100 miles west of Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital. Preliminary reports linked her murder to a robbery attempt.  The murder of Lesbia Yaneth Urquía comes just four months after the assassinations of fellow COPINH activists Berta Caceres and Nelson García, who were shot dead in early and mid-March 2016 respectively. Urquía and her colleagues have been fervent defenders of the community rights and part of a long fight to stop a hydroelectric megaproject undertaken without the consent of the local population, who are concerned that it could lead to cutting off water and other resources for several indigenous communities. 

The UK government is receiving widespread condemnation for a new clause in grant agreements that will place restrictions on civil society organisations lobbying the government. 

Last week, 140 UK charities signed a joint letter to David Cameron expressing their deep concern over the proposed clause and the move has been strongly condemned by the global alliance of civil society organisations, CIVICUS. 

“This move restricts the freedom of expression of UK civil society, and fundamentally reduces the opportunity for the voices of the people who receive the vital support of charities to be heard. Coming from a country with a long tradition of free speech, this is a serious step in the wrong direction for democracy, transparency and human rights. Moreover, it only serves to further stoke up a worrying global trend where governments around the world are trying to silence civil society,” said Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS.

The international community must urgently call on Israeli authorities to withdraw a repressive proposed law that seeks to silence human rights groups says CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. 

In what could set an extremely bad precedent, the regressive draft `Obligation to Disclose Support by a Foreign Political Entity Act’ passed its first reading in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on 8 February when it garnered 50 votes in favour of and 43 against it.

“Every democratic country that subscribes to international human rights law should be extremely concerned by this bill,” said Teldah Mawarire, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “There are strong reasons to believe that this proposed law is specifically designed to stop the work of human rights groups, especially those that expose abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” 

As the world’s rich and powerful gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum an  alliance of top international charities, human rights campaigners, women’s rights groups, green groups, civil society organisations and trade unions has come together to fight the growing crisis of inequality.

In a joint statement, the alliance, including ActionAid, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Greenpeace and the International Trade Union Confederation warns that growing inequality threatens progress on development, environment, women’s rights and human rights.
The alliance statement says ‘“Struggles for a better world are all threatened by the inequality crisis that is spiraling out of control.  Across the world, we are seeing the gap between the richest and the rest reach extremes not seen in a century.’  

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From Ebola to the bombing of Gaza, civil society was the first responder to humanitarian emergencies during the last year, but faces dire threats and a funding crisis around the world, says a new report.

“During the last year civil society was everywhere, doing great work often at the frontline of the world’s challenges, but at the same time having to stave off threats to its very existence,” said Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, the CIVICUS Secretary-General on launching the organisation’s 2015 State of Civil Society Report.

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