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2 February 2012
Edition No: 570

Where should Avaaz go in 2012?


Democracy is on the march across the world, and our community is at the heart of the struggle, but to win we're going to need to choose our course wisely. Take the annual Avaaz all-member poll, and decide where to focus our energies in 2012.
Take the poll

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Webinar: Strengthening civil society through social media
Source: Global Net 21

At times of financial restraint and when Governments are looking at how civil society can be recruited to deliver on their own agenda how can we ensure that the many associations that make up civil society can protect their independence. Can social networking help create a network of mutual independence that strengthens the countless groups that are the social glue of our civil society? This is the topic of this webinar.
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Follow @civicusalliance on twitter and get the latest civil society updates.

Programme Officer (Application deadline 05 February 2012)
Source: IPAP

IPAP is a programme of Christian Aid, supported by DFID to work on empowerment of dalits (SCs) and adivasis (STs) in India. The INGO partnership agreement programme (IPAP) will be implemented in partnership with local civil society organisations working for dalit and adivasi communities, networks, resource support organisations, CBOs, academic and research institutions.
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Executive Director (Application deadline 01 March 2012)
Source: Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)

The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) is seeking to recruit an Executive Director with vision and strategic thinking, experience in working with the African human rights systems and management strengths.
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Press Release:

Future of last remaining human rights monitoring NGO in Ethiopia in the balance

On 3 February 2012, the Cassation Bench of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia will hear a petition by the Human Rights Council (HRCO), Ethiopia's oldest human rights organisation, to admit an appeal against the freezing of its bank accounts. Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project and Human Rights Watch express deep concern at the obstacles and restrictions to which HRCO and other human rights organizations in Ethiopia are now subjected, as illustrated by this case. The decision of the Supreme Court will be of great significance for the future of HRCO's vital work and for the wider promotion and protection of human rights in Ethiopia.

HRCO's bank accounts were frozen after the introduction of the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law), adopted by the Ethiopian parliament in 2009 to regulate domestic and international civil society organizations. The CSO law prohibits human rights organisations in Ethiopia from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources. As a result, the majority of independent Ethiopian civil society organisations working on human rights issues have had to discontinue their work. The CSO law has been widely criticized for failing to meet international human rights standards. In December 2009, the Charities and Societies Agency (CSA), a new regulatory body established under the CSO law, granted HRCO its license as an Ethiopian charity, but, in a letter dated three days before the registration, the CSA ordered four private banks to freeze all of HRCO's assets including its private bank accounts and reserve funds.

HRCO (formerly known as the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, EHRCO) has been the leading human rights voice in the country, with a strong track record of investigating and reporting on violations and promoting human rights in the country since its establishment in 1991. As a result of the restrictions in the CSO law and the freezing of its accounts, HRCO has been forced to close nine of its twelve offices and cut 85 per cent of its staff.[1]

The CSO law does not allow for retroactive application, meaning the restrictions in the law cannot be applied to funds collected before the passing of the law. Further, the CSA did not secure a court-ordered warrant permitting it to freeze HRCO's assets and nor does the CSO law contain any provision permitting the CSA to block an organisations accounts. On these bases HRCO challenged  the lawfulness of the freeze to the Board of the CSA, and subsequently to the Federal High Court in April 2010. The High Court upheld the decision of the regulatory body on October 24, 2011.

HRCO is now petitioning the Supreme Court, the highest adjudicating body in the country, to hear its appeal against the decision of the Federal High Court.

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World Assembly call for proposals

The call for activity proposals for the 2012 CIVICUS World Assembly is officially open! Submit session ideas related to the theme "Defining a new social contract - Making the future together" and contribute to the future of civil society today. Your submission will build on the diverse knowledge, skills and experience of the individuals, organisations and networks that participate in the World Assembly every year.
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The Great Transformation?
The World Economic Forum has certainly taken measures to improve multi-stakeholder engagement in recent years. It appears that some political and business leaders are finally realising that it may be time for new ways of doing things and perhaps even hearing what alternative voices have to say. Members of civil society who have been granted access to engage with the world’s top politicians and business leaders are wondering whether this year’s theme of “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models” will address the multiple political, social, economic and environmental crises facing the world.
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On the road to Rio

Rio+20: The move toward a green economy
Source: Ekklesia

In June 2012, the world's leaders will meet in Rio to set the global sustainability agenda for the next decade. The draft text of what will be the outcome document for the Rio+20 Earth Summit has been in circulation for 10 days now and has already undergone a weekend of debate at the UN in New York.
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Follow threats and take action to protect civil society - join Civil Society Watch at

Kazakhstan: Jailed human rights defender amnestied

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Kazakh Service

The prominent Kazakh human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis has been granted amnesty, after serving more than a half of his four-year jail sentence for manslaughter. Zhovtis, former chief of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights, told RFE/RL by phone on February 1 that he will be released in 15 days.
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Organising committee of 29 people nominates Ales Bialiatski for Nobel Peace Prize
Source: FreeAles

President of the human rights center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, currently under arrest in connection with charges of taxes evasion, is nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.
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Combating violence against women must be high on Italy’s national agenda – UN Independent Expert
Source: United Nations OHCHR

Despite efforts to combat violence against women in Italy, the levels of such violence remain high and there is an urgent need to address the underlying structural causes of inequality and discrimination, the UN independent expert on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, has said.
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Global hunger, the price of greed and lack of foresight
Source: Social Watch

Speculation on lands and commodities, the boom of biofuels, agricultural and aid policies set up by rich countries and multilateral organizations and the climate change exacerbates the food crisis all over the world, as Social Watch Report 2012 makes apparent.
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Rights groups urge release of Papuan activists
Source: IRIN

Human rights groups have urged Indonesian authorities to drop treason charges against five activists in the easternmost province of Papua. The activists - Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, August Makbrowen Senay, Dominikus Sorabut and Selpius Bobii - went on trial on 30 January, their lawyer says.
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Aid policy: Islamic agencies battle the odds in Gaza
Source: IRIN

Secours Islamique France is a respected aid agency and part of the global Islamic Relief network based in the UK, but when it comes to helping Palestinians in Gaza, its operations are challenged by both Israeli bureaucracy and its own “no-contact” policy with the Hamas officials who control the territory.
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NGO ‘crisis’ distracts from Egypt polls
Source: Aljazeera

Many Egyptian and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have been helping train new parties and educate voters now find themselves at risk of prosecution, caught up in an investigation into their funding that some are blaming on a budgetary turf war waged by Egyptian cabinet minister Fayza Aboulnaga. The second part of the election process to fill Egypt’s first post-uprising parliament begins on Sunday, but voter apathy and an escalating crackdown on US-funded civil society groups mean few may be paying attention.
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2012 annual letter from Bill Gates
Source: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Throughout my careers in software and philanthropy—and in each of my annual letters—a recurring theme has been that innovation is the key to improving the world. When innovators work on urgent problems and deliver solutions to people in need, the results can be magical.
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Occupy Protesters and Police Clash in Oakland
Source: The New York Times Company

A march to take over a vacant building by members of the Occupy movement in Oakland, California, turned into a violent confrontation with the police on Saturday, leaving three officers injured and about 200 people arrested.... Most of the arrests occurred in the evening, when large groups of people were corralled in front of the Downtown Oakland Y.M.C.A. on Broadway. At one point, one group of protesters broke into the City Hall building.
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Bold action is needed to make sustainable development a reality
Source: The Elders

Today’s leaders must make binding decisions for the long term. Looking ahead to Rio +20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development taking place in Brazil this June, the Elders say that 'business as usual' is no longer acceptable and urge world leaders to deliver on their commitment to a more equitable, sustainable world.
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Resilient people, resilient planet: A future worth choosing

Source: The UN Secretary-general’s High Level Pane on global sustainability

The 22-member Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma. The Panel's final report, "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing", contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.
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Make or break implementation efforts - the role of Enabling Environment
Source: Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness

Promoting and advocating for a more enabling environment for civil society is an essential element of CSO effectiveness work. Recently, civil society started working on implementation of the Istanbul Principles with the newly launched Toolkit accompanying the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness. However, no matter how hard CSOs work to improve their own effectiveness, without an enabling environment, these efforts will be in vain.
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2012 call for proposal
Source: Open Society Initiative for West Africa

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is a grant making and advocacy foundation that is part of the global Open Society Foundations Network. OSIWA works to support the creation of open societies in West Africa marked by functioning democracy, good governance, the rule of law, basic freedoms, and widespread civic participation. Its headquarters is in Dakar and it has offices in Abuja, Monrovia, Freetown and Conakry.
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Monitoring women’s rights
Source: Human Rights Education Association

This e-learning course is an introduction to documenting and monitoring women's human rights and gender equality, including sexual and gender based violence, women in situations of armed conflict, education, political rights and freedoms, and special protection measures.
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Gandhi fellowship

An intensive 2-year programme that helps talented young people develop the leadership skills to cause disproportionate positive change in society. The fellowship challenges young people to support primary school headmasters to turn around their failing schools, thus improving the quality of education provided in India’s government schools.
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