civic space

 

  • From Venezuela to US: People power

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    Goldman Sachs’ decision to bailout the Venezuelan government has, unsurprisingly, attracted widespread global condemnation. The transnational firm stands to make a potential windfall profit as Venezuelans continue to face empty shelves and government water cannons daily. Usually it is international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not transnational companies, which occupy the dubious space of government bailouts.

    Read on: New Internationalist

     

  • G20: ‘Civil society is treated as a second-class partner; its recommendations often go unheard’

    CIVICUS speaks with María Emilia Berazategui, Transparency International’s Global Advocacy Coordinator, about the role of civil society in international and inter-governmental forums and the degree to which it can influence decision-making processes, and the successes achieved and challenges encountered in 2019 by the C20, the engagement group for civil society within the G20. Before joining Transparency International, María Emilia led the area of Political Institutions and Government at an Argentine civil society organisation, Poder Ciudadano. In 2018 she was appointed C20 Sherpa under the presidency of Argentina. In 2017 and 2019 she was a member of the C20 Steering Committee, and in 2018 and 2019 she was the co-Chair of the C20 Anti-Corruption Working Group.

    Emilia Berazategui 

    What is the C20, and why does it matter?

    The C20 (Civil-20) is one of the G20’s official engagement groups, and it the natural space for civil society organisations (CSOs) to advocate at the G20 level.

    There are two additional ways in which CSOs can participate in G20 processes: by attending the G20 Working Group meetings, as guests, to present thematic recommendations, and by being present at the G20 International Media Center when summits take place, which allows them to engage directly with the media covering the G20 summit and disseminate their messaging around key themes.

    The C20 is a global civil society space, without a permanent structure and with a presidency that rotates annually, in line with that of the G20, for CSOs from all over the world – from grassroots and local groups to large international CSOs – to influence the G20 collectively. According to the recently adopted C20 Principles, its aim is to ensure that world leaders listen not only to voices representing the government and business sectors, but also to the proposals and demands of civil society, and that they are guided by the core values of human rights, inclusion and sustainable development.

    Civil society engagement with the G20 matters because we are only 10 years away from the 2030 deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the gap between the actions taken by governments and the measures that need to be taken to achieve them is immense. Most of the challenges we face – political polarisation and extremism, human rights abuses and civic space restrictions, extreme inequality, systemic corruption, gender disparities and gender-based violence, intersectional discrimination, the lack of decent employment, the health crisis and the negative impact of digitalisation and technology in our lives – not only remain unanswered but continue to deepen.

    Governments and multilateral institutions have a central role to play in finding shared solutions to common challenges. World leaders need to come together urgently to find those solutions, and despite all of its challenges, the G20 is one of the few spaces that provides them with the opportunity to do so.

    Sadly, in the last few years we have seen little evidence of any real progress from G20 leaders. Commitments are made in front of the world’s media but are quickly forgotten and rarely implemented once they return home. A recent report by Transparency International exposing issues of money laundering and anonymous company ownership found deeply troubling weaknesses in almost all G20 countries.

    What can civil society contribute?

    Civil society engagement with the G20 can help because civil society brings a set of unique skills to the table.

    First, in trying to make sure that policy outcomes serve the common good, we hold governments accountable. So when governments commit to something, we will hold them to their promises. Sometimes they resist, but other times we succeed in strengthening champions inside governments who really want to get things done.

    Second, we contribute our expertise. Civil society groups are not just watchdogs. We are innovators, technologists, researchers and policy experts who can help support policy implementation to achieve the best possible results. Civil society can also contribute to increased transparency and the credible evaluation of outcomes.

    Third, civil society functions as a bridge, helping translate technical jargon into language people actually use, explaining what change means and bringing citizens’ perspectives back to decision-makers. Governments should talk to civil society about their plans so we can provide feedback on how those plans will impact on people.

    Last but not least, civil society provides much-needed balance. One of the greatest weaknesses of the G20 is the lack of openness to having civil society represented at the same table where business interests sit. This raises the question of whether the G20 values the interests of corporations more than those of citizens. This certainly does nothing for trust, and it shows why people around the world believe that governments are too close to business or only act for the benefit of a few private interests.

    How much space do international forums such as the G20 offer for civil society to influence policy-making in reality?

    The G20 is often described as elitist, as a group of economic powerhouses – although not all the largest economies take part in it – trying to rewrite the rules of global economic governance, operating largely behind closed doors in an opaque way. It’s no wonder that many in civil society instinctively feel that we should oppose the G20 rather than engage with it.

    The G20 invites a variety of guests to take part in its meetings, including representatives from different regional groupings, guest states and international organisations. However, its record of speaking to citizen groups and civil society is mixed at best. Despite all that we have to offer, we do not sit at the same table; we are treated as second-class partners and our recommendations and ideas on important issues often go unheard.

    Experiences vary widely across the various working groups that comprise the G20. For instance, despite all the knowledge that civil society has on financial issues, the G20 International Financial Architecture Working Group has systematically closed its doors to civil society participation. On the other hand, we are lucky to have a standing item on the agenda of the Anti-Corruption Working Group, in which governments speak to business and civil society on the same footing. Still, while we appreciate this, we think that both this working group and the G20, in general, need to improve their engagement with civil society significantly.

    Despite all these limitations and challenges, during 2019, when the G20 presidency was in the hands of Japan, civil society managed to influence the G20 in some areas including the protection of whistleblowers, making infrastructure spending more transparent and on gender and corruption.

    In 2019, the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group adopted two important documents: the High-Level Principles for the Effective Protection of Whistleblowers, which was much in line with civil society’s recommendations and included an unprecedented recognition by the G20 of the gender-specific aspects of whistleblowing, and a Compendium of Good Practices for Promoting Integrity and Transparency in Infrastructure Development, also aligned with civil society recommendations.

    Through the Compendium, the G20 also recognised that transparency regarding who the ultimate owners of companies are is critical to the fight against corruption. In line with civil society suggestions, they recommended implementing company beneficial ownership registers to reduce the possibility of public funds being used to favour specific individuals or companies, and to identify conflicts of interest.

    Overall, what would you say were the main successes of civil society engagement with the G20 during 2019?

    In one word, the main success of civil society engagement during 2019 was its continuity. Civil society was able to maintain a similar degree of engagement with the G20 as it had in 2018, when Argentina chaired the G20. In 2018, and for a short period of time, civil society won access to some G20 Working Group meetings, although unfortunately, not to the working groups that are part of the so-called G20 Finance Track, and to the G20 Media Center. This allowed civil society to access, for the first time ever, some sessions that used to be held behind closed doors. In addition, we got G20 local representatives, including the G20 Sherpa, to attend the C20 in-person meetings.

    Civil society's 2018 call for G20 delegates to move from words to action passed from Argentina to Japan. This had an echo on social media, through the hashtag #G20takeaction. In order to continue strengthening civil society participation and ensure an increasing impact within the G20, in 2019 the C20 agreed a set of principles that enshrined transparency, collaboration, independence, internationalism, inclusiveness and respect for human rights and gender equality as central pillars of the engagement group’s practice. This was a very important milestone in the C20’s history.

    And what were the challenges and what needs to improve?

    Despite these successes, there is an urgent need for the G20 to change the way it engages with civil society. At the G20, governments discuss policies that have a huge impact on our lives. As civil society, we should be allowed to bring to the table the voices of citizens, real and diverse. These are the people who will be affected by the public policies promoted in this forum.

    The few times we have managed to gain access to G20 meetings, the experience has usually not been positive. We make great efforts to be there. After finding the resources and traveling many hours, we wait – sometimes for a very long time – outside the meeting room until they finally let us in. Once inside, we  share our ideas and recommendations as quickly as possible in order to ensure there is time for dialogue with the delegations, which itself is rarely an open and honest conversation. After a short while, we are diplomatically ushered out of the room so that, having ticked the civil society participation box, negotiations can continue.

    The G20 still has a long way to go to ensure effective civil society participation. G20 leaders need to stop thinking that inviting civil society representatives to a couple of meetings amounts to the fulfillment of their obligation to consult widely and open themselves to scrutiny. They need to acknowledge the unique skills that civil society brings to the table and move towards more meaningful and sustained engagement with civil society.

    They can do this in many ways. First, they can, and should, invite civil society as well as business representatives to additional sections of various Working Group meetings, to provide insights and guidance on a thematic basis, and not just during a single, short session dedicated to listening to all of our concerns. Additionally, they should share the agenda of those meetings with us. It may sound crazy, but more often than not we are invited and go to meetings without knowing what is being discussed, so we are not necessarily sending the most appropriate person or preparing the most relevant or detailed contribution.

    Second, the G20 delegates should consistently meet with domestic civil society throughout the year, both prior to and after G20 Working Group meetings. This already happens in some G20 countries but not all of them.

    Third, G20 representatives need to be more open and honest in their exchanges with civil society. When G20 delegates speak to civil society, mostly they only share limited information on what they are doing to address major global challenges, which sometimes simply amounts to propaganda. How about they asked us what we want to discuss and what information we’d like to receive? Or how about they provide honest and direct feedback on the proposals and recommendations we shared with them?

    G20 leaders seem to be unaware that good communication and access to information are key. There is no permanent G20 website. Instead, every presidency establishes its own, which isn’t updated afterwards. The digital landscape is littered with redundant G20 websites. This makes documents hard to find for civil society, media and researchers seeking to inform themselves about G20 activities. In 2017, when Germany chaired the G20, the German government took an excellent initiative: it compiled all existing anti-corruption commitments in one location. This should be normal practice. For transparency and accountability, all G20 Working Groups should publish minutes and agendas of their meetings. And they should systematically consult with civil society so we provide an input into the draft documents they are planning to adopt and suggest key topics the G20 should focus on.

    What changed in terms of civil society engagement when the G20 presidency passed on to Saudi Arabia for 2020?

    Despite its limitations and weak engagement with civil society, the G20 has been a relevant space to bring our concerns directly to governments and advocate with them to tackle the most critical issues we face. Unfortunately, in 2020 the space for civil society engagement became significantly reduced when the presidency of the G20 and all its Engagement Groups, including the C20, passed to Saudi Arabia – a decision taken by G20 governments in 2017 in Hamburg, Germany.

    Saudi Arabia is a state that provides virtually no space for civil society and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated. It systematically suppresses criticism from the media, regularly arrests and prosecutes human rights defenders, censors free speech, limits free movement and tortures and mistreats detained journalists and activists. This makes civil society participation ethically dubious.

    In addition, the C20 principles emphasise a series of elements that the Saudi presidency is unable to provide, such as inclusion of a variety of truly independent civil society actors, from local to global, the transparency of decision-making procedures and the guiding values of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. By participating in the very limited space that the Saudi government would be able to provide, we would only help launder Saudi Arabia’s international reputation. The Saudi government has already recruited expensive Western public relations advisors and spent millions of dollars to polish its tarnished image.

    In response, an overwhelming number of CSOs from all over the world have joined their voices together and decided to boycott the C20 hosted by Saudi Arabia this year. At Transparency International we are looking forward to re-engaging fully with the C20 process next year, when the presidency will pass to Italy.

    Civic space in Saudi Arabia is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Transparency International through itswebsite andFacebook page, and follow@anticorruption and@meberazategui on Twitter.

     

     

  • Gambian civil society optimistic as new democratic era dawns

    The Gambia has recently gone through a major democratic transition. CIVICUS interviews Sohna Sallah, the Vice President of the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists about the major political change and implications for human rights in the Gambia.

     

  • Global assault on our basic freedoms signposts a dangerous return to the past

    By Danny Sriskandarajah

    Ask yourself these four questions. Can I criticise my head of state on Twitter? Can I join a human rights group to campaign for change? Can I take part in a peaceful protest outside government buildings? And can I do all of these things while knowing that my government will not just protect me but will actually enable my right to organise, speak out and take action on issues that matter to me?

    If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then congratulations. You are in the very lucky, and sadly very tiny, minority of people who live in the 26 countries which, today, have “open” civic space.

    Read on: Huffington Post

     

  • Global challenges, local responses

    By Danny Sriskandarajah and Mandeep Tiwana

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

    Read on: International Journal on Human Rights

     

  • Global Monitor Report: Twice as many people live in repressed countries compared to a year ago

    Findings based on data released today by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries.

    The CIVICUS Monitor's latest global assesment,  People Power Under Attack 2019, finds that the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression are backsliding across the world. In the space of a year, twice as many people are living in countries where these civic freedoms are being violated: 40% of the world’s population now live in repressed countries - last year it was 19%.

    The report, which is based on data from the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration, shows that civil society is under attack in most countries. In practice, this means that just 3% of the world’s population are now living in countries where their fundamental rights are in general, protected and respected – last year it was 4%.

    2019 has been a historic year for protest movements. From the streets of Sudan to Hong Kong, people have poured onto the streets to make their voices heard. However, according to the 536 updates by the CIVICUS Monitor, the fundamental right to peaceful assembly is under attack across the world. In fact, within the last year the CIVICUS Monitor documented that 96 countries either detained protesters, disrupted marches or used excessive force to prevent people from fully exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

    “This data reflects a deepening civic space crisis across the globe. As millions of protesters spilled onto the streets, government response has been repression instead of dialogue,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS. “However, the fact that so many activists were brave enough to raise their voices, shows the resilience of civil society in the face of brutal repression.”


    Nine countries have changed their civic space rating: seven countries have been downgraded and only two improved their rating. Worrying signs for civic space are recorded in Asia-Pacific, where three countries dropped a rating: Australia, India and Brunei. There is growing concern about the decline of democratic and civic rights in Europe, with Malta also being downgraded. Other countries on the slide include Nigeria, Comoros and Madagascar.

    People Power Under Attack 2019 also provides analysis on the kinds of violations most frequently recorded on the CIVICUS Monitor over the past year. Globally, censorship is the most common violation, occurring across 178 countries. From blocking websites and social media, to banning television programmes, governments across the world are going to great lengths to control public discourse and suppress free speech. The other top violations include:

    There are bright spots emerging, as both Moldova and the Dominican Republic improved their ratings this past year. The Dominican Republic moved from the obstructed to narrowed category after civil society managed to challenge and overturn restrictive laws; these laws related to defamation cases and constitutional amendments which would lengthen Presidential terms.

    Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space on all continents. The Monitor has posted more than 536 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2019. Civic space in 196 countries is categorized as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology which combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

    Regional summaries and press statements:


    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

     

  • Guatemala: Las autoridades detienen a Jerson Antonio Morales al tiempo que continúan los ataques contra defensores de los derechos indígenas

    English

    La alianza global de la sociedad civil CIVICUS condenó el arresto y la detención ilegal del periodista y activista de los derechos indígenas Jerson Antonio Xitumul Morales por parte de las autoridades guatemaltecas, el 11 de noviembre de 2017.

     

  • HONG KONG: ‘This is a leader-full movement, ran by countless small networks of talented people’

    johnson yeungCIVICUS speaks about the protests that have rocked Hong Kong since June 2019 with Johnson Ching-Yin Yeung, democracy movement organiser and chairperson of the Hong Kong Civil Hub. The Hong Kong Civil Hub works to connect Hong Kong civil society with like-minded international stakeholders willing to help promote the rule of law, democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. 

    What triggered the mass protests that have taken place for several months?

    The protests had both short and long-term causes. When Hong Kong was decolonised in 1997, China signed an international treaty promising that people in Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy. In other words, Hong Kong would have its own government, legislation, courts and jurisdiction. But, long story short, China is not fulfilling that promise and Hong Kong is slowly becoming more like China due to Chinese intervention in our government and judiciary. Following the2014 Umbrella Movement, there have been increasing restrictions on the freedom of association, and for the first time in decades the government made use of colonial-era laws and outlawed organisations that advocated for Hong Kong’s independence. We expect restrictions on association, funding and exchanges with international organisations and civil society to increase over the next few years.

    Political participation has also been under attack. In 2017, for the first time since 1997, a few lawmakers were disqualified and expelled from the legislature. In the past three elections there have been disqualifications of candidates. This is becoming a major tactic used by China, based on claims that certain candidates are not respecting the law or they will not be loyal to Beijing. This explains why at some point people decided to take their grievances to the streets, given that most institutional channels for political demands are shut down.

    People took to the streets in 2014, under the Umbrella Movement. But protest is being severely punished. In April 2019, several pro-democracy leaders weresentenced to eight to 16 months in prison. Local leaders who advocate for political independence have also been punished with up to seven years of imprisonment.

    The current protests began in June 2019. On 9 June,more than a million people mobilised against the Extradition Bill, aimed at establishing a mechanism for transfers of fugitives to mainland China,  currently excluded in the existing law. Three days later, the legislature decided to continue the legislation process regardless of the opposition seen on the streets, so people besieged the parliamentary building, to which the Hong Kong police reacted with extreme brutality, firing teargas and rubber bullets, shooting into people’s heads and eyes.

    Amnesty International made a comprehensive report on the incidents of 12 June and concluded that the police had used excessive force, even though the protest had been authorised by the Hong Kong government.

    What changed after the repression of 12 June?

    There was a huge outcry because we had never experienced this kind of repression before, and two million people – almost one quarter of the population of Hong Kong – took part in the protests that took place four days after.

    From then on, protesters had a few additional demands on top of the initial demand that the extradition agreement be withdrawn, something that happened three months after the first protest. Protesters demanded the release of the arrested demonstrators and the withdrawal of the characterisation of the protests as riots, which is cause enough to hold someone and convict them: all it takes is for a defendant to have been present at the protest scene to face up to 10 years in prison for rioting. Protesters also demanded an independent inquiry into police activity. Over the past six months we’ve documented a lot of torture during detentions. Excessive force is used all the time against peaceful protests, so people really want the police to be held accountable. A recent survey showed that 80 per cent of the population support this demand. But the government is relying solely on the police to maintain order, so they cannot risk such investigation. Last but not least, there is the demand of universal suffrage and democratic rights, without which it is difficult to foresee anything else changing for real.

    What did not change was the government reaction and the police repression.Over the next few months, around 7,000 people were arrested – 40 per cent of them students, and 10 per cent minors – and around 120 people were charged. The fact that only 120 out of the 7,000 people arrested were charged shows that there have been lots of arbitrary arrests. The police would arrest people on grounds of illegal assembly. I was arrested in July when I was just standing in front of the corner line. I complied with police instructions, but I still got arrested.

    Thousands of people were injured during the protests. The official number is around 2,600 but this is a very conservative estimate because more than half of the injured people were not brought to public hospitals and did not seek medical assistance because they were afraid they would be arrested. Some doctors and nurses organised underground settlements to treat serious injuries like infections or rubber bullet injuries. But they had to remain anonymous and there simply were not enough of them and they didn’t have enough medical supply. There have been at least 12 suicides related to the protest movement. Lots of people have gone missing. Students and activists who are arrested are often deprived of their right to a lawyer and a phone call, and no one knows where they are detained. In many cases, it’s hard to verify whether people are in fact missing or have fled the country.

    Analysts have claimed that the strength of the current protests lies in their ‘leaderless’ character, something that prevents the government stopping the movement by jailing leaders. Do you agree with this characterisation?

    Many observers have seen the way we have used technology to coordinate the protests and they have concluded that our movement has no leaders. It is true that our movement is characterised by the decentralisation of communications and mobilisation. But this does not mean it is aleaderless movement. On the contrary, the Hong Kong protest movement is a leader-full movement: it is full of leaders and is run by countless small networks of talented people capable of organising and coordinating action on their own.

    While the demography of the protests is quite diverse in terms of age, background and social class, more than the 50 per cent of protesters are female, and the major force of the protests are people aged 20 to 49. There is also a strong presence of highly educated people: more than 85 per cent of protesters have tertiary education or above.

    But a notable characteristic of this disparate protest movement has been its unity, which may have resulted from the longstanding repression of civil society. When the leaders of the 2014 protests – most of them young students – were sentenced to prison, older people showed up at the protests because they felt that they had not been doing enough. People also united against police brutality, because there was no previous history of such a serious crackdown on protesters and people felt morally responsible to show up in support.

    Can you tell us more about how the protest movement has used technology for organising and coordinating action?

    During the first few months at least, people would rely on their cellphones and the Telegram app. People would have strategic discussions and channel these discussions into a Telegram channel. These are not the safest communication tools but they can hold more than 3,000 subscribers, which means that you can speak to 3,000 people at the same time, you can share action timetables, the site of protests or the location of the police with a huge number of people. We use a live map to inform protesters where the police are and where the protests are taking place, so they can avoid being arrested. Another app shows which businesses and stores are supportive of the movement. Pro-democracy businesses appear in yellow, while pro-government ones appear in blue.

    We also use Telegram bots for international advocacy. A group of people is dedicated to disseminating information on Twitter and Interact.

    We also use social media as a recruitment tool because after an action is held, people use social media to reflect about the strategies used and assess the outcomes. But after a few months, people started using online apps less and less. They would instead form their own groups and organise their own actions. There are frontier leaders, first leaders, people working on documentation, people who organise street protests – each is doing their own thing while at the same time warning others about clashes and organising timetables. This is how we use civic tech.

    How has the movement managed to grow and thrive in adverse conditions?

    Several elements explain why people keep showing up and why the movement is so resilient against government repression. First, people deploy their actions in their own neighbourhoods. We disperse action rather than concentrate it, because when we use concentration tactics, such as holding a protest in front of a government building, we become an easy target for the police. In the face of dispersed actions, the police would try to disperse protesters but would often end up attacking passers-by or people going about their business in their own neighbourhoods. For many people not involved directly in the protests, this was also a wake-up call and functioned as a recruitment mechanism: police brutality ceased to be a far-away problem; instead, it hit home and became personal, triggering a protective reaction.

    A tactic commonly used by protesters is the Lennon Wall, in which people post messages in public spaces, which creates a sense of community and helps organise public support. Lennon Walls appear in various places and people use them to send and receive information about the protests. People also put posters in bus stops so when people are waiting for the bus they can get information about the protests. People sing in protest in shopping malls. This way, people use their lunchtime to sing a song and protest while going about their business, and they reach people who don’t read the news and don’t pay much attention to politics. That is one of the key lessons here.

    Another key lesson concerns the importance of the unity between the moderate side and the radical front of the protests. Given that even authorised protests would be dispersed with teargas for no reason, some people began resorting to more militant actions to combat the police and protect their space. Some social movement analysts claim that radical incidents diminish popular support for the movement, but this does not seem to be happening in Hong Kong. In a recent survey, more than 60 per cent of respondents said they understood the use of violence by the people. I suppose that one reason why people do not reject militant actions is that they view the government and the police as responsible for most of the violence, and view violence by protesters as a fairly understandable response. Another reason is that radical protesters have been careful not to target ordinary people but only the police and pro-government businesses.

    What else have you learned in the process?

    A big lesson that we’ve learned concerns the effectiveness of creativity and humour to offset government repression. Protesters used laser tags to disable cameras used for the surveillance of protesters, so people started to get arrested for buying laser tags. After a student was arrested for possessing a laser tag, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in a public space and used laser tags to point at a public building. Another example of an effective response took place in early October 2019. There is a law that states that people can be jailed for a year if they wear a mask or anything covering their faces, so people responded in defiance, forming a human chain in which everyone was wearing some kind of mask.

    We’ve also come to understand the importance of global solidarity and leveraging geopolitics. The Hong Kong diaspora has organised a lot of lobbying and advocacy in various cities around the world. We have also lobbied foreign governments and supported the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill that was introduced in the US Congress following the Umbrella Movement in 2014, but that was only passed in November 2019. This law requires the US government to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong, and requires the US Department of State and other agencies to conduct an annual review to determine whether changes in Hong Kong's political status – namely its relationship with mainland China – justify changing the unique and favourable trade relations between the USA and Hong Kong. This is huge, and we are trying to replicate this in other countries, including Australia, Canada, Italy and New Zealand.

    We have also done advocacy at the United Nations (UN), where some resolutions about police brutality have been passed. But the UN is quite weak at the moment, and aside from the documentation of human rights violations there is not much they can do. Any resolution regarding the protests will be blocked by China at the UN Security Council. That said, a thorough UN investigation on police brutality would send a strong message anyway. We have been communicating with human rights civil society organisations to do more advocacy at the UN.

    We are also looking for alternative tactics such as working with unions in France, because water cannons are manufactured in France and we hope something can be done about it.

    What have the protests achieved so far?

    The democratic camp has made a lot of progress. In November 2019 we had elections for the District Council. True, the District Council doesn’t have any real political power because it carries out neighbourhood duties, like garbage collection and traffic management. Still, in the latest election 388 out of 452 seats went to the pro-democracy camps, whereas back in 2015 they were only 125 pro-democracy representatives, compared with 299 who were pro-Beijing.

    That said, I don’t think the pro-democracy movement should put too much of its energy into institutional politics because the District Council is not a place where the political crisis can be solved. However, the elections served as a solid foundation for organisers to organise people at the local level.

    According to the polls, almost 90 per cent of the people supported independent investigation of human rights violations, more than 70 per cent demanded the resignation of the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and 75 per cent supported universal suffrage. That kind of popular support has remained stable for several months, which is pretty amazing.

    What are the challenges ahead?

    While there is no sign of protests calming down, there is also no sign of the government making concessions anytime soon. Violence is escalating on both sides, and the protest movement might lose public support if some demonstrators decide to go underground. The Chinese government will not let itself be challenged by protesters, so it is infiltrating organisations and tightening the grip on civil society. Organised civil society is relatively weak, and Beijing can easily interfere with academic institutions, schools and the media by appointing more allies and dismissing those who are critical of the government. The next five years will likely be tough ones for civil society and democracy in Hong Kong, and we will have to work to strengthen civil society’s resilience.

    Another important issue is that a lot of young protesters are traumatised by the violence they have witnessed and experienced. We have support groups with social workers and psychologists, but they cannot provide support in their official capacity or they would find themselves under pressure by their employers who take money from the government. Social workers are also at risk and the police constantly harass them. To strengthen self-care and gain resilience for the battle ahead, we need to train more people and create support groups to help people cope, control their stress and share their stories.

    Another potential challenge is the limited sustainability of global solidarity. Right now Hong Kong is in the spotlight, but this will not last long. Our struggle is for the long haul, but the world will not be paying attention for much longer. So we will need to build more substantial and permanent alliances and partnerships with civil society groups around the world. We need to empower local groups and give people new skills regarding international law, advocacy and campaigning. The protest movement is not going anywhere. It’s going to be a long struggle so we will have to train more organisers. We will disseminate the knowledge gained by the protesters, so when they are sent to jail others will take over.

    Civic space in China is rated as ‘closed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Hong Kong Civil Hub through itswebsite and follow@hkjohnsonyeung on Twitter.

     

  • Hope for citizen voice, despite ‘narrowed’ civic space

    By Ine van Severen and Corlett Letlojane

    President Jacob Zuma heads to China this week to meet with the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China at the the 9th Brics Summit. As far as respect for civic space is concerned, South Africa outshines its counterparts in the Brics bloc, whose members together account for more than 40% of the world’s population. But President Zuma now heads to Xiamen with that record looking worse for wear, in the midst of increasing restrictions on South Africans’ basic rights to organise, speak out and take action.

    Read on:Mail and Guardian 

     

  • How to Undermine Democracy – Curtail Civil Society Rights

    By Cathal Gilbert, Dom Perera, and Marianna Belalba

    Recent elections and referendums in a growing number of countries from Turkey to the USA and beyond are producing leaders and policies, which directly threaten some of the core principles of democracy.  In an increasing number of established and fledgling democracies, we see ruling parties violating the fundamental freedoms to speak-out, rally behind a cause and get involved in a social movement.

    Read on:Inter Press Service 

     

  • Human rights at risk for ASEAN citizens

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

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

    Read on: The Jakarta Post 

     

     

  • Importance of protest in a Trump United States

    By Elizabeth Stephens 

    In a speech shortly after the November election, President Barack Obama urged anti-Trump protesters not to be silent. Yet, the number and attendance of events meant to challenge the values embodied by a Trump presidency dwindled exponentially months after election night. Why is this?

    Read on: Capitol Hill Times 

     

  • India: Democracy threatened by growing attacks on civil society 

    According to the policy brief, published by CIVICUS in November 2017, although civil society in India has been playing essential roles ever since the country's struggle for independence, the space for civil society - civic space - is increasingly being contested.

     

  • Iran: free Baquer Namazi on second anniversary of his arbitrary detention

    Two years ago, this week, human rights champion Baquer Namazi was arbitrarily arrested and detained by the authorities as he arrived in Iran to visit his detained son. During his incarceration at the notorious Evian prison in Tehran, the 81-year-old Iranian-American’s health has deteriorated significantly in terrible conditions.

     

  • It is #TimesUp for sexual harassment, including within civil society

    This is a significant time to be calling for greater progress in the fight against gender inequality and sexual abuse.

     

  • It's time for G20 leaders to embrace civil society

    By Cathal Gilbert 

    There is a growing list of critical problems in the G20's inbox, namely a faltering global economy, terrorist threats in a majority of G20 member states, and a patched-up climate change agreement. Solving these problems will take more than 20 heads of state and their economic ministers. The role of the private sector is widely acknowledged, but the power of civil society is often dismissed. Addressing these expensive and expansive issues requires the will and contribution of the people.

    Read on: Al Jazeera

     

  • Joint letter to UN Member States: Ensure meaningful virtual participation in 2020 review of the SDGs

    Joint letter to United Nations Member States: Ensure meaningful civil society participation in the 2020 virtual High Level Political Forum

    Civil society participation in the United Nations cannot be lost as the world fights COVID-19. This July, 48 Member States are reviewing national progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


    Dear Excellencies, 

    We, the undersigned 460 civil society organisations (CSOs) from 115 countries, write to seek your support in ensuring the effective participation of civil society during the upcoming UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) scheduled for 7-16 July 2020. As the preeminent multistakeholder body responsible for the review and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), HLPF processes derive strength from the engagement of diverse actors including a broad range of civil society organisations (CSOs) working at various levels. As the HLPF transitions to virtual communication and convening for its July 2020 session due to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that all relevant actors, including States and UN agencies, support and devise clear modalities to enable robust virtual civil society participation.

    In response to disruptions caused by COVID-19, a number of Inter-governmental bodies have taken concerted efforts to facilitate extensive virtual participation in official meetings. Inclusive virtual modalities are crucial to supporting international cooperation in the spirit of multilateralism. An enabling environment for all stakeholders to participate that takes into account digital divides is thus crucial. 

    In his “We are all in this Together” statement of 23 April 2020, UN Secretary General António Guterres underlined the importance of promoting and protecting civic space in response to COVID-19. With respect to the SDGs, Secretary General Guterres unequivocally stated that, “Looking ahead, we need to build back better.  The Sustainable Development Goals — which are underpinned by human rights — provide the framework for more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies”. Civil society is key to implementing the SDGs and we must take united action to ensure that the virtual HLPF reflects the broad spectrum of stakeholders who are committed to creating The World We Want. 

    To this end, we urge all states and UN agencies to support the following measures: 

    • Provide an opportunity for at least three Major Group and Other stakeholders to respond to each Voluntary National Review (VNR), one of which should be from civil society.
    • Representatives from national civil society groups voices should be prioritized for inclusion during the HLPF, with adequate representation from regional and international civil society organisations.
    • Written questions should also be presented and answered within a month of the HLPF for those who are unable to ask their question within the given time of the VNR session.
    • All civil society shadow VNR reports should be published on the UN’s official HLPF website. 
    • Ensure side events are inclusive of stakeholder participation, including a wide range of civil society led side online events to be shared in the official programme.
    • Identify more participatory approaches to engage with stakeholders on an ongoing basis, including best practice on use of online meeting technology to provide inputs, to ensure a more inclusive process before, during and after the main HLPF sessions

    We thank you in advance for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    A Toda Voz AC 
    Aakash Welfare Society Hyderabad 
    Access Now 
    Acción Solidaria 
    ACCIONA Transformando Caminospara SER y HACER A.C.
    Accountability Lab
    Achtung labs private limited 
    ACT Alliance
    ActionAid Denmark
    ActionAid International
    Action for Sustainable Develpment
    ADAB (Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh)
    ADD International
    Adivasi Women's Network
    Adivasi-Koordination, Germany
    Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation 
    Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau (ANCB)
    Ageing Nepal
    Agenda Cero A.C. 
    Aid Organization
    AIDS-Fondet - The Danish AIDS 
    Foundation
    AidWatch Canada
    AIESEC MÉXICO A.C. 
    Al Dua welfare organization
    Al Falah Organization Islampur Swat
    Alberta Council for Global 
    Cooperation
    Alfalah Tanzeem Swat
    Alimentos de México a Compartir, A. C.
    Alkhidmat Foundation GB
    Allai Developement Organization
    American Civil Liberties Union 
    (ACLU)
    Amnesty International
    Amnistia Inernacional, Portugal
    Animis Philanthropic Ventures Inc.
    Arab Youth Platform for Sustainable Development - League of Arab States
    ARCADIA - Romanian Association for International Cooperation and 
    Development
    Argentine Network for International Cooperation - RACI
    ARTICLE 19
    Asia Dalit Rights Forum
    Asia Development Alliance
    Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center
    Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC)
    Asociación de Organismos No Gubernamentales (ASONOG)
    Asociación Mexicana de Amigos Metabólicos, A.C. A.C.
    Asociación Nacional de Síndrome de Williams AC
    Association femmes leadership et développement durable 
    Association for Farmers Rights Defense, AFRD
    Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    Association For Promotion Sustainable Development
    Association Nationale des Partenaires Migrants
    Associations 21
    Augustinians International (Curia Generalizia Agostiniana)
    Avoid Accident
    Awaz Foundation Pakistan
    AwazCDS-Pakistan
    Azat Foundation
    Baghbaan 
    Bai Indigenous Womens Network in the Philippines
    Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network
    Bangladesh Nari Progati Shangha (BNPS)
    Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio & Communication
    Biosauenergie
    Bond
    Born Free Foundation
    Bright Star Development Society Balochistan (BSDSB)
    British Columbia Council For International Cooperation
    Brooke
    Bulgarian Platform for International Development (BPID)
    Burundi Child Rights Coalition (BCRC)
    CAFSO-WRAG for Development
    Canadian Council for International Co-operation 
    Cancer Aid Society
    Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV)
    Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) 
    Center for Civil Liberties
    Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines
    Center for National and International Studies
    Centre for Environmental Justice
    Centre for Human Rights and Development 
    Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur
    Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion (CSEI)
    Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
    Centro de Arte y Cultura Popular Tonalteca A.C.
    Centro de Justicia y Paz - Cepaz
    Centros de cuidado, Atencion y educación integral coralitos AC
    ChildHelp Sierra Leone
    Christian Blind Mission
    Church of Sweden
    Church Women United Washington DC Unit
    Civic Initiatives
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development
    Civil Society SDGs Campaign/GCAP Zambia
    CIVILIS Derechos Humanos
    COAST Trust
    Colectivo Ollin, Alternativas para la Comunicaciòn, la Sexualidad y el Desarrollo Comunitario AC
    Colectivo pro Inclusión e Igualdad Jalisco, A. C.
    Colores del Rincón A.C. - MY World México 
    Commons Cluster of the UN NGO Major Group
    Commons for EcoJustice
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
    Commonwealth Medical Trust
    Community Advancement through Research & Development CARD 
    Community Initiatives for development in Pakistan
    Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias
    Concord Italia
    CONCORD Sweden
    Congrégation des soeurs de Notre Dame de Charité du Bon Pasteur
    Congregation of Notre Dame de Montreal
    Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
    Congregation of the Mission
    Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca A.C:
    Cooperation for Peace and Development (CPD)
    CoopeSoliDar R.L
    Coordinación de ONG y Cooperativas CONGCOOP
    Council for NGOs in Malawi - CONGOMA
    Council for Participatory Development
    Crispin Swedi Bilombele
    CRV & Co
    D.C. Unit Church Women United
    Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
    Dalit NGO Federation, Nepal
    Dalit Youth Alliance (DYA)
    DanChurchAid
    Danish United Nations Association
    Dawn Development Organization
    Debasis Chowdhury Rana
    DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    Dehi Ijtimai Tarqyati Social Workers Council (DITSWC)
    Dehi Taraqiati Tanzeem (DTT) BILLITANG KOHAT KPK
    Derecho, Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR)
    Desértica, Soluciones Endovasculares A.C.
    Despertares Derechos Humanos
    Development Dynamics 
    DHEWA (development for health education work & awareness) Welfare Society Chakwal Bheen
    Dillu Prasad Ghimire
    District Development Association
    District Development Association Tharparkar (DDAT)
    Dóchas
    Dominican Leadership Conference
    Dosse SOSSOUGA
    Dr. Tristaca McCray
    DSW (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung)
    DUF - The Danish Youth Council 
    Earth Community
    East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
    Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research
    Edmund Rice International
    EMPOWER INDIA
    Empresa marhnos®
    Environmental Partnership Council
    EOS - Association for Studies, Cooperation and Development
    Equality Bahamas
    Equality For All Development Organisation 
    Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation
    Ethiopian Human Rights Council 
    European Youth Forum
    Fagaras Research Institute
    Federation of Environmental and Ecological Diversity for Agricultural Revampment and Human Rights
    Feminist Dalit Organizations (FEDO)
    FIAN Sri Lanka
    Finnish Development NGOs Fingo
    Fixing The World
    FKM BKA YWU
    FOKUS - Forum for Women and Development
    Fondazione Proclade Internazionale - onlus
    Food Security Network-PRAN
    Foreign Spouses Support Group and Malaysian Campaign for Equal Citizenship
    Former Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission Nepal
    Forum for Women in Democracy
    Forum of women's NGOs of Kyrgyzstan
    Forum Syd
    Forus 
    Foundation for Older Persons' Development (FOPDEV)
    Foundation For Sustainable Development and Climate Action (FSDCA)
    Freshwater Action Network Mexico (FANMex)
    Friends of Angola
    FUNDACIÓN CONSTRUIR
    Fundación Dibujando un Mañana
    Fundación Heinrich Böll - Ciudad de México, México y el Caribe
    Fundación Mexicana de Medicina Paliativa y Alivio del Dolor en Cáncer A.C.
    Fundación Mexicana para la Planeación Familiar, A. C. MEXFAM
    FUNDACIÓN MÉXICO MOTIVACTE A.C
    Fundación MYWM- MY World México
    Fundación Sanders AC 
    FUNDACION SERENDIPIA A.C.
    Fundamedios
    Gals Forum International 
    Gatef orginzation
    Generacion2030
    GESIP Centro para la Gestión Integral y Participativa S.C.
    Gestión Estratégica para Resultados de Desarrollo S.C.
    Gestos (soropositividade, comunicação, gênero)
    Global Call to Action against Poverty
    Global Citizen
    Global Integrity
    Global NGO Executive Committee
    Global Shepherds 
    Globalt Fokus
    Good Shepherd International Foundation- Nepal 
    Good Shepherd Sisters
    Gopal Kiran Samaj Sevi Sanstha 
    Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Zambia
    Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS)
    GREENfluidics 
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-Afrique)
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-BÉNIN)
    Groupe d'Action pour le Progrès et la Paix (G.A.P.P.-Mali)
    Grupo Holístico para el bienestar investigación y desarrollo social Integral, A.C 
    H. AYUNTAMIENTO DE TECAMACHALCO, PUEBLA MEX.
    HAKI Africa
    HelpAge Deutschland
    Hevas Innovación 
    Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP)
    IMCS Pax Romana
    IMS (International Media Support)
    Incidencia y Gobernanza Ambiental AC
    INCIDIR, A. C.
    Institute for Socioeconomic Studies - INESC
    Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Loreto Generalate
    Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo (ICD)
    Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, AC
    International Association for Religious Freedom Coordination Council for South Asia
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation of Business and Professional Women
    International IPMSDL
    International Movement for Advancement of Education Culture Social & Economic Development (IMAECSED)
    International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists
    International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development
    International Open Network
    International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
    International Planned Parenthood Federation 
    International Service for Human Rights 
    International Women's Development Agency (IWDA)
    International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 
    INTRAC
    Jaag Welfare Movement
    Jairos Jiri Association
    Jandran Welfare Foundation
    Japan Civil Society Network on SDGs
    Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC)
    Jeunes Verts Togo
    Julián Carrillo My Words México Kids
    Juventud 2030 GTO. 
    K.U.L.U. - Women and Development (KULU)
    Kafka Welfare Organization
    Kamal Subedi
    Kanimi EcoTienda
    Karapatan Alliance Philippines 
    Kathak Academy 
    Khpal Kore Organization
    KINDERENERGY
    Kothowain (Vulnerable Peoples Development Organization)
    Kyawkrup Foundation
    La Transformación del Graffiti al Arte Pictorico, A. C.
    Lanakaná Princípios Sustentáveis 
    Lanka Fundamental Rights Organization
    Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation
    Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
    Lepaje Environmental Organization
    Let There Be Light International
    LGBT+ Danmark
    Life Education and Development Support (LEADS)
    Light for the World
    LSO Sada-e-Thal Welfare Organization 
    Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
    Malaysian CSO SDG Alliance
    Maldives NGO Federation
    Maleya Foundation
    Maranatha Hope
    Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. 
    Más Coudadanía, AC
    Mechanism for Rational Change MERC 
    Medical Mission Sisters 
    Mihai and Maria Foundation
    Mitini Nepal
    MPact Global Action for Gay Men's Health & Rights
    Mujer Y Salud en Uruguay - MYSU
    MUSONET
    MY World Mexico
    Myanmar Youth Foundation for SDG
    Nagorik Uddyog 
    Natasha Dokovska
    National Advocacy for Rights of Innocent-NARI Foundation 
    National Campaign Against COVID-19
    National Campaign for Education Nepal
    National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal
    National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
    National CSO Platform of Sri Lanka
    National Integrated Development Association (NIDA-Pakistan)
    National Organization for Sustainable Development (NOSD)
    National Trade Union Center (NTUC Phl)
    National Youth Council of Russia
    Neelab Children and Women Development council 
    Neighbourhood Community Network
    Nepal Development Initiative (NEDI)
    Nepal Climate Change Federation
    Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization 
    Nepal SDGs Forum
    NGO EFA 
    NGO Federation of Nepal
    NGOCSW/NYC Women and Girls of African Descent Caucus N. America, Latin America and the Caribbean Descent N. America, 
    Nigeria Network of NGOs
    Noakhali Rural Development Organization 
    NOSOTROS POR LOS NIÑOS CON CÁNCER A.C.
    Observatory of Vulnerable peoples' Rights (OVPR)
    Okogun Odigie Safewomb International Foundation (OOSAIF)
    ONAAR Development Organization
    ONE (SINGAPORE)
    ONG PADJENA
    Open School of Sustainable Development (Openshkola)
    Organizacion Mexicana de Enfermedades Raras
    Organización por la Cooperación Ecológica A.C. 
    Organization for the Marginalized And Neglected Groups OMANG
    Our Fish, Denmark
    Outreach Social Care Project - OSCAR
    OutRight Action International
    Pakistan Development Alliance (GCAP-Pakistan) 
    Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights 
    Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
    Participatory Research Action Network- PRAN
    Peace Infinity 
    Peace Justice Youth Organization
    PEREMPUAN AMAN
    Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
    Plan International
    PlanBørnefonden
    Plataforma de ONG de Accion Social
    Plataforma Portuguesa das ONGD (NGDO Portuguese Platform)
    Portuguese National Youth Council
    Portuguese Platform for Women's Rights
    POSCO Agenda 2030/GCAP Sénégal 
    Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA)
    Povod
    Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en DDHH (Provea)
    Projonma Academy
    Promotora Juvenil don Bosco AC
    Proyecto Cantera Juntos por México AC
    Purvanchal Rural Development and Training Institute
    Radanar Ayar Association
    Real Vision Development Organization
    Reality of Aid - Asia Pacific (RoA-AP)
    Red Agenda 2030 MX
    Red Ciudadana 2030 por el Desarrollo Sostenible
    Red de Educadores Ambientales de Chihuahua 
    Red Nicaraguense de Comercio Comunitario (RENICC)
    Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC)
    REPACT Africa
    Rescue Alternatives Liberia (RAL)
    Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CHFED)
    Réseau Centrafricain au Leadership des Jeunes Femmes en Afrique Francophone 
    Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l'Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
    Roberto ravagnani
    Rozaria Memorial Trust
    Rural Area Development Programme (RADP)
    Rural community devlipment council Gwadar 
    Rutgers
    S.O.S. - Criança e Desenvolvimento Integrale de ANG
    SAHARA Voluntary Social Welfare Agency
    Sahara Welfare Foundation 
    Saif Khan
    Samarthyam
    Sami Foundation
    Saudi Green Building Forum
    Save the Children International
    School of International Futures
    SDG Action Alliance Bangladesh
    SDGs National Network Nepal
    SDSN Youth Mexico
    Semillas para la Democracia
    SEND-GHANA/Ghana CSOs Platform on the SDGs
    SERAC-Bangladesh 
    SERR Servicios Ecumenicos para Reconciliacion y Reconstruccion 
    SEVERE Joseph
    Sex & Samfund / The Danish Family Planning Association
    Shaur Taraqiyati Tanzeem
    Shirley Ann Sullivan Educational Foundation
    Shivi Development Society
    Sindh Desert Development Organization 
    Sindh Rural Development Organization
    Sistemico, Regeneración Socioambiental AC
    SLOGA Slovene NGO Platform for Development, Global Education and Humanitarian Aid
    Slum Child Empowerment and Development Initiative
    Smile Myanmar
    Social and Economic Develepment Associares (SEDA)
    Social Economic and Governance Promotion Centre
    Society for Access to Quality Education 
    Society for Education and Development
    Society for Indigenous Women's Progress
    Society for Sustainable Development 
    Society for the Empowerment of the People
    Soka Gakkai International
    Soñando y Construyendo por un México Mejor a.c
    Soroptimist International
    Spektro Asociación para el Desarrollo Social 
    Sri Lanka Nature Group
    Sudan SDGs Platform
    Sukaar Welfare Organization
    Sustainable Agriculture and Environment.
    Sustainable Development Organization (SDO)
    Taiwan AID
    Takhleeq Foundation 
    Taraqee Foundation
    Teerath Kumar
    Temple of Understanding
    Teresa Kotturan 
    The Inclusivity Project
    The National Civic Forum - Sudan
    The National Council of NGOs/Action on Sustainable Development Goals Kenya Coalition
    The Nationwide Movement Yuksalish
    The Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment
    Think Centre
    Tirtha Biswokarma 
    Toktli Educación Ambiental 
    Uganda National NGO Forum
    Uganda Network of Young People living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA)
    UNA Sweden
    Unanima International
    UNANIMA International
    Union de l'Action Féministe
    Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social - UNITAS
    Unitarian Universalist Association
    United Disabled Person of Kenya 
    United Global Organization of Development (UGOOD)
    United Nations Association of Fiji 
    Universidad Anáhuac Mayab
    Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca
    Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
    Vaagdhara
    Vabieka Fest, Festival Internacional de Payasas.
    Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre
    Varieties of Democracy Institute 
    VIER PFOTEN International
    Village Development Organization (VDO) 
    Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund (DBA- Women First International Fund)
    Vision GRAM-International
    Voces de Cambio, Agenda para el Desarrollo
    Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE)
    Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
    Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
    Water, Environment & Sanitation Society (WESS)
    Women & Child Welfare Society
    Women Deliver
    Women's Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness 
    Women's Rights and Democracy Centre (WORD Centre)
    WomenShade Pak
    World Animal Net
    World Federalist Movement - Canada
    Youth Action Hub Guinea - CNUCED
    Youth For Environment Education And Development Foundation (YFEED Foundation)
    Youth Inter-Active 
    Yuma Inzolia
    YZ Proyectos de Desarrollo a.C. 
    Zakir Hossain 
    Zonta International

     

  • Law enforcement agencies and decision makers must respect the right to protest in the US 

    • ​​​​​​CIVICUS expresses solidarity with US protesters in their struggle for justice
    • We defend the right to peaceful assembly and condemn violent police force
    • National and global protests highlight the need to address institutionalized racism, and police impunity and militarisation

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, condemns violence against protesters by law enforcement officials over the past few days, and stands in solidarity with those protesting against deep-rooted racism and injustice.

    Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the United States (US) to protest the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on 25 May. Their demands for justice for George Floyd and other Black people unlawfully killed at the hands of police have been met with force. Law enforcement agencies have responded to protests using rubber bullets, concussion grenades and tear gas.  

    CIVICUS reaffirms that the right to protest, as enshrined in international law, must be protected. We call for an end to police violence against Black communities.

    Earlier this week, as law enforcement agencies suppressed protests in Washington DC, President Trump threatened to deploy the National Guard to crush demonstrations:

    “President Donald Trump is stoking violence by threatening to forcibly deploy military units in states and cities to crush the demonstrations and restore order in a constitutionally questionable manner,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Chief of Programmes at CIVICUS. 

    There are reports that over 10,000 protesters have been arrested since protests began. CIVICUS is concerned by the arbitrary arrests of thousands of protesters, including 20 members of the press. There are numerous cases of journalists being deliberately targeted by law enforcement agencies and at least 125 press freedom violations have been reported since the start of the protests.

    Demonstrations have broken out across the world in solidarity with the US protesters and their demands for justice and accountability. Our recently released State of Civil Society Report 2020 highlights the importance of people’s movements in demanding change. CIVICUS supports the right of protesters around the globe to peacefully and safely assemble during lockdown:

    “These protests are a call to action to address systemic racism and unprovoked violence experienced by the Black community in the US and beyond. A systemic reckoning with unaddressed notions of white supremacy is needed,” Tiwana continued.  

    As a matter of urgency, CIVICUS calls on authorities to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and expression. We urge systemic reforms to address police impunity, militarisation and institutional racism. The deliberate targeting of journalists must also end, as must the incendiary language used by President Trump and other politicians. 

    We also call on law enforcement agencies to stop using violent methods to disperse protesters and call for an investigation into the unwarranted use of force.

    About CIVICUS

    CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. We have over 9000 members across the globe. The CIVICUS Monitor is our online platform that tracks threats to the freedoms of assembly, association and expression across 196 countries. Civic space in the United States is currently rated as narrowed by the research and ratings platform.

     

  • LEBANON: ‘Increased popular awareness is irreversible, it will remain despite any setbacks’

    CIVICUS speaks with Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), and Zahra Bazzi, ANND ProgrammesManager, about the protests that began in Lebanon in October 2019, the changes achieved and the challenges encountered.ANND is a regional network that brings together nine national networks (encompassing 250 organisations) and 23 civil society organisations (CSOs) in 12 countries. It was established in 1997 and since 2000 has had its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. It promotes the role of civil society and the values of democracy, human rights and sustainable development in the region, and advocates for socio-economic reforms aimed at sustainable development and gender justice, with a rights-based approach.

    Ziad Abdel Samad Zahra Bazzi

    What triggered the protests that began in October 2019?

    The protests were motivated by the direct repercussions of the economic and monetary crisis on the Lebanese population, but had deep roots in a structurally flawed economic system and wicked political practices and corruption embraced by successive governments for decades. The few months before the eruption of the revolution saw a looming economic crisis with an increase in government debt and questionable monetary and financial engineering coupled with a decrease in GDP growth, as well as a rise in unemployment, reaching approximately 16 per cent among the general population, and more than 45 per cent among young people, along with growing poverty and increases in the prices of essential commodities. One week before the protests, direct signs of a financial crisis had started to show, including strikes at petrol stations and the inability of the government to access new credit to import wheat and other basic goods, in addition to the eruption of roughly 100 nationwide wildfires and forest fires that destroyed massive green areas and some houses.

    Following the late adoption of the 2019 budget in July, the negotiations over the 2020 budget were being finalised in October with a clear aim of increasing state revenue at any cost and reducing the enormous deficit of 11 per cent to escape the crisis. The cabinet meeting held on 17 October suggested a new set of austerity measures, including additional indirect taxation, without envisioning the anger of the Lebanese people and the massive protests that would spread through the country that same day.

    Protesters have shared a clear vision with clear demands of the political and economic systems they want to achieve: the resignation of the government – which happened on 29 October 2019; the formation of a new government comprising people independent from the ruling parties – indeed a new government was formed on 22 January 2020, although it does it not conform to the key demands of the revolution; and the holding of democratic parliamentary elections based on a new democratic electoral law. In addition, there were demands to pass laws on the independence of the judiciary, take action to recover assets and other socio-economic demands.

    How did the government react to the protests?

    Since the first days of the uprisings, political parties and various elements of the regime felt threatened by the imminent change protesters were calling for, which would jeopardise the power they have held for decades. They reacted to this by using excessive force, teargas, rubber bullets, arbitrary detention and arrests, especially after December 2019.

    Since the beginning of the protests, several human rights violations were committed against protesters. On 23 November, five young people – including two minors – were arrested and detained by the security forces for taking down a banner belonging to a political party. On the same day, supporters of the Amal and Hezbollah movements violently clashed with peaceful protesters in Beirut and other regions to denounce the closure of roads. Violence increased, a fact that was firmly condemned by United Nations’ experts and special rapporteurs, who called on the Lebanese government to respect the right to the freedom of expression and protect protesters.

    The postponement of parliamentary consultations from 9 to 16 December, and then again to 19 December, was accompanied by increasing violence and clashes among protesters, supporters of political leaders and the security forces and army. The most violent clashes were recorded between 10 and 16 December: on 10 December, protesters toured in their cars outside the houses of the previous ministers of public works and transportation, denouncing the poor infrastructure that had caused enormous floods on main roads and highways, locking citizens for hours in their cars. Protesters were attacked ferociously by men in uniforms of the Internal Security Forces, but who were affiliated with some political parties. Cars were vandalised, and protesters and journalists were dragged out and beaten indiscriminately.

    On the nights of 14 and 15 December, security forces clashed with supporters of political parties who provoked and attacked them in different ways. Security forces also arbitrarily attacked protesters gathered in Beirut, and fired teargas and rubber bullets at them, in retaliation against the acts of some. These two days of violence ended with the arrest of 23 people, some of whom showed signs of torture after their release. More than 76 protesters reported experiencing some form of attack, either by security officials or as a result of the rubber bullets fired against them. More severely, a few reported being dragged inside the parliament building and beaten by the security forces inside. A few reported the theft of money, legal documentation, or phones.

    Violence continued until the night of 16 December, with supporters of political parties attacking the people gathered in squares in Beirut and in the south, and burning down tents and cars. This came in response to a video, probably intentionally spread on social media, of a young man from Tripoli cursing the Shia faith.

    Clashes between protesters and security forces and riot police were especially intense during the attacks protesters made against banks, and during protests and attempts to remove the massive walls and blocks unlawfully put in front of parliament, and more recently in front of the Government Palace.

    Following the arbitrary arrest of protesters, on 15 January 2020 hundreds gathered outside the detention facility to call for their release, and were subjected to excessive force by the riot police, including the indiscriminate firing of teargas. Journalists and TV reporters were directly attacked by riot police. Footage was leaked showing the security forces beating detainees while transporting them to a detention facility. Some released detainees shared stories of torture and abuse inside detention facilities.

    Recent statistics released by the Lawyers’ Committee to Defend Protesters in Lebanon show that between 17 October 2019 and 31 January 2020, around 906 protesters were arrested and detained, including 49 minors and 17 women. Roughly 546 protesters were subjected to violence at the protests or in detention facilities.

    When and how did the protests become a ‘revolution’?

    The protests are widespread across the country. They are decentralised and remain non-sectarian. As Lebanese people overcame their religious and political divergences and joined forces in an attempt to achieve real change, they made the biggest post-war civil movement in Lebanon. This change had been long-awaited, particularly by civil society, which has tried to promote partnerships and engage in policy-making at various levels for years, despite the lack of serious and effective channels for doing so. Although the term ‘revolution’ has been contested by many, protesters and activists, among others, have insisted on calling the process a revolution, particularly after the increased violence and the death of two martyrs, Hussein Al-Attar and Alaa Abou Fakher.

    Although key demands have not changed since the beginning of the protests, more demands were added as the process evolved, especially relating to the socio-economic and financial situation. More importantly, demands started off and remained socio-economic, but were always directly linked to political change.

    What role have CSOs played during the process?

    CSOs have played an important role in the revolution, which has benefited from their accumulated knowledge, communication skills and organisational capacities. Most of those organisations participated in the protests since day one, but their role went beyond protesting. CSOs are leading in coordinating the protests and organising daily discussions at various squares in Beirut and other regions. These meetings address politics, law, socio-economic policies and human rights. They address people’s concerns and ensure the availability of solutions and alternatives. Participation in discussions has steadily increased and has involved a variety of sectors of society, including young people, women, the private sector, academics, and students. However, protest camps have faced challenges following the destruction and burning of their tents in Beirut and across other areas.

    It seems that women and young people are playing increasingly prominent roles in protest movements worldwide. Has this been the case in Lebanon?

    While women in Lebanon have been at the forefront of every important political moment in our country, they have been particularly active during the revolution. Slogans and demands related to women’s rights have been very clear and evident, including the right to pass their citizenship to their families, a civil personal status law and protection from violence, Women have organised in groups, or participated individually, to form human shields at the forefront of protests to prevent violence, lead the marches and host discussions on women’s issues.

    Feminist and women’s marches were held outside Beirut, in north and south Lebanon particularly. These were bold actions that were not very common prior to the revolution. Feminists were also able to engage critically with the slogans of the revolution and to place their discourse on the table. They were able to draw attention to many patriarchal connotations in slogans, even in the national anthem. In addition to being active alongside men, and sometimes alone, closing roads and occupying squares and public facilities, women cooked meals and offered them to protesters and sitters to support them, and initiated cleaning and recycling campaigns on a regular basis. More importantly, on many occasions, they formed a shield on the front rows between protesters and security forces to minimise the clashes.

    The revolution also witnessed very active participation by young people and youth groups. These formed the backbone of the protests, as for years young people have been eager to take part in decision-making and political life. In Lebanon, people below the age of 21 are not eligible to vote in parliamentary and municipal elections, and yet they found a space in this revolution to participate and make their voices heard. As such, young voices and concerns were loud during the protests. Young people were particularly concerned with unemployment, immigration, and the brain drain and suggested bold demands, including calling for the downfall of the regime and all its political leaders without exception and the establishment of a secular system promoting social justice and gender equality.

    The revolution has been an opportunity to revive the student movement in Lebanon. Despite all the efforts made prior to the revolution to form a nationwide student movement, in the absence of a national student union the student movement was fragmented and weak. However, after 17 October, student clubs in private universities such as the American University of Beirut, Notre-Dame University and Université Saint-Joseph participated heavily in the protests in and off-campus, forming marches from universities to the main protest squares, and even setting up their own tents in downtown Beirut. Other private universities such as the Lebanese American University and the Lebanese International University held protests on and around campus. The Lebanese University (LU), Lebanon’s national university, saw the biggest student protests. The LU Student Coalition was particularly active in the revolution, from setting up a tent for protesters in Riad Al-Solh square, in downtown Beirut, to hosting various discussions, joining efforts with other student clubs and leftist groups.

    Younger school students also had a role in the revolution. Along with university student groups, they took a big part in civil disobedience actions and general strikes. Students closed their schools and universities and protested in front of the Ministry of Education and other public administration offices for many days. As 6 November marked Students’ Day, students all across Lebanon were revolting for a better future. A banner raised by one of the students says it all: “On this day I won’t be learning history, I will be writing it.”

    What have protests achieved so far, and what remains to be done?

    Within 100 days, the revolution has had an impact on the authorities and also at a popular level.

    First, it overthrew the so-called presidential settlement – an agreement among regional and internal forces and other actors – that led Michel Aoun to become president and produced a parliament based on an unconstitutional electoral law. This led to the rise of a new political majority and the formation of a coalition government including seven major political parties. This came at a high price, including the conciliation of regional and local powers, frequent disruption of the work of parliament and government, and very intense pressures especially on the political and security levels.

    Second, it overthrew the government, that is, the executive power. This was the settlement’s weakest component, as the prime minister was the weakest among power holders such as Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, and the Free Patriotic Movement.

    Third, the revolution interrupted two parliamentary sessions and blocked the adoption of equivocal draft laws listed on the agenda. Mobilised citizens had never been able to cancel a parliamentary session before.

    Fourth, it caused disruption within the ruling coalition and among the authorities, as seen in the resignation of the government and the confusion that prevailed in the process of forming a new government, especially when two candidates for the role of prime minister had to be let go for failing to meet the minimum requirements demanded by the revolution, along with other reasons. During this lengthy process, acute differences and contradictions were revealed between allied parties, despite the fact that they belonged to the same block.

    Above all, the revolution has increased popular awareness, which has been reflected in thousands of initiatives and discussions. Decentralised protests have taken place across all cities and villages from the far south to the far north and east, and have included all social and age groups. This diverse and inclusive revolution has contributed to breaking the rigid sectarian and regional political discourse, disrupting traditional loyalties and breaking down barriers between social groups and regions. Some people think that this positive shift cannot be considered complete, but there is indeed a consensus that it is a very important and irreversible change, which will remain despite any setbacks. We must be confident that significant progress has been made regarding popular awareness and the ability of social movements to carry out direct political action in the streets.

    The revolution has achieved certain gains during the first round and is preparing for the next round, in which new laws and policies need to be adopted as soon as possible to overcome the ongoing financial and economic crises and set a base for a new and fairer economic paradigm.

    How connected is Lebanese civil society with its counterparts around the world, and what support does it need from international civil society in order to continue its struggle?

    Lebanese civil society is very rich and diverse, and it is connected to its counterparts around the world through different channels. It is indeed very active on the advocacy front and takes part in numerous international advocacy platforms.

    In these critical times, the country is going through, civil society is avoiding seeking any support from foreign counterparts, in order to refute all conspiracy theories and accusations that politicians and their affiliates have made against protesters and the revolution. In order to lessen all the claims fabricated against our genuine and national revolution, Lebanese civil society is very reluctant to receive any support that could amount to or be interpreted as intervention by any foreign actor. However, it would welcome solidarity actions and statements, especially those that denounce human rights violations committed against protesters.

    Civic space in Lebanon is rated as ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the Arab NGO Network for Development through itswebsite andFacebook page, or follow@ArabNGONetwork on Twitter.

     

  • Letter from Jail: Nicaraguan Farm Leader, Medardo Mairena

    Incarcerated farm leader Medardo Mairena writes a letter to media from jail

    SOSNicaragua6Medardo Mairena Sequeira,  is the Coordinator of the National Council in Defense of Land, Lake and Sovereignty and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. Medardo is one of the leaders of the movement against the construction of the Canal in Nicaragua. Medardo was detained on July 13 along with campesino leader Pedro Joaquín Mena Amador when they were planning to board a plane to the United States to participate in a solidarity event with Nicaragua. Medardo and two other farm leaders, face false charges ranging from terrorism, murder, kidnappings, aggravated robbery and obstruction of public services.


    I am grateful to God and my family, to the Nicaraguan people, to independent media, to national and international human rights commissions, to the Organization of American States, to the UN Security Council for not letting the Nicaraguan people alone.

    To all my friends, to all the people, I ask you to remain united praying in these difficult times for everyone, especially for us political prisoners. We are imprisoned only because we think differently. The Ortega regime is a coward. They have imprisoned us just for raising our voices and speaking up for those who can’t and for those who are no longer with us. In the penitentiary system, we are in maximum security jails where the cells are in bad conditions, there is no electricity, restrooms are damaged. Windows that are supposed to allow air to enter are closed. It is like being baked in an oven and we are isolated from everyone else. Us campesino leaders are in the Modelo gallery 300, in the place known as “little hell”. We are 20 prisoners in the same conditions, we are sick, and they don’t allow a doctor to visit us. Thanks to god, I’m feeling better but it is only because of god. Here we have mosquitoes, cockroaches, scorpions. They don’t allow us to get out of the cells even for taking sun. They took my friend Pedro Mena’s Medication, he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and he always carries his treatment in his bag because he needs to take a daily pill. They treat us inhumanely.

    I invite the people to keep doing peaceful demonstrations,  as we have always done it. Even if you don’t see me, my heart is always with you because we need to demand our freedom, because we are innocent from the accusations. The day the facts happened in Morito, we were in Managua demanding for dialogue be resumed with the government, because we want justice, democratization and a peaceful exit to the crisis. We cannot forget those whose lives have been taken by the regime. At least my family still has hope of seeing me alive, but the mothers that lost their children do not and we cannot forget their injustice.

    Sincerely,

    Medardo.

    Translated originally from Spanish. Read original letter


    CIVICUS has called on the authorities in Nicaragua to drop all charges against Medardo Mairena, Pedro Joaquín Mena, and Victor Manuel Diaz, and release them safely. CIVICUS also calls for the release of all the rural leaders, students and activists currently detained for exercising their right to protest.

    Nicaragua has been added to a watchlist of countries which are experiencing an alarming escalation in threats to fundamental freedoms. The watchlist is compiled by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe.