civic space

 

  • India: Amnesty International Forced to Halt Work

    Government Increasingly Targeting Rights Groups

    Today, CIVICUS joined fourteen other human rights organizations in condemning the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

    Amnesty International India announced that it is halting its work in the country after the Indian government froze its bank accounts in an act of reprisal for the organization’s human rights work. Fifteen international human rights organizations condemned the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

    The Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India are part of increasingly repressive tactics to shut down critical voices and groups working to promote, protect, and uphold fundamental rights, said the Association for Progressive Communications, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, FORUM-ASIA, Foundation the London Story, Hindus for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights, Minority Rights Group, Odhikar, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

    The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has accused Amnesty India of violating laws on foreign funding, a charge the group says is politically motivated and constitutes evidence “that the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights defenders and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

    The BJP government has increasingly cracked down on civil society, harassing and bringing politically motivated cases against human rights defenders, academics, student activists, journalists, and others critical of the government under sedition, terrorism, and other repressive laws.

    These actions increasingly mimic that of authoritarian regimes, which do not tolerate any criticism and shamelessly target those who dare to speak out. With growing criticism of the government’s discriminatory policies and attacks on the rule of law, the authorities seem more interested in shooting the messenger than addressing the grievances. Women’s rights activists and indigenous and minority human rights defenders have been especially vulnerable. The recent action against Amnesty India highlights the stepped-up pressure and violence felt by local defenders on the ground, regardless of their profile.

    The authorities have repeatedly used foreign funding regulations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law broadly condemned for violating international human rights law and standards, to target outspoken groups. United Nations experts on human rights defenders, on freedom of expression, and on freedom of association have urged the government to repeal the law, saying it is “being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”

    Yet, the Indian parliament amended the FCRA this month, adding further onerous governmental oversight, additional regulations and certification processes, and operational requirements that would adversely affect civil society groups and effectively restrict access to foreign funding for small nongovernmental organizations.

    A robust, independent, and vocal civil society is indispensable in any democracy to ensure a check on government and to hold it accountable, pushing it to do better. Instead of treating human rights groups as its enemies, the government should work with them to protect the rights of all people and ensure accountability at all levels of government.


    Civic space in India is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    New report: Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India


    For more information please contact:

    Head of Advocacy & Campaigns, David Kode

     

  • 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.

     

  • India: Report highlights ongoing misuse of restrictive laws during pandemic to keep activists behind bars

    • Report highlights judicial harassment of activists, targeting of journalists and crackdown on protesters 
    • Modi government has continued to use state resources to sustain its persecution of activists and critics during COVID-19 pandemic 
    • CIVICUS calls for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders

    The Indian government is using a variety of restrictive laws - including national security and counter-terrorism legislation - to arrest and imprison human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and critics.

    More than a year into  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term in office, the CIVICUS report, Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India,” shows an increasingly repressive environment for civic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.  The report highlights the arrest, detention and prosecution of activists, the targeting of journalists, and the unprecedented and brutal crackdown on protests against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act. CIVICUS is also concerned about increasing violations in Indian-administered Jammu Kashmir.

    Further, India’s slide towards authoritarianism has led to the conflation of dissent with anti-nationalism, often with disastrous results for human rights defenders and activists who have been subjected to damaging smear campaigns.

    The activists profiled in the report represent a small fraction of the arbitrary arrests, prosecutions and imprisonments taking place across India, providing a snapshot of the challenges facing the country’s human rights defenders.

    The report also highlights a series of vaguely worded and overly broad laws being used by the Indian authorities to deprive activists of bail and keep them in ongoing detention. These include the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), which is India’s primary counter-terrorism law; section 124A on ‘sedition’ of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era relic; and administrative detention laws such as the National Security Act (NSA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which applies only in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir

    “The Indian government must stop using restrictive national security and counter-terrorism laws against human rights defenders and critics. The authorities must also drop the baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges against activists and release them immediately and unconditionally,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher.

    “The laws are incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations as well as India’s Constitution. Not only are the laws themselves inherently flawed, but their implementation makes it clear that they have become tools for judicial harassment, rather than for preventing or addressing criminality.”

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Modi government has continued to use state resources to sustain its persecution of human rights defenders and critics, many of whom have underlying medical conditions or are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons. CIVICUS is also concerned about the judicial harassment of individuals and journalists who criticise the authorities’ handling of the pandemic. 

    “It is appalling that human rights defenders are locked up in overcrowded prisons and continuously denied bail despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. Holding them at this time puts them at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 and adds another layer of punishment for these activists, who have been detained just for speaking up for human rights,” said Benedict.

    Despite the hostile environment, human rights defenders and civil society organisations in  India are pushing back against oppression. The benefits of a vibrant civil society, and of human rights defenders who are free to do their work, are tangible. This has been evident in civil society’s crucial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, in providing vital help to communities in need, defending rights, and holding governments accountable.

    “As India’s political and economic influence increases, developments in the country are being closely followed by the global community. India’s quest to play a critical role on the international stage would be better served by committing to upholding democratic values and recognising the validity of people’s struggles,” said Benedict.

    In the report, CIVICUS makes a number of recommendations to the Indian authorities, including:

    • Drop all charges against human rights defenders, activists and protesters, and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained;
    • Review and amend India’s criminal laws to conform to international standards for the protection of fundamental freedoms;
    • Take steps to ensure that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.

    More information

    The space for civil society in India was downgraded in December 2019 from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civic space in every country. A repressed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms – such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association – are significantly constrained in India.


    Interviews

    To arrange interviews, please contact Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher  and 

     

  • India: Report highlights ongoing misuse of restrictive laws during pandemic to keep activists behind bars

    • Report highlights judicial harassment of activists, targeting of journalists and crackdown on protesters 
    • Modi government has continued to use state resources to sustain its persecution of activists and critics during COVID-19 pandemic 
    • CIVICUS calls for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders

    The Indian government is using a variety of restrictive laws - including national security and counter-terrorism legislation - to arrest and imprison human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and critics, the global civil society alliance CIVICUS said today in a new report.

    More than a year into  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term in office, the CIVICUS report, Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India,” shows an increasingly repressive environment for civic freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.  The report highlights the arrest, detention and prosecution of activists, the targeting of journalists, and the unprecedented and brutal crackdown on protests against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act. CIVICUS is also concerned about increasing violations in Indian-administered Jammu Kashmir.

    Further, India’s slide towards authoritarianism has led to the conflation of dissent with anti-nationalism, often with disastrous results for human rights defenders and activists who have been subjected to damaging smear campaigns.

    The activists profiled in the report represent a small fraction of the arbitrary arrests, prosecutions and imprisonments taking place across India, providing a snapshot of the challenges facing the country’s human rights defenders.

    The report also highlights a series of vaguely worded and overly broad laws being used by the Indian authorities to deprive activists of bail and keep them in ongoing detention. These include the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), which is India’s primary counter-terrorism law; section 124A on ‘sedition’ of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era relic; and administrative detention laws such as the National Security Act (NSA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA), which applies only in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir

    “The Indian government must stop using restrictive national security and counter-terrorism laws against human rights defenders and critics. The authorities must also drop the baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges against activists and release them immediately and unconditionally,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher.

    “The laws are incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations as well as India’s Constitution. Not only are the laws themselves inherently flawed, but their implementation makes it clear that they have become tools for judicial harassment, rather than for preventing or addressing criminality.”

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Modi government has continued to use state resources to sustain its persecution of human rights defenders and critics, many of whom have underlying medical conditions or are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons. CIVICUS is also concerned about the judicial harassment of individuals and journalists who criticise the authorities’ handling of the pandemic. 

    “It is appalling that human rights defenders are locked up in overcrowded prisons and continuously denied bail despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. Holding them at this time puts them at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 and adds another layer of punishment for these activists, who have been detained just for speaking up for human rights,” said Benedict.

    Despite the hostile environment, human rights defenders and civil society organisations in  India are pushing back against oppression. The benefits of a vibrant civil society, and of human rights defenders who are free to do their work, are tangible. This has been evident in civil society’s crucial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, in providing vital help to communities in need, defending rights, and holding governments accountable.

    “As India’s political and economic influence increases, developments in the country are being closely followed by the global community. India’s quest to play a critical role on the international stage would be better served by committing to upholding democratic values and recognising the validity of people’s struggles,” said Benedict.

    In the report, CIVICUS makes a number of recommendations to the Indian authorities, including:

    • Drop all charges against human rights defenders, activists and protesters, and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained;
    • Review and amend India’s criminal laws to conform to international standards for the protection of fundamental freedoms;
    • Take steps to ensure that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.

    More information

    The space for civil society in India was downgraded in December 2019 from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks civic space in every country. A repressed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms – such as the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association – are significantly constrained in India.


    Interviews

    To arrange interviews, please contact Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher  and 

     

  • 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.   

     

     

  • Malaysia: A year after elections, fundamental freedoms still restricted

     

    A year after the electoral victory of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, authorities have failed to reform repressive legislation or expand civic space, and continue to restrict fundamental freedoms and silence dissent, a new briefing from ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS said today.

    The briefing, New Government, Old Tactics: Lack of progress on reform commitments undermines fundamental freedoms and democracy in Malaysia”, concludes that, despite some encouraging early steps by Malaysia’s new political leaders, broader reform processes to protect human rights have ground to a halt. The Pakatan Harapan coalition has not followed through on commitments in its campaign manifesto to reform repressive legislation, including the Sedition Act 1948, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and Peaceful Assembly Act 2012. Instead, authorities have used these laws to harass and prosecute activists, government critics and others exercising fundamental freedoms.

    “The Pakatan Harapan government came to power on the back of promises to reform repressive laws and open up public spaces that have long been restricted by the previous regime. Instead, authorities have used the same old laws to silence critics, stifle unpopular opinions and control public discourse. These retrogressive tactics blemish the supposed reformist credentials of Malaysia’s new leaders, and impede the democratic transition that they promised to bring about,” said Nalini Elumalai, ARTICLE 19’s Malaysia Programme Officer.

    While welcoming steps to establish a self-governing media council, ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS are concerned about that the lack of progress in reforming restrictive laws that impede press freedom and the ability of journalists to report without fear of judicial harassment and criminal penalties. Further, there has been a lack of transparency in legislative and institutional reform processes, with limited opportunities for meaningful participation by civil society and other stakeholders. The decision by authorities to place the report of the Institutional Reform Committee under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), preventing its release to the public, underscores these concerns.  

    ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS’s review of the government’s record during its first year in office reveals continued restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly. Those involved in peaceful protests, including students, women’s rights activists and indigenous activists have been arbitrarily detained, threatened or investigated, while the Peaceful Assembly Act has yet to be amended in line with international law and standards. Further, the government has failed to follow through on manifesto promises to create an enabling environment for civil society and to review laws and policies that restrict the registration and operations of NGOs.

    “The government must halt the judicial harassment of demonstrators for exercising their right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and instruct police officers that it is their duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies, rather than hinder them,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Researcher. “Immediate steps must also be taken to review the Societies Act to guarantee that undue restrictions on the freedom of association are removed,” Benedict added. 

    The Pakatan Harapan government faces tremendous challenges in dismantling the repressive legal and institutional framework built during 61 years of Barisan Nasional rule. ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS understand that opposition forces are determined to undermine progressive reforms in Malaysia. Nevertheless, we urge the government to follow through on its promises and undertake a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive process of legislative and institutional reform to promote and protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Failure to act with urgency, resolve and principle in this regard will lead to the entrenchment of restrictions on civic space and call into the question the government’s commitments to fundamental freedoms.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Malaysia as ‘Obstructed

     

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  • MYANMAR: ‘Opposition parties complain that the election body censors their messaging'

    Cape DiamondCIVICUS speaks to award-winning journalist Cape Diamond (Pyae Sone Win) about the upcoming elections in Myanmar. Cape is a multimedia journalist based in Myanmar, covering issues of human rights, crisis and conflict. Currently freelancing for the Associated Press (AP), he has provided critical coverage during the Rohingya crisis and contributed to numerous international outlets, including Al Jazeera, ABC News and CBS. He also contributed to the BAFTA Award-winning documentaryMyanmar’s Killing Fields and New York Film Festival gold medal award-winner The Rohingya Exodus.

     

    Scheduled on 8 November 2020, the election will be Myanmar’s first since 2015, which resulted in a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), and only the second competitive election since 1990, when the military annulled the NLD’s overwhelming victory.

    What is the situation for civic freedoms and civil society ahead of the elections?

    The situation for the freedom of speech is very concerning. Over the years, journalists and rights activists in Myanmar have been criminally charged for their work. Restrictive laws, including the Telecommunications Law, the Unlawful Associations Act, the Official Secrets Act and defamation provisions in the Penal Code, continue to be used to prosecute activists and journalists. The Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law has been used against those protesting.

    Many political parties have raised complaints that the Union Election Commission (UEC), the electoral body, has censored the messages that are set for broadcast on national TV ahead of the elections. For example, Ko Ko Gyi, chairman of the People's Party, said that the edits that the UEC made to his election campaign speech prevent him from airing the party's full political stance ahead of the elections. Two parties – the Democratic Party for a New Society and the National Democratic Force – cancelled their election broadcasts in protest against censorship.

    At the same time, critics say that the electoral body is biased in favour of the ruling party, the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s something that we should keep our eyes on and speak out about to ensure credible elections.

    Has the electoral body engaged with civil society?

    I’ve been hearing that the current UEC is not that actively engaging with civil society. They initially barred the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), one of the largest election monitoring groups in the country, from monitoring the election. The UEC accused PACE of not being registered under the law that applies to civil society organisations and of receiving funding from international sources. Even though the UEC subsequently allowed PACE to operate, the organisation is struggling to proceed due to the newly imposed COVID-19 restrictions.

    What are the main issues the campaign will revolve around?

    The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing civil war across the country are the main issues for us at the moment. It’s very clear that the ruling party and the government are not paying enough attention to the situation of minorities in regions experiencing civil war. 

    It’s worrying that the country is undergoing a pandemic, which I believe it does not have enough capacity to handle. As of 29 September 2020, we have had a total of 11,000 reported cases and 284 deaths due to COVID-19. A surge of infections over the last few weeks has been worrying, as we only had around 400 confirmed cases in August. I am concerned about whether the environment will be safe for people to go out and vote on the election days. 

    More than 20 political parties have sent requests to the electoral body to postpone the elections due to the pandemic, but they were rejected. The ruling party is not willing to have the elections postponed.

    Will it be possible to have a ‘normal’ campaign in this context? 

    I don’t think it’s possible to have normal campaign rallies such as those of the previous election in 2015, because we are in a pandemic. The government has taken several measures to combat the spread of the disease, including orders against gatherings of people. Political parties are not allowed to organise their campaigns in semi-lockdown areas.

    Major cities like Yangon and the Yangon Region, as well as some townships in Mandalay, are under semi-lockdown, which the government calls the Stay-At-Home programme. At the same time, the whole of Rakhine State, which is experiencing civil war, is also on semi-lockdown. I am afraid people in the civil war zone will not be able to go out and vote.

    Candidates are using both mainstream and social media to reach their audiences. However, as noted earlier, some opposition parties have been censored by the UEC. Some opposition members have denounced unfair treatment by the UEC and the government, while the ruling party is using its power to expand its popularity. This will clearly harm the electoral chances of the opposition.

    What specific challenges do candidates face in Rakhine State?

    As the whole of Rakhine State is under COVID-19 restrictions, candidates are not able to campaign in person. Therefore, they are mostly campaigning on social media. At the same time, a long internet shutdown has been in place in many townships in Rakhine State, imposed due to ongoing fighting between the Arakan Army and the military. I am concerned about whether people will be able to get enough information around the elections.

    The Myanmar government is also using the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law and the Election Law to disenfranchise Rohingya people and block them from running for political office. Election officials barred Kyaw Min, head of the Rohingya-led Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), from running. He was disqualified along with two other DHRP candidates because their parents were allegedly not citizens, as required by election law. This is one of the various tools used to oppress the Rohingya population.

    In October, the UEC released a smartphone app that was criticised over its use of a derogatory label for Rohingya Muslims. The mVoter2020 app, aimed at improving voter awareness, labels at least two candidates from the Rohingya ethnic group as ‘Bengali’, a term that implies they are immigrants from Bangladesh, although most have lived in Myanmar for generations. This label is rejected by many Rohingya people. Additionally, none of the one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and another several hundred thousand dispersed in other countries will be allowed to vote.

    Civic space in Myanmar is rated asrepressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Follow@cape_diamond on Twitter.

     

  • MYANMAR: “If this coup is not overturned, there will be many more political prisoners”

    CIVICUS speaks about the recent military coup in Myanmar with Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner and co-founder of theAssistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP). Founded in 2000 by former political prisoners living in exile on the Thai-Myanmar border, AAPP has its headquarters in Mae Sot, Thailand and two offices in Myanmar that opened in 2012. AAPP advocates for the release of political prisoners and the improvement of their lives after their release, with programmes aimed at ensuring access to education, vocational training, mental health counselling and healthcare.

     

  • New paper on the restrictions facing climate change activists

    • Environmental activism is dangerous and too often deadly, and may worsen as the growing climate crisis fuels divides over access to natural resources
    • Millions of people have marched this year calling for an end to climate injustice yet around the world just 4 percent of the world’s population live in countries where governments are properly respecting the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression according to the CIVICUS Monitor.
    • The annual United Nations climate change negotiations (COP), to be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December  was meant to be the ‘People’s COP’ but was unable to find a home in Latin America, which remains the most dangerous region in the world to be an environmental defender

    Millions of people have taken to the streets in 2019 calling for an end to climate injustice but on the frontlines of the crisis and at the United Nations brave activists continue to be deliberately silenced.

    This new position paper ‘We will not be silenced: Climate activism from the frontlines to the UN’ details how people who speak out for climate justice are threatened and intimidated with violence, repressive laws, frivolous lawsuits and disinformation campaigns. Instead of responding to the demands of the climate movement for a more ambitious and just response to the climate crisis, governments are choosing to smother their voices.

    In October, when Chilean civil society called for the government to withdraw the military from the streets before hosting COP 25 the Piñera government instead responded by withdrawing overnight from hosting the pivotal meeting. Chile’s withdrawal reflects a worrying trend after Brazil earlier pulled out from hosting COP 25 and Poland, the host of COP 24, imposed restrictions on public mobilisations and limited the participation of accredited civil society.

    Civil society scrutiny and contributions to UN climate talks are vital in a year when millions of people have marched in the streets demanding an end to climate inaction. Recent developments in UN climate talks - including the erasure of the landmark IPCC 1.5 degree report from negotiations - under pressure from states including  Saudi Arabia - show the vital need for the COP 25 to be the first true ‘People’s COP’ - reversing the trends in closing space for civil society from the local to the global level.

    For more information and interview requests please contact:

    Lyndal Rowlands (English)
    Natalia Gomez Peña (English, Spanish)

    Download: English | Spanish

     

  • New Paper: Regulating Political Activity of Civil Society -- A look at 4 EU countries

    A comparative analysis of regulation of civil society organisations’ ‘political activity’ and international funding in Ireland, Netherlands, Germany and Finland. Written by CIVICUS, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, with support from The Community Foundation for Ireland

    RegulatingPoliticalActivityOfCivilSociety650This paper provides a comparative assessment of how the “political activities” of civil society organisations are regulated in Ireland and three other European Union member states. This paper focuses particularly on organisations, such as human rights organisations, which carry out public advocacy activities and rely on international sources for a substantial portion of their funding.

    All four countries are rated as “open” by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global platform which tracks respect for civic space in 196 countries. These four  european countries are also well known for their strong promotion of civil society, human rights and democratic freedoms through their foreign policy and international development cooperation on programmes. 

    Following a brief outline of key international and regional norms, the paper outlines relevant aspects of domestic regulatory systems in Netherlands, Germany and Finland. A final section sets out what Ireland could learn from these examples, with a view to reforming its laws and policies governing “political activities” and foreign funding of civil society organisations.

    Download Paper

     

  • New Report: Civic Space in the Americas

    People’s rights to organise, speak out and take action are being extensively violated in a large number of countries in the Americas. This is according to new research by global civil society alliance CIVICUS, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), the Charity and Security Network, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD) and the Rendir Cuentas initiative. Our findings are based on data from the CIVICUS Monitor, a new research collaboration to track and compare civic freedoms on a global scale.

     

  • New UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association

    The Civic Space Initiative welcomes Mr. Nyaletsossi Clément Voule as the new UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and congratulates him on his appointment.  The Civic Space Initiative (CSI) is a collaborative project of ARTICLE 19, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), and the World Movement for Democracy.

    Since its creation in September 2010, the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur has been critical in providing practical guidance to States on how they should implement their human rights obligations as they relate to association and assembly, and has consistently stood up for those whose rights were violated. The CSI expresses its appreciation to the two previous mandate holders, Mr. Maina Kiai and  Dr. Annalisa Ciampi.

    Mr. Voule takes on this mandate at a time where the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are under increasing pressure globally and the gap between states’ international commitments and national realities is growing ever wider.  The Civic Space Initiative regards the mandate of UN Special Rapporteur as critical in bridging that gap.  Mr. Voule will build on 20 years of experience in addressing this challenge, including coordinating the recent African Commission on Human and People's Rights Study Group on the laws governing freedom of association and assembly in the region, which produced guidelines to assist states in the implementation of these rights.

    Having supported similar initiatives on a global, regional and country level since 2012, the Civic Space Initiative aims to influence policy actors to protect civic space; empower civil society actors to advance civic space freedoms; and increase the awareness and engagement of the public in supporting civic space. The CSI stands ready to support Mr. Voule in his capacity as Special Rapporteur, and urges all States to respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and be responsive to the mandate. 

    For more information, please contact:
    Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19 (andrewATarticle19.org) 
    Susan Wilding, CIVICUS (susan.wildingATcivicus.org)
    Vanja Skoric, ECNL (vanjaATecnl.org) 
    Nicholas Miller, ICNL (nmillerATicnl.org) 
    Troy Johnson, World Movement for Democracy (troyJATned.org) 

     

  • Nigeria: Proposed NGO bill will be a death knell for civil society

    Abuja —A proposed bill currently before Nigeria’s lawmakers, which will give the government sweeping powers over non-governmental organisations (NGOs), threatens the existence of Nigerian civil society, if passed into law.

    The Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) and global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, have warned that the bill is clearly intended as a means to undermine the work of NGOs, especially those working to hold the government accountable. The fact that the House of Representatives hastily announced a scheduled public hearing for 13 and 14 December 2017 in the capital, Abuja is indicative of the intention of the authorities to avoid broad participation of civil society organisations from the different parts of Nigeria and ram the bill through the Legislature.  Most CSOs are based outside of Abuja, where the public hearing will be held, making it difficult for them to travel to the hearing at short notice. 

    The Bill for the Establishment of the NGO’s Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of NGOs and Civil Society Organisations makes it compulsory for all NGOs operating in Nigeria to register with the government and requires them to include details such has location and duration of proposed activities as well as information on all sources of funding.  In addition, the proposed legislation states that NGOs will be required to provide “additional information” as requested by the Board during registration but does not say what this “additional information” would be. 

    These requirements make the registration process cumbersome and may inhibit the timely registration of some NGOs, making them susceptible to penalties.  In addition, making NGO registration compulsory goes against international standards for freedom of association as it prevents informal associations from existing and operating freely because of their lack of formal status.

    Said Oyebisi Oluseyi, NNNGO Director: “Civil society organisations in Nigeria provide social services to communities, contribute towards development outcomes and work to ensure that the government adheres to its human rights obligation.” If passed into law, the proposed NGO law will severely restrict the environment in which civil society operates and reverse socio-economic and democratic gains made over the years.” 

    The Bill provides wide powers to a regulatory agency to refuse to issue a registration certificate if, for example, it deems activities of the NGO to be against national interest.  The Agency also has the authority to suspend or cancel a certificate that has been issued. Such broad powers place NGOs — especially those critical of government actions and who speak out against corruption and human rights violations — at the mercy of the authorities who can deregister organisations as a punitive measure for holding the government to account. 

    The content of the Bill is symptomatic of a growing global trend we now experience among governments to thwart the work of civil society organisations by placing restrictions on them in law and practice and by using the term “foreign agents” to discredit their work.  

    In addition, the Bill requires that NGOs register every two years and that the names of NGOs that fail to do so are deleted from the national register, forcing such NGOs to cease all their activities. It states that the registration of an organisation will be renewed on condition that the organisation submits its tax clearance certificate and other relevant documentation required by the Board. 

    The Bill compels NGOs to submit projects to the relevant government Ministry for approval and then registered with the agency’s board before they are implemented. The Bill does not place a limit on the registration fees for NGOs but leaves it to the discretion of the Commission.  Individuals who violate provisions of the Bill face up to 18 months in prison or a huge fine and those convicted of such violations are prohibited from holding office in an NGO for a period of ten years.  

    Said David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for CIVICUS: “If passed into law, this draconian bill will place civil society under the thumb of the government and practically take away the independence of NGOs.  It might also set a negative precedent in the West African region, aggravating an already hostile environment for civil society.”

    CIVICUS and NNNGO call on the Nigerian authorities to adhere to their constitutional and international obligations on freedom of association and expression and withdraw the Bill. 

    ENDS.

    For more information contact:

    Oyebisi Oluseyi

    Nigeria Network of NGOs

    +234 906 948 5207

    David Kode

    Lead: Campaigns and Advocacy

    CIVICUS

    +27 11 833 5959