civil society

  • Civil society resourcing: “Revolutions do not occur because of good project proposals”

    By  Ine Van Severen

    It’s undeniable: the space for civil society organisations (CSOs) and philanthropy is shrinking. According to new research by CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks trends in the conditions for civil society in countries around the world, 3.2 billion people live in countries where citizens’ freedoms of association, assembly or expression are restricted.

    Read on: Alliance Magazine 

  • Civil Society Support Mechanisms: A Directory

    The Civil Society Support Mechanisms: A Directory is a resource for civil society under threat. It lists mechanisms available to assist individuals and organisations based on their specific threat or based on their location. The database is divided into national, regional and global mechanisms and contains information on how to engage each mechanism as well as contact details for each.

    The directory was produced to provide information to the vast network of organisations and mechanisms that support human rights groups in general, and many that support civil society in particular. In order to strengthen and promote their work, civil society organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, activists and others rely on alliances between each other, the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and constructive engagement with governments and intergovernmental institutions. These networks foster greater connections between ground-level issues and global-level processes, and amplify the voices of civil society in global decision making. This solidarity is especially critical for civil society when it is under threat or attack.

    Download the Directory

  • CIVIL SOCIETY: ‘Music can be an entry point because it’s the last thing someone could take away from you’

    Darcy AtamanCIVICUS speaks with Darcy Ataman,founder and CEO of Make Music Matter, a civil society organisation based in Canada that uses the creative process as a therapeutic tool to help empower excluded groups and people.

    Music isn’t necessarily the first thing people associate with civil society work. How do you use music as part of your work?

    We use music for two main purposes. One is the healing of trauma, and particularly of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. The second is to create opportunities or vectors for advocacy. We do all this through our Healing in Harmony music therapy programme.

    We work with groups, usually of 10 to 25 people. Working as a group brings safety, especially when you’re in the creative process of singing and writing. But we don’t work with groups so large that participation gets diluted and ceases to be effective.

    We always recruit participants through local partnerships. All operational staff are local and Indigenous, wherever we work. And programmes are set up to fit into a larger care model. For example, our flagship site is at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Patients come to us from the hospital: women who come in for surgery get their physical healing and then get referred to us for mental, psychological and spiritual healing before going back to their villages.

    In eastern DRC there are lots of survivors of sexual violence, due to way sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war there. But trauma can come in a multitude of ways and our results are always the same.

    What we do is build little recording studios wherever we operate and insert our programme into a larger holistic care model. People come in twice a week. They work for about an hour with a local music producer in tandem with a local therapist.

    It’s a four-month cycle: for the first three months they go through the creative process of writing and recording an album, just like any other artist. While that is happening, we interject cognitive behavioural therapy in a way that’s not particularly noticeable.

    So people don’t come in thinking they are coming for a therapy appointment, which has a lot of stigma; they come in to do art in a fun setting.

    That is why our attrition rates are almost nil. We’ve had at least 11,000 people go through the programme globally and you could count with one hand the amount of people who didn’t finish – and that was typically because they got a good economic opportunity.

    We analyse the music that comes out of this process. A lot of experiences people have gone through are so overwhelming that talking about them directly would retraumatise and retrigger the brain. But through lyric writing and metaphor and music, it gets out of people’s heads in a way that doesn’t cause retraumatisation. And once it’s out of their head and articulated in one form or another, we can set a treatment pathway.

    How did you get started?

    Our origins were organic. While I have a psychology degree, professionally I started as a music producer. In 2009 I was in Rwanda for five weeks filming a documentary and recording an album. We had one day off and decided to give local kids a fun day of recording, so we took some equipment to this little school in a village three hours away in the hillsides. When we got there, we learned the entire village had been waiting for us for hours. The schoolroom was packed. There were kids literally crawling through the windows trying to get in. These were kids 12 to 15 or 16 years old, dressed in homemade hip-hop outfits. They knew the lyrics of all the latest rap songs, even though they didn’t have electricity at home.

    They handed us the lyrics of the songs they had written for us to record, and it was all very heavy subject matter: about HIV/AIDS and what it does to communities, about they not wanting to sell their bodies to live another day, about their desire to go to school. There was not one frivolous song in there. We had given them no direction. We didn’t tell them what to write. This was simply what was on their minds, and we realised that for them music was an acceptable way to talk about taboo issues they couldn’t normally talk about.

    I had the realisation that something special was happening and thought this was what I, as a professional producer, could do to help. And it was something that nobody else was doing.

    How effective is the programme, and what do you think explains this?

    We monitor and evaluate our programme very closely. We quantify everything. We analyse our impact on variables from school enrolment and permanence to adherence to drug recovery programmes. A year or two ago our first peer-reviewed study was published. It was terrifying, because we couldn’t ethically keep going if we found we were not achieving results. But the results showed that this was very much like a magic pill: it really worked better than anything else.

    I think effectiveness lies in the programme’s insertion into a larger model. We want to be the last missing psychosocial piece. We don’t want to set people up for failure. For instance, we have another site in rural DRC that started in 2016 and even though we had the funding – we even constructed our own buildings for the studio – we paused and waited until our partners’ microfinancing programme was operational because we didn’t want to heal people psychologically, pump them up and then have them fail due to lack of opportunity to be financially independent. So we have these checklists we do before we start operating.

    Our outcome is the healing, and our output is the music. We lead with music: it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s our passion. But behind the scenes is a very serious therapeutic intervention. We use music almost as a trick that attracts people and retains them. And in the meantime, we do other things, so at the end of each four-month cycle there’s an album done by this group.

    The music they help create with the local producer comes back to us for mixing and mastering. We have a team of about 100 engineers from all over the world who do this as volunteers. And the music gets sent back to the community and disseminated in whatever ways the local community consumes music, be it AM radio, MP3 players or CDs. We also release the music globally on digital platforms.

    People own the rights to all their music so they can get royalties. And it helps in terms of advocacy because this is how they tell their stories directly to the world. This gives power back to people on the ground and also helps rebuild their sense of self-worth. The final piece of that four-month cycle is a community concert where they perform the songs they have written.

    For participants, it is a sort of symbolic graduation, and it also brings communities back together. Survivors of sexual violence who’ve been stigmatised or kicked out of their homes or villages now go on stage in front of a lot of people – we easily get over 1,000 people per show. They sing a song they wrote about their story. Shame is gone, agency is back. Owning your story changes the way the community sees you. I’ve seen husbands who kicked their wives out ask them back and wives say no and laugh at them. I’ve seen mothers of children born of rape start to take care of them for their first time, breaking the cycle.

    Do you work exclusively in places where there’s collective trauma from war? Is your focus on violence against women, or do you also work with other target groups?

    Our data demonstrates that our results are equal across the board, no matter what culture or context or reasons for trauma. We have six sites in the DRC, but we also work in Guinea, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Turkey and Uganda, and we’re just starting to work in Canada.

    The idea started in Rwanda, where we worked with the trauma caused by HIV/AIDS, orphaned children and obviously the genocide. Our work took off in the DRC, where participants were primarily survivors of sexual violence, but also with former child soldiers and former sex slaves. In Peru we work with Venezuelan refugees, mostly young kids. In Turkey we work with Syrian refugees who not only have mental trauma from the war but also have physical injuries and disabilities on top of the stigma of being refugees. And in Canada we will be working with Indigenous communities; this work involves a lot of generational trauma that gets passed down.

    The most decisive criterion is whether the community wants us there. We do not parachute in or force ourselves in. We start with community sensitisation aimed at the community taking ownership. We wait for them to ask us to come in, otherwise it just doesn’t work. There needs to be community ownership, because if it is just about the funding or the opportunities you are bringing to an impoverished community, on the first bad day you are going to lose them.

    One of our sites in rural DRC is literally triangulated by three rebel groups. Sadly, this village gets attacked regularly. But we’ve been there since 2016 and haven’t lost a single cable. No one has ever touched the studio. In fact, quite miraculously we haven’t lost anything from any of our sites. Community partnerships really work.

    Do you have any advice to give to other civil society groups about the value of incorporating art into their work?

    Music plays a bigger role than you can imagine, simply because it’s the last thing someone could take away from you. If you’re in an active conflict zone, or you live in extreme poverty, or your community has shunned you, or you are in the hospital after being raped, you may have nothing, but you still have your ability to express yourself through art and music. It doesn’t require any equipment and it doesn’t cost anything: you only need to write some lyrics and a melody in your head to express what you feel.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in some awful places, and it may sound silly but it’s true: music is the last thing people hold on to get up in the morning. It’s the one thing people hold on to no matter what. That makes it an entry point to so much work that civil society can do.

    When I first started with this idea, I was ignored, I was laughed at, I was told point-blank that this was never going to work. But third-party, peer-reviewed research has proved that this works for healing trauma. It works better than literally anything else on offer. It is always hard when you come up with an original idea, but you should persevere.

    Get in touch with Make Music Matter through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@mmm_org on Twitter.

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    Human rights defender Cyriaque Nibitegeka speaks to CIVICUS about Burundi’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and the implications for human rights and victims of human rights abuses. Nibitegeka is one of the leaders of civil society in Burundi. He is also a lawyer and member of the Burundi Bar. He was a professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Burundi before being dismissed for his human rights activities.

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  • COLOMBIA: ‘Civil society is an important pillar in work with the migrant population’

    CarmenAidaFariaCIVICUS speaks with Carmen Aida Faria, director of Fundación Manitas Amarillas (Little Yellow Hands Foundation), about the difficulties faced by Venezuelan migrants in Colombia and the work being done by civil society to facilitate their access to rights.

    Manitas Amarillas is a Colombian civil society organisation (CSO) formed in 2018, in the context of mass Venezuelan migration to Colombia, to provide humanitarian assistance, access to health services and counselling to migrants and refugees.

    How has the situation of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia changed in recent years?

    Migration flows into Colombia have changed over time. The 2015 wave of Venezuelan migration was very important, but the number of migrants increased over the following years, peaking in 2017. Compared to the previous wave, this one included a lot more people in vulnerable situation.

    The new arrivals needed immediate healthcare and access to other fundamental rights that the system could not provide. Colombia did not have the infrastructure or the financial resources to respond, particularly in border areas, where local populations also experience deficits in access to education and healthcare, among other rights.

    Migrants in vulnerable situations were also unable to receive monetary aid through the Colombian government’s social assistance programmes or enter the subsidised health system. To access social programmes, people must have a regular migration status.

    In addition to a permanent migrant population, there is also the population in border areas that constantly crosses the border back and forth to access certain services. For instance, many children who live in Venezuela go to school in Colombia and are not included in school food programmes. There are organisations working specifically to ensure these children have access to food, as they arrive with significant nutritional problems.

    These processes created a demand for the community, but above all for the Colombian state, to respond to. And the country began to operate under a logic of solidarity and gratitude: Colombians remember that in the past it was Venezuela that received Colombian migrants. Thus, the government began to grant special residence permits to regularise this population in some way. But the definite milestone was the Temporary Statute of Protection for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPMV), approved in 2021 under an essentially humanitarian logic.

    What did the implementation of this new policy entail?

    The ETPMV implied temporary regularisation so that Venezuelans could benefit from the same rights and have the same duties as Colombian nationals. Upon receiving an identity document called a Temporary Protection Permit, migrants have the possibility of accessing the health system and the labour market, among other rights.

    Theoretically, the mechanism is well thought out. However, putting it into practice has been hard. Many people have been left out: more than 2.4 million migrants have registered in the Single Registry for Venezuelan Migrants, but there are still more than a million who, having completed the full process, have not received their permit.

    Some people applied for the permit in September 2021, more than a year ago, and have consulted Migración Colombia, the authority for migration control and monitoring, but still do not know what has happened to their application. Some have not received their permits due to logistical problems: this is a highly mobile population and when they change addresses it is often not possible to locate them to deliver the documentation.

    But it is also the case that difficulties continue once the permit has been obtained. This is an indication of deeper problems. When Venezuelans go with their permit to open a bank account or register with the health system, they are often rejected. The Temporary Protection Permit is a new document and many institutions, both public and private, are not yet familiar with it. A lot of education is needed to make these rights effectively accessible.

    The ETPMV was supposed to prioritise the most vulnerable population groups. The first to receive their permits were supposed to be people in need of immediate medical attention and children and adolescents who needed them to enter the education system due to lack of identity papers. This ultimately did not happen, to such an extent that legal appeals have had to be filed to ensure access to healthcare for people with chronic illnesses or other conditions in need of immediate attention.

    How is Colombian civil society supporting Venezuelan migrants?

    Since the last big wave of migration in 2017, many CSOs have emerged. It was the migrant community itself that first began to get together to help other migrants. We started giving food out on the street and providing humanitarian assistance to walkers, as we call the people moving on foot through Colombian territory, who did not have basic information or even warm enough clothing to withstand Colombia’s climate.

    CSOs have become an important pillar in work with the migrant population, because we are on the ground and we know the problems migrants have.

    Currently, many CSOs are working together in coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá and promoting several joint initiatives. We have launched public campaigns and signed a symbolic pact to promote integration, because Venezuelan migrants in Colombia continue to suffer from xenophobia and discrimination as a result of their poverty. We have asked the media to stop mentioning the nationality of crime perpetrators, because they only do so when the person involved is a foreigner, thus overstating the problem and contributing to discrimination against Venezuelans.

    We are also participating, in collaboration with the Colombian government and international cooperation agencies, in the first ‘Entregatón’, a massive permit delivery operation aimed at distributing 40,000 permits in five days. Migración Colombia has sent messages via mobile phone to migrants whose documents are ready, notifying them of the date and place where they can pick them up.

    But in addition to handing out the documents, as part of the operation, enrolment and biometric registration services are being provided for those who have not yet completed these stages of the process. People who have already received their permits are also offered vaccination services, access to healthcare providers, registration with the social assistance system, legal support and information on various other issues, from the transportation system to school access to programmes targeted at migrant women.

    There is so much work and CSOs are contributing enormously. The government and international cooperation agencies should take us into account not only as sources of diagnoses of migration issues, but also as partners when it comes to jointly implementing public policies arising from those diagnoses.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Manitas Amarillas through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@MANITASAMARI on Twitter.

  • COLOMBIA: ‘Lack of regular migration status imposes barriers to accessing rights’

    Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina ArroyaveCIVICUS speaks with Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina Arroyave about the situation of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Colombia. Jessica is the director of and Lina a researcher in Dejusticia’s international team.

    Dejusticia is a centre for legal and social studies based in Bogotá, Colombia, dedicated to promoting human rights in Colombia and the global south. It promotes social change through action-research, developing public policy proposals, advocacy campaigns and strategic litigation.

    How has Colombia changed its legal framework to accommodate Venezuelan migration?

    There are currently three ways in which Venezuelan nationals can obtain the status that allows them to stay in Colombia for extended periods: visas, refugee status and the Temporary Protection Status for Venezuelan Migrants (ETPMV).

    The ETPMV was established in 2021 to address the situation of mass migration from Venezuela. It has two main objectives: to identify the Venezuelan migrant population and regularise their migratory situation. To this end, two mechanisms are envisaged. The first is the Single Registry of Venezuelan Migrants, which collects personal and socio-economic data of those who register, administered by Migración Colombia, the authority in charge of migration control and surveillance. The second is the Temporary Protection Permit, which authorises its holders to stay in Colombia for 10 years and allows them to access the health, social security, education and financial systems, validate their diplomas, work and leave and re-enter the country.

    Those in Colombia who have regular status, who have requested refuge but have not yet received a response, who entered the country irregularly before 31 January 2021, who have entered the country regularly after May 2021, or do so before late May 2023 are all eligible for temporary protected status. After that cut-off date, it will only be available to children and adolescents.

    Even so, people are not guaranteed temporary protected status if they meet all the requirements, since it is granted at the discretion of Migración Colombia.

    How has the ETPMV system worked during its first year?

    The process has takenlonger than expected, falling short of the goal set by the previous government of delivering 1.8 million identification documents by 2022.

    According to data from Migración Colombia, as of November 2022 about 2.5 million people have entered their data in the Single Registry for Venezuelan Migrants and 1.6 million permits have been approved.

    This gap is worrying because lack of regular migration status imposes barriers to accessing fundamental rights and hinders the socio-economic integration of migrants.

    In addition, many people did not register because they were unable to regularise their migration status. The ETPMV was only available to those in an irregular situation who had entered Colombia before 31 January 2021. This time limitation ignores the fact that irregular migration continues, largely because of the impossibility of obtaining official documents in Venezuela. Irregular status is assumed to be the result of individual decisions, when it is usually results from the impossibility of complying with the requirements imposed.

    What integration barriers do Venezuelan migrants face in Colombia?

    In a recentreport we identified multiple barriers to accessing and remaining in the formal labour market, as well as for setting up a business.

    The main legal barrier is lack of regular migration status. The thousands of people who continue to enter Colombia through informal border crossings are denied access to temporary protected status. This has an impact on both formalising their employment and access to entrepreneurship support funds, particularly from the state, but also from the private sector. A majority of self-employed migrant workers work in the informal sector.

    Widespread ignorance among employers of migration legislation imposes additional barriers. For instance, many are unaware that the validation of university degrees is only required for professions that involve high social risk, such as medicine, or that are regulated by the state, such as architecture or law, for which all applicants must follow a process to validate their diplomas and have professional cards issued. This procedure requires an official certificate that must be obtained in Venezuela, and those who are already in Colombia face immense difficulties in securing this.

    There are also social and cultural factors that can affect the employment situation. Negative perceptions of the Venezuelan migrant population affect recruitment processes. Xenophobia and discrimination deepen in situations of insecurity, although there is no evidence of links between migration and increased crime.

    Lack of social capital – such as well-placed contacts and job references – is also a problem for migrants.

    Additional obstacles make it difficult for migrant workers to remain in the formal economy. For example, many banks refuse to open savings accounts for Venezuelan migrants. They not only require them to prove their regular migration status but also demand an up-to-date passport, which they usually don’t have. Similar challenges come with some health insurers, pension funds and occupational risk insurance companies.

    As a result, to earn an income many migrants are forced into precarious jobs and exploitative working conditions, including extremely long working hours, sub-minimum wages, mistreatment and changes in agreed working conditions. In 2019, the average monthly income of a Venezuelan migrant was less than the legal minimum wage, and the wage gap compared to Colombian nationals was more than 30 percentage points.

    What is Dejusticia doing to promote migrants’ rights?

    As a civil society organisation, we carry out research on migrants’ access to rights that we use to influence decision-making processes on migration policy and formulate public policy recommendations. In the research process leading to ourreport on the labour inclusion of Venezuelan migrants, for example, we organised an event to which we invited various stakeholders, including government agencies, to work on recommendations. Also, when anew government took office in August 2022, we produced a series of recommendations, in partnership with other organisations.

    We also develop strategic litigation and communications campaigns, and work with other organisations, both nationally, regionally and in other regions of the global south, to address the migration phenomenon from a broader perspective.

    What support from the international community do organisations defending the rights of migrants in Colombia need?

    It is important for the international community to shed visibility on and support the processes that are taking place in relation to the rights of Venezuelan migrants. But it is also very important that the support of the international community covers other migratory flows and takes into account the problems happening on the Colombia-Panama border, crossed by migrants of various nationalities trying to head towards the USA.

    It is also important for the international community to remind the Colombian government of the commitments it has made by ratifying treaties and adopting international standards on migration and refugees.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Dejusticia through itswebsite orFacebook page and follow@DeJusticia and@JessCorredorV on Twitter.

  • COLOMBIA: ‘Young people experience a feeling of wanting to change everything’

    CIVICUS speaks about the protests that began in Colombia in April 2021, triggered by proposed tax increases, with a young social and human rights activist who chose to remain anonymous for security reasons. The interviewee belongs to a network of youth organisations and young activists that promotes solidarity, organisation and the struggle of excluded groups and that works in the capital, Bogotá, and in the city of Medellín.

    What were the causes of the protests, and what are protesters’ demands?

    The tax reform was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it added to a host of problems. In the assemblies in which we participated, hundreds of demands, and demands of all kinds, were collected, from filling holes in neighbourhood streets to overthrowing the government led by President Iván Duque and seeking justice for the so-called ‘false positives’, that is, cases of civilians killed by the military and presented as casualties of the armed conflict. What young people are experiencing is a feeling of wanting to change everything, of not wanting to continue living as before.

    But despite the diversity of demands, there are some that unite young people from the lower classes the most. I think that, in economic matters, young people from the lower classes are demanding employment and opportunities to get ahead, and in political matters these young people, particularly those who were on the protest frontlines, are demanding dignity, to not be humiliated anymore. Nothing unites these young people more than their deep hatred of the police, as the main representative of the outrages and humiliations they experience on a daily basis. They feel like outcasts with no economic future, with no hope of getting a job beyond the daily grind to survive, rejected by society and persecuted like criminals by the police just because they are young and poor.

    Students – also young people but more intellectual, some from the middle class – were also a significant force in the protests, but tended to emphasise demands against political repression and human rights violations, the issue of the ‘false positives’, the assassinations of social leaders and the criminalisation of protest.

    How do these protests differ from those of previous years, and are there any lines of continuity with them?

    Basically, motives are the same as those of the 2019 and 2020 protests. In the 2019 protests, the crisis of unemployment and hunger weighed more heavily, while in the 2020 protests, the issue of repression, not wanting to continue to be humiliated and killed, became more important. Those that broke out in April 2021 combined the motives of the two previous waves, because not only had neither of the two problems been tackled at the root, but not even palliatives had been offered; on the contrary, the economic crisis worsened and political repression continued.

    Perhaps one difference is that the latest protests have received greater international attention, which reflects the strength with which the Colombian people took to the streets. The protest had broad legitimacy among social groups that do not usually mobilise. The economic and political crisis and suffocation was such that groups such as medium-size and even large business owners supported the protests. The massive character of the protests also forced everyone, from artists to congresspeople, to take sides.

    There were Colombians abroad who protested in their respective countries, speaking up about what their relatives back home were telling them. Some may think that this increased international attention was due to the repression, but I tend to believe that what magnified the message was the size of the middle-class groups that mobilised. Repression has been very present in previous cycles as well as in the face of protests by groups of peasants. I think what was decisive in this case was the diversity of social strata that supported the protest.

    How has the government reacted to the protests?

    Generally speaking, it reacted first by violently repressing them, then by delegitimising them by using the media to attack some groups, and in particular young people, and finally by trying to divide them in order to demobilise some social groups and isolate young people from the lower classes. For the latter, the government engaged in several negotiations with a self-proclaimed National Strike Committee, and also carried out negotiations at the local level to try to contain or calm down some social groups.

    Particularly at the local level, even in localities with so-called centrist and independent governments, the government set up dialogue roundtables that do not solve anything, where demands are listened to but nothing specific is offered in response to those demands. Many local governments washed their hands of the repression, blaming it on the central government alone, but they did everything in their power to demobilise the protests, sending representatives to calm down protesters and promising people that if they stopped protesting they would listen to their demands, something they had not done during the whole previous year.

    Violence by some groups seems to have become a problem. How did activists and civil society organisations deal with this?

    Violence has often been a spontaneous reaction to repression. Confronting the young person who is throwing a rock with judgement and scolding serves no purpose except to radicalise them further and earn their distrust. In order to change this violence, we must begin by understanding it and distinguishing it from the violence that comes from the state, rather than putting them on the same level. This is not to say that violence is desirable; indeed, it diverts the initiative of many young people. But getting between them and the Immediate Response Command (Comando de Atención Inmediata) – the police unit that operates in urban perimeters – to try and stop them ends up having more of a reverse psychological effect than a deterrence or educational one.

    In my experience, civil society organisations that do not reach out to these young people and offer them alternative spaces for politicisation and awareness-raising end up isolating them and losing the ability to influence them. Our organisation has dealt with this through the strategy of avoiding negative judgement and, instead, approaching them with understanding and trying to create alternative spaces for political participation and the organisation of young people.

    What roles has your organisation played in the protests?

    Our organisation played an active role: we organised the participation in the protests of young people and families in the neighbourhoods where we carry out community work and promoted a solidarity campaign with protesters to collect economic support and other resources, such as first aid, support through community kitchens and human rights advocacy, to help various protest points in the cities of Bogotá and Medellín.

    In Bogotá, we provided support to find information on missing persons and participated in solidarity campaigns with people who had been injured. In Medellín we established community kitchens and repaired roofs and other damage caused by protests in neighbourhoods close to the major protest hotspots in the city. Finally, throughout the protests we developed awareness-raising activities and promoted the involvement of young protesters in more lasting processes of social and community building.

    What impacts do you think this cycle of protests and repression will have on the upcoming elections?

    In my opinion, the protests increased the political capital of the former mayor of Bogotá and former presidential candidate for the left, Gustavo Petro. The government did not give any real response to protesters’ demands and people are still looking for alternatives, and – although our organisation has no interest in campaigning for him or intention to do so – I think Petro is the only available option. In the next elections I would expect a higher rate of youth participation, and I would not be surprised at all if Petro wins.

    Civic space in Colombia is rated ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

  • COLOMBIA: “La carencia de estatus migratorio regular impone barreras de acceso a derechos”

    Jessica Corredor Villamil and Lina ArroyaveCIVICUS conversa con Jessica Corredor Villamil y Lina Arroyave sobre la situación de las personas migrantes y refugiadas venezolanas en Colombia. Jessica esdirectora y Lina es investigadora del área internacional de Dejusticia.

    Dejusticia es un centro de estudios jurídicos y sociales localizado en Bogotá, Colombia, y dedicado a promover los derechos humanos en Colombia y en el sur global. Promueve el cambio social a través de la investigación-acción, desarrollando propuestas de políticas públicas, campañas de incidencia y litigios estratégicos.

    ¿Cómo ha reformado Colombia su marco legal para acoger a la migración venezolana?

    Actualmente hay tres vías mediante las cuales las personas nacionales de Venezuela pueden obtener el estatus migratorio que les permite permanecer en Colombia por períodos prolongados: las visas, la solicitud de la condición de refugiado y el Estatuto Temporal de Protección para Migrantes Venezolanos(ETPMV)

    Este último fue establecido en 2021 para atender la migración masiva procedente de Venezuela. Tiene dos grandes objetivos: identificar a la población migrante venezolana y regularizar su situación migratoria. Para esto prevé dos mecanismos. El primero es el Registro Único de Migrantes Venezolanos, que recoge los datos personales y socioeconómicos de quienes deciden registrarse y es administrado por Migración Colombia, la autoridad de vigilancia y control migratorio. El segundo es el Permiso por Protección Temporal, que autoriza a su portador a permanecer en Colombia por 10 años y le permite acceder a los sistemas de salud y seguridad social, educativo y financiero, convalidar títulos, trabajar y salir del país y reingresar.

    Pueden acogerse al ETPMV quienes se encuentren en Colombia de manera regular, quienes han solicitado refugio pero aún no han recibido respuesta, quienes ingresaron al país de manera irregular antes del 31 de enero de 2021, y quienes lo hicieron de manera regular desde finales de mayo de 2021 o lo hagan antes de finales de mayo de 2023. Luego de esa fecha, solo será una opción para niños, niñas y adolescentes.

    Aun así, el cumplir con todos los requisitos no es garantía de obtención del ETPMV, ya que su otorgamiento es facultad discrecional de Migración Colombia.

    ¿Cómo ha funcionado el ETPMV durante su primer año? 

    El proceso se hademorado más de lo previsto, lo cual impidió cumplir la meta del gobierno anterior de entregar 1.8 millones de documentos de identificación en 2022.

    Según datos de Migración Colombia, hasta noviembre de 2022 cerca de 2,5 millones de personas han ingresado sus datos en el Registro Único para Migrantes Venezolanos, y se han aprobado 1,6 millones de permisos.

    Esta brecha es preocupante porque la carencia de estatus migratorio regular impone barreras de acceso a derechos fundamentales y obstaculiza la integración socioeconómica de la población migrante.

    Además, muchas personas no se inscribieron en el registro por no haber podido regularizar su situación migratoria. El ETPMV solamente estaba disponible para las personas en situación irregular que hubieran ingresado a Colombia hasta el 31 de enero de 2021. Esta limitación temporal ignora el hecho de que la migración irregular continúa, en gran medida a causa de la imposibilidad de acceder a documentos oficiales en Venezuela. Se asume que la situación de irregularidad obedece a una decisión individual, cuando por lo general es el resultado de la imposibilidad de cumplir con los requisitos exigidos.

    ¿Qué barreras de integración enfrentan las personas migrantes venezolanas en Colombia?

    En un recienteinforme identificamos las múltiples barreras de acceso y permanencia en el mercado laboral formal, así como para el desarrollo de emprendimientos.

    La principal barrera legal es la carencia de estatus migratorio regular. Las miles de personas que continúan ingresando a Colombia por pasos fronterizos informales tienen vedado el acceso al ETPMV. Esto tiene impactos tanto para la formalización laboral como para el acceso a fondos de apoyo al emprendimiento, en particular estatales, pero también privados. La mayoría de los trabajadores migrantes independientes trabaja en el sector informal.

    El desconocimiento generalizado de la legislación migratoria por parte de los empleadores impone barreras adicionales. Por ejemplo, muchos desconocen que la convalidación de títulos universitarios solo es imprescindible para profesiones cuyo ejercicio implica altos riesgos sociales, como la medicina, o cuyo ejercicio es regulado por el Estado, como el derecho o la arquitectura, y exigen a todos los postulantes la realización del trámite de convalidación de títulos y expedición de tarjetas profesionales. Este trámite requiere de una apostilla que debe ser obtenida en Venezuela antes de migrar, y quienes ya se encuentran en Colombia enfrentan enormes dificultades para conseguirla.

    También existen factores sociales y culturales que pueden afectar la situación laboral. Las percepciones negativas de la población migrante venezolana afectan los procesos de selección de personal. La xenofobia y la discriminación se profundizan cuando ocurren hechos de inseguridad, pese a que no hay evidencia de vínculos entre el aumento de la criminalidad y el de la migración.

    La falta de capital social, es decir, de contactos bien posicionados y referencias laborales, también es un problema para las personas migrantes.

    Algunos obstáculos adicionales dificultan la permanencia en la economía formal. Por ejemplo, muchos bancos se niegan a abrir cuentas de ahorros a personas migrantes venezolanas ya que les exigen no solamente acreditar estatus migratorio regular sino también presentar su pasaporte actualizado, con el que habitualmente no cuentan. Algo similar ocurre con algunas aseguradoras de salud, fondos de pensiones y aseguradoras de riesgos de trabajo.

    De ahí que muchas personas migrantes con tal de conseguir algún ingreso acepten empleos precarios y se sometan a condiciones de explotación laboral que incluyen jornadas de trabajo extremadamente largas, salarios por debajo del mínimo, malos tratos y cambios en las condiciones laborales acordadas. En 2019, los ingresos mensuales promedio de una persona migrante venezolana fueron inferiores al salario mínimo legal vigente, y la brecha salarial frente a los nacionales colombianos fue de más de 30 puntos porcentuales.

    ¿Qué trabajo hace Dejusticia para promover los derechos de las personas migrantes? 

    En tanto que organización de la sociedad civil, hacemos investigaciones sobre el acceso a derechos de las personas migrantes para sobre esa base hacer incidencia en los procesos de toma de decisiones en materia de política migratoria y formular recomendaciones de política pública. En el proceso de investigación para nuestroinforme sobre la inclusión laboral de las y los migrantes venezolanos, por ejemplo, organizamos un evento al cual invitamos a los diferentes sectores involucrados, incluidas varias agencias gubernamentales, para trabajar en las recomendaciones. Asimismo, al iniciarse unnuevo gobierno en agosto de 2022 elaboramos un documento con recomendaciones, en alianza con otras organizaciones.

    También desarrollamos litigios estratégicos y campañas de comunicación, y trabajamos con otras organizaciones, a nivel tanto nacional como regional y de otras regiones del sur global, para abordar el fenómeno de las migraciones desde una mirada más amplia.

    ¿Qué apoyo de la comunidad internacional necesitan las organizaciones que defienden los derechos de las personas migrantes en Colombia?

    Es importante que la comunidad internacional dé visibilidad y apoye los procesos que se están dando en relación con los derechos de las personas migrantes venezolanas. Pero también es muy importante que el apoyo de la comunidad internacional abarque otros flujos migratorios y dé cuenta de la problemática en la frontera colombo-panameña, paso obligado para personas migrantes de distintas nacionalidades que quieren llegar a los Estados Unidos.

    También es importante que la comunidad internacional le recuerde al gobierno de Colombia los compromisos que ha adquirido a partir de la ratificación de tratados y la adopción de estándares internacionales en materia de migración y refugio.

    El espacio cívico en Colombia es calificado como ‘represivo’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con Dejusticia a través de susitio web o su página deFacebook y siga a@DeJusticia y a@JessCorredorV en Twitter.

  • COP26: ‘Young people are making proposals rather than just demanding change by holding up a sign’

    In the run-up to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in Glasgow, UK between 31 October and 12 November 2021, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the environmental challenges they face in their contexts, the actions they are undertaking to tackle them and their expectations for the upcoming summit.

    CIVICUS speaks with Antonella Regular and Joaquín Salinas, Communications Coordinator and Training Coordinator of Juventudes COP Chile (COP Chile Youth), an independent youth platform focused on climate action. The group seeks to create advocacy spaces for young people and be an intergenerational and intersectional space for mutual learning.

    Antonella Regular y Joaquin Salinas

    What are the key environmental problems you encounter in Chile?

    One key problem is that of environmental sacrifice zones or areas with a high level of environmental impact, that is, areas that concentrate a large number of polluting industries that have a direct impact on communities. Another problem is mining and the way in which extractive rights are positioned above the rights of communities and the environment, with operations such as the controversial Dominga project in the Coquimbo region on Chile’s north-central coast. And in the south, the issue of deforestation.

    These environmental issues are our entry point into the communities: they allow us to know what their challenges and goals are so that we can exert influence and act, and not just make demands. Our platform seeks to create solutions to address the problems.

    The fact that young people do not find spaces where they can be heard and actively participate in decision-making is also a problem. Chile is currently going through a constituent process: there is a very diverse and plural Constituent Assembly, which was directly elected by citizens, and which is drafting a new Constitution. For the first time there is the possibility that some historical demands that have been ignored for the longest time will be met. At this decisive moment it is important for young people to be included in decision-making and to be able to influence the design of progressive public policies.

    How do your actions connect with the global climate movement?

    The Juventudes COP Chile platform tries to function as a bridge between civil society and international advocacy spaces such as climate conferences. Our goal is for civil society as a whole to be empowered with opinions and demands to exert influence within these spaces. We have opened spaces for participation and established alliances, and all the proposals that have emerged from these spaces will be delivered to COP26. 

    Juventudes COP Chile promotes the participation of young people and encourages them to take an active position. We are making proposals rather than just demanding change by holding up a sign.

    What progress do you expect from COP26, and more generally, how useful do you find such international processes?

    There are many issues left pending from COP25. For instance, there is a need to finalise the rulebook in relation to article 6 of the Paris Agreement, regarding carbon markets, for states and companies to trade greenhouse gas emissions units. We hope that at COP26, states will finally reach an agreement and there will be a breakthrough in this regard. They should also stop postponing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) until 2050. And NDCs should no longer be voluntary. The fact that they are almost feels like mockery given the state of the climate crisis.

    Progress is urgently needed because we are seeing that climate change is real and it is happening. Some changes are already irreversible: we are experiencing them on a daily basis in our relationship with the environment and we may hardly be able merely to adopt adaptation rules anymore.

    Parties at COP26 should realise this and put their own interests aside to think about the survival of the human species. They must listen to science and to young people. The participation of young people in these processes cannot be a mere protocol: it must be real, active and meaningful.

    What changes would you like to see in the world or in your community that could help solve the climate crisis?

    In our communities we hope for more participation and access to information. In Chile there is a great deal of centralisation: everything happens in the capital, Santiago de Chile, and that creates a deficit of citizen participation in decision-making and information delivery at the community level. We hope that progress will be made on issues of decentralisation and redistribution of effective decision-making power.

    One of the principles upheld by Juventudes COP Chile is precisely that of decentralisation, and that is why we work with people from different parts of the country. We would like to see a much bigger adoption of some of the practices that we have adopted at Juventudes COP Chile, such as artivism, regenerative culture, horizontal relations and community work.

    At the national level, we hope that politicians will start to take this problem seriously. They must work to reduce pollution and alleviate the climate crisis. They must start by recognising that the climate crisis is a human rights crisis, drastically affecting the quality of life of the most vulnerable people and communities. It is important that there is a recognition that this is happening and that it is a serious problem.

    An important step to start moving forward would be for Chile to finally sign the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, better known as the Escazú Agreement. This is the first regional environmental agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first in the world with specific provisions on human rights and environmental defenders. For years the state of Chile pushed forward the negotiations that resulted in this agreement, but then decided not to sign it. It should do so without delay.

    Civic space in Chile is rated ‘obstructed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contact Juventudes COP Chile through theirwebsite or theirFacebook orInstagram pages. 


  • COP27: ‘Climate justice requires debt cancellation, reparations and non-debt climate finance for small island developing states’

    Tariq Al OlaimyCIVICUS speaks with Bahraini social entrepreneur Tariq Al-Olaimy about the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change.

    Tariq is Managing Director of 3BL Associates, an ecosystem of social and planetary enterprises working towards regenerative, inclusive and wellbeing-centred economies.

    What was the purpose of the Greenpeace United for Climate Justice ship tour you recently took part in?

    Greenpeace is sailing throughout Egypt together with climate leaders from the Middle East and North Africa to put climate justice high on the agenda in the lead-up to COP27, which will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The ship tour is a platform for climate leaders living in some of the world’s most affected regions to promote systemic change around climate adaptation, justice, access to energy and response to the loss and damage associated with the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. They are representing the voices of people from across the region, focusing on both climate impacts and the many solutions already at hand.

    It's important to spread these leaders’ messages around the world and to make sure their voices are not forgotten during COP27, especially in highlighting the need for climate justice for the global south. For these leaders, this is a collective fight for justice for their countries and communities.

    Young people from the across the global south in particular are among the most affected and most marginalised, but also among the most powerful voices. They are not victims, but collectives of solidarity and hope working for a brighter future for all.

    What issues should be prioritised at COP27? 

    COP27 must raise the call of climate justice for the most vulnerable, and also the least responsible for climate change: the people in Africa, in the South-west Asia and North Africa region, and on small islands, among others.

    I am from Bahrain, which makes me one of 65 million people who live in small island developing states, representing roughly one per cent of the world’s population. Climate justice, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage strategies require consistent and regular resources. Small islands typically lack those resources and, being particularly vulnerable to extreme climate events, often face reconstruction costs that lead to more borrowing and debt, which in turn increases their vulnerability.

    All small island states together only received US$1.5 billion in climate finance between 2016 and 2020. In the same period, 22 small island developing states paid more than US$26 billion to their external creditors – almost 18 times as much. Climate justice requires debt cancellation, reparations and non-debt climate finance for small island developing states.

    COP 27 is framed as an ‘implementation COP’, and the climate finance gap and unequal distribution of finance between countries are critical barriers to implementation.

    Are you hopeful meaningful commitments will be made at COP27?

    The window of opportunity to act is closing. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s6th Assessment Report offers an even clearer picture of the remaining carbon budget available to stay within a 1.5°C temperature rise and therefore avoid the worst impacts of climate change. While enhanced mitigation ambition is critical, the urgency of implementation is a key concern. Taking into account the pledges fully implemented as of 31 December 2021, total greenhouse gas emission levels are still projected to be 10 per cent higher than 2012 levels.

    To truly scale mitigation ambition, it is important that governments don’t just negotiate the text and numbers of pledges but negotiate the very system within which we implement climate action. We need degrowth of the most ecologically harmful sectors of our economy, a global and just transition and transformation towards a post-growth economy.

    In a context characterised by short-term political calculations we are completely missing the need for urgent and radical change. I do not expect COP27 to address all this. But there are still some issues that could be meaningfully advanced – in particular, the establishment of the basis for the operationalisation of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility, the details of which could be finalised at COP28 next year.

    This is an issue of climate justice towards the many countries in the global south that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change yet have done little to contribute to the crisis. At the same time, these countries do not have the financial or technological capacity to address these impacts, adapt and pursue a post-extractivist and low-carbon transition. Loss and damage financing can force a rethink around financial commitments and contributions, and pressure for both debt and tax reform as well as renewed financial commitments for mitigation and adaptation.

    How concerned are you about the conditions for civil society participation at a COP held in a country with highly restricted civil space?

    Civil society participation is always a critical concern at COPs. It’s clear that we can’t have a green and peaceful future without justice, equity, civil rights and empowered communities. That includes the full inclusion of independent civil society as a key stakeholder in climate negotiations. This is why business and civil society organisations have stressed the crucial importance of a rights-based approach to climate action.

    As the world transitions toward net zero, protecting the human rights of civil society, workers and communities is key to achieving a just transition. There is significant danger of pledges being made to close the emissions gap while irresponsible implementation strips the rights of civil society. Green transitions in rich countries and ‘green growth’ require significant mineral resources, supplied from the global south, so there is a risk of a neo-colonial mineral rush and a regression of labour rights. It is essential to develop norms, standards and safeguards so that the transition strategies implemented by governments and businesses comply with international human rights and labour standards.

    In the context of the COP, this starts with the United Nations taking a much stronger stance regarding the enabling of safe, inclusive and meaningful civil society participation throughout the negotiation process. The COP agenda is largely dominated by global north governments and interests, and civil society perspectives, especially those from the global south, need to find their way into the mix, bringing forward alternative pathways, experience and knowledge.

     Get in touch with the 3BL Associates through itswebsite and follow@tariqal on Twitter.

  • COP27: ‘The participation of civil society is important because it represents the voices of communities’

    Chibeze EzekielCIVICUS speaks about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 climate change summit with Chibeze Ezekiel, coordinator of the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND).

    SYND is a civil society organisation (CSO) that promotes youth participation and advocacy for environmental sustainability in Ghana.

    What are the environmental issues that you work on?

    SYND works for environmental sustainability by promoting youth participation in policymaking and project implementation. We focus on four thematic areas: climate change, biodiversity, forests and energy. In May 2019, with support from the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme, we established the Youth in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance platform. It is a platform for young people to share and exchange learning on their respective actions and help them embark on joint, coordinated campaigns.

    To help build capacity so that young people can better advocate for environmental sustainability and help the government fulfil its climate obligations, we have also developedcapacity building projects. As part of our efforts to empower students to become climate activists and environmentalists, we have also worked with schools. For instance, through our Children for Climate (#C4C) Action campaign we are empowering children to become climate champions. And we publishreports that highlight our activities and their impacts in the communities we work in.

    Have you faced any restrictions when conducting your work?

    Fortunately, we have not faced any restrictions working in Ghana. We believe that this might be because of our approach. We confront the government and question public officials on their policies, but we do it in a manner that will not jeopardise the work relationship we have built or put ourselves in harm’s way. This has worked for us, because our work relationship not only with the government but also the private sector has strengthened over the years, which has helped us continue doing our work.

    How do you connect with the global climate movement?

    We work in connection with similar organisations in other African countries as well as with international organisations advocating for environmental rights. In the African region, some of the organisations we work with include theAfrican Youth Initiative on Climate Change,350 Africa,African Climate Reality Project and thePan African Climate Justice Alliance. We are also the West Africa Regional Node forACCESS Coalition, a global network with about 70 members advocating for people living in poverty to have access to safe, reliable and affordable energy, and for environmentally sustainable and efficient energy systems globally.

    Working with all these organisations has allowed us to transcend the local level and connect to the global. To contribute to this global work, we produce position papers and give input on policies, among other things.

    What issues would you like to see addressed at COP27?

    Over the years global leaders have made pledges and promises but they have not fulfilled them. We hope at this year’s COP more serious commitments will be brought forward. Global leaders shouldn’t be making promises they won’t keep and should instead get to work.

    Climate finance is still an outstanding issue. There should be a clear understanding of how the mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change will be rolled out. Global leaders must provide communities with resources to adapt to climate change and assist them with mitigation plans. All of this will only be possible if adequate climate finance is provided.

    Another priority is loss and damage. We are aware that vulnerable people and those living in underdeveloped communities are the ones suffering the most as a result of climate change. Many people have lost their homes, land and source of livelihood, and it is only fair they are compensated for the irreparable damage caused to them.

    A few weeks back we travelled around Ghana to analyse how climate change has affected communities and what demands people had for the government. We conducted interviews and asked people about the situations they are going through and the solutions they would like to see implemented. We plan to present our video documentary at COP27 to show world leaders the real situation on the ground. This will give a clearer picture of what we mean by loss and damage, and hopefully put pressure for urgent action.

    Energy transition, away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, is also an issue we expect to see discussed. Especially since there are industrialising ambitions in Africa, it will be interesting to see how leaders plan to make energy available and affordable during this transition. Africa has plenty of resources such as wind, solar and hydro, but its progress towards renewable energies has been very slow. According to theInternational Renewable Energy Agency, only two per cent of global investment in renewable energies is invested in Africa, and only three per cent of jobs in the continent are in the sector. We want to know how global leaders plan to use their resources to help Africa with its energy transition.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks important?

    The participation of civil society in COPs is important because it represents the voices of communities and is best placed to articulate people’s concerns and propose polices that will improve the lives of citizens. CSOs are also accountable to their communities, so when we attend global conferences such as COPs, we all go back to our respective countries to provide feedback and confront decisions made at the global level with the realities that people continue to live in. This pushes us to continue with our advocacy work. We continue carrying out engagement activities at the local, regional and international levels, holding our leaders accountable to their commitments and supporting their work to implement the policies agreed in global forums.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    Because of the role we play, there is a space for CSOs to participate in COPs, although improvements in access could certainly be made. It is, however, unfortunate that CSOs only have observer status and cannot take part in negotiations. If they were offered an opportunity to interact with negotiators, they would get a better chance to convey their priorities and share their ideas.

    COP27 in particular is tricky because it’s taking place in a closed civic space environment. But that is what the situation is in Egypt. More could have been done to offer a conducive environment for civil society, but we will have to work with what we are presented with. I believe there is still some room to have a discussion with the Egyptian authorities so they allow some form of demonstration and civil society can make the voices of people heard. The government should allow its citizens to participate without any restriction because their views are also important.

    Civic space in Ghana is rated ‘narrowed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Strategic Youth Network for Development through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@SYNDGhana and@chibeze1 on Twitter.

  • COP27: ‘We doubt that we will be able to mobilise as we did around COP26’

    CIVICUS speaks with Sohanur Rahman, Executive Coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice, about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change. YouthNet for Climate Justice is a global platform of youth-led organisations of the global south that aims to promote climate action among young people.



    What environmental issues do you work on?

    YouthNet focuses on climate justice, the new human rights frontier. We want to hold global leaders accountable for the climate crisis we are currently in. We work on climate justice because we understand that young people, people from the global south and Indigenous people are bearing a disproportionate share of the consequences of the climate crisis, while not being responsible for what is going on.

    Climate change must be addressed through an intersectional and intergenerational lens because vulnerable groups are the ones experiencing its worst consequences. The climate crisis is rooted in capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy. This makes the struggle for climate justice inseparable from the struggle for human rights.

    We are now specifically working on the issue of loss and damage. We want world leaders to support adaptation and financing for loss and damage and provide funding facilities to help developing countries deal with the climate crisis.

    What issues would you like to see addressed at COP27?

    COP26 failed young people and vulnerable communities. It made clear to us that global leaders are not treating climate change as the global emergency it is. But sadly, we are currently facing one environmental catastrophe after the other. Most recently, there were massive floods in Pakistan and floods and a cyclone in Bangladesh. What else needs to happen so leaders realise we need urgent solutions to these problems?

    The COP26 presidency asked state parties to submit new climate plans and nationally determined contributions (NDCs), because the previously submitted ones were not ambitious enough, and would not reduce emissions to the extent needed to stay within the 1.5°C targets. However, Only 23 of the nearly 200 countries that signed the Glasgow Climate Pact have submitted enhanced NDCs. Rather than strengthening headline targets, most of these offered more policy detail. We need commitment from all parties involved to ensure that the climate crisis is addressed effectively.

    We can see the progress achieved in previous COPs is very limited. In the run-up to COP27, our major priority is loss and damage financing. Before we can pursue adaptation, we have to support communities with loss and damage. We are not asking developed countries for charity or debt, but for reparations for their historical responsibility in this climate crisis.

    In 2019, developed countries pledged US$100 billion towards adaptation and mitigation but they are not disbursing this. Everything at this point is theoretical – no practical mechanism has been put in place to ensure the money is paid up. And when the funds finally come, we would like to see a 50/50 split between adaptation and mitigation, because both require equal efforts. Finally, we would like to see the financing of locally led adaptation addressed at COP27. Communities should be given a platform to develop and implement solutions that will work for them, rather than implementing universal strategies that don’t fit everybody.

    This COP should be one where the focus shifts to implementation. We no longer want to hear promises that will remain unfulfilled. We want action towards solving our problems.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks so important?

    Civil society participation in COPs, and specifically the participation of young people, is important because they are there to hold leaders accountable. The global community is making empty promises and commitments and not taking action. Civil society’s mission is to hold governments and companies accountable, including by making polluters pay for the loss and damage they are causing to people and the environment.

    Because the current systems are failing, civil society must advocate for systemic change. To achieve such transformative change, we must be united. Those joining COP27 should use the platform to advocate for change; those observing from home countries should mobilise in their own countries to highlight the crisis we are in. We must all put pressure on decision-makers to deliver on their promises. COP27 will only bring a breakthrough if civil society is allowed to participate without any restrictions and a decision is made to start paying out climate reparations.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    We are very frightened about the situation in Egypt. The government of Egypt should release all arrested activists before COP27 takes place. Without our participation, it will be just more greenwash. And we cannot archive climate justice if human rights are ignored. The global community should stand up and speak against what Egyptian environmental activists are going through.

    COP26 was labelled as ‘inclusive’, but it was very exclusive. The pandemic came on top of persistent systemic barriers, notably the lack of resources that excludes many young people. World leaders negotiated on issues affecting us, but they did not include us at discussion tables. Unfortunately, the situation for civil society participation at COP27 will be even worse.

    The government of Egypt does not respect or support human rights defenders. This was clear in the multiple arrests of activists that have taken place over the past few months. Civil society can expect to experience several barriers during the conference, and LGBTQI+ activists have expressed their concerns regarding their safety while in the country. We fear that our presence, digital footprint and communications will be monitored. We doubt that we will be able to mobilise as we did around COP26 in Glasgow where we held a climate strike.

    Even though labelled ‘the African COP’, COP27 doesn’t truly represent African people. Many young African activists are still struggling to get accreditation and sponsorship. Rising hotel prices will affect the participation of people from less developed countries. There will be limited participation of young activists, Indigenous people and organisations from the global south. This event was never meant to be inclusive at all. The most affected people will be excluded. This raises the alarm that, instead of addressing the real issues people are dealing with, it may turn into a greenwashing event.

    Get in touch with YouthNet for Climate Justice through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@YouthNet4CC and@SohanBMYP on Twitter.

  • COP27: ‘We shouldn’t even be discussing why civil society needs to have a seat in climate talks’

    Ayisha SCIVICUS speaks about civil society’s aspirations and roles in the upcoming COP27 summit with Polluters Out co-founder Ayisha Siddiqa.

    Polluters Out is a global coalition founded in 2020 in reaction to the negative experience of COP25, when young and Indigenous activists were removed from the venue. Its aim is to put pressure on world leaders to adopt policies to fight climate injustice and hold them accountable.

    What key environmental issues should be addressed by the upcoming COP27 summit on climate change?

    A key issue is loss and damage finance. I would like to see COP27 mobilising theSantiago Network on Loss and Damage, a multi-stakeholder coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and governments launched at COP25 in 2019 to facilitate and support the efforts of global south countries to address loss and damages associated with the adverse impacts of climate change.

    A large number of those are affected by climate change are Indigenous people and people in the global south, who contribute proportionally little to environmental problems. Global north countries should use their resources to help those that have been put in these unfortunate circumstances. They should pay up the US$100 billion they committed to at COP26 so global south countries can develop and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies, as well as early warning mechanisms to help people get life-saving information in time.

    We also need to start thinking about taxing the money corporations make by exploiting emergency situations such as wars, natural disasters and economic fluctuations and channel those funds towards climate financing.

    My work currently focuses on raising awareness about the issue of tax havens. Governments have pledged a lot of climate financing but most of that money comes from taxes. Estimates show that every year around US$600 billion – six times the current climate finance target – are lost because corporations and high-net-worth individuals are using tax havens to escape their responsibilities to give back to the communities that make their profits possible. They should instead be made pay their share, and the additional funds should be used to help communities affected by changing climatic conditions.

    Have you faced any restrictions as a result of your work?

    Prior to working on climate finance, I worked on fossil fuel de-proliferation. According to a report by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coal, oil and gas account for 86 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. This means governments should adopt strategies to phase out fossil fuels and adopt clean energies. But this would affect very powerful interests. Due to my work on this issue, I have faced challenges both in my home country, Pakistan, and abroad.

    I also advocate for a UN conflict-of-interest policy so that COP hosts cannot take money from the fossil fuel industry when organising the summit and lobbyists cannot influence COP outcomes. So far, every single COP has been sponsored by the very same people causing the climate crisis. As a result, the outcomes of these events have been diluted and have failed to address the key issues.

    For this work I have faced multiple restrictions traveling. Iam from a tribal community in northern Pakistan where fighting against dams and coal and pipelines puts people’s lives in danger.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks important?

    Having people from the global south and members of Indigenous communities participate in climate talks is very important not just because they are the most affected by climate change but also because they are the main drivers of ambition for climate commitments.

    As civil society, our aim is to advocate for the good of people and the environment and hold those in power accountable. Civil society doesn’t only offer diversity – it also offers the tools, the language and the practical lens to push all of this forward. At the end of the day, every decision made in COPs affects everyone. Our lives are on the line so we should have a say. It is not only our right but also our duty to protect the earth. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t even be discussing why civil society needs to have a seat in climate talks.

    Do you think COP27 will offer enough space for civil society participation?

    I don’t. COP27 has been labelled as the ‘African COP’ and one would think that African environmental organisations and activists would be given a platform to participate freely and make their voices heard. This was anopportunity for the global south to speak for itself and it would be a shame if that was limited. Many young people have been unable to get accreditation while others don’t have the funding to attend.

    Holding a COP in a country with closed civic space such as Egypt is problematic, and the reality of a restricted civil society cannot be ignored.

    Climate change is an urgent matter that must be addressed with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, who should be able to play their part without any restriction on free speech or the freedom of assembly, among many other indispensable freedoms. But many restrictions have been placed on Egyptian CSOs and activists – even on organisations outside of the country. As a result, there will most likely not be meaningful civil society participation at COP27.

    The situation we are now in is the responsibility of both the UN and the African governments that nominated Egypt to host COP27. They have let COP become an obstacle to climate justice so states who bid to host the COP make money from tourism and get media attention without caring the least about the crisis at hand and the policies needed to tackle it.

    The process leading to COPs is very opaque: for instance, we don’t know who the official sponsors are until the COP president announces them. And when civil society shows up with all of the hard work it has done, it can easily be erased with one vote from one state party.

    Get in touch with Polluters Out through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@Ayishas12 and@pollutersout on Twitter.


  • COP28: ‘Political momentum should translate into adequately funded collective action’

    CIVICUS discusses the hopes and roles of civil society at the forthcoming COP28 climate summit with Caroline Owashaba
    , an eco-feminist and gender inclusion specialist and Executive Director of Action for Youth Development Uganda (ACOYDE).

    Founded in 2014 and fully operational since 2014, ACOYDE is a community-based civil society organisation (CSO) working with adolescents and young people to set the agenda and influence policymaking to tackle young people’s challenges at the local, national and international levels. Its head offices are in Mbarara District, southwestern Uganda.

    What environmental issues does your organisation work on?

    ACOYDE works on a variety of environmental issues. In August 2022 we officially launched Climate Justice Clubs in Schools, aimed at helping teachers and students learn more about climate issues, bring this information into their families and the wider community, advocate for climate justice in their localities and create their own sustainable solutions. Schools are in a good position to start up sustainable solutions – for instance, some schools have agreed not use polythene bags as packages for the food consumed at break times.

    We also run a social enterprise that uses banana fibre to produce a variety of useful items. In this way, we contribute to the green economy by producing eco-friendly products that are biodegradable and support community livelihoods, especially for women and young people. This adds value to available community resources by training women to learn new skills to enhance their livelihoods.

    We have recently launched a climate justice club for adolescents and young women in Mbarara, which works as a peer learning and knowledge exchange platform focused on learning new skills. We also aim to build the resilience of rural women and raise the voices of women environmental human rights defenders. Women make up a large portion of the agricultural workforce in Uganda, but their importance is largely unacknowledged: their voices and concerns are rarely heard at the national and global levels and they are largely absent from decision-making roles. Our work has focused on training young women environmental defenders to be better able to tackle the challenges they face, including threats, intimidation, harassment and evictions, amplifying their voices, sharing their best practices and providing the conditions so they can learn from one another.

    Over time, we’ve seen growing collaboration between environmental activists and organisations working to protect biodiversity and those working for the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    Why is civil society participation in climate talks so important?

    Civil society plays critical roles in pushing for new laws, programmes, policies and strategies on climate change, holding governments accountable for their commitments, identifying the lack of coordinated government responses to climate change and ensuring that national policymaking does not forget the poor.

    CSO networks also collaborate to engage the media in order to reach the public and important decision-makers to impact on policies at the planning levels.

    What are your expectations concerning the outcomes of COP28?

    We expect to see a clearly defined agenda take shape to implement the loss and damage strategy agreed at COP27. Political momentum should translate into adequately funded collective action.

    The loss and damage fund launched at COP27 lacked a clear action plan, so we now expect to see a strategy to make it operational. Loss and damage funds are supposed to be aimed at assisting global south countries that are most vulnerable and have experienced the worst impacts of climate change. This is meant to cover the costs of natural disasters caused by global warming, such as wildfires, rising sea levels, heat waves, droughts and crop failure. Affluent countries must be the main source of funding for loss and damage, because forcing poor countries to borrow money to mitigate the effects of extreme weather and climate disasters would create more problems than it would solve.

    We would like to see more heads of states present at COP28, especially from the worst polluters and largest geopolitical powers, and held accountable for their countries’ emissions.

    We would like to see progress towards a just economic transition across key climate policy sectors. Meaningful partnerships are needed to link the climate agenda with broader issues of gender, food systems and ecosystem restoration. A fund should be set up for women farmers because in terms of climate resilience, grassroots and rural women are the most unsung change-makers of all time. They provide food, decent jobs and income to a large number of people. Consider how many households would be positively affected if they are adequately funded.

    That’s why I take part in the COP’s national gender and climate change working group, which has a chair reporting to the global chair. This is how we connect with the global climate movement and engage in conversations to influence climate policy.

    Do you anticipate any obstacles in engaging with COP28?

    Gender underrepresentation is likely to persist. Women have historically been underrepresented at COPs, for a variety of reasons including lack of funding to cover airfares, accommodation and living expenses. For example, when two young women from our organisation arrived in Egypt last year, they had trouble with their accommodation reservations. They had an incredibly hard time because hotels kept increasing their rates, and the hassle hindered their involvement in the event. We were very dissatisfied with the COP’s organisational planning.

    We have also witnessed accreditation procedures limiting women and girls’ involvement in COPs. The number of accreditations given is always limited, and a low share is granted to women, limiting their voices in decision-making spaces. In 2011 states agreed to boost female participation at COP, but their numbers have continued to significantly decrease. This happens at every level: for instance, a photo that was widely circulated at the start of COP27 showed only seven women among 110 leading negotiators.

    If we educate women and girls but do not provide them the opportunity to participate in international conferences, we are wasting their education, time and brains. Among participants at COP27 in Egypt, only 34 per cent were women. We don’t want this to happen at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates. We want to see educated, learned women and girls representing us at COP28. More inclusiveness is needed, including of women and girls with disabilities, from Indigenous and grassroots communities, rural and peri-urban communities, and especially those working in agriculture.

    What measures should be taken to make it happen?

    States should invest in funding more women and young people to take part in COP28 negotiations to ensure their issues are addressed and their voices are heard. Governments should invest more in women to drastically increase the current rates of female representation, which for some countries is as low as 10 per cent.

    As a result of their bigger burden of unpaid care work and more limited access to resources, women are more affected by climate change and suffer its economic impacts more. In some contexts, women are forced to drop out of school or marry to alleviate financial stress. If women and girls are given more space in negotiations, it will be more likely that these issues are addressed.

    We acknowledge that COP27 had the first-ever children and youth pavilion, where young people were able to participate effectively in the process; however, there is a need for higher numbers in subsequent sessions.

    The United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change made a credible attempt to involve and engage young people at COP27. But there are ongoing barriers to youth participation in high-level events, including lack of commitment from older people and lack of funding, which must be addressed.

    Civic space in Uganda is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Action for Youth Development Uganda through itswebsite andFacebook page.

  • COP28: ‘We are worried that the host country, the United Arab Emirates, restricts civil society’

    GideonSanagoCIVICUS discusses the hopes and roles of civil society at the forthcoming COP28 climate summit with Gideon Abraham Sanago, Climate Coordinator with the Pastoralists Indigenous Non-Governmental Organizations’ Forum (PINGOs Forum).

    Established in 1994, PINGOs Forum is an advocacy coalition of 53 Indigenous peoples’ organisations working for the rights of marginalised Indigenous pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities in Tanzania. It was founded by six pastoralists and hunter-gatherers’ organisations promoting a land rights and development agenda.

    What environmental issues do you work on?

    PINGOs Forum works with Indigenous peoples’ communities across Tanzania to address the impacts the environmental and climate crisis is having on them.

    Although it is a global phenomenon, climate change affects communities in different ways and presents a variety of challenges. These include prolonged and severe droughts, floods, biodiversity loss, land conflicts and displacement, and the loss of livestock that communities depend on for their livelihoods. This also leads to the loss of culture and identity as young men migrate towards towns looking for an income-producing job, leaving women, children and older people abandoned at home.

    To respond to these challenges, PINGOs Forum supports community initiatives for land conflict resolution, the development of land use plans and the recognition of land rights for Indigenous peoples, as well as for water provision and restocking of agricultural supplies for destitute families. We also build capacity to tackle climate issues and support Indigenous peoples’ participation in national, regional and global climate forums to ensure their voices are heard and the resulting policies respond to their needs.

    PINGOs Forum is a member of the Climate Action Network (Tanzania Chapter), the CIVICUS alliance, the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change and other bodies engaging with the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change. We use these platforms for advocacy and campaigning. They have been instrumental for us in being able to voice our concerns and engage in productive dialogue and exchanges.

    Have you faced any restrictions or reprisals for the work you do?

    Human rights defenders face threats and intimidation when advocating for the rights of Indigenous peoples to land and resources and organising to respond to their violations.

    The state of Tanzania does not recognise the existence of Indigenous peoples in the country. Instead, it always refers to them as marginalised groups, forest-dependent communities, forest dwellers and other such terms. This limits the ability of Indigenous peoples to exercise their rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Tanzania is a signatory but clearly does not respect.

    The UN declaration includes the key right of Indigenous peoples to give free prior and informed consent, which of course the Indigenous peoples of Tanzania have never exercised. Their rights to ownership of land and resources have been repeatedly violated through forceful evictions from their ancestral lands. We have seen examples of this in Loliondo/Ngorongoro and Kimotorok in Simanjiro District.

    Another major challenge is access to the media. We believe in the power of media and recognise the pivotal role it plays in addressing the challenges faced by Tanzanian Indigenous peoples. But the media is restricted when it comes to publishing any information coming from Indigenous people’s organisations regarding issues such as land crises, as happened in the case of Loliondo. All media outlets were warned not to publish any information about it.

    What priority issues do you expect to see addressed at COP28?

    There are several key priorities for Tanzanian Indigenous peoples on the frontline of climate challenges, the first one being funding of loss and damage. One of the key decisions from COP27 was to establish a loss and damage funding mechanism. We would like to see this funding mechanism operationalised with sufficient resources to urgently respond to the challenges faced by Indigenous peoples. We are eager to understand how this mechanism will address economic and non-economic losses and provide compensation for what we have already lost.

    More broadly, Indigenous peoples are in dire need of direct access to reliable and flexible funding, including for adaptation measures and to build resilience in the face of the impacts of climate change.

    Regarding the carbon market, Indigenous peoples would need to be engaged and the technicalities and political issues around these investment approaches should be clarified. Indigenous peoples should be able to exercise their right to free, prior and informed consent when it comes to carbon credits in their ancestral lands and forests to avoid any rights violations resulting from climate interventions.

    All this would require a recognition of the rights and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and their full and effective participation in climate forums at all levels to inform better policy formulation and decision-making processes.

    Do you think COP28 will provide enough space for civil society?

    We are particularly worried about the fact that COP28’s host country, the United Arab Emirates, restricts civil society movements and campaigns. It is key for civil society and Indigenous peoples’ organisations to be able to exercise their rights to express their views and peacefully demonstrate at any time during the negotiations. Otherwise their perspectives will not be reflected in the outcomes and their concerns will not be addressed.

    Civil society and Indigenous peoples’ organisations play a pivotal role as observers at COPs. They hold negotiating parties accountable and make a difference when they are reluctant to take important decisions during the negotiations. During COPs, civil society campaigns, mobilises, develops position papers and issues joint statements to push parties to take urgent actions on agreed points.

    What are your expectations concerning its outcomes?

    Our main expectation is to have an ambitious COP28 addressing key points of climate change action. We expect the loss and damage financial mechanism to be operationalised in ways that take into consideration the rights of Indigenous peoples and address both the economic and non-economic losses they are experiencing. We expect direct and flexible funding to become accessible to Indigenous peoples, as well as capacity building and the transfer of the required technologies.

    We also would like to see a clear definition of adaptation actions and serious emission reduction commitments by developed countries. But above all, we want this to be a COP of actions and not of empty promises – we want to see developed states live up to their commitments, giving vulnerable communities reasons for hope that they will be able to face and survive the impacts of climate change.

    Civic space in Tanzania is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with PINGOs Forum through itswebsite ofFacebook page, and follow@PINGOsForum on Twitter.

  • Could the annulment of Kenya’s election set a precedent for African civil society?

    By David Kode

    The ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court strengthens the independence of the judiciary and places this institution as a key player and arbiter in future elections and on issues that affect peace and security in Kenya. Future rulings on elections – either in favour of or against a political party or coalition – can be received as the final outcome and prevent conflict.




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