COVID-19

 

  • ARGENTINA: ‘Debemos impedir el intento de volver a las injusticias de la pre-pandemia’

    CIVICUS conversa sobre la crisis del COVID-19 y las respuestas de la sociedad civil con Sebastián Pilo, codirector de la Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ), una organización de la sociedad civil (OSC) dedicada a la defensa de los derechos de los grupos más desfavorecidos y al fortalecimiento de la democracia en Argentina. Fundada en 2002, ACIJ tiene por objetivos defender la efectiva vigencia de la Constitución Nacional y los principios del estado de derecho, promover el cumplimiento de las leyes que protegen a los grupos desaventajados y la erradicación de toda práctica discriminatoria, y contribuir al desarrollo de prácticas de democracia participativa y deliberativa.

    Sebastien Argentina

    ¿Qué impactos ha tenido la pandemia del COVID-19 sobre los derechos de los y las argentinas?

    Sin perjuicio de los buenos resultados en términos sanitarios de las medidas de aislamiento, la pandemia ha golpeado muy especialmente a las poblaciones más vulnerables. Por citar solo algunos ejemplos, sobre las y los habitantes de asentamientos informales ha recaído en una proporción significativamente superior el impacto de los contagios. Los adultos mayores institucionalizados también han sufrido la pandemia de un modo particularmente cruel, y a ello se suma el presumible aumento de casos de violencia doméstica asociado al encierro.

    El hecho de que se les pida “quedate en casa” a quienes no encuentran satisfecho su derecho a una vivienda adecuada resulta una muestra clara de la brecha entre las promesas constitucionales y la realidad, así como de la interrelación entre el derecho a la salud y otros derechos fundamentales. Sobre este punto justamente, a mediados de marzo, cuando recién comenzaba la cuarentena obligatoria, junto con otras OSC presentamos una nota al Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires advirtiendo la falta de políticas públicas adecuadas para las personas que viven en situación de calle, un grupo especialmente vulnerable ante la pandemia. Si bien el Gobierno de la Ciudad anunció medidas para mitigar la propagación del COVID-19, las acciones están principalmente orientadas al control de la circulación de esta población, pero ninguna garantiza su acceso a condiciones adecuadas de higiene y salud. Las causas que llevan a la situación de calle son estructurales y están relacionadas con la falta de políticas públicas que garanticen a todas las personas acceder a una vivienda digna. Las acciones que se adopten en esta emergencia deberían ser un punto de partida para construir una política a largo plazo que revierta la precariedad en que viven miles de personas en la ciudad.

    Más en general, la iniciativa multisectorial Habitar Argentina ha reclamado en el contexto de la pandemia la implementación de una política nacional de emergencia en materia de hábitat, que apunte no solamente a mejorar las condiciones de las personas que ya se encuentran en situación de calle, sino que incluya también la suspensión -por seis meses o hasta que se haya superado la pandemia- de todos los desalojos y ejecuciones judiciales que puedan producir mayor número de personas en situación de calle o empeorar sus condiciones sanitarias; así como políticas específicas para familias que alquilan, tienen hipotecas o habitan en viviendas precarias. También reclama la implementación de mecanismos de protección para mujeres, niños, niñas, adolescentes y minorías sexuales o disidencias de género que se encuentren en situación de violencia en cualquier tipo de hogar y territorio.

    ¿Qué obstáculos ha enfrentado ACIJ para continuar funcionando en este contexto, y cómo los ha superado?

    El mayor obstáculo se relaciona con las medidas de aislamiento y la consecuente imposibilidad de mantener, en las mismas condiciones, nuestra presencia territorial en las comunidades con las que trabajamos. Ello nos ha llevado a tener que redoblar nuestros esfuerzos para seguir en contacto -virtual o con presencias esporádicas autorizadas- con líderes y lideresas comunitarias, e impulsar acciones tendientes a brindar la protección especial requerida por el contexto.

    Así, por ejemplo, junto con la Fundación Huésped y TECHO organizamos una serie de capacitaciones destinadas a referentes populares, que históricamente han sido claves en las redes de contención en sus barrios. A partir del 5 de junio tuvimos cinco encuentros destinados a brindarles información sobre medidas de prevención frente al COVID-19 y a otras enfermedades presentes en los barrios, información legal en el marco del aislamiento social obligatorio, orientación en caso de violencia institucional y/o de género y medidas de prevención para comedores comunitarios y ollas populares, y a darles a conocer los programas de asistencia estatal que surgieron en el marco de la pandemia. De los encuentros participaron más de 90 referentes de las provincias de Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba y Tucumán.

    También se desarrollaron un asistente virtual con información específica para responder a las consultas de los habitantes de los barrios populares y una serie de piezas de comunicación que fueron distribuidas a través de los grupos WhatsApp y Facebook de las comunidades.

    ¿Qué otras acciones han emprendido para defender los derechos afectados bajo la pandemia, y qué logros han conseguido?

    Entre las acciones más relevantes que llevamos adelante durante estos meses, cabe destacar las siguientes.

    En primer lugar, respecto de los habitantes de villas y asentamientos, impulsamos un protocolo especial de actuación frente al COVID-19, la creación de una plataforma web que georreferencia recursos y permite detectar las urgencias de dicha población, y una medida judicial para brindar acceso a internet gratuito por parte del Estado mientras duren las medidas de aislamiento.

    Este avance en materia de acceso a internet fue una respuesta a una demanda que iniciamos junto con otras OSC, con el objeto de posibilitar la continuidad pedagógica del conjunto de estudiantes en el marco de las medidas de educación a distancia dispuestas durante la emergencia. La medida cautelar dictada a principios de junio obligó al Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires a entregar a todos los estudiantes que concurren a establecimientos educativos de gestión pública o de gestión privada con cuota cero y que se encuentren en situación de vulnerabilidad social (beneficiarios de planes, becas, subsidios o programas sociales de la ciudad o del Estado nacional, o residentes en villas), un dispositivo informático adecuado (computadora portátil, notebook o tablet) para acceder a internet y realizar las tareas escolares de modo de garantizar su continuidad pedagógica. Asimismo, el gobierno está obligado a instalar en todas las villas de la ciudad equipos tecnológicos de transmisión de internet inalámbrica, similares a los que actualmente mantiene en plazas y espacios públicos, en cantidad y ubicación suficiente como para brindar un estándar mínimo de conectividad inalámbrica libre. En caso de que existan impedimentos técnicos para ello, el gobierno local deberá entregar un dispositivo móvil con línea de datos que permita el acceso a internet a cada grupo familiar integrado por niños, niñas y/o adolescentes que concurren a establecimientos educativos de nivel primario.

    Esta medida es fundamental porque no solamente busca revertir la desigualdad existente en materia de acceso a equipamiento educativo, sino que también reconoce el acceso a internet como un derecho fundamental que resulta instrumental -y en este contexto imprescindible- para el ejercicio de otros derechos como la educación, la salud, la información o el acceso a la justicia.

    Segundo, respecto de las personas con discapacidad, entre otras cosas denunciamos la reducción de la cobertura de los apoyos, realizamos una campaña para mostrar los efectos del encierro sobre las personas internadas en manicomios, y lanzamos una plataforma web para canalizar el acceso a derechos.

    La plataforma discapacidadyderechos.org.ar fue lanzada a principios de julio y busca ayudar a las personas con discapacidad a exigir el cumplimiento de sus derechos a la salud, a la educación, al trabajo, a la vida independiente y a la protección social. La plataforma centraliza información relativa a los derechos, las prestaciones y servicios que reconoce la normativa vigente; las vías existentes para reclamar en casos de incumplimiento de obras sociales, empresas de medicina prepaga y del Estado; y los lugares a los que se puede acudir para recibir asesoramiento y patrocinio jurídico gratuito. La página cuenta con un total de 120 modelos de documentos tales como notas administrativas y cartas documento que cada persona puede adaptar a su situación. Además, dispone de una sección específica que brinda información sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad en el marco de la pandemia del COVID-19.

    Cabe subrayar que el proceso de desarrollo del sitio incluyó instancias de participación de personas con discapacidad y sus familiares, quienes probaron la plataforma e hicieron sugerencias para su mejora, y contó asimismo con el asesoramiento de especialistas en materia de accesibilidad y usabilidad digital.

    Tercero, para colectivos vulnerables en general, creamos junto a un grupo de instituciones académicas y de la sociedad civil una iniciativa de difusión de información legal para clarificar los alcances e impactos de la normativa de emergencia y contribuir al empoderamiento jurídico de diversos grupos desaventajados, e impulsamos un posicionamiento regional para alertar sobre el rol de la justicia frente a la crisis. También elaboramos un documento con información clave para revertir injusticias en materia tributaria y contribuir a una política fiscal respetuosa de los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales en el contexto de pandemia.

    ¿Cuál dirías que ha sido la clave de la obtención de estos logros?

    Creo que los logros obtenidos durante este contexto se explican fundamentalmente por la articulación de tres variables: en primer lugar, la totalidad del equipo de ACIJ se mostró especialmente movilizado por la necesidad de realizar una contribución significativa desde nuestro rol institucional, y adoptó la flexibilidad necesaria para reaccionar a la crisis de un modo adecuado. En segundo lugar, nuestra cercanía histórica con las comunidades y grupos afectados en relación con las temáticas en que trabajamos fue clave para conocer en primera persona los obstáculos que están enfrentando las personas en situación de vulnerabilidad para acceder a sus derechos. Finalmente, la combinación de estrategias de incidencia en las políticas públicas, judicialización de conflictos colectivos y empoderamiento comunitario redundó en impactos de mayor envergadura que los que se hubieran obtenido en ausencia de esta articulación de estrategias.

    ¿Qué rol debería tener la sociedad civil en la salida de la pandemia y en la construcción de una mejor “nueva normalidad” post-pandémica?

    Lo primero que debe hacer la sociedad civil en este contexto es exhibir con mucha claridad las injusticias de aquel mundo que teníamos antes de la pandemia: la desigualdad política como estructurante de democracias de baja calidad; la desigualdad económica como estructurante de las vulneraciones de derechos económicos, sociales y culturales; y un modelo de producción de los bienes y de organización de los territorios que resultaba insostenible desde el punto de vista ambiental.

    Teniendo en cuenta que la pandemia ha profundizado las desigualdades preexistentes y generado mayores impactos en las personas de más bajos ingresos, la prioridad actual debe ser el fortalecimiento de los sistemas públicos de protección y promoción de los derechos humanos de los grupos más afectados por la pandemia. En este contexto, es fundamental garantizar los recursos para financiar políticas sanitarias y de protección social adecuadas. De ahí que, junto con otras OSC de la región, hayamos producido una declaración para instar a los estados a implementar mecanismos para lograr un sistema tributario globalmente progresivo; evaluar las exenciones tributarias existentes para determinar cuáles deberían eliminarse por ser injustificadas e inequitativas; acordar la no aprobación de nuevos privilegios fiscales, salvo en casos urgentes y de efectividad comprobada y preferiblemente en beneficio de las poblaciones vulnerables y pequeñas empresas; y reformar y racionalizar el proceso de aprobación y revisión de los gastos tributarios, aumentando la transparencia, identificando beneficiarios/as, incluyendo evaluaciones de impacto, y sujetándolos a un escrutinio independiente.

    Es fundamental que la sociedad civil ayude a imaginar nuevos rumbos: el momento de crisis es también un contexto de oportunidad para estimular nuestra capacidad de idear modos distintos de relacionarnos como comunidad política, y nuevos valores para la reconstrucción de sociedades más justas.

    Finalmente, deberemos acompañar a quienes más dificultades tendrán para encontrar estrategias de supervivencia y satisfacer sus necesidades básicas, al mismo tiempo que buscamos espacios de participación para hacer escuchar nuestras voces en los ámbitos de toma de decisiones públicas y hacemos frente a los previsibles intentos de retomar, en la etapa post-pandémica, las injusticias y privilegios propios de la era anterior.

    El espacio cívico en Argentina es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.
    Contáctese con ACIJ a través de susitio web o su perfil deFacebook, y siga a@ACIJargentina y a@piloofkors en Twitter.

     

  • 'Can job security be guaranteed?' Interview with Lysa John

    Interview with Lysa John about why protecting workers during the COVID-19 crisis is crucial.

    As the COVID-19 pandemic advances around the world, the threat of unemployment creates the main point of stress and discomfort for tens of millions of people. Economic activity across the globe is plummeting - 80% of the global workforce have had their workplace fully or partially closed and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) is projecting that 25 million workers may lose their jobs. CIVICUS Secretary-General, Lysa John sheds more light.

    Join more than 200 organisations and adopt the Social Security Protocol

     

  • #UN75: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic showed that multilateral institutions are essential’

    To mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN), CIVICUS is having conversations with civil society activists, advocates and practitioners about the roles the UN has played so far, the successes it has achieved and the challenges ahead. CIVICUS speaks to the UN advocacy lead of an international civil society organisation (CSO), who responded on conditionof anonymity, about the opportunities and challenges faced by CSOs engaging with various UN bodies.

    UN photo

    In which ways do you think the UN has made a positive difference?

    The UN has made many positive differences over its 75 years, and it’s making a difference now. From my perspective, a significant recent reaffirmation of the UN’s importance, which is a kind of inverse reflection of recent failures or shortcomings, is that the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) has quickly responded to the human security aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    One of my longstanding critiques of the UN has been its lack of public leadership at the top. It’s been the approach of the current UNSG, who’s chosen backdoor diplomacy over outspoken advocacy. I won’t deny he’s in a difficult situation, but nonetheless he hasn't been forthright enough in holding major states to account for human rights violations.

    I think the pandemic changed things in a way we hadn’t seen in a long time. The UNSG finally did what he should have been doing as a general rule, which is to say that this is not about politics or having to tiptoe around the sensitivities of certain member states – this is about telling the world that the only way we will overcome this crisis is by coming together, and that this requires an immediate suspension of hostilities globally. That is aspirational and idealistic, but it’s also technically correct. 

    Also the World Health Organization (WHO), despite obvious challenges, essentially showed what it’s there for and its relevance to the general public. Of course the UN Security Council (UNSC) let the UNSG down as a political body, but still the pandemic showed that UN agencies and multilateral institutions more generally are essential and that we need them, both in the context of a public health crisis and to organise a global response to any global crisis.

    The obvious long-term success of the UN has been to build multilateralism and establish an international rules-based framework for human rights, sustainable development and the protection of civilians. The framework is there, and the challenge is its implementation. Not only are we currently not seeing implementation, but we are also seeing a steady erosion of these international norms and standards, which has taken place over the past few years. China and Russia are becoming more active in conflicts around the world, either directly or indirectly, and have become emboldened in eviscerating the UN or remoulding institutions to serve their visions, while those states that would traditionally protect and even champion these norms are either less willing or less empowered to do so. The UN made much progress over six or seven decades in building this framework, but now it’s under severe stress.

    How have you engaged with the UN, and what challenges have you encountered?

    Our work focuses on protecting civilians in armed conflicts, so our UN engagement is almost entirely in relation to the UNSC, and UN agencies with a focus on security and peacebuilding. We tend to engage with the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the General Assembly (UNGA), mostly when we identify that the UNSC is completely paralysed, which unfortunately is happening increasingly often. But in previous roles I have worked across a wide range of UN agencies, including the UNHRC, the UNGA and other agencies that work on climate change and education, so I’m aware of the comparative opportunities available for civil society engagement.

    The means of civil society engagement with the UNSC are much more informal than those with the UNHRC. And I think there are quite a few advantages to not having formal processes for civil society engagement, because the absence of a formal process can result in more effective engagement. At the UNHRC, there is an agenda item and 500 CSOs queue up to give a two-minute statement, which no policy-maker listens to, and you end up with this process of artificial participation that is not very productive. With the UNSC, many CSOs don’t see where the opportunities lie; they think it’s not for them. This means there are fewer CSOs looking for an entry point, so it’s a less crowded field.

    Working at the UNSC requires you to build direct relationships with the states that are on the UNSC. You don’t maintain a high public profile. You build relations with the missions, and through that process you often end up having more direct and meaningful influence. So the absence of a formal process can often result in more effective CSO engagement. True, it may also be more difficult, although it varies depending on the composition of the UNSC when it comes to the elected members. Some of them don’t have a long history of engagement with civil society, are not very interested in listening, or have very little capacity. But there’s always some states that prioritise civil society engagement and recognise that the only way the UNSC has legitimacy is by reflecting the experiences and perspectives of those directly affected. I would emphasise that one of the successes of the UNSC in the past 20 years has been to open up space for civil society briefers, particularly on women, peace and security issues. Fewer speakers means they tend to have more weight: you get the 15 UNSC members to listen to this one person whose time is unlimited and who is very focused on the protection of civilians or other issues. In terms of public participation, that is a sign of progress.

    Of course, there’s also the fact that we have to engage with the five permanent UNSC members whether we like it or not, because they are there to stay and they have the veto. And in that respect the situation is currently very bad. From our perspective, the current US administration is not on the right side of things and is not consistently championing accountability for war crimes. France and the UK are inconsistent across countries, and China and Russia are at least consistent in their positions, but for all the wrong reasons. China is opening up to international engagement with civil society, which I think is part of a wider strategy. Five or six years ago, China wouldn’t think it needed to engage with civil society and appeared not to recognise the legitimacy of international human rights CSOs, but now its ambassadors have started agreeing to meet with civil society groups collectively. It may be a public relations exercise, or China may have gained enough confidence to confront international CSOs directly. It’s a clear shift in its foreign policy. Russia, to its credit, has long done the same, and sees value in engagement to some extent, although the dynamic can be a difficult, adversarial one.

    How have you managed these challenges?

    Collective advocacy often works best with the UNSC. When civil society can form quick coalitions of humanitarian organisations, human rights organisations, local partners, faith leaders and youth representatives and present a few key asks that are consistent across these groups, it builds credibility with UNSC members and increases the chances that it will act promptly. There are about 30 CSOs that work consistently on the UNSC. They have different priorities and a variety of messages, so they certainly engage individually as well. But the message is more powerful when it’s expressed collectively. For instance, if something goes wrong in Yemen and the UK is the penholder it is way more powerful when 12 organisations engage the UK on the same points collectively than the 12 organisations complaining individually. 

    What things are currently not working and would need to change?

    The one thing that needs to be reformed fundamentally, which is the very core of the UN and has been a problem since day one, is the veto. The UNSC is clearly not fit for purpose in this regard; its composition and balance of power doesn’t reflect the world we now live in. There is no reason why France or the UK should have a veto – or any state for that matter. The inherent problem of the UN is that it was built as part of an agreement amongst the winning powers after the Second World War that they would hold the reins of power, and there is no way to dismantle that without their collective agreement. That is not going to happen with China, Russia, the USA or even the UK. France, to its credit, is at least openly supportive of voluntary processes to check misuse of the veto.

    I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, and I wouldn’t if I were speaking about other things, such as progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. But the UNSC is power politics in its purest form and no amount of citizen participation will change it. The only way to circumvent the veto would be to dismantle the UN and start from scratch – unless somehow we found ourselves in a parallel world in which these five countries were led by enlightened leaders who at the same time realised they should give up that power for the sake of humanity. But that couldn’t be farther from our current reality, when the veto power is actually being misused, by China, Russia and the USA, as a weapon to discredit the UN.

    Apart from this unsurmountable problem, other things have been changing for good. For instance, we are now seeing climate change and security on the UNSC agenda. While China, Russia and the USA seek to block use of the very words ‘climate change’, Germany, Niger and a number of other states went on to create an informal working group on climate change, although to place the issue on the UNSC agenda, they agreed to call it ‘environmental degradation’ instead. This obviously should have happened decades ago, but at least it’s happening now and it’s progress.

    What lessons for international cooperation can be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic? What should change so we will be better prepared when the next crisis strikes?

    During the pandemic, civil society supported and coordinated engagement towards an unprecedented call for a global ceasefire. The initial statement by the UNSG was highly ambitious to the point of being unrealistic, but he was absolutely right both in terms of what should happen in the world and in taking that leadership and not consulting first with Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, or anybody else. It was courageous and correct. It momentarily reinvigorated the role of the UNSG and the UN as a whole.

    While the UN institutional response from the top down was good, the UNSC was an absolute failure. China and the USA and engaged in hostile and juvenile behaviour at a time when the world’s future rested on the UN being effective.

    On the other hand, the UNGA responded reasonably well, taking the initiative despite not being able to meet physically. In early April it passed a resolution calling for international cooperation and multilateralism in the fight against COVID-19. Mexico was also very strategic in pushing a resolution on international cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19, adopted by consensus in late April. In view of the challenges that the UNGA experienced, however, I think one procedural lesson learned was the need for the UN be better prepared to work virtually in the event of another crisis.

    An assessment of the performance of other multilateral institutions like the WHO lies outside my area of expertise, but we all read about the allegations that it wasn’t sufficiently aggressive with China early on. This is currently under independent review, which suggests as least that basic checks and balances are in place.

     

  • Amid COVID-19, what is the health of civic freedoms?

    By Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Research Lead at CIVICUS and Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research Officer

    More than half a year after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, governments are continuing to waste precious time and energy restricting human rights rather than focusing on fighting the virus. Civic freedoms, including the freedom to associate, express views and peacefully assemble, are under threat, with states using broad and restrictive legislation to snuff out dissent. But people are organising and mobilising to demand rights. In the face of restrictions, civil society continues to fight back, often taking to the streets to do so.

    Read onInter Press Service News Agency

     

  • An Urgent Call to Release Human Rights Defenders in Honour of Nelson Mandela Day

    Twitter Facebook Free HRDs campaign 2

    Dear World Leaders,

    On Nelson Mandela Day, civil society organisations across the globe call on you to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.

    Like Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid, there are thousands of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience wrongfully accused and in jail around the world. They have been imprisoned for seeking gender, social, political, economic and environmental justice, for defending excluded people, and for promoting democratic values. 

    Many of these human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience are serving sentences for crimes they never committed, after being convicted in unfair trials. Our organisations have for several years documented the unlawful jail terms handed down to human rights defenders in several countries.

    We are particularly concerned that the authorities in many countries continue to detain human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise the governments of Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Bahrain and Cameroon for releasing prisoners as part of their response to this unprecedented health crisis. However, not many human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were included, and it is now more urgent than ever to release them.  

    There are also hundreds of human rights defenders who remain in pretrial detention who have not been charged or tried. Overcrowding and poor sanitation in jails increase the risk of COVID-19 infection and should be strong factors for the reduction of prison populations.

    We also urge you to stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists in jail solely for reporting on human rights violations during the pandemic. Although COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted in some parts of the world, some countries have used the pandemic as a pretext to restrict civic freedoms. Journalists and human rights defenders have been physically assaulted and subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial persecution for reporting on the virus. 

    We need human rights defenders now more than ever. It is their duty to hold governments to account, to ensure states respect international human rights laws during the pandemic, and to tackle environmental degradation and inequalities that have accelerated the impact of COVID-19.

    The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently said:

    “Governments are facing huge demands on resources in this crisis and are having to take difficult decisions. But I urge them not to forget those behind bars, or those confined in places such as closed mental health facilities, nursing homes and orphanages, because the consequences of neglecting them are potentially catastrophic.”

    Sadly, some imprisoned human rights defenders have died under suspicious circumstances in various countries during the pandemic.

    As we commemorate Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July, we remember that Mr. Mandela urged all of us to take on the burden of leadership in addressing social injustices. We call on you to give millions of families, friends and colleagues of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience around the world a reason to renew their hope for a better future during these unprecedented times.

    We urge you to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in jail solely for their peaceful human rights activities, and stop all judicial persecution against them.
    • Prioritise and release detainees who have not been charged, and those held in pretrial detention.
    • Stop carrying out new arrests and detentions, particularly on journalists and activists reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and those accused of breaking lockdown regulations.

     

    Endorsed by:

     

    1. A Common Future
    2. A.C. Reforma Judicial
    3. Abraham's Children Foundation
    4. ACPDH
    5. ACSIS
    6. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture
    7. Action D'urgence pour Toute Détresse
    8. Action for Humanity and Social Progress
    9. Action pour la Lutte Contre l'Injustice Sociale
    10. Action pour le Développement
    11. Action To Heal Foundation Sierra Leone
    12. Actions pour la Protection des Femmes
    13. Active  Vision
    14. Admiral development organization
    15. Adolescents Initiatives Support Organization
    16. Afghanistan Democracy and Development Organization
    17. Africa Intercultural Development Support Trust
    18. Africa Rise Foundation
    19. African Center for Solidarity and mutual Aid between the Communities  CASEC - ACSAC
    20. AFRICAN FOUNDATION FOR ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT - AFED
    21. African Holocaust
    22. African Observatory Of Civic Freedoms And Fundamental Rights OCFFR-AFRICA
    23. AJBDEM DURABLE
    24. ALUCHOTO
    25. Amis des Étrangers au Togo
    26. Amnesty International
    27. Asia Pacific Forum on Families International
    28. Association des blogueurs pour une citoyennetà active
    29. Association Femmes et Enfants
    30. Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives Trust
    31. Association for Health, Safety and Environmental Awareness International
    32. Association pour les droits de l'Homme et l'Univers Carcéral
    33. Association pour les victimes du monde
    34. Association pour l'Integration et le Developpement Durable Durable au Burundi, AIDB
    35. ASUTIC Senegal
    36. Avenir Jeune de l'Ouest
    37. AWHES
    38. Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights
    39. Banjul Youth in Community Services
    40. Banlieues Du Monde Mauritanie
    41. Bareedo Platform Somalia
    42. Bella Foundation for Child and Maternal Care
    43. Bousla Organisation
    44. BRIGHTER FUTURE FOUNDATION
    45. Burundi Child Rights Coalion
    46. CAHURAST-Nepal
      Campaign Against Ignorance and Illiteracy
    48. Capellanes conacce
    49. CAPTE - Uruguay Silvia FLORES MOSQUERA
    50. CareMe E-clinic
    51. CEAMUJER
    52. Center for the Development of Civil Society
    53. Centre d'Initiatives et d'Actions pour le Développement durable au Burundi
    54. Centre for Human Rights and Social Advancement CEFSAN
    55. Centre Oecuméniquepour la Promotion du Monde Rural
    56. Centro para la Acción Noviolenta y Cultura de Paz en CentroamÃrica
    57. CESPHA
    58. ChildHelp Sierra Leone
    59. Circles of Hope Community Support Group for PLHIVAIDS
    60. CIVICUS
    61. Commonwealth Society of Nigeria
    62. Cooperation for Peace and Development
    63. Corporacion Regional Yariguies GEAM
    64. COSAD BENIN
    65. Differentabilities
    66. DISCOURAGE YOUTHS FROM POVERTY
    67. Domestic workers Union
    68. DreamBoat Theatre for Development Foundation
    69. Droits de l'homme sans frontières 
    70. Edmund Rice International
    71. Edo Civil society organisations
    72. EIP
    73. Fater Bibi Technologies
    74. FCPEEP
    75. FEDERATION DES FEMMES POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT INTEGRAL AU CONGO
    76. FINESTE
    77. Formidable Initiatives for Women and Girls
    78. Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance
    79. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights-Birati
    80. Free political prisoners
    81. FUNDACION SIMAS
    82. Fundación T.E.A. Trabajo - Educación - Ambiente
    83. FUTURE LEADERS SOCIETY
    84. Global Witness
    85. Give Hope Uganda
    86. Governance and Forest Initiatives
    87. GreenLight Initiative
    88. Hadejia youth movement for social cohesion
    89. Health NGO's Network
    90. Healthy Choices Ic.,
    91. Human Rights Committee
    92. Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons
    93. IFAN
    94. INSPIRIT Creatives UG NGO
    95. Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Implementation
    96. Integrated Agricultural Association-I,A,A
    97. International Dalit Solidarity Network
    98. International Falcon Movement - Socialist Educational International
    99. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    100. Iraqi journalists right deafenc association
    101. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    102. Justice Acess Point
    103. JusticeMakers Bangladesh
    104. Key Populations Alliance of Zambia
    105. Khpal Kore Organization
    106. Kibera Joy Initiative
    107. Kumakomo Community Radio
    108. Le Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
    109. Leadership initiative network for the Advancement of women and youth
    110. Local  Community Development Association
    111. Lumiere Synergie Developpement
    112. Maecenata Foundation
    113. MAMAS FOR BURUNDI ASSOCIATION
    114. Manna Development AGency
    115. Marketplace 247
    116. MFFPS
    117. Millennium Sistahs Trinidad and Tobago Inc
    118. Missing Link Uganda
    119. Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi
    120. Mouvement Populaire pour la Santé au Gay
    121. Movement for Social Justice MSJ-4
    122. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda
    123. Network of Civil Society Organisations for Election Observation and Monitoring - ROSE
    124. Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago  for the Advancement of Women
    125. New Owerri Youth Organisation
    126. NGO Collective for Food Security and Rural Development - COSADER
    127. NGO CONSTRUISONS ENSEMBLE LE MONDE
    128. NGO Defensoria Ambiental
    129. NGOs Council ASDGC Kenya
    130. Nipe Fagio
    131. Nouveaux Droits de l'homme Congo Brazzaville
    132. ONG ASSAUVET
    133. ONG BAL'LAME
    134. ONG Programa sociocultural CRP
    135. Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Network
    136. PAMOJATWASIMAMA
    137. Partenariat pour la Protection Integree
    138. PAYNCOP
    139. Peace and Life Enhancement Initiative International
    140. PHY ORG
    141. Plan international
    142. Princegnf
    143. Prisma European Network
    144. Psychologues du Monde Afrique
    145. Reacción Climática 
    146. Real Agenda For Youth Transformation Trust
    147. REDHNNA-Red por los Derechos Humanos de los niños, niñas y adolescentes
    148. REPONGAC
    149. Research and Advocacy Unit
    150. Root Change
    151. Ruheso Tanzania
    152. RUKIGA FORUM FOR DEVELOPMENT
    153. Safety and Risk Mitigation Organization
    154. Save Our Continent, Save Nigeria.
    155. Save the Climat
    156. Secours de la Femme Rurale au Developpement, Safrd
    157. SHAKHI 'Friends of Women'
    158. Shanduko Yeupenyu Child Care
    159. She's  Writes
    160. Sierra Leone School Green Clubs
    161. Social Justice Forum
    162. Social Mission Catalysts LLC
    163. Solidarity health Foundation
    164. Solidarity Youth Voluntary Organisation
    165. SOS Jeunesse et Enfance en Détresse - SOS JED
    166. South Sudan Civil Society Forum
    167. Sustainable Develipment and Peace Building Initiatives
    168. Tanzania Development Trust
    169. Tanzania Peace Legal Aid and Justice Center  PLAJC
    170. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
    171. the  Wuhan election campaign
    172. The Angelic Ladies Society
    173. Transitional Justice Working Group
    174. Tsoro-o-tso San Dev Trust
    175. Ugonma Foundation
    176. Ukana West 2 Community Based Health Initiative
    177. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social- UNITAS
    178. Unique Foundation The Gambia
    179. Vijana Corps
    180. Wacare Organization
    181. Welfare Association for Development Alternative -WADA
    182. Women Against Violence and Expediency Handling Initiative
    183. Women Friendly
    184. Women Working for Social Progress
    185. World Federalist Movement Canada
    186. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    187. WORLDLITE
    188. Young Professional Development Society Nepal
    189. Your Health Your Responsibility
    190. Youth Alliance for Rural Development in Liberia Inc.
    191. YOUTH AND ENVIRONMENT VISION
    192. Youth Arm Organization
    193. Youth For The Mission
    194. Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana
    195. YOUTHAID-LIBERIA
    196. Zambian Governance Foundation
    197. Zimbabwe We Want  Poetry Campaign

     

     

  • Anti-corruption and the role of civil society in monitoring IMF emergency funding

    99 civil society organizations have urged the IMF to consistently and formally include anti-corruption measures in its COVID-19 pandemic-related emergency funding and take concrete steps to help protect and empower civil society groups to monitor these funds.

    Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva International Monetary Fund
    700 19th Street NW Washington, DC 20431

    Re: Anti-corruption and the role of civil society in monitoring IMF emergency funding

    Dear IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva:

    We are 99 civil society organizations located around the world and we are writing to request that the International Monetary Fund consistently and formally include anti-corruption measures in its Covid-19 pandemic-related emergency funding and take concrete steps to help protect and empower civil society groups to monitor these funds.

    We are profoundly aware of the devastating scale of the global economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the urgency of providing governments the funds they need to effectively respond. As organizations that closely monitor corruption and its impacts, we also know that transparency and accountability are key to making sure the money the IMF is disbursing actually goes to protecting lives and livelihoods.

    Recognizing this, you urged governments during the Spring 2020 Meetings to “spend what you   can but make sure to keep the receipts. We don’t want transparency and accountability to take the back seat in this crisis.” However, most IMF loan agreements include few or no government commitments to mitigate the risk of corruption. Instead, the Fund appears to be taking a largely retroactive approach that relies on the good faith of governments and the close eye of independent monitoring groups.

    We appreciate that the urgent need for immediate funding and the nature of the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) – the primary instruments for disbursing emergency funding – constrain the Fund’s ability to implement robust anti-corruption measures. However, some governments that have received funds through these mechanisms, such as Gabon,1 have committed to transparency and anti-corruption measures, including:

    • Receiving all emergency funds in a single account with the Treasury and creating a new budget line for coronavirus-related
    • Publishing a procurement plan that includes the names and beneficial ownership information of companies awarded
    • Agreeing to an independent audit within six months of receiving the

    The inclusion of these measures in some cases suggests that it is possible to do so without undue delay. The Fund should apply such measures consistently to all emergency funding.

    Moreover, as the Fund has acknowledged, even these measures would be insufficient to adequately ensure accountability because emergency funding is provided in lump-sum payments. In our communications with the Fund, both staff and board members have emphasized that they intend for civil society groups to play a vital role in filling that gap by closely monitoring government spending and communicating their concerns to the IMF.

    We are grateful that the Fund recognizes the crucial role civil society organizations play in holding their governments accountable, but this is a stopgap measure in the absence of more robust anti- corruption monitoring efforts by the IMF. It would also be imprudent for the Fund to rely on our oversight role without taking concrete steps to protect and strengthen our ability to effectively monitor these funds. Many of our groups work in countries where government spending is opaque, auditors do not exist or are not independent, and authorities do not tolerate criticism. Even where they can operate safely, many groups lack the technical capacity and resources to effectively monitor the billions of dollars in funding that the IMF is disbursing.

    To protect and strengthen civil society monitoring of emergency funding, we urge the Fund to take the following measures:

    1. Require transparency.Monitoring groups are neither law enforcement nor the government’s lender, both of which have authority to investigate and control the funds. The Fund should consistently apply transparency and anti-corruption measures to all loans, such as requiring governments to conduct independent audits and publishprocurement plans, including the names and beneficial owners of all companies awarded
    1. Protect groups’ ability to operate. Numerous countries have laws that limit freedom of association and expression in ways that undermine the ability of civil society groups to safely operate or effectively monitor IMF funds. For example, Sri Lanka has ordered police to arrest those who criticize government officials involved in the coronavirus response.2 In other cases, there is no law or formal order explicitly prohibiting criticism of government policies, but officials nevertheless retaliate against those who criticize them. TheFundshould require governments to commit to respecting the rights of civil society groupsand repeal or amend laws that prevent groups from safely monitoring government spending.
    1. Formally recognize the role of monitoring groups. Monitoring groups can provide the Fund with valuable information regarding government spending, but they need a safe and effective channel to do The IMF should formally recognize independent monitoring organizations as stakeholders in loan agreements and establish a channel for them toreport allegationsof wrongdoing. It should consider engaging select groups as independent monitoring organizations in contexts where corruption risks are especially high.
    1. Strengthengroups’capacities.The IMF’s unprecedented levels of spending, and the importance of the funding in light of the pandemic’s economic impact, has made monitoring government spending of IMF funds a new priority for many of our organizations. At the same time, the economic crisis means that many of our groups have even fewer resources than usual to The Fund should conduct virtual trainings to help build organizational capacity to monitor funds and consider providing willing groups with necessary resources, especially in countries where there are few well-resourced groups monitoring government spending.

    You opened this year’s Spring Meetings by noting that extraordinary times call for extraordinary action. The Fund should apply the same creativity and sense of urgency it has shown to support governments to help civil society groups ensure IMF funds go to the people who need it most.

    We would be happy to meet with you to discuss these issues in more detail and would appreciate learning what steps you have taken in this regard.

    Sincerely,

    4As/MWPC/UCSI
    Abibiman Foundation
    AbibiNsroma Foundation (ANF)
    2 Human Rights Watch, “Sri Lanka Uses Pandemic to Curtail Free Expression,” April 3, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/03/sri-lanka-uses-pandemic-curtail-free-expression.

    Accountability Lab
    Actions for Development and Empowerment
    Africa Development Interchange Network (ADIN)
    Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)
    AHAM Humanitarian Resource Center
    Alliance Sud
    ALTSEAN-Burma
    Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining)
    American Jewish World Service
    Arab Watch Coalition
    ARCI
    ARTICLE 19
    Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Bolivia
    Ayiti Nou Vle A
    BudgIT Foundation
    Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
    Center for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics
    Center for Democratic Education
    Centre for Environmental Justice
    Centre for Human Rights and Development
    CIVICUS
    Conectas
    Connected Development
    Consumer Unity and Trust Society Zambia
    Corporación Acción Ciudadana Colombia - AC-Colombia
    CurbingCorruption
    Development Alliance NGO
    Eastern Social Development Foundation
    Ensemble Contre la Corruption-ECC
    Environics Trust
    Etika Asbl, Luxemburg
    Facing Finance
    FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights)
    First Peoples Worldwide
    FORES - Argentina
    Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)
    Freedom House

    Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales
    Gambia Participates
    Global Legal Action Network
    Global Network for Sustainable Development
    Global Witness
    Green Advocates International
    Heartland Initiative
    Human Rights Online Philippines (HRonlinePH)
    Human Rights Watch
    IFEX
    Indian Social Action Forum
    Integrity Initiatives International
    Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
    International Accountability Project (IAP)
    International Campaign for the Rohingya
    Jamaa Resource Initiatives
    Liberia CSO Anti-Corruption Coalition - LCACC
    Living Laudato Si' Philippines
    зөвшөөрсөн
    Mongolian Women's Employment Supporting Federation
    NGO Forum on ADB
    Nigeria Network and Campaign for Peace Education
    North East Coordinating Committee
    Oil Workers' Rights Protection Organization Public Union
    OpenCorporates
    Oxfam
    Oyu Tolgoi Watch
    PEFA Forum
    Phenix Center for Economic Studies
    Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
    Photo Circle
    Positivo Malawi
    Project Blueprint
    RAID
    Rchard Matey
    Recourse
    Réseau Camerounais des Organisations des droits de l'homme
    Rights CoLab
    Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia

    Sano Paila (A Little Step)
    Sanskriti
    Sayanaa Wellbeing Association
    Shadow World Investigations (formerly Corruption Watch UK)
    Sibuyan Against Mining / Bayay Sibuyanon Inc.
    Slums Information Development and Resource Centers (SIDAREC)
    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
    The Future We Need
    Umeedenoo
    Universal Rights and Development NGO
    Urgewald
    Witness Radio Organization – Uganda
    Women’s Action Network
    WoMin African Alliance
    YES Project Initiative
    Youth Empowerment & Leadership Foundation
    Youth Group on Protection of Environment
    Zambia National Education Coalition


    1 IMF, Gabon: Request for a Purchase Under the Rapid Financing Instrument, April 16, 2020, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2020/04/16/Gabon-Request-for-a-Purchase- Under-the-Rapid-Financing-Instrument-Press-Release-Staff-Report-49336.

    2 Human Rights Watch, “Sri Lanka Uses Pandemic to Curtail Free Expression,” April 3, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/03/sri-lanka-uses-pandemic-curtail-free-expression.

     

     

     

     

  • Appel de la société civile aux États: nous sommes tous dans la même situation, ne bafouons pas les droits de l'homme lorsque nous répondons au COVID-19

    Alors que les gouvernements prennent des mesures extraordinaires pour freiner la propagation du COVID-19, nous reconnaissons et saluons les efforts que les États déploient pour gérer le bien-être de leurs populations et protéger les droits de l'homme, tels que les droits à la vie et à la santé. Cependant, nous exhortons les États à mettre en œuvre ces mesures dans le respect de l'État de droit: toutes les mesures de riposte face au COVID-19 doivent être basées sur des éléments concrets, elles doivent être légales, nécessaires pour protéger la santé publique, non discriminatoires, être définies dans le temps et proportionnées.

     

  • ARGENTINA: ‘We must stop attempts to go back to the injustices of the pre-pandemic era’

    CIVICUS speaks about the COVID-19 crisis and civil society responses with Sebastián Pilo, co-director of Civil Association for Equality and Justice (Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, ACIJ), a civil society organisation (CSO) dedicated to defending the rights of the most disadvantaged groups and strengthening democracy in Argentina. Founded in 2002, ACIJ aims to defend the effective enforcement of the National Constitution and the principles of the rule of law, promote compliance with the laws that protect disadvantaged groups and the eradication of all discriminatory practices, and contribute to the development of practices of participatory and deliberative democracy.

    Sebastien Argentina

    What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on people’s rights in Argentina?

    Notwithstanding the good results in terms of health yielded by lockdown measures, the pandemic has hit the most vulnerable populations especially hard. To cite just a few examples, the impact of contagion has fallen significantly on the inhabitants of informal settlements. Institutionalised older adults have also suffered the pandemic in a particularly cruel way. In addition, cases of domestic violence have presumably increased under lockdown conditions.

    The fact that people whose right to adequate housing is not being fulfilled are being asked to ‘stay home’ is a clear example of the gap between constitutional promises and reality, as well as the interrelation between the right to health and other fundamental rights. In this regard, in mid-March, as mandatory lockdown had just begun, alongside other CSOs we submitted a document to the City Government of Buenos Aires warning of the lack of adequate public policies for people living on the streets, a group especially vulnerable to the pandemic. Although the city government announced measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the actions were mainly aimed at controlling the circulation of this population, but not at guaranteeing their access to adequate hygiene and health conditions. The causes that lead to people becoming homeless are structural and linked to the lack of public policies guaranteeing all people access to decent housing. The actions taken during this emergency should be a starting point to build long-term policies to change the precarious conditions in which thousands of people live in our city.

    More generally, in the context of the pandemic the multisectoral initiative Habitar Argentina has called for the implementation of a national emergency policy on habitat, aimed not only at improving the living conditions of people who are already on the street, but also suspending – for six months or until the pandemic is over – all evictions and judicial decisions that may expel more people onto the streets or worsen their sanitary conditions, as well as implementing specific policies for families who rent, have mortgages or live in precarious housing. It also calls for the implementation of protection mechanisms for women, children, adolescents and sexual minorities or gender non-conforming people who experience violence regardless of the type of housing or territory they inhabit.

    What obstacles has ACIJ faced to continue operating in this context, and how have you overcome them?

    Our biggest obstacle was linked to lockdown measures and the consequent impossibility of maintaining, under the same conditions, our territorial presence in the communities with which we work. This forced us to increase our efforts to continue in contact – virtually or through authorised sporadic physical presence – with community leaders and promote actions aimed at providing the special protection that the context required.

    Thus, for example, along with Fundación Huésped and TECHO, we organised a series of training sessions targeted at grassroots leaders, who have historically been key to solidarity networks in their neighbourhoods. Staring on 5 June, we held five meetings to provide them with information on prevention measures against COVID-19 and other diseases present in their neighbourhoods, legal information pertaining to compulsory lockdown, guidance in the event of institutional or gender-based violence and prevention measures for community soup kitchens, and to let them know about the public assistance programmes that were established during the pandemic. More than 90 social leaders from the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Córdoba and Tucumán took part in these meetings.

    A virtual assistant with specific information was also developed to answer queries from inhabitants of poor neighbourhoods and a series of communication pieces were distributed through community WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

    What other actions have you undertaken to defend the rights affected under the pandemic, and what have you achieved?

    Among the most relevant actions that we have undertaken during these months, I would highlight the following.

    First, regarding the inhabitants of slums and informal settlements, we promoted a special protocol of action against COVID-19, the creation of a web platform that geo-references resources and helps identify the urgent needs of these inhabitants and a precautionary measure so that the state would provide free internet access for the duration of lockdown measures.

    The internet access development came in response to a lawsuit that we filed with other CSOs in order to enable the continuity of schooling for all students within the framework of distance education measures established during the emergency. The precautionary measure issued in early June forces the Government of the City of Buenos Aires to provide all students who attend public schools or privately operated schools with zero fees and who are in a socially vulnerable situation – those on city or federal welfare, scholarships, subsidies, or social programmes, or those who live in slums – an adequate device – a laptop, notebook, or tablet – to access the internet and carry out schoolwork in order to guarantee the continuity of learning. Likewise, the government is obliged to install in all the slums and informal settlements within the city the required technological equipment for wireless internet transmission, similar to that which it currently maintains in squares and public spaces, in sufficient quantity and adequate locations in order to provide a minimum standard of free wireless connectivity. In the event that there are technical impediments to this, the local government must provide a mobile device with data to allow internet access to every family including children or adolescents who attend primary-level educational establishments.

    This measure is key because not only does it seek to reverse the existing inequality in terms of access to educational equipment, but it also recognises internet access as a fundamental right that is instrumental – and, in this context, essential – for the exercise of other rights such as rights to education, health, information or access to justice.

    Second, regarding people with disabilities, among other things, we denounced the reduction in assistance coverage, carried out a campaign to show the effects of confinement on people secluded in mental hospitals and launched a web platform to foster access to rights.

    The discapacidadyderechos.org.ar platform was launched in early July and seeks to help people with disabilities demand the fulfilment of their rights to health, education, work, independent living and social protection. The platform centralises information regarding rights, benefits and services recognised by current regulations, and outlines how to claim these rights in cases of noncompliance by insurance and prepaid medicine companies and the state and where to go for free legal advice and sponsorship. The site has a total of 120 document templates, including administrative notes and document letters, that each user can adapt to their situation. In addition, it has a specific section that provides information on the rights of people with disabilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    It should be noted that the process to develop the site included the participation of people with disabilities and their families, who tested the platform and made suggestions for its improvement. It was also based on the advice of specialists in digital accessibility and usability.

    Third, for vulnerable groups in general, alongside a coalition of academic institutions and CSOs, we started an initiative to disseminate legal information to clarify the scope and impacts of emergency regulations and contribute to the legal empowerment of various disadvantaged groups, and we made a regional call to highlight the role of justice in the face of the crisis. We also prepared a document highlighting key information about injustice in tax matters and ideas to contribute to a fiscal policy that respects economic, social and cultural rights in the context of the pandemic.

    What would you say has been the key to obtaining these achievements?

    I believe that the achievements obtained in this context are fundamentally explained by the combination of three variables: first, the entire ACIJ team was mobilised by the need to make a significant contribution from our institutional role, and adopted the necessary flexibility to react to the crisis in an appropriate way. Second, for a long time we have worked closely with affected communities and groups in relation to the issues that are at the core of our work, and this has been key to us knowing first-hand the obstacles that people in vulnerable situations face in accessing their rights. Finally, the combination of strategies of public policy advocacy, court action on collective conflicts and community empowerment resulted in larger impacts than those that would have been obtained in the absence of this interconnection of strategies.

    What role should civil society play in overcoming the pandemic and building a better post-pandemic ‘new normal’?

    The first thing that civil society must do in this context is to show very clearly the injustices that characterised the world that we had before the pandemic: political inequality as a structural condition of low-quality democracies; economic inequality as underlying violations of economic, social and cultural rights; and a model of production of goods and organisation of territories that was environmentally unsustainable.

    Given that the pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities and has had greater impacts on the lowest-income people, the current priority should be to strengthen public systems for the protection and promotion of human rights of the groups most affected by the pandemic. In this context, it is essential to guarantee resources to fund adequate health and social protection policies. Hence, together with other CSOs in the region, we published a statement urging states to implement mechanisms to achieve a globally progressive tax system; evaluate existing tax exemptions to determine which ones should be eliminated because they are unjustified and inequitable; not to approve new tax privileges, except in urgent cases, where effectiveness is proven and preferably for the benefit of vulnerable populations and small businesses; and reform and streamline the process of approval and review of tax expenditures, increasing transparency, identifying beneficiaries, adding impact evaluations and subjecting them to independent scrutiny.

    It is essential for civil society to help us imagine a new direction: the moment of crisis is also a moment of opportunity if it stimulates our ability to think of different ways to relate to each other as a political community, and to instil new values for the reconstruction of fairer societies.

    Finally, we must accompany those who will go through the most difficulties to find survival strategies and satisfy their basic needs, while also looking for participation spaces to make our voices heard in public decision-making spheres and countering the foreseeable attempts to go back, in the post-pandemic stage, to the injustices and privileges that characterised the pre-pandemic era.

    Civic space in Argentina is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with ACIJ through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@ACIJargentina and@piloofkors on Twitter.

     

  • ASIA: ‘Durante la pandemia, el racismo hacia los pueblos Indígenas se ha intensificado’

    CIVICUS conversa con Gam Shimray, Secretario General del Pacto de Pueblos Indígenas de Asia (Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, AIPP) sobre la situación de los grupos Indígenas en Asia durante la pandemia del COVID-19. AIPP es una federación regional de movimientos de pueblos Indígenas de Asia que trabaja para promover y defender los derechos humanos de los pueblos Indígenas, incluyendo derechos territoriales y culturales. Debido a su posición de subordinación y a su distancia respecto de la cultura y la política convencionales, lospueblos Indígenas padecen graves violaciones de derechos humanos, racismo sistémico, discriminación y exclusión. Como resultado de la constante negación de sus derechos a la tierra, el territorio y los recursos naturales, muchas comunidades Indígenas se cuentan entre los grupos más vulnerables y desfavorecidos.

     Gam Shimray

    ¿Qué nos puedes contar acerca del trabajo de AIPP?

    El trabajo de AIPP se guía por nuestra creencia en los derechos humanos universales y el derecho inherente a la autodeterminación de todos los pueblos, incluidos los pueblos Indígenas. Los derechos a la autodeterminación y el autogobierno son una necesidad social para lograr una continuidad de los procesos sociales el autodesarrollo Indígena.

    Mientras que nuestro trabajo de incidencia se centra principalmente en los niveles regional y global, a través de nuestros miembros y redes establecemos conexiones con procesos a nivel país. AIPP consolida una posición común de las organizaciones Indígenas para la incidencia global y regional. Para ello, nos enfocamos en el fortalecimiento de las capacidades de las comunidades, consolidando los movimientos Indígenas y programando una agenda común para campañas y actividades de incidencia colectivas a nivel nacional.

    AIPP también trabaja en la construcción de liderazgos y promueve un liderazgo distribuido a lo largo de Asia, incluyendo a mujeres, jóvenes y personas con discapacidades.

    ¿Cuál era la situación de los pueblos Indígenas en Asia antes de la pandemia del COVID-19?

    Antes de la pandemia causada por el COVID-19 la situación política en Asia se había ido deteriorando, particularmente en los últimos años. En muchos países asiáticos hemos experimentado ataques crecientes contra la sociedad civil y la restricción del espacio democrático necesario para el debate y la formación de la opinión pública. Algunos intelectuales atribuyeron esta tendencia a la existencia de liderazgos políticos cada vez más apartados de la democracia y los derechos humanos.

    Las transiciones de regímenes autoritarios hacia la democracia que algunos países han experimentado en las últimas décadas, como Filipinas en los años ‘80, Indonesia a finales de los ‘90 y Nepal a comienzos de los 2000, no han culminado. Otros países, como China, Laos y Vietnam, tienen sistemas de partido único de jure, mientras que Camboya tiene uno de facto. En Myanmar, los militares todavía controlan el gobierno, mientras que la tradición tailandesa de gran tolerancia todavía no ha producido un Estado democrático moderno y estable. A su vez, el ascenso del populismo constituye una seria amenaza para estas democracias. En India, la democracia más grande del mundo y probablemente una de las más fuertes en la región, bajo el gobierno populista del Primer Ministro Narendra Modi estamos viendo continuos ataques contra toda institución autónoma, desde la justicia hasta el banco central y la prensa independiente.

    El resultado es que, en los últimos años, la mayoría de los defensores de las personas defensoras de derechos humanos asesinadas han sido Indígenas. Ellas han perdido sus vidas defendiendo sus derechos, hogares, tierras, territorios y recursos.

    Estos problemas también evidencian la existencia de problemas subyacentes más profundos, referidos a la insuficiente capacidad política e institucional para abordar eficientemente los desafíos que presentan la democracia y los derechos humanos en los países asiáticos. Enfrentamos cuestiones morales y políticas que requieren una evaluación seria de la erosión de los estándares y prácticas de derechos humanos y el debilitamiento de la capacidad política e institucional para responder a los desafíos sociales y políticos del presente. La experiencia de sufrimiento de las personas más pobres durante la pandemia del COVID-19 es evidencia de ello.

    ¿Qué desafíos han enfrentado los grupos y activistas Indígenas durante la pandemia?

    Los problemas y desafíos varían según las diferentes situaciones de los países. Aún así, uno de los principales desafíos se relaciona con el hecho de que la mayoría de los gobiernos de Asia impusieron cuarentenas en sus países sin mucha preparación, lo cual desencadenó el caos. La situación fue abrumadora y no pudimos responder a las necesidades de activistas, comunidades y trabajadores migrantes.

    Las personas refugiadas, trabajadoras migrantes y apátridas fueron las que más sufrieron. Las que carecían de documentos identidad tuvieron problemas para demostrar su ciudadanía, lo cual debían hacer para recibir ayuda gubernamental. La mayoría de las personas migrantes y refugiadas carecen de la documentación necesaria y también abundan los errores de registro, y quienes no figuran en el registro nacional no pueden recibir un documento de identidad.

    Durante la pandemia, el racismo hacia los pueblos Indígenas se ha intensificado. Esta situación ha sido peor en India, donde gente del noreste del país fue expulsada de sus hoteles o de las casas que alquilaban, no podían comprar comida, ir a los mercados o usar transporte público. Hubo gente que les escupió y se les detenía sin ningún tipo de explicación. Muchas de estas personas, entre ellas mujeres, fueron golpeadas sin ninguna razón, por lo que mucha gente en ciudades de toda India vive en un estado de temor permanente.

    En algunos países, los gobiernos están aprovechando la situación actual como excusa para emprender campañas militares, acaparar tierras, autorizar grandes proyectos de infraestructura, denegar derechos y debilitar regulaciones y protecciones medioambientales. Muchos activistas y miembros de las comunidades en países como Bangladesh, India, Filipinas y Myanmar fueron asesinados o encarcelados a raíz de acusaciones inventadas. La policía y las fuerzas de seguridad también han impedido que los líderes de las comunidades realizaran tareas de emergencia y ayudaran a comunidades en emergencia alimentaria.

    Estos incidentes son graves y hay muy poco que podamos hacer al respecto, ya que la gente no puede salir a protestar o hacer campaña, y apenas pueden tener acceso a la justicia. En India están permitidas las peticiones electrónicas y los tribunales siguen atendiendo los temas más urgentes mediante videoconferencia, pero muchas comunidades no están familiarizadas con procesos tan complicados y tampoco tienen acceso adecuado a internet.

    ¿Como han respondido ante esta situación AIPP y otras organizaciones de derechos Indígenas?

    Lo primero que hicimos fue comunicarnos con nuestros miembros y redes para juntar información de las bases. También les respondimos a quienes se comunicaron con nosotros en busca de ayuda y apoyo. Nuestra primera acción fue proveer o movilizar asistencia, y en particular alimentos para las personas en situación crítica en diferentes áreas, por intermedio de nuestros miembros. Nuestra ayuda también se concentró en compartir información relativa a las comunidades Indígenas. Esto ha sido necesario porque los niveles de desinformación han sido abrumadores, y han desencadenado reacciones impulsadas por el pánico. Hemos compartido con las comunidades solicitudes y llamamientos solidarios para impulsar respuestas humanitarias y difundir buenas prácticas que las comunidades pueden implementar.

    La situación es complicada porque no se trata solamente de responder a la pandemia. Las comunidades indígenas padecen de muchos problemas subyacentes. Lo mínimo que podíamos hacer era dejar constancia de nuestra protesta y llevar a cabo campañas a través de medios digitales.

    La pandemia del COVID-19 ha desenmascarado muchos problemas y nos plantea nuevos desafíos. Por lo tanto, estamos evaluando y haciendo esfuerzos para dar pasos adicionales para afrontar el impacto de la pandemia en el largo plazo. Con respecto a esto, también hemos formado una alianza regional en respuesta al COVID-19, que se encuentra en proceso de expansión. Pronto tendremos listo nuestro informe preliminar de evaluación regional, que nos va a ayudar a planificar mejor. Ya sabemos que el fortalecimiento de las capacidades de las comunidades va a ser crucial en el proceso de adaptación a lo que se ha dado en llamar “la nueva normalidad”.

    ¿Qué otros apoyos necesitarían los grupos Indígenas en este momento?

    El apoyo que las comunidades Indígenas necesitan es enorme, porque los impactos se seguirán sintiendo en el largo plazo. Pero algunas de las necesidades principales son las siguientes.

    En primer lugar, necesitamos establecer grupos locales de respuesta rápida a la pandemia con fondos asignados y con un equipo de funcionarios designados para coordinar con autoridades provinciales o estaduales y organizaciones de la sociedad civil para monitorear la situación en las comunidades Indígenas y proveerles el apoyo que necesiten. El equipo de respuesta también debe coordinar con las autoridades correspondientes para atender las necesidades especiales de las mujeres, los niños, los adultos mayores y las personas con discapacidades en las comunidades Indígenas.

    En segundo lugar, necesitamos asegurar que las autoridades locales y provinciales reciban pautas e instrucciones apropiadas en relación con las medidas que deben tomarse para que los pueblos Indígenas puedan afrontar el COVID-19 y cumplir la cuarentena.

    El tercer lugar, es crucial crear conciencia y asegurar el acceso a los servicios de salud. Por eso es importante preparar materiales informativos en formatos amigables para las comunidades, que expliquen con claridad la naturaleza de la enfermedad, las medidas de cuarentena y contención y las pruebas virales, de modo de derribar los mitos acerca del virus. Se necesita coordinación entre los trabajadores del departamento de salud y los sanadores tradicionales para garantizar que los sistemas de conocimiento Indígenas estén integrados en los mecanismos de respuesta. Se deberían fomentar estrategias de cuarentena localizadas y separadas que promuevan un ambiente natural y de participación de la comunidad. También se pueden preparar centros de atención para casos de COVID-19 manejadas por sanadores y enfermeros de las comunidades.

    En áreas remotas se deberían desplegar unidades móviles de salud que incluyan a sanadores tradicionales y trabajadores de la salud. Se debería prestar particular atención a aquellas áreas donde hay más trabajadores migrantes que han retornado a sus hogares. También se debería facilitar el acceso al testeo y proveer instalaciones para que estas personas puedan hacer la cuarentena. También se debería proveer acceso a servicios de salud en caso de emergencia, incluido el transporte. El acceso al agua para limpiar y beber es otra necesidad crítica que se debería asegurar.

    Asegurar la seguridad alimentaria, el nivel de ingresos y el sustento económico también es crucial dados los niveles de desnutrición que existen en muchas regiones Indígenas. Por lo menos en los próximos seis meses va a ser sumamente necesario distribuir en forma gratuita raciones alimenticias para todas las personas, independientemente de si tienen cédula de identidad o son clasificadas como migrantes.

    Por último, es urgente fortalecer los medios de subsistencia basados en la producción forestal no maderable (PFNM) mediante la creación de mecanismos institucionales efectivos de recolección, almacenamiento, adquisición y venta. En Asia hay una alta dependencia de la PFNM. Se debería proveer apoyo financiero y logístico a las comunidades para que puedan generar una fuente de ingreso sustentable. Las comunidades que viven en áreas protegidas deben tener acceso a los bosques por motivos de subsistencia.

    ¿Que lecciones han aprendido sobre la situación de los pueblos Indígenas durante la pandemia?

    Durante la pandemia la situación ha sido abrumadora, y las medias impuestas por los gobiernos han desencadenado actos de violencia de la policía y las fuerzas de seguridad. Centenares de personas pobres han muerto de hambre, y las que se aventuraron a salir por efecto de la desesperación han sido atacadas brutalmente por la policía.

    El impacto potencial parecía bastante sombrío y si no hubiésemos puesto nuestra confianza en la gente y en las comunidades, nuestros esfuerzos no hubiesen sido muy exitosos. Los servicios de asistencia en emergencia debían ser eficientes y la clave de nuestro éxito en países como Malasia o Tailandia ha sido depositar nuestra confianza en el trabajo de los voluntarios de las comunidades. Todos los recursos que fue posible generar les fueron transferidos a ellos y ellos reportaron las acciones y actividades que llevaban a cabo por teléfono o por otros medios que tuvieran a disposición.

    Además, por lo que pudimos ver, muchas comunidades respondieron muy bien a la situación iniciando cuarentenas en los pueblos, regulando las visitas, poniendo a los retornados en cuarentena o implementando medidas de distanciamiento social aun con poca información o sin los recursos apropiados. También hubo miedo, pero las comunidades lo fueron superando y fueron mejorando sus respuestas. Las comunidades no solo recibieron asistencia de nuestra parte o de otras fuentes: algunas de ellas también aportaron alimentos para otras comunidades más necesitadas. La mayoría de estas comunidades han trabajado con nosotros en el pasado y han podido gestionar exitosamente sus sistemas de producción alimentaria y sus recursos naturales. No estaban preocupadas por escasez de alimentos; por el contrario, sus líderes aprovecharon esta oportunidad para crear conciencia de la importancia de mejorar la producción local y el manejo sustentable de los recursos. Personalmente, esto ha sido inspirador.

    También nos hemos sentido inspirados por comunidades que se organizaron y usaron prácticas curativas y medicinas locales para mejorar la inmunidad y la resistencia a la enfermedad o establecieron sistemas de intercambio de alimentos con poca o casi nada de ayuda de parte del Estado, cuando los programas estatales no funcionaban o no llegaban a tiempo. Lo que es más importante, esto demostró que la devolución de atribuciones y el empoderamiento de las comunidades pueden ser más efectivos a la hora de afrontar una crisis si se entrega a las instituciones locales autónomas los recursos y el apoyo necesarios.

    Las respuestas espontáneas de las comunidades se fueron dando de forma casi natural porque se trata de comunidades que históricamente se han autogobernado. De aquí en adelante, si confía en la gente y empodera a las comunidades el Estado podrá lidiar de forma más eficiente con cualquier crisis de salud pública y con sus impactos en el largo plazo.

    Contáctese con el Pacto de Pueblos Indígenas de Asia a través de susitio web o de su perfil deFacebook, y siga a@aippneten Twitter.

     

  • ASIA: ‘Under the pandemic, racism against Indigenous peoples has intensified’

    CIVICUS speaks to Gam Shimray, Secretary General of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), about the situation of Indigenous groups in Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. AIPP is a regional federation of Indigenous peoples’ movements in Asia that works to promote and defend Indigenous peoples’ human rights, including land rights and cultural rights. Because of their subordination and distinctiveness from mainstream culture and politics,Indigenous peoples are subjected to gross human rights violations, systematic racism, discrimination and dispossession. As a result of the denial of their rights to land, territory and resources, many Indigenous peoples are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

    Gam Shimray

    Can you tell us about the work of AIPP?

    The work of AIPP is guided by our belief in universal human rights and the inherent right to self-determination of all peoples, including Indigenous peoples. The rights to self-determination and self-government are a social necessity for the continuity of Indigenous social processes and self-development.

    While our advocacy work is primarily focused on the regional and global levels, linkages with country-level processes are built through our members and networks. AIPP consolidates a common position of Indigenous organisations for regional and global advocacy. For this, we focus on building capacity in communities, consolidating Indigenous movements and setting a common agenda for collective campaigning and advocacy at the country level.

    AIPP also focuses on building leadership and promoting distributive leadership across Asia, including among women, young people and persons with disabilities.

    What was the situation of Indigenous peoples in Asia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the political situation in Asia had been deteriorating, particularly in the past few years. We have seen an increasing clampdown on civil society and the restriction of democratic space for public debate and opinion formation in several Asian countries. Some public intellectuals attribute this trend to the retreat of political leadership from democracy and human rights.

    The transitions to democracy from authoritarian governments in recent decades, such as the Philippines in the 1980s, Indonesia in the late 1990s and Nepal in the 2000s, have remained incomplete. Other countries, such as China, Laos and Vietnam, have de jure one-party systems, and Cambodia has a de facto one. In Myanmar, the military still holds a grip on the government, while Thailand’s tradition of high tolerance is yet to produce a stable democratic modern state. Further, rising populism is posing a serious threat to democracies. In India, the world’s largest democracy and arguably one of Asia’s strongest, we are seeing a continuous assault on autonomous institutions, from the judiciary to the central bank and the free press, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s populist government.

    The result is that in the last few years, most of the human rights defenders killed have been Indigenous peoples. They lost their lives defending their rights, homes, lands, territories and resources.

    These problems are also evidence of deeper and underlying issues that relate to the inadequacy of political and institutional capacity to address effectively the challenges of democracy and human rights in Asian countries. We are faced with moral and political questions that call for serious examination of the erosion of human rights standards and practices and the weakening of political and institutional capacity to respond to present social and political issues. The suffering experienced by poor people during the COVID-19 pandemic is evidence of this.

    What challenges have Indigenous groups and activists faced under the pandemic?

    Issues and challenges vary across countries as the situation differs. One of the main challenges relates to the fact that most governments in Asia initiated countrywide lockdowns without much preparation, leading to chaos. The situation was simply overwhelming, and we could not respond to the needs of activists, communities, or migrant labourers.

    Migrant workers, refugees and stateless persons suffered the most, and those without ID cards struggled to prove their citizenship, which they needed to receive government aid. Most migrants and refugees lack proper documentation and errors in registration abound. Those left out from national registries are denied national ID cards.

    Under the pandemic, racism against Indigenous peoples has intensified. The situation has been worst in India, where people from the north-eastern part of the country have been thrown out of their hotels and rented houses. They have been denied the ability to buy food from grocery shops and board public transport. They have been spat on and taken into custody without an explanation. Many people, including women, have been beaten up for no reason, and many in cities across India are living in fear.

    In some countries, governments are using the situation as a cover for conducting military campaigns, grabbing land, granting permission for large-scale development projects, rolling back protective rights and weakening environmental laws and safeguards. Several activists and community members have been killed or jailed under trumped-up charges in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and the Philippines. Community leaders have also been stopped by police and security forces from carrying out relief work and helping starving communities.

    These incidents are grave in nature and there is extraordinarily little that we can do about them, as people cannot go out and protest or campaign, and can hardly access the courts. In India, e-petitions are allowed, and urgent matters are still heard by courts through video conferencing, but most communities are not familiar with such complicated processes and many do not even have proper internet access.

    How have AIPP and other Indigenous rights organisations responded to the situation? 

    The first thing we did was reach out to our members and networks to gather information from the ground. We also responded to those reaching out to us for support. Our first action was to provide or mobilise relief, and particularly food for those in critical need, in different areas through our members and networks. Our outreach also focused on sharing information concerning Indigenous communities. This was necessary because misinformation has been overwhelming, leading to panic-driven reactions from communities. We shared appeals to communities calling for humane responses and disseminating good practices that communities could implement.

    The situation is complicated because it is not just about responding to the pandemic. Indigenous peoples face multiple underlying issues. The least we could do was register our protest and conduct our campaigns through digital channels.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded many hidden issues and poses new challenges. So we are assessing and making efforts to take the next steps to cope with the longer-term impact of the pandemic. In this regard, we have also formed a regional network for COVID-19 response, which is in the process of expansion. We will be coming up with a preliminary regional assessment report soon, which will help us plan better. We can already see that capacity building will be crucial as we adapt to what is called the ‘new normal’.

    What further support do Indigenous groups need at this time?

    The support that Indigenous communities need is enormous as the impact is going to be long term. But few things that must be stressed are the following.

    First, we need to set up COVID-19 response cells with designated funds at the local level, with a team of designated nodal officers to coordinate with state or provincial authorities and civil society organisations to monitor Indigenous issues and provide the necessary support. The response team should also coordinate with the appropriate authorities to cater to the special needs of women, children, older people and persons with disabilities in Indigenous areas.

    Second, we need to ensure that appropriate guidelines and instructions are issued to provincial and local authorities on measures to be taken for Indigenous peoples to deal with COVID-19 and lockdown, including on ensuring compliance.

    Third, it is critical to raise awareness and ensure access to healthcare. It is important to prepare community-friendly information materials that clearly explain the nature of the disease, quarantine and containment measures and testing, helping dispel myths. Coordination between health department workers and traditional healers is needed to ensure that Indigenous knowledge systems are part of these response mechanisms. Localised and separate quarantine strategies encouraging natural environment and community participation should be promoted. COVID-19 care centres can be set up at the community level, managed by community healers and nurses. 

    In remote areas, mobile health units should be deployed involving community healers and health workers. Special attention should be given to areas with migrant workers who have returned home. Testing and quarantine facilities should be immediately provided to them. Access to health services in case of emergencies, including transportation, should also be provided. Access to safe water for cleaning and drinking is another critical need that should be ensured. 

    Ensuring food security and incomes and protecting livelihoods is also crucial given the known evidence of undernourishment in many Indigenous areas. Over at least the next six months it will be necessary to distribute free rations of nutritional food to everybody, irrespective of people’s migratory status or whether they have an ID card. 

    Lastly, it is urgent to strengthen non-timber forest produce (NTFP)-based livelihoods by urgently devising effective institutional mechanisms for collection, storage, procurement and sale. Dependence on NTFP is high across Asia. Financial and logistical support should be provided directly to the communities to help generate sustainable livelihoods. Communities living in protected areas must be allowed to have access to forests for livelihood purposes. 

    What lessons you have learned so far about the situation of Indigenous people under the pandemic?

    Under the pandemic, the situation has been overwhelming, and the measures imposed by governments have led to acts of brutality from police and security forces. We saw hundreds of poor people die of starvation and those venturing out in desperation brutalised by the police.

    The potential impact was looking grim, and had we not put our trust in the people and the communities, the efforts we made would have been far less successful. Relief work had to be efficient and putting our trust in community volunteers to do the job was the key to success, for instance in Malaysia and Thailand. Whatever resources were generated were transferred to them and they reported back on the actions carried out through phone or other means available to them.

    Further, in our observation, several communities responded very well to the situation by initiating village lockdowns, regulating visits, quarantining returnees, or self-isolating themselves despite having little information or no appropriate resources and equipment. There were fears too but communities were quick in overcoming them and improved their responses. Communities have not just received relief from us or others, but some of them also contributed food for other communities in need. Most of those communities had worked with us and had successfully managed their food production systems and natural resources. They were not worried about food shortages; rather, their leaders used the opportunity to create awareness about the importance of improving local production and sustainable resource management. Personally, this has been inspiring.

    We have also been inspired by communities organising themselves and using local healing practices and medicine to improve immunity and resistance to the disease, or establishing food exchange systems with little or no help  from the state, at a time when state-run programmes were not functional or did not arrive in time. Most importantly, this showed that devolution and community empowerment can be more effective in dealing with the crisis if resources and support are provided to such self-governing local institutions. 

    Spontaneous community responses came almost naturally because these are historically self-governing communities. Looking forward, trusting people and empowering communities will enable the state to deal more efficiently with public health crises and their long-term impacts.

    Get in touch with the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact through itswebsite andFacebook page, and follow@aippneton Twitter.

     

  • Bahrain: Free Imprisoned Rights Defenders and Activists

    Extend Releases to Those at Special Risk of COVID-19

     

  • Bangladesh: Stifling expression using Digital Security Act must not be the norm to address COVID-19 pandemic

     
    Header_AHRC
     

    A picture containing drawingDescription automatically generated

    A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission and CIVICUS

    The Bangladesh government has resorted once again to its notorious Digital Security Act-2018 to muzzle freedom of expression, arresting 11 individuals following criticism of the governments’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Four people have been detained since 5 May 2020 under the draconian digital law, including cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, writer Mushtaq Ahmed, IT specialist Md. Didarul Islam Bhuyan, and Dhaka Stock Exchange Director Minhaz Mannan Emon. A further seven people have been charged. 

    All four detainees were forcibly disappeared for hours after they were picked up by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from different locations in Dhaka on 5 May 2020. Following a social media outcry, the RAB officially handed them over to the Metropolitan police on 6 May at around 7:45 PM, and a case under the Digital Security Act was filed against them by Abu Bakar Siddique, the Deputy Assistant Director of RAB. They remain in detention.

    The seven other individuals accused in the same case are Tasneem Khalil, Editor-in-Chief of Netra News, which the government has blocked in Bangladesh since it was launched last year from Sweden; Saer Zulkarnain; Shahed Alam; Ashik Imran; Shapan Wahed; Philip Schuhmacher; and Asif Mohiuddin, a blogger of Bangladeshi origin living in Germany.

    All 11 have been charged under various provisions of the Digital Security Act including ‘propaganda or campaign against liberation war’ and ‘publishing, sending of offensive, false or fear inducing data-information’. Authorities have confirmed that the charges relate to allegedly ‘spreading rumours’ over the coronavirus pandemic on social media. If convicted, they could each face up to seven years in jail. 

    The Digital Security Act, passed in October 2018 to replace the often-misused Information and Communication Technology Act, included harsher provisions that have been used to penalize criticism of the government. The law gives the power to security agencies to hold individuals indefinitely in pretrial detention. And, it has created a chilling effect among activists and journalists. Despite repeated calls to bring the law in line with Bangladesh’s international commitments to protect freedom of expression, the government has refused to revise the law.

    In times of crisis, people’s health depends at minimum on access to information both off and online. Silencing journalists and activists and blocking websites, is not an effective public health strategy. We urge the authorities to end its use of restrictive laws to silence critics and amid the pandemic ensure the right to seek, receive, and share information relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    We further call on the government of Bangladesh to immediately release the detained critics and drop the charges brought against them and seven other individuals under repressive legislation. The COVID-19 pandemic is not an excuse to use state forces to stifle freedom of expression.

     

    Background:

    The pandemic has exposed failings by the government in addressing a public health emergency. Patients with symptoms of COVID-19 were denied access to public and private hospitals and died without treatment. The country’s healthcare system failed to provide adequate protective equipment and necessary infrastructures in hospitals to treat the pandemic. Within weeks, hundreds of doctors and nurses were infected with COVID-19, according to the Bangladesh Medical Association. 

    Persistent suppression of freedom of expression and censorship under the government of Sheikh Hasina has continued amid the pandemic. The authorities have blocked international news outlet Al-Jazeera and numerous other news portals and websites critical of the state. A monitoring body established by the Ministry of Information to monitor if private television channels were “running any propaganda or rumours about the novel coronavirus outbreak” was scrapped after public outcry.

    Due to the muzzling of the press by the authorities, social media has become the preferred platform for those critical of the regime. In response, the police and the RAB have started picking up people for their Facebook posts. On 10th of April 2020, it was reported that at least 50 people were arrested in the country for allegedly spreading rumors. The government has also blocked dozens of websites and Facebook profiles as of late March after the government officially acknowledged the COVID-19 outbreak. Healthcare workers, who spoke out about the problems they have been facing, have been barred from talking to media

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates the space for civil society in Bangladesh as repressed.

     

     

  • BOLIVIA: ‘La pandemia se convirtió en un justificativo para estrechar el control informacional’

    CIVICUS conversa sobre el panorama político y el calendario electoral bolivianos en el contexto de la pandemia del COVID-19 con Cristian León, director programático de Asuntos del Sur y coordinador de Innovación Pública 360, un proyecto que persigue el fortalecimiento democrático de los gobiernos subnacionales y se implementa en tres países latinoamericanos.Asuntos del Sur es una organización de la sociedad civil de alcance regional, basada en Argentina, que diseña e implementa innovaciones políticas para desarrollar democracias paritarias, inclusivas y participativas. Cristian León es también uno de los fundadores, y actualmente también colaborador, de InternetBolivia.org, que defiende los derechos digitales en Bolivia.

     

  • BOLIVIA: ‘The pandemic became a justification for tightening information control’

    CIVICUS speaks about the Bolivian political landscape and upcoming elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with Cristian León, programme director of Asuntos del Sur and coordinator of Public Innovation 360, a project focused on strengthening democracy at the subnational level which is currently being implemented in three Latin American countries. Asuntos del Sur is a regional civil society organisation (CSO) based in Argentina that designs and implements political innovations to develop democracies that are inclusive, participatory and based on gender parity. Cristian León is also a founder and current collaborator of InternetBolivia.org, which promotes digital rights in Bolivia.

     

  • BURUNDI: ‘Elegir nuevos líderes no es sinónimo de democracia’

    CIVICUS conversa sobre las recientes elecciones en Burundi con un activista de la sociedad civil que por razones de seguridad ha preferido conservar el anonimato.

    El 20 de mayo de 2020, en el contexto de la pandemia del COVID-19, se celebraron en Burundi elecciones presidenciales, parlamentarias y municipales. En marzo, dos meses antes de las elecciones, la Comisión de Investigación de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) sobre Burundi lanzó un llamamiento a la comunidad internacional, incluido el Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas y las instituciones regionales, para que unieran fuerzas para alentar al gobierno de Burundi a reabrir los espacios democráticos, civiles y políticos. El día de las elecciones, el presidente de la Comisión de Investigación afirmó que no estaban dadas las condiciones para realizar elecciones libres y creíbles. Segúninformó el CIVICUS Monitor, miembros de la oposición recibieron amenazas de muerte y sufrieron agresiones físicas, además de enfrentar obstáculos administrativos, ya que varias candidaturas fueron rechazadas. El líder de un partido opositor fue asesinado y otros candidatos fueron arrestados bajo acusaciones falsas. El periodismo independiente enfrentó obstáculos sistemáticos, tales como el arresto de periodistas y el bloqueo de las plataformas de redes sociales.

    Burundi Elections

    Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    ¿Se han introducido mayores restricciones al espacio de la sociedad civil como resultado de la respuesta del gobierno de Burundi a la pandemia del COVID-19?

    El espacio cívico en Burundi se ha mantenido cerrado desde abril de 2015, tras los disturbios políticos provocados por la decisión del recientemente fallecido expresidente Pierre Nkurunziza de postularse para un controvertido tercer mandato. Esto provocó una violencia generalizada que dejó al menos 1.200 muertos y obligó a 400.000 personas a huir del país. Sorprendentemente, en marzo de 2020, mientras la pandemia del COVID-19 se propagaba en casi todos los países africanos, las autoridades de Burundi abrieron un espacio para que se llevaran a cabo campañas para las elecciones presidenciales, parlamentarias y municipales de mayo. Pero cabe concluir que el espacio cívico continúa estando cerrado en términos de las posibilidades de expresión de toda crítica abierta al modo en que se maneja políticamente el país, lo cual incluye las críticas a la forma en que el gobierno ha manejado la pandemia durante el período electoral.

    ¿Qué posición mantuvo la sociedad civil respecto de la decisión de celebrar elecciones durante la pandemia?

    La decisión de las autoridades de Burundi de habilitar la continuidad de las campañas electorales en un período en que muchos otros países africanos estaban tomando medidas de confinamiento para detener la propagación del COVID-19 fue interpretada como una negación de la realidad de la pandemia orientada a salvar los intereses políticos del partido gobernante, el CNDD-FDD (Consejo Nacional de Defensa de la Democracia-Fuerzas para la Defensa de la Democracia), en detrimento de la salud de la población.

    A pesar de los temores de un contagio masivo de COVID-19, una de las razones por las cuales el gobierno se apuró a realizar las elecciones fue la oportunidad de realizar un proceso electoral en ausencia de un número considerable de observadores independientes e internacionales que pudieran denunciar cualquier irregularidad. Dado que la Comisión Electoral Nacional Independiente estaba compuesta principalmente por miembros del partido gobernante, esta decisión puso al gobierno en posición de manipular los resultados de las elecciones tanto como lo quisiera.

    ¿Fue el resultado de las elecciones aceptado por la mayoría de la ciudadanía?

    El 20 de mayo de 2020 el candidato del CNDD-FDD, Évariste Ndayishimiye, fue elegido presidente con el 71% de los votos. El partido gobernante también ganó 72 de los 100 escaños en juego en la Asamblea Nacional.

    Tan pronto como la Comisión Electoral anunció estos resultados, partidos de oposición como el Consejo Nacional para la Liberación, que quedó en un distante segundo lugar, declararon a medios extranjeros que las cifras oficiales no eran creíbles y eran el resultado de un fraude masivo. Lo cierto es que las elecciones se realizaron en un contexto de permanente represión de la oposición política, los medios independientes y la sociedad civil. No hubo observadores internacionales porque el gobierno les había advertido que, a causa de la pandemia, quienes vinieran tendrían que permanecer en cuarentena durante 14 días a partir de su llegada.

    Algunos, como la Iglesia Católica, hicieron algunas críticas discretas en relación con los incidentes que marcaron el proceso electoral. Otros susurraron -ya que en Burundi no es fácil hacer críticas abiertas- que los resultados de las elecciones habían sido manipulados. Pero eso fue todo. Miembros poderosos de la comunidad internacional, como los gobiernos de Bélgica y los Estados Unidos, se apresuraron a saludar al presidente electo, y la Comunidad de África Oriental felicitó a Burundi por haber celebrado unas elecciones “pacíficas y exitosas”.

    En mi opinión, los resultados de las elecciones fueron finalmente aceptados porque se temió que habría derramamiento de sangre si el rechazo abierto de los resultados de las elecciones por parte de la oposición fuera seguido de protestas callejeras.

    ¿Qué posibilidades hay de que el resultado de las elecciones conduzca a un mejoramiento de la democracia y el espacio cívico?

    Hay quienes dicen creer que elegir nuevos líderes es sinónimo de democracia. El resultado de las elecciones de mayo de 2020 ayudó a Burundi a cambiar los rostros de los principales líderes y a mostrar que el dictador que nos había gobernado durante 15 años ya no dirige al país. Sin embargo, las violaciones de derechos humanos que tuvieron lugar durante la campaña electoral, el nombramiento de funcionarios bajo sanciones económicas europeas o estadounidenses por haber cometido abusos de derechos humanos y la retórica política utilizada para retratar a algunos países y a sus líderes como colonialistas muestran que la democracia en Burundi todavía tiene un largo camino por recorrer.

    Sin embargo, algunas medidas de lucha contra la corrupción y otros abusos que ha tomado el presidente Ndayishimiye desde que asumió el cargo nos llevan a creer que la impunidad de que gozaron algunas autoridades locales bajo el gobierno de Nkurunziza podría llegar a su fin.

    Muchos creían que el plan era que el expresidente Nkurunziza siguiera detentando el poder entre bastidores. ¿Han cambiado las perspectivas como resultado de su muerte?

    El expresidente Nkurunziza murió inesperadamente en junio, antes de que asumiera su sucesor. Como ya había un presidente electo, el Tribunal Constitucional decidió que éste debía prestar juramento con dos meses de anticipación.

    Muchos creyeron que la muerte de Nkurunziza permitiría al presidente Ndayishimiye gobernar con total independencia, y así pareció confirmarlo en su discurso inaugural, donde prometió entablar un diálogo amplio sobre todos los temas. Es demasiado pronto para asegurar que el hecho de que Nkurunziza haya quedado fuera de la ecuación permitirá que el nuevo gobierno abra el espacio cívico y para saber si el nuevo presidente aprovechará esta oportunidad. Sin embargo, resulta alentador ver que el nuevo presidente ya se ha reunido con los líderes de otros partidos políticos, con expresidentes de Burundi y con obispos de las iglesias católica y anglicana, y ha prometido promover el diálogo. Estamos ansiosos por corroborar si sus palabras se convertirán en acciones.

    Al mismo tiempo, sin embargo, recientemente el ministro del Interior ha emitido una resolución para suspender hasta nueva orden el registro de nuevas organizaciones de la sociedad civil e iglesias y el reconocimiento de las nuevas autoridades de las organizaciones. Esta decisión es inconsistente con el cambio que se busca. Si se mantiene, impedirá que la sociedad civil crezca y se convierta en un interlocutor legítimo y públicamente reconocido.

    ¿Qué debería hacer la comunidad internacional para contribuir a mejorar el espacio cívico en Burundi?

    Es difícil establecer unas pocas prioridades, ya que son muchas las cosas que es necesario poner en marcha para que Burundi se convierta en una tierra de libertades. Sin embargo, sería vital involucrar al gobierno de Burundi en un diálogo multidimensional. Es necesario relanzar la cooperación internacional de manera que ésta ayude al gobierno de Burundi a poner fin a la pobreza endémica. La comunidad internacional debe abogar por la repatriación de todas las personas refugiadas, incluidas las que tienen órdenes de arresto del gobierno de Burundi, y garantizar su protección. Y también debe ofrecer su mediación para resolver el conflicto entre Burundi y sus países vecinos, especialmente Ruanda, a fin de facilitar la circulación de personas y bienes y el restablecimiento de relaciones diplomáticas.

    Si se persiguen las prioridades sugeridas, las autoridades de Burundi podrían llegar a darse cuenta de que Burundi no está aislado y que la comunidad internacional no está actuando para sabotear sus intereses, sino en cambio para fortalecer los aspectos positivos de la globalización en todos los ámbitos.

    El espacio cívico en Burundi es calificado de “cerrado” por elCIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • BURUNDI: ‘The election of new leaders is not synonymous with democracy’

    CIVICUS speaks about the recent elections in Burundi with a civil society activist who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

    Presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections were held in Burundi on 20 May 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, two months before the elections, the United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry on Burundi launched an appeal to the international community, including the UN Security Council and regional institutions, to join forces to encourage the government of Burundi to reopen democratic, civil and political space. On the day of the elections, the president of the Commission of Inquiry stated that the conditions to perform credible and free elections were not met. Asreported by the CIVICUS Monitor, opposition members faced death threats and physical attacks, as well as administrative hurdles, as several candidacy applications were rejected. The leader of an opposition party was murdered and other candidates were arrested on bogus charges. Independent reporting was systematically impeded through the arrest of journalists and the blockage of social media platforms.

    Burundi Elections

     Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Has the government of Burundi’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic further restricted the space for civil society?

    Civic space in Burundi has been closed since April 2015, due to the political unrest caused by the decision of former President Pierre Nkurunziza, recently deceased, to run for a controversial third term. This led to widespread violence that left at least 1,200 people dead and forced 400,000 to flee the country. Surprisingly, in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading in almost all African countries, the Burundian authorities opened space for political campaigns to be held ahead of the May presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. But one can conclude that civic space is still closed in terms of being able to express any open criticism about how the country is politically run, including criticism regarding the way the government handled the pandemic during the electoral period.

    What were the views of civil society about holding elections during the pandemic?

    The decision of the Burundian authorities to allow election campaigns to proceed during a period in which many other African countries were taking measures of confinement to stop the spread of COVID-19 was viewed as denial of the reality of the pandemic to save the political interests of the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy), to the detriment of the public’s health.

    Despite fears of mass COVID-19 contamination, the elections were rushed, at least in part, due to the opportunity to hold an electoral process in the absence of a sizeable number of independent and international observers who could denounce any irregularities. By doing so, given that the National Independent Electoral Commission was mostly composed of members of the ruling party, the government ensured that it could manipulate the election results as much as it wanted.

    Was the outcome of the election accepted by majority of Burundians?

    On 20 May 2020, CNDD-FDD candidate Évariste Ndayishimiye was elected president with 71 per cent of the vote. The ruling party also won 72 of the 100 seats at stake in the National Assembly.

    As soon as the Electoral Commission announced the results, opposition parties such as the National Council for Liberation, which came a distant second, stated in foreign media that the official numbers were not credible and were the result of massive fraud. The truth is that the elections were held in a context of continuing repression of the political opposition, independent media and civil society. No international observers were present because the government had warned that due to the pandemic they would have to be quarantined for 14 days after their arrival.

    Low-key criticisms were made by others, including the Catholic Church, regarding incidents that marked the election processes. Others whispered, as it’s not easy to make open criticisms, that election results were rigged. But that was it. Powerful members of the international community such as the governments of Belgium and the USA were fast to congratulate the elected president, and the East African Community congratulated Burundi for holding a “peaceful and successful” election.

    In my personal view, the outcomes of the elections were eventually accepted because many feared that bloodshed could follow if an open rejection of the election results by the opposition was followed by street protests.

    How likely is that the elections result will lead to an improvement of democracy and civic space?

    Some pretend to believe that the election of new leaders is synonymous with democracy. The outcome of the May 2020 elections helped Burundi change the faces of top leaders and show that the dictator who ruled us for 15 years is no longer leading the country. However, the human rights violations that took place during the electoral campaign, the appointment of officials under European or US economic sanctions for the human rights abuses they had committed and the political rhetoric describing some countries and their leaders as colonialists all show that democracy in Burundi still has a long way to go.

    However, some measures to fight against corruption and others abuses that President Ndayishimiye has taken since assuming office have allowed us to believe that the impunity that some local authorities enjoyed during Nkurunziza’s administration might come to an end.

    Many had argued that the plan was for former President Nkurunziza to remain the power behind the scenes. Have prospects changed as a result of his death?

    Former President Nkurunziza died unexpectedly in June, before his successor had even been inaugurated. As a new president had already been elected, the Constitutional Court decided that he should be sworn in two months early.

    Many believed that Nkurunziza’s passing would allow President Ndayishimiye to rule with total independence, and his inaugural speech seemed to confirm it, as he vowed to enter into dialogue with anyone, on any issue. It is too soon to say whether the fact that Nkurunziza is out of the equation will allow the new administration to open up civic space and whether the new president will seize this opportunity. However, it is encouraging to see that the new president has already met with the leaders of other political parties, former Burundi presidents and Anglican and Catholic bishops, and has promised to promote dialogue. We are expectant to find out whether his words will turn into actions.

    At the same time, however, the Minister of Home Affairs has recently issued a note to halt the registration of all new civil society organisations and churches and the recognition of newly elected authorities of organisations, pending a new order. Such decisions are inconsistent with the change that is being sought. If maintained, they will hinder civil society from growing and becoming a legitimate and publicly recognised sphere.

    What should the international community do to help improve civic space in Burundi?

    It is hard to set just a few priorities, as many things need to be put in place for Burundi to become a place of freedoms. However, it would be vital to engage the government of Burundi in multidimensional dialogue. International cooperation needs to be relaunched in a way that helps the Burundian government to end endemic poverty. The international community should advocate the repatriation of all refugees, including those who are under an arrest warrant from the Burundian government, and ensure their protection. And it also should offer its mediation to solve conflict between Burundi and its neighbouring countries, especially Rwanda, in order to facilitate the movement of people and goods and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

    If the suggested priorities are pursued, the Burundian authorities might come to realise that Burundi is not isolated and that the international community is not acting to sabotage its interests, but rather to strengthen the positive aspects of globalisation in all domains.

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

     

  • BURUNDI: «Élire de nouveaux dirigeants n’est pas synonyme de démocratie»

    CIVICUS parle des récentes élections au Burundi avec un activiste de la société civile qui, pour des raisons de sécurité, a préféré rester anonyme.

    Le 20 mai 2020, dans le cadre de la pandémie COVID-19, des élections présidentielles, parlementaires et municipales ont eu lieu au Burundi. En mars, deux mois avant les élections, la Commission d'Enquête des Nations Unies sur le Burundi a lancé un appel à la communauté internationale, y compris le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies et les institutions régionales, pour qu'elle unisse ses forces pour encourager le gouvernement du Burundi à rouvrir les espaces démocratiques, civils et politiques. Le jour des élections, le président de la Commission d'Enquête a déclaré que les conditions n'étaient pas réunies pour organiser des élections libres et crédibles. Commel'a rapporté le CIVICUS Monitor, de nombreux politiciens de l'opposition ont reçu des menaces de mort et ont subi des agressions physiques, et les partis d'opposition se sont heurtés à des obstacles administratifs, car plusieurs demandes d’inscription des candidatures ont été rejetées. Le chef d'un parti d'opposition a été assassiné et d'autres candidats ont été arrêtés sur la base de fausses accusations. Le journalisme indépendant s'est heurté à des obstacles systématiques, tels que l'arrestation de journalistes et le blocage des plateformes de réseaux sociaux.

    Burundi Elections

    Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    La réponse du gouvernement du Burundi à la pandémie de COVID-19 a-t-il amplifié les restrictions croissantes sur l'espace civique?

    L'espace civique au Burundi est fermé depuis avril 2015, à la suite de troubles politiques déclenchés par la décision de l'ancien président burundais récemment décédé, Pierre Nkurunziza, d’obtenir un troisième mandat malgré les controverses. Cela a déclenché une violence généralisée qui a fait au moins 1 200 morts et contraint 400 000 personnes à fuir le pays. Étonnamment, en mars 2020, alors que la pandémie de COVID-19 se propageait dans presque tous les pays africains, les autorités burundaises ont ouvert un espace pour que des campagnes aient lieu pour les élections présidentielles, parlementaires et municipales de mai. Mais on peut conclure que l'espace civique continue d'être fermé en ce qui concerne les possibilités d'expression de toute critique ouverte de la façon dont le pays est géré politiquement, ce qui inclut la critique de la façon dont le gouvernement a géré la pandémie au cours de la période électorale.

    Quelle a été la position de la société civile concernant la décision de tenir des élections pendant la pandémie?

    La décision des autorités burundaises de permettre le déroulement des campagnes électorales à une époque où de nombreux autres pays africains prenaient des mesures de confinement pour arrêter la propagation du COVID-19 a été interprétée comme un déni de la réalité de la pandémie visant à sauver les intérêts politiques du parti au pouvoir, le CNDD-FDD (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie - Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie), au détriment de la santé de la population.

    Malgré les craintes d'une propagation massive du COVID-19, l'une des raisons pour lesquelles le gouvernement s'est précipité pour organiser les élections a été l'opportunité de mener un processus électoral en l'absence d'un nombre important d'observateurs indépendants et internationaux qui pourraient signaler tout acte répréhensible. La Commission Électorale Nationale Indépendante étant principalement composée de membres du parti au pouvoir, cette décision a mis le gouvernement en mesure de manipuler les résultats des élections autant qu'il le voulait.

     

    Le résultat des élections a-t-il été accepté par la majorité des gens?

    Le 20 mai 2020, Évariste Ndayishimiye, le candidat du parti au pouvoir, le CNDD-FDD, a été élu président avec 71% des voix. Le CNDD-FDD a également remporté 72 des 100 sièges à l'Assemblée Nationale.

    Dès l'annonce de ces résultats par la commission électorale, des partis d'opposition comme le Congrès National pour la Liberté, placé comme lointain second, ont déclaré aux médias étrangers que les chiffres officiels n'étaient pas crédibles et qu’ils étaient le résultat de fraude massive. La vérité est que les élections se sont déroulées dans un contexte de répression permanente de l'opposition politique, des médias indépendants et de la société civile. Il n'y avait pas d'observateurs internationaux car le gouvernement les avait avertis qu'en raison de la pandémie, ceux qui venaient devraient rester en quarantaine pendant 14 jours à compter de leur arrivée.

    Il y a eu quelques critiques discrètes, notamment de la part de l'Église catholique, à propos des incidents qui ont marqué le processus électoral. D'autres ont chuchoté (car il n'est pas facile de faire une critique ouverte au Burundi) que les résultats des élections avaient été truqués. Mais ce fut tout. Des membres puissants de la communauté internationale, comme le gouvernement de la Belgique et des États-Unis, se sont précipités pour saluer le président élu, et la Communauté de l'Afrique de l'Est a félicité le Burundi pour avoir organisé des élections «pacifiques et réussies».

    À mon avis, le résultat des élections a finalement été accepté car beaucoup craignaient l'effusion de sang qui pourrait se produire si le rejet ouvert des résultats des élections par l'opposition était suivi de manifestations de rue.

    Quelles sont les chances que les résultats des élections conduisent à une amélioration de la démocratie et de l'espace civique?

    Il y a ceux qui disent croire qu’élire de nouveaux dirigeants est synonyme de démocratie. Le résultat des élections de mai 2020 a aidé le Burundi à changer le visage des hauts dirigeants et à montrer que le dictateur qui nous gouvernait depuis 15 ans ne dirige plus le pays. Cependant, les violations des droits humains qui ont eu lieu pendant la campagne électorale, la nomination de responsables sous sanctions économiques américaines ou européennes pour avoir commis des violations des droits humains et la rhétorique politique utilisée pour dépeindre certains pays et leurs dirigeants comme des colonialistes montrent que la démocratie au Burundi a encore un long chemin à parcourir.

    Cependant, certaines mesures de lutte contre la corruption et autres abus que le président Ndayishimiye a prises depuis son entrée en fonction laissent penser que l'impunité dont jouissaient certaines autorités locales sous le gouvernement Nkurunziza pourrait prendre fin.

    Beaucoup pensaient que le plan pour l'ancien président Nkurunziza était de continuer à détenir le pouvoir en coulisse. Les perspectives ont-elles changé à la suite de son décès?

    L'ancien président Nkurunziza est décédé subitement en juin, avant que son successeur ne prenne ses fonctions. Comme il y avait déjà un président élu, la Cour Constitutionnelle a décidé qu'il devait prêter serment deux mois à l'avance.

    Beaucoup pensaient que la mort de Nkurunziza permettrait au président Ndayishimiye de gouverner en toute indépendance, et il a semblé le confirmer dans son discours inaugural, où il a promis d'engager un large dialogue sur toutes les questions. Il est trop tôt pour s'assurer que le fait que Nkurunziza ait été exclu de l'équation permettra au nouveau gouvernement d'ouvrir l'espace civique et que le nouveau président saisira cette opportunité. Cependant, il est encourageant de voir que le nouveau président a déjà rencontré les dirigeants d'autres partis politiques, les anciens présidents du Burundi, les évêques catholiques et anglicans, et a promis de promouvoir le dialogue. Nous sommes impatients de voir si ses paroles se traduiront en action.

    Au même temps, cependant, le Ministre de l’intérieur a récemment publié une résolution visant à suspendre jusqu’à nouvel ordre l’enregistrement des nouvelles organisations de la société civile et des églises et la reconnaissance des nouvelles autorités des organisations existantes. Cette décision est incompatible avec le changement qu’on désire. Si elle est maintenue, elle empêchera la société civile de se développer et de devenir un interlocuteur légitime et publiquement reconnu.

    Que devrait faire la communauté internationale pour contribuer à améliorer l'espace civique au Burundi?

    Il est difficile de fixer des priorités, car il y a beaucoup de choses à mettre en place si le Burundi veut devenir une terre de liberté. Cependant, il serait vital d'impliquer le gouvernement du Burundi dans un dialogue multidimensionnel. La coopération internationale doit être relancée afin d’aider le gouvernement burundais à mettre fin à la pauvreté endémique. La communauté internationale doit plaider pour le rapatriement de tous les réfugiés, y compris ceux qui ont des ordres d'arrêt du gouvernement burundais, et assurer leur protection. Et elle doit également offrir sa médiation pour résoudre le conflit entre le Burundi et ses pays voisins, notamment le Rwanda, afin de faciliter la circulation des personnes et des biens et la restauration des relations diplomatiques.

    Si les priorités suggérées sont poursuivies, les autorités burundaises pourraient se rendre compte que le Burundi n’est pas isolé et que la communauté internationale n’agit pas pour saboter ses intérêts, mais plutôt pour renforcer les aspects positifs de la mondialisation dans tous les domaines.

    L'espace civique au Burundi est classé comme «fermé» par leCIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Carta abierta: La “recuperación” del Covid-19 debe impulsar la lucha contra la desigualdad

    La “recuperación” del Covid-19 debe impulsar la lucha contra la desigualdad

     

  • Carta abierta: Los donantes y colaboradores deben actuar para asegurar la resiliencia de la sociedad civil frente a la pandemia del COVID-19

    Estimados donantes y colaboradores de la sociedad civil,

    A medida que evoluciona la respuesta mundial a la pandemia de COVID-19, organizaciones de la sociedad civil de todo el mundo están adoptando medidas proactivas para proteger la salud y el bienestar de su personal y el de sus colaboradores. Entre estas medidas se incluyen los cambios en la estrategia, la reordenación de prioridades y los ajustes en la programación y la divulgación. Al mismo tiempo, la infraestructura de la sociedad civil está sometida a una visible e inmensa presión financiera. Los proyectos se han aplazado, los resultados se han retrasado y las energías se han desviado a la elaboración de planes alternativos. Se han cancelado grandes eventos con importantes pérdidas financieras. Los fondos se han redirigido (acertadamente) de las actividades que se habían planificado a medidas de respuesta para el COVID-19.  Las provisiones - en caso de que existan - son limitadas y pronto se agotarán.

    Para responder a estos retos extraordinarios se requiere flexibilidad en la forma de utilizar nuestras subvenciones. Nos fortalecen e inspiran particularmente los mensajes de apoyo que han lanzado donantes y colaboradores reafirmando su compromiso para permitir la máxima flexibilidad a quienes apoyan. Es un importante signo de confianza y reconocimiento del papel crucial que la sociedad civil y la acción cívica ocupan en nuestras sociedades, ahora más que nunca. 

    Hacemos un llamamiento a todos los donantes e intermediarios que prestan un apoyo esencial a la sociedad civil para que adopten enfoques similares ofreciendo la mayor flexibilidad, certidumbre y estabilidad posible a quienes reciben sus subvenciones así como a sus asociados.

    Éstas son cinco formas concretas para lograrlo:

    1. Escuchar a sus socios beneficiarios y explorar juntos la mejor manera de ayudarles a afrontar la crisis, confiando en que ellos son los que mejor saben lo que se necesita en sus propios contextos.
    2. Fomentar el rediseño y la reprogramación de las actividades planificadas y los productos finales y proporcionar una orientación clara sobre cómo buscar la aprobación de estos cambios.
    3. Apoyar formas nuevas y creativas de crear una cultura de solidaridad e interacción, respetando al mismo tiempo el distanciamiento físico y otras medidas de precaución. 
    4. Ofrecer mayor flexibilidad replanteando las cuotas de pago en función de las necesidades reales, convirtiendo las subvenciones de proyectos existentes en fondos no restringidos o añadiendo fondos adicionales para ayudar a acumular reservas o cubrir gastos imprevistos.
    5. Simplificar los procedimientos y plazos de presentación de informes y solicitudes, de modo que los grupos de la sociedad civil puedan dedicar mejor su tiempo, energía y recursos a prestar apoyo a los más vulnerables en lugar de cumplir pesados requisitos de presentación de informes y mecanismos de auditoría.

    CIVICUS continuará luchando por un sólido espacio cívico, incluyendo medidas que permitan a la sociedad civil movilizarse con y para los grupos más afectados por la pandemia del Coronavirus. En estos tiempos críticos, debemos alimentar el espacio cívico y a sus actores con recursos incrementando su relevancia y capacidad de recuperación, no reduciéndolas. También debemos ser conscientes de que el momento actual también podría ser aprovechado por algunos actores para restringir aún más el espacio cívico.

    Imaginen lo que podría suceder si todos los grupos y movimientos de la sociedad civil detienen o reducen repentinamente sus esfuerzos por llevarnos hacia un mundo más justo, inclusivo y sostenible. Imagínese ahora una comunidad mundial de ciudadanos informados, inspirados y comprometidos que se dediquen colectivamente a hacer frente a los desafíos a los que se enfrenta la humanidad, incluida la actual pandemia.  Debemos hacer lo que sea necesario para mantener una sociedad civil viva, vibrante y resistente.

    La forma en que enfrentemos esta pandemia tendrá profundas y duraderas repercusiones en la forma en que construyamos el futuro de nuestro mundo.

    Esta crisis puede abordarse con éxito mediante una cultura mundial de solidaridad y acción cívica, sustentada en una intensa cooperación, confianza y reparto de la carga. Y su papel, como financiadores y colaboradores de la sociedad civil, es fundamental para alcanzarlo.

     

  • Censorship and surveillance could be the biggest rights challenges post Covid-19

    By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS & Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Researcher

    Significant public attention in relation to Covid-19 has focused on the economic dimensions of the virus resulting in joblessness and deprivation on a monumental scale. But something else is severely under threat — civic space — basically the right to freely organise, participate and communicate in public life.

    Over the past few months, while health and economic concerns have taken public stage, insidious power grabs have been taking place, prompting the United Nation’s special expert on the right to privacy to warn that “dictatorships and authoritarian societies often start in the face of a threat”.

    Read on Mail & Guardian

     

Página 1 de 8