COVID-19

 

  • Coronavirus and European Civil Society

    By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

    European civil society is in a tug-of-war between restrictions, which may lead to the rise of a more fragile, authoritarian Europe, and resilience, which may suggest a more optimistic future in which civil society emerges stronger than before.

    A wave of civic resilience is sweeping across Europe. From online protests to symbolic messaging within the confines of physical distancing, activists are finding creative ways to fight back against perceived injustices amid restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The extent to which civil society can succeed in these efforts will determine what kind of Europe emerges from the pandemic.

    Read on Carnegie Europe

     

  • COVID-19 : Les gouvernements de la région MENA doivent prendre des mesures urgentes pour protéger la population carcérale

    À la lumière de la pandémie de COVID-19 − qualifiée « d'urgence de santé publique de portée internationale » par l'Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) − nous, les organisations soussignées, exprimons notre vive inquiétude quant à la situation des détenu·e·s et des prisonnier.e.s dans la région du Moyen-Orient et de l'Afrique du Nord (MENA). Si certains États de la région ont pris des mesures positives pour protéger la population dans son ensemble, la population carcérale reste particulièrement exposée à la propagation du virus.

    Plusieurs pays de la région MENA ont déjà des systèmes de santé surchargés, certains considérablement affaiblis par des années de conflit armé. Dans ces pays, les prisons et les centres de détention sont souvent surpeuplés, insalubres et souffrent d'un manque de ressources ; en conséquence, les détenu·e·s se voient régulièrement refuser un accès adéquat aux soins médicaux. Ces difficultés ne font que s'aggraver en période d'urgence sanitaire, exposant les personnes privées de liberté à des risques accrus, tout en accentuant la pression sur des infrastructures de santé en prison déjà fragilisées. De plus, les personnes en détention interagissent régulièrement avec les gardien·ne·s de prison, les policier·e·s et les professionnels de la santé qui sont en contact avec le monde extérieur. Ne pas protéger les prisonnier·e·s et le personnel pénitentiaire contre le COVID-19 peut avoir des conséquences négatives pour le reste de la population.

    En vertu du droit international relatif aux droits humains, tout individu a droit au meilleur état de santé physique et mentale susceptible d'être atteint. Les États ayant l'obligation de garantir la réalisation de ce droit sont tenus de veiller à ce que les détenu·e·s et les prisonnier·e·s soient traité·e·s humainement dans le respect de leur dignité et ne soient pas soumis·e·s à des traitements cruels, inhumains et dégradants. Les Règles Nelson Mandela exigent le respect du principe d’équivalence des soins, ce qui signifie que les personnes placées en milieu pénitentiaire doivent pouvoir bénéficier de soins de santé équivalents à ceux mis à disposition de la population civile générale. Cela ne change pas en période de pandémie.

    Bien que des restrictions, notamment sur les visites en prison, puissent être imposées pour freiner la propagation de maladies infectieuses comme le COVID-19, elles doivent respecter les principes de proportionnalité et de transparence. Toute mesure, y compris les libérations de prisonnier·e·s, doit être prise conformément à des critères clairs et transparents, sans discrimination.

    À la lumière de ce qui précède,

    Nous appelons les gouvernements de la région MENA à:

    (1) Rendre publiques les politiques et directives spécifiques à leur pays et, le cas échéant, les politiques et lignes directrices mises en place pour empêcher la propagation de COVID-19 dans les centres de détention, les prisons et les commissariats de police.

    (2) Partager leurs plans d’interventions d'urgence et dispenser une formation spécifique au personnel et aux autorités compétentes afin de garantir un accès suffisant et durable aux soins de santé et à l'hygiène.

    (3) Procéder à un examen approfondi de la population carcérale et, en conséquence, réduire leur population carcérale en ordonnant la libération immédiate:

    1. des détenu·e·s et prisonnier·e·s « à faible risque », y compris celles et ceux qui ont été condamné·e·s ou placé·e·s en détention préventive pour des infractions non violentes, les personnes placées en détention administrative ainsi que toute personne dont la détention continue ne peut être justifiée;
    2. des détenu·e·s et prisonnier·e·s particulièrement vulnérables au virus, y compris les personnes âgées et les personnes présentant un état médical sous-jacent grave, tel que des maladies pulmonaires et cardiaques, le diabète ou encore des maladies auto-immunes.

    (4) Permettre aux personnes actuellement en liberté surveillée de s'acquitter de leurs obligations depuis leur domicile.

    (5) Garantir que les personnes qui restent en détention:

    1. voient leur droit à la santé effectivement respecté en ayant pleinement accès aux soins médicaux nécessaires;
    2. aient accès au test du COVID-19 et à une assistance appropriée selon le principe d’équivalence des soins;
    3. disposent de moyens de communication et de possibilités d'accès au monde extérieur lorsque les visites en personne sont suspendues ;
    4. continuent de jouir de leur droit à une procédure régulière, y compris, sans s'y limiter, le droit de contester la légalité de leur détention, et leur droit de ne pas subir de retards qui rendraient leur détention arbitraire.

    Nous appelons l'Organisation mondiale de la santé, le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge et les titulaires de mandat au titre des procédures spéciales du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies à publier des déclarations publiques et des directives mettant en évidence les recommandations et les meilleures pratiques à l’attention de tous les gouvernements en matière de détention et d'emprisonnement en période de pandémie.

    Organisations signataires:

     

    ACAT - France (Action by Christians Against Torture)

    Access Now

    Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

    ALQST for Human Rights

    Arab Network for Knowledge about Human rights (ANKH)

    Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)

    ARCI (Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana)

    Association of Detainees and Missing in Sednaya Prison

    Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

    Bahrain Transparency Society

    Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

    CIVICUS

    Committee for Justice

    Democratic Transition and Human Rights support (DAAM Center)

    Digital Citizenship Organisation

    DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture

    Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

    Egyptian Human Rights Forum

    El Nadim Center

    HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual

    Human Rights First

    Initiative franco-égyptienne pour les droits les libertés (IFEDL)

    International Commission of Jurists

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    Kuwaiti Transparency Society

    Lebanese Centre For Human Rights

    medico international e.V., Germany

    MENA Rights Group

    Mwatana for Human Rights

    Physicians for Human Rights - Israel

    Project on Middle East Democracy

    Reprieve

    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

    Syrian Center For Legal Studies and Researches

    Syrian Network for Human Rights

    Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)

    UMAM Documentation & Research (MENA Prison Forum)

    Women's March Global

    World Organisation Against Torture

     

     

  • COVID-19 has presented opportunities and challenges for civil society

    Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19


     

    Thank you, Madame President; High Commissioner.

    The COVID 19 pandemic has presented opportunities and challenges for civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor, a research tool that provides real-time data on the state of civil society, has identified worrying trends which have undermined civic space, including, inter alia:

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship, notably in China and Brazil;
    • Detention of activists for disseminating critical information, for example in Iran and India;
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets in Niger, Honduras and Venezuela; and
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers, as in Hungary and Cambodia.

    Despite these barriers, we have seen civil society respond as a vital stakeholder in addressing the health and economic crisis precipitated by COVID-19.

    Community organisations are distributing food and delivering aid to people unable to work during lockdowns. CSOs are raising money for emergency relief, medical supplies and personal protective equipment for health workers. In India, CSOs have reportedly outperformed state government in providing humanitarian relief to migrant labourers and the poor in 13 states.

    Beyond relief efforts, rights groups are holding authorities to account. In Zimbabwe, the advocacy group Lawyers for Human Rights secured an urgent application to stop abuses by the country’s security forces.

    We thank the High Commissioner for recognising the fundamental role that an open civic space has in addressing emergencies. We echo her calls for states to refrain from using the crisis as an opportunity to crack down on critics. Indeed, in a time of crisis, participation of civil society is key to building back better. 


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • COVID-19 restrictions cannot set new precedents for civil society participation at the UN

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

     

    Madame President,

    The Vienna Declaration recognizes the important role of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of all human rights activities at national, regional and international levels, and emphasizes the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Governments and non-governmental organizations.

    In a time of crisis, civil society is vital to developing and implementing the solutions. The President’s Statement on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by this Council last month, reaffirms this.

    We fully understand that the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation. Indeed, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing restrictions on participation worldwide with closing spaces on assembly, association and movement. Numerous countries have enacted emergency legislation which serve to stifle criticism and curtail freedom of the press. Not only do these measures counter the principles enshrined in the Vienna Declaration, they inhibit our collective ability to forge collective solutions.

    It is crucial that civil society voices are not excluded from the Council. That all those who are affected by the decisions made in this room are fully able to participate – virtually or otherwise. This is particularly the case for our civil society colleagues in the global south, who face intersectional barriers to participation.

    The Human Rights Council must lead by example and set the highest standards on civil society space and participation, including through its working methods, by ensuring a process that is accessible, transparent, inclusive and responsive to civil society voices.

    We urge Human Rights Council members and observers to make every effort to ensure that restrictions on participation do not set new precedents at the Council which would make it less effective and less inclusive, hindering its ability to address human rights.

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Child Rights Connect
    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    Humanists International
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Service for Human Rights
    Save the Children
    Sexual Rights Initiative
    World Organisation Against Torture


    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • COVID-19 Used as Smokescreen to Undermine Gender Rights Globally

    By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

    Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sexual and reproductive rights are being attacked globally: LGBTQI+ persons are facing heightened discrimination, women find themselves trapped indoors with the perpetrators of domestic violence, and access to abortion is being restricted.

    Not only have most governments failed to respond to the crisis through a gendered lens, deepening already harmful gender inequalities, but many have used the crisis as an opportunity to introduce laws that threaten to have a detrimental long-term effect on gender rights. In some cases, especially where far-right governments are in power, political leaders are using the opportunity to further push their anti-rights agenda.

    Read on Women's Media Center

     

  • COVID-19: ‘Los refugiados pagaron un precio mayor en una crisis que se creyó que afectaba a todos por igual’

    CIVICUS conversa sobre la situación de los refugiados del clima y los crecientes desafíos enfrentados durante la pandemia del COVID-19 con Amali Tower, fundadora y directora ejecutiva de Climate Refugees. Fundada en 2015, Climate Refugees defiende los derechos de las personas desplazadas y obligadas a migrar, incluso a través de las fronteras, como consecuencia del cambio climático. Documenta sus casos para arrojar luz sobre las brechas de protección y los vacíos legales y aboga por la adopción de soluciones con perspectiva de derechos humanos y la creación de normas y políticas que protejan a las personas afectadas por la migración y el desplazamiento impulsados por el cambio climático.

    Amali Tower

    Su organización se llama Climate Refugees (“refugiados del clima”) aunque actualmente el término no tiene respaldo en el derecho internacional. ¿A qué se debe esta elección? ¿Piensa que esta categoría debería ser oficialmente reconocida?

    Es verdad, el concepto no existe en el derecho internacional, pero los factores que impulsan la migración están cada vez más entrelazados, como se ha observado en el caso de las personas refugiadas y desplazadas internamente por efecto de conflictos y persecuciones. No es diferente en el contexto de la migración climática, que para millones de personas no es un problema puramente ambiental, sino una cuestión de justicia. Para muchas poblaciones que dependen de la tierra, los cambios climáticos tienen efectos sobre la supervivencia y los medios de vida, con impactos que exceden con creces lo individual, ya que afectan a la familia, la comunidad, la producción y las empresas locales. De modo que, antes de ser un factor que contribuye a la migración, el clima es un factor que durante años provoca profundas pérdidas y sufrimientos, se expresa en pérdidas económicas y tiene ramificaciones políticas. Esto se observa, por ejemplo, entre los agricultores de subsistencia del África subsahariana, de América Central y de muchas otras regiones. En este contexto, una persona desplazada por los impactos del cambio climático es al mismo tiempo desplazada por factores económicos y políticos, dado que en muchos países la situación política y los sistemas económicos tienen una gran vinculación con la situación del medio ambiente.

    Además, es importante recordar que los impactos del cambio climático y la migración y el desplazamiento provocados por el clima no son riesgos futuros. Se trata de una realidad que muchas personas ya están experimentando, y que se está manifestando en algunos de los sitios más frágiles del mundo y está siendo padecida por poblaciones empobrecidas y vulnerables que casi no han tenido responsabilidad alguna en la generación del cambio climático.

    Por eso abordamos el tema como una cuestión de igualdad y justicia. Habiendo trabajado durante mucho tiempo en la protección de personas refugiadas, habiendo entrevistado y proporcionado servicios a innumerables refugiados que huían del conflicto y la persecución, como lo establece la definición legal, soy plenamente consciente de la controversia y la reacción que esto puede provocar. Me costó tomar esta decisión, pero en última instancia, no pude reconciliar la definición legal con años de testimonios de personas que huían por razones diversas y que resaltaban entre sus motivaciones el impacto de años de devastación ambiental más que la guerra que todos sabíamos que estaba ocurriendo.

    De modo que finalmente nos decidimos por el término “refugiados climáticos” o “refugiados del clima” para provocar una discusión. Para enfatizar la responsabilidad política por el cambio climático. Para generar conciencia sobre los dispares impactos del cambio climático, que sobre algunas personas son letales. Para contribuir a las políticas públicas, provocarlas y desafiarlas. Para subrayar las necesidades escuchando la voz de las personas afectadas y para ayudarles a conseguir protección legal. En definitiva, para presentar esto como una cuestión de igualdad.

    En el terreno de las migraciones hay mucha discusión –hay quienes dirían que confusión- en materia de terminología. No hay consenso sobre los términos apropiados, por lo que se utilizan términos diversos, tales como “migración inducida por el clima” y “migrantes ambientales”.

    Creo que debemos tener cuidado de no simplificar el mensaje. Pero tampoco debemos emplear una terminología demasiado técnica sobre los temas de fondo y el sufrimiento que tantas personas de carne y hueso están experimentando. Debemos ayudar a los formuladores de políticas y a la ciudadanía a comprender que toda situación compleja supone una cantidad de factores coadyuvantes. A menudo las personas se han trasladado, convirtiéndose en refugiadas, como consecuencia de conflictos y sequías; basta con mirar el caso de Somalia. Otras personas se trasladan en busca de seguridad y mejores oportunidades para ganarse la vida, como lo estamos viendo en el caso de Centroamérica.

    Debemos dejar en claro que la línea divisoria entre migración “forzada” y “voluntaria” es a menudo malinterpretada, si es que no se trata de una falsa dicotomía.

    En resumen, utilizamos la expresión “refugiados del clima” para llamar la atención sobre la responsabilidad política de los países ricos y de ciertas industrias a la hora de garantizar acceso a la justicia, compensación, protección e igualdad en todos los niveles, porque las soluciones también deben ser multifacéticas.

    ¿Qué tipo de trabajo hace Climate Refugees?

    Climate Refugees es una organización de investigación e incidencia que produce informes a partir del trabajo de campo y se involucra en la formulación de políticas para examinar el cambio climático a través de una lente humana y ayudar a incluir y amplificar las voces de las comunidades cuyos medios de vida y seguridad han sido afectados y que han sido desplazadas u obligadas a migrar. De lo contrario, la conversación sobre el cambio climático seguiría siendo fría y abstracta, en vez de centrarse en los impactos que tiene sobre comunidades enteras y sobre seres humanos de carne y hueso.

    Además de producir informes en los sitios críticos de desplazamiento climático, educamos y contribuimos a generar conciencia acerca de los impactos del cambio climático sobre la movilidad humana en tiempo real y en formas no siempre exploradas, a través de dos publicaciones: EN FOCO: El desplazamiento climático en las noticias (SPOTLIGHT: Climate Displacement in the News) que, como su nombre lo indica, es un resumen actual de noticias globales y análisis de expertos acerca de los impactos del cambio climático sobre las migraciones, los derechos humanos, las leyes y políticas, los conflictos y la seguridad; y PERSPECTIVAS: El desplazamiento climático en el terreno (PERSPECTIVES: Climate Displacement in the Field), que incluye artículos sobre una variedad de temas relacionados con las migraciones y los desplazamientos inducidos por el clima, con opiniones de expertos e historias en primera persona.

    El objetivo que perseguimos con estas publicaciones es ofrecer información y presentar historias de personas migrantes y desplazadas y análisis experto a través de una lente de justicia climática que resalte los impactos desproporcionados del cambio climático sobre las poblaciones marginadas y desfavorecidas que son las menos responsables del cambio climático. Creo que, en gran medida, fundé esta organización para poder tener la conversación que creo que muchos de nosotros queremos tener, en torno de la idea de que estamos ante todo frente a una cuestión de justicia e igualdad y de que nuestras soluciones deberían derivarse de esa constatación.

    ¿Se han visto las personas refugiadas por el clima particularmente afectadas por la pandemia del COVID-19 y las restricciones derivadas de ella? ¿Qué se está haciendo al respecto?

    La pandemia del COVID-19 proporciona un buen ejemplo de un aumento de las violaciones de derechos en un contexto de crisis, y una refutación enfática de la afirmación de que “estamos todos en el mismo barco”. Las personas migrantes y refugiadas ciertamente pagaron un precio más alto durante una pandemia global que muchos creyeron que afectaba a todos los seres humanos por igual. Es difícil lograr mantener la distancia social cuando se es una persona desplazada que vive en condiciones de hacinamiento en un asentamiento, ya sea formal o informal, urbano o rural, ya sea que se trate de un campamento de refugiados o de viviendas provisorias para migrantes. A las personas migrantes y refugiadas les fueron negados la libertad de movimiento, el derecho a la salud y el derecho a la información en un grado más alto que a otras poblaciones, y experimentaron más impedimentos para acceder a sus derechos.

    No se trata de señalar a ningún país en particular, porque el punto es que las poblaciones vulnerables que durante la pandemia deberían haber recibido mayores protecciones, en casi todas partes se volvieron, por el contrario, más vulnerables. En el Líbano, las personas refugiadas fueron sometidas a restricciones más estrictas de toque de queda, que incluso impidieron su acceso a tratamiento médico. En el asentamiento de refugiados de Cox’s Bazar, en Bangladesh, las personas refugiadas rohingya fueron forzadas a permanecer en el campamento y se les negaron los derechos a la comunicación y a la salud. En muchos países donde se hacinan en viviendas precarias, como ocurre en Malasia, muchas personas migrantes fueron detenidas. Estados Unidos les negó a las personas solicitantes de asilo el derecho a solicitar asilo y violó el principio de no devolución, retornándolas a la frontera sin audiencia previa, deportando a solicitantes de asilo cuyos tests de COVID-19 dieron positivo y exportando en ese acto el virus a Haití y a Centroamérica. Estados Unidos continúa deteniendo a miles de personas, mayoritariamente procedentes de Centroamérica, que huyen no solamente de la violencia y la persecución sino también de los impactos del cambio climático, negándoles la libertad de movimiento y, posiblemente, en algunos casos también los derechos a buscar asilo, al debido proceso y a la salud.

    Cuando el ciclón Amphan estaba a punto de azotar la Bahía de Bengala en mayo de 2020, en el punto más álgido de la pandemia, las poblaciones de las zonas afectadas fueron reubicadas antes del desastre, lo cual salvó vidas, pero también significó que el distanciamiento social no se pudo implementar en el contexto del desplazamiento y la vulnerabilidad frente al virus pasó a ser una gran preocupación.

    Me temo que la situación no será diferente a medida que la crisis climática empeore. Ésta afectará de manera desproporcionada a las poblaciones más vulnerables del mundo y, una vez más, nos encontraremos en una situación en la que debería ser pertinente pensar que estamos todos en el mismo barco, pero nuevamente nos daremos cuenta de que algunos de nosotros tenemos los medios para escapar de la peor parte de los impactos del cambio climático, mientras que otros cuentan con protecciones sociales limitadas mientras que muchos otros, que ya están en la pobreza extrema y al margen de la sociedad, caerán más abajo y no podrán huir de los múltiples impactos en todos los niveles.

    ¿Está el tema del desplazamiento climático recibiendo suficiente atención? ¿Se ha logrado algún progreso en la conformación de un marco legal internacional que proteja a las personas desplazadas por el cambio climático?

    Sin duda, estamos viendo que los medios prestan más atención a los impactos del cambio climático, entre ellos las migraciones. Pero a medida que el tema se convierte en parte de la conversación cotidiana, también existe la posibilidad de que se pierdan matices importantes. Yo diría que se han logrado algunos avances en el área del desplazamiento climático, es decir, de los desplazamientos que se producen como resultado de desastres tales como inundaciones y tormentas. Tenemos datos que nos dicen cuántas personas son desplazadas cada año por desastres -un promedio de alrededor de 25 millones- y comprendemos mejor la naturaleza y las determinaciones causales de estos desplazamientos.

    Pero la migración climática es mucho más complicada, ya que los factores que impulsan esta migración, ya sea interna o a través de las fronteras, están cada vez más entrelazados. Y cuando hay múltiples factores en juego, es difícil desentrañar qué papel juega cada uno de ellos, o en qué medida el fenómeno resultante, en este caso la migración, puede atribuirse a una causa determinada, en este caso al cambio climático. La ciencia y la tecnología en el área de la atribución climática están mejorando, lo que permite a los expertos determinar cada vez mejor la medida en que el cambio climático es un factor relevante en cada situación. Pero en términos generales, en muchas partes del mundo el medio ambiente también es un problema económico y político, por lo que por el momento es correcto afirmar que el cambio climático está contribuyendo grandemente a las migraciones.

    Dicho esto, gran parte de la discusión sobre el marco legal se estanca en conversaciones que giran en torno del hecho de que las migraciones son en gran parte internas, así como en proyecciones de desplazamientos apocalípticas. El sistema internacional duda en impulsar conversaciones que conviertan aún más a las migraciones en un tema de seguridad y los estados se resisten a asumir compromisos que brinden mayores protecciones a las personas migrantes o refugiadas.

    Entonces, por ahora los avances se limitan a compromisos no vinculantes por parte de los estados bajo la forma Pacto Mundial para una Migración Segura, Ordenada y Regular, que incluye algunas medidas relacionadas con la migración ambiental a través de las fronteras. La Plataforma sobre Desplazamiento por Desastres es una iniciativa liderada por estados que hace un buen trabajo a la hora de proteger a las personas desplazadas a través de las fronteras a causa de desastres y del cambio climático.

    A principios de este año el Comité de Derechos Humanos de la ONU decidió revisar el caso de una persona de Kiribati que afirmaba ser “refugiada climática”. Había llevado su caso ante dicho órgano de derechos humanos con el argumento de que el hecho de que Nueva Zelanda denegara su solicitud de asilo violaba su derecho a la vida en virtud del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos. La ONU estableció que los países no pueden deportar a personas que enfrentan condiciones inducidas por el cambio climático que violan su derecho a la vida.

    ¿Qué debería hacerse para que el problema sea no solamente reconocido sino también mitigado?

    Hay quienes temen que alertar sobre una inminente crisis migratoria provocada por el cambio climático podría tener el efecto de alimentar la hostilidad y la xenofobia contra las personas migrantes y refugiadas. Si bien entiendo el argumento y reconozco que el riesgo es real, también creo que es igualmente cierto que, para las personas xenófobas y hostiles hacia migrantes y refugiados, cuál sea el motivo que lleva a la gente a migrar no es relevante. De modo que cuando hablamos de estas cosas debemos preocuparnos por encontrar un delicado equilibrio, ya que realmente no sabemos cómo resultará, pero lo que sí sabemos es que las trayectorias y las perspectivas no suelen ser tan buenas, falta voluntad política y la cuestión no suele abordarse desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos enfocada en la protección de las comunidades afectadas, entre ellas las personas migrantes. En ese sentido, no se trata de ser alarmistas con los números, sino más bien de hacer sonar la alarma respecto de la necesidad de hacer mejor las cosas para llenar vacíos vitales en materia de derechos y protecciones.

    Se suele poner demasiado el acento en cómo no deberíamos llamar a estas personas, cómo no deberíamos enmarcar el tema, pero en cambio no se presta suficiente atención a cómo deberíamos proteger a las poblaciones vulnerables.

    Los países que ya tenían un problema de pobreza extrema ahora están luchando también contra condiciones climáticas extremas, y hay en este punto una enorme injusticia subyacente, en la medida en que no se reconoce que el cambio climático no fue provocado por todos por igual, y que sus impactos tampoco serán experimentados por todos por igual.

    Se podría hacer mucho más en materia de adaptación. La adaptación es muy costosa y los países que soportan el grueso de los impactos del cambio climático no están en condiciones de asumir también sus costos financieros. Muchos expertos regionales afirman que gran parte de la financiación internacional que se les destina se centra en la mitigación de los efectos del cambio climático más que en la adaptación.

    Tenemos que desarrollar la resiliencia de las comunidades para resistir los efectos del cambio climático y, en algunos contextos, esto también podría suponer la construcción de instituciones de gobernanza, instituciones públicas y capacidades para resistir frente a las fuertes presiones de los impactos del cambio climático sobre las sociedades.

    La adaptación puede requerir innovación, desarrollo de infraestructura y cambios sociales, todo lo cual puede ser muy costoso, y la planificación de la adaptación debe respetar los derechos humanos y habilitar opciones, incluida la opción de migrar, que tampoco es necesariamente una “opción” enteramente voluntaria. El punto es que el establecimiento de caminos seguros para migrar, cuando las condiciones no permiten que la gente se quede, es una forma de salvaguardar los derechos humanos de las poblaciones afectadas por el cambio climático.

    ¿Se están estableciendo suficientes conexiones entre los esfuerzos de promoción de los derechos de migrantes y refugiados y el activismo climático?

    Desde mi perspectiva, daría la impresión de que existen pocas conexiones entre estos dos movimientos y pienso que hay un gran potencial para una labor de incidencia conjunta más fuerte. Por ejemplo, el solo hecho de ampliar la conversación sobre la migración climática y convertirla en el debate de un movimiento más que en una conversación sobre investigación y política pública, sería un paso adelante en el involucramiento de la ciudadanía en una cuestión que me temo que para mucha gente es demasiado difícil de entender, por no decir de abordar.

    Al mismo tiempo, existe un público preocupado e interesado que desea ser parte de la solución. De modo que, al mismo tiempo que tratamos de contribuir a las políticas públicas, nos esforzamos para que la información sea más accesible de modo de poder involucrar y unir al movimiento con la ciudadanía para abordar el problema como una cuestión de justicia climática, ya que así es como lo vemos.

    Contáctese con Climate Refugees a través de supágina web, su cuenta deInstagram o su perfil deFacebook, y siga a@Climate_Refugee y a@TowerAmali en Twitter.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘Necesitamos políticas públicas que reduzcan y redistribuyan el trabajo de cuidado no remunerado’

    CIVICUS conversa acerca de los impactos de la pandemia del COVID-19 sobre las desigualdades de género y las respuestas formuladas por la sociedad civil con Gala Díaz Langou, directora del Programa de Protección Social del Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC). CIPPEC es una organización de la sociedad civil argentina dedicada a la producción de conocimiento y recomendaciones para la elaboración de políticas públicas orientadas al desarrollo, la equidad, la inclusión, la igualdad de oportunidades y la eficacia y solidez de las instituciones.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘Necesitamos un nuevo contrato social basado en los derechos y en la prosperidad compartida’

    Owen TudorCIVICUS conversa sobre el impacto de la pandemia de COVID-19 y las medidas de emergencia sobre los derechos laborales, y sobre la respuesta brindada por la sociedad civil, con Owen Tudor, Secretario General Adjunto de la Confederación Sindical Internacional (CSI). Reconocida como la voz global de los y las trabajadoras de todo el mundo, la CSI trabaja para promover y defender los derechos e intereses de las personas trabajadoras a través de la cooperación internacional entre sindicatos, la realización de campañas globales y la incidencia en las principales instituciones mundiales. La CSI adhiere a los principios de democracia e independencia sindical y agrupa a tres organizaciones regionales de África, las Américas y Asia y el Pacífico, al tiempo que coopera con la Confederación Europea de Sindicatos.

    ¿Cuáles han sido los principales impactos de la pandemia de COVID-19 sobre los derechos laborales?

    La CSI recogió información de sus centrales sindicales nacionales afiliadas en forma regular durante los primeros meses de la pandemia y rápidamente entendió que, si bien en muchos países se observaban relaciones constructivas entre el gobierno y los sindicatos, en otros ello no ocurría. En muchos países como los de Escandinavia y el resto de Europa, y a menudo sobre la base de formas ya existentes de diálogo social, gobiernos, empleadores y sindicatos trabajaron juntos para desarrollar medidas para hacer frente a la pandemia y a sus efectos en los lugares de trabajo. Eso también sucedió en algunos países donde dicha cooperación ha sido más infrecuente, como Argentina, Georgia, Nigeria y el Reino Unido. A nivel global, la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) destacó la importancia del diálogo social como uno de los cuatro pilares de la acción contra la pandemia, junto con el estímulo de la economía y el empleo, el apoyo a las empresas, el empleo y los ingresos, y la protección de los trabajadores en el lugar de trabajo.

    Pero en algunos países, empleadores deshonestos y gobiernos neoliberales pensaron que podrían usar la pandemia para restringir los derechos de trabajadores y sindicatos, pasando por alto los límites al tiempo de trabajo o la seguridad del empleo. En países como Croacia y Lituania, hicimos campaña en apoyo de nuestras organizaciones afiliadas para evitar esos cambios, pero no en todas partes tuvimos éxito. En India, por ejemplo, los gobiernos estaduales implementaron una desregulación generalizada de las protecciones laborales.

    ¿Se han producido cambios en la forma de trabajo de los sindicatos?

    En demasiados países se perdieron puestos de trabajo y se disparó el desempleo. Esto inevitablemente ha tenido un impacto sobre la organización sindical. Pero en varios países, incluidos algunos que habían experimentado reducciones en la tasa de afiliación sindical en el pasado reciente y otros donde la membresía sindical seguía siendo fuerte, el papel clave desempeñado por los sindicatos en defensa del empleo y el salario y su campaña por una cobertura de salud decente y seguridad en el trabajo resultaron en un aumento de la afiliación. En pocas palabras, los trabajadores vieron con mayor claridad la importancia de afiliarse a un sindicato para recibir protección frente a los malos manejos empresariales y las violaciones de sus derechos más fundamentales.

    En algunos casos, la pandemia ha acelerado la experiencia de la organización virtual, a través de Zoom u otras plataformas de internet. Y en algunos casos estas tecnologías han llevado a los militantes sindicales a cambiar su punto de vista, pasando de concentrarse en explicar los beneficios de la afiliación a escuchar lo que quieren los potenciales afiliados. Esto no hizo más que acelerar una tendencia preexistente al desplazamiento de la idea de ofrecer a la gente un modelo que resuelva sus problemas hacia la idea de permitir que los y las trabajadoras definan qué es lo que mejor funciona para ellos. Como lo expresó un líder sindical australiano, “finalmente comenzamos a contactar a nuestros miembros en la forma en que ellos querían ser contactados”.

    ¿Cómo han trabajado los sindicatos para defender derechos y apoyar a sus afiliados y a sus comunidades durante la pandemia?

    El trabajo cotidiano de los sindicatos se intensificó con la pandemia. Los sindicatos representaron a trabajadores bajo amenaza de despido, presionaron para obtener indemnizaciones adecuadas, buscaron un mayor acceso a la seguridad social, y plantearon las preocupaciones de las mujeres trabajadoras, que enfrentaron una discriminación aún mayor, y las de los y las trabajadores migrantes, a quienes les era negada la igualdad de acceso y de trato. En muchos casos, los sindicatos obtuvieron avances que antes no eran considerados posibles; ahora debemos defender esos logros para el largo plazo.

    Los sindicatos han trabajado activamente con instituciones internacionales como el Fondo Monetario Internacional y la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS), con gobiernos nacionales de todos los continentes y con empleadores desde el piso de fábrica hasta la sala de directorio de las multinacionales para garantizar la protección de los y las trabajadoras y sus empleos. Desde la negociación de planes nacionales de trabajo a corto plazo en Alemania, hasta la búsqueda de garantías para asegurar el respeto de los contratos en la industria global de la confección y la organización de políticas sectoriales para el regreso seguro al lugar de trabajo en Bélgica, los sindicatos se han estado rompiendo la espalda para garantizar que se reconozcan los intereses de los y las trabajadoras. Lamentablemente, cada vez que nos llega información acerca de la transmisión comunitaria del COVID-19, ésta suele referirse a casos ocurridos en el lugar de trabajo, por ejemplo en la industria hotelera y gastronómica, en la atención de la salud o en plantas de procesamiento de carne. Los sindicatos han subrayado la necesidad de que la salud ocupacional sea considerada tan importante como la salud pública y de que incluya la provisión de equipos de protección personal y el acceso a licencia paga por enfermedad.

    Los sindicatos también han estado negociando ferozmente con los empleadores para detener los despidos, los cuales se han producido, vergonzosamente, incluso en empresas que fueron rescatadas con dinero de los contribuyentes. En algunos países, la ley ha impedido a los empleadores despedir trabajadores. Hemos negociado acuerdos para el trabajo domiciliario, que se está volviendo cada vez más común aún tras el retroceso de la pandemia. En Argentina los sindicatos negociaron una nueva ley de teletrabajo que aportó innovaciones tales como la de dar a los y las trabajadoras la oportunidad de decidir si quieren volver a sus lugares de trabajo.

    ¿Qué ha revelado la pandemia en relación con los problemas económicos y laborales subyacentes y los cambios que deberían producirse?

    Incluso antes de la pandemia de COVID-19, la desigualdad masiva, incluidas las disparidades de ingresos, la injusticia racial y la discriminación de género, ya estaba motorizando una indignación que se traducía en disturbios civiles y desconfianza hacia la democracia. Si a ello se le suma la destrucción resultante de los fenómenos meteorológicos extremos provocados por el cambio climático, los riesgos para las economías y las sociedades ya eran evidentes. Adicionalmente, enfrentamos disyuntivas asociadas a los impactos positivos y negativos de la tecnología en ausencia de una perspectiva de derechos.

    La pandemia ha puesto de relieve las fisuras que ya estaban presentes en el contrato social. La inadecuada provisión de atención médica hizo que las primeras semanas de la pandemia fueran particularmente preocupantes, ya que se temía que los hospitales no dieran abasto. Similares brechas de financiamiento en materia de cuidado de las personas mayores y disposiciones laborales abusivas requerían que los y las trabajadoras se trasladaran entre instalaciones residenciales y no pudieran tomar licencia por enfermedad cuando mostraban síntomas. La inseguridad del empleo y la insuficiente protección social obligaron a muchas personas a seguir trabajando estando infectadas para poder poner comida en la mesa familiar. El hecho de que no se les proporcionara el equipo de protección personal adecuado fue apenas el signo más visible de los déficits en materia de salud y seguridad ocupacional.

    Para la economía en su conjunto, las nefastas predicciones de la OIT respecto de la pérdida de cientos de millones de puestos de trabajo en la fuerza laboral formal se vieron eclipsadas por el número de trabajadores y trabajadoras del sector informal que perdieron sus medios de vida. En cada una de estas áreas de falla sistémica, fueron las mujeres las que más padecieron la precariedad del empleo y gozaron de menores protecciones para su salud, y las que más se vieron afectadas por situaciones de confinamiento que obligaron a muchas a asumir la carga adicional del cuidado infantil no remunerado y arrojaron a algunas a la trampa de la violencia y el abuso.

    Necesitamos reconstruir una realidad mejor, que incluya un nuevo contrato social que impulse la recuperación y la resiliencia brindando protección y garantías laborales universales, tanto para el empleado de tiempo completo de Amazon como para el precarizado conductor de Uber. La salud y la seguridad en el trabajo deben convertirse en derechos laborales tan fundamentales como el derecho a no ser esclavizado y el derecho de huelga. Necesitamos servicios públicos de salud, educación y agua de calidad y con financiación adecuada, como parte de un mecanismo de protección social universal. Y necesitamos regular el poder económico, imponiendo la libertad de asociación y el derecho a la negociación colectiva, salarios mínimos dignos y obligación de debida diligencia en materia de derechos humanos y normas ambientales en las cadenas de suministro.

    Los sindicatos y los millones de afiliados que representamos pueden ayudar a lograr todo esto a través de la negociación colectiva con sus empleadores, el diálogo social con sus gobiernos y la participación en instituciones internacionales y multilaterales.

    ¿Qué deberían hacer los gobiernos y las empresas para trabajar mejor con los sindicatos, y qué rol podría desempeñar la comunidad internacional?

    Los gobiernos y las empresas deben reconocer el rol fundamental de representación de los trabajadores que desempeñan los sindicatos, no solamente en las elecciones o cuando se negocian acuerdos salariales, sino durante todo el año y en todos los recovecos de la economía. Deben respetar los derechos y libertades fundamentales que los sindicatos necesitan para funcionar, incluidos la libertad de asociación, el derecho a negociar colectivamente y el derecho de huelga. Cuando toman decisiones que afectan a millones, si es que no a cientos de millones de personas, deben respetar el principio que reza “nada sobre nosotros sin nosotros”, lo cual significa que deben trabajar mano a mano con los sindicatos.

    Al mismo tiempo, estamos frente a una crisis del multilateralismo, a menudo impulsada por políticos nacionalistas y populistas, pero también resultante del colapso de la confianza pública en la globalización impulsada por el comportamiento rapaz y motivado por el lucro de las corporaciones multinacionales globales y las poderosas empresas de tecnología.

    El mundo enfrenta una convergencia de varias crisis; sin embargo, las instituciones globales establecidas para apuntalar y reforzar los derechos, la igualdad, el crecimiento inclusivo y la estabilidad global están en su punto de mayor fractura. Es necesario reforzarlas y reenfocarlas para que respondan a las necesidades de los seres humanos y del planeta.

    La OMS ha demostrado ser necesaria a la hora de dar una respuesta global al COVID-19, pero aun así, es necesario asegurar que los riesgos para la salud se gestionen sobre la base de la ciencia y se provea acceso universal al tratamiento, sin compromisos políticos.

    La Organización Mundial del Comercio preside un modelo comercial global que nos ha fallado tanto a los seres humanos como al medio ambiente. Y las instituciones de Bretton Woods se han desviado de sus mandatos al promover la reforma estructural neoliberal y las políticas de austeridad, los intereses de los países dominantes y la codicia empresarial. Esto debe cambiar.

    La OIT, con su sistema tripartito único, es tan necesaria hoy como lo era cuando dio origen a un contrato social basado en un mandato de justicia social. Las partes involucradas deben estar hoy tan comprometidas con la garantía de un piso global de derechos y prosperidad compartida como lo estuvieron sus fundadores 100 años atrás, en 1919, y como lo reafirmó la Declaración de Filadelfia en 1944.

    Trabajando con nuestros aliados en la sociedad civil, los sindicatos queremos construir un nuevo contrato social basado en esos principios. De lograrlo, podremos crear una mejor economía, una mejor sociedad y un mundo mejor.

    Contáctese con la Confederación Sindical Internacional a través de susitio web o su página deFacebook, y siga a@ituc y a@Owen4ituc en Twitter.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘Refugees paid a heavier price during a crisis that many believed impacted on us all equally’

    CIVICUS speaks about the situation of climate refugees and increasing challenges under the COVID-19 pandemic with Amali Tower, founder and executive director of Climate Refugees. Founded in 2015, Climate Refugees defends the rights of people displaced and forced to migrate, including across borders, as a result of climate change. It documents their cases to shed light on protection gaps and legal voids and advocates for human rights-based solutions and the creation of legal norms and policies that protect people affected by climate-driven migration and displacement.

    Amali Tower

    Your organisation is called ‘Climate Refugees’, although the term is currently not supported by international law. Why is that? Do you think this is something that should be officially recognised?

    You’re right, the concept does not exist in international law, but drivers of migration are increasingly intertwined, as has been the case in the context of refugee flows and internal displacement resulting from conflict and persecution. It’s no different in the context of climate migration, except that for so many millions, this isn’t purely an environmental issue – it’s a justice issue. For many populations dependent on the land, climate changes have impacts on survival and livelihood, with impacts beyond the individual, to the family, community, local livelihoods, business and so on. If climate is a factor that contributes to migration, it is likely after years of causing deep losses and suffering, intertwined with economic losses and impacts as well as political ramifications. For instance, we can see this playing out among subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and many other regions. In this context, someone displaced by the impacts of climate change is also displaced by economic and political factors because the political situation and economic systems in many of these countries are deeply embedded in the environment.

    Further, it’s important to remember that climate change impacts and climate migration and displacement aren’t future risks. They are a reality for many right now, and that reality is playing out in some of the most fragile places in the world for the most impoverished and vulnerable populations who had very little to role in contributing to climate change in the first place.

    This is why we approach this as an issue of equality and justice. Coming from a refugee protection background where I interviewed and provided services to countless refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, based on the legal definition, I’m wholly aware of the controversy and backlash this may cause. I agonised about this decision, but ultimately, I couldn’t reconcile the definition with years of testimonies from people fleeing multiple drivers, who referred to years of environmental devastation at home more than to the war we all knew was ongoing.

    So ultimately, I settled on the term ‘climate refugees’ to provoke conversation. To emphasise the political responsibility of climate change. To raise awareness of its ability to impact on, one might even say persecute, some people more than others. To contribute, provoke and challenge policy. To highlight the needs by giving voice to those affected and to help seek their legal protection. Ultimately, to present this as an issue of equality.

    There’s a lot of discussion, and some might even say confusion, in the migration field about terminology. There is no consensus on appropriate terms so there are many terms being used, like climate-induced migration, environmental migrants and others.

    I think we have to be cautious to not simplify the message. Nor be too clinical in our terminology about the underlying issues and very real suffering millions are bearing. We need to help policy-makers and the public understand there are mixed drivers in complex situations. Refugees have often moved as a result of conflict and drought – just look at Somalia. Others may move to seek safety and better livelihood opportunities, as we are seeing in Central America.

    We need to make clear that the line between ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ migration is often misunderstood, if not false.

    In sum, we use the term ‘climate refugees’ to draw attention to the political responsibility of rich countries, certain industries and others to ensure fairness, compensation, protection and equality on many levels, because the solutions must also be multi-faceted.

    What kind of work does Climate Refugees do? 

    Climate Refugees is a research and advocacy organisation that generates field reports and engages in policy-making to view climate change through a human lens and help include and amplify the voices of communities whose livelihoods and security have been impacted on and who have been displaced or forced to migrate. The climate change conversation can otherwise remain largely abstract and clinical, rather than focused on its impacts on real human beings and entire communities.

    Alongside producing field reports from climate displacement hotspots, we provide education and raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on human mobility right now and in ways not necessarily always explored, through two publications: SPOTLIGHT: Climate Displacement in the News, which, as the name implies, is a roundup of global news and expert analysis of climate change impacts on migration, human rights, law and policy, conflict, security and so on, and PERSPECTIVES: Climate Displacement in the Field, which includes features on a variety of topics related to climate-induced migration and displacement, featuring expert commentary and stories from people on the move.

    Our aim with these publications is to be informative and provide stories from people on the move and expert analysis through a climate justice lens that highlights the disproportionate impacts of climate change on marginalised and disenfranchised populations who are the least responsible for climate change. I think a large part of why I formed this organisation is to have the conversation I think many of us want to have – that this is primarily an issue of justice and equality and our solutions need to keep that focus front and centre.

    Have climate refugees been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions? What is being done about it? 

    The COVID-19 pandemic provides a good example of rights violations increasing during a crisis – and an emphatic disproof of the assertion that ‘we are all in this together’. Refugees and migrants certainly paid a heavier price during a global pandemic that many believed impacted on all human beings equally. Social distancing is hard to achieve for displaced persons who live in crowded settlements, whether formal or informal, urban or rural, refugee camps or crowded migrant housing. Refugees and migrants were denied the freedom of movement, the right to health and the right to information to a higher degree than other populations and experienced more impediments to access their rights.

    It’s not about pointing out any one country, because the point is that vulnerable populations that we should have been further protecting in a pandemic actually became more vulnerable just about everywhere. In Lebanon, refugees were held to tighter curfew restrictions that even impeded access to health treatment. Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh were forced into an encampment and denied their rights to communication and right to health. Many countries where migrants are grouped in crowded housing, like Malaysia, detained migrants. The USA denied asylum-seekers the right to seek asylum and violated the principle of non-refoulement, returning them at the border with no hearings, deported COVID-positive asylum-seekers, and in the process, also exported the virus to Haiti and Central American countries. The USA also continues to detain thousands more people, mostly from Central America, who are fleeing climate change impacts in addition to violence and persecution, denying their freedom of movement, and arguably in some cases, denying rights to seek asylum, due process and the right to health.

    As cyclone Amphan was about to hit the Bay of Bengal in May 2020, at the height of the pandemic, we saw populations in affected areas being relocated ahead of the disaster, which saved lives, but also meant that social distancing could not be enforced during displacement, and vulnerability to the virus became a major concern.

    I am afraid the situation will be no different as the climate crisis worsens. It will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations in the world, and once again, a situation where it should be pertinent to think that ‘we are all in this together’ will make us realise that some of us l have the means to escape the worst of the impacts of climate change while some will limited social protections and many others, already in extreme poverty and on the margins of society, will fall in deeper and will have no escape from multiple levels of impacts.

    Is the issue of climate displacement receiving enough attention? Has any progress been made in shaping an international legal framework to protect people who are displaced by climate change?

    We’re certainly seeing more media attention paid to climate change impacts, including migration. But as the issue becomes part of everyday conversation, there’s also a chance that important nuances are lost. I would say some advances have been made in the area of climate displacement – that is, displacements as a result of disasters like floods and storms. We have data that tells us how many people are displaced each year by disasters – an average of around 25 million – and the nature and type of these displacements are less murky in terms of causal factors.

    But climate migration is far trickier, since drivers of migration, whether internal or across borders, are increasingly intertwined. And when there are multiple drivers it’s hard to disentangle what role a single driver plays, or how much of the resulting phenomenon – in this case migration – can be attributed to one cause, namely climate change. Science and technology in the area of climate attribution are improving, increasingly enabling experts to determine just how much climate change is a factor in every situation. But generally speaking, in many parts of the world the environment is also an economic and political issue, so at this point it’s fair to say that climate change is certainly contributing to migration.

    That said, much of the discussion of a legal framework is stalled in conversations that revolve around migration being largely internal, as well as doomsday displacement projections. The international system is hesitant to push conversations that will securitise migration even further and states are reticent to take on commitments that increase migrant or refugee protections even further.

    So for now, advancements are limited to non-binding commitments by states in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which includes some measures dealing with environmental migration across borders. The Platform on Disaster Displacement is a state-led initiative doing good work on the protection of people displaced across borders by disasters and climate change.

    Earlier this year, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee also looked at the case of an individual from Kiribati who claimed to be a ‘climate refugee’. He took his case to the human rights body on the basis that the denial of his asylum claim by the government of New Zealand violated his right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN found that countries may not deport individuals who face climate change-induced conditions that violate the right to life.

    What else should be done so that the problem is not only recognised but also mitigated? 

    Some fear that talking about a looming migration crisis due to climate change runs the risk of fuelling current hostility and xenophobia towards migrants and refugees. I definitely see the point and acknowledge that risk, but I also think it’s equally true that to those who are xenophobic towards migrants and refugees, what drives their migration is not the issue. So we have to be careful to find that delicate balance when we talk about these things, because we truly don’t know how it will play out, but what we do know is that the trajectories and outlooks are generally not so great, there’s a lack of political will, and the conversation isn’t too focused on a human rights framework that protects affected communities, including migrants. So on this latter point, it’s not about being an alarmist about the numbers – it’s about sounding the alarm about our need to do better to fill some vital gaps in rights and protections.

    There’s a lot of focus on what we shouldn’t call people, how we shouldn’t frame the issue, but not enough focus on how we should protect vulnerable populations.

    Countries that are already struggling with extreme poverty are now struggling with extreme weather, and there is an inherent unfairness at play here in not recognising that climate change was not created by all equally, and nor will the impacts of it be felt by all equally.

    A lot more could be done in the way of adaptation. Adaptation is very costly, and the countries bearing the burden of climate change impacts now don’t have the capacity to also bear those financial costs. Many regional experts tell us that much of the international finance and response directed at them is focused on climate mitigation, rather than climate adaptation.

    We need to build community resilience to withstand the effects of climate change, and in some contexts, this might also mean building up stronger public and governance institutions and strengthening capacities to withstand the complex stresses that climate change impacts are placing on societies.

    Adaptation can entail innovation, infrastructural development and social changes, all of which can be very costly, and adaptation planning needs to respect human rights and enable choices, including the choice to migrate, which may not necessarily present as a totally voluntary choice. The point is that safe pathways for migration, when conditions don’t allow people to stay, are part of how we safeguard the human rights of climate change-impacted populations.

    Are there enough connections being made between advocacy efforts on behalf of migrants and refugees and climate activism?

    From my vantage point, it feels like there are few connections between these two movements and I feel like there is great potential for stronger advocacy together. For example, just broadening the climate migration conversation to discussions of a movement, rather than being largely a research and policy conversation, would be a welcome step to engage the public in something that I fear many feel is too large to understand, let alone address. 

    At the same time, there are many who are concerned and interested and desire to be a part of the solution. So we keep in mind that, yes, we are trying to inform policy, but we also want to make information more easily accessible to engage and bridge that movement with the public to approach this as an issue of climate justice because that’s how we see it.

    Get in touch with Climate Refugees through theirwebsite, Instagram andFacebook page, and follow@Climate_Refugee and@TowerAmali on Twitter.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘This is not just a health crisis but also a justice crisis’

    CIVICUS speaks to Abigail Moy, Director of the Legal Empowerment Network, the largest community of grassroots justice defenders in the world. Convened by the international civil society organisation (CSO) Namati, the Network brings together 2,343 organisations and 8,761 individuals from over 160 countries, all working to advance justice for all people. Around three years ago it launched Justice for All, a campaign to increase financing and protection for justice grassroots defenders worldwide.

    Abigail Moy

    What kind of work does the Legal Empowerment Network do?

    The Legal Empowerment Network is a global and multidisciplinary network that convenes grassroots justice defenders worldwide. We are more than 2,000 grassroots organisations from approximately 160 countries around the world. Everyone in the Network is united by a dedication to helping communities to understand, use and shape the law. So whether they are working in environmental justice, women’s rights, health, education, or in any other sector, these justice defenders help communities to understand how policies, the law and governmental behaviour affect them and how they can be empowered to engage in these processes, use them and when necessary reform them to create a more just society.

    Our work is based on three key pillars. The first is learning: we are a learning hub where grassroots organisations exchange experiences and learn from each other about their methods and the impact of their legal empowerment work. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, every year we designed and executed learning events that helped members explore practical solutions to justice problems. These offerings included an annual leadership course, in-person learning exchanges, online webinars and e-learning opportunities that we are further developing during the pandemic.

    Our second pillar is advocacy and collective action. We work with our members to transform the policy environment to address injustices and promote legal empowerment at the national, regional and global levels. We often mobilise around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of addressing justice needs on the ground. Two of our central calls for advocacy and collective action include increasing financing and protection for justice defenders at all levels. These two priorities affect our members no matter what country are they in, and as such, financing and protection are the focus of our Justice for All campaign.

    The third pillar is community building. We seek to build a stronger community amongst grassroots justice defenders so they can support and learn from each other. We aim to develop a stronger leadership core for the movement and find ways for people to improve their work by connecting, developing their thinking and working collaboratively.

    All three pillars – learning, advocacy and community – feed into our ultimate vision, which is to cultivate a global movement for legal empowerment that mobilises millions of people to tackle collectively the greatest injustices of our time.

    What is the role of Namati in relation with the Legal Empowerment Network?

    Namati is the organisation that convenes the Network. It functions as its secretariat in many ways. We think of ourselves as an active member of the Network that happens to take care of aspects such as finances, coordination and maintaining infrastructure. We work with the Network Guidance Committee, a council of network members, to decide on the priorities and strategies of the Network and to organise learning and advocacy opportunities. Every year we survey Network members on what they want to do, and this information serves as a guidepost for planning. As a Network member, Namati feeds into this process, but we are one voice among many.

    Namati also has country programmes. While members of the Network take on a wide range of justice challenges around the world, Namati works in close partnership with some of these members to take on three urgent issues – land and environmental justice, health justice and citizenship justice – in six countries: India, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Sierra Leone and the USA.

    Can you tell us more about the Justice for All campaign?

    We launched the Justice for All campaign almost three years ago. Our prior campaign, called Justice 2015, was a call to integrate justice in the SDGs. We succeeded, but after the SDGs were adopted there was nobody focusing on making good on the commitment in Goal 16 to ensure equal access to justice for all. In response, we launched the Justice for All campaign, which focuses on the fact that funding and protection for justice defenders are necessary foundations to meet Goal 16, and indeed any of the goals, and that legal empowerment must be supported.

    Network members promote the Justice for All campaign in different ways in their countries and regions and at the global level. Some members have hosted meetings with their governments, other members of civil society and other stakeholders to discuss these issues and try to find policy solutions to increase funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders. Other members have focused on the global arena, approaching global donors and attending global events such as the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the SDGs. Yet other members have focused on their respective regions, looking at regional bodies or agreements that they can influence.

    As a Network member with strong global connections, Namati connects member experiences at the national level to the global level. We have done a lot to highlight grassroots experiences in our advocacy at the HLPF, the UN General Assembly and other high-level conferences and events, and have worked with major donors around the world to recognise the value of legal empowerment and the need for funding.

    Have you needed to make any changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

    During the pandemic, the Legal Empowerment Network pivoted to respond directly and comprehensively to the crisis-driven needs of its members. To understand what their most urgent needs were, we administered a survey. We asked Network members how the pandemic was affecting them, how they were adapting, what kind of resources they needed to remain effective, what types of policy interventions were necessary to ensure a just response, and how we could help them.

    Regarding the challenges faced by Network members, we classified survey responses into four categories: remote work challenges, financial challenges, logistics and mobility challenges, and safety, security and health challenges. Remote work turned out to be a huge problem for Network members, as did finances, due to both increased expenses and reduced revenues.

    In response to the survey, we put together resources adjusted to their needs. First, we set up an online hub that offers multilingual resources to help legal empowerment groups understand the pandemic, get truthful and reliable information and identify ways to mitigate harm. We put together a brief that answers common questions about COVID-19, with useful advice on how grassroots justice organisations can prepare and protect themselves. We tailored this information to address challenges faced by specific subsets of Network members, such as those living or working in crowded areas. The information was sourced from key public health authorities such as the World Health Organization and compiled by public health experts.

    Second, we published a policy brief, ‘Grassroots Justice in a Pandemic: Ensuring a Just Response and Recovery’, that makes recommendations to policy makers, donors and multilateral institutions on how to fund and protect grassroots justice defenders during and after the pandemic. We shared it widely with stakeholders such as governmental and philanthropic donors.

    Third, we facilitated a number of conversations among grassroots practitioners, examining legal empowerment work during the pandemic, via a series of conference calls and webinars. These have been taking place over the past few months. Hundreds of members participated in these conversations. The ensuing thematic and regional conversations served as venues for discussion on best practices and learning around how members are adapting their efforts, tracking and responding to human rights violations arising from the crisis, and accessing financial support and other needed resources. In these conversations, we also explored what we can do together to help each other move forward. We compiled best practices of remote working and are preparing more materials on resources, services and techniques that can be used for working during the pandemic.

    We realised that in a crisis such as this you can’t do business as usual, so we got rid of our annual plan and started from scratch to do what we needed to do.

    What has the Justice for All campaign achieved so far?

    The campaign has helped to weave a common narrative that highlights grassroots perspectives at high-level global events, encourages dialogue and public understanding, and urges action on the two key themes of financing and protection for grassroots justice defenders.

    At the national level, it has helped people articulate their needs and translate them into longer-term advocacy efforts. Network members said that the campaign’s policy brief was incredibly useful in their discussions with their national governments about why there should be local funding for community paralegal groups.

    At the global level, we have shifted ongoing dialogue and norms. Before, there had never been any talk about what was needed to advance access to justice and achieve Goal 16; there was no acknowledgement that justice services required funding and that the people doing the work needed to be safe. Right now, these issues are being taken up and addressed at a high level, and have been integrated into reports and major agendas. So we feel that we have influenced the international dialogue around justice defenders, and while there is more work to be done, that in itself is a victory.

    In the financial front, the Justice For All campaign has influenced donors to commit new resources to access to justice and legal empowerment. During the pandemic, the campaign adjusted its focus and established a COVID-19 Grassroots Justice Fund, and successfully rallied a number of donors to make contributions. This was in response to our members’ desperate need of funding when the pandemic hit. We realised that the funding that they needed wasn’t massive; a lot could be done with just a small injection of money, for instance in the form of one-time grants of a few thousand dollars. Relatively modest funds could make a difference and help address urgent justice issues that are entwined with the pandemic. We launched this fund in July with the aim of raising US$1 million, and we think we are going to get there. We have received a lot of support, we have already accepted the first applications, and the money should be distributed within the next month. These are small requests, of between US$3,000 and US$20,000, for grassroots justice groups to cover supplies, training, salaries and anything else needed to keep them afloat. The idea behind the fund is that the pandemic is not just a health issue; it is also a justice issue and we need to sustain the defenders that are helping communities to face the justice crisis.

    What kind of support from international civil society would you need to be able to continue your work?

    Our survey asked our members exactly that question, and 58 per cent answered that they needed technological support. The nature of legal empowerment work is very much a trust-building exercise that usually calls for face-to-face interaction. Most of the grassroots groups we work with are used to going out to talk to with community members, convening face-to-face community meetings and educating people. They are not used to working remotely. They are not familiar with working with apps and they don’t have enough devices to do so. Additionally, 67 per cent responded that they need capacity-building support. This support is needed both to adapt to technology and to reimagine ways to do their work remotely or while social distancing. Last but not least, 88 per cent responded that what they need from international civil society is financial support. And they made it clear that it is not just about more funding now, but rather about more sustainable and more reliable funding going forward.

    Get in touch with the Legal Empowerment Network through Namati’swebsite orFacebook page, and follow@GlobalNamati on Twitter.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘We need a new social contract founded on rights and the principle of shared prosperity’

    Owen Tudor

    CIVICUS speaks about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency measures on labour rights, and the civil society response, with Owen Tudor, Deputy General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Recognised as the global voice of the world’s working people, the ITUC works to promote and defend workers’ rights and interests through international cooperation among trade unions, global campaigning and advocacy within major global institutions. The ITUC adheres to the principles of trade union democracy and independence and encompasses three regional organisations in Africa, the Americas and Asia and the Pacific, while also cooperating with the European Trade Union Confederation.

    What have been the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour rights?

    The ITUC surveyed its national trade union affiliates regularly in the first few months of the pandemic, and we quickly identified that, while many countries were seeing positive engagement between governments and unions, others weren’t. In many countries, like those in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, and often building on existing forms of social dialogue, governments, employers and unions worked together to develop measures to tackle the pandemic and its effects on workplaces. That also happened in some countries where such cooperation has been less common, such as Argentina, Georgia, Nigeria and the UK. At a global level, the International Labour Organization (ILO) stressed the importance of social dialogue as one of its four pillars for action on the pandemic, alongside stimulating the economy and employment, supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, and protecting workers in the workplace.

    But in some countries, rogue employers and neoliberal governments thought they could use the pandemic to restrict workers’ and unions’ rights, such as limits on working time, or security of employment. In countries such as Croatia and Lithuania, we campaigned in support of our affiliates to push back against those changes, but we weren’t successful everywhere. In India, for example, state governments implemented a widespread deregulation of employment protections.

    Has this led to any changes in union organising?

    In far too many countries, jobs have been lost and unemployment has soared. That has an inevitable impact on union organising. But in several countries, including those that have seen membership reductions in the recent past and those where membership is already strong, the key role played by unions in defending employment and wages and campaigning for decent health and safety at work has led to membership gains. Bluntly, working people have seen more clearly the importance of union membership to protect them against management inadequacies and violations of their most fundamental rights.

    In some cases, the pandemic has accelerated the experience of virtual organising – over Zoom or other internet platforms. And that technology has in some cases led union organisers to change their point of view, from explaining the benefits of membership to listening to what potential members want. Again, this just accelerated a trend, from offering people a model that solves their problems to letting workers define what works for them. As one Australian union leader put it, “finally we started contacting our members the way they wanted to be contacted.”

    How have unions worked to defend rights and help their members and communities during the pandemic?

    The daily work of unions intensified with the pandemic. Unions represented workers threatened with being laid off, pushed for adequate severance pay, sought expanded access to social protection and raised the concerns of women workers who faced even greater discrimination and of migrant workers denied equal access and equal treatment. In many cases unions won breakthroughs previously not thought possible, and we now need to defend those gains for the long term.

    Unions have been actively involved with international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with national governments on every continent and with employers from the workplace to the multinational boardroom to ensure that workers and their jobs are protected. From negotiating national short-term working schemes in Germany, to ensuring contracts are honoured in the global garment industry, and arranging sectoral policies for the safe return to the workplace in Belgium, unions have been busting a gut to ensure workers’ interests were recognised. Sadly, whenever we hear about community transmission of COVID-19, it’s often a workplace that people are talking about, such as in hospitality, healthcare or meat processing plants. Unions have been emphasising the need for occupational health to be as important as public health, including the provision of personal protective equipment as well as access to paid sick leave.

    Unions have also been negotiating fiercely with employers to stop redundancies, which have taken place, disgracefully, even in companies that were bailed out with taxpayers’ money. In some countries, employers have been prevented by law from laying workers off. We have negotiated arrangements for homeworking, which is becoming more common than ever, even after the pandemic has subsided. A new teleworking law in Argentina was negotiated with unions, providing innovations like workers deciding if they want to revert to working in their workplaces.

    What has the pandemic told us about underlying economic and labour problems and the changes that need to happen?

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, massive inequality – including income disparities, racial injustice and gender discrimination – was already driving an age of anger, characterised by civil unrest and distrust in democracy. Along with the destruction resulting from extreme weather events due to climate change, the risks to economies and societies were already clear. Added to that, we face the choices associated with the best and worst impacts of technology, devoid of a rights base.

    The pandemic has highlighted the cracks that were already present in the social contract. Inadequate healthcare provision made the early weeks of the pandemic particularly worrying, with fears that hospitals would be overrun. Similar funding gaps in care for older people and appalling employment arrangements required workers to shuttle between residential facilities, unable to take sick leave when they showed symptoms. Insecure employment and inadequate social protection forced many to keep working while infectious to put food on their families’ plates. The failure to provide adequate personal protective equipment was just the most visible sign of occupational health and safety shortcomings.

    For the economy as a whole, the ILO’s dire predictions for hundreds of millions of job losses among the formal labour force were dwarfed by the number of informal sector workers whose livelihoods were wrecked. In each of these areas of systemic failure, it was women whose jobs were most vulnerable and whose health was least protected, with lockdowns forcing many into additional unpaid childcare and some into the trap of violence and abuse.

    We need to build back better, including a new social contract for recovery and resilience that provides job protection and a universal labour guarantee whether you’re a full-time employee at Amazon or a precarious Uber driver. Occupational safety and health must become a fundamental right at work, like freedom from slavery or the right to strike. We need adequately funded, quality public healthcare, education and water, as part of universal social protection. And we need to regulate economic power, with the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, minimum living wages and mandated due diligence in supply chains for human rights and environmental standards.

    Unions and the millions of members we represent can help deliver all these through collective bargaining with employers, social dialogue with governments and engagement in international and multilateral institutions.

    What do governments and businesses need to do to work better with unions, and what role can the international community play?

    Governments and businesses need to recognise the vital role that unions play in representing working people – not just at elections, or when pay deals are negotiated, but all year round, and in every corner of the economy. They need to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms that unions need to operate, including the freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike. When they make decisions that affect millions – if not hundreds of millions – of people, they need to abide by the slogan of ‘nothing about us, without us’ – and that means working positively with unions.

    At the same time, we face a crisis of multilateralism, often driven by nationalist, populist politicians but in part the result of the collapse in public trust for globalisation driven by the rapacious profit-seeking behaviour of global multinational corporations and powerful technology companies.

    The world is facing a convergence of crises, yet global institutions established to underpin and reinforce rights, equality, inclusive growth and global stability are at their most fractured. They need to be reinforced and refocused on responding to the needs of people and the planet.

    The WHO has proved itself a necessity in the global response to COVID-19, but even so, science must be the basis of managing health risks and ensuring universal access to treatment, without political compromise.

    The World Trade Organisation presides over a global model of trade that has failed both people and their environment. And Bretton Woods institutions have strayed far from their mandates by promoting neoliberal structural reform and austerity, the interests of dominant countries and corporate greed. This must change.

    The ILO, with its unique tripartite system, is as necessary today as it was when it gave birth to the social contract based on a mandate of social justice. Its constituents need to be as committed to ensuring a global floor of rights and shared prosperity as its founders were 100 years ago in 1919, and as was reaffirmed in the Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944.

    Working with our allies in broader civil society, unions want to construct a new social contract founded on those principles. If we can do that, we can create a better economy, a better society and a better world.

    Get in touch with the International Trade Union Confederation through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@ituc and@Owen4ituc on Twitter.

     

  • COVID-19: ‘We need public policies that reduce and redistribute unpaid care work’

    CIVICUS speaks about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender inequalities and civil society responses with Gala Díaz Langou, director of the Social Protection Programme of the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento, CIPPEC). CIPPEC is an Argentinian civil society organisation dedicated to producing knowledge and recommendations towards the advancement of public policies aimed at fostering development, equity, inclusion, equal opportunity and solid and effective institutions.

     

  • COVID-19: “Esta crisis no es solamente sanitaria; también es una crisis de justicia”

    CIVICUS conversa con Abigail Moy, directora de la Red de Empoderamiento Legal (Legal Empowerment Network), la comunidad más grande del mundo de personas defensoras que promueven la justicia a nivel de base. Liderada por la organización de la sociedad civil (OSC) internacional Namati, la Red reúne a 2.343 organizaciones y 8.761 individuos de más de 160 países, todos los cuales trabajan para promover la justicia para todas las personas. Hace unos tres años la Red lanzó Justicia para Todos, una campaña para aumentar el financiamiento y la protección de las personas defensoras que promueven la justicia en comunidades de todo el mundo.

    Abigail Moy

    ¿Qué tipo de trabajo hace la Red de Empoderamiento Legal?

    La Red de Empoderamiento Legal es una red global y multidisciplinaria que reúne a personas defensoras de la justicia a nivel de base. Somos más de 2.000 organizaciones de base de aproximadamente 160 países de todo el mundo. Lo que une a todos los integrantes de la Red es su dedicación a la tarea de ayudar a las comunidades a comprender, usar y dar forma a la ley. Entonces, ya sea que estén trabajando en temas de justicia ambiental, derechos de las mujeres, salud, educación o cualquier otro, estas personas defensoras ayudan a las comunidades a comprender cómo las políticas, la ley y la acción gubernamental les afectan y cómo pueden empoderarse para participar en estos procesos, utilizarlos y, en caso necesario, modificarlos para crear una sociedad más justa.

    Nuestro trabajo se basa en tres pilares fundamentales. El primero es el aprendizaje: somos un centro de aprendizaje donde las organizaciones de base intercambian experiencias y aprenden unas de otras sobre sus métodos y el impacto de su trabajo de empoderamiento legal. Antes de la pandemia de COVID-19, todos los años diseñábamos y realizábamos instancias de aprendizaje que ayudaban a los miembros a explorar soluciones prácticas para los problemas de justicia. Nuestra oferta solía incluir un curso anual de liderazgo, intercambios de aprendizaje en persona y seminarios en línea, y durante la pandemia hemos estado desarrollando nuevas oportunidades de aprendizaje virtual.

    Nuestro segundo pilar es la incidencia y la acción colectiva. Trabajamos con nuestros miembros para transformar el entorno de la política pública de modo de abordar las injusticias y promover el empoderamiento legal a nivel nacional, regional y global. A menudo nos movilizamos en torno de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS), en tanto que medio para abordar las necesidades de justicia en el territorio. Dos de nuestros principales llamamientos a la incidencia y la acción colectiva se centran en el aumento del financiamiento y la protección para las personas defensoras de la justicia en todos los niveles. Estas dos prioridades afectan a nuestros miembros más allá del país donde se encuentren; de ahí que el financiamiento y la protección sean los ejes de nuestra campaña Justicia para Todos.

    El tercer pilar es la construcción de comunidad. Buscamos construir una comunidad más fuerte de personas defensoras de la justicia en el territorio para que puedan apoyarse y aprender unas de otras. Nuestro objetivo es desarrollar un núcleo de liderazgo más sólido para el movimiento y encontrar formas en que las personas defensoras puedan mejorar su trabajo conectándose, desarrollando su pensamiento y trabajando en colaboración.

    Los tres pilares - aprendizaje, promoción y comunidad - alimentan nuestra visión, que consiste en cultivar un movimiento global para el empoderamiento legal que movilice a millones de personas para el abordaje colectivo de las mayores injusticias de nuestro tiempo.

    ¿Qué rol desempeña Namati en la Red de Empoderamiento Legal?

    Namati es la organización que convoca la Red, y en muchos sentidos funciona como su secretariado. Nosotros nos consideramos como un miembro activo de la Red que se ocupa de aspectos tales como las finanzas, la coordinación y el mantenimiento de la infraestructura. Trabajamos con el Comité de Orientación de la Red, un consejo de miembros, para decidir las prioridades y estrategias de la Red y organizar oportunidades de aprendizaje e incidencia. Cada año encuestamos a los miembros de la Red para saber lo que quieren hacer, y esta información nos sirve como herramienta de planificación. En tanto que miembro de la Red, Namati participa en este proceso, pero es una voz entre muchas otras.

    Namati también tiene programas nacionales. Los miembros de la Red trabajan en una amplia gama de desafíos relativos a la justicia en todo el mundo, y Namati trabaja en estrecha colaboración con algunos de ellos para abordar tres cuestiones urgentes - justicia ambiental y territorial, justicia sanitaria y justicia ciudadana - en seis países: Estados Unidos, India, Kenia, Mozambique, Myanmar y Sierra Leone.

    ¿Podría contarnos un poco más sobre la campaña Justicia para Todos?

    Lanzamos la campaña Justicia para Todos hace casi tres años. Nuestra campaña anterior, llamada Justicia 2015, fue un llamado a integrar la justicia en los ODS. Lo logramos, pero después de la adopción de los ODS nadie centró su atención en el cumplimiento del compromiso del Objetivo 16 de garantizar la igualdad de acceso a la justicia para todas las personas. En respuesta a ello lanzamos la campaña Justicia para Todos, centrada en el hecho de que el financiamiento y la protección de las personas defensoras de la justicia son las bases necesarias para el cumplimiento del Objetivo 16, y en realidad de cualquiera de los ODS, y que por lo tanto es necesario impulsar el empoderamiento legal.

    Los miembros de la Red promueven la campaña Justicia para Todos de diferentes maneras en sus países y regiones y a nivel global. Algunos miembros han organizado reuniones con sus gobiernos, otros actores de la sociedad civil y otras partes interesadas para discutir estos problemas y tratar de encontrar soluciones de política pública para aumentar el financiamiento y la protección de las personas defensoras de la justicia en el terreno. Otros miembros se han centrado en la arena global, acercándose a donantes internacionales y asistiendo a eventos globales tales como el Foro Político de Alto Nivel sobre los ODS (HLPF, por sus siglas en inglés). Y otros miembros se han concentrado en sus respectivas regiones, tratando de ejercer influencia sobre organismos o acuerdos regionales.

    Como miembro de la Red con fuertes conexiones globales, Namati vincula las experiencias de los miembros a nivel nacional con la esfera global. Hemos trabajado mucho para resaltar las experiencias de base al hacer incidencia en el HLPF, la Asamblea General de la ONU y otras conferencias y eventos de alto nivel, y hemos trabajado con los principales donantes de todo el mundo para que reconozcan el valor del empoderamiento legal y la necesidad de financiamiento.

    ¿Han debido hacer algún cambio en respuesta a la pandemia de COVID-19?

    Durante la pandemia, la Red de Empoderamiento Legal hizo un giro para responder directa e integralmente a las necesidades de sus miembros generadas por la crisis. Para comprender cuáles eran sus necesidades más urgentes administramos una encuesta. Les preguntamos a los miembros de la Red cómo les estaba afectando la pandemia, cómo se estaban adaptando, qué tipo de recursos necesitaban para seguir haciendo su trabajo, qué tipos de intervenciones de política pública consideraban necesarias para garantizar una respuesta justa, y cómo podíamos ayudarles.

    Con respecto a los desafíos que enfrentan los miembros de la Red, clasificamos las respuestas a la encuesta en cuatro categorías: desafíos del trabajo a distancia, desafíos financieros, desafíos de logística y movilidad, y desafíos de seguridad, protección y salud. El trabajo a distancia resultó ser un gran problema para los miembros de la Red, al igual que las finanzas, a causa tanto del aumento de los gastos como de la reducción de los ingresos.

    En reacción a la encuesta reunimos recursos que se ajustaban a las necesidades. Primero, creamos un centro virtual que ofrece recursos multilingües para ayudar a los grupos de empoderamiento legal a comprender la pandemia, obtener información veraz y confiable e identificar formas de mitigar los daños. Elaboramos un documento con respuestas a preguntas frecuentes sobre la COVID-19, con consejos útiles sobre las formas en que las organizaciones de base de acceso a la justicia pueden prepararse y protegerse. Adaptamos esta información para abordar los desafíos que enfrentan subconjuntos específicos de miembros de la Red, por ejemplo, quienes viven o trabajan en áreas densamente pobladas. La información se obtuvo de las principales autoridades en materia de salud pública, tales como la Organización Mundial de la Salud, y fue compilada por expertos en salud pública.

    En segundo lugar, publicamos un informe, “Justicia de base en la pandemia: garantizar una respuesta y una recuperación justas”, que hace recomendaciones a las autoridades políticas, los donantes y las instituciones multilaterales sobre cómo financiar y proteger a las personas promotoras del acceso a la justicia en el territorio durante y después de la pandemia. Lo compartimos ampliamente con diversas partes interesadas, tales como donantes gubernamentales y filantrópicos.

    En tercer lugar, facilitamos una serie de conversaciones entre personas defensoras de base, examinando el trabajo de empoderamiento legal durante la pandemia, a través de una serie de conferencias telefónicas y webinarios. Estos últimos se han desarrollado durante los últimos meses. Cientos de miembros han participado en estas conversaciones. Las conversaciones temáticas y regionales subsiguientes sirvieron como espacios para el debate sobre buenas prácticas y aprendizaje a partir de las formas en que los miembros están adaptando sus esfuerzos, monitoreando y respondiendo a las violaciones de derechos humanos cometidas durante la crisis y accediendo a apoyo financiero y demás recursos necesarios. En estas conversaciones también exploramos lo que podemos hacer juntos para ayudarnos mutuamente a salir adelante. Compilamos las mejores prácticas de trabajo a distancia y estamos preparando más materiales acerca de recursos, servicios y técnicas que pueden usarse para trabajar durante la pandemia.

    Nos hemos dado cuenta de que en una crisis como esta no se puede seguir actuando como de costumbre, de modo que nos deshicimos de nuestro plan anual y comenzamos desde cero para hacer lo que teníamos que hacer.

    ¿Qué ha logrado hasta ahora la campaña Justicia para Todos?

    La campaña ha ayudado a enhebrar una narrativa común que resalta las perspectivas de base en eventos globales de alto nivel, fomenta el diálogo y la comprensión pública e insta a la acción sobre los dos temas clave: el financiamiento y la protección de quienes promueven la justicia en el territorio.

    A nivel nacional, ha ayudado a la gente a articular sus necesidades y traducirlas en esfuerzos de incidencia a más largo plazo. Los miembros de la red dijeron que el informe producido por la campaña les resultó muy útil en sus discusiones con sus gobiernos nacionales acerca de las razones por las cuales debería haber financiamiento local para los grupos comunitarios de apoyo legal.

    A nivel mundial, hemos cambiado la discusión y las normas vigentes. Antes no se hablaba de lo que se debía hacer para promover el acceso a la justicia y alcanzar el Objetivo 16; no se reconocía que los servicios de justicia requerían financiamiento y que quienes realizaban el trabajo necesitaban seguridad. En este momento, estos temas se están abordando a alto nivel y se han integrado en informes y agendas relevantes. De modo que sentimos que hemos influido en el diálogo internacional en torno de las personas defensoras del acceso a la justicia, y si bien hay más trabajo por hacer, eso de por sí ya es una victoria.

    En el ámbito financiero, la campaña Justicia para Todos ha influido sobre los donantes para que destinaran nuevos recursos al acceso a la justicia y al empoderamiento legal. Durante la pandemia, la campaña ajustó su enfoque: estableció un Fondo de Justicia de Base COVID-19 y logró convencer a varios donantes para que hicieran contribuciones. Esto fue una respuesta a la desesperada necesidad de financiamiento de nuestros miembros bajo la pandemia. Nos dimos cuenta de que no necesitaban montos desmesurados; era mucho lo que podía lograrse con pequeñas inyecciones de fondos, por ejemplo, bajo la forma de subvenciones únicas de unos pocos miles de dólares. Estos fondos relativamente modestos podían hacer una gran diferencia en términos del abordaje de problemas urgentes de acceso a la justicia relacionados con la pandemia. Lanzamos este fondo en julio con el objetivo de recaudar un millón de dólares, y creemos que lo vamos a lograr. Hemos recibido mucho apoyo; ya hemos aceptado las primeras solicitudes y el dinero debería distribuirse en el próximo mes. Se trata de montos pequeños, de entre 3.000 y 20.000 dólares, para que los grupos de base que promueven el acceso a la justicia solventen costos de insumos, capacitación, salarios y cualquier otra cosa que necesiten para mantenerse a flote. La idea subyacente es que la pandemia no es solamente una crisis sanitaria, sino que también es una crisis de justicia, y que debemos sostener a las personas defensoras que están ayudando a las comunidades a hacerle frente

    ¿Qué tipo de apoyo de la sociedad civil internacional necesitarían para poder continuar haciendo este trabajo?

    Nuestra encuesta hizo a nuestros miembros exactamente esa pregunta, y el 58% respondió que necesitaban apoyo tecnológico. La naturaleza del trabajo de empoderamiento legal es en gran medida un ejercicio de construcción de confianza que generalmente requiere de interacciones cara a cara. La mayoría de los grupos de base con los cuales trabajamos están acostumbrados a salir a hablar con miembros de la comunidad, convocar reuniones comunitarias presenciales y educar a la gente. No están acostumbrados a trabajar a distancia; no están familiarizados con el trabajo con aplicaciones y no tienen suficientes dispositivos para hacerlo. Además, el 67% respondió que necesita apoyo para el fortalecimiento de capacidades. Necesitan este apoyo tanto para adaptarse a la tecnología como para imaginar nuevas formas de hacer su trabajo en forma remota o con distanciamiento social. Por último, pero no menos importante, el 88% respondió que lo que necesitan de la sociedad civil internacional es apoyo financiero. Y dejaron en claro que no se trata solamente de conseguir más fondos aquí y ahora, sino más bien de asegurar un financiamiento más sostenible y confiable en el largo plazo.

    Contáctese con la Red de Empoderamiento legal a través del sitio websitio web o el perfil deFacebook de Namati, y siga a@GlobalNamati en Twitter.

     

     

  • COVID-19: Urgent measures must be taken by MENA governments to protect the prison population

    Arabic

    In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak—qualified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO)—we, the undersigned organisations, express grave concern over the situation of detainees and prisoners across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While certain states in the region have taken some positive steps to protect the general population, the prison population remains particularly vulnerable. 

    Several countries in the MENA region have overstretched health systems and infrastructures, some of which have also been considerably weakened by years of armed conflict. In these countries, prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, unsanitary, and suffer from a lack of resources; accordingly, detainees are routinely denied proper access to medical care. These challenges are only further exacerbated during a health emergency, subjecting detainees and prisoners to heightened risk and placing weak prison health infrastructures under immense stress. Moreover, individuals in detention regularly interact with prison wardens, police officers, and health professionals who engage with the general population. Failure to protect prisoners and prison staff from COVID-19 may have negative implications for the population more broadly.

    Under international human rights law, every individual has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States have an obligation to guarantee realization of this right. In addition, states have the obligation to ensure that detainees and prisoners are treated humanely and with respect for their dignity and not subject to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.  The Nelson Mandela Rules require equivalence in healthcare—meaning that healthcare in prisons must meet the same standards as healthcare outside of them. This does not change during a pandemic.

    While restrictions, including on prison visits, may be imposed to curb the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, they must abide by the principles of proportionality and transparency. Any measure, including prison releases, must be taken in accordance with clear and transparent criteria, without discrimination. 

    In light of the above, 

    We call on governments in the MENA region to:

    1. Make known to the public their country-specific, and if relevant, facility-specific policies and guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers, prisons, and police stations.
    2. Share their emergency preparedness plans and provide specific training to relevant staff and authorities to ensure sufficient and sustained access to healthcare and hygiene provision.
    3. Conduct a thorough review of the prison population and in turn, reduce their prison populations by ordering the immediate release of:
      1. “Low-risk” detainees and prisoners, including those convicted or held in pretrial detention (remand) for nonviolent offences; administrative detainees; and those whose continued detention is not justified;
      2. Detainees and prisoners particularly vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly, and individuals with serious underlying conditions including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

           4. Allow individuals serving probation and probationary measures to fulfill their probation and probationary measures in their homes.
           5.Guarantee that individuals who remain in detention:

      1. Have their right to health effectively upheld by being granted full access to medical care as required;
      2. Access COVID-19 testing and treatment on a standard equal to that governing the general population;
      3. Are provided with means of communication and opportunities to access the outside world when in-person visits are suspended;
      4. Continue to enjoy their right to due process, including but not limited to the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, and their right not to experience delays that would render their detention arbitrary. 

    We call on the World Health Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross, and UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures mandate holders to issue public statements and guidance highlighting recommendations and best practices for all governments around detention and imprisonment during a global pandemic. 

    Undersigned organisations:

    (Listed in alphabetical order)

    ACAT - France (Action by Christians Against Torture)

    Access Now

    Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

    ALQST for Human Rights

    Arab Network for Knowledge about Human rights (ANKH)

    Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)

    ARCI (Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana)

    Association of Detainees and Missing in Sednaya Prison

    Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

    Bahrain Transparency Society

    Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

    CIVICUS

    Committee for Justice

    Democratic Transition and Human Rights support (DAAM Center)

    Digital Citizenship Organisation

    DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture

    Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

    Egyptian Human Rights Forum

    El Nadim Center

    HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual

    Human Rights First

    Initiative franco-égyptienne pour les droits les libertés (IFEDL)

    International Commission of Jurists

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    Kuwaiti Transparency Society

    Lebanese Centre For Human Rights

    medico international e.V., Germany

    MENA Rights Group

    Mwatana for Human Rights

    Physicians for Human Rights - Israel

    Project on Middle East Democracy

    Reprieve

    Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

    Syrian Center For Legal Studies and Researches

    Syrian Network for Human Rights

    Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)

    UMAM Documentation & Research (MENA Prison Forum)

    Women's March Global

    World Organisation Against Torture

     

  • DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: ‘The times ahead may bring positive change’

    CIVICUS speaks about the recent elections in the Dominican Republic, held in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Hamilk Chahin, coordinator of the Citizen Manifesto for Electoral Transparency, and Addys Then Marte, executive director of Alianza ONG. The Citizen Manifesto, a civil society-led multi-stakeholder initiative, was launched in December 2019 to monitor the 2020 municipal, legislative and presidential elections and foster the consolidation of democratic institutions. Alianza ONG is a network that encompasses 40 Dominican civil society organisations (CSOs). Founded in 1995, it is dedicated to promoting sustainable development through initiatives to strengthen civil society, intersectoral dialogue, training and dissemination of information, political advocacy and the promotion of solidarity and volunteering.

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the electoral landscape was quite complex. What was the situation as of March 2020?

    DominicanRepublic FlagIn recent years, the ruling party, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), accumulated a lot of power in all state institutions, affecting the quality of democracy. The PLD was re-elected for several terms and political elites settled into their positions and got used to exercising power for their own benefit and to the detriment of the interests of the community. Little by little and inadvertently, society also accepted this situation. In this sense, the exceptionally efficient handling of communication mechanisms by successive governments helped a lot. In addition to good international alliances and good luck in managing the economy, advertising and propaganda structures made the perpetuation of the government easy.

    Fortunately, in every society there is a seed that is practically impossible to uproot: that of civil society. At times it may lay dormant or in hibernation, but at some point something happens that causes it to get moving. In our case, it was the extreme confidence of our rulers in having their power assured, which led them to increasingly blatant practices, to the point that the citizenry, which for the most part had long tolerated them, at one point said ‘enough’ and went into a state of effervescence. The first important manifestation of this change was the Green March Movement, which began in January 2017.

    Born out of popular outrage over the Odebrecht scandal, which involved senior officials from three successive Dominican governments, the Green March Movement encompassed a broad spectrum of CSOs and focused on street mobilisation. It all started with a modest protest walk that we organised through a CSO called Foro Ciudadano (Citizen Forum), which kicked off a great mobilisation phenomenon whose main achievement was to end citizen indifference, to force the middle class out of its comfort zone, in which people expressed criticism without taking action. Opposition parties began to ride on these dynamics. Given that it thought it controlled all power resources, the government initially paid little attention. But the phenomenon far exceeded marching: signatures were collected, community meetings were held, various forms of mobilisation were promoted. It was a state of awakening driven by dignity. Citizens lost their fear of speaking up and this puzzled the government.

    How did the 2020 electoral process begin, and how did Citizen Manifesto form?

    The beginning of the electoral process was also the beginning of the end of the incumbent government. In October 2019, parties held their primary elections; they were the first primaries to be carried out under new electoral and political party legislation and were managed by the Central Electoral Board (JCE). While the PLD opted for open primaries, allowing the participation of all eligible voters, the main opposition party, the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), held closed primaries, allowing the participation of its members only. The candidacy of Luis Abinader, who would eventually be elected president, emerged clearly from the PRM primaries. In comparison, as a result of the PLD primaries, Gonzalo Castillo became the official candidate only by a small difference over three-time president Leonel Fernández.

    The primary elections of the ruling party were much more than a candidate selection process: what was at stake in them was the power of the president, Danilo Medina. In office since 2012, Medina had been re-elected in 2016, and had made some unsuccessful attempts to reform the constitution to be re-elected again. Leonel Fernández, as party president, had opposed these manoeuvres, so Medina did not endorse him when he decided to run in the primaries. It became apparent that the government resorted to state resources to support Medina’s designated heir; as a result, the PLD underwent division and Fernández joined the opposition. The primaries were highly contested and there was a lot of manipulation. They left a bitter taste among the citizenry: faced with the possibility that fraud had been used to thwart a primary election, many wondered what would become of the national election.

    It was then that many CSOs began to think about what to do: we connected with each other and with political actors, we shared information and our assessments of the situation. We decided to express our concern and demand fixes from the institutions and entities responsible for organising the elections, starting with the JCE and also the Superior Electoral Tribunal and the Attorney General's Office, which are responsible for prosecuting crimes and irregularities. This is how the Citizen Manifesto initiative began to form. It included actors from the business, religious, labour, union and peasant sectors. We campaigned to draw the attention of society to the need to defend and monitor the process of democratic institutionalisation ahead of the elections. And above all, we advocated with political figures. We met with party representatives, and as a result the Citizen Manifesto had the support of all sectors. This turned us into direct interlocutors of the JCE.

    When were the elections originally scheduled?

    The electoral cycle included a series of elections: municipal elections, scheduled for February, and national elections, both presidential and legislative, initially scheduled for May. In the municipal elections, a new dual voting system was used for the first time, which consisted of a fully electronic voting system for urban areas with a higher population density and a manual system for rural areas. As a consequence of the Citizen Manifesto’s requests to bring some guarantees and certainty to the process, the electronic voting system also had a manual component in the stage at which the ballots were counted; we also successfully demanded that the vote counting process be recorded and a fingerprint and QR code capture system be introduced.

    Although security measures were strengthened, there were serious problems with the implementation of the new software. On 16 February, several hours after the vote had started, the JCE discovered that there was a problem with around 60 per cent of the electronic voting machines and decided to suspend the municipal election across the country.

    This caused a crisis of confidence, and thousands of people took to the streets in almost daily protests. On 17 February, a demonstration outside the JCE headquarters demanded the resignation of all JCE members. Discontent also affected the government, as many protesters believed that it had tried to take advantage of machines not working properly. On 27 February, Independence Day, a massive demonstration was held to demand the investigation of what happened and urge greater transparency in the electoral process. The Dominican diaspora in several countries around the world organised solidarity demonstrations in support of democracy in their country.

    Municipal elections were rescheduled and held on 16 March, and the electronic voting was not used. By then the COVID-19 pandemic had already begun but suspending the election a second time was not an option. That is why the Dominican Republic declared its state of emergency quite late: the government waited for the elections to take place and three days later it passed a state of emergency and introduced a curfew.

    In April, as the situation continued, the electoral body decided to postpone the national elections until 5 July, after consulting with political parties and civil society. There was not much margin for manoeuvre because sufficient time was needed for the eventuality of a run-off election, which would have needed to take place before 16 August, when the new government should be inaugurated. Of course, there was talk of the possibility of a constitutional amendment to postpone inauguration day, and civil society had to step in to deactivate these plans and help put together an electoral process that included all necessary sanitary measures. Fortunately, the media provided the space that CSOs needed for this; we had a good communications platform.

    As elections took place during the pandemic, what measures were taken to limit contagion risks?

    As civil society we tried to force the introduction of adequate sanitary measures. We urged the JCE to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Organization of American States to convey the certainty that the necessary measures would be taken and the elections would take place. It was a titanic effort, because we have not yet had an effective prevention and rapid testing policy in the Dominican Republic; however, it turned out to be possible to impose sanitary protocols, including disinfection and sanitation, the distribution of protective materials and physical distancing measures.

    The truth is that the great outbreak of COVID-19 that we are experiencing today has not happened exclusively because of the elections; it seems to be above all the result of two-and-a-half months of disorganised and irresponsible campaigning carried out mainly by the incumbent party. The government tried to profit from the pandemic and the limitations imposed by the state of emergency. However, this may have played against it. The waste of resources in favour of the official candidate was such that people resented it. It was grotesque: for instance, just like in China, the measure of spraying streets with disinfectant was adopted, but while in China it was a robot or a vehicle that went out on the streets at night and passed through all the neighbourhoods, here we had an 8pm parade by a caravan of official vehicles, complete with sirens, flags, music – a whole campaign show. People resented it, because they saw it as wasting resources for propaganda purposes instead of using them to control the pandemic effectively.

    Was the opposition able to run a campaign in the context of the health emergency?

    The conditions for campaigning were very uneven, because public officials enjoyed a freedom of movement beyond the hours established by the curfew and opposition parties complained that the incumbent party could continue campaigning unrestricted while they were limited to permitted hours. Access to the media was also uneven: propaganda in favour of the official candidate was ubiquitous, because it was one and the same as government propaganda. In this context, a specific ad caused a lot of discomfort: it said something like ‘you stay home, and we will take care of social aids’, and included the images of the official candidates for president and vice-president.

    The pandemic was used politically in many ways. At one point the fear of contagion was used to promote abstention; a campaign was launched that included a drawing of a skull and said, ‘going out kills’. While we were campaigning under the messaging ‘protect yourself and get out to vote’, the government’s bet was to instil fear among the independent middle class, while planning to get their own people out to vote en masse. The negative reaction they provoked was so strong that they were forced take this ad down after a couple of days.

    Likewise, the state was absent from most policies implemented against the pandemic and left the provision of social aid and prevention in the hands of the ruling party candidate. Often it was not the government that carried out fumigations, but the candidate’s companies. It was jets from the candidate’s aviation company, not state or military planes, that brought back Dominican citizens who were stranded abroad. The first test kits were brought from China by the candidate, with of course large propaganda operations.

    With everything in its favour, how was it possible for the government to lose the elections?

    The PRM candidate, Luis Abinader, prevailed in the first round, with more than 52 per cent of the vote, while the official candidate came second with 37 per cent and former President Fernández reached only nine per cent. The division of the incumbent party as a result of the allegations of fraud in the primaries had an effect, because if the party had been united and not affected by this scandal, the results could have been different.

    Faced with the fact that a single party had ruled during 20 of the past 24 years, citizens showed fatigue and searched for alternatives. Citizens expressed themselves not only through mobilisation and protest, but also through a process of awareness raising that took several years. Very interesting expression platforms emerged, such as the digital medium Somos Pueblo (We are the People), whose YouTube broadcasts played a very important role. With the government campaigning on the streets and citizens isolated by the pandemic, creative strategies were also employed to overcome limitations and protest without the need to leave our homes, such as through cacerolazos (pot-banging actions).

    The interest in participating to bring about change was reflected in the election turnout, which exceeded 55 per cent. Although well below the 70 per cent average recorded in the elections held over the past decade, the figure was noteworthy in the context of the pandemic. Given the incumbent government’s mismanagement of the pandemic, people have high hopes in the new government. If we can overcome this challenge, the times ahead may bring positive change in terms of strengthening institutions and deepening democracy.

    Civic space in the Dominican Republic is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Manifiesto Ciudadano through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@ManifiestoCiuRD on Twitter.

    Get in touch with Alianza ONG through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@AlianzaONG and@AddysThen on Twitter.

     

  • DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: ‘We are part of a global anti-racist movement’

    CIVICUS speaks with Elena Lorac, coordinator of Reconoci.do, an independent and plural civic network made up mainly of young Dominicans of Haitian descent. Reconoci.do defends human rights and promotes the real, full and effective integration of Dominican people of Haitian descent into Dominican society. With a presence throughout the Dominican Republic, Reconoci.do upholds the vision of a multicultural country where diverse people coexist with dignity, without stigma or discrimination, and their fundamental rights are respected by society and protected by the state.

    Elena Lorac

    When and why was Reconoci.do founded, and what are the organisation's goals?

    Reconoci.do is a movement of Dominicans of Haitian descent, mostly young, fighting for our right to nationality and for access to all the rights that derive from this belonging: civil, political and social rights, and rights as basic as the right to work, to housing, to education and health, which are systematically denied to us.

    Our movement was formed in late November 2011, in reaction to a resolution by the Central Electoral Board that suspended “temporarily” the validity of our birth certificates and identity papers, that is, in a context in which, instead of seeing progress in the recognition of our rights, setbacks were taking place and historical exclusion was being institutionalised 

    Until 2010, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic recognised as nationals all persons born in the country’s territory, with the exception of diplomats and persons considered to be ‘in transit’, an expression that in principle referred only to those who had been in the country for a few days. For eight decades, under these definitions, the state provided a Dominican birth certificate, identity card and passport to the children of Haitians born in the country. However, in the 1990s nationalist groups began to promote a restrictive interpretation that was eventually translated into a new Migration Law. Under this law, passed in 2004, temporary foreign workers and undocumented migrant workers were classed as foreigners ‘in transit’, meaning that their children would no longer have access to Dominican nationality because of having been born in the country. The Central Electoral Board, the body that manages the civil registry, began to apply this law retroactively, and in 2007 it institutionalised this practice through two administrative decisions that prevented the issuance or renewal of identity documents to children born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian immigrants who were in an irregular migratory situation. In 2010, the new constitution denied the automatic right to nationality to children born in the country to immigrant parents in an irregular situation. Finally, in September 2013, ruling 168-13 of the Constitutional Court established that people born in the country whose parents had been undocumented had never had the right to Dominican nationality. The ruling was applied retroactively to all people born between 1929 and 2007, effectively stripping four generations of their Dominican nationality, mostly people of Haitian descent, who for eight decades had been registered as Dominican.

    These legal changes institutionalised a historical exclusion that was perpetuated by policies of hatred, racism and xenophobia promoted by nationalist groups. From the dominant perspective, everything that comes from Haiti is foreign, alien and impossible to assimilate. Thus, people like me, born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, are treated as foreigners. Because we were born in the Dominican Republic, the Haitian state does not consider us Haitians either. And in any case, we are talking about people who may have never been to Haiti, who have grown up here and speak Spanish; many younger people in fact don’t speak any Creole at all. Lack of recognition is excruciatingly painful.

    To resolve the situation created by the Constitutional Court, and in response to domestic and international advocacy efforts, in 2014 Law 169-14, the Special Naturalisation Law, was passed. This law established a special regime for people considered “descendants of foreigners in irregular migratory status,” based on the distinction between two groups. For members of ‘Group A’, which included those who in the past had been registered in the Dominican civil registry, the law recognised their Dominican nationality and ordered the Central Electoral Board to hand over or return their identity documents. On the other hand, those in ‘Group B’, who, although having been born in the country, having always lived there and maintaining no link with their parents’ country of origin, had never been registered, were given a period of 90 days to register as foreigners, with the possibility of obtaining Dominican nationality through naturalisation within a period of two years. This distinction is completely arbitrary, and it is common to find families with siblings belonging to either group, as well as families that, having registered their children, lost their papers as a result of some natural disaster and could not initiate the naturalisation process due to economic hardship, being located far away from administrative offices and unable to pay the fees that the process involved. Only a few thousand people in Group B have managed to achieve nationality in this way. There are currently some 133,000 young people who are stateless.

    I have obtained my identity card as a result of Law 169-14; it was given to me when I was 27 years old. My years of personal development and education and the early years of my productive life were cut short because I did not have an ID and therefore could not attend university. Several of my fellow activists are in the same situation. Some have been able to advance through college and even graduate, while others were not so lucky.

    Have you brought the issue of Dominicans of Haitian descent to the attention of regional or international human rights forums?

    For decades the international community and domestic civil society have been advocating at both the national and international levels, to denounce abuse, discrimination and structural racism in the Dominican Republic.

    Jointly with other civil society organisations (CSOs), we work assiduously within the inter-American system, for example participating in hearings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In 2014, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to members of our movement who had been threatened or attacked. Also in 2014, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling that forced the state to give us our nationality back. But the Constitutional Court did not recognse this ruling. The Dominican state does not abide by the decisions of the Court.

    The state does not recognise that there is a problem to be solved. Today our struggle is much more complex than it was at the beginning because now there is a feeling that the situation has been resolved, but it has not. The vast majority of young people in this situation come from bateyes, which are ghettos or communities that were established during the time of sugarcane production around the end of the 19th century, when the Dominican Republic and Haiti reached an agreement to bring Haitian braceros to work in the country. These people, sometimes by deception and even by force, were taken directly to the bateyes, small villages located in the vicinity of sugarcane plantations. Young people who come from these places, which are located far from the cities, are in a very vulnerable situation. The vast majority have nothing; we are talking about families who have not had legal documents for generations, and without papers they cannot study or work. Those of us who manage to finish high school and intend to go to university usually encounter what I experienced: it was when I decided that I would go to university that I found out that, although I did have my birth certificate, I did not qualify because I was the daughter of Haitian parents. This was a huge blow for me, and it is just the same for tens of thousands of young people. You are suddenly told that you do not exist, and this entails enormous psychological trauma. The state blames our parents or grandparents, when in fact it was the state that brought them to work in sugar production – but given that the industry no longer exists, they want us to disappear as well.

    These injustices block our prospects. They leave us without a future. That is why our movement arose from places like this.

    What were the implications of this situation in the context of the health crisis caused by COVID-19?

    The lack of recognition of something as basic as nationality creates enormous difficulties in accessing other basic rights such as health and social aid. The pandemic has magnified the difficulties faced by these vulnerable populations, confined in bateyes where there is no production or work. Many of these young people are chiriperos, that is, day workers, employed sporadically to do whatever is available, and the pandemic left them with nothing. They do not have access to any of the social aid programmes developed to alleviate the effects of the pandemic because they do not have IDs and do not appear in government records.

    To what extent is the situation faced by people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic the result of racism?

    This situation is the result of structural racism from beginning to end. The problem of access to nationality in the Dominican Republic has exclusively affected people whose parents or grandparents came from Haiti; this is not a general problem for foreigners. It is a reflection of structural racism because it is the Dominican people of Haitian descent, or those who are perceived as such due to the colour of their skin, who experience this violation of their human rights. This was recognised by the IACHR after a visit to the country, when it confirmed that it had not received any complaint from a descendant of non-Haitian foreigners who had experienced difficulties in being recognised as nationals, getting registered in the civil registry or receiving identity papers.

    In the Dominican Republic it is believed that all blacks are Haitians. If I am black and have curly hair I am constantly questioned even if I have identity papers, and if I am unable to produce an ID, I can be deported because I am assumed to be Haitian. There have been cases of black Dominicans who have been deported because of their skin colour. Dominican women of Haitian descent who do not have papers and go to a hospital to give birth are treated as foreigners, fuelling the myth that Haitian women are occupying all beds in our hospitals, when most of these women are not Haitians but Dominican black women of Haitian descent.

    Dominicans are a black population that does not see itself as such. There is obviously a problem of systemic, state-sanctioned, and unrecognised racism.

    Thus, with the passing of time, as a movement we realised that the problem of nationality that mobilised us in the first place was not just a problem of papers, IDs and registry records, but also and more deeply a problem of identity and racial discrimination that goes back to the historical context of our ancestors.

    We are therefore a movement that not only fights for the recognition of nationality and the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent, but also shares the struggles of all anti-racist movements and mobilises against all forms of discrimination. This is why we stand in solidarity and support all kinds of expressions seeking to guarantee the rights of women, of sexual minorities and of all minorities who are stigmatised and discriminated against.

     

    How did the US Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd resonate in the Dominican Republic?

    In reaction to events in the USA, we joined other CSOs to organise a commemoration. It was not strictly a protest demonstration, as restrictions on public gatherings had been imposed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we respected the mandated quarantine. And it was not only a demonstration of solidarity either, as George Floyd’s death had resonated in our context, where we have experienced similar situations of police abuse.

    Along with other CSOs we organised an activity in memory of George Floyd. The idea was to make a ritual gesture, a collective wreath. Our convening slogan was ‘A Flower for Floyd’, and it was a call for each person to bring, whenever possible, a flower and place it as part of the offering. Our account of Floyd’s death also made reference to police and institutional violence many black people, both migrants and Dominicans, experience in the Dominican Republic, so as to highlight that this is a situation we are also going through.

     

    Have you received threats or experience aggression from anti-rights movements?

    There are several ultra-nationalist groups that are mobilising in reaction to our demonstrations and events, basically to intimidate us and boycott our activities. Ever since the Constitutional Court ruling was issued, the climate has become more favourable for hate speech and numerous acts of hostility against us have taken place. Many members of our movement and other organisations that fight for the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent have been subjected to attacks, both verbal and physical, which have been reflected in numerous human rights reports. As a result, in some cases we have had to request IACHR protective measures for some colleagues. Even Dominican people who are not of Haitian descent but express solidarity with us are treated as traitors to the homeland. These expressions have become more common because they have not been firmly condemned by the authorities.

    Every time we demonstrate on the issue of nationality and racism, there are always counter-demonstrations, and since the police never protect us, these groups generally prevail and we are forced to suspend or terminate our activities. This was the case with the event we planned to honour George Floyd.

    Since the moment we announced the Flower for Floyd event, several ultra-nationalist groups threatened us through our Facebook page. They accused us of wanting to generate violence and of boycotting the country by bringing up issues that are not of its concern. We received such levels of threats that many people thought that we would not be able to carry out the activity. Days before the event, the leader of one of these anti-rights groups, Antigua Orden Dominicana, threatened us through a video in which he warned that if we carried it out there would be bloodshed, since the event would take place in Independence Park, dedicated to the Fathers of the Nation, which they would not allow.

    On the day of commemoration, 9 June, these groups were present. It was not the first time that this happened. In 2017, during an activity that we carry out every year to mark the anniversary of ruling 168-13, they also showed up and a similar situation ensued.

    On 9 June, these groups came to attack the activists that were taking part in the event, and when the police finally intervened it was to detain our fellow activists Ana María Belique and Maribel Núñez, along with another person who was participating in the event. Every time we hold a protest related to the issue of nationality and racism, the state comes in and represses us.

    What kind of support would you need from international civil society and the global anti-racist movement?

    We consider ourselves part of a global movement. Many times we have been told that the Black Lives Matter movement was caused by something that happened in the USA and that it was not our concern; however, as vulnerable and stigmatised people we understand that this is an issue that directly affects us and that we must address.

    What we need is more support to disseminate information about the current situation in our country. The state has been consistently telling the world that there are no stateless people here, that there is no racism or xenophobia, that everything we say is a lie and that we are on the payroll of international CSOs who want to harm the country. What we seek is visibility and help to denounce the terrible realities experienced by Dominicans of Haitian descent. We do not have enough resources to publicise our cause, and international solidarity is what allows us to carry out our struggles and make them known worldwide.

    International support is one of the things that has helped us get ahead. We have had support from groups of the Dominican diaspora in New York. One of them, We Are All Dominican, has supported us since 2013. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, they helped us ensure food and other basic needs for more than 250 families for three months. All support is welcome, whether it be expressions of solidarity, contributions to dissemination or protection for human rights defenders.

    Civic space in the Dominican Republic is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with Reconoci.do through theirwebsite orFacebook page, and follow@reconoci_do and@juagemis on Twitter.

     

  • El llamamiento de la sociedad civil a los estados: estamos juntos en esto, no violemos los derechos humanos mientras hacemos frente al COVID-19

    En un momento en que los gobiernos están adoptando medidas extraordinarias para frenar la propagación del COVID-19, reconocemos y aplaudimos los esfuerzos que están realizando los estados para gestionar el bienestar de sus poblaciones y proteger sus derechos humanos, como el derecho a la vida y a la salud. Sin embargo, instamos a los estados a que apliquen estas medidas en el contexto del estado de derecho: las medidas que se adopten en respuesta al COVID-19 deben basarse en hechos, ser legales, ser necesarias para proteger la salud pública, no ser discriminatorias, temporales y ser proporcionadas.

     

  • En cette journée du prisonnier palestinien, la société civile appelle à la libération urgente des prisonniers/ères et détenu/es palestiniens des prisons israéliennes

    En cette journée du 17 avril qui leur est consacrée, les prisonniers/ères palestiniens affrontent une menace supplémentaire avec l’apparition du risque de propagation du coronavirus (COVID-19) dans les prisons et les centres de détention israéliens. Alors qu’un appel a été lancé aux gouvernements du monde entier pour la libération des prisonniers/ères et notamment de ceux détenus en violation du droit international, les autorités d’occupation israéliennes n’ont pris aucune mesure dans cette direction, et n’ont pas adopter de mesures visant à atténuer la propagation du coronavirus derrière les barreaux. Au contraire, les arrestations et les détentions arbitraires de masse, au centre de la politique ’occupation militaire israélienne prolongée et des violations des droits de l’homme généralisées et systématiques à l’encontre du peuple palestinien, se poursuivent pendant la pandémie.

     

  • En el Día de los Prisioneros Palestinos, la sociedad civil pide la liberación urgente de los presos y presas palestinos en las cárceles israelíes

    Mientras conmemoramos otro año más el Día de los Prisioneros Palestinos, los presos, presas, detenidos y detenidas palestinos se enfrentan a una amenaza adicional con la propagación del coronavirus (COVID-19) en las prisiones y centros de detención israelíes. Mientras se está pidiendo a muchos gobiernos de todo el mundo la liberación de las personas presas y detenidas en contravención del derecho internacional, las autoridades de ocupación israelíes no han tomado ninguna medida para liberar los presos y presas palestinos ni para mitigar o prevenir adecuadamente el brote de la COVID-19 en las prisiones. Al contrario, las detenciones masivas y arbitrarias y los arrestos, características básicas de la ocupación militar prolongada de Israel y de las generalizadas y sistemáticas violaciones de Derechos Humanos contra el pueblo palestino, han continuado durante la pandemia.

     

  • En el Día de Nelson Mandela, alrededor de 200 organizaciones de DDHH piden la liberación de activistas como parte de la campaña “Conviértete en mi testigo” #StandAsMyWitness

    • 197 organizaciones de derechos humanos firman una carta para exigir a los Estados que pongan fin al encarcelamiento y al acoso que sufren las personas que defienden los  derechos humanos. 
    • Instamos a los Estados a que pongan fin a los nuevos arrestos y detenciones de defensores que se están produciendo durante la pandemia del COVID-19, con el aumento de riesgo que ello supone
    • Lanzamiento de la campaña "Conviértete en mi testigo" el 18 de julio, Día de Nelson Mandela, con la participación de defensores de los derechos humanos de todo el mundo.