• Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review


    CIVICUS makes seven joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Angola, Egypt, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Fiji and Madagascar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 34rd UPR session (October-November 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    Angola - CIVICUS is deeply concerned by the use of several pieces of restrictive legislation, including provisions on criminal defamation in the Penal Code and several restrictions under Law 23/10 of 3 December 2010 on Crimes against the Security of the State against journalists and HRDs. CIVICUS is further alarmed by the restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, notably the frequent banning of protests, although no prior authorisation is legally required, and the arbitrary arrests of protesters. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in subsequent sections of this submission demonstrates that the Government of Angola has not fully implemented the 19 recommendations relating to civil society space.

    Egypt - CIVICUS and the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) address increasing restrictions of freedom of assembly, association and expression in Egypt since its last review. The state has continued to undermine local civil society organisations through the ratification of the laws on Associations and other Foundations working in the Field of Civil; on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes; and the law ‘For organizing the right to peaceful public meetings, processions and protests. The submission also shows how this legislation has resulted in the detainment of scores of human rights defenders, including women, who have faced excessive amounts of surveillance, intimidation and slandering for their human rights work. Furthermore, in this period LGBTI activists have been assaulted, tens of NGOs closed in Case 173, and journalists have had their equipment confiscated. The UPR submission shows that Egypt has failed to implement any of the recommendations made in the last review, instead creating a more hostile environment for civic space actors.

    El Salvador (ES) - CIVICUS and Fundación de Estudios para la aplicación del Derechos (FESPAD) examine the steps taken by the government of El Salvador to address restrictions on civic space. We highlight government willingness to engage civil society in a consultation process to develop a new Law for Social Non-Profit Organisations and call El Salvador to ensure that the law respects international standards on the right to freedom of association. We raise concerns about the ongoing violence and stigmatisation of LGBTQI rights defenders, women's rights defenders and sexual and reproductive rights defenders, and the lack of protection for and killings of journalists.

    Iran - CIVICUS and Volunteer Activists assess the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations received by Iran during the 2nd UPR Cycle. Our assessment reveals that human rights violations continue in Iran as the authorities subject human rights defenders to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation. Freedom of association is severely restricted as civil society organisations that work on human rights issues and provide legal support to victims of human rights violations work in an extremely restricted environment. Peaceful assemblies are often violently repressed or banned and protesters have been arrested and detained. Journalists working for independent media platforms are targeted by the authorities while restrictive laws and policies are used to curtail freedom of expression and online freedoms.

    Fiji - CIVICUS, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) highlights how an array of restrictive laws in Fiji are being used to muzzle the press, silence critics and create a chilling effect in the country for activists and human rights defenders. The submission also examines barriers to hold peaceful protests, imposed by the authorities against civil society and trade unions as well challenges related to freedom of association.

    Iraq - CIVICUS, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights highlight the continuous violations with impunity committed by state and government-affiliated not-state actors in Iraq against journalists, activists and human rights defenders including concerted targeted attacks, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and intimidation. Several high-profile targeted killings of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) restricted the already culturally-constrained space for WHRDs. The civil society environment further deteriorated as the authorities proposed draft laws threatening freedom of expression, suspended critical media outlets and brought lawsuits against journalists and activists to curb dissent. The authorities also imposed undue limitations to freedom of assembly by using disproportionate and excessive lethal force to suppress mostly peaceful protests, resulting in dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, including children.

    Madagascar - CIVICUS examines how human rights defenders, particularly those working on environmental and land rights, are subjected to judicial persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention. Most of these human rights defenders are targeted when they engage in advocacy and raise concerns over the environmental effects of the activities of mining companies in their communities. Restrictive legislation including a Communications Law and Cyber Crimes Law are used to restrict freedom of expression, target journalists and newspapers. The Malagasy authorities continue to restrict freedom of assembly particularly during politically sensitive periods like elections or when activists working with communities engage in peaceful protests.

    See other country reports submitted by CIVICUS and partners to the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights


  • Madagascar : Un journaliste acquitté mais de sévères restrictions d'espace civique persistent

    Déclaration à la 43e session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies

    Adoption par Madagascar de l'Examen périodique universel des droits de l'homme

    CIVICUS se félicite de l'acceptation par Madagascar de 22 recommandations axées sur l'espace civique dans le cadre de ce cycle de l'EPU. Cependant, dans notre présentation à l'EPU, nous avons documenté que depuis son dernier examen, Madagascar n'a que partiellement mis en œuvre deux recommandations et n'a pas pris de mesures concrètes pour mettre en œuvre 20 des recommandations relatives à l'espace civique faites en 2014.

    Nous nous félicitons de l'acquittement du journaliste d'investigation Fernand Cello par la Cour d'appel de Fianatantsoa deux ans après son arrestation et son inculpation pour le vol d'un chéquier. Cet acquittement est une étape nécessaire dans le respect des droits des journalistes et des médias.

    Cependant, le code de la loi sur les communications des médias impose de lourdes amendes pour des délits tels que l'outrage, la diffamation et l'insulte à un fonctionnaire.  De plus, les failles du système de justice pénale permettent au pouvoir judiciaire de gouverner sous l'influence de l'exécutif.  La détention préventive, notamment des défenseurs des droits de l'homme et des journalistes, est très répandue et utilisée comme une stratégie pour les contraindre à l'autocensure.

    La liberté de réunion continue d'être restreinte car les autorités utilisent le prétexte de l'ordre public pour interdire les protestations des groupes de la société civile.  Nous sommes préoccupés par les niveaux élevés de persécution judiciaire, d'intimidation et de harcèlement des défenseurs des droits de l'homme, en particulier ceux qui défendent les droits environnementaux et fonciers.

    Madame la Présidente, CIVICUS appelle le gouvernement de Madagascar à prendre des mesures proactives pour répondre à ces préoccupations et mettre en œuvre les recommandations visant à créer et à maintenir, en droit et en pratique, un environnement favorable à la société civile.

    L'espace civique à Madagascar est actuellement classé comme étant Reprimé par le CIVICUS Monitor.

    Voir nos recommandations qui ont été soumises au Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies sur les conditions des droits de l'homme à Madagascar.

    Voir nos priorités de plaidoyer et notre programme d'activités lors de la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies.


  • Madagascar: drop charge against environmental activist

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS expresses deep concern over the unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention of environmental rights defender Raleva. We condemn this action and call for his immediate release. 

    Raleva, who only goes by his last name, was arrested on September 27, 2017 in Vohilava village in Madagascar’s Mananjary district for his advocacy work with communities affected by the illegal mining activities of a Chinese gold mining company in the area. 

    He was arrested during a meeting called by the mining company and the head of the local district, to inform the community that it would resume its mining operations, which were suspended by the government in 2016. Madagascar’s Mines and Petrol Ministry in 2016 ordered mining be stopped after community-led protests claiming the company was operating without necessary authorisation.

    Police arrested Raleva when he demanded that the company show proof that it had received the relevant permit required to re-start gold mining operations. He was held at the Mananjary police station for five days and then transferred to Mananjary prison on October 3, where he is currently detained. He is being charged with “falsely impersonating the district head”, a charge he denies as the said district head was present at the meeting hence impersonating him would have been impossible.

    Raleva is a member of the human rights organisation, Justice et Paix and Observatoire Independant des Droits Economiques, Sociaux et Culturels à Madagascar (OIDESCM), which works with the Centre de Recherches et d’Appui pour les Alternatives de Developpement - Océean Indien (CRAAD-OI). 

    No date has been set for his court hearing.

    Said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Lead: “When an activist like Raleva speaks out about the rights of communities and calls for accountability and transparency in the activities of mining companies, he is arrested and detained for no just cause.  This subjective and unjust application of the law is not acceptable under any circumstances.”

    Madagascar’s civic space is rated as ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society worldwide, and is a particularly risky environment for human rights defenders working on land and environmental rights. 

    On November 4, 2016, the Court of First Instance in the Anosy region sentenced environmental rights activists Tsihoarana Andrianony and Pierre Robson to one year in prison – suspended, after they were found guilty of organising “unauthorised” protests against Chinese mining company - Jiuxing Mining.  A week later, three activists from the environmental rights association VONA were arrested and detained for taking part in peaceful protests. Andrianony and Robson were acquitted of four other charges and released after spending nearly five weeks in pre-trial detention in prison.

    The arrest of Raleva and the persecution of environmental activists in Madagascar comes at a time when activists defending land, environmental and indigenous rights across the world raise their voices in appeals to the international community, calling for action against the unprecedented rise in killings and attacks on those protecting land and natural resources of their communities.

    CIVICUS calls on the government of Madagascar to drop the charge against Raleva, release him unconditionally and ensure that human rights defenders are able to speak out without intimidation or fear of persecution. 



    David Kode
    Advocacy and Campaigns Lead, CIVICUS,

    Tel: + 27 (0)11 833 5959.

    Grant Clark
    CIVICUS Media Advisor


  • Madagascar: Journalist acquitted but severe civic space restrictions persist

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Madagascar's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
    Watch us deliver our statement below

    CIVICUS welcomes Madagascar’s acceptance of 22 recommendations focusing on civic space in this UPR cycle. However, in our UPR submission, we documented that since its last review, Madagascar has only partially implemented two recommendations and has not taken concrete steps to implement 20 of the recommendations relating to civic space made in 2014. 

    We welcome the acquittal of investigative journalist Fernand Cello by the Fianatantsoa Appeals Court two years after he was arrested and charged with the theft of a cheque book. This acquittal is a necessary step in respecting the rights of journalists and media houses.

    However the Code of Media Communications Law imposes heavy fines for offences such as contempt, defamation and insult against a government official.  In addition, flaws in the criminal justice system allow the judiciary to rule under the influence of the executive.  Pre-trial detention including of human rights defenders and journalists is prevalent and used as a strategy to force them to self-censor. 

    Freedom of assembly continues to be restricted as the authorities use the pretext of engendering public order to ban protests by civil society groups.  We are concerned about the high levels of judicial persecution, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders particularly those advocating for environmental and land rights.

    Madame President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of Madagascar to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

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

    See our recommendations that were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council about the conditions of human rights in Madagascar.

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


  • Resilience in times of shrinking civic space: How Resilient Roots organisations are attempting to strengthen their roots through primary constituent accountability

    Soulayma Mardam Bey (CIVICUS) and Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now)

    The systematic crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations across the world has shaped our understanding of repression against civil society organisations (CSOs). Yet, less-spectacular restrictions such as increased bureaucratic requirements imposed by governments are not necessarily less threatening to CSO resilience.

    While those tactics significantly hamper CSOs’ ability to operate and can reduce primary constituents' trust in CSOs' ability to represent them legitimately, we also need to acknowledge that these symptoms can stem from our own inappropriate approaches to accountability. When CSOs are not accountable to their roots, this can serve as a breeding ground for governments’ and other non-state actors’ anti-CSOs strategies and rhetoric.  

    The Resilient Roots initiative is aiming to test whether CSOs who are more accountable and responsive to their primary constituents are more resilient against threats to their civic space. 15 organisations from diverse countries and contexts have partnered with us to design and rollout innovative accountability experiments over a 12 month period. These experiments will explore how public support and trust in CSOs can be improved through practising what we call primary constituent accountability, which aims to establish a meaningful dialogue with those groups that organisations exist to support, and increase their engagement in CSO decision-making.

    Accountability and resilience are both highly context-specific and vary not just from country to country but also along an organisation’s thematic focus, size and approach. This means that we need to explore the relationship between accountability and resilience on a case by case basis and across a variety of very different contexts. Keeping this in mind - and without further adieu - read on to meet the some of Resilient Roots Accountability Pilot Project organisations:

    One of these organisations is the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) from Zimbabwe. In the rural area of Dora, in the district of Mutare, they aim to systematically validate actions and strategies through constituent-led monitoring of programme progress. As a platform for civil society that aims to address the root-causes and diverse manifestations of poverty in Zimbabwe, they may face very different challenges from an organisation that works on more politically polarising topics.

    For example, Russian CSO OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project that monitors detentions and other cases of politically motivated harassment, informs media and human rights organisations on the state of political repression in Russia, and provides legal assistance to activists. For the Resilient Roots initiative, OVD-Info seeks to set up a dashboard to serve as a data visualisation tool, which will help evaluate the efficiency of its projects and motivate their constituents to play a stronger role in the organisation’s decision-making.

    In contrast to the technology and data-driven approach of OVD-Info, FemPLatz is a women’s rights organisation from Serbia that seeks a more direct and personal approach. They plan to gather feedback from their constituents through focus group discussions, interviews and workshops while also improving their communication with their constituents through the publication of a regular newsletter. This will allow their constituents to monitor their work and get in contact with them to provide feedback.

    A newsletter can also contribute to closing the feedback loop. Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) from Madagascar, for example, will engage young adolescents, their parents and school administrations to establish a coordinated and systematic means to collect feedback. They will collect feedback through participatory scorecards, stories from primary constituents around the changes triggered by the project, and an updated youth magazine to get closer to their constituents. PJL works on a comprehensive sexual-reproductive health education and leadership development program integrated into public middle schools.

    A particularly creative approach comes from Solidarity Now. Through multimedia productions, their primary constituents will express their daily perceptions, challenges, and dreams through the making and sharing of interactive material like video clips. Solidarity Now consists of a network of organisations and people whose goal is to assist and support the populations affected by the economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. Through the provision of services to both local Greeks and migrant populations, it seeks to restore the vision of a strong Europe based on solidarity and open values.

    In Asia, Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) is an organisation working to drive changes in attitudes towards climate change, and trigger action on the topic. As part of the initiative, CWT is going to strengthen how they formulate policy asks, by continuously testing their relevance to their constituents and this gaining wider support.

    Unfortunately, not all the organisations we work with in this initiative feel comfortable enough to publicly associate themselves to Resilient Roots, without the fear of inciting further anti-CSO responses in their local context. Such is the case of our Ugandan partner, a reminder of how delicate civic spaces are and how important it is for our sector to better understand how to strengthen CSO resilience in recent times.

    These diverse organisations are using a variety of approaches to work on CSO accountability, and we are incredibly excited to be exploring with them how different accountability practices fare in different regional and thematic contexts. What factors will make them successful and where will they need to adjust? In what circumstances does increased accountability actually lead to increased resilience? We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you: how they progress with their projects, the things they are learning, and what you can draw from their experiences to inform the work of your own organisation.


    Resilient Roots blog