Post-2015 Agenda needs to address the 1 billion people with disabilities

Dag WakeneDagnachew-WakeneDagnachew B. Wakene is a researcher from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, specialising in studies of inclusive development, human rights and law. As a person with disability, Dagnachew currently works as a part-time Research Associate at World Enabled – a disability and youth focused initiative based in Berkeley, California. He is also a Board Member and Youth Representative at the Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD), as well as an active participant in ongoing regional and global deliberations on the ‘Post-2015 Development Agenda,’ representing the cause of inclusive development and continent.

The term impoverished is often used to describe all groups of society that are victims of poverty. How do impoverished persons with disabilities experience poverty differently or in comparison to persons without disability?

Needless to say, numerous studies over the past decade or two have increasingly reported an alarming rate of disability among individuals living in poverty, affirming the peculiar bi-directional/vicious link between poverty and disability. One is both the cause and consequence of the other such that poverty causes disabilities (through, for instance, poor living conditions, health endangering employment, malnutrition, poor access to healthcare and education opportunities etc.);while disability, on the other hand, results in severe poverty. This means that the most pressing issue faced globally by persons with disabilities is not their specific disability but their lack of equitable access to education, employment, health care and the social and legal support systems. The World Disability Report (2011) stated, in no ambiguous terms, that persons with disabilities comprise 15 to 20 percent of the poorest individuals in developing countries and are often relegated to the margins of society, where they are a perceived as being a 'burden', instead of potential and capable contributors to family and national economic activities.


Children and Youth Concerns are about Sustainability: An interview with Kiara Worth

Kiara WorthKiara Worth is one of the Organising Partners for the Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY). The MGCY is the official youth constituency for sustainable development negotiations, including the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Her role as Organising Partner involves facilitation and advancement of the participation of young people within these processes, including policy amendments and youth activism. In the past, she has engaged with thousands of youth across the globe fostering dialogue, collaboration, participation and unity and diversity amongst young people, and mobilising them to act. She also works as an independent consultant for sustainable development, focusing on rural resource management and communications. She applies alternative forms of social development that use the creative arts and theatre as a means of enabling social transformation. Her publications, dramatic performances and community theatre have focused on environmental integrity and sustainable living. Her work has been featured at numerous panel events at the UNCSD and related events.

How has the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework enhanced the voices of children and youth globally since its inception in 2000?

The MDG framework has helped to raise a number of key concerns and issues affecting children and youth globally, and has attempted to enhance their voice to overcome these challenges. Increasingly, youth are recognised as key participants in decision-making and development, yet capacity building of and creating sustained partnerships with young people in achieving the MDGs have yet to be realised.

Youth have been involved directly in the MDGs and have had a variety of platforms to promote their participation. While this has been extremely positive, there is continuous need for successful models of youth participation to be adapted and replicated to specific political and socio-economic realities, taking into consideration the challenges facing youth-led and youth-serving organisations. More support needs to be given to children and youth organisations to further enhance their real participation, and the MGCY is hopeful that the post-2015 agenda will do this.


On Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: An Interview with Un Women’s Lakshmi Puri

United Nations officials, civil society groups and worldwide media coverage hailed last month's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for taking a significant step forward in the campaign to end gender-based violence. The outcome document from the 57th CSW -- supported by UN Women -- included substantial agreements regarding the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, including the need to guarantee women's reproductive rights and access to health services.

Following the CSW, Lakshmi Puri, who had been instrumental in facilitating months of preparations as well as the final two weeks of tough but successful negotiations, took over as acting head of UN Women after Executive Director Michelle Bachelet stepped down. Puri, who is also assistant secretary-general of the UN, has been a force in elevating UN Women's prominence over the last couple years. The agency is making women's rights a central focus of the post-2015 development agenda -- an effort particularly critical at a time when both women and their rights are being subjected to a number of high-profile attacks.

Talking to Puri gives one the deep sense of the interconnectedness that UN Women prioritizes in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment. By working with other UN agencies, governments and civil society groups globally, UN Women is proving the profound societal benefits of enhancing women's economic and political standing, along with education and health services. Puri spoke with The InterDependent about these issues and more.

Read more at Huffington Post


CIVICUS Member Interview: Omaid Sharifi of Sela Foundation in Afghanistan

Omaid SharifiMr Omaid Sharifi is a member of CIVICUS and the Co-Founder of Sela Foundation in Afghanistan. He is also the Country Representative of the Hungary based International Centre for Democratic Transition; Asia Society 21 Fellow and Co-Chair of Afghanistan Young Leader's Initiative and a Board Member of the Paywand Afghanan Association. He also holds memberships with: the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network; the Clinton Global Initiative University; the South Asian Good News Channel; and the South Asian Youth Conference.

What experiences and emotions have drawn you to working with the challenges that face the youth in civil society today?

Since my days selling cookies on the streets of Kabul to the current days working full-time as a youth and civil society activist, I am no stranger to hard work. I have invested my time and limited resources to the redevelopment of my country. I have stretched my time and energy to its utmost limits as I am involved in a number of initiatives as a civil society member through the various organizations that I work with.


Interview: Global conversation conducive to shaping post- 2015 agenda

The World We Want 2015 initiative aims to create a collective vision of the most important priorities of people in every part of the world, including indigenous populations, women and youths, to ultimately inform what the development agenda should include when the current MDGs expire in 2015. The initiative is part of the UN efforts to gather viewpoints from people worldwide to help shape the future global development agenda after 2015, the deadline for the MDGs, a set of eight anti- poverty targets to be reached in two years. “We have the technological means that allows us to reach out like never before to citizens,” said [Olav] Kjorven [assistant secretary- general for development policy at the UN Development Programme]. “What we are hoping is that through this mobilization of citizenry, in terms of their interest in this discussion, is that we’ll be getting a lot of valuable insights and inputs that can help us understand what people would like to see.”

Read more at NZ week


Decent work and social protection should be included in the Post-2015 Agenda | An interview with Matt Simmonds

Matt Simmonds of the Trade Union Developments Cooperation NetworkMatt Simmonds is the liaison officer for the platform of civil society organisations that sits in the OECD Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP- Eff), BetterAid in Paris. He is housed in the office of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC), where his responsibilities include facilitating and strengthening the advocacy work of the platform primarily through liaising on a regular basis with the OECD secretariat and other stakeholders of the WP- Eff. Prior to this role, he worked at the United Nations office of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), where, in his capacity as policy associate, he followed several UN processes such as the UN Financing for Development Process. He holds a Master's Degree in International Development from the New School in New York.

To what extent has the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework influenced the international community towards improving liveable and workable conditions for workers in marginalised areas of the world?

The MDGs, as originally developed in 2000, very much overlooked the employment dimension when trying to address poverty under MDG 1. No surprises then that, also overlooked, were conditions of employment and the challenges workers face the world over especially in those parts of the world where they are most marginalised. So it is safe to say that at least from the very outset, the MDG framework would not have had much influence on the international community in addressing the challenges faced by workers.

However, at the point when the MDG review process began, it was clear that issues around employment and decent work needed to be addressed head on if progress was to be made against MDG 1. So in 2008 the sub target (1b) to Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people was integrated into the MDG Framework, along with a number of indicators to measure progress on this sub target.


Animal welfare and the Post-2015 Agenda: A CIVICUS interview with Arjan Van Houwelingen of the WSPA

Arjan Van Houwelingen of the World Society for the Protection of Animals NetherlandsArjan Van Houwelingen of the World Society for the Protection of Animals Netherlands shares why the Post-2015 Agenda needs to include animal welfare and detailed targets for international cooperation towards sustainable development.

Have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) served as a strong framework for encouraging corporations to prioritise climate change and environmental sustainability? Please elaborate.

While this question is slightly outside of the scope of the work of WSPA, my reaction would be that the MDG process has done very little to encourage the private sector towards environmental sustainable practices. Increasing attention to the issue of climate change may have encouraged the 'greening' of corporate brands but the likelihood of a continued absence of strong international agreement on mitigation will encourage the private sector to continue to postpone real action in this area.


Leo Williams shares his thoughts on CSOs and a post-2015 framework

Leo Williams Beyond 2015Leo Williams in the International Coordinator of the Beyond 2015 campaign, which brings together over 260 civil society organisations from more than 60 countries that work together to influence the creation of the Post- 2015 Development Framework. Prior to this role, Mr Williams worked as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Officer for Bond, the UK membership organisation for NGOs working in international development, and the Scotland Malawi Partnership, a large network of organisations and individuals working between Scotland and Malawi. Having studied Arabic, he also worked to promote peace and justice between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel together with the Givat Haviva and the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

How has the establishment of the MDGs framework enhanced the voices of CSOs in the global South since its inception in 2000? Please elaborate on whether or not there was a significant increase of involvement from global South actors during the past 13 years, in a way that was lacking at the creation of the MDGs.

I have certainly seen a marked increase in the engagement of actors from the global south in the Beyond 2015 campaign. For example, in late 2010, the majority of governments, UN departments and CSOs were of the opinion that it was too early to start talking about 'post-MDGs' for fear that it would mean less focus on achieving the MDGs before the 2015 deadline. Relatively quickly this became an untenable position as CSOs started to realise that it had taken governments over a decade of 'summitteering' to agree the Millennium Declaration which led to the MDGs. In 2010 and 2011 we did not have the luxury of a decade – we needed to ensure that these conversations started as soon as possible, to ensure the process to develop the next framework was participatory, inclusive and responsive to the voices of those most affected by poverty and injustice – rather than to have been written by a small group of UN insiders.


Stop the ORMAS Bill! - An interview with Longgena Ginting

Longgena Ginting Greenpeace Indonesia"Indonesia is home to massive environmental and cultural resources. By protecting civil society, we can help to ensure a greater degree of protection for these local and global assets, many of which are fundamental to supporting life on this planet."

Longgena Ginting, Country Director of Greenpeace Indonesia, speaks to CIVICUS about Indonesia’s Mass Organisation Bill and the serious risks that it poses to civil society in Indonesia.

What kind of environment does civil society in Indonesia operate in?

With the fall of the Suharto Regime in 1998 and the advent of our current political era, sometimes referred to as the “New Indonesia”, a robust and variegated civil society sector has emerged including student activist groups, traditional governance organizations and  independent trade unions. These groups play a fundamental role in balancing state authority and in supporting the development and implementation of equitable and just government policies.


Language, Culture and Millennium Development Goals- An Interview

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Dave Pearson, who is a long-time staff member at SIL International, a large nongovernmental organization which has pioneered advocacy for minority language rights and resources around the world. He also serves as SIL’s permanent representative to UNESCO, where he consults on issues at the intersection of minority languages and development work.

The impetus for this conversation was a recent refresh of SIL’s website, which made me newly aware of some great resources they have published on this theme, including a booklet entitled Why Languages Matter: Meeting Millennium Development Goals through Local Languages and a larger project conducted with UNESCO, called Why Language Matters for the Millennium Development Goals. We sat down to talk about this important issue, often overlooked by the global health community.



Ivana Savić shares her thoughts on Youth participation in the Post-2015 Agenda

Ivana SavicIvana Savic is a Policy Officer at Change Mob and Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Development Studies. She serves as a board member to the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) at CIVICUS. Prior to these roles, she served as Junior Advisor at the Gender Equality Department to the Ombudsman of the Republic of Serbia. Since 2009 she served as the representative for the Child Rights Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, which was an Organizing Partner for the Major Group on Children and Youth at the Rio +20 Conference in Brazil last year.

How have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework assisted in the development of youth organizations, capacities and livelihoods since its inception in 2000?
MDGs have been important in advancing the livelihoods and capacities of young people, but also mobilizing young people to be involved in the implementation and progress reporting of the MDGs. However, Beyond 2015 goals should have at least one goal committed to youth and one committed to human development governance, particularly issues pertaining participation in decision making.

What are some of the key issues facing youth throughout the world today, which should be prioritised in a Post-2015 Agenda?
People all over the world, especially young people, are faced with increasing environmental degradation, human rights violations and economic crises and those issues should be prioritised in the Post-2015 Agenda. A clean, safe, healthy, adequate and sustainable environment is a prerequisite for life, survival and development. It also bares consequences for the fulfilment of human rights. Unfortunately, however, the environment is not an indefinite resource and its degradation negatively influences human health and life as well as the future and the lives of future generations. Furthermore, human rights, especially rights such as right to life, survival and development, right to adequate standard of living, right to health, right to work and social security, freedom from violence; and also the right to participation should be emphasised in the post MDGs agenda. It would be better to say that protection, fulfilment and advancement of human rights should be a foundation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. After all, development goals could be perceived as efforts made toward fulfilling the vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable world.


Uchita de Zoysa of Global Sustainability Solutions shares his thoughts on the MDGs and Corporate Sustainability

Uchita de Zoysa Global Sustainability Solutions Sri LankaUchita de Zoysa is the Chairman of Global Sustainability Solutions (GLOSS), the Executive Director of the Centre for Environment and Development, and Initiator of the People's Sustainability Treaties. He is the author of several books and international reports, and has played a leading role in the formulation of global independent sector collective agreements such as The NGO Alternative Treaties and the Oslo Declaration on Sustainable Consumption. Prior to these roles, Mr de Zoysa created and led the largest environment and development NGO in Sri Lanka, the Public Campaign on Environment & Development. In addition, he has also held numerous international posts including Advisory Board Member and Head of the Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption for SC.Asia.

To what extent has the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since 2000, promoted the issues of sustainability and responsibility amongst corporations within global production and consumption practices?

The MDG's had no doubt helped create awareness on sustainability and responsibility amongst all critical stakeholders including business and industry.


Richard Morgan of UNICEF shares his thoughts on the Post-2015 Agenda, Women and Children

Richard Morgan UNICEFRichard Morgan is the Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the Post- 2015 Agenda. He is a member of the UN Secretary- General's Task Team on the Post- 2015 Agenda and has chaired various UN inter agency groups on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the past. Prior to this, Mr Morgan served as UNICEF's Director of Policy, UNICEF in Africa and for the Government of Botswana during the 1970-1990s. His focus lies within the areas of how rights based, normative approaches can be effectively applied to international development1. Source2

 To what extent have governments increased commitment to child and gender sensitive policies after the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000?

This is not easy to answer rigorously, and would depend on careful, comparative cross-country analysis of national policies between 2000 and 2012. Certainly there have been a number of individual advances in national child- and gender-sensitive policies, both across sectors and in specific areas such as juvenile justice reform and legislation designed to prevent violence against children and women. However, much more remains to be done in terms of policies, legislation, administrative measures, pro-child budgets and programmes.


CIVICUS interviews Dr. Changyong Rhee about the Post-2015 agenda

Dr. Changyong Rhee, Asian Development BankDr. Changyong Rhee is the Chief Economics and spokesperson on economic forecasts, trends at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He has over 20 years of professional experience in government and academia and served as the Secretary General of the Presidential Committee for the G- 20 Summit where he played a role in shaping and advancing the agenda for the 2010 G- 20 Seoul Summit. In previous years, Dr. Rhee also served as Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Commission of the Republic of Korea and played an instrumental role in developing strategic policy responses to the 2008 global economic crisis. In the private sector, Dr. Rhee advised the Shinhan Bank and Woori Investment and was also the director of the financial market think tank, the Korea Fixed Income Research Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

How have the Asian and Pacific regions changed since the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework in 2000?

Asia has been experiencing fast growth, contributing to the shift of global gravity to the region. The GDP growth rate of 8.3% averaged over 2000-2011 is faster than any other region in the world and has helped lift almost 300 million Asians out of extreme poverty.


Civil society has the potential of finding new solutions to global challenges which are based on the principles of equity, participation and sustainability: An Interview with CIVICUS Secretary General, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

New CIVICUS Secretary General Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah who officially began his mandate as head of the global alliance this week speaks to the CIVICUS Policy Unit about the role of civil society in redressing the challenges affecting citizens around the world.

What are your preliminary reflections about the role of CIVICUS in particular and global civil society in general in responding to the convergence of crises affecting the world today?

I am very excited about the chance to work at an organisation like CIVICUS. I have long-admired the work that CIVICUS does to protect civil society space and promote citizen participation. I also feel positive about the role of civil society in addressing some of the great challenges facing the world today.

Civil society voices were screaming about the big problems – from financial meltdown to climate crisis – long before governments and business woke up. But, with governments lacking the will or resources to do anything and most businesses still addicted to short-term profits, I am certain that it will be civil society that will find new solutions based on equity, participation and sustainability.

One of my main aims at CIVICUS is to help amplify those voices, especially from the global South, which are coming up with novel ways of promoting citizen voice and innovative ways of fighting injustice.


CIVICUS Interviews Felix Dodds about the MDGs, Post-2015 and Sustainable Development

Felix Dodds Felix Dodds is an independent consultant focusing on stakeholder engagement in the sustainable development process. He is also a current Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute. Prior to these roles, he served as Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and has been active at the UN since 1990, having attended a myriad of World Summits. He has also participated in all UN Commissions for Sustainable Development and UNEP Governing Councils; and has chaired the 64th UN DPI NGO Conference on Sustainable Development. Additionally, he is a member of a number of advisory boards such as the Great Transition.

1. How have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) assisted in creating an environment conducive to the actions of civil society since its inception in 2000?

It should be remembered that unlike Agenda 21 there was little stakeholder involvement in the development of the MDGs. They by and large came from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (DAC OECD) targets so there was considerable opposition by stakeholders to the MDGs to begin with. From the sustainable development world, who had mostly bypassed the MDG Summit to focus on the World Summit on Sustainable Development, there was little in MDG7 to be happy with. MDG7 was slightly strengthened by the addition of a sanitation target. It is clear in the years since 2000 that development funding refocused around the MDGs and climate change and therefore so did much stakeholder involvement and actions.


Distinguishing between civil society groups is divisive and will weaken cohesion among different sectors: An interview with Lewis Mwape of the Zambia Council for Social Development

Lewis Mwape of the Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD), speaks to CIVICUS about the status of the 2009 Zambian NGO Act and the campaign to amend the law.

In 2009 the government passed the NGO Act. Can you tell us a little about the restrictions on civil society under the law?

If implemented, provisions governing the registration of NGOs under the new law will be extremely problematic. Under the law CSOs must re-register every five years. In addition, prior to registering, CSOs must explicitly state their sources of funding and proposed activities. Such intrusive requirements will create severe administrative and organizational hurdles to the registration of new NGOs. The prospect that NGOs will be required to secure sustainable funding prior to registration is impractical.

The NGO Act also greatly narrows the definitions of CSOs. Labour unions, faith based organizations and professional groups are not recognized under the NGO Act and are expected to register according to separate legislation with the Ministry of Labour and under the Society Act for Faith Based Organisations. Distinguishing between civil society groups is divisive and will weaken cohesion among different sectors.


Interviews with youth delegates at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum (2)

Natalie Akstein, CIVICUS Junior Convening Officer and youth focal point, interviews youth delegates at the Global Youth Forum in Bali, Indonesia. Delegates provide perspectives on the Forum's issues and suggestions for CIVICUS to strengthen its work on youth participation.

Samuel Kissi from Ghana is interviewed in this video.

*For more information on the Global Youth Forum go to this site:


Interviews with youth delegates at the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum (1)

Natalie Akstein, CIVICUS Junior Convening Officer and youth focal point, interviews youth delegates at the Global Youth Forum currently taking place in Bali, Indonesia. Delegates provide perspectives on the Forum's issues and suggestions for CIVICUS to strengthen its work on youth participation.

Omer ÇİFTÇİ from Turkey is interviewed in this video.

*For more information on the Global Youth Forum go to this site:


Human rights defenders in Bangladesh are at constant risk: An interview with Adilur Rahman Khan on Bangladeshi CSO Odhikar

Can you tell us a little bit about the mission and work of Odhikar?
Odhikar Logo BangladeshOdhikar was formed by a group of human rights activists who fought against Bangladesh’s autocratic regime and struggled to restore democracy. Together, the group initiated discussions underscoring the need to uphold the civil and political rights of the people of Bangladesh along with their social, cultural and economic rights. A decision was then made to form an organisation to advance such rights and on October 10, 1994, Odhikar (a Bengali word that means ‘rights’) came into being. Its aim was to create a wider monitoring and awareness raising system on the abuse of civil and political rights.

Odhikar’s mission is broad and includes the promotion of human rights through the introduction of participatory democracy and good governance as well as advocacy and lobbying for the incorporation and ratification of international human rights instruments into domestic human rights compliant laws. Odhikar also stands to fight impunity, promote justice and criminalise torture within Bangladesh and, through affiliated networks, at regional and international levels.

The organisation’s day to day work focuses on documenting, fact-finding, monitoring and researching human rights abuses that include enforced disappearances, custodial deaths, violence against women, torture, prison conditions, violations of freedom of expression, election monitoring and fostering mass awareness campaigns on rights and duties.


Change begins with the individual: An interview with Suzanne Salz, ICLEI

How would you evaluate the Future We Want outcome document in two sentences?

The Future We Want outcome document is far from certain to actually lead us to the Future We Want due to its lack of ambition and commitment by the national government leaders of the world. Yet, it does contain some seeds which allow us to hope and which could form the basis of important action by many.

Do you think the conference was a success or a failure? Does the outcome give you hope or do you feel that it has regressed in terms of the progress?

Rio +20 was not the success the world and its young people needed it to be, but neither was it a catastrophic failure. Instead, it continues making little improvements, and for the world to continue muddling through, which is really not good enough.

Which stakeholder should have the biggest responsibility and make more efforts after Rio+20?

All stakeholders should do what they can: national governments, local and subnational governments, companies, individuals and civil society as a whole. Rio+20 encouraged this multifaceted action, in side events as well as in provisions in the official text such as specific sections on all nine Major Groups, on corporate sustainability reporting, on sustainable cities and on voluntary commitments.


It is too simplistic to declare Rio+20 an utter failure or a roaring success: An interview with Farooq Ullah, Stakeholder Forum

Farooq Ullah is Editorial Advisor at the Stakeholder Forum. He is also a Specialist Advisor to the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee and a member of the Alliance for Future Generations.

What are your overall impressions about the Rio + 20 Conference? Were the gains commensurate to the energy and resources spent?

It is too simplistic to declare Rio+20 an utter failure or a roaring success. It is important to look deeper than a superficial assessment to understand what really happened. Sustainable development is complex; I wish it were easier. There are, without a doubt, some successes that must be celebrated, minor though they may be.

Rio+20 launched numerous processes. It is the outcomes and success of these processes which will be the ultimate judge of the success of Rio+20.

How is the Stakeholder Forum planning to follow-up on the decisions made at Rio + 20?

Stakeholder Forum is planning much follow-up work to Rio+20, particularly on the Sustainable Development Goals, the intergovernmental process on Mobilisation of Resources, the Green Economy and Corporate Sustainability.


Russia's NGO Law will inevitably result in a contraction of space and opportunity for NGOs: An interview with Boris Pustyntsev, Director of the Russia-based Citizens' Watch

Boris Pustyntsev, Director of the Russia-based Citizens' Watch, speaks to CIVICUS about the impact of the new 'NGO Law' and recent restrictions on civil society activism in Russia.

The Russian Parliament recently adopted a new NGO law. Can you tell us a bit about the requirements set out in the law?

The law requires NGOs which receive funds from foreign sources and "participate in political activities" to apply for inclusion in a special registrar of NGOs which "perform functions of a foreign agent." After registering as a foreign agent, the NGO is required to provide relevant administrative authorities with detailed information pertaining to the amount of funds and other property received from foreign sources as well as information detailing how the funding and property will be used. In addition, every NGO registered as a 'foreign agent' must regularly submit documents detailing its activities, structure and members of its governing bodies to these authorities.

Furthermore, all publications issued and disseminated by NGOs designated as 'foreign agents' must include a notice that it has been published by an NGO registered as a 'foreign agent.' Also, any public events, including conferences, seminars or roundtable discussions, etc., organized by such an NGO must be preceded by an announcement that the organizer has been registered as a 'foreign agent.'


Harassment and detentions increase in Sudan: interview with Hassen Abdel Ati, National Civic Forum

Dr Hassan Abdel Ati, Secretary General of Sudan’s National Civic Forum, speaks to CIVICUS about the crackdown on civil society activism and independent journalists since student-led protests began in March 2011.

A student led protest movement has emerged in Sudan. What issues have protestors put forward and what has been the government’s reaction to the demonstrations?

The youth protests, which began in earnest in March 2011, were spearheaded by university students in Khartoum, Kassala and Port Sudan. The protests started as sit-ins, strikes and demonstrations. However, the recent wave of protests, which followed violent confrontations with South Sudan forces in Hejlieg, have received far greater media attention. The recent protests were organised simultaneously in universities and residential areas in major cities in 11 of 15 regional states across Sudan. The demands put forward by demonstrators have widened beyond initial concerns about price increases of basic commodities to include the severe deprivation of freedom, peace and justice.

Since the movement began, protesters have demonstrated peacefully and in line with the 2005 Sudan Interim Constitution and its adjoining bill of rights. But government reaction to the protests has been vicious and unprecedented, and has contravened Sudanese Law. Riot police, plain clothes security personal and student militias have raided university premises and female student hostels, beating students and causing serious bodily harm. In addition, government security forces have used tear gas in enclosed areas, including in the Wad Nobawi Mosque in Omdurman and at the University of Khartoum. Furthermore, security officials have unwarrantedly and indiscriminately used rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. In early August, in reaction to demonstrations in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, 12 people, most of them under the age of 20, were killed. At present, over 2,000 people involved in the demonstrations across Sudan remain in detention, with several being held in undisclosed facilities.


‘The influence and participation of civil society in governance structures is a critical aspect of sustainable development’: Rio+20 interview with Catherine Pearce, Campaign Manager, Future Justice for the World Future Council

Catherine Pearce is the Campaign Manager for Future Justice [] at the World Future Council, which campaigns for the interests of future generations to be taken into account in policy-making. Catherine has almost a decade's experience in the area of climate and energy policy, having worked with the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, where she convened mayors and advisors on reducing emissions and energy use in some of the world's largest cities. She also coordinated the climate campaign for Friends of the Earth International and the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group in Westminster, UK.

What do you feel were the high and low points of the Rio+20 processes?

In the face of the enormity of our environmental and economic crises, Rio+20 offered a critical moment to seize new, visionary ideas and commit to ambitious, long-term action to secure the safekeeping of the planet and our very wellbeing.

Back in 2010, the Rio+20 Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, said, "There has never been a more urgent time to drive political will and action to make our societies more economically strong and socially and environmentally sustainable. We need to reinvigorate support here and now." Yet as Rio+20 neared, government positions became clear. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned them to resist the prioritisation of narrow national interests over the opportunity to take a new path to address the needs of the billions without, and safeguard the very sources of life on which we all depend.

These loaded statements were accompanied by inspiring civil society actions and campaigns, a high point perhaps, and stark warnings from the scientific community, all pointing in the same direction of what was required and expected of leaders in Rio.

The summit was never going to match its famous predecessor in Rio de Janeiro 20 years earlier. But while new legislation or new conventions were not a realistic part of the Rio+20 predicted outcome, some innovative new ideas were. The World Future Council had been actively promoting one such idea: to establish Ombudspersons for Future Generations. These would be independent guardians appointed at global, national and local levels whose job would be to help safeguard environmental and social conditions by speaking up authoritatively for future generations in all areas of policy-making.


Interview with Natia Kapanadze, Director, Legal Defense Center, Georgian Young Lawyer's Association

Natia Kapanadze, Director of the Media Legal Defense Center at the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), based in Tbilsi, Georgia, speaks to CIVICUS about recent attacks on independent journalists and civil society’s response.

What can you tell us about recent attacks on journalists and the freedom of expression in Georgia?

The work of journalists in Georgia has become particularly difficult in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 2012. Since March, freedom of movement for Georgian journalists has been greatly restricted, with authorities denying reporters access to administrative offices and preventing them from covering government meetings and speeches.

Several journalists have also been subjected to heightened intimidation and physical abuse. In early July, video footage was released showing over a dozen activists, including ten journalists, being attacked in the village of Karaleti. The activists came to Karaleti to conduct election campaigning for the opposition coalition Georgia Dream.

Media organisations criticising the authorities have also faced problems in broadcast distribution. In one recent case, satellite dishes imported by broadcasters Studio Maestro LLC were impounded by the government in connection with an alleged vote-buying scheme. Studio Maestro LLC has contended that the distribution of the satellite dishes was simply part of a campaign to increase the scale of its audience. The state has failed to provide any explanation of the case, which has been condemned by civil society as affront to freedom of expression.


‘What will you do differently now?’: Rio+20 interview with Susanne Salz, Former Head of the Secretary General’s Office at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Susanne Salz is the former Executive and Policy Assistant to the Secretary General of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. ICLEI represents local authorities in numerous global forums, and in her role Susanne coordinated ICLEI’s global strategic relationships, working with partners such as UN-Habitat, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. At Rio+20, she represented local authorities. In the past, Susanne worked at the Education Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and at UN Volunteers.

How would you evaluate the Future We Want outcome document in two sentences?

The Future We Want outcome document is far from certain to actually lead us to the future we want, due to its lack of ambition, and the lack of commitment by the national government leaders of the world. Yet it does contain some seeds that allow us to hope and which could form the basis of important action by many.

Do you think the conference was a success or a failure? Does the outcome give you hope or do you feel that it has regressed in terms of the progress?

Rio+20 was not the success the world and its young people needed it to be, but neither was it a catastrophic failure. Instead, it continues the tendency of making little improvements, and for the world to continue muddling through, which is really not good enough.


The success and failures of Rio+20: interview with Henri Valot, CIVICUS Outreach Director

How would you evaluate the successes and failures of Rio + 20?

I have sincerely mixed feelings about Rio+20. What was definitely pleasant was that it was hosted by the wonderful city of Rio de Janeiro. Lucky country, to have such a spectacular and friendly city! Although, the conference was itself too big and the distances between Rio Centro and the People’s Summit were too far from each other. I had the impression that I was running frantically from one venue to another, which was quite frustrating.

So, most people say that if the summit did not result in a binding outcome document, then Rio+20 would have at least been a place for stakeholders to meet. But I would actually even challenge this. Rio+20 could engage in some multi-stakeholder dialogue only during the Sustainable Development Dialogue Days and in a few other venues. But again, I have this impression that CSOs and governments mainly talked to themselves, while the UN tried its best to get everyone to reach a common position. I was also surprised to see how the UN opened large avenues for the private sector, offering its representatives a fantastic marketing playing field. We need totally to rethink the engineering of these global events.


LGBT activism in Lithuania: interview with Vladimir Simonko

Vladimir Simonko, co-founder and chair of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) speaks to CIVICUS about the challenges the LGBT community faces in one of the most homophobic countries in Europe.

What current barriers exist for LGBT groups trying to operate in Lithuania?

Intolerance in general and homophobia as in Lithuanian society form a barrier for LGBT groups.

Lithuania is a party to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as numerous other international human rights instruments. But despite these formal commitments to protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, public opinion polls show that Lithuania is one of the most homophobic countries in Europe. Sexual minorities in Lithuania suffer from systematic discrimination and are subjected to hate speech within Lithuanian media.


“For vulnerable communities, civil society groups are a ray of hope” – interview with Qamar Naseem, Blue Veins, Pakistan

Qamar Naseem, programme coordinator with women’s organisation Blue Veins, based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, speaks to CIVICUS about the main challenges civil society groups and women face from religious right politicians in Pakistan.

What do you feel are the main challenges faced by civil society in Pakistan?

There are several challenges to CSOs in the different areas of Pakistan. The biggest challenge to Pakistani civil society is its recognition; it has often failed to bring the government within a people-centric corruption-free framework.

In most areas of Pakistan civil society exists in an underdeveloped form. There are always challenges to the liberal and democratic system in Pakistan, which has not allowed CSOs to grow in a considerable way. Ignorance, lack of sensitisation and poor knowledge about rights, and a lack of inclusion polices, have remained big challenges for civil society.

With increasing extremism, the space for liberals has decreased significantly. The space for dissent is consistently becoming smaller and more restricted. It is becoming easier for the state and the other dominant powers to label all dissent as terrorism or anti-national, while non-state actors aligned with the state easily label dissent as being part of a western agenda.


‘The main issue is equality of opportunities’: Rio+20 interview with Sabina Anokye-Mensah, Voice of African Mothers

CIVICUS speaks to Dr Sabina Anokye-Mensah from Voice of African Mothers (VAM) on her expectations for Rio+20. As a civil society organisation and organising partner for the conference's Women Major Group, VAM advocates for women's education and empowerment in the African continent. She speaks about the challenges that arise from the concept of the green economy concept, and the tensions that currently face governments in the adoption of a rights-based approach.

What are your expectations from Rio+20?

The results of Rio+20 are expected to guide the actions of governments and the UN regarding the issue of sustainable development in the following years. Following from the conference I expect a cordial and improved relationship between governments, civil society, major groups, private sector and all stakeholders, so that the collaboration will provide a system of economic and environmental activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, which create the opportunity for men, women, boys and girls to live in harmony with nature and be treated equally. Rio+20 results should strengthen sectoral linkages between agencies to ensure the use of the green economy as one of the means toward the achievement of the three pillars of sustainable development.


CIVICUS Interviews Nikhil Seth, Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat

CIVICUS Director of Outreach, Henri Valot, interviews Nikhil Seth, Director, UN Division of Sustainable Development and Head of the Rio+20 Secretariat*

Listen to the interview

HENRI: What are your hopes and aspirations for Rio+20?

NIKHIL: My hopes and aspirations for Rio+20 are very high. First, I think it's going to be a very important convening of over 60,000 game-changers and people who have a deep impact on national policy. Representatives of civil society bring expertise in a wide range of areas, so it's not only a political governmental conference, but the ability to convene the largest UN conference in history, and the communities we will bring together at Rio will produce not one outcome which everyone focuses on - the political outcome - but thousands of outcomes, which bring together different communities of expertise, which has the potential for nurturing and brokering new partnerships. It has the potential of civil society engaging with different civil society from different parts of the world, so it's a mammoth assembly of people, and people forget that sometimes. So my hope is that in both the political outcome and in these other outcomes that I talk about that we will get real traction for the "future we want".

HENRI: In your opinion, what are the major challenges that the UN or member states are facing in establishing a concrete or ambitious outcome agreement? I know the problem on the Zero Draft and the negotiations that are happening. What are, for you, the main challenges?

NIKHIL: I think we are living in very difficult times. To start, news from all around the world is not good. The politics are kind of shot up globally, the economics are shot up globally, and people see only dark clouds in the global political, social and economic situation, so we are meeting in very difficult times, and meeting at such times, people wonder that groups will renege from the promises of the past, because the difficult situations mean difficulties for example, in financial resources. It means difficulties in various other commitments that have been made over the last twenty years, so the major worry is that other groups and countries might step back from their promises that will reduce the trust and the confidence and as a result people will not engage honestly and openly to solve the problems that we are out to solve. So my major worry is that the politics of the current times that we are living through will constrain significant progress.


‘Fewer and fewer committed, independent civil society activists are remaining’ - interview with Sukhrobjon Ismailov, civil society activist, Uzbekistan

Sukhrobjon Ismailov, founder and director of the Expert Working Group, Uzbekistan, speaks to CIVICUS about the challenges of being a human rights defender in his country. The Expert Working Group is a network of independent Uzbek experts and researchers studying issues related to law and public interest, human rights and fundamental freedoms, rule of law, democratisation and liberalisation.

Uzbekistan is considered one of the most difficult countries in which to be a civil society activist. What are the main challenges faced by you and your colleagues?

The challenges a CSO faces, whether local activists of international CSOs, partly depends on the Uzbek authorities' attitude of treating them well or badly depending on how politically loyal they are to the Uzbek regime. If they are loyal, issues regarding state registration and legal status, public support, persecutions and pressure - including imprisonment, physical attacks and abuse, threats, psychological pressure, coercion to cooperate with the authorities and secret services, blocking of websites and other types of media channels, denial of exit visas and freedom of movement, and restriction of freedom of assembly – can be solved. Those civil society activists and groups critical of the Uzbek government's policies face all these challenges on an everyday basis.


‘Address the voice of the 99%’: Rio+20 interview with Jaehyun Jang, Programme Specialist, Reshaping Development Institute, Republic of Korea

Jaehyun Jang is a Programme Specialist and Researcher at the Reshaping Development Institute (ReDI) in the Republic of Korea. ReDI is an independent think tank in the field of international development cooperation that aims to promote global development, study and research, and policy for the advancement of global knowledge cooperation. Here he tells us about his pessimism about the official Rio+20 process versus his hope in the People’s Summit, and the dangers in the current promotion of green growth and the green economy.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Rio+20?

I don’t have much expectation and hope for the forthcoming Rio+20. This is due to the fact that the main agenda of Rio+20 looks ‘zero ambitious’ compared to the original Rio summit, considering the seriousness and urgency of the multiple crises we and the earth face at the moment. By looking at the recent Rio+20 negotiations on the zero draft, it also seems that the recent failures in the UN climate change negotiations, caused by a growing tension between developed and major emerging developing economies, will lead the Rio+20 into another failure.


‘What is needed is a monitoring and accountability system for governments North and South’ – Rio+20 interview with Roberto Bissio, Coordinator, Social Watch

Roberto Bissio is Coordinator of Social Watch network and Executive Director of the Third World Institute. He serves as a board member of the Third World Network, the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation and of the Montreal International Forum. He is also a member of the Civil Society Advisory Committee to the United Nations Development Programme. Here, he talks about his hopes for Rio+20, and the need for sustainable development goals to combine human rights and sustainability agendas.

What are your expectations from Rio+20?

Rio+20 should at least reaffirm the Rio principles and resist the pressures to keep trusting in the kind of market solutions that have been proven a failure by the 2008 crisis. Ideally a Council for Sustainable Development within the UN framework should be created and an Ombudsperson for Future Generations appointed.


‘International civil society should spread awareness of the devastating effects of Ethiopian law’: interview with Endalkachew Molla, Director, Human Rights Council, Ethiopia

Endalkachew Molla Demilew is the Director of Ethiopia’s Human Rights Council (HRCO), responsible for coordinating the operations of the head and branch offices, establishing links and partnerships with governmental and non-governmental institutions, human rights activists, aid organisations, CSOs and the media, and overseeing HRCO’s human rights reporting and monitoring procedures. Previously he has held positions in both governmental and non-governmental institutions. Here, he tells us about his experience of working under the new CSO law introduced in 2009, the CSO Proclamation, described at the time  as “one of the most restrictive laws in the world” for civil society by Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.

The CSO Proclamation that was introduced in 2009 raised a significant amount of international attention at the time. What has been the impact of this legislation over the last three years?


CIVICUS interview with Jose Mavungo

Jose Mavungo is a human rights activist from the Cabinda region. He is the co-founder of the Mpalabanda Association, which has been denied permission to operate by the Angolan government. Presently, Jose Mavungo is coordinating activities of the members of the Mpalabanda Association. He speaks to CIVICUS about the challenges faced by civil society in Angola.

We understand that your organisation, “Proclamation of Mpalabanda” continues to suffer from a 2006 ban. Can you tell us a little about the circumstances of the ban and the present situation?

The issue of banning Mpalabanda is deeply linked to historical and subjective elements influenced by the conflict in Cabinda. We receive almost on a daily basis, tragic stories of military and civilian victims. The authorities want to emerge victorious in the Cabinda conflict at any cost even at the expense of legal and universal human rights standards.


‘Young women are a vital part of shaping the future’ – Rio+20 interview

A Rio+20 interview with Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global federation in 125 countries, and a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in CSO governance and transition management. She is also the Vice Chair of CIVICUS. She is active in trying to ensure that young women are able to help shape the future sustainable development agenda, and that the women's human rights impacts of climate change and sustainability challenges are taken into account. She talks to CIVICUS about her hopes for Rio+20 and the work of the World YWCA.

How is the World YWCA planning to advance women's issues, and participation at Rio+20?

The World YWCA will have a small delegation of YWCA representatives at Rio+20 with two clear goals – to ensure young people, and particularly young women, play a role in shaping the sustainable development agenda, and to ensure the agenda coming out of Rio+20 is inextricably linked with advancing gender equality and women's human rights. It is also essential that commitments are adequately resourced and that we continue to strengthen accountability mechanisms.


An innovative proposal to inspire the world - An interview with Alice Vincent of World Future Council

An interview with Alice Vincent of World Future Council on the Ombudsperson for Future Generations proposal

In the latest of our interviews with key civil society figures on the road to Rio+20, we talk to Alice Vincent, Policy Officer at the World Future Council, an organisation which brings together representatives of governments, parliaments, the arts, civil society, academia and the business world to form a voice for the rights of future generations. It hopes to see Rio+20 commit to establishing an Ombudsperson for Future Generations.

What is the World Future Council's proposal for Ombudspersons for Future Generations?

The World Future Council is proposing an Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations under the second theme of Rio+20, 'Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development'.

The World Future Council is an organisation that endeavours to bring the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. We identify existing innovative future-just policies and advise policy-makers on how best to implement these.


‘We don’t see the necessary urgency and commitment from member states’ - Rio+20 interview with Cristina Diez Saguillo, Main Representative to the United Nations, International Movement ATD Fourth World

Cristina Diez Saguillo has been a member of the International Movement ATD Fourth World's full-time volunteer corps since 2003. Prior to that she worked in the financial sector as a fund administrator and worked in grassroots projects with children and young people in poverty in disadvantaged urban areas of Spain. In 2010 she became the main representative of the organisation to the United Nations.

What issues is ATD Fourth World bringing to Rio+20?

The main issues we’re bringing to Rio+20 are human rights and the participation of all stakeholders, with special attention to those most affected by extreme poverty and exclusion.

The conference should contribute to building a new sustainable development framework and the outcomes should be based on internationally agreed upon human rights principles and standards. The work of the UN Human Rights Council in developing Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights provides a useful reference point in developing a human-rights based approach to sustainable development and poverty eradication. A rights-based approach will ensure the following:


‘Good intentions pasted onto flawed governance structures are not enough’ – Rio+20 interview with Linda Sheehan, Earth Law Center

Linda Sheehan is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, an organisation that promotes recognition of the legal rights of all of Earth’s inhabitants and ecosystems and advocates for and promotes Earth-based laws and policies. She has 20 years’ experience of environmental law and policy.

What issues is the Earth Law Center bringing to Rio+20?


In the 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit, we have witnessed increasing worldwide ecosystem degradation and accelerating species losses. Scientists agree that we now stand at a crossroads, at which we can decide to fundamentally change our behaviour now, or face irreversible climate change impacts that will begin to take on lives of their own. Further good intentions pasted onto existing, flawed governance structures are not enough. Instead, we need to transform our overarching governance systems themselves to reward sustainable actions and discourage self-destructive behaviour.


‘Civil society needs to be vigilant’ - interview with Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Coordinator, UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20

Elizabeth Thompson is a former Minister for Energy and Environment of Barbados who also served as Minister for Physical Development and Minister for Health. Ms Thompson was appointed to the Barbados Senate and was a practising attorney as well as a journalist. She has also served as a lecturer in ecology, economy, energy and politics.


CIVICUS Interview with Chantal Line Carpentier

Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Programme Coordinator
UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Sustainable Development

Chantal Line Carpentier joined the Division for Sustainable Development of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) as a Sustainable Development Officer in 2007. She previously served as Head of the Trade and Environment Programme of the North American Free Trade Agreement Commission for Environmental Cooperation and worked at the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and the International Food Policy Research Institute as well as consulting for the United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. She regularly publishes journal articles and book chapters on the relations between economics, trade and environment.


Rio+20 Interviews

CIVICUS has conducted a series of interviews with key players involved in the Rio+20 process. You may see the list of interviews conducted so far below: earth-summit-306-rtxvfxs


An interview with Felix Dodds, Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum

Felix Dodds is part of a number of advisory boards for Rio+20, including the global scientists conference in 2012 'Planet Under Pressure', the German Government sponsored conference 'Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus' in the Green Economy and the Government of Abu Dhabi sponsored conference 'Eye on Earth Summit' framework committee and stakeholder advisory committee.

What are your hopes and aspirations for Rio+20?

I have many hopes and aspirations for Rio+20 and some of those include:

  1. The establishment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been brought to the table by the governments of Colombia and Guatemala.  Areas for the SDGs might include oceans, energy, biodiversity, food security and nutrition, water, urbanisation, sustainable consumption and production. These goals should have universal application and build on Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPol). Integrating the SDGs with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to produce a single post-2015 framework would be a vital outcome from Rio.
  2. Put money on the table to fund a move towards an economy based on sustainable development. Governments can do this by delivering on the 0.7% commitment through the support of a financial transaction tax (FTT). The initiative might help governments refinance themselves, though it must be clear that that the money should support the move to economies supporting sustainable development.
  3. Support the establishment of a Convention on Corporate Sustainability to address the issues of mandatory reporting on stock exchanges. The Convention should be about more than simply addressing reporting; it should also deal with responsibility, principles of transparency and accountability of corporations. The Convention already has the support of governments, stakeholders and many key global companies as well as Global Compact.


CIVICUS advocates South Africans 'Right to Know'

CIVICUS interview with Dale McKinley

Dale McKinley, official spokesperson of South Africa’s Right to Know Campaign (R2K) and member of its national working group spoke to CIVICUS about the Protection of Information Bill passed by the National Assembly and awaiting approval of the National Council of Provinces. Dale is a long time social and political activist as well as an independent writer.

We understand that the Protection of Information Bill was revised a few times before the National Assembly passed it in November last year. What are the main concerns with the current draft of the bill?

Overall, despite the amendments, the fundamental thrust of the bill has not changed. It gives tremendous powers to the Minister of State Security to withhold a great deal of information from the public. The Right to Know campaign had devised a seven point freedom test for the bill. The bill passed by the National Assembly fails this test on the following grounds.


Interview with a civil society activist: Andrey Yurov

Andrey Yurov, from the Moscow Helsinki Group, International Youth Human Rights Movement and Head of International Observation Mission in Belarus, talks to Adele Poskitt at CIVICUS during the OSCE Civil Society Parallel conference about the situation for civil society in Belarus.

What do you think will be the impact of the 4.5 year sentence recently given to Ales Bialiatski going to be in Belarus?

The situation with Ales Bialiatski proves that there is no right for freedom of association in Belarus. The case is evidence that there is no free trial and no standards of rights are being observed in the country. The international community should understand that Belarus is not willing to meet its international human rights commitments. This situation is very difficult for Viasna, the organisation that Ales headed, but his colleagues are not going to stop their work. Despite the difficult conditions the organisation is facing and the possible confiscation of the venue they use as an office, I have no doubts they will continue their excellent work.


Interview with a civil society activist: Andrey Yurov

Andrey Yurov, from the Moscow Helsinki Group, International Youth Human Rights Movement and Head of International Observation Mission in Belarus, talks to Adele Poskitt at CIVICUS during the OSCE Civil Society Parallel conference about the situation for civil society in Belarus.

What do you think will be the impact of the 4.5 year sentence recently given to Ales Bialiatski going to be in Belarus?

The situation with Ales Bialiatski proves that there is no right for freedom of association in Belarus. The case is evidence that there is no free trial and no standards of rights are being observed in the country. The international community should understand that Belarus is not willing to meet its international human rights commitments. This situation is very difficult for Viasna, the organisation that Ales headed, but his colleagues are not going to stop their work. Despite the difficult conditions the organisation is facing and the possible confiscation of the venue they use as an office, I have no doubts they will continue their excellent work.


CIVICUS Interview with Billy Mayaya

Billy Mayaya, Programme Manager, Church and Society (CCAP Nkohma Synod), the human Rights and advocacy department of the Presbyterian Church in Malawi spoke to CIVICUS about the current political situation in the country and the targeted threats  civil society members. Billy is also the Chairperson of the Civil and Political Rights Committee of the Malawi Human Rights Commission and Board Member of the Human Rights Consultative Committee

The environment for civil society in Malawi appears to be deteriorating for the past few months. Could you tell us a little bit about the current situation and your recent arrest with four other colleagues?
There is an incremental movement towards shrinking civil society space in Malawi, the dynamics of which were prompted by the current ruling party’s landslide victory in 2009. The Democratic Progressive Party viewed this as licence to rule without the consensus of the people that voted them into power for a second term. Concerned with the increasing levels of impunity, civil society as a collective began to demand transparency,accountability and observance of the rule of law. In response, the position of government was to maintain a more hard-line approach. This was evidenced by the level of vitriol directed to civil society concerns. Civil society organisations and select individuals were publicly targeted at presidential functions as being agents of foreign governments bent on damaging Malawi's profile abroad. Civil society organisations were branded a security risk and threatened with deregistration. As a response, the Government has enacted legislation meant to further shrink the space for civil society. Chief among these is the NGO Act 2000 which cautions NGO not to engage in political activities a veiled reference to advocacy.


Interview with civil society activist: Gino Govender

Gino Govender, a seasoned civil society and trade union activist has recently joined Amnesty International’s International Mobilization team. He is based in South Africa and his mandate includes supporting growth in the region.  Prior to joining Amnesty, Gino was the Executive Director of Ditsela Workers’ Education Institute.  He has served a variety of student, community, labour and political organisations in organising, education and leadership roles over the years. He speaks to CIVICUS about his work, future plans and the state of civil society in Southern Africa.




25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
South Africa,
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

205 East 42nd Street, 17th Floor
New York, New York
United States

11 Avenue de la Paix
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435