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.

 

Interview with civil society activist: Arthur Larok, Director of Programmes at the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGO)

Arthur Larok, Director of Programmes at the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGO), the newest addition to CIVICUS’ Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) family, discusses whether there is a new beginning with the NGO Law Reform Process in Uganda. Arthur has wide experience in civil society law and governance. He has written widely on governance and democratisation in Uganda and recently authored a chapter detailing the legal environment for NGOs in Uganda, which was published in the book (Dis enabling the Public Sphere: Civil Society Regulation in Africa (Volume 1).  He holds a Masters Degree in Governance and Development from the Institute of Development Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Makerere University.

 

Interview with Henri Valot, CIVICUS' new Director of Outreach

Interview by: Elizabeth Hira, Human Rights Activist and  Policy Unit Intern for CIVICUS

Henri Valot has just rejoined CIVICUS as the Outreach Director, although his relationship with the organisation began in 2005 when he served as the CIVICUS Policy Advisor. In that role, he was involved with the origins of GCAP, the Better Aid Coalition and the pivotal OECD High Level Forum 3 in Accra where CSOs were acknowledged as development actors in their own right. Henri brings more than 20 years of experience around international cooperation and development effectiveness, having worked on peacekeeping missions, with the UNDP, and most recently in Angola and Burundi with the National Democratic Institute. He is also a professor of political philosophy. We asked Henri for his thoughts on the recent citizen uprisings in Greece and Spain, and what movements like this and Arab Spring signal for how CSOs must adapt to the changing future of citizen action.

 

Interview with civil society activist: Pepe Julian Onziemam

Pepe Julian Onziemam, Programme Coordinator for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) human rights organisations in Uganda, speaks to CIVICUS about the challenges of working in a hostile environment.

Q. Tell us about your work as an LGBTI activist

A. My work and that of the organisations - advocating for gay and lesbian people - which I have been involved with since 2004, has considerable challenges. Legislation that criminalises same-sex activities, means that we don't have space for advocacy work and most of what we do has to be done underground so people do not have to show their faces. We are forced to meet in private and have no access to legal aid. To issue statements we must create alliances with fellow civil society groups to deliver our message within Uganda. This is incredibly isolating and makes our work even more difficult. Our long-term goal is to decriminalise homosexuality.

In 2009, a draconian anti-homosexuality bill was introduced in the Uganda Parliament by MP David Bahati. There has been mixed reaction to the bill and the process has been drawn out because of the pressure exerted by religious leaders.

(CIVICUS has analysed the bill which, through its wide ambit, seeks to criminalise the work of civil society organisations promoting the rights of LGBTI persons through cancellation of their registration and punishment of the head of the organisation with seven years imprisonment. Other repugnant provisions of the bill include punishment by death for HIV infected persons if they have sexual relations with a person of the same gender; life imprisonment for attempting to contract a marriage with a person of the same gender; extradition to Uganda of citizens or permanent residents if they have sexual relations with a person of the same gender; and enhanced punishment of life imprisonment for sexual relations between people of the same gender. http://civicus.org/media-centre/press-releases/archieve/474--civicus-condemns-the-ugandan-anti-homosexuality-bill )

 

Interview with Civil Society Activist - Amy Bartlett

 

Amy Bartlett, the Global Coordinator of the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness, a unique global initiative working to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of civil society in development initiatives, speaks to CIVICUS about her work.

The Open Forum has been coordinating a collective civil society voice on development effectiveness over the last couple of years. Can you tell us about this process? 

The Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness is a unique space for CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) worldwide to engage in a global and fully participatory process towards defining and introducing a framework of mutually shared development effectiveness principles. Through the Open Forum, which will be operating from 2009 until the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011, CSOs are striving to build a consensus on commonly accepted principles to improve their development effectiveness and on minimum standards for an enabling environment where CSOs can fully apply and strengthen their specific roles in development. This framework will take account of CSO development visions, approaches, relationships and the impact of their actions. To develop this framework, the Open Forum is also facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues with and among CSOs, donors and governments on these issues at country, regional and international levels.

 

CONNECT WITH US

DIGITAL CHANNELS

HEADQUARTERS
25  Owl Street, 6th Floor
Johannesburg,
South Africa,
2092
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 5959
Fax: +27 (0)11 833 7997

UN HUB: NEW YORK
205 East 42nd Street, 17th Floor
New York, New York
United States
10017

UN HUB: GENEVA
11 Avenue de la Paix
Geneva
Switzerland
CH-1202
Tel: +41 (0)22 733 3435