Weak judicial system makes being a human rights defender in Honduras risky

Spanish    

RolandoBuCIVICUS speaks to Rolando Bú, the director of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations for the Development of Honduras (FOPRIDEH), a civil society umbrella organisation that brings together 86 Honduran NGOs. He has over 26 years of experience in civil society and volunteers at environmental and youth support NGOs. He discusses the security situation for Honduran human rights defenders and what can be done to improve the environment NGOs operate in.

1. Several recent assassinations of human rights defenders seem to corroborate the description of Honduras as the most dangerous country in the world for indigenous and environmental activists. What are the obstacles faced by human rights activists in Honduras?

The climate of insecurity in Honduras has multiple causes. One of the biggest problems is the fact that judicial institutions are weak, which makes them very vulnerable to penetration by organised crime ─ which in turn has grown exponentially over the last decade. These infiltrated institutions have not been able to prevent or promptly investigate killings, which has been apparent in the cases of human rights defenders assassinated for their work for land rights and against the exploitation of natural resources. Another, closely related factor is the concession of environmental licences allowing large domestic and foreign companies to make large investments to exploit those natural resources, often to the detriment of the ancestral territories of indigenous people.

 

Still a long road ahead for Cuban civil society

Spanish     

Armando Chaguaceda Noriega is a Cuban political scientist and historian who specialises in the study of civil society and the political regimes of Cuba and other ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our Americas) countries. He has extensive experience of participating, both in his native country and in other parts of Latin America, in several organisations and activists’ networks built around a progressive, anti-authoritarian perspective. He is a member of Amnesty International and a professor at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico.

1.  After decades of isolation, Cuba returns to the Organization of American States and has received the visits of Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Do you think this “opening to the world” will have any short- or medium-term effects in respect of democratic reforms or civil society freedoms?

 

A Human Rights Agenda for the next United Nations Secretary-General

letter to secretary general

The new Secretary-General of the United Nations will inherit a significant array of human rights challenges, and must urgently deal with the capability of United Nations institutions to protect and promote human rights globally. It is vitally important that she or he places human rights at the heart of the United Nations’ agenda.

 

Media statement on Chad: Release civil society activists ahead of April 10 elections

Ahead of the Chadian presidential elections scheduled for 10 April 2016, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the release of five arbitrarily detained civil society activists. The activists have been detained for peacefully opposing the candidature of incumbent President General Idriss Déby Itno, who is also the current rotating chair of the African Union.

 

CIVICUS ALERT: EU must not overlook rights violations in Turkey

Even as the European Union (EU) finalised its refugee agreement with the Turkish government, freedom of expression and civil society space continue to shrink in the country. CIVICUS urges the EU not to compromise its core values in its cooperation with Turkey. 

Part of the refugee plan includes speeding up Turkey’s accession process to the EU, but such steps are usually conditioned by positive human rights developments. On the contrary, democratic rights violations are currently becoming commonplace in Turkey, with security forces acting with impunity. 

The media is facing an unprecedented crackdown in Turkey. Authorities have severely restricted the operations of newspapers perceived to be supportive of the political opposition by taking over their management, imposing heavy fines, and preventing their distribution. Several TV channels have been forced off the air. 

 

Joint NGO Statement Urging a Halt of Pre-Election Civil Society Crackdown in Equatorial Guinea

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Downoad: English | Español

The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea should immediately cease its suppression of independent voices ahead of presidential elections, a group of human rights and democracy organizations said today. The government should also reverse its March 16, 2016 order requiring a leading independent civic group to suspend operations indefinitely, the groups said.

 

CIVICUS condemns sentencing of 17 Angolan activists, urges their release

The Provincial Court of Luanda sentenced 17 Angolan youth activists to prison sentences ranging from between two to over eight years on Monday for engaging in “preparation of a rebellion and criminal association.” CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, strongly condemns this latest instance of repression by Angola’s totalitarian state apparatus, headed by president José Eduardo dos Santos since 1979.

 

Media statement: Recent attacks on South African civil society worrying

South Africa may be celebrating human rights month to commemorate the sacrifices made in the struggle for democracy, yet attacks on rights defenders point to a worrying trend for civil society. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on South Africa’s government to treat two recent incidents with utmost seriousness. 

 

One year after abduction, calls to “#BringBack” Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara yield little

ItaiDzamara

March 2016 marks a year since Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara’s enforced disappearance. Itai (pictured) is the founder of Occupy Africa Unity Square movement. His protest style included sitting in the Africa Unity Square in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, with posters calling for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation and respect of human rights. In Harare recently, CIVICUS spoke to Patson Dzamara, who is brother to Itai, on the activism work of his brother and efforts to locate Itai.

 

 

1. Tell us about Itai’s background

Itai is a journalist by profession and born in 1979. His journalism journey started when he was still in high school. At some point he led the journalism club at his school, Highfileds High One School. He studied journalism soon after his Advanced-Levels. After completing his studies, he worked for various publications including The Zimbabwean, The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent. Itai also founded his own publication, The News Leader.

Some say his activism started when he founded the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement but I do not think that Itai’s activism started with Occupy Africa Unity Square. He has always been an activist even through his writing. When he started Occupy Africa Unity Square, it was just an escalation of his activism. He chose to grab the bull by its horns.

He is married to Sheffra and they have two children, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

 

CONCOURS PHOTO DES CITOYENS ACTIFS DE CIVICUS

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Votre organisation œuvre-t-elle à construire un monde plus juste et plus pacifique? Votre travail contribue-t-il à donner plus de pouvoir aux citoyens et les incite-t-il à prendre des mesures sur les questions qui nous concernent tous?

Si oui, vous pouvez vous inscrire au Concours photo des Citoyens actifs de CIVICUS!

Le concours est organisé dans la perspective de la Semaine internationale de la société civile 2016 selon le principe suivant: «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».

Le concours est ouvert à tous les membres votants de l'Alliance mondiale CIVICUS. Tous les membres votants et membres associés (organisations ou membres individuels) sont invités à soumettre des photos relatives aux thèmes de la conférence : «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables».

Admissibilité, juges et prix

Chaque membre votant ou associé(organisation ou membre individuel) peut présenter jusqu'à 3 photos maximum.

  1. Paix : créer des moyens positifs d’influer sur le changement social durable et non-violent, et faire respecter les engagements des droits de l'homme universels;
  2. Environnement favorable: protéger le droit de réunion, de prendre des mesures et de prendre la parole, tout en reconnaissant nos responsabilités et en améliorant notre efficacité;
  3. Inclusion: adopter plusieurs voix et faire preuve d'un courage fondé sur des principes pour traiter des questions controversées en vue d'une véritable représentation et d'actions légitimes;
  4. Participation: créer des opportunités pour un engagement de la société civile significatif en matière de gouvernance et de processus de prise de décision, et tenir les personnes au pouvoir pour redevables.

Au total, trois prix en espèces seront à gagner : un premier prix de 500 $ (USD), et deux seconds prix de 250 $ chacun.

Les gagnants seront sélectionnés par un jury composé de membres du personnel de CIVICUS. Les photos gagnantes seront sélectionnées et les candidats informés des décisions du jury d'ici juin 2016.

Remarque: CIVICUS se réserve le droit de ne pas décerner de prix si les juges estiment qu'il n'y a pas de gagnant

Que recherchons-nous?

Nous recherchons les images qui représentent le mieux la société civile en action et les efforts de nos membres pour protéger et promouvoir l'espace civique. Les photos pourront être affichées lors de l'ICSW 2016, et être également publiées sur les médias sociaux, notamment le site Web, les comptes Twitter et Facebook.

Les photos peuvent également être utilisées pour d'autres publications de CIVICUS et/ou lors d'événements CIVICUS à l'avenir. Les photographes et/ou les organisations qui soumettent les photographies conservent la propriété de toutes les photos, et leur utilisation sera accompagnée des mentions pertinentes à leur égard par CIVICUS.

Nous vous demandons de nous envoyer:

  • Des photos de qualité et fortement évocatrices illustrant les efforts efficaces et enthousiasmants accomplis par et pour la société civile.
  • Des images qui illustrent des actions passionnantes sur les thèmes de la conférence : «Des citoyens actifs, des actions responsables»
  • Des photos qui racontent une histoire, capturent un moment, ou illustrent les réussites ou les défis de l'action de la société civile.

Gardez à l'esprit que toutes les photos soumises doivent respecter les règles suivantes :

  • Être des œuvres originales du candidat
  • Ne pas enfreindre les droits d’autrui
  • Être respectueuses des droits, des sensibilités et de la culture des personnes représentées
  • Donner une image exacte de l'objet et de la scène du sujet telle qu'elle est apparue, sans modification (autre que l'optimisation standard, notamment l'enlèvement de la poussière, le recadrage, les ajustements de couleur et de contraste, etc.)

Pour obtenir des conseils sur la prise de belles photos, veuillez consulter les pages suivantes:
http://www.astuces-photo.com/10-regles-composition-photo/
http://fairedelabellephoto.com/
http://www.canon.fr/youconnect_newsletter/tutorials/
http://www.studio-photo-numerique.com/attirer-regard-photo/

Inscriptions
Les inscriptions débuteront lundi 21 mars 2016 et se clôtureront vendredi 15 avril 2016 à minuit GMT. Les photos présentées après la date de clôture ne seront pas prises en compte.

Règles de participation

  • La participation est limitée aux photos originales dont le candidat (photographe, organisation soumettant les photographies, ou les deux) détient tous les droits.
  • Chaque candidat est limité à la présentation d'un total de 3 photos, accompagnées de la légende descriptive nécessaire pour chaque photo (les photos valides soumises doivent être soumises avec une description d'une ligne à propos de la photographie, et le nom du photographe si le photographe doit être mentionné).
  • Taille du fichier: jusqu'à 2 Mo par photo
  • Format de fichier : JPEG/300 dpi (les gagnants peuvent être invités à fournir des images en plus haute résolution à des fins de publication ou d'affichage).

TELECHARGER LA DEMANDE DE CONCOURS | English | Español

SOUMETTRE VOTRE DEMANDE DE CONCOURS

Lisez les termes et conditions

 

CIUDADANÍA ACTIVA - CIVICUS CONVOCA A CONCURSO FOTOGRÁFICO

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¿Trabaja tu organización para construir un mundo de paz y más justo? ¿Colabora tu trabajo con el empoderamiento de ciudadanos y ciudadanas para la acción en temas que nos afectan a todos?

Si es así, ¡considera participar en el Concurso Fotográfico de CIVICUS “Ciudadanía Activa”!

El Concurso se desarrolla en el marco de la Semana Internacional de la Sociedad Civil bajo el lema “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”.

El concurso está abierto para todos los miembros de CIVICUS. Miembros (personas y organizaciones) están invitadas a enviar sus propuestas relacionadas con la tema de la conferencia: “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”

Elegibilidad, Jurado y Premios

Cada miembro puede presentar hasta 3 fotos.

Habrá un total de tres premios en metálico: un primer premio de USD 500 (quinientos dólares americanos), y dos segundos premios de USD 250 cada uno (dos cientos cincuenta dólares).

Los ganadores serán seleccionados por un panel integrado por personal de la Secretaría de CIVICUS. Los trabajos ganadores serán seleccionados y las personas concursantes serán informadas de las decisiones del panel en el mes de junio de 2016.

Nota: CIVICUS se reserva el derecho de declarar desierto el concurso si los miembros del jurado la gente a entender que no hay un claro ganador.

¿Qué es lo que estamos buscando?
Estamos buscando las imágenes que mejor representen a la sociedad civil en acción y los esfuerzos de nuestros socios en la promoción del espacio cívico. Las fotos serán exhibidas durante la Semana ICSW2016 y anunciadas en las redes sociales, como por ejemplo sitio web de CIVICUS, su Twitter y su cuenta de Facebook.
Las fotos también podrán ser usadas en el futuro en otras publicaciones de CIVICUS o en eventos organizados por CIVICUS. La propiedad de las fotografías seguirá siendo de las y los artistas que las tomaron o de la organización que las presentó al concurso, y CIVICUS aclarará el uso correspondiente.
Así que por favor pedimos que nos envíen:

  • Fotos enérgicas, contundentes y de alta calidad, que ilustren los esfuerzos efectivos e inspiradores que desarrolla la sociedad civil.
  • Imágenes que ilustren acciones motivadoras dirigidas a lograr “Ciudadanía Activa, Acciones Responsables”
  • Fotos que nos cuenten una historia, que capturen un momento o representen los éxitos o desafíos de acciones de la sociedad civil.

Recuerden que todos los trabajos deben cumplir con ciertas condiciones, a saber:

  • Ser un trabajo original de quien lo presenta
  • No deben contravenir o transgredir los derechos de otras personas / artistas / organizaciones
  • Respetar los derechos, sensibilidades y la cultura de las personas captadas o plasmadas en las obras
  • Entregar una reflexión certera y fidedigna del tema y escena presentadas, sin alteraciones que no sean con el objeto de optimizaciones estándar, ajustes de color o tamaño, contraste, y similares.

Se pueden leer consejos de cómo tomar fotos muy buenas en los siguientes sitios web:
http://www.dzoom.org.es/11-consejos-para-hacer-mejores-fotos-que-siempre-me-funcionan/
http://clubdefotografia.net/8-consejos-de-fotografia-para-principiantes/
http://www.frogx3.com/2015/06/08/consejos-conseguir-mejores-fotografias/
https://www.arturogoga.com/10-consejos-para-tomar-buenas-fotos/

Período de presentación de los trabajos

El período de presentación de trabajos comienza el lunes 21 de marzo de 2016 y culmina el viernes 15 de abril de 2016 a medianoche horario GMT. Los trabajos que se presenten fuera de plazo no serán considerados para el concurso.

Reglamento de presentación de los trabajos

  • Los trabajos a presentarse pueden ser solamente fotos originales, sobre las cuales quien se presenta al concurso (sea la persona fotógrafa, la organización o ambos) tiene todos los derechos.
  • Cada persona u organización puede presentar un máximo de 3 fotografías.
  • Tamaño del archivo: Máximo 2 MB cada foto
  • Formato del archivo: JPEG/300dpi (se puede solicitar a las personas u organizaciones ganadoras que proporcionen imágenes de más alta resolución para fines de publicación o exhibición).

DESCARGAR EL CONCURSO DE APLICACIÓN | English | Français

ENVIA SU APLICACIÓN CONCURSO

Lea los términos y condiciones

 

ACTIVE CITIZENS PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

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In the lead-up to International Civil Society Week 2016, CIVICUS launched the Active Citizens Photography Competition, inviting eligible participants to share images of Alliance members in action. We received close to 100 photographs from around the globe showing CIVICUS Members engaging in the civic space in diverse ways.

As expected, CIVICUS Members made the judges’ task a difficult one! But decisions had to be made, and it is with great pleasure that we announce the top 3 photographs, touching upon women’s struggles for equality in political life, children and youth engaging in peace-building and civic space, and promoting acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities.

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of the Active Citizens Competition!

The top prize of $500 USD was awarded to Gender Links for this powerful image of women demanding their rightful place in politics.

 

Caption:Women in Mavula, Swaziland make their voices count during a debate on the equal representation of women in politics.

Photo credit:Thandokuhle Dlamini (for Gender Links)

Rationale:Gender Links (GL) is committed to an inclusive, equal and just society in the public and private space in accordance with the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Protocol on Gender and Development. This vision is achieved through a people-centred approach guided by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, Beijing+20 and Africa Agenda 2063. The organisation’s vision is grounded in the ideal that power and responsibility is much more effective than demagogic rule. Whether in the political arena, in the workplace or in the home, there is ample evidence to show that unbridled power is never a healthy state of affairs. GL firmly believes that democracy in our region can only be real if it starts in the home.

 

winner photographs with badges3

Caption: In celebration of Europe Day in the city of Vinnitsa, a group of girls held a flash mob for tolerance in support of the LGBT community. The girls attracted the attention of passers-by, when together they lifted up their palms painted in rainbow colours.

Photo credit:Evgen Gomoniuk (for Sustainable Development Club)

Rationale: The Sustainable Development Club has implemented the ESKOM project ("Energy Efficiency: Building coalitions on the earth") with the support of the EU. From July 2015, SDC has worked on the "Union parent community Lymaniskoho rural kindergarten to save it from destruction" project. In the autumn of 2015 SDC led the "Our days in the lens" project for training young photographers. Currently, the organisation is completing the project "To be an eco-journalist", which aims to train young activists in the basics of journalism and media literacy.

 

CaptionYAD’s Kids for Peace project works with the kids, for the kids, by the kids. The picture captures children celebrating that they are peace activists, promoting peace from the start, from childhood until the end of life. This picture was taken after the children took a peace pledge.  

Photo Credit:Atta ul Haq (for Youth Association for Development)

RationaleYAD’s Kids for Peace Pakistan project has a Mission to cultivate every child’s innate ability to foster peace through cross-cultural experiences and hands-on arts, service and environmental projects. The project’s Vision is a safe and peaceful world where all people respect and care for each other and our planet. Kids for Peace serve as a model and inspiration for creating this reality with children leading the way, not only for today, but for generations to come. Our Motto is Kindness Matters.

 

It was so difficult for the judges to make the final decisions that the panel chose to award three additional “honourable mentions”. These three contestants will be awarded one year’s free Voting Membership to the CIVICUS Alliance.

 

runnerup2   runnerup4.300X200 
Caption:Eco-campaigners support zero net carbon emissions by 2050 Caption:Peaceful demonstration against terrorism Caption:Making a camouflage net amidst conflict in Ukraine
     
Photo credit:CliMates (www.studentclimates.org Photo creditLAM ECHML (www.lamechaml.org/) Photo creditIryna Makarova

 

Syria: Renewed calls for Bassel Khartabil’s release on 4th anniversary of detention

Syria’s authorities should reveal the whereabouts of Bassel Khartabil, a software developer and free speech activist, and release him immediately, 31 organizations said on the fourth anniversary of his detention.

 

Freedom of expression in Turkey on a slippery slope

Liana VaronCIVICUS speaks to Liana Varon the Deputy Secretary General of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey (TUSEV), a network of over 100 foundations and associations in Turkey on the situation concerning freedom of expression and the environment for CSOs.

1. Can you provide details on the case surrounding the arrest of 27 academics early this year?

Academicians for Peace Initiative was established in 2012 to produce and disseminate academic knowledge on ending armed conflicts and peace building processes through analysing different examples from around the world.  On January 11, 2016 the initiative made public the petition entitled “We will not be a party to this crime!” 

 

CIVICUS “ACTIVE CITIZENS” PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION

Does your organisation work to build a more just and peaceful world? Does your work help empower and engage citizens to take action on issues that affect us all? 

 

If so, consider entering the CIVICUS “Active Citizens” Photography Competition!

 

The competition is being held in the run-up to International Civil Society Week 2016 under the banner: “Active Citizens, Accountable Actions”. 

 

The competition is open to all voting members of the CIVICUS World Alliance. Voting members (organisations or individual members)  are invited to submit entries relating to the conference’s themes: peace, inclusion, enabling environment, and participation.

 

Eligibility, Judging & Prizes

 

Each individual voting member or organisation may submit up to 8 photos (max. 2 photos per category: 

  1. peace: creating positive pathways to affect durable and non-violent social change, and upholding universal human rights commitments; 
  2. enabling environment: protecting the right to come together, take action and speak out, while acknowledging our responsibilities and enhancing our effectiveness;
  3. inclusion: embracing multiple voices and exercising principled courage in addressing controversial issues for true representation and legitimate actions;
  4. participation: creating opportunities for meaningful civil society engagement in governance and decision-making processes, and holding power-bearers to account.. 

 

There will be a total of three cash prizes: A top prize of $500 (USD), and two runner-up prizes of $250 each. 

 

Prize winners will be selected by a panel of CIVICUS staff. Winning entries will be selected and contestants informed of the panel’s decisions by June 2016.

 

Note: CIVICUS reserves the right to not award prizes if the judges rule that there is no winner in a specific category.

 

 

What We’re Looking for 

 

We’re looking for images that best represent civil society in action and our members’ efforts to protect and promote civic space. Photos may be displayed during ICSW 2016, as well as featured on social media, including the CIVICUS website and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels. 

 

Photos may also be used for other CIVICUS publications and/or at CIVICUS events in the future. Ownership of all photos remains with the photographers and/or the organisations submitting the photographs, and their use will be credited accordingly by CIVICUS. 

 

So please send us:

  • High quality, powerful photos that illustrate effective and inspiring efforts by and for civil society;
  • Images that illustrate exciting actions towards: i) peace, ii) enabling environment, iii)  inclusion, and iv) participation;
  • Photos that tell a story, capture a moment, or represent the successes or challenges of civil society action.  

 

Keep in mind that all entries must:

  • Be the original work of the applicant
  • Not infringe on the rights of others
  • Be respectful of the rights, sensitivities, and culture of persons depicted
  • Give an accurate reflection of the subject matter and scene as it appeared, without alteration (other than standard optimization, including removal of dust, cropping, adjustments to colour and contrast, etc.)

 

You can read tips about what makes a great photo at the following links:

http://www.betterphoto.com/exploring/tips.asp 

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2015/12/04/8-ways-to-tell-better-stories-with-your-photography/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/photographing-people/ 

http://lifehacker.com/5814174/basics-of-photography-composition-and-technique 

 

Entry Period

 

The entry period starts Wednesday 16 March, 2016 and will close on Friday 8 April 2016 at Midnight GMT. Entries submitted after the closing date will not be considered. 

 

Submission Rules

  • Entry is limited to original photos to which the applicant (photographer, organisation submitting the photographs, or both) holds all rights.
  • Each applicant is limited to submitting a total of 2 photographs per category (8 in total), with required descriptive caption for every photograph. (Valid entries require a one line description about the photograph, and the photographer’s name, if the photographer is to be credited).
  • File size: Up to 2 MB per photo
  • File format: JPEG/300dpi (Winners may be requested to provide higher resolution images for publication or display purposes.)

 

DOWNLOAD APPLICATION FORM

 

Once your application is complete, please upload it here: https://goo.gl/2KsqyD

 

Media Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo: CIVICUS urges AU to act on the first anniversary of the imprisonment of youth activists

On the first anniversary of the detention of Congolese youth activists, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges the African Union (AU) to demand their immediate and unconditional release, along with several other imprisoned civil society activists.

 

Statement on Eritrea at UN Human Rights Council

CIVICUS thanks the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea for her update this morning. We note with extreme concern that the government of Eritrea has effectively closed all spaces for participation of citizens in peaceful assemblies and it continues to restrict the rights of Eritreans to express independent opinions. The government uses sophisticated surveillance systems to monitor communications and activities of Eritreans at home and abroad.

 

Media Statement: CIVICUS urges justice for murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres on International Women’s Day

|Declaración en Español (pdf)

On 7 March, one day before International Women’s Day, mourners gathered to pay their final respects to human rights defender Berta Cáceres, who was violently gunned down at her home in the early morning hours of 3 March. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS joins Honduran civil society and the international community in strongly condemning the assassination of this leading advocate for indigenous land rights, demanding justice for her and her community.

 

More than 50 Organizations Ask U.S. Treasury, State for Help with Access to Banking Services

On February 25, 2016, 58 nonprofit organizations (NPOs), including umbrella groups with more than 300 member organizations, sent a letter to the U.S. Departments of Treasury and State asking them to convene a multi-stakeholder dialogue as part of a broader effort to ensure that registered, law-abiding NPOs are able to access the global financial system. The signatories to this letter represent more than $8.3 billion annually in humanitarian aid and services to the world’s most needy.

 

Poland: Government should listen to the people and stop curbing civil liberties

HannaSzulczewskaIn February 2016, CIVICUS interviewed Ms. Hanna Szulczewska, Press Officer for the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a citizen movement that emerged on social media in late 2015 as a response to threats facing Poland’s democracy. Here, Ms. Szulczewska discusses how the movement came about, what it aims to achieve and what support KOD is calling for from international actors. 

1. What developments led to the formation of KOD in late 2015 and what does the movement hope to achieve?

Since the parliamentary elections on 25 October 2015, the initiatives of the new Polish government have given serious cause for public concern. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won a majority in parliament following a populist electoral campaign based on a social policies programme, started to implement a series of changes with disregard for democratic principles and the rule of law. 

Our civic movement emerged spontaneously in reaction to these developments. KOD was actually inspired by an article published on 18 November 2015 on studioopinii.pl, an independent journalist web portal, by Krzysztof Łoziński, an active member of the anti-communist opposition and a journalist. In his text Łoziński said there was now a need to create a Committee for the Defence of Democracy, in view of “deliberate attempts made by the Law and Justice party to dismantle democracy”. The Committee should follow the tradition and ideals of the Committee for the Defence of Workers founded in communist Poland in 1976.

 

Civil society calls on Uganda to respect citizens’ rights and media freedom ahead of elections

Civil society groups are urging Ugandan authorities to respect citizen and media freedoms ahead of the 18 February parliamentary and presidential elections.

In the months leading up to election day, Ugandan authorities have restricted the ability of ordinary citizens, civil society activists and journalists to engage in open debates on sensitive issues such as official corruption, high rates of unemployment, rising costs of living, human rights violations and succession in the presidency, say CIVICUS and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).

“It appears that attacks on the media and journalists aim to restrict coverage of events and discussions that appear to challenge the actions and performance of the current government that has been in power for 30 years,” said David Kode, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations. “Worryingly, freedom of assembly of members of the political opposition has also been restricted, while civil society organisations have been intimidated.”

Journalists, particularly those working for independent radio stations outside of the capital Kampala, have been targeted by the authorities and accused of providing biased platforms for members of the political opposition to broadcast messages to their supporters. Several have been prevented from covering political campaigns, while others have been physically assaulted and shot at with live ammunition during demonstrations and campaign rallies organised by opposition parties.

On 20 January 2016, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) suspended the licence of independent radio Endigyito FM and seized the station’s equipment after it broadcast an interview with a leading opposition candidate. Earlier, on 15 October 2015, police shot and injured Radio One correspondent Ivan Vincent as he covered squabbles between supporters of the leading opposition candidate Kizza Besigye and the police.

Police have used excessive force to disperse some opposition rallies and pre-emptive arrests have also been carried out against opposition party members and political figures to prevent them from going to campaign rallies.  Authorities have blamed civil society organisations for inciting violence, demanding apologies and retractions of statements.  In several instances, police have used the Public Order Management Act, which regulates assemblies in Uganda, to crackdown on peaceful rallies and demonstrations by refusing to grant permission for some and providing police with powers to use brute force to disperse peaceful gatherings.

Moreover, the timing of the contentious NGO Bill on 10 November 2015, just a few months before the elections, also raises questions on the way the government views civil society organisations. The bill places undue restrictions on NGOs by establishing a National Bureau for NGOs with extensive powers which include the refusal to register NGOs and revoke their permits. The Bureau has the authority to monitor the activities of NGOs.

CIVICUS and FHRI call on the Ugandan authorities to stop the crackdown on independent voices and journalists and create an enabling environment that allows political participation of all actors, peaceful assemblies, and media freedom to objectively report on issues affecting the people of Uganda.

 

Call for CIVICUS Board Nominations

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CIVICUS is looking for nominations for election to its Board of Directors. As the term of the current Board draws to a close, we are now searching for suitable civil society leaders to help steer and govern the organisation from the end of 2016 to the end of 2019. 

We are looking for motivated and engaged civil society activists, thought leaders, researchers, volunteers, data specialists, networkers, movers and shakers to help lead the CIVICUS family and play an important role as part of our Board of Directors.

More importantly, you have until 21 February 2016 to nominate yourself or a person in your network who is capable and interested in the position.

Nominations can be submitted in English, French or Spanish. You can also view the Terms and conditions for nominations here.   

You can submit nominations online or by email () or by post to CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, PO Box 933, Southdale, 2135, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nominations are due by midnight UTC, Sunday 21 February 2016. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email our team at .

 

 

More action needed to stop human rights violations in Ethiopia

imgpsh fullsizeCIVICUS spoke to Yared Hailemariam, the director of Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), concerning the recent killing of protesters in the country. AHRE is an NGO initiative of Ethiopian human rights activists that fled the country and is dedicated to the advancement of human rights protection in Ethiopia.

1. Can you detail the main causes of the current protests in Ethiopia?

The current protest in Ethiopia’s Oromia region began in November 2015. The first and main cause of the protests was the controversial government proposal of a Master Plan for the capital, Addis Ababa, which aims to expand the city by taking over several Oromia towns surrounding the capital. Protestors say the implementation of the plan will result in the displacement of thousands of local farmers who settled in the area many years back. The protest was started by students in Oromia region and then farmers and other members of the Oromo ethnic group joined the demonstrations. 

 

Selection of UN secretary-general must be transparent

NatalieSamarasingheCIVICUS speaks to Natalie Samarasinghe, the executive director of the United Nations Association – UK, where she has worked since 2006. She is the first woman to hold this position. She speaks and writes regularly on UN issues. In 2013, she co-founded 1 for 7 Billion, a global campaign to improve the selection process for the UN Secretary-General.

1.How can the process of appointing the UN secretary-general be made more open, accountable and democratic?

It is crucial that a highly capable secretary-general is appointed this year – someone who can inspire global action, speak truth to power and give voice to the hopes and needs of the world’s seven billion people. Their ability to do so would be enormously strengthened by a selection process that is focused on merit; gives them a broader base of support; and minimises political compromises needed for appointment. 

To date, the process has satisfied any of these conditions, lacking even basic elements of modern recruitment practices and falling short of the UN’s principles of good governance. The Security Council has chosen a candidate behind closed doors and the rest of the UN’s membership has rubberstamped that decision. This opaque and outdated process has damaged the performance and perception of the UN.

 

COP21 was a historic turning point for climate change

Wael Hmaidan

The Climate Change Conference, COP21, was concluded in December 2015 with various agreements by states. CIVICUS speaks to Wael Hmaidan of the Climate Action Network who unpacks the agreements and what the outcomes of the conference mean. Climate Action Network is an international network of over 950 NGOs that promotes action to limit human-induced climate change

1. What are the major outcomes of the COP21 conference for the future?

As we start to get down to business in 2016, one thing is clear; this year will be different than any of those that came before it because this year, we have a comprehensive, global climate agreement to work with. While the agreement struck in Paris in December 2015 at COP21 will not ─ and was never expected to ─ solve climate change overnight, it is a historic turning point for our movement and indeed the planet. In Paris, leaders sent a signal that the age of fossil fuels is over, and that the renewable energy era will be embraced in its place. 

 

Jailing protest leaders undermines South Korean democracy

The recent sentencing of two South Korean civil society leaders, indicted for their role in organising and participating in protests demanding an independent investigation into the tragic Sewol Ferry disaster of 2014, is a troubling outcome for the protection of democratic rights in the country. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is deeply disturbed by the conviction and sentencing of the two leaders.

“The recent convictions of civil society protest leaders are a regressive step that will ultimately harm South Korean democracy,” said Teldah Mawarire, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. “In democratic societies the right to express dissent and petition the government should be respected, not squashed.”

 

Nigeria: Legislators should reject the Social Media Bill

A pending Bill under consideration in Nigeria has civil society concerned for freedom of expression in the country. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), and the Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) are urging Nigerian lawmakers to reject the ‘Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith Bill’, also known as the “Social Media Bill”. If passed, the proposed law will severely curtail freedom of speech and the opportunity to engage in critical political commentary online.

 

Joint Letter to King of Bahrain on Nabeel Rajab's Travel Ban

TO: His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain

CC: His Excellency Lieutenant General Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior, His Excellency Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, And Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva

Your Majesty,

We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Bahraini authorities to lift the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Nabeel Rajab in order that he be able to travel abroad with his family for the purpose of securing medical assistance for his wife, Sumaya Rajab.

Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights and on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.

 

Ethiopia: Civil society groups urge international community to address killing of Oromo protesters

Oromia_in_EthiopiaCIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Defend Defenders) and Amnesty International urge Ethiopia’s development and international partners to address the killing of at least 140 protesters in the Oromia region since December 2015. 

On 12 November 2015, peaceful protests started in the Oromia Region, southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa, in response to measures taken to transfer the ownership of a community school and portions of a local forest to private investors. The protests have since expanded in scope and size against wider grievances concerning the expansion of Addis Ababa into the Oromia Region under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan. They have also turned violent, resulting in the killing of protesters, and arrests of protesters and opposition leaders. 

The government announced on 12 January that it was cancelling the Master Plan, but protests continued the next day in parts of Western Hararghe, Ambo and Wellega where the police and the military used live bullets and beat protesters.

 

China Must Respect Due Process and Uphold the Rule of Law: A call for the Release of 36 Illegally Detained Human Rights Lawyers and Defenders

A Joint Statement by 108 Worldwide Civil Society Organizations regarding the 709 Crackdown

(9th January 2016, Hong Kong) Exactly six months have passed since 9 July 2015 when the Chinese government started detaining human rights lawyers and defenders in large scale. To date, we take note that 14 lawyers and 22 human rights defenders have remained under various forms of confinement, with some in complete disappearance. In addition, another 33 of them are banned from travelling out of the country.

 

JOINT STATEMENT CALLING FOR THE RELEASE OF VIETNAMESE ACTIVISTS: NGUYEN VAN DAI AND LE THU HA

On 16 December 2015, prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, 46, and his colleague, Ms. Le Thu Ha, 33, were arrested at their home and office in Hanoi, Vietnam, respectively. Both have been charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, a law that has been routinely and arbitrarily invoked by the government to suppress critical voices. 

 

Joint EHAHRDP, Protection International and CIVICUS Statement on the Special Session of Human Rights Council of Burundi

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Protection International (PI) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcome the resolution adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council during this Special Session, requesting that a mission composed of independent experts be urgently dispatched to investigate human rights violations.

 

Media Statement: Human rights defenders and civil society organisations face increasing threats

All over the world, human rights defenders and civil society organisations are facing increasing challenges with both state and non-state actors seeking to silence them.

 

Inequality and exclusion lie at the heart of the South African student protests

MphoNdabaCIVICUS speaks to student activist, Mpho Ndaba who is also an executive member of 350Wits and blogger on recent protests that rocked South African Universities. Students this year marched on Parliament in Cape Town and the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria making various demands.

1. What are the issues that were behind the recent protests?

The fall of apartheid saw many promises being made to South Africans especially to black people who were most affected by the system of oppression and segregation. Although there was a sense of hope for a new path which would ultimately lead to complete emancipation, nothing appears to have changed.

Access to education has been one of the major challenges the poor have been faced with in the new democratic South Africa, hence 2015 saw the rise of students who are willing to lay their lives down in an attempt to ensure that the system does not put them in a position of disadvantage. Students from various institutions of higher learning embarked in a national protest action. This gave birth to what is today known as ‘Fees Must Fall movement.’

 

Alert on Burundi: Downward spiral of violence needs urgent attention

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, warns of serious consequences due to the continued escalation of violence in Burundi. CIVICUS urges African leaders and the international community to strengthen diplomatic efforts to stem the tide of killings and gross human rights violations in Burundi. Individuals and civil society organisations perceived to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government are under severe attack.

 

Paris COP21 climate conference a test of commitment to the SDGs

WaelHmaidanWith the Climate Change Conference underway in France, CIVICUS speaks to Wael Hmaidan of the Climate Action Network on what the outcomes of the conference will mean. Climate Action Network is an international network of over 950 NGOs that promotes action to limit human-induced climate change

1. What are the core issues at stake concerning climate change at the COP 21 UN Climate Summit taking place in Paris?

At the UN Climate Summit in Paris, governments have an opportunity to forge a new global agreement that accelerates the transition away from fossil fuels to a safer world powered by 100% renewable energy. The stakes underpinning the transition to 100% renewable energy are huge. The governments know the science, they know that without accelerating this action they could be responsible for hundreds of millions of people falling into poverty, for millions of people losing their homes due to rising seas, and a massive increase in instability in vulnerable regions. On the other hand, the same governments know that by failing to back an orderly transition to a renewable energy future they risk losing out on massive benefits. They could miss out on securing millions of new jobs, improving public health and saving money by ditching out of date and expensive fossil fuels.

 

Reductions in Danish development aid worry civil society organisations

KirstenAukenCIVICUS spoke to Kirsten Auken, Director of the poverty reduction department at Danmission, about the effects of the recent reductions in the Danish development aid. Danmission is a Danish faith-based NGO that supports development projects of partners in the Global South based on principles of Christian ideology.

1. How will the budget cuts by the Danish government impact your civil society partners in the global South?

Danmission will have to cut around 4-million DKK (US$570 000) out of a previous Danish Development Assistance (Danida) framework of 14-million DKK (US$2-million). The cuts will affect partners and activities in Egypt, Tanzania, Myanmar and Cambodia.

In Egypt, we work together with the Coptic Evangelical Organisation for Social Service (CEOSS), which is an important NGO in the Egyptian civil society landscape. We support two big dialogue and development projects of CEOSS, which will experience the biggest cuts of all the projects we support globally. 17 out of the 81 participating community based organisations are not able to continue being part of the project due to the cuts in the Danish development aid.

 

President Zuma: Urge Angolan government to release human rights defenders

32 civil society organisations working on youth issues have writen to South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, seeking his urgent intervention regarding unacceptable restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association and gross violations of the rights of human rights defenders in Angola. The letter brings attention to the plight of young activists in detention for engaging in human rights and pro-democracy activities and requests that President Zuma call on the Angolan authorities to release them when they appear in court on 16-20 November 2015. 

Read the letter in English or Portuguese

 

Cameroon: Create enabling environment for civil society

CIVICUS speaks to a civil society member in Cameroon (who asked to remain anonymous) following the arrest in September of members of the non-governmental organisation Dynamic Citizen for holding a governance workshop

1. What is Dynamic Citizen and what does it do?

Dynamic Citizen (Dynamique Citoyenne) is a network of Cameroonian civil society organisations committed to monitoring public policies and cooperation strategies. Dynamic Citizen has a national coverage and is present in all the 10 regions of Cameroon. 

It aims at influencing public policies through social mobilisation by raising the awareness of local populations on issues pertaining to financial governance ( such as budget analysis), political governance (including fighting against corruption, freedom to protest) and other human rights related issues like access to water and other social amenities. Recently, Dynamic Citizen has been engaged in an international campaign dubbed “Tournons la Page’’ (Let’s turn the Page) that addresses electoral governance and change of leadership in African countries.

 

Media Statement: Angola urged to drop spurious charges against youth activists

Fifteen youth activists in Angola are due to appear in court on 16 November, facing charges of preparing for a rebellion and attempting to assassinate the President. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, is calling on Angolan authorities to end the judicial persecution of these 15 young people, who have been in detention since June this year.

 

The world must not forget persecuted human rights defenders in the DRC

JonasKabienaCIVICUS speaks to human rights defender Jonas Tshiombela Kabiena, who is the national coordinator of the New Congolese Civil Society - a platform of about 300 civil society organisations in the DRC. Mr. Kabiena is also the national secretary of the CSOs-DRC Coalition, a journalist and director of the Congolese Press Agency. He speaks about the challenges to civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ahead of the elections scheduled for 2016. 

1. What is the situation regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms in the DRC?

The state of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a source of concern in the DRC, especially as the country moves towards holding a poll next year. Human rights defenders are targeted on the basis of the work they do and subjected to threats, harassment, arbitrary arrests, judicial persecution, and pro-longed detentions. In addition freedom of assembly and expression are severely constrained. Human rights defenders are threatened by the authorities and on several occasions are arrested and imprisoned for the work they do.  Freedom of assembly is restricted as those who take part in protests are arrested.  For example on 15 March 2015, several young democracy activists from the civil society movements Collectif Filimbi and Lucha were arrested following a day of protests organised by their counterparts in Kinshasa.  Two of them, Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala are in jail

 

Intimidation of Kenyan NGOs unwarranted

Following threats to de-register 959 Kenyan NGOs, many working for good governance and human rights, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders–Kenya (NCHRD-K), call on Kenyan authorities to immediately stop the repeated harassment of NGOs and ensure a conducive legal and political operating environment.

 

Joint Media Statement on Cameroon: Cease the clampdown on civil society

Cameroon’s increasing clampdown on civil society and civic freedoms is being strongly condemned by global and national civil society organisations (CSOs). CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance and the Cameroonian civil society network, Plateforme Nationale des Organisations de la Société Civile du Cameroun (PLANOSCAM) are concerned for several activists who will appear in court on October 28 for organising a workshop without permission. Especially worrying is the use of anti-terror dialogue to justify violations of freedoms of association and assembly.

 

Fighting slavery still an uphill battle for human rights activists in Mauritania

MamadouMoctarSarrCIVICUS spoke to Mamadou Moctar Sarr, a civil society activist and executive secretary of the National Forum for Human Rights Organisations (Forum nationalepour l’organisation des droits humains, FONADH) about challenges facing human rights defenders in Mauritania

1. What is the general state of civic space and human rights in Mauritania?

Mauritania, which is a pluralistic and multicultural country, has over the last decades, experienced serious human rights infringements, including the deportation of thousands of black Mauritanian citizens to Senegal and Mali where they are living in inhumane and degrading conditions. There have also been instances of slavery, racial discrimination and exclusion practiced with impunity. This is the daily reality for citizens who also have to face a deterioration of the economic, political and social conditions in Mauritania.

However, thanks to amendments made to the Constitution in 2012, the practice of slavery and torture are now classified as criminal offences.

 

MEDIA STATEMENT: PAKISTAN MOVES TO RESTRICT INTERNATIONAL NGOS WITH NEW POLICY

Pakistan’s new policy to regulate the registration and operations of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) has been strongly condemned by civil society. 

Issued on 1 October 2015, the new rules place substantial burdens on INGOs while subjecting them to debilitating bureaucratic controls including through excessive interference in their activities and limits on placement and retention of staff.

 

Media Statement: International community must not fail Egyptian activists and civil society

With parliamentary elections currently underway in Egypt, the international community must not overlook the on-going crackdown on civil society and civic freedoms in the country, say CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

“Given Egypt’s current authoritarian political climate it is very unlikely that the elections will lead to any meaningful gains on democratic governance,” says Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “Some gestures have been made by the authorities to appease the international community, however these are not enough. The international community needs to do much more to pressure the regime to restore sovereignty and rights to the Egyptian people.”

 

CIVICUS ALERT: ANGOLAN ACTIVIST ON HUNGER STRIKE FACING LIFE THREATENING CONDITION

The situation of detained Angolan pro-democracy activist and youth human rights defender Henrique Luaty da Silva Beirão has deteriorated and is now life threatening.

Mr. Beirão has been on hunger strike for over three weeks to protest his detention and that of 14 activists without trial or any formal charges beyond the 90 days stipulated under Angolan law.  Mr. Beirão’s health has deteriorated significantly, rendering him completely weak and unable to walk or talk. He refuses to take any liquids and there are clear signs of some internal bleeding. Mr. Beirão’s current health condition requires immediate intervention from the Angolan government as there are growing fears for his life. If urgent action is not taken to release him and accord him immediate access to treatment, he may not be able to live for much longer.  We are sad to observe that even under such life threatening circumstances the authorities in Angola have so far kept him in solitary confinement and refuse to allow others to visit him. 

 

Ahead of the 2016 election, civil society groups are concerned about a deteriorating environment

OrishabaBagamuhundaJustusCivil society and human rights defenders continue to face daunting challenges in Uganda ranging from judicial persecution and intimidation to harassment and threats for the work they do. Restrictive legislation also impedes the activities of civil society as authorities threaten to close down NGOs and media agencies that are critical of the government. CIVICUS spoke to human rights defender Orishaba Bagamuhunda Justus about ongoing judicial harassment against him and the general state of human rights in the country ahead of the election scheduled for 2016.

1. What is the state of human rights in Uganda at the moment?

The state of human rights in Uganda is very bad. There are ongoing threats to freedom of expression, assembly and association which continue to raise serious concerns in Uganda. Security forces such as the police largely enjoy impunity for the torture of people during peaceful protests. The government has banned political pressure groups that call for peaceful change, obstructed opposition rallies, and harassed and intimidated journalists and civil society activists working in the areas of human rights, corruption, oil, land rights and sexual rights. 

The notorious NGO Bill, which seeks to limit the civic space for NGOs in Uganda, looms in Parliament. Among other issues, the bill grants the NGO Board broad powers to refuse to register an NGO, to issue permits with instructions that place conditions on the staffing of NGOs and to restrict the employment of foreign nationals. The government has accused NGOs of engaging in “political activism” and in one case suspended an NGO working on sexual rights, arguing that it was “promoting homosexuality.” 

 

CSOs at the frontline of the refugee crisis

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Civil Society is on the frontline responding to the refugee crisis. CIVICUS noted in its 2015 State of Civil Society report that it is civil society that is acting as the first and often more effective responders to crises around the world. CIVICUS spoke to Libby Freeman the founder of grassroots campaign Calais Action (Twitter handle: @Calaisaction), a CSO that is on the frontline assisting refugees arriving in Europe on the response of civil society organisations to the crisis and, what they can do better.

1.What are the urgent needs of refugees and what sort of assistance are you offering? 

We are collecting aid donations from around the United Kingdom mostly consisting of sleeping bags, tents, camping equipment, clothes, jackets and food. We are distributing in Calais and went on our first mission to Eastern Europe in September. We are also based in Hungary, and reaching out to refugees in Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. We are also working with NGOs on the ground in Calais to organise volunteer programs and assist in long-term help projects for the refugees.

 

Implications of anti-terror and money-laundering regulations on CSOs financing and what CSOs can do

FAFT
There are concerns over the effects on civil society organisations of recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force. CIVICUS spoke to representatives of four organisations ─ Charity Security Network, Human Security Collective, European Foundation Centre and European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law ─ about how the work of the Financial Action Task Force affects CSOs and how CSOs can mitigate the unintended negative consequences.

Read the full interview here

 

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