Intergenerational Movement For Change: CIVICUS Uniting For A Just And Sustainable Future

By Secretary General, Lysa John and Chief Officer of Evidence and Engagement Mandeep Tiwana

Defending people power and striving to promote excluded voices — this is the mission of CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. With over 15,000 members in 188 countries, CIVICUS works together to monitor violations of fundamental civil liberties, name the perpetrators, and strengthen the power of people to organize by supporting an accountable, effective, and innovative civil society.

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The UN’s Own Relevance Is at Stake at This Year’s General Assembly

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Officer for evidence and engagement + representative to the UN headquarters at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance

This September, world leaders and public policy advocates from around the world will descend on New York for the UN General Assembly. Alongside conversations on peace and security, global development and climate change, progress – or the lack of it – on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is expected to take centre-stage. A major SDG Summit will be held on 18 and 19 September. The UN hopes that it will serve as a ‘rallying cry to recharge momentum for world leaders to come together to reflect on where we stand and resolve to do more’. But are the world’s leaders in a mood to uphold the UN’s purpose, and can the UN’s leadership rise to the occasion by resolutely addressing destructive behaviours?

Read more on Inter Press Service News

Niger coup – military intervention by Ecowas could prove costly for human rights

By David Kode, CIVICUS' Advocacy and Campaigns Lead 

Mohamed Bazoum’s ascension to the presidency in 2021 in a rare political transition was a major boost for Niger’s democracy. Some welcome developments have come in the past two years, including the adoption of a law to protect human rights defenders and an amendment to a regressive cybercrimes law, but major human rights restrictions have remained.

Read on the Daily Maverick 

The Civic Space Crisis in Africa and How Civil Society Responds

Image David Kode Article


The state of civic space globally and the environment for civil society continues to deteriorate. Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and civil society activists hold governments accountable for their actions, and demand compliance with human rights commitments in line with international standards. However, they face huge risks, and their advocacy can have dire consequences. According to the CIVICUS Monitor, 28% of the world’s population, approximately two billion people, are subject to extreme levels of repression. 

The state of civic space in Africa mirrors that of the globe, as a vast majority of people also face significant restrictions in exercising their fundamental freedoms. While civic space restrictions tend to increase during politically-sensitive periods, including elections, protests, coups, emergencies and when constitutions are amended by states, HRDs and journalists, who report on human rights, corruption, conflict and health emergencies, are also susceptible to attacks.

Proliferation of Restrictive Legislation Used to Stifle Fundamental Freedoms

Despite the fact that a majority of African states are signatories to and/or have ratified key international and regional human rights frameworks, and have provisions in their constitutions that guarantee fundamental freedoms, many continue to promulgate laws that are at variance with their international human rights obligations. In passing these laws, many governments argue that they are aimed at responding to terrorist threats and disinformation, and protecting national security. However, they are mostly subjectively used to target human rights defenders, activists, media outlets and representatives of civil society who raise concerns about human rights issues, and report on themes considered sensitive. 

In Zimbabwe, for example, the recently passed Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) Amendment Law to regulate PVOs, has provisions that threaten the very existence of civil society organizations (CSOs). The law empowers the authorities to designate a PVO as “high risk” or “vulnerable” to terrorism abuse. PVOs who are deemed to fall into this category can have their registration revoked by the authorities, or their leadership removed or replaced. The law also prevents PVOs from supporting or opposing any political party or candidate in presidential, parliamentary or local government elections. While the Zimbabwean authorities argue that the PVO is aimed at countering terrorism and other illicit crimes, the reality is that the timing of the passing of the law, just before presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023, and the history of targeting civil society by the government, indicates that it is aimed at preventing civil society from reporting on intimidation and violence.

Similarly, in Algeria, the authorities have used the restrictive Law on Associations to refuse to register associations, or revoke their registration. Provisions in the law empower the authorities to reject the registration of associations if they are deemed to have objectives that are contrary to national values, good morals or public order. The law has been used to criminalize members of associations, impose restrictions on its funders, and suspend the activities of associations.

Authorities have dissolved two prominent human rights groups, the Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme Rassemblement and Action Jeunesse (RAJ), and several media organizations, including Radio M and Maghreb Emergent, by using this law. Malawi, Angola and Mozambique have either drafted or promulgated similar laws in the recent past.

In the DRC, a Press Law and Digital Code promulgated in April 2023 empowers the authorities to prosecute and imprison journalists who are found guilty of spreading false news and sharing information electronically. The law states that the publication, dissemination or reproduction of false news is illegal if the information affects the morale of the army or hinders war efforts. According to the Digital Code, journalists found guilty of publishing false information could face six months in prison or a fine of 1 million CDF (approximately USD 419). Journalists could face two years in prison or a fine of 10 million CDF (approximately USD 4 190) for publishing information that, according to the authorities, seeks to coerce, intimidate, harass, provoke or encourage hate, or that affect good morals and patriotic values. 

The passing of the laws raised concerns among media rights organizations as they will be used to subjectively prosecute journalists and bloggers, given the history of freedom of expression in the DRC Journalists face restrictions when accused by authorities of insulting them, or for reporting on conflict. In April 2023, journalist Gustave Bakuka who works for the privately-owned broadcaster, Radio Mushauri, was arrested by agents of the Agence Nationale de Renseignements (ANR) – the national intelligence agency – and accused of spreading false information after he distributed a piece he wrote about security issues on WhatsApp.

Similarly in Niger, the 2019 Cyber Crimes Law criminalizes the production and dissemination of data that is likely to disrupt public order, or undermine human dignity through an information system. The Nigerien authorities used the law to monitor Facebook and WhatsApp discussions of certain individuals prior to the arrests of activists in 2020. On 9 September 2021, journalists Samira Sabou and Moussa Aksar were charged with defamation under the Cyber Crimes Law, after they shared a report authored by the Global Initiative Against Crime.

The Council of Ministers revised this law in April 2022. According to the amended version, defamation and insults through electronic information systems will not lead to custodial sentences but fines. The amended bill will not be presented to the National Assembly.

Intimidation of Members of Civil Society and Activists

According to the CIVICUS Monitor, intimidation was the most common civic space violation in Africa in 2022. State and non-state actors use intimidation to deter and discourage civil society representatives from raising concerns over issues affecting the state or individuals. It often occurs in different forms, including police summons for questioning, threats of persecution, house searches without warrants, break-ins, and raids on the homes and offices of HRDs, activists and journalists, and threats made online and offline. For example, in Sierra Leone on 7 February 2022, journalist and reporter Solomon Maada Joe was detained at a local police station in the city of Bo in the south of the country, after a business man accused him of threatening him over comments the journalist made during a weekly broadcast on Radio Bo KISS. 

Mozambican journalist, Armando Nenane, has been subjected to acts of intimidation and harassment on several occasions. In 2022, he was given a live bullet by two unidentified individuals who informed him they were under the directive of their superiors, after the journalist was found not guilty of defamation – a charge which had been brought against him by a former Defense Minister. In October 2021, he was physically assaulted by several police officers while reporting on an accident. He was asked to delete photos of the accident from his phone. He was taken to a local police station and later released without being charged. States use this strategy to prevent the publication of sensitive reports by civil society or journalists, to force activists to self-censor, and to deter others from reporting on human rights to avoid reprisals. 

Restrictions on Freedom of Assembly

As formal spaces for political participation continue to close in Africa, people are using protests as alternative ways to voice their opinion, express dissent and call for justice. Over the last few years, protests have been triggered by political, governance and economic issues including governments’ responses to increases in the prices of basic commodities, inflation and corruption. Some countries have seen protests against military juntas amidst calls for inclusive political transitions and democratic reforms. In most African countries where protests take place, the response of the state has been restrictive, with security forces using violence to disperse and deter protesters. Governments have also used policies and laws to pre-empt and prevent protests, making it difficult for people to mobilize, gather and demonstrate, while others have imposed blanket bans on protests. 

In Chad, for example, security forces have repeatedly used violence to disperse protesters demonstrating against an extension of the term in office of the military transitional council, led by President Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno since 20 April 2021. On 20 October 2022, known as “Black Thursday”, more than 50 people were killed, 300 injured and more than 1 100 others arrested as protesters demonstrated against a decision by the transitional authorities to extend the military transition by two years. Hundreds of protesters were subjected to mass trials and jailed. The Chadian authorities continued to arrest members of the political opposition and civil society including the social movement, Wakit Tama, forcing many to flee the country. 

In Sudan, security forces use violence and rape to target women protesters. Following a military coup on 25 October 2021, more than 40 people were killed when protesters condemned the coup and called for a peaceful transition to civilian rule. Scores of protesters were forcefully removed, while hundreds were detained, with some subjected to physical assault.

In Eswatini, the authorities have employed several violent and restrictive strategies to prevent pro-democracy and anti-government protests that began in May 2021. As pro-democracy protests continue, many protesters have been killed. Those suspected of leading demonstrations, including school children, are subjected to physical assaults and imprisonment. The authorities use surveillance to target protesters and collect data on them to deny them access to government employment and services. Authorities have also imposed nationwide curfews and Internet blackouts to curtail protests. Pro-democracy activists have been brutally assassinated, with many others fleeing the country. 

Attacks on Journalists and Restrictions on Freedom of Expression

The targeting of journalists has featured prominently as part of the top five violations or civic space restrictions highlighted by the CIVICUS Monitor for five years running. Journalists continue to be targeted for reporting on corruption, elections, human rights and other issues considered sensitive by the authorities. Journalists have also been subjected to judicial persecution and physical attacks for reporting on protests.

In Somalia and Somaliland, journalists are frequently detained and subjected to intimidation and threats. On 5 July 2022, police officers detained reporter, Mohamed Abdirahin Mohamed of RTN Television. According to Mohamed, the detention was related to an interview he conducted with an opposition member of the Southwest State Assembly, who had recently protested, along with other opposition legislators, against the revocation of their immunity and membership of the assembly. Mohamed was warned against broadcasting the interview or criticizing President Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed. 

In Nigeria, journalists continue to be arrested and prosecuted, particularly for alleged cybercrimes and defamation. On 19 August 2022, Agba Jalingo, publisher of online news site, RiverCrossWatch, was detained by police officers in Ogudu, Lagos State, following a defamation and cyberattack complaint filed by the sister-in-law of the Governor of Lagos State. The arrest, reportedly in response to a Facebook post, came only five months after a High Court in Calabar dismissed all charges against Jalingo – terrorism, treasonable felony and cybercrimes – but not before he was imprisoned for 179 days following the publication of a report alleging the diversion of public funds by the Governor of Rivers State. 

In Ghana, the authorities have increasingly used ‘false news’ regulations under the Criminal Offences Act and the Electronic Communications Act to detain journalists. On 24 May 2022, for example, police briefly detained Noah Narh Dameh, who works for Radio Ada, in response to a petition by a company that was granted a controversial concession to mine salt, following a story on Facebook. He was later charged with publishing false news.

In the CAR, police arrested Christian Azoudaoua, editor of Le Charpentier newspaper, on 6 September 2022, reportedly on the orders of the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, following the publication of a report alleging the deputy speaker’s role in embezzlement. Azoudaoua was detained for several weeks.

In Malawi, journalist Gregory Gondwe was arrested in April 2022 following the publication of an article alleging corruption by the country’s Attorney-General. Gondwe was detained for six hours, with police pressuring him to reveal his sources, and his phone and laptop were confiscated.

How is Civil Society Pushing Back?

Despite the overwhelming restrictions listed above, civil society continues to brave the odds and push back against these actions by states. In many instances, they raise awareness at national and global level about violations by states. In some cases, states are forced to halt the restrictions while some of the responses from civil society lead to tangible change. Following decades of dictatorial rule in The Gambia, public mobilizations by the political opposition, civil society and activists defeated a climate of fear that had prevailed for decades, and contributed to the democratic transition Gambia experienced after the elections in 2016. From the “Calama” revolution, to the “Gambia has decided movements”, Gambians mobilized and voted out dictator Yahya Jammeh from power in December 2016. 

In 2020, Malawi set a new record in Africa as the only country on the continent where election results were overturned and later won by the political opposition. After a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court citing widespread irregularities in the May 2019 elections, new elections organized in June 2020 were won by the opposition coalition, led by now President Lazarus Chakwera. The rulings by the Court demonstrated the kind of judicial independence not often seen on the continent. However, they were preceded and accompanied by mass mobilizations, protests and advocacy by CSOs across Malawi calling for a reorganization of elections, a reform of the electoral system and an end to human rights violations. 

Similar changes, instigated by people power in response to the high prices of basic commodities and unbearable levels of inflation in Sudan, led to a political transition (though beset with severe challenges) in 2019, and the ousting of another authoritarian leader. In many countries where civic space restrictions continue unabated, including Djibouti, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and South Sudan, HRDs, journalists and civil society groups continue to advocate fearlessly for human rights despite the threats they face. The CIVICUS “Stand As My Witness Campaign”, launched on Nelson Mandela Day in 2020, continues to advocate with governments to free HRDs, activists and journalists imprisoned for their human rights activities.

Which Way Forward?

We are likely to see an increase in protests and mobilizations across the continent in the next few years due to socio-economic challenges that are exacerbated by increased prices of basic commodities and the fact that elections do not lead to expected political transitions. It would be crucial for formal CSOs to build better connections with social movements, less formal actors, youth movements and ordinary citizens who are likely to lead these demonstrations for change.

It will also be vital for civil society groups across the continent to build transnational support systems that provide crucial assistance and support across borders, as some of these protests will be violently repressed. The African Union and regional economic communities will also need to be alert and act swiftly to ensure that states across the continent respect regional human rights mechanisms related to unconstitutional changes in power, elections and human rights. 

Originally published in African CSO Platform

Cloud Lingers over Sierra Leone’s Election

By Andrew Firmin CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

People went to the polls in Sierra Leone on 24 June to pick a president, parliament and municipal representatives. Results were quickly announced and the president sworn in for a second term. But a cloud of doubt lingers.

Runner-up cries foul

The presidential race offered a repeat of the previous vote in 2018, when Julius Madaa Bio beat Samura Kamara in a closely fought runoff, 51.8 per cent to 48.2 per cent. But despite the economy being in worse shape than five years ago – something that might be expected to cost the incumbent support – this time round Bio’s lead was bigger. He took 56.2 per cent to Kamara’s 41.2 per cent in the first round, narrowly clearing the 55 per cent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Kamara and his party, the All People’s Congress (APC), immediately cried foul and demanded a rerun, saying there were ‘glaring irregularities’. While observers from the African Union and Economic Community of West African States declared the elections free and fair, others expressed concerns. European Union observers pointed to ‘statistical inconsistencies’ in the presidential election results. These include very high turnout in some districts and a very low number of invalid votes. In addition, seals were reportedly broken on some ballot boxes before votes were counted.

National Election Watch, a coalition of over 400 domestic and international civil society organisations (CSOs), has also reported concerns. It deployed 6,000 observers, covering every polling station, and used a sampling technique to estimate the results – a method that closely matched the final tallies at the last three elections. But this time its results disagreed on all the key figures: levels of support for the two main candidates, turnout and the amount of invalid votes. Based on its analysis, neither candidate was expected to clear the 55 per cent hurdle.

For transparency, domestic and international observers are calling on the electoral commission to publish detailed results with data disaggregated by polling station. The commission has said it will do so but it will take some time.

Read on Inter Press Service News 

Guatemala Clings to Democratic Promise

by Inés M. Pousadela, CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

When Guatemalans went to the polls on 25 June, distrust and disillusionment were rife. First place in the presidential contest was claimed by none of the candidates: it went to invalid votes, at 17 per cent. Many didn’t bother, resulting in an abstention rate over 40 per cent.

But an unexpected development brought some hope: Bernardo Arévalo, leader of the progressive Movimiento Semilla, made it to the runoff.

Arévalo’s promise to fight against systemic corruption and bring back the numerous justice operators – people such as judges, prosecutors and public defenders – currently in exile to help clean up institutions is causing great concern for those who profit from the current state of affairs. The fact that Arévalo could become Guatemala’s next president has made the election results an instant object of contention.

Corruption and democratic decline

Guatemalan electoral processes aren’t pristine, but that isn’t where the most serious problems lie. Civic freedoms are steadily deteriorating and state institutions have been weakened by predatory elites and coopted by organised crime. Transparency International finds evidence of strong influence by organised criminals over politics and politicians, with some criminals themselves in office.

No wonder Guatemalans have a low level of confidence in state institutions. In the latest Latinobarómetro report, the church was by far the most trusted institution, winning the trust of 71 per cent of people, followed at some distance by the armed forces and police. But only nine per cent of people trust political parties, and trust is also very low in Congress, electoral bodies and the judiciary.

Read on Inter Press Service News 


By Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report

The violence keeps coming in Myanmar, under military rule since February 2021. The junta stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, with evidence of systematic use of killings, rape, torture and other gross human rights violations in its attempt to suppress forces demanding a return to democracy.

Even humanitarian aid is restricted. Recently the junta refused to allow in aid organisations trying to provide food, water and medicines to people left in desperate need by a devastating cyclone. It’s far from the first time it’s blocked aid.

Crises like this demand an international response. But largely standing on the sidelines while this happens is the regional intergovernmental body, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Its recent summit, held in Indonesia in May, failed to produce any progress.

ASEAN’s inaction

ASEAN’s response to the coup was to issue a text, the Five-Point Consensus (5PC), in April 2021. This called for the immediate cessation of violence and constructive dialogue between all parties. ASEAN agreed to provide humanitarian help, appoint a special envoy and visit Myanmar to meet with all parties.

Read on Other News

Thailand: Time for Democracy

By Andrew Firmin CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

Thailand’s voters have spoken. In the 14 May general election, they overwhelmingly backed change. Two major opposition parties won 293 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.

Chile: New Constitution in the Hands of the Far Right

By Inés Pousadela, Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

On 7 May, Chileans went to the polls to choose a Constitutional Council that will produce a new constitution to replace the one bequeathed by the Pinochet dictatorship – and handed control to a far-right party that never wanted a constitution-making process in the first place.

This is the second attempt at constitutional change in two years. The first process was the most open and inclusive in Chile’s history. The resulting constitutional text, ambitious and progressive, was widely rejected in a referendum. It’s now far from certain that this latest, far less inclusive process will result in a new constitution that is accepted and adopted – and there’s a possibility that any new constitution could be worse than the one it replaces.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Civil society in a world of crisis: An overview of the 2023 State of Civil Society Report

Mandeep S. Tiwana
Chief Programmes Officer and Representative to the UN headquarters

In the last year, civil society workers have been repressed in Belarus and Russia for opposing the war on Ukraine, physically attacked in Afghanistan for supporting the right to education for girls, and judicially persecuted in Italy for rescuing migrants from drowning at sea. These are just some concerning developments highlighted in the 12th CIVICUS State of Civil Society Report.

The findings hold particular relevance for the philanthropic community as oftentimes civil society groups especially those at the frontlines of resistance and transformative change face the dual challenges of disenabling environments and limited interest from funders due to the risks involved.

Read on Alliance Magazine 

Agenda 2030: Why civic participation is key to meeting UN sustainability targets

Mandeep S. Tiwana
Chief Programmes Officer and Representative to the UN headquarters

  • Attacks on civil society and civic freedoms are threatening adequate progress being made on meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Agenda 2030 marks a rare moment of global unanimity with an emphasis on economic advancement, social progress and environmental sustainability.
  • Ahead of September's 2023 SDG Summit, we must ensure that sustainable development involves both freedom from fear and freedom from want.

Attacks on civil society and civic freedoms threaten to unravel achievements in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They are weakening action to tackle economic inequality, gender imbalances, corruption and environmental degradation.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres will release the latest Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) progress report this week. This year’s report is especially crucial as we’re nearing the halfway point of Agenda 2030 – arguably the greatest-ever human endeavour undertaken to create peaceful, just, equal and sustainable societies.

The report’s findings will help lay the groundwork for deliberations at the high-level 2023 SDG Summit which will take place alongside UN General Assembly meetings in September this year.

Read on World Economic Forum

Fiji: Deeper Democracy or Continuing Danger?

 It’s been a time of significant change in Fiji following the country’s December 2022 election. A close vote was followed by the formation of a new coalition government. Frank Bainimarama was out as prime minister after 16 years, replaced by Sitiveni Rabuka.

Rabuka was hardly a new face, having been prime minister in the 1990s, and both Bainimarama and Rabuka had previously led military coups. For Fiji’s civil society, the question was whether this political shift would bring improvements in civic and democratic freedoms. Bainimarama’s government had shown itself increasingly intolerant of dissent.

People who criticised the government were subjected to harassment and arrest. In July 2021, nine opposition politicians were arrested, questioned and accused of inciting unrest. In 2020, opposition party offices were raided by police in response to social media posts critical of the government.

Read on Inter Press Service News 

Sudan conflict marks failure of transition plan

By Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report

On one side is the army, headed by Sudan’s current leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. On the other are the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti. Both sides blame the other and say they will refuse to negotiate. The two worked together in the October 2021 coup that overthrew a transitional government, put in place in August 2019 after long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted following a popular uprising. They were never committed to democracy. Military forces initially tried to suppress democracy protests with lethal violence. The grimmest day came on 3 June 2019, when the RSF ended a sit-in with indiscriminate gunfire, killing over 100 people. There has been no accountability for the violence.

Read in Inter Press Service 

Global solidarity needed to address Taliban’s attacks on women’s rights

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS 

Matiullah Wesa’s crime was to try to ensure young people got an education in Afghanistan. His recent forceful abduction by the Taliban offers the latest stark reminder that global solidarity and coherent action from the international community are needed to prevent the complete loss of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Matiullah has been at the forefront of advocating for access to education as a co-founder and leader of Pen Path. For more than a decade, Pen Path has worked with community and tribal leaders in remote areas in Afghanistan to advocate for education and bring learning closer to communities. It works to enlighten communities about the importance of education, particularly girl’s and women’s education, organises book donations, runs mobile libraries in remote areas and reopens schools closed by years of conflict and insecurity. Pen Path has reopened over 100 schools, distributed more than 1.5 million items of stationery and provided education facilities for 110,000 children – 66,000 of them girls. This is what Matiullah is being punished for.

The abduction of Matiullah and many others advocating for the rights of education point to a concerted effort by the Taliban to try to restrict women’s and girls’ access to education and silence those advocating for education and an inclusive society.

There are sadly many other instances. In November 2022 around 60 Taliban members stormed a press conference organised to announce the formation of Afghan Women Movement for Equality. They arrested conference participants and deleted all images from their phones.

Read on Inter Press Service 

Cuba: elections without choices

By Ines Pousadela, CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist

The uncertainty that’s the hallmark of a democratic election was absent on 26 March, the day Cubans were summoned to appoint members of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the country’s legislative body. A vote did take place that day – people went to the polls and put a ballot in a box. But was this really an election? Cubans weren’t able to choose their representatives – their only option was to ratify those selected to stand, or abstain.

If each seat already had an assigned winner, why even bother to hold an election? Why would people waste their Sunday lining up to vote? And why would the government care so much if they didn’t?

Read on Inter Press Service 

Bahrain’s botched whitewashing attempt

By Inés M. Pousadela, CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organisation whose motto is ‘For democracy. For everyone’, just held its global assembly in a country with a mock parliament and not the slightest semblance of democracy.

For Bahrain’s authoritarian leaders, the hosting of the IPU assembly was yet another reputation-laundering opportunity: a week before, they’d hosted Formula One’s opening race.

The day after the race, Ebrahim Al-Mannai, a lawyer and human rights activist, tweeted that the Bahraini parliament should be reformed if it was to be showcased at the assembly. His reward was to be immediately arrested for tweets and posts deemed an ‘abuse of social media platforms’.

That same week, the Bahraini authorities revoked the entry visas for two Human Rights Watch staff to attend the assembly.

Rather than opening up to host the event, Bahrain further shut down.

Read on Inter Press Service 

Georgia: danger averted, for now

By Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.

Georgian civil society can breathe a sigh of relief. A proposed repressive law that would have severely worsened the space for activism has been shelved – for now. But the need for vigilance remains.

Russia-style law

A proposed ‘foreign agents’ law would have required civil society organisations (CSOs) and media outlets in Georgia receiving over 20 per cent of funding from outside the country to register as a ‘foreign agent’. Non-compliance would have been punishable with fines and even jail sentences.

The law’s proponents, including Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, claimed it was modelled on one passed in the USA in 1938. The US law was introduced to check the insidious spread of Nazi propaganda in the run-up to the Second World War, and wasn’t targeted at CSOs.

Read on Inter Press Service

Civic space – the bedrock of democracy – is scarce and contested

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief of Programmes, CIVICUS

On 29 and 30 March, the US government, in partnership with Costa Rica, Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia, will co-host the second virtual Summit for Democracy. Several elected leaders and state representatives will come together to highlight achievements in advancing democratic principles.

This online global gathering intends to ‘demonstrate how democracies deliver for their citizens and are best equipped to address the world’s most pressing challenges’. Yet evidence gathered by civil society researchers indicates that all is not well with the state of democracy worldwide. Civic space, a key ingredient of democracy, is becoming increasingly contested.

Pundits have long argued that democracy is not just about majoritarian rule and nominally free elections. The essence of democracy lies in something deeper: the ability of people – especially the excluded – to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance to influence society, politics and economics.

Civic space is underpinned by the three fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, with the state having responsibility to defend and safeguard these freedoms.

Read on Inter Press Service

Belarus: A Prison State in Europe

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief, CIVICUS

Last October, Ales Bialiatski was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was one of three winners, alongside two human rights organisations: Memorial, in Russia, and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine. The Nobel Committee recognised the three’s ‘outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power’.

But Bialiatski couldn’t travel to Oslo to collect his award. He’d been detained in July 2021 and held in jail since. This month he was found guilty on trumped-up charges of financing political protests and smuggling, and handed a 10-year sentence. His three co-defendants were also given long jail terms. There are many others besides them who’ve been thrown in prison, among them other staff and associates of Viasna, the human rights centre Bialiatski heads.

Read on Inter Press Service 

Tunisia’s nascent democracy is fast eroding

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS

In the space of less than three weeks, Tunisian President Kais Saied has rounded up and arrested at least thirteen people from different walks of life who share one thing in common: they have all publicly criticized the consolidation of power by the president. Those detained are lawyers, judges, activists, former members of parliament, and members of different political formations.  Some of those arrested include Ayachi Hammani, a human rights lawyer who has been accused of spreading false information; and also a journalist and director of the privately owned radio station, Mosaïque FM, who was summoned for questioning by the counterterrorism brigades.  The recent arrests have been preceded by a series of actions that started in July 2021 by President Saied to consolidate his grip on power and to forge a so-called ‘new Republic.’

Read on Vanguard Africa 

Russia and Ukraine: Civil Society Repression and Response

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Over the year since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, on one side of the border civil society has shown itself to be a vital part of the effort to save lives and protect rights – but on the other, it’s been repressed more ruthlessly than ever.

Ukraine’s civil society is doing things it never imagined it would. An immense voluntary effort has seen people step forward to provide help.

Overnight, relief programmes and online platforms to raise funds and coordinate aid sprang up. Numerous initiatives are evacuating people from occupied areas, rehabilitating wounded civilians and soldiers and repairing damaged buildings. Support Ukraine Now is coordinating support, mobilising a community of activists in Ukraine and abroad and providing information on how to donate, volunteer and help Ukrainian refugees in host countries.

In a war in which truth is a casualty, many responses are trying to offer an accurate picture of the situation. Among these are the 2402 Fund, providing safety equipment and training to journalists so they can report on the war, and the Freefilmers initiative, which has built a solidarity network of independent filmmakers to tell independent stories of the struggle in Ukraine.

Alongside these have come efforts to gather evidence of human rights violations, such as the Ukraine 5am Coalition, bringing together human rights networks to document war crimes and crimes against humanity, and OSINT for Ukraine, where students and other young people collect evidence of atrocities.

The hope is to one day hold Putin and his circle to account for their crimes. The evidence collected by civil society could be vital for the work of United Nations monitoring mechanisms and the International Criminal Court investigation launched last March.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Nicaragua: An Opportunity for Democratic Solidarity

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

On 9 February, Nicaragua’s dictator, Daniel Ortega, unexpectedly ordered the release of 222 political prisoners, including several former presidential candidates, opposition party leaders, journalists, priests, diplomats, businesspeople and former government supporters branded as enemies for expressing mild public criticism.

Also released were several members and leaders of civil society organisations (CSOs) and social movements, including student activists and environmental, peasant and Indigenous rights defenders. Some had been arrested on trumped-up charges for taking part in mass protests in 2018 and stuck in prison for more than four years.

But the Ortega regime didn’t simply let them go – it put them on a charter flight to the USA and before their plane had even landed permanently stripped them of their Nicaraguan nationality and their civil and political rights. The government made clear it wasn’t recognising their innocence; it was only commuting their sentences.

Read on Inter Press Service

Venezuela: The End of Civil Society as We Know It?

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

In late January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, finished an official visit to Venezuela. He said he’d found a fragmented society in great need of bridging its divides and encouraged the government to take the lead in listening to civil society concerns and responding to victims of rights violations.

But Venezuelan civil society had hoped for more. Two days before his arrival, the National Assembly, Venezuela’s congress, had approved the first reading of a law aimed at further restricting and criminalising civil society work. International civil society urged the High Commissioner to call for the bill to be shelved. Many found the UN’s response disappointing.

Another turn of the screw

The bill imposes further restrictions on civil society organisations (CSOs). If it becomes law, CSOs will have to hand over lists of members, staff, assets and donors. They’ll be obliged to provide detailed data about their activities, funding sources and use of financial resources – the kind of information that has already been used to persecute and criminalise CSOs and activists. Similar legislation has been used in Nicaragua to shut down hundreds of CSOs and arrest opposition leaders, journalists and human rights defenders.

The law will ban CSOs from conducting ‘political activities’, an expression that lacks clear definition. It could easily be interpreted as prohibiting human rights work and scrutiny of the government. There’s every chance the law will be used against human rights organisations that cooperate with international human rights mechanisms. This would endanger civil society’s efforts to document the human rights situation, which produces vital inputs for the UN’s human rights system and the International Criminal Court, which has an ongoing case against Venezuela.

The law-making process has been shrouded in secrecy: the draft bill wasn’t made publicly available and wasn’t discussed at the National Assembly before being approved. The initiative was immediately denounced as a tool to control, restrict and potentially shut down CSOs and criminally prosecute their leaders and staff. If implemented, it could mean the end of civil society as we know it in Venezuela.

Read on Inter Press Service

Eswatini: Democracy a Matter of Life and Death

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Thulani Maseko knew speaking out in Eswatini was a risky business. An activist and well-known human rights lawyer, he’d previously spent 14 months in jail for criticising the country’s lack of judicial independence. Now he’s dead, shot in his home by unknown assailants.

Among those Maseko litigated against was the country’s tyrannical ruler, King Mswati III. Mswati, in power since 1986, is Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch. In 2018, in one indication of his unchecked power, he changed the country’s name to Eswatini from Swaziland, unilaterally and without warning. Maseko was planning to take Mswati to court to challenge the renaming on constitutional grounds.

Maseko was chair of the Multi-Party Forum, a network bringing together civil society groups, political parties, businesses and others to urge a peaceful transition to multiparty democracy. He was also the lawyer of two members of parliament – Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube – arrested and detained in 2021 on terrorism charges for calling for constitutional democracy.

It isn’t yet clear why Maseko was killed or whether those who did the deed were acting on their own initiative or following someone else’s orders. But for many in the country’s democracy movement, it’s more than a little suspicious that just before the killing Mswati is reported to have said the state would ‘deal with’ people calling for democratic reforms. Maseko had reportedly received death threats.

Civil society is calling for Maseko’s killing to be properly investigated. Those carrying out the investigation should be independent and ensure whoever is behind it is held to account, however high the trail goes. But there seems little hope of that.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Peru’s Democracy at a Crossroads

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

On 25 January, roughly six weeks after being sworn in following her predecessor’s removal, Peruvian president Dina Boluarte finally recognised that elections were the only way out of political crisis. Elections were rescheduled for April 2024, much earlier than the end of the presidential term she’s been tasked with completing, but not soon enough for thousands who’ve taken to the streets demanding her immediate resignation.

Boluarte’s call for a ‘national truce’ has been met with further protests. Their repression has led to major bloodshed: the Ombudsman’s office has reported close to 60 dead – mostly civilians killed by security forces – and 1,500 injured.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Collective Activism Paying Dividends In Tanzania And Zambia

By David Kobe, Advocacy and campaigns Lead for CIVICUS

When President Samia Suluhu Hassan took over as President of Tanzania on 19 March 2021, following the death of President John Magufuli, civil society in Tanzania was under siege. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association were at an all-time low with restrictive policies and laws in place, stifling the ability of the media and civil society to raise concerns over human rights issues.  

At the time President Hassan took power in Tanzania, more than 1,000 kilometers away in Zambia, the human rights situation was similar.  Respect for fundamental freedoms was appreciably deteriorating in the run-up to the August 2021 election, with the opposition being targeted and concerns about the potential for electoral violence. The election however resulted in a change of government, with Hakainde Hichilema becoming the new president.

In Tanzania, between 2015 and 2020, at least four laws harming freedom of expression were introduced, including regulations that imposed exorbitant fees on bloggers and social media users.  The Tanzanian authorities also imposed a ban on several media outlets and passed at least four laws restricting freedom of association.  Ahead of the 2020 election, parliament amended the Political Parties Act, given the authorities extensive powers to deregister political parties. This was followed by violence, arrests, attacks and intimidation of members of the opposition.  

Read on Montage Africa

Year in review – Protesters take to the streets across Africa in 2022 despite restrictions

By Ine Van Severen, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

Over the past year, protests have been recorded in more than 30 countries across the continent, finds a new global report by the Civicus Monitor. Despite the right to peaceful assembly being protected by many national constitutions and international law, such as the 75-year-old Universal Declaration on Human Rights, protesters face a range of unlawful risks and restrictions.

In numerous countries, restrictive laws or emergency regulations have been deployed to make it difficult for people to protest, including the need for permits and levying fees. Authorities have also used outright bans to prevent protests from taking place, often using grounds such as disturbing the public order, security concerns or public health reasons.

Read on Daily Maverick

Uyghur Violations a Litmus Test for Global Governance and Rules-Based International Order

By Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Programs and United Nations Representative at CIVICUS

This week is a momentous one for the world’s premier human rights body. At stake is a resolution to decide whether the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva can hold a debate on a recently released UN report. The report concludes that rights violations by China’s government in its Xinjiang region ‘may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity’.Unsurprisingly, China’s government is doing everything in its power to scotch plans for a debate on the report’s contents. Its tactics include intimidating smaller states, spreading disinformation and politicising genuine human rights concerns – the very thing the Human Rights Council was set up to overcome.

The historic report, which affirms that the rights of Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim population are being violated through an industrial-level programme of mass incarceration, systemic torture and sexual violence, attracted huge controversy before it was released on 31 August 2022, minutes before the end of the term of the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

Read on Inter Press Service

9/11’s anti-human rights legacy in Eswatini

By Kgalalelo Gaebee, Communications Officer and David Kode, Lead of Advocacy and Campaigns at CIVICUS

Twenty-one years on, the legacy of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 still reverberate. This year’s anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the unfortunate legacy in the proliferation of anti-terrorism laws. These laws have been used by numerous states, including many in Africa, to target dissent and limit the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Between 2001 and 2018, African states were among over 140 countries worldwide that passed such counter-terrorism laws and other security-related legislation.

While the global counter-terrorism framework is clear about the fact that any strategy to combat terrorism must be based on respect for the rule of law , many countries in Africa, including those without a history of terrorist threats, now use anti-terrorism and related ‘security’ laws to silence critics. Eswatini is among the worst offenders.

Read on African Vanguard 

Chad’s transition to nowhere

By Ine Van Severan, Civic Space Researcher & David Kode, Lead of Advocacy and Campaigns cluster

Chad’s return to civilian rule is under threat. 15 months into a political transition that is supposed to last 18 months, the Transitional Military Council (CMT) has done little to prepare for elections and is repressing voices expressing concern. We are no closer to the possibility of Chad’s caretaker leader, Mahamat Déby, ceding the position his late father, Idriss Déby, held for over 30 years.

On 20 April 2021, when the military assumed power following the killing of Idriss Déby by Chadian rebels, the country was already facing dual challenges from inside and outside the country.

Read on African Arguments

This Mandela Day lets redouble efforts to free imprisoned human rights defenders

By Benjamin Tonga and Mandeep Tiwana

On 18 July, people in South Africa and around the world will mark Nelson Mandela Day to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of one of the greatest political leaders and human rights defenders of our times. Nelson Mandela was unjustly imprisoned for over a quarter of a century until South Africa’s apartheid regime finally acknowledged the travesty of his incarceration and ordered his release. It took concerted global pressure and organising by concerned citizens and civil society groups to achieve this feat.

Food crisis promises a global wave of unrest

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-In-Chief at CIVICUS

For the past couple of weeks, mass protests have brought the South American nation of Ecuador to a standstill. Soaring food and fuel prices have pushed many to the edge. With indigenous groups at their head, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in protest, blocking roads; at one point almost cutting off access to the capital Quito. Violence has flared among security forces and protesters alike.

Read on Thomson Reuters Foundation

Tunisia on the brink: swift action needed to halt democratic erosion

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS

Tunisia will slide further into authoritarianism if nothing is done by the international community – and especially Tunisia’s main allies, the US and the EU before a crucial referendum is held in a month’s time.

Over the past year, protests have been held in Tunisia against rising socio-economic challenges, the government’s mismanagement of its response to the Covid pandemic and the ruling Tunisian elite.

Read on Daily Maverick

Are you a good grassroots ally? Think twice about it

By Yessenia Soto, Community Engagement Officer on Civil Society Resourcing

We are witnessing a widespread recognition of the importance to shift power to local communities, localise resources and agendas, decolonise aid, make philanthropy more participatory and trust based. But does this mean that we are really becoming better allies of grassroots groups? Maybe not.  

Despite good intentions, pledges, catchy hashtags and progressive initiatives aimed at supporting grassroots activists and communities, their views and needs are still neglected – grassroot activists receive minimal funding and resources, lack acknowledgment for their fundamental role in social change, and struggle to make their visions, voices and agendas resonate loudly in international development circles. 

Read on Bond

Five takeaways from the 2022 State of Civil Society Report

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

2022 is halfway through. It’s clear this is a year of immense disruption, mayhem and contestation. Horrendous war crimes are taking place in Ukraine.

The conflict is spurring soaring living costs, impacting the most vulnerable people, already faced with the adverse impacts of the pandemic and extreme weather caused by climate change.

In this scenario, concerned citizens and civil society organisations are responding by protesting misgovernance, campaigning for justice and helping out those worst affected. CIVICUS’s 2022 State of Civil Society Report analyses global events and outlines the current state of play.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Zimbabwe's PVO Act: Another repressive tool in the hands of government

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Cluster Lead

In Zimbabwe, the electoral commission remains one of the least trusted institutions in the country; it is heavily staffed by former military members and, historically, has never demonstrated independence from the state. With less than a year to go before the next election, the typical oppressive tactics are now well underway.

Read on Vanguard Africa Foundation

India: Hijab row the latest show of Hindu nationalism

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

In an election season, India’s ruling party has again resorted to the right-wing populist playbook, stirring up divisions for political gain. This time it is the turn of Muslim women, caught in the crossfire of a backlash against both the rights of religious minorities and women’s rights. The controversy over the wearing of the hijab in schools is just the latest chapter in the saga starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party in their quest to consolidate power. Their attempts will continue, as will civil society resistance and struggles for rights.

Read on Inter Press News

Sri Lanka: Economic Meltdown Sparks Mass Protests

By Andrew Firmin, Editor-in-Chief at CIVICUS

Economic crisis has provoked a great wave of protests in Sri Lanka. People are demanding the resignation of the president, blamed for high-handed and unaccountable decision making, exemplified by his introduction of an agricultural fertiliser ban in 2021 that has resulted in a food crisis. People don’t just want the president’s removal: they want a change in the political balance of power so that future presidents are subjected to proper checks and balances. Hope comes from the wide-reaching and diverse protest movement that has put aside past differences to demand change. Recent weeks in Sri Lanka have seen anger and protests alongside struggles to secure the basics of life – but also hope that change is coming. An economic meltdown has brought normal life to a halt. People are living with lengthy power cuts, almost no access to fuel and soaring prices that have made essential foods unaffordable, forcing many to cut down on their daily meals.

Read on Inter Press Service News 

Stop the war: Act for justice, climate & peace

By Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS & Oli Henman, Global Coordinator for Action 4 Sustainable Development

 Russia’s war in Ukraine has left many communities facing catastrophe. In a world already wracked by multiple crises such as searing inequality and escalating climate change, this conflict is tearing through communities.

Millions of people are directly affected. They face fragile circumstances, with immeasurable sadness caused by the death of loved ones, loss of livelihoods, displacement, destruction of homes, interruption of education, and more.

The conflict has also placed huge new burdens on the multilateral system, putting a further break on progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals that has already been set back by the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read on Indian Nation

Has the pandemic done lasting damage to democratic freedoms in Europe?

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research for CIVICUS Monitor

As the coronavirus pandemic moves into its third year, there is no doubt that it will have lasting effects on civic and democratic freedoms. Governments around the world, including in Europe, have used the public health emergency to undermine fundamental rights. Even as these governments ease pandemic countermeasures, their attempts to restrict civic freedoms continue. The pandemic has fused with a range of other factors to chip away at democratic rights.

According to the CIVICUS Monitor—an online tool created by the civil society organization CIVICUS that tracks the space available for civil society—civic freedoms continue to decline worldwide.

Read on Carnegie Europe

CSW Africa: There is no climate solution without Global South women

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research for CIVICUS Monitor

Women land, environmental, and Indigenous defenders are on the frontline in tackling the climate crisis and calling out the failure of governments to take adequate action – but they face repression aimed at silencing them.

The inclusion of their voices and stories are fundamental in attaining gender equality and tackling the climate crisis. This is being recognised by the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) this year, which for the first time in 66 years focuses on the theme of achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.

Read on Alliance Magazine

Putin's war and the future of the rules-based international order

By Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS

With thousands dead and millions displaced in Ukraine, Europe is now in the throes of its most acute refugee crisis since the Second World War. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure have yet again exposed major weaknesses in the rules-based international order. The ability of the UN to act as the guarantor of international peace and security is being called into serious question.

Read on Diplomatic Courier

Commission on the Status of Women: The Streets Have Already Spoken

By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researche Specialist at CIVICUS

The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was just launched. Due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main annual global forum on gender equality is once again taking place in a hybrid format – both at the UN’s New York headquarters, where government delegations will be meeting, and online, where most civil society activity will take place.

For more than two years non-stop, the pandemic impacted disproportionately on the rights of women and girls. Gender-based violence raged and femicides increased. The burden of unpaid work on women’s shoulders multiplied, economic hardship differentially affected women, who are heavily employed in the informal sector, and the virus itself disproportionately affected women who are over-represented in frontline jobs.

When women most needed a space where they could advocate for their rights and demand that the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery were tackled through a gendered lens, the main such global space almost completely collapsed.

Read on Inter Press Service News

Firm, unified response needed to Russia’s aggression

By Andrew Firmin, Editor in Chief, CIVICUS

It is now clear diplomacy matters little to Vladimir Putin. Despite the efforts of a string of presidents and prime ministers to prevent conflict, on 24 February, Putin started the war he’d been itching for.

What now seems evident is that Putin expects to maintain a Cold War-style sphere of influence around Russia’s borders. It isn’t only his treatment of Ukraine, seemingly punished for orienting a little more towards the west and entertaining a vague idea of joining NATO, that shows this.

In the context of conflict, there’s a need to monitor and collect evidence of human rights violations – with the aim of one day holding the perpetrators and commissioners of crimes to account in the international justice system.

Civil society can play a vital part here – not only in defending human rights and monitoring violations, but also in building peace at the local level and providing essential humanitarian help to people left bereft by conflict.

Read more on Inter Press Service 

EU leaders must pay attention to threatened civic freedoms in Slovenia

By Aarti Narsee, civic space research for CIVICUS Monitor

Janša was once branded a national hero, having played an important role in leading his country to the path to independence: an independence formally recognised by the European Union 30 years ago, on January 15, 1992.

Today, however, many Slovenians say Janša must go. He and his far-right Slovenian Democratic (SDS) Party have repeatedly targeted the very civic freedoms he once defended. In June 2021, Slovenia was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which issues alerts on countries where there has been a recent and rapid deterioration in civic freedoms.

Read on Euronews

NGOs and the Future of Trust

By Lysa John and Mandeep Tiwana 

Despite a percentage point decline in trust in NGOs in the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, these institutions actually delivered a strong performance during the COVID-19 pandemic — especially in comparison with the well-documented failures of many governments and businesses in dealing with the crisis. Should those notable contributions continue — and we believe they will — then NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) globally may well be in for a reputational rebound in 2022.

Read on Edelman Trust Institute 

Spare a thought for those who are fighting for and dying to protect human rights across the globe

By David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns lead at CIVICUS

International Human Rights Day 2021 on 10 December is commemorated at a time when being a human rights defender in many countries is risky and, for many, a matter of life and death. In 2020 alone, more than 331 human rights defenders were killed for advocating for the rights of others and their communities.

The human rights community should have been excited about the commemoration of International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021, as the day is supposed to represent a moment of reflection about the state of human rights and human rights defenders in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sadly, for hundreds of human rights defenders, the day will be another reminder of the plight of those who advocate for human rights and the failure of states to adhere to the same commitments to which they are signatories.

Read on Daily Maverick

Can the Summit for Democracy deliver?

By Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Research Officer at CIVICUS, Susannah Fitzgerald, Coordinator of UK Anti-Corruption Coalition & Karla Mclaren, Government and political relations manager at Amnesty International UK

The US-led Summit for Democracy, taking place on the 9-10 December 2021, promises to kick off a year of action to reduce corruption, defend against authoritarianism and protect human rights that will end in an in-person summit in December 2022.

The Prime Minister and other world leaders committed to tackling these challenges and to strengthening open societies globally at the G7 earlier this year. The Summit for Democracies is an opportunity for states to put these words into action, with each participating country required to make new international and domestic commitments. The summit must deliver a step change for people whose lives are already affected by restrictions on their basic freedoms. Scant progress has been made to date, while democratic institutions and human rights are under renewed pressure in many countries around the world, including established democracies like the UK.

Read on Bond

Two years on, escalating assault on freedoms by the administration

By Josef Benedict, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS

Two years on from the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President of Sri Lanka, the state of civic freedoms in the country continues to regress. Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor organisation – which rates civic space in Sri Lanka as being “obstructed” – shows a worrying pattern of increasing restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly, and association, often with impunity.

Read on the Morning

Activists Fuel Global Movement to Fight Violence Against Women

By Aarti Narsee, civic space researcher at CIVICUS

This year marks 30 years of fighting to live free of gender-based violence through the 16 Days of Activism campaign, which commences every November 25 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Since 1991, organizations and countries around the globe have come together to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. However, the numbers paint a disturbing picture on the situation for women and girls around the world, with UN Women estimating that one in three women aged 15 years and older have faced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, nonpartner, or both at least once in their lifetime. This does not account for the other forms of violence that women and girls face, such as being denied reproductive choice, being subjected to violence on online platforms, or being denied the right to education or work.

Read on:  Women's Media Center 



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