Posts Tagged ‘activism’

“to the streets” – the new battlecry of the human rights movement?

December 22, 2019

The Economist of 14 November 2019 contains a timely article on “Economics, demography and social media only partly explain the protests roiling so many countries today“. Two pieces published more or less simultaneously this month go into this question in relation to the human rights movement. Is #TakeToTheStreets the ‘new’ tool for human rights defenders?

The first is by Cate Brown in Open Democracy of 11 December “The era of state mobilization is over: Welcome to the streets”, – ss civilian protesters take to the streets to demand their rights, human rights leaders consider a future of citizen-led activism.

Protestors in Hong Kong gather against emergency anti-mask legislation, passed in response to months of demonstrations. Photo: Etan Liam/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

States are no longer trusted as representatives of popular interests or reliable guarantors of human rights, even in democracies. In response, civilian protesters have flooded the streets of major global capitals to demand immediate government action.

In Baku, demonstrators rallied for their right to assembly. In Beirut, citizens are calling for an end to government corruption. In Baghdad, protesters demand electoral reform, despite the deadly response of Iraqi security forces. In Santiago, dissent against a four percent increase in metro fares became a rallying cry for larger social reforms. And in Hong Kong, citizens have vowed to make ‘weekday chaos’ the new normal, adapting their tactics after six months of unanswered calls for political autonomy. Search the trending hashtag #TakeToTheStreets and you’ll find citizen-led anti-Trump and anti-Brexit movements in the United States and the UK. Search the #GiletsJaunes and you’ll find France’s infamous Yellow Vest movement celebrating their protest anniversary one year on.

…..quick concessions have failed to quiet broader calls for political reform. Instead, the single-issue protest movements have metastasized, gained momentum, and demonstrated staying power in the streets. Social media videos, like clips of Madi Karimeh, Lebanon’s ‘DJ of the Revolution’, or of the 170,000-person human chain linking protesters from Lebanon’s northern capital in Tripoli to its southern capital in Tyre, have helped build a sense of unity and vision among city-level protest movements…“Citizens are again claiming their rights in the streets, but there’s an important difference this year,” says Blavatnik School Professor of Practice of Public Integrity Chris Stone. “Citizen protesters are asking a new question: can we create a notion of rights enforcement that doesn’t depend on states?” It’s important for human rights organizations to consider this question. For years, the human rights movement has relied on parallel actions by frontline human rights defenders and global advocacy organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Frontline activists have played a central role in documenting incidents of abuse, convening civil society and amplifying messages across social networks. Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International then strengthened their campaigns with rigorous investigation and documentation, and provided an important bridge to pliable state leaders and UN representatives.

But with a cadre of autocratic leaders like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or populist leaders like US President Donald Trump, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro leading some of the world’s most influential states, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth suggests a tactical pivot towards nontraditional human rights allies and coalitions of smaller or midsize states.

“We used to look towards Geneva, New York, DC, and Brussels,” confirms a senior researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), “But the allies that we used to take for granted are no longer there.” Without reliable allies at the state level, the fundamental architecture of the human rights movement could be forced to change. “We need to invest in networks that are more grassroots-oriented,” continues the EIPR research lead, speaking on account of anonymity. “Local networks will help us diversify our allies and introduce us to arenas of mobilization that the Egyptian human rights movement knows nothing about.”

My generation of millennial protestors needs to recognize this opportunity: in the absence of reliable state allies, global rights organizations are ready to partner with us. Of course, groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have always worked with frontlines activists, but young civilian protesters may have a new opportunity to lead the way.

First, protesters need to invest in relationships that will strengthen their movements and amplify their demands. Next, protesters must look beyond the trending hashtags and the size of the crowds in the street: In a 2017 op-ed, Turkish scholar Zeynep Tufekci, author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, warns that social media networks may make it much easier to pull off a large protest than it used to be, but “the significance of a protest depends on what happens afterwards.”

Protesters gathered in Beirut, Baghdad, Santiago, Port au Prince, Barcelona and Hong Kong must organize their crowds and identify next steps for collective action. With an agenda in hand, international rights organizations can extend their support. And together, we can push for more participatory, safe and inclusive states. For now, the hashtag #TakeToTheStreets is still trending. We’ll see how far people-power can go.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/era-of-state-mobilization-is-over-welcome-to-the-streets/

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The second piece is by in Foreign Policy in Focus of 10 December 2019: “As the Decade Closes, the Power of Protest Endures” –Despite the dashed hopes of the early 2010s, social movements are still winning important fights — and building a framework for human survival.

..as we mark the final Human Rights Day of this decade, we are ending the way we began — in the streets. In Hong Kong, Nicaragua, in Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, and elsewhere, people have been on the march, facing bullets, beatings, and prison to demand an end to repressive and unaccountable government, to reject corrupt elites, and secure their rights. Are they naïve? Or do they know something important and powerful?

And what of the lawyers and communities challenging injustice in court, the investigators building meticulous records of human rights crimes, the journalists dragging into public view the buried facts, the advocates and activists pressuring and cajoling governments, companies, and other powerful actors to defend human dignity? They persist because they know the power of protest and resistance, and the efficacy of the human rights ideal, even if the tally of the past decade offers little encouragement.

From 2010 through 2012, protest movements swept across Iran and much of the Arab world. But in 2019, Tunisia stands alone among the countries of the Arab Spring in making the transition to democracy, and among its neighbors renewed repression and brutal wars have followed the uprisings. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have been injured, and tens-of-millions have been displaced. The cost in lives, resources, and squandered potential is incalculable. Ten years ago, the smart phones and social platforms that helped to enable the protests were celebrated as vectors of positive change, opening avenues for speech and organizing beyond the control of authoritarian governments. They are now more often seen as fueling division, empowering surveillance, invading our privacy, and eviscerating the economic underpinnings of a free press.

Those who have sought refuge from obliterating violence and repression have met a rising tide of xenophobia, as politicians long confined to the margins of power ride a narrative of cultural, economic, and security threat, often focused on Muslims, refugees, LGBT people — anyone  seen as the “other” — to its center. They have sometimes been buoyed by hyper-partisan and often fraudulent media operations.

In the world’s biggest democracies — India, Brazil and the United States — the gravest threats to human rights and democracy come from elected presidents who openly praise dictators, demonize minorities, and undercut the rule of law, putting vulnerable populations at even greater risk. It would be easy to make a longer list of reversals: the promise of South Sudan, newly independent in 2011, now mired in war; Myanmar, where the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has emerged as an apologist for ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity; Tanzania, where the media and civil society face ever tighter controls, arrests, and killings. And in Russia, a protest movement in 2011 held out hope for change, but instead Vladimir Putin increased his grip domestically, and enhanced his influence globally. Perhaps nowhere exemplifies the retreat more starkly than China, where once some Western analysts breezily promised that rising prosperity would bring progress on human rights and democracy. Instead, President Xi Jinping has put the fruits of development to work to build an algorithmically enhanced authoritarianism unrivaled in the scope of its ambition for control.

And yet. The protesters taking to the streets in Lebanon and elsewhere are not looking to a global scoresheet and calculating their chances. They are demonstrating that power without legitimacy can be checked in local struggles rooted in the demand for accountability, and ultimately for human rights. Ethiopia’s initial opening toward greater democratic space under President Abiy Ahmed tells us that some leaders appear to have learned this lesson, despite the crowing autocrats on the world stage.

And it isn’t only in street protest or in national struggle that we see the tools and values of human rights successfully at work. The millions of women and girls who bravely stepped forward to publicly shared their stories in response  to Tarana Burke’s #MeToo call built a global movement demanding an end to sexual violence. Persistent journalists turned accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s predation from Hollywood gossip into international news, and across the world, investigative reporting exposed the misogynistic abuses of other powerful figures.

They did so in the face of a U.S. president whose misogyny is proudly on display. Trade unions and women’s rights groups successfully fought for a new international treaty protecting against violence and harassment at work. Unevenly perhaps, but unstoppably, court cases, new regulations, a resetting of workplace norms, and sustained activism are creating new protections for women’s basic right to be free of harassment and violence. Spurred by litigation, culture change, and legislators responding to social movements, the rights of LGBT people are expanding around the world. A rearguard action by opponents in Russia and the United States decrying “gender ideology” and battling the spread of both women’s reproductive rights and LGBT rights is meeting both energized defense, and deep shifts in public opinion.

In a thousand smaller struggles, the embedding of human rights standards in domestic and international law is helping to bring the perpetrators of war crimes to justice, to secure land and environmental rights for communities threatened by development, and forcing companies to respect their human rights responsibilities. Local human rights defenders around the world don’t rely solely on the courage of their own conviction, or even the force of local law, rooted in their own experience, cultures and struggles, they are also part of a global ecosystem of shared norms, institutions, strategic collaboration, and communication that forms a resilient mesh that should be fostered and sustained. …

But a new global social movement is growing, in schools and on the streets. And existing norms around water, health, humanitarian disasters, and livelihoods offer a rich framework for building the accountability that is needed to spur action from wanton governments and companies. If we are back where we started the decade, we know the task, we have the tools — and like the protesters, we know the value of sticking to it.

Colin Kaepernick receives Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award

April 22, 2018

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Show on December 5, 2017 at Barclays Center in New York City.

USA athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick has been honoured with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018. The award was officially presented at a ceremony in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 21 April 2018, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of AI Netherlands.

“The Ambassador of Conscience award celebrates the spirit of activism and exceptional courage, as embodied by Colin Kaepernick. He is an athlete who is now widely recognised for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. [for more on this and other human rights awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ambassador-of-conscience-award]

[During the 2016 pre-season of the American National Football League, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem, as a respectful way of calling for the country to protect and uphold the rights of all its people. The bold move was a response to the disproportionate numbers of black people being killed by police. It sparked a movement that follows a long tradition of non-violent protests that have made history. While the polarised response to the “take-a-knee” protest has ignited a debate about the right to protest and free speech, Colin Kaepernick has remained focused on highlighting the injustices that moved him to act. His charity, the Colin Kaepernick Foundation, works to fight oppression around the world through education and social activism, including through free “Know Your Rights” camps which educate and empower young people.]

I would like to thank Amnesty International for the Ambassador of Conscience Award. But in truth, this is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force. …said Colin Kaepernick. “While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people.
See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/07/ais-ambassador-of-conscience-award-2016-shared-by-angelique-kidjo-and-african-youth-groups/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/04/colin-kaepernick-ambassador-of-conscience/

https://thinkprogress.org/colin-kaepernick-receives-humanitarian-prize-a1b3ca0460cc/

Donors should work jointly against the wave of civil society repression

July 10, 2015

The Newsletter of the International Service for Human Rights of 5 June 2015 carried an interesting piece written by two representatives of donors that are very active in the area of protection human rights defenders.  Julie Broome, Director of Programmes with the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and Iva Dobichina, Programme Manager with the Open Society Foundation‘s Human Rights Initiative, wrote jointly about much-needed efforts to “turn the tide against the wave of civil society repression”.  The piece follows in toto below, but some of the key points are: Read the rest of this entry »

Young human rights defenders honored by awards in Bangladesh

January 28, 2015

Recipients of the honorary awards given by Manusher Jonno Foundation, standing behind, with the guests sitting in front, in the capital's Bangla Academy yesterday, at the award giving ceremony marking Human Rights Day. Photo: Star

Recipients of the honorary awards given by Manusher Jonno Foundation, standing behind, with the guests sitting in front, in the capital’s Bangla Academy yesterday, at the award giving ceremony marking Human Rights Day. Photo: Star

A nice little item left-over from Human Rights Day 2014. How human rights awards play at the local level:

Ten human rights defenders from the grassroots level, two eminent social workers with international recognition, and a female football player were given honorary awards by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) yesterday. The works of the activists focused on land rights, prevention of violence against women, child rights, and the rights of the indigenous people. The 10 grassroots activists were Jharna Ray, Madhobilata Chakma, and Nomita Chakma of Khagrachhari, Birendra Sangma of Mymensingh, Shafique Ullah of Noakhali, Kachhim Uddin of Tangail, Kananbala Gupta of Narail, Umme Kulsum Ranjana of Bogra, Kalpana Tirki of Rajshahi, and Rahela of Dinajpur.

Two social workers Jharna Dhara Chowdhury, chief of Noakhali’s Gandhi Ashram, and Angela Gomes, executive director of Bachte Shekha, were also honoured along with Bipasha Mali, a young footballer who was recently called to play on the national women’s football team.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said, “They don’t work for recognition. Yet when we value their contributions, it makes us proud and we get inspiration to work.

MJF honours 10 grassroots human rights defenders | Two social workers, a young female footballer also receive the honorary awards.

Treat Human Rights Defenders seeking information better says Indian National Human Rights Commission

December 20, 2013

On 19 December 2013, DHNS reported an excellent action by the Indian National Human Rights Commission [NHRC] which should be an example to national institutions worldwide: Peeved at the way state authorities treat human rights defenders, the NHRC has shot off a letter to all State governments asking them to sensitise their officers while dealing with human rights defenders who are making use of their Right to seek Information (RTI users as they are called in India). In his communication NHRC Secretary General, Parvinder Sohi Behuria, said the activists have been complaining that the States treat them as nuisance and take actions to harass them. “It would be of immense help if state government functionaries are sensitised about the problems being faced by NGOs and Human Rights defenders. They should be treated as partners in bringing about a positive change,” Behuria said.

via Treat RTI users as rights defenders.

Example of how local and international pressure interact (Assam, India)

November 10, 2013

The Assam Tribune Online of 9 November provides us with an interesting illustration of how a combination of: (a) local activism, (b) introduction by an international NGO, and (c) invitation to an EU meeting can have result: Read the rest of this entry »

Mexican Rocío Mesino, an emblematic human rights defender, murdered like so many others

October 26, 2013

logo completo

On Saturday, the 19th of  October  2013 , around 1:00 pm, Rocío Mesino Mesino, leader of the Peasant Organization of the Southern Sierra (OCSS ), was killed in the town of Mexcaltepec, municipality of Atoyac de Alvarez, in the state of Guerrero, Mexcio. Read the rest of this entry »

Burma: 56 political prisoners freed, but Section 18 law stays in place and new arrests continue

October 17, 2013

In a move praised by local and international rights groups, Burma’s government, led by ex-general Thein Sein, has released 56 political prisoners. However, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners [AAPP] noted in a statement to the media that 133 political prisoners were still languishing in the country’s prisons. Read the rest of this entry »

Risks for Women HRDs: “To be a human rights defender is to make a choice…”

October 15, 2013

photo 29 350x350 To be a human rights defender is to make a choice...

From 8 – 11 October 2013 took place the 7th Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders organised by Front Line Defenders. I share the impression as posted by Executive Director, Deon Haywood, of Women With A Vision [WWAV’s] who joined 145 activists from 95 different countries for the meeting.  “This is a vital international forum for human rights defenders at risk, as many cannot speak freely in their own country.  Through plenary presentations and working group discussions, defenders shared experiences, learned from each other and came up with new and more effective strategies for their security and protection. This year’s Dublin Platform also included a specific focus on the risks faced by women human rights defenders.”

When addressing this global community of activists during the Dublin Platform opening, Deon Haywood spoke of a choice that rang true for so many attendees: To be a human rights defender is to make a choice between standing up for what is right and defending the rights of others, or passively accepting that there is no other way. Being here with 145 other human rights defenders from every corner of the globe, all of whom face very similar risks, reminds me of the rightness of our cause. When you see the energy and the commitment of the people in this room, then there is a real cause for optimism for the future.

via “To be a human rights defender is to make a choice…”.

Join on-line Conversation on the power of narrative for HRDs as from today

October 14, 2013

You can Join the Center for Story-based Strategy CSS and the New Tactics community for an online conversation on Change the Story: Harnessing the power of narrative for social change from October 14 to 18.

People and communities use stories to understand the world and our place in it. These stories are embedded with power – the power to explain and justify the status quo as well as the power to make change imaginable and urgent. …This conversation is an opportunity for human rights defenders to learn more about story-based strategy and how to integrate it into campaign planning. This is also an opportunity for those practitioners using story-based strategy to share their experiences, questions, and ideas with each other. Practitioners to lead this conversation are:

Danielle Coates-Connor, Conversation Facilitator of the Center for Story-based Strategy

Nathan Schneider of Waging Nonviolence

Soriano of Lionswrite Communications

Kathleen Pequeño of the Progressive Communicators Network

Nadia Khastaqir of the Design Action Collective

Kristi Rendahl of the Center for Victims of Torture

Lama Sangye and Justin Von Bujdoss of the New York Tsurphu Goshir Dharma Center

Chris Cavanagh of the Catalyst Centre

Dr. Cara Lisa Berg Powers of Press Pass TV

Laura Revels, Digital Storytelling Trainer

Shreya Atrey, practitioner.

September’s Conversation on Media Tactics for Social Change now has a summary posted and in November there will be a Conversation on Visualizing Information for Advocacy, in partnership with Tactical Technology Collective.

via Join our conversation on the power of narrative, this week!.