Posts Tagged ‘Civil society’

CIVICUS STATE OF CIVIL SOCIETY REPORT 2022

June 29, 2022

This year’s report published at the halfway point of 2022 shines a light on a time of immense upheaval and contestation. The report finds hope, however, in the many mobilisations for change around the world: the mass protests, campaigns and people’s movements for justice, and the many grassroots initiatives defending rights and helping those most in need.

The report identifies five key current trends of global significance:

  1. Rising costs of fuel and food are spurring public anger and protests at economic mismanagement
  2. Democracy is under assault but positive changes are still being won
  3. Advances are being made in fighting social inequality despite attacks
  4. Civil society is keeping up the pressure for climate action
  5. Current crises are exposing the inadequacies of the international governance system.
  1. Governments around the world are failing to protect people from the impacts of massive price rises worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Public anger at a dysfunctional economic system, poverty and economic inequality and corruption is rising. Mass protests are the result. In Sri Lanka, widespread protests against economic mismanagement led to resignation of the prime minister. In Iran people are demanding fundamental change as food prices soar. In Kazakhstan over 200 people were killed with impunity following protests over fuel price rises. But people will continue to protest out of necessity even in the many countries where fundamental freedoms are repressed and state violence is inevitable.
  1. Institutions and traditions of democracy are under increasing attack. Coups are imperilling hard-fought gains. The military has gained power in multiple countries, including Burkina Faso and Sudan. In several others, including El Salvador and Tunisia, elected presidents are removing democratic checks on power. Entirely fraudulent elections have been held in countries as different as Nicaragua and Turkmenistan. Autocratic nationalists have triumphed in elections in countries including Hungary and the Philippines. But at the same time there have been successful mobilisations to defend democracy, not least in theCzech Republic and Slovenia, where people voted out political leaders who fostered divisiveness in favour of fresh and broad-based alternatives. Progressive leaders promising to advance social justice have won power in countries such as Chile and Honduras. In many contexts, including Costa Rica andPeru, a prevailing sentiment of dissatisfaction is leading to a rejection of incumbency and willingness to embrace candidates who run as outsiders and promise disruption.
  1. In politically turbulent times, and despite severe pushback by anti-rights groups, progress has been achieved in advancing women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. The USA, where neoconservative forces are emboldened, is ever more isolated on sexual and reproductive rights as several other countries in the Americas, including Colombia and Mexico, have eased abortion restrictions following civil society advocacy. Opportunistic politicians continue to seek political advantage in vilifying LGBTQI+ people, but globally the normalisation of LGBTQI+ rights is spreading. Most recently, the people of Switzerland overwhelmingly voted in favour of an equal marriage law. Even in hostile contexts such as Jamaica important advances have come through civil society’s engagement in regional human rights systems. But when it comes to fighting for migrants’ rights, only Ukrainian refugees in Europe are being received with anything like the kind of compassion all such people deserve, and otherwise the dominant global sentiment is hostility. Nonetheless, a new generation is forging movements to advance racial justice and demand equity for excluded people.
  1. A young and diverse generation is the same social force that continues to make waves on climate change. As extreme weather gets more common, the brunt of the climate crisis continues to fall disproportionately on the most excluded populations who have done the least to cause the problem. Governments and companies are failing to act, and urgent action on emissions cuts to meet the size of the challenge is being demanded by civil society movements, including through mass marches, climate strikes and non-violent civil disobedience. Alongside these, climate litigation is growing, leading to significant legal breakthroughs, such as the judgment in the Netherlands that forced Shell to commit to emissions cuts. Shareholder activism towards fossil fuel firms and funders is intensifying, with pension funds coming under growing pressure to divest from fossil fuels.
  1. Russia’s war on Ukraine is the latest crisis, alongside recent conflicts in the Sahel, Syria and Yemen, among others, to expose the failure of global institutions to protect people and prevent conflict. The UN Security Council is hamstrung by the veto-wielding role of Russia as one of its five permanent members, although a special session of the UN General Assembly yielded a resolution condemning the invasion. Russia has rightly been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, but this peak human rights body remains dominated by rights-abusing states. If the UN is to move from helping to prevent crises rather than trying to react to them, effective civil society engagement is needed. The world as it stands today, characterised by crisis and volatility, needs a UN prepared to work with civil society, since civil society continues to seek and secure vital progress for humanity.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/26/10th-edition-of-civicuss-state-of-civil-society-report-2021/

See also the IPS post: https://www.ipsnews.net/2022/06/five-takeaways-2022-state-civil-society-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=five-takeaways-2022-state-civil-society-report

Better “business and human rights” starts with better understanding

May 17, 2022

Andrés Zaragoza in Open Global Rights of 16 May 2022 hits the nail by arguing that “If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is.

..Building trust and a common narrative to engage in a constructive conversation is extremely difficult. Some would argue that a trusting relationship between civil society and private companies is not only impossible but also not desirable; that good faith is nowhere to be found in business sectors where human rights abuses can and do take place.

It has already been 10 years since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…..The enactment of legislation at the regional and national levels requiring companies to carry out human rights due diligence, such as the newly proposed EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, as well as negotiations on a binding international treaty on business and human rights, creates a window of opportunity for NGOs to be creative, ambitious, and innovative in testing new advocacy strategies to change corporate conduct and advance human rights.

Despite an understandably dogged legacy of mistrust between civil society and corporations, there is a momentum for human rights organizations to engage productively with businesses, responsible investors, and other private actors that hold increasing market power, leverage, and are subject to new human rights legislation. As we write, global corporations are becoming increasingly relevant actors in international conflicts. In other words, businesses could become powerful allies in advancing human rights’ agendas with governments or in regards to public opinion.  

It’s no mystery that businesses and civil society speak different languages and engage from radically distinct perspectives when referring to human rights issues.

It is true that corporate activism is on the rise, with some companies supporting important causes and campaigns such as LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, equality, and non-discrimination. However, companies are not founded for promoting and protecting human rights, even if we may wish it otherwise. Instead, corporations see human rights issues through the lens of their productive and business models. This does not mean that workers or companies do not care about human rights. They do care, especially in certain sectors and business cultures. 

As civil society, we need to identify and understand how to best engage our strategic targets and audiences. If we want to constructively engage companies, business associations or investors on human rights issues, we must recognize who our interlocutor is. Businesses’ core activity is the starting point to analyse any human rights issue: their business, people, customers, and supply chain

Businesses tend to focus on risk identification and mitigation. There is growing recognition that human rights defenders can play a vital role in sounding the alarm on problems within an organization’s operations or supply chain. Generally, ‘UN speak’ does not work with businesses. Civil society should avoid jargon when engaging with business circles. Business representatives seek examples and clarity on which human rights issues are of concern and how they are relevant to their operations. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/21/davos-businesses-need-strong-human-rights-defenders/

Civil society should not automatically feel good about the fact that a company has a person with “human rights” written in their title. Unfortunately, this often means that a position was created for compliance or reputational management purposes, to deal discreetly with human rights issues, or engage (read: manage) civil society relations. By contrast, companies that take human rights seriously embed the topic across functions and departments, working towards including human rights within the company’s ethos. 

To achieve change, civil society should make every effort to better understand the complexity of a particular company, its economic sector, activity, internal governance, corporate values, and culture. Each company has its own systems and structure, progressing through their human rights journey differently. 

On a micro level, the individual background, connections, and motivations of the human rights personnel within the company have great bearing on how issues are pushed through a company. At the systemic level, NGOs must understand the functioning of international business, economics, investment and trade.  

Lessons learnt and scars taken 

..Civil society should understand and use the market. As companies need to comply with human rights and sustainability regulations, NGOs and defenders can become key in risk assessment or due diligence processes, influencing directly the behavior of companies. We need to know the “enemy” and know ourselves. As civil society, we should build our technical capacity to understand and leverage international business, economics, investment and trade. We will not change business dynamics if we do not understand them.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/18/business-network-on-civic-freedoms-and-human-rights-defenders-launches-new-website/

https://www.openglobalrights.org/what-it-takes-to-bridge-the-divide-between-the-business-sector-and-human-rights/

Annual Report Amnesty 2021 is out

March 29, 2022

The human rights organisation looks back on 2021, “a year of dashed hopes“. According to Amnesty International, the digital sphere is increasingly becoming a space for activism — and repression.

Despite promises and pledges to the contrary, at almost every turn, leaders and corporations opted for a non-transformative path, choosing to entrench rather than overturn the systemic inequalities behind the pandemic. Yet, people the world over have made it abundantly clear that a more just world, grounded in human rights, is what they want

Agnès Callamard SG AI

Here is how Deutsche Welle summarized it:

Every year, Amnesty International looks at developments around the world and compiles an analysis of the most important global trends in human and civil rights. In its latest annual report, Amnesty Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director Philip Luth says: “2021 was a year of really quite significant promises. … The reality was completely otherwise.”

There had been hope that the world might emerge from the pandemic equitably, Luther told DW, but richer countries in particular have prevented the widespread manufacture and distribution of vaccines. The annual report cites the facts: Fewer than 8% of the 1.2 billion people in Africa were fully vaccinated at the end of 2021 — the lowest rate in the world and far from the WHO’s 40% vaccination target…..The study also found that many governments have used the pandemic to suppress opposition and civil society. “It’s across regions and that’s one of the reasons we highlighted it in our global analysis,” Luther said. “Some governments very specifically used the smoke screen of the pandemic to restrict freedom of expression.” Examples of countries where protests have been broken up and human rights defenders are at risk include Cambodia, Russia, China and others.

According to Amnesty and other international organizations, the pandemic is also having an effect on civil society. “There are various strategies that are making it increasingly difficult for civil society to operate in different regions of the world,” Silke Pfeiffer, head of the department for human rights and peace at the Christian-affiliated aid organization Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), told DW. “This is quite specifically directed at individual activists, who are discriminated against, threatened, persecuted and in some cases murdered.” In many countries, Pfeiffer said, governments cultivate a hostile environment. “It becomes increasingly difficult for civil society organizations to work,” she said. “That goes as far as the closure of NGOs; we see that again and again.” To cite just one example: In late March, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had 25 nongovernmental organizations closed. One of them is the Nicaraguan partner organization to Brot für die Welt.

Governments and NGOs are increasingly doing their work online. Luther describes the development as a “double-edged sword.” Authorities clandestinely use technology in ways that have a negative impact on people’s human rights, he said: “Governments in many cases were also then trying to shut down and disrupt tools that enable civil society to better communicate with each other and spread information.”

Amnesty International’s annual report cites multiple examples of this: the internet shutdown from August 4, 2019, to February 5, 2021, in the India-controlled regions of Jammu and Kashmir; the use of facial recognition technology at protests in Moscow; and the use of Israel’s Pegasus spyware against journalists, opposition figures and human rights activists. Pfeiffer said the internet was an important way for civil society to organize and mobilize. But she added that, around the world, “governments and other actors have completely upgraded digitally and are now also taking very strong action against freedom on the internet — through censorship, by shutting down internet services, through mass surveillance.”

Across the world, Amnesty noted, people took to the streets to fight for their rights and the rights of others in 2021 — in Russia, India, Colombia, Sudan, Lebanon and at least 75 other countries. in the words of AI Secretary General: “The palpable and persistent resistance offered by people’s movements the world over is a beacon of hope. Uncowed and undaunted, theirs is a clarion call for a more equal world. If governments won’t build back better – if they seemingly are intent on building back broken – then we are left with little option. We must fight their every attempt to muzzle our voices and we must stand up to their every betrayal. It is why, in the coming weeks, we are launching a global campaign of solidarity with people’s movements, a campaign demanding respect for the right to protest. We must build and harness global solidarity, even if our leaders won’t.”

She also said:

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

Global trends to stifle independent and critical voices gathered steam in 2021 as governments deployed a widening gamut of tools and tactics. Human rights defenders, NGOs, media outlets and opposition leaders were the targets of unlawful detention, torture and enforced disappearance, many under the smokescreen of the pandemic.

At least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly. In the USA, at least 36 states introduced more than 80 pieces of draft legislation limiting freedom of assembly, whilst the UK government proposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would drastically curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, including by expanding police powers.

https://www.dw.com/en/amnesty-international-2021-was-the-year-of-broken-promises/a-61285728

EU by far biggest funder of human rights defenders

February 28, 2022

The European Union (EU) provided roughly €10 billion to support non-government organisations (NGOs) in its partner countries over the past seven years (2014-2021) EU High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell said in a statement in celebration of World NGO day, 26 February.

Josep Borrell

File Photo: EU s High Representative and Vice-President Josep Borrell. Photo courtesy of European parliament website.

With these allocations, the EU represents the world’s largest provider of support to local NGOs in partner countries, Borrell noted. He also stated that it has been a leading donor for the protection and support of human rights defenders, with 53,000 defenders and their families taken care of through the website ProtectDefenders.eu since 2015. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/17/eu-launches-a-e1-5-billion-6-year-plan-to-promote-human-rights-and-its-defenders/

On World NGO Day, we honour all civil society actors who, every day, are at the forefront of the fight for human rights, the respect of democratic values and the rule of law. The EU commends their role in supporting and giving a voice to the most vulnerable as well as their essential contribution to building peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

Today, with the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, international peace and the rule of law are under attack. The EU stands firmly by the Ukrainian and Russian people along with their civil society and youths, whose future and voices are threatened by President Putin’s disregard of democracy, human rights, and international rules,” Borrell stated.

Borrell added that countries that curtail NGOs’ activity through legal and administrative measures hamper universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. See e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/foreign-agents/

Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society seeks developper

January 18, 2022
Global Dialogue

Global Dialogue seeks a Development and Communications Lead for the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society (FICS).

FICS’ vision is a world in which people can leverage their collective power to push for political, social and economic transformation without harm, stigma, or fear. Our mission is to defend and expand civic space by making sure progressive movements and their allies have the resources they need to tackle the drivers of closing civic space – the systems, actors, and trends that sit behind growing restrictions on rights of assembly, association and other fundamental freedoms.

A small, friendly and committed team, we have received new investment that is enabling us to scale up and deliver ambitious new grant-making and research programmes. The Development and Communications Lead is a new role and will be a critical member of our core team, helping to drive and sustain this momentum.

They are looking for someone passionate about FICS’ mission and welcome applications from candidates who bring strong expertise in one discipline and a commitment to developing skills in the other, for which there would be support.

Applications are due by 9am on 3 February 2022 and details of how to apply as well as more information about the role can be found in the attached recruitment pack.

Please note this position is being re-advertised and previous applicants need not apply. Application resources Development and Communications Lead JD 0.26 MB

https://www.charityjob.co.uk/jobs/global-dialogue/development-and-communications-lead-/795911

2021 global data report from the CIVICUS Monitor

January 18, 2022

The new #PeoplePower2021 report shows where civil society conditions are improving and getting worse. A closer look at top violations & trends.

2021 global data report from the CIVICUS Monitor

  • 9 out of 10 people live in countries where civic freedoms are severely restricted 
  • Country downgrades include Poland, Singapore, Nicaragua, Jordan and South Africa
  • Detention of protesters is the top violation of civic freedoms in 2021
  • COVID-19 continues to be used as a pretext to restrict rights across the globe

The fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association continue to deteriorate year after year worldwide, according to a global report released by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online research platform that tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories. The new report, People Power Under Attack 2021, shows that the number of people living in countries with significant restrictions on civic rights, including the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, amount to almost 89% of the population this year. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/26/10th-edition-of-civicuss-state-of-civil-society-report-2021/

The CIVICUS Monitor data shows that year after year, there is significantly less space for people to exercise fundamental freedoms: only 3.1% of the world’s population lives in countries rated as ‘open’.

Nearly two billion people live in countries with the worst rating, ‘closed’, where the authorities are routinely allowed to imprison, injure and kill people for attempting to exercise their fundamental freedoms. China, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and 21 other countries fall under this category – Nicaragua and Belarus joined their ranks this year. 

It is nearly two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus is having a dire impact on civic freedoms globally, one that will have lasting impact if remedial action is not taken. Our research shows the detention of protesters and the use of restrictive laws to muzzle dissent are becoming more prevalent, as governments use the pandemic to introduce or implement additional restrictions on civic freedoms. 

“Governments across the world are setting a very dangerous precedent by using the health emergency as a smokescreen to crack down on protests and enact or amend legislation that will further limit peoples’ rights. Specifically, disinformation legislation is being enacted and used to criminalise speech, a concerning practice that could become the new norm to crush dissent,” said Marianna Belalba Barreto, Civic Space Cluster Lead. 

This year, 13 countries have been downgraded and only one improved their rating.  The CIVICUS Monitor is particularly concerned about civic space restrictions in Europe, where four countries dropped a rating: Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, and Poland. Europe has the greatest number of ‘open’ countries, but year after year we continue to see signs of serious deterioration.

Also alarming is the deterioration of civic space conditions in Africa, where South Africa, Botswana, Mali and Mozambique all dropped ratings. In the Americas, Nicaragua joined Cuba in our worst category, ‘closed’. The Middle East and North Africa retained its status as the region with the worst civic rights record, with Jordan being downgraded to ‘repressed’. In Asia, Singapore also fell into the ‘repressed’ category, as a persistent clamp down on dissent and opposition voices continues. 

https://monitor.civicus.org/widgets/world

“What we are seeing is not a proportional reaction to a health emergency, where restrictions are meant to be extraordinary measures to deal with a crisis that is temporary. On the contrary, governments are using the pandemic as a pretext to further accelerate the crackdown on human rights that we have been documenting over the past years.” 

Although only one country – Mongolia – improved its rating in 2021, it is important to highlight the resilience of civil society. Governments have not been successful in silencing alternative voices or limiting their activism. Despite increasing restrictions, civil society has found ways to continue to speak up and claim their rights.  

Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 550 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2021. 

Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as either closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open, based on a methodology that combines several data sources on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.

As the climate crisis intensifies and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate social and economic inequalities, the efforts of civil society are fundamental to achieve tangible results and systematic change. However, a new report by CIVICUS shows how activists, human rights and environmental defenders face profound barriers: not only are governments and businesses failing to take urgent steps to mitigate the climate crisis; they are also actively trying to silence activists, disrupt and prevent climate actions and repress environmental, land and Indigenous rights defenders. In addition, companies play a crucial role in limiting human rights activism.

CIVICUS’ report highlights the role of companies across the world in perpetrating, contributing to, or allegedly benefiting from attacks on human rights defenders and rights groups, including: Feronia PHCFormosa Plastics GroupSOCFINNewmont Mining CompanyXiang Lin SI LtdGreat Season LtdChevron EnergySomkhele and Tendele Coal Mining, PanAust, Oxec, OCP Ecuador and Petroecuador, SG Interests, Celtejo, Mineral Commodities (Ltd) (MRC) and Mineral Sands Resources, PetroTal, Enbridge, Lydian Armenia, andthe RWE Group. The report also highlights positive developments from Chevron and the Mizuho Financial Group.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) had already asked most of these companies to respond to the allegations included in the report, previously. Responses can be found in the companies’ dashboard. BHRRC asked RWE Group to respond to the allegations; RWE’s response is included below.

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications

https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/civicus-report-highlights-role-of-companies-in-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-amid-increasing-restrictions-on-civil-society/

EU launches a €1.5 billion 6-year plan to promote human rights and its defenders

December 17, 2021

w

On the eve of Human Rights Day (10 December 2021) and coinciding with the Summit for Democracy, the European Union launched the Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme. This programme, worth €1.5 billion, steps up EU support in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law and the work of civil society organisations and human rights defenders around the world during the period 2021–2027. The programme will promote and protect the universality of human rights, strengthen the rule of law and accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and defend the full and effective exercise of fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, supporting independent journalism and media, while seizing opportunities and countering risks associated with digital and new technologies.

High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell said: “Courageous people from all backgrounds are fighting on a daily basis for their civil liberties, for independent media and to safeguard democratic institutions, often at great personal risk. The European Union stands with them. The Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme will allow us to strengthen our support to and protection of universal human rights and democratic principles worldwide: for everyone, at any time and everywhere. Together with civil society organisations, human rights defenders, the UN Human Rights Office and the International Criminal Court, we will leave no one behind.”

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, said: “Human rights and democracy are a cornerstone of sustainable and inclusive development, and essential to addressing global challenges and ensure citizens reach their full potential and realise their aspirations. In whichever way you measure it – in stability, equality, economic growth, health or longevity – democracies always outperform other forms of government in the long run. I am proud to think of the countless human rights defenders, young people, women, girls and civil society organisations that the €1.5 billion Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme will empower to build a better tomorrow for all of us.

It has five overarching priorities:

  • Protecting and empowering individuals€704 million

Uphold all human rights, including by working towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, the eradication of torture and cruel and inhumane treatment, the fulfilment of basic needs, decent working conditions, the eradication of child labour, and a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The programme will promote equality, inclusion and respect for diversity, support human rights defenders and counter shrinking space for civil society, and strengthen the rule of law, ensure a fair and effective administration of justice, and close the accountability gap.

  • Building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies – €463 million

The programme will support functioning pluralist, participatory and representative democracies, and protect the integrity of electoral processes. It will, for instance, engage civil society observers in election observation and support pro-democracy organisations, networks and alliances.

  • Promoting a global system for human rights and democracy – €144 million

Enhance strategic partnerships with key actors, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Criminal Court (ICC), regional human rights systems, national human rights institutions, the private sector, and the Global Campus of Human Rights.

  • Safeguarding fundamental freedoms, including harnessing the opportunities and addressing the challenges of digital and new technologies €195 million

Create and maintain an environment conducive to the full exercise of all fundamental freedoms both offline and online. For example, it will help strengthen the capacity of independent, pluralistic and quality media, including investigative journalists, bloggers and fact-checkers, to provide the public with reliable information through responsible and professional reporting. It will support civil society in fostering online media literacy and digital skills and in promoting an open, global, free and secure internet equally accessible to all.

  • Delivering by working together – €6.6 million

The earmarked funds can support the civil society in engaging with national authorities within the framework of the human rights dialogues that the EU conducts with partner countries, or finance training, studies, or exchanges of best practice. It underpins all of the activities.

In the first year of implementation, the EU will focus on promoting a global system for human rights and democracy. For example, in 2022–2024, the EU will support the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with €16 million, the Global Campus of Human Rights with €10 million, and the International Criminal Court with €3 million. The EU will also support in 2022 the launch of a Team Europe Democracy initiative to reinforce the impact of EU and Member States’ global support to democracy. The 2021 action plan complements a number of urgent individual measures under the programme adopted earlier.

Background

The Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme is flexible as regards procedures, and supports civil society actions independently of the consent of partner countries’ governments and other public authorities. A substantial part of the programme will be implemented at country level. Subsequent calls for proposals covering the different activities, open to civil society organisations across the world, will be published in the coming months. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/10611/

Funded under the thematic pillar of the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – Global Europe, the Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme is the successor of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which was established in 2006 to support civil society-led actions in the area of human rights and democracy in countries outside the EU. Under the previous financial period 2014–2020, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights was allocated €1.33 billion.

It had to happen: Russian Authorities Move to Shut Down Memorial

November 12, 2021
On the night before the infamous “foreign agents” law came into force back in 2012, unknown individuals sprayed graffiti reading, “Foreign Agent! ♥ USA” on the buildings hosting the offices of three prominent NGOs in Moscow, including Memorial. 
On the night before the infamous “foreign agents” law came into force back in 2012, unknown individuals sprayed graffiti reading, “Foreign Agent! ♥ USA” on the buildings hosting the offices of three prominent NGOs in Moscow, including Memorial.  © 2012 Yulia Klimova/Memorial

On 12 November 2021Tanya Lokshina, Associate Director, Europe and Central Asia Division Human RightsWatch, reported that the Russian authorities have moved to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights organization, an outrageous assault on the jugular of Russia’s civil society.

Memorial, which defends human rights, works to commemorate victims of Soviet repression, and provides a platform for open debate, has two key entities: Memorial Human Rights Center and International Memorial Society.[ the winners of not less than 7 human rights awards, see : https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BD12D9CE-37AA-7A35-9A32-F37A0EA8C407]

On November 11, International Memorial received a letter from Russia’s Supreme Court stating that the Prosecutor General’s Office had filed a law suit seeking their liquidation over repeated violations of the country’s legislation on “foreign agents.”

A court date to hear the prosecutor’s case is set for November 25. According to Memorial, the alleged violations pertain to repeated fines against the organization for failure to mark some of its materials — including event announcements and social media posts — with the toxic and false “foreign agent” label, one of the pernicious requirements of the “foreign agents” law.

On November 12, Memorial Human Rights Center received information from the Moscow City Court that the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office filed a similar suit against them and a court hearing was pending.  

For nearly a decade, Russian authorities have used the repressive legislation on “foreign agents” to restrict space for civic activity and penalize critics, including human rights groups. Last year parliament adopted new laws harshening the “foreign agent” law and expanding it in ways that could apply to just about any public critic or activist. The amendments were but a fraction of a slew of repressive laws adopted in the past year aimed at shutting down criticism and debate. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/foreign-agent-law/

The number of groups and individuals authorities have designated as “foreign agents” has soared in recent months. This week the Justice Ministry included on the foreign agent registry the Russian LGBT Network, one of Russia’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights groups, which had worked to evacuate dozens of LGBT people from Chechnya. The ministry also listed Ivan Pavlov, a leading human rights lawyer, and four of his colleagues, as “foreign agent-foreign media.” See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/11/10/ngo-lgbt-network-and-5-human-rights-lawyers-branded-foreign-agents-in-russia/

Even against this backdrop, to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s human rights giants, is a new Rubicon crossed in the government’s campaign to stifle independent voices.

This move against Memorial is a political act of retaliation against human rights defenders. Russian authorities should withdraw the suits against Memorial immediately, and heed a long-standing call to repeal the legislation on “foreign agents” and end their crackdown on independent groups and activists.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/12/russian-authorities-move-shut-down-human-rights-giant#

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/11/17/memory-and-memorial-will-prevail-a75588

Erik K. Ward Wins 2021 Civil Courage Prize

October 5, 2021
Eric K. Ward, a nationally-recognized expert

New York, NY – Eric K. Ward, a nationally-recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence, and preserving inclusive democracy, will receive the 21st annual Civil Courage Prize virtually on Friday, October 29, 2021.

This is the first time in the award’s history that an American has won the prize, revealing the dangerous proliferation of hate crimes and political violence by authoritarian and extremist movements in the United States.

In his 30+ year civil rights career, Ward has worked with community groups, government and business leaders, human rights advocates, and philanthropists to combat white supremacy, extremism, and anti-democratic activities of the far right. The recipient of the Peabody-Facebook Futures Media Award, Ward’s widely quoted writings and speeches are credited with key narrative shifts in the fight to take white supremacist violence seriously. He currently serves as Executive Director of Western States Center, Senior Fellow with Southern Poverty Law Center and Race Forward, and as Chair of The Proteus Fund.

“There are few with more experience in the realm of civil courage in the United States than Eric Ward. Eric understands the deep connections between creating and sustaining inclusive, democratic institutions and combating extremism, bigotry and racism in all its forms,” said George Biddle, Train Foundation Trustee. “We commend Eric for spending his career and life demonstrating how extremism can only be mitigated through non-violent action and facilitating common ground.” 

The fact that I am the first ever American to win this prize is a clear and jarring message from The Train Foundation to governments and civil society domestically and internationally: the rise of authoritarianism and violent extremism has ended all illusions of ‘American exceptionalism.’ America’s dream of achieving a multiracial and inclusive democracy is in danger, said Eric Ward. “Bigoted and authoritarian ideological movements are now an active threat to the very structures of our democracy established by the 1960s Civil Rights movement. I am grateful and proud to accept this honor on behalf of all those who continue the struggle towards a strong, multicultural democracy.

For more on the Civil Courage Prize see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/B1359DF3-B0A3-4AE5-B8E3-50599E0665FF

Eric Ward has a special interest in the use of music to advance inclusive democracy. In 2020 he helped to launch the Western States Center Inclusive Democracy Culture Lab which works with musicians to create new narratives about anti-bigotry and inclusion, puncture the myths driving our political and social divisions, and invite people who don’t always trust politicians and movement leaders into the safe and trusting conversational space that exists between a performer and their audience.

Ward began his civil rights career at a time when the white nationalist movement was engaged in violent paramilitary activity that posed a threat to democracy and democratic participation in the Pacific Northwest. He founded and directed a community project designed to expose and counter hate groups and respond to bigoted violence before joining the staff of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, where he worked with government leaders, civil rights campaigners, businesses leaders and law enforcement officials in establishing over 120 task forces focused on human rights and anti-violence in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Ward considers himself ‘lucky’ to have had the experience of working closely side-by-side with people who decided to leave any movements which pose a threat to democracy. “I can’t take a lot of claim for that,” he said in an interview with Floss Media earlier this year. “What I think I presented was a doorway out. The truth is when we break this binary of white supremacy and the white nationalism that is trying to turn it into something new, what we find out is we have a lot of problems in common. We also have a lot of dreams in common.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/

https://www.blackstarnews.com/us-politics/news/erik-k-ward-first-american-to-win-civil-courage-prize.html

New book: The vitality of human rights in turbulent times

September 14, 2021

“If attention is directed towards the dynamism of social movements and human rights activism around the world, a different set of views of the cathedral emerges says Gráinne de Búrca on 9 September 2021 about her book “Reframing Human Rights in a Turbulent Era“.

Cover for 

Reframing Human Rights in a Turbulent Era

In the book, she examines a number of human rights campaigns around the world and their degree of success as well as their limitations. “I argue that even in a very turbulent and difficult era when human rights are under challenge from all sides, human rights approaches not only retain vitality and urgency for activists, but have also delivered substantive results over time. I suggest that if attention is directed away from a predominant focus on a handful of prominent Global North NGOs, and towards the dynamism of social movements and human rights activism around the world, a fuller set of views of the cathedral—of the landscape of human rights—emerges. The book advances an experimentalist theory of the effectiveness of human rights law and advocacy which is interactive (involving the engagement of social movements, civil society actors with international norms, networks and institutions), iterative (entailing ongoing action) and long-term (pursuing of social and fundamental changes that are rarely rapidly achieved).

Yet there is little reason for complacency or sanguinity. These are highly challenging times for human rights, and for human rights defenders, activists and advocates everywhere. The tide of illiberalism continues to surge around the world, and liberal democracy is in an increasingly unhealthy state. Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated existing inequalities, corporate power continues to grow and to elude governmental control, while powerful new alliances of religious and political actors have been moving not only to repress the rights of disfavored communities and constituencies, but also to try to reshape understandings of human rights in highly conservative, exclusionary and illiberal directions. Repression of civil society, and of freedom of assembly, expression and protest continues apace, with the number of killings of environmental and other activists growing each year.

At the same time, long-standing critiques of human rights from the progressive left have become popular and mainstream, with influential books in recent years deriding the weaknesses, failures and dysfunctions of human rights, and their complicity with colonialism and neoliberalism. Many of these critiques have been powerful and important, and several have prompted reflection and proposals for reform on the part of human rights practitioners and scholars

But several of the most prominent critiques go beyond a call for rethinking or reform. They argue that the age of human rights is over, that its endtimes are here, that human rights law and the human rights movement are ill-suited to address the injustices of our times, that the failure of human rights approaches to seek or bring about structural change or economic justice highlights their deeply neoliberal character or companionship, and that human rights advocates should perhaps no longer seek to preserve human rights, but should make way instead for more radical movements.

In my book, I argue that some of the more damning critiques are exaggerated and partial. Like the proverbial view of the cathedral, several of the sharpest criticisms focus only or mainly on one particular dimension of the human rights system, and tend to caricature and reduce a complex, plural and vibrant set of movements to a single, monolithic and dysfunctional one. At the same time that the most pessimistic of the critics are writing obituaries for human rights, multiple constituencies around the world are mobilizing and using the language and tools of human rights in pursuit of social, environment, economic and other forms of justice. From #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice and Indigenous movements to reproductive rights marches in Poland, Argentina, and Ireland, to protest movements in Belarus, Myanmar, Nigeria and Chile, the appeal of human rights at least for those seeking justice (even if not for academic critics) seems as potent as ever.

None of this is to suggest that human rights advocates should not constantly scrutinize and reevaluate their premises, institutions and strategies. On the contrary, hard-hitting critiques of human rights for failing to tackle structural injustices and economic inequality have helped to galvanize change and a reorientation of priorities and approaches on the part of various relevant actors and institutions. Human rights activists and movements should exercise vigilance to ensure that they serve and are led by the interests of those whose rights are at stake, that they do not obstruct other progressive movements and tactics, and that their approaches are fit for the daunting and profoundly transformative challenges of these pandemic times, including accelerated climate change, digitalization, ever-increasing inequality and illiberalism. With attention to these risks and dangers, the diverse and heterogeneous array of actors that make up the international human rights community have an indispensable role to play, in a turbulent era, within the broader framework of progressive social, economic, environmental and cultural movements.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/grainne-de-burca/