Posts Tagged ‘civil society organisations’

First MAJALAT Civic Forum launched in Brussels

November 16, 2018

Euromed Rights announced on 15 November 2018 that representatives from over 150 civil society organisations, the majority of which coming from the South of the Mediterranean region, will gather in Brussels on November 20-21 for the First Majalat Civic Forum in order to debate four regional themes: Good Governance; Security and Countering Violence; Migration; Economic Development and Social Dialogue.

After its launch in Jordan last September, Majalat will move to the heart of the European Union in order to initiate a three-year cycle of regional dialogues, in the presence of the Commissioner at the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.

Majalat is thus the first civil society run process of this kind. The word itself stands for ‘spaces, opportunities, fields and domains’. Supported by the EU, the project aims at promoting structured dialogue between civil society in the South Mediterranean region and the EU institutions. It also aims at enhancing regional exchanges between civil society in the region.

The project has been coordinated and set up by six partner organisations: Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC), EuroMed Network France (REF), EuroMed Rights, Forum for Alternatives Morocco (FMAS) and SOLIDAR.

The whole process will be facilitated by an Interactive Digital Platform.

In addition to the six partners, six organisations with a regional scope are invited to sit in the Steering Committee: Arab Campaign for Education for All, Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Disabled People International, Maghreb Observatory on Migration Transparency International and Syrian Citizens’ League.

For the programme see: Programme

https://mailchi.mp/euromedrights/majalat-first-ever-eu-south-mediterranean-forum-with-civil-society-in-lead-to-be-launched-in-brussels-enarfr?e=1209ebd6d8

Nominations for the European Civil Society Prize 2018 closing soon

September 1, 2018

Although not a human rights award in the strict sense, I think that the current state of civil society in large parts of Europe does need a boost [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/04/europe-also-sees-shrinking-space-for-human-rights-defenders/]. So the EESC Civil Society Prize 2018 on identities, European values and cultural heritage in Europe is most welcome and human rights groups and defenders should apply.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) this year is promoting initiatives to do with European values, identities and cultural heritage. The deadline is 7 September 2018. The Civil Society Prize, now in its tenth edition, was launched by the EESC to reward and encourage by civil society organisations and/or individuals that have made a significant contribution to promoting the common values that bolster European cohesion and integration.

Prize money totals EUR 50 000 and will be awarded to a maximum of five winners and it will reward innovative initiatives which have made a significant contribution to:

  • raising awareness of the multiple layers and richness of European identities;
  • exploiting the full potential of Europe’s cultural wealth;
  • facilitating access to European cultural heritage; and
  • promoting European values such as respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

The full list of requirements and the online application form are available on webpage – EESC Civil Society Prize 2018.

The EESC Civil Society Prize is open to all civil society organisations officially registered within the European Union and acting at local, national, regional or European level. It is also open to individuals.

The award ceremony will take place on 13 December 2018 in Brussels.

https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/news-media/press-releases/eesc-civil-society-prize-2018-applications-closing-soon

China, Russia and Pakistan in UN fail at attempt to muzzle human rights defenders (for now)

July 7, 2018

On 6 July 2018 Stephanie Nebehay reported for Reuters that China, Russia and Pakistan lost their bid on Friday to weaken a U.N. resolution upholding the crucial rule of human rights defenders. The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on all states to protect civil society groups from threats and intimidation, and prosecute reprisals against them. Chile presented the resolution text on behalf of more than 50 countries on the final day of a three-week session. Amendments proposed by China, Pakistan and Russia – declaring that civil society groups must respect “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” and that their funding must be “legal and transparent” – were soundly defeated. So, in spite of increasing retaliation against human right defenders and pressure on civil society in many countries [see recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/08/ishr-new-report-on-reprisals-and-restrictions-against-ngo-participation-in-the-un/ ], the UN is still able to resist some of the more blatant attempt to silence critics.

China and Russia are often the least tolerant of civil society at home. They are now seeking to introduce similar restrictions at the international level,” John Fisher of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. Their attempts to place national sovereignty above international human rights law “would turn guarantees of peaceful assembly and association on their heads”.

“These amendments were a swing and a miss for China and its allies on the Council,” Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights told Reuters, using an American baseball term. “Their efforts to limit civil society’s independence and shut down civil society voices were rebuffed by a strong message – from member states across the globe – about the importance of keeping defenders’ voices at the table”.

[At the current session, China tried unsuccessfully to block the accreditation of Uighur activist Dolkun Isa, U.N. sources said. China’s delegation publicly challenged activists speaking on behalf of Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities. Council president Vojislav Suc, Slovenia’s ambassador, said allegations of intimidation and reprisals had emerged during the session and urged “all necessary measures” to prevent such acts.]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-rights/china-russia-fail-to-curb-activists-role-at-u-n-rights-forum-campaigners-idUSKBN1JW2EM

Human Rights NGOs in Europe no longer the standard to follow!

January 27, 2018

In January 2018 the EU Fundamental Rights Agcncy (FRA) published a Report “Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU“. Its conclusion is that the situation is getting more difficult. Also, on 26 January 2018, the Thomson Reuters Foundation published an interview with Michel Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders said that the EU are setting a bad example by allowing some of its members to stifle human rights groups, which is encouraging crackdowns elsewhere in the world.

In the interview done by Umberto Bacchi, Michel Forst said that the EU has historically done a good job supporting and protecting rights advocates worldwide but the bloc’s authority is now being undermined from within. Officials in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and other countries pointed at recent laws in Hungary and Poland to justify their own regulations which may curb the independence of non-governmental organisations.

There is a need for European countries to be more coherent … not to teach human rights outside of Europe and then not respecting human rights inside Europe,” said Forst, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Charities in dozens of countries, from Angola to India and Tajikistan have faced restrictions targeting their funding and operations over the past two years, according to an EU report. The trend is part of a global backlash on civil society that has seen rights activists in some parts of the world criminalised or branded as troublemakers, Forst stated.

Last year, Hungary introduced a measure requiring NGOs that get money from abroad to register with the state, a bill that NGOs say stigmatizes them and is intended to stifle independent voices. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/human-rights-defenders-in-hungary-not-yet-foreign-agents-but-getting-close/]. Poland instead introduced legislation to set up a centralised authority controlling charities’ funding. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/02/backsliding-on-civic-space-in-democracies-important-side-event-on-3-march-in-geneva/%5D. As countermeasure, the EU should boost direct funding of rights groups operating within its borders, Forst said. “What is absurd for me is that the EU is funding organisations in Latin America, in Africa – which is good – but there is no more funding for EU NGOs,” he said. Money should be allocated from a dedicated fund and not channelled through governments, he said.

Besides Europe, Forst also singled out Australia for its treatment of asylum seekers held in offshore camps, adding it was “not a safe place” for human rights defenders due to pressure from the government. A December report by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, two rights groups, found Australian NGOs were often pressured into “self-silencing” their advocacy work fearing funding cuts and political retribution.

(Global civil society) space is shrinking because it is shrinking in Europe, because it is shrinking in the Americas, in Australia,” said Forst.

—-

The FRA’s report finds that civil society organisations in the European Union play a crucial role in promoting fundamental rights, but it has become harder for them to do so – due to both legal and practical restrictions. This report looks at the different types and patterns of challenges faced by civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. While challenges exist in all EU Member States, their exact nature and extent vary. Data and research on this issue – including comparative research – are generally lacking. The report also highlights promising practices that can counteract these worrying patterns.

The ‘new normal’: rising attacks on human rights defenders

December 4, 2017

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer for the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS published the following piece in the context of International Civil Society Week (4-5 December 2017 in Suva, Fiji): Are Rising Attacks On Human Rights Defenders The ‘New Normal’? In the piece the author makes some excellent points on how to try and counter this development, in short:

  1. civil society leaders and their supporters need to proactively challenge the misinformation.
  2. collecting comparable and accumulated data on violations of civil society rights is critical. 
  3. dedicated focus on demonstrable and impeccable internal accountability to counter unwarranted criticism of civil society 
  4. there is a pressing need to have more civil society champions in academia, the media and among business leaders
  5. standing together helps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Civil society participation at the UN subject of ISHR event on 17 July

July 9, 2017

Civil society participation at the UN is essential to ensure the relevance and value of debates and decisions at the international level along with the implementation of UN resolutions and recommendations on the ground. The International Service for Human Rights is organizing an interactive event to discuss NGO engagement with UN bodies and processes as well as opportunities and imperatives for reform. Monday 17 July, 11:30 – 13:00Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva

ISHR will also launch a brand new handbook, the ‘Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly: A Practical Guide for NGOs’. Copies of the updated version of the ‘Practical Guide to the UN Committee on NGOs’ will also be available at the event.

Panelists
Dianela Pi, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Uruguayan Mission to the UN in Geneva
Iniyan Ilango, FORUM-ASIA
Eleanor Openshaw, International Service for Human Rights
Moderator

• Tanya Bennett, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Australian Mission to the UN in Geneva

Concluding remarks:
• Peggy Hicks, OHCHR

[Attendance with UNOG pass only. If you are a member of civil society interested in attending but don’t have a UNOG pass, please contact information@ishr.ch.]

UN rapporteurs urge India to repeal law restricting human rights defenders access to foreign funding

June 17, 2016

While most attention on the issue of foreign funding of NGOs has gone to Russia, which for this purpose invented the ‘foreign agent’ law, [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/foreign-agent-law/], another big country – India – has been stepping up its own version through a law restricting civil society access to foreign funding:

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst. Photo: MINUSTAH

On 16 June 2016 three United Nations rapporteurs on human rights called on the Government of India to repeal a regulation that has been increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding. The experts’ call comes as the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs suspended for six months the registration of the non-governmental organization Lawyers Collective, under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. [see also my post form 2013: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/india-should-end-funding-restraints-on-human-rights-defenders-says-hrw/]

The suspension was imposed on the basis of allegations that its founders, human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, violated the act provisions by using foreign funding for purposes other than intended.

We are alarmed that FCRA provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government,” said UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and on freedom of association, Maina Kiai.

Despite detailed evidence provided by the non-governmental organization (NGO) to rebut all allegations and prove that all foreign contributions were spent and accounted for in line with FCRA, the suspension was still applied. “We are alarmed by reports that the suspension was politically motivated and was aimed at intimidating, delegitimising and silencing Lawyers Collective for their litigation and criticism of the Government’s policies,” the experts said noting that the NGO is known for its public interest litigation and advocacy in defence of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of Indian society.

Many civil society organizations in India now depend on FCRA accreditation to receive foreign funding, which is critical to their operations assisting millions of Indians in pursuing their political, cultural, economic and social rights. The ability to access foreign funding is vital to human rights work and is an integral part of the right to freedom of association. However, FCRA’s broad and vague terms such as ‘political nature’, ‘economic interest of the State’ or ‘public interest’ are overly broad, do not conform to a prescribed aim, and are not a proportionate responses to the purported goal of the restriction.

Human rights defenders and civil society must have the ability to do their important job without being subjected to increased limitations on their access to foreign funding and the undue suspension of their registration on the basis of burdensome administrative requirements imposed to those organizations in receipt of foreign funds,” the UN human rights experts concluded.

Source: United Nations News Centre – UN rights experts urge India to repeal law restricting civil society access to foreign funding

Will the UN today adopt the strongest possible resolution on Human Rights Defenders? – ask over 100 NGOs

November 25, 2015

In a letter addressed to Member States, well over a hundred 100 international and national NGOs urged Members States to reject amendments intended to weaken the resolution on protection of human rights defenders, which will be adopted today, Wednesday, 25 November 2015 in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.
The resolution, as drafted, includes robust protection measures for human rights defenders, including the need to combat impunity for violence against human rights defenders and to release defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms. With the recent attacks on human rights defenders in places such as Burundi where the prominent activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and members of his family have been systematically attacked, it is time for UN Member States to take strong action to prevent and punish reprisals. However, amendments, tabled by the African Group, China, and Iran seek to dramatically weaken the resolution on human rights defenders and delete entire paragraphs regarding the need for their protection.At a time when the work of human rights defenders has become extraordinarily dangerous and increasingly criminalized in many states, it is important for Member States to send a strong message on the need to protect human rights defenders.

The text of the draft follows in toto:

SUPPORT THE DRAFT RESOLUTION ON RECOGNIZING THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND THE NEED FOR THEIR PROTECTION

Excellencies,

We write to you as a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We write in regard to the draft resolution entitled ”Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection“ currently being advanced in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, and due to be adopted on Wednesday 25 November 2015.

We urge your government to support the abovementioned resolution and to reject amendments, tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text.

Among other things, the proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and delete whole paragraphs related to the need to combat impunity for violations and abuses against defenders and the need to ensure adequate procedural safeguards in judicial proceedings. A call for the release of defenders detained or imprisoned in violation of international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, is also proposed for deletion. In addition, the amendments introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work ‘as appropriate’, rather than in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other obligations arising under international human rights law

Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries. However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.

Seventeen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights. This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned to hear that the abovementioned delegations have objected to several core elements of the draft resolution.

Based on consultations with over 500 defenders from 111 States, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders found that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice. He concluded that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk.

 

The resolution as drafted reflects a number of these findings and makes a series of recommendations for States and other actors. Importantly, this year’s text includes a key focus on the implementation of the resolution itself. This will hopefully prompt States and other actors to move beyond rhetoric in addressing the challenges faced by human rights defenders and take action to ensure the implementation of the calls in the resolution.

We urge all States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting this resolution, by rejecting amendments designed to weaken it, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.

Sincerely, (names of the NGOs)

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/reprisals-states-must-r… 

Is there ANY way to engage people with human rights communication?

November 10, 2015

Yes there is!” according to True Heroes Films (THF)THF_SIMPLE

A recent assessment of the communication practice of Geneva-based human rights organisations carried out by THF showed that many of them face the same challenges.

In a newsletter (see link at the bottom of this post) and in the below guidelines, THF summarizes these challenges and the solutions identified together with communicators from the organisations assessed. There are some nice cartoons by © Hani Abbas.

The guidelines are by necessity of a general nature and are based on the experience of NGOs in the Geneva area, but they they may help also others in thinking about their communications problems: Read the rest of this entry »