Posts Tagged ‘civil society organisations’

International Women’s Day 2020: Council of Europe on gender equality

March 9, 2020

Let us all rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality

For International Women’s Day 2020, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović issued the following statement: [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/09/council-of-europes-dunja-mijatovic-presents-her-first-annual-report/]

“.. it is saddening to note that most of the challenges identified 25 years ago are still present in Europe today. In some areas progress has stalled due to persistent structural obstacles and an increasing backlash, combined with the lack of a sufficient and robust state response.

Violence against women as a serious human rights violation remains a bitter reality for too many women in all Council of Europe member states. Notwithstanding the recent movements against sexual violence, huge challenges still lie along the path towards obtaining justice for women victims who have the courage to speak out. They may even face disbelief and stigmatisation by the very people who should be providing them with assistance and protection. With the rising popularity of social media platforms, sexist hate speech has acquired a worrying dimension, providing a new breeding ground for violence against women. Furthermore, the backlash against women’s rights, upheld by ultra-conservative movements, is particularly disturbing as it endangers the progress towards gender equality that has been achieved so far. This has a particularly negative impact on girls’ and women’s autonomous and informed decision-making about their bodies, health and sexuality and hinders their access to affordable, safe and good-quality reproductive health services. We have to remain vigilant to prevent any such rolling back of women’s rights. Special attention should also be given to the protection and promotion of the rights of girls and women who may experience multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, such as women living in poverty, rural women, migrant women, Roma women, women with disabilities and LBTI women.

This dark picture is, however, brightened by the image of thousands of women of all ages and backgrounds who, regardless of the attacks, the threats and the harassment they may face, stand up against violence and for the full realisation of gender equality. Vigilance against stagnation and retrogression in women’s rights is ensured by their mobilisation as they peacefully demonstrate throughout Europe. I firmly stand by them and salute their courage and determination. In this respect, I reiterate the essential role played in the upholding of women’s rights by women human rights defenders, who are often at the core of such mobilisation. Not only do they provide assistance and shelter to victims of gender-based violence and combat discrimination against women, they also constantly monitor the situation, while holding authorities accountable for fulfilling their human rights obligations.

However, the fight for the realisation of women’s rights also relies on each of us. I invite society as a whole, from youth to the elderly, women and men, all acting together, to speak up against violence and discrimination. We all have a key role to play as agents of change.

Whilst I perceive society’s mobilisation as vital, we should not forget that citizens’ initiatives cannot in themselves remedy the continuous lack of a strong and official response by state authorities to the challenges currently affecting the full enjoyment of women’s rights. Council of Europe member states have the primary obligation to effectively uphold women’s rights. Against this background, I urge member states to support this civic mobilisation by taking concrete action. To this end they should: firstly, ensure the ratification and full and effective implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention); secondly, promote gender equality and combat sexism in all spheres of life; and thirdly, provide an enabling environment for all women human rights defenders by removing all obstacles to their work. We should all strongly advocate for the full realisation of women’s rights and rise to the challenge of making a world where gender equality is a reality. Fighting for women’s rights is fighting for everybody’s human rights and benefits society as a whole.

https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/let-us-all-rise-to-the-challenge-of-making-a-world-where-gender-equality-is-a-reality

UN seeking out civil society:  on-line consultations from 13 -24 January 2020. 

December 30, 2019

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is inviting civil society globally to assist them in defining guidelines on how the UN can best contribute to promoting and safeguarding civil society space.  The aim is to define guidelines to encourage an effective and consistent approach across UN agencies and inform the methods of work of mechanisms.  This initiative was given a boost by the UN Secretary General who, in a recent audit of the work of the UN in regard to human rights defenders, called for the definition of ‘a system-wide approach to strengthen civil society space’ and ‘guidance on United Nations engagement with and support for human rights defenders.’ The consultation process will be held online from the 13-24 January 2020 on the Global Dev Hub platform.

This is a moment for all civil society players who see the value of greater and more effective engagement with UN agencies and bodies, to provide input on how best this should be done,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.There are no national-level consultations being held to our knowledge, but a full week of online consultations will, hopefully, provide many of us with the opportunity to participate,‘ she added.  The UN is seeking thoughts on a series of questions related to three key areas:  partnership and participation, the protection of civil society actors, and the promotion of and advoacy for civic space.

For further information and the key questions, see the UN consultation invitations in  English

Annual reports 2019: CIVICUS Global Report

December 27, 2019

The end of a year usually means looking back and many human rights NGOs issue reports of this kind. Here is the first by CIVICUS, through its Monitor:

Civic space – space for civil society – is the bedrock of any open and democratic society. When civic space is open, citizens and civil society organisations (CSOs) are able to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance. When people are free to participate, they are able to claim their rights and influence the political and social structures around them. This can only happen when a state holds by its duty to protect its citizens and respectsand facilitates their fundamental rights to associate, assemble peacefully and freely express their views andopinions. These are the three key rights that civil society depends upon.

The CIVICUS Monitor analyses the extent to which these three civil society rights are being respected and upheld, and the degree to which states areprotecting civil society. In an attempt to capture these dynamics on a global scale, over 20 organisations from around the world have joined forces on the CIVICUS Monitor to provide an evidence base for action to improve civic space. In order to draw comparisons at the global level and track trends over time, the CIVICUS Monitor produces civic space ratings for 196 countries. Each country’s civic space is rated in one of five categories – open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed, or closed – based on a methodology that combines several sources of data on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression. Civic space updates from our research partners contain qualitative, narrative information related to the situation for civil society in a country. This qualitative information is directed by a set of guiding questions and the resulting data is gathered from a variety of primary and secondary sources. In many cases, country-specific updates have come directly from national civil society themselves. (Methodology: In countries where it does not have a research partner, the CIVICUS Monitor relies on a variety of other sources produced at the national, regional and international levels to arrive at country ratings. These civic space updates are then triangulated, verified and tagged by the CIVICUS team. Together, the research partners posted 536 civic space updates from 1 October 2018 to 11 November 2019 which form the basis for the analysis presented in this report. For the time period assessed, these civic space updates cover 153 countries. This report analyses trends and developments since its previous report, published in November 2018. As well as global-level trends, it analyses trends in five regions: Africa, Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia and Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Following an update of ratings in November 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor continues to tell a worrying story. The data shows that there are 24 countries with closed civic space, 38 countries with repressed space and 49 with obstructed space. Just 43 countries receive an open rating, and 42 countries are rated narrowed. Since our previous report, published in November 2018, space for activism has reduced: only three per cent of the world’s population now live in countries with open civic space. Nine countries have changed their civic space rating since our November 2018 update: two have improved their ratings, while seven have worsened. This indicates that repression of peaceful civic activism continues to be a widespread crisis for civil society in most parts of the world. Worrying signs for civic space continue to be seen in Asia, where two countries, Brunei and India, dropped their rating from obstructed to repressed. Given the size and global role of India, the decline in the quality of its civic space must be of particular concern. One country in the Pacific – Australia – dropped from an open to narrowed rating, partially due to increased restrictions on the freedom of expression and government surveillance

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/06/20-human-rights-defenders-under-attack-one-for-each-year-of-the-declaration/

https://civicus.contentfiles.net/media/assets/file/GlobalReport2019.pdf

Massive call in support of Ahmed Mansoor at his 50th birthday – How can Emirates remain deaf?

November 5, 2019

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

Screenshot from Youtube video on Ahmed Mansoor, a Martin Ennals Award Laureate 2015, Youtube/Martin Ennals Foundation

142 civil society organisations have called upon the UAE government to unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life they believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest his inhumane prison conditions. This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org on 16 October 2019.

Your Excellency, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan,

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently announced multiple projects promoting pluralism and tolerance both at home and abroad. 2019 has been declared the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and in 2020, Dubai will host the World Expo trade fair, under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ Upon Dubai’s selection for this exhibition in 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: “[w]e renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020.” We welcome these public commitments to tolerance and open-mindedness.

It is in this same spirit that we, the undersigned, call upon the UAE government to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, whose life we believe may be at risk following beatings and hunger strikes to protest deplorable and inhumane prison conditions. The Authorities have convicted and imprisoned him solely for his human rights work and for exercising his right to freedom of expression, which is also protected under the UAE’s Constitution. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience.

Before his imprisonment, Mansoor was known as ‘the last human rights defender left in the UAE’ on account of his fearless work to document human rights violations in the country. His willingness to speak out publicly in defence of human rights on his blog, via social media and in interviews with international media was an example to us all. He is also an engineer, a poet, and a father of four. He is on the advisory boards of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch and was awarded the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

UAE authorities arrested Mansoor on 20 March 2017 at his home and subjected him to enforced and involuntary disappearance for over six months, with no access to a lawyer and sparse contact with his family, who did not know his exact whereabouts. The authorities held him in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time.

Shortly after his arrest, a group of United Nations human rights experts said that the UAE should release him immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They expressed fear that his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter.”

A year later, on 29 May 2018, Mansoor was sentenced under vague charges of “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leaders”, “publishing false information to damage the UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portraying the UAE as a lawless land.” He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of 1,000,000 UAE Dirhams (US$272,000), three years of probation after completion of his sentence, and confiscation of his electronic devices. On 31 December 2018, the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence.

The UAE’s Government actions against Mansoor have been widely criticised. For instance, on 4 October 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Mansoor’s “harassment, persecution and detention, and calling for his release.” In May 2019, after he ended a month-long hunger strike to protest his unjust conviction and his detention conditions in Al-Sadr prison, a group of UN Special Rapporteurs stated that his conditions of detention “violate[d] basic international human rights standards and risk[ed] taking an irrevocable toll on Mr Mansoor’s health.” In September 2019, Mansoor was severely beaten for continuing his protests and he undertook yet another hunger strike. Nevertheless, he continues to be held in an isolation cell with no running water or bed and is not permitted to leave his cell except for family visits.

In September 2019, the annual report of the UN Secretary General about reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN mechanisms cited Mansoor’s case. This was the fourth time that the Secretary General had denounced reprisals against him, having previously raised concerns in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

It is a tragedy and a disgrace for the UAE that this Tuesday, on 22 October of the UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’, Ahmed Mansoor will turn 50, alone in a prison cell in such deplorable conditions, simply for exercising his fundamental right to free speech and for speaking out against human rights violations.

Mansoor’s imprisonment is part of a larger and growing pattern of repression in the UAE. Since 2011, the authorities have embarked on an unprecedented campaign of repression on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, shrinking the space for peaceful dissent to near-obliteration. Authorities have used privately manufactured technologies, such as those made by NSO Group, for the unlawful targeted surveillance of human rights defenders, including Mansoor, in order to monitor and clamp down on dissent. The authorities have arrested, detained, and prosecuted activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government, including prominent lawyers, judges and academics, on broad and sweeping national security-related or cybercrime charges and in proceedings that fail to meet international fair trial standards.

The UAE has publicly declared itself a champion of tolerance in the Middle East and the world. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and residents. For this reason, we call upon the UAE government to uphold these principles, and to release Ahmed Mansoor without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

https://ifex.org/open-letter-to-the-emirati-authorities-to-free-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor-on-his-50th-birthday/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/uae-global-call-for-release-of-prominent-human-rights-defender-ahmed-mansoor/

Extra funds from ProtectDefenders.eu for human rights defenders in Turkey

October 21, 2019

In consideration of the latest developments in Turkey creating an ever less enabling environment for human rights defenders, with the support of ProtectDefenders.eu Secretariat, five international organizations working in the human rights field established a new grant-making program to provide support to human rights defenders in Turkey. The Comprehensive Support to Human Rights Defenders in Turkey program is funded by the European Union. The project aims to protect human rights defenders at risk, support human rights defender organizations in continuing to carry out their work while strengthening their domestic and international networks and increase their capacities in documenting human rights abuses, access to justice mechanisms and advocating for a more enabling environment for their work in Turkey.

Image result for protectdefenders.eu

The project is offering two types of grants in order to meet its objectives and address comprehensively human rights defenders’ needs in the country. Protection grants pay for provisions to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders and their organizations at risk through rapid response measures. Institutional support grants are designed to support human rights defender organizations in their work with two components . Core funding aims to ensure that human rights defenders can continue their daily human rights work. Grants for projects and/or activities aim to increase the capacity of human rights defenders in a broad range of areas. Human rights defenders who can benefit from the grant-making program can be individual human rights defenders, registered civil society organizations and unregistered groups, initiatives or networks who can use financial support for their human rights work. The project will give priority to those who are working in the most difficult situations such as remote areas and small cities, those who are specifically targeted for their area of human rights work and those who face obstacles to access funding to maintain their work including women HRDs, LGBTI HRDs, journalists and bloggers, and those denouncing the use of torture or working with survivors of torture. Human rights defenders are invited to submit their proposals starting from today on our website. The call for applications will remain open and ProtectDefenders.eu will welcome applications on a rolling basis. For more information about our grant-making programme, please visit ProtectDefenders.eu Turkey website

https://protectdefenders.eu/en/turkey.html

 

CIVICUS leads 24-hour Speak! campaign starting Friday 20 September

September 18, 2019

The Comms team at CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, starts ahead of the United Nations Summits in New York and global climate mobilisation, an international campaign bringing people across the world together at nearly 150 events in 50 countries, as part of SPEAK! 2019

A global campaign to help bridge divisions through the power of dialogue. SPEAK! 2019 will culminate in 24 hours of action from 5pm this Friday 20th to 5pm Saturday 21st September.

Please see below for a media releasewith more news.

  • Global SPEAK! campaign counters growing social and political divisions with a call to “speak with” those we don’t normally
  • Campaign will comprise almost 150 events in 50 countries, with most being held during 24 hours of global action from 5pm Friday 20th – 5pm Saturday 21st September
  • Campaign timed to coincide with United Nations Summits in New York and global climate mobilisation

From youth summits to casual dinners, peace dialogues to film festivals, the SPEAK! campaign seeks to help people pop the ‘bubbles’ that disconnect us from one another, in order to speak with those we wouldn’t normally and really listen to what they say. The campaign will kick off a week of global action, as heads of state gather at the United Nations to review progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement. “The challenges of our time will ultimately impact us all; but as many of us look around our communities and countries, we seem increasingly divided,” says Nic Mackay from the SPEAK! team. “If we are to stand with one another in creating a more just, peaceful and sustainable world, we first need to speak with one another — especially those with whom we disagree.”

In 26 countries, SPEAK! Champions will spearhead events at both the local and national level. Global partners including RNW Media, TechSoup, World Cleanup Day, Listen First and the National Conversation Project have also mobilised their networks to hold events. Those who can’t attend an event can still take part in the campaign this Friday or Saturday by having a conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally — whether in person or online — and sharing the experience on social media using #TogetherWeSpeak.

A full list of SPEAK! events planned globally here <http://tracking.vuelio.co.uk/tracking/click?d=tnHgrx0s-kA5e8YFF6Q9Li3lEIZkC2Mv91xhJoRYLZHILOjY7j51E- For more information or to arrange interviews with event organisers, please contact: Nic Mackay nic.mackay@civicus.org <mailto:speak@civicus.org> media@civicus.org

42nd session of the Human Rights Council: list of side events

September 9, 2019

The 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council started today, 9 September 2019, and as usual is surrounded by a large number of side events. Here a selection with special relevance for human rights defenders:

  • Monday 9 September at 14:30 in Room VIII, Why is a Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela needed? organised by Amnesty International, ISHR, ICJ and Human Rights Watch.
  • Tuesday 10 September at 15:30-16:30 in Room XXII, Situation of the Right to Memory, Truth in Brazil: From the Transitional Policies to Denial organised by Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Conselho Federal da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, Instituto Vladimir Herzog and Centro de Estudos sobre Justiça de Transição.
  • Wednesday 11 September, Privacy in the Digital Age: Priorities for Protecting Rights Online organised by Article19.
  • Wednesday 11 September 10:00-11:30, Room XXV. Human Rights Council Elections 2019: discussions of candidate States’ visions for membership, The event is co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Fiji. It is intended to give candidates an opportunity to present their visions for Council membership and to respond to questions from a range of stakeholders on how they propose to realise the pledges and commitments they may have made in seeking election.
  • Thursday 12 September at 12:30-13:30 in Room XVI Ensuring credible HRC action on Sudan organised by Defendefenders.
  • Thursday 12 September at 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XVI Investigating Unlawful Deaths, organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the panel will include the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (by video link).
  • Monday 16 September at 13:00 in Room IVCivic space restrictions as an early warning of a deteriorating human rights situation organised by CIVICUS.
  • Tuesday 17 September, 10:00-11:00, Room IV, Rule of law in China,  organised by ISHR, International Bar Association, World Uyghur Congress and Tibet Advocacy Coalition.
  • Tuesday 17 September at 13:00-14.30 in Room VIII Indigenous Justice and Human Rights co-organised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
  • Tuesday 17 September at 16:00-17:00, in Room IV Human rights in Myanmar organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Wednesday 18 September, 16:30-17:30, Room VIII, Ending Reprisals,  co-sponsored by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Forum-Asia. The panel will include the Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour and human rights defenders. It will discuss and expand on the Secretary-General’s report on cooperation with UN mechanisms, the nature and extent of reprisals and consider efforts to date to address the issue.
  • Thursday 19 September at 13:30 in Room VIII, The situation of human rights in Brazil organised by Conectas.
  • Thursay 19 September at 16:30 in Room XXII Access to Information organised by Article 19 and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
  • Thursday 19 September at 12:00 to 13:00 in Room XXI, The First Year of the Transitional Justice System in Colombia organised by the Colombian Commission of Jurists and the ICJ.
  • Friday 20 September from 15:00 to 16:30 Libya: How to advance accountability for Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Libya, organised by the Netherlands, the International Commission of Jurists, the Cairo Institute, Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.
  • Tuesday 24 September 13:00-14:00 in Room XXV, Human rights in Cambodia, organised by Forum-Asia.
  • Thursday 26 September, 09:30 in Room XXIV, The Continued Silencing and Imprisonment of Saudi women’s rights activists on  organised by CIVICUS, ISHR, Women’s March Global and the Gulf Center for Human Rights. The panel will share the experiences of Saudi women human rights defenders, reflect on the reality they face in prison, and discuss what further efforts can be taken to ensure their immediate release and provide guarantees for a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their work.

You can download the list of NGO events here.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/05/human-rights-defenders-issues-at-the-42nd-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc42-key-issues-agenda-september-2019-session

750 NGOs in Geneva: dynamic ecosystem for international governance work

August 29, 2019

On 29 August 2019, the Département présidentiel (PRE) of the Ville de Genève published “Un écosystème dynamique de plus de 750 ONG à Genève” in which – for the first time – researchers of the University of Geneva have made a survey of the NGO world in Geneva.  The study – in French – has some fascinating key findings:

Read the rest of this entry »

James Goldston adds voice to debate on future of the human rights movement

August 21, 2019

, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and previously in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, wrote on 20 August 2019 an opinion piece in ‘Balkan Insight’ entitled: Illiberal Populism: A Wake-Up Call for Human Rights”. His conclusion is that human rights defenders need to up their game but be under no illusion that they alone can defend liberal values. “The battle against illiberal populism will ultimately be won in the arenas of politics and power — in voting booths, legislative offices, the media and the streets.
The criticisms – although overblown especially by populist leaders – contain truth, and they lead to clear prescriptions, says Goldston: We must pay more attention to economic suffering. We must relearn how to speak less like lawyers and more like people. And we must work more collaboratively with like-minded groups that don’t identify themselves as rights defenders, but whose contributions — whether through science, technology, economics, or the arts — can foster rights awareness.

Some of this is happening, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/05/amnesty-internationals-global-assembly-2019-deserves-more-attention-big-shifts-coming-up/

.. But rolling back reactionary politics worldwide requires not just rights activism but also deeper engagement in political debate and elections. That’s a task not just for the rights movement, but for everyone.The author notes that although annual philanthropic funding for “human rights and social justice” has increased worldwide in recent years, it remains under $3 billion. {and human rights defenders a tiney partof that, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/18/important-report-to-help-you-understand-human-rights-grantmaking/]

……

Illiberal Populism: A Wake-Up Call for Human Rights

Civil Society and human rights NGOs are fighting back but against odds

May 5, 2019

This article by  (IPS) was published on 10 April 2019 in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW), which took place  in Belgrade. Under the title “Civil Society, Once the “World’s New Superpower,” is Battling Against Heavy Odds” it describes how human rights NGOs have come under pressure in recent years

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once described civil society organizations (CSOs), as “the world’s new superpower” ..but that political glory has continued to diminish over the years against the backdrop of repressive regimes, hard right nationalist governments and far right extremist groups.

Perhaps the most virulent attacks on NGOs are on their attempts to provide protection and security to migrants and refugees in the “dangerous crossings,” from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea and the Mexico/US border. “There are now serious restrictions in civic space on every continent,” says the annual State of Civil Society Report 2019, released last week by the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS. And it singles out the Italian government’s decision to impose a hefty fine on one of the world’s best-known humanitarian organisations, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while also freezing their assets, impounding their rescue vessel and investigating their staff for human trafficking…in retaliation for their efforts to save refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. There were also instances of civil society activists being charged, tried and convicted in the United States for providing water supplies for migrants crossing the deadly Sonoran desert on the US/Mexico border. As these attacks continue, international institutions are “struggling” to help shore up these NGOs because these institutions, including the United Nations, are “hamstrung by the interests and alliances of powerful states.”

The report points out these institutions did little to respond to the great challenges of the day– failing to fight overwhelming inequality and also were largely silent on human rights abuses of states such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan while letting down the people of Syria and the Rohingyas of Myanmar, among many others.

Asked if there is a role either for the United Nations or its member states to protect CSOs under attack, Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, told IPS the UN is making some efforts to put the issues of attacks on CSOs and activists in the spotlight. In December last year, he said, the President of the UN General Assembly, in a symbolic event, awarded the UN human rights prize to three civil society activists and an organisation dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/20/human-rights-defenders-receive-their-2018-un-prizes/]

Recently, on March 21, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a first-of-its-kind resolution on the protection of environmental human rights defenders, said Tiwana. The UN Secretary General has a designated senior official to lead efforts within the UN system to address intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN system. And, he said, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Women regularly champion the work of CSOs and women human rights defenders respectively. “However, in light of the growing restrictions on civic space, around the world, and even at the UN itself, these efforts are often not enough,” complained Tiwana. This is in part because the UN itself is also under pressure from (undemocratic) governments that restrict civil society at home, and wish to do so at the UN as well.

He said the CIVICUS Monitor, a participatory platform that measures civic freedoms finds that only 4% of the world’s population live in countries where the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are adequately protected…

“Our 2019 State of Civil Society Report points out, that the UN is hamstrung by the actions of powerful states that refuse to play by the rules including the US, China and Russia”. Tiwana said a number of rights repressing states are joining international bodies. In 2018, for example, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Eritrea, joined the UN Human Rights Council….

Second, states are withdrawing from international institutions and agreements, with the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on Climate and undermining UN resolutions on Palestine and the Occupied Territories. Philippines has pulled out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to avoid international accountability for widespread human rights violations including attacks on civil society. In 2018, the new Global Compact for Migration also saw a string of states with hardline migration policies pull out between the agreement of the deal and its signing.

Third, rogue leaders are bringing their styles of personal rule into international affairs, ignoring existing institutions, agreements and norms, acting as unilateral strongmen or striking bilateral deals with other hardmen, undermining multilateralism and making it harder to scrutinise their actions, Tiwana noted. Potentially everything seems up for negotiation and nothing can be assured at the international level, even the 70-year-old international human rights norms that underpin civil society action, he warned.

The writer can be contacted at thalifeen@ips.org

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/04/civil-society-worlds-new-superpower-battling-heavy-odds/