Posts Tagged ‘civil society organizations’

International Civil Society Week 2019: Keita speaks for the youth

May 3, 2019

This article bwas written in the context of International Civil Society Week (ICSW). It portrays Liberian youth activist Keita.

Youth activist Abraham M. Keita is the founder of the Liberia-based Giving Hope to Children Foundation. Credit: A D McKenzie/IPS

Abraham M. Keita says he was nine years old when a girl of thirteen was sexually assaulted and strangled in his home community in Liberia. The anger, outrage and sadness he felt would lead him to start advocating for children’s rights – participating in marches, organising protests and going up against the powerful, in a country where sexual abuse of children is among the worst in the world, according to United Nations figures. Keita will turn 20 years old later this month, and he says he has already spent half of his life as an activist for change. “I’ve been marching since I was 10,” he told IPS with a quiet smile. Keita, the 2015 winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize, is also the founder of the Liberia-based Giving Hope to Children Foundation.

Keita is among a growing movement of youth activists who are fighting for the defence of civil liberties and demanding that government act on important issues such as protecting children from violence, ensuring sustainable development, and reducing global warming, according to ICSW organisers.

The youth engagement in ICSW in general is always extremely important to achieve the creation of partnerships among diverse groups and to continue raising awareness of the contributions young people offer to civil society spaces,” said Elisa Novoa, CIVICUS’ youth engagement coordinator. During the event, youth activists sent out a message calling for civil society to “open up the space” to diverse groups. “Civil society should understand the importance of sharing power and enabling inclusion in a meaningful and uplifting manner,” their statement said. “We as young people of diversity acknowledge and recognise the importance of having voices of vulnerability at the forefront of change. We need to redefine how we provide solutions and build togetherness.”

Activists also requested trust from donors, encouraging sponsors to be bold in funding organisations that are truly youth led. For many such groups, a central theme is protecting the vulnerable, a position that Keita has taken. He told IPS that he grew up among vulnerable children, living in poverty in a slum in the Liberian capital Monrovia with his mother and siblings – his father was killed before he was five years old, during Liberia’s brutal and long-lasting civil war. Different sides in the conflict used children as child soldiers and sexually abused many of them, as reports by the UN and other organisations have shown. That legacy continues, with a high number of girls and women being assaulted, while most of the rapists go unpunished. According to Liberian government figures, from January to September 2018, nearly 900 sexual and gender-based cases of violence were reported, including 500 rape cases of which 475 involved children. The statistics provide “alarming evidence that we are still not dealing with this problem in an effective manner”, said Liberia’s President George Weah last October, as quoted in local media.

Keita points out that since many incidents of sexual violence go unreported, the number of children affected is much higher than in official data. Furthermore, cases of sexual violence are not prosecuted quickly enough.

“Hundreds of cases are still in the courts, and the perpetrators are roaming freely,” he said. The problem is rooted in all levels of society and includes civil society as well as government representatives, with individuals responsible for protecting children being charged with sexual abuses.

In 2017, a Liberian lawmaker allegedly raped a 13-year-old girl, making her pregnant. Keita organised protests against the powerful individual and was himself arrested and charged with “criminal coercion”, he said. These charges were eventually dropped. The lawmaker meanwhile appeared in court, spent two days in jail, and since 2017, activists have not been able to locate the girl or her family, Keita told IPS. He and other advocates are still pushing for prosecution of the case, even if that may lead to their own detention, he added.

Arrests and smears are among the official tactics used to suppress youth advocates, similar to those used against human rights defenders in general, said ICSW delegates. Members of the public, too, sometimes think that youth activists are misguided and can tend to dismiss their work.

But as youth around the world join forces, their campaigns for rights and environmental action are becoming a growing force….

Along with their idealism, youth activists are aware of the risks they run. Keita told IPS that he sometimes felt a “little afraid”, and that his mother and family members worry too. “But whatever happens to me, I want to act so things will change, [and] not continue being the same,” he said.

Civil society and human rights: topic of side event in Geneva 25 June

June 21, 2018

“How to Respond to Challenges Facing Civil Society Organisations Working on Human Rights?” is the topic of a side event on Monday, 25 June 2018(12:30 – 14:00) at the Palais des Nations, Room XXIII.

Challenges to the work of civil society organisations exist in every part of the world and take a variety of forms. Based on recent reports on civil society space of the OHCHR and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, this event gathers various stakeholders, including NGOs, governments, UN agencies and other intergovernmental organizations, to reinforce the importance of civil society engagement, and address the many challenges which hinder its effective functioning. This surely will include the question of reprisals against HRDs cooperating with the UN.
Questions to be addressed include: What are the major challenges facing civil society organisations? What are some examples of emerging good practices? How can we ensure that the needs of underrepresented parts of civil society are taken into account? What is the role of the Human Rights Council in ensuring a safe and enabling environment? Can we identify ways forward and concrete next steps?

SPEAKERS

  • Ambassador Michael Gaffey, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN in Geneva
  • Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
  • Lopa Banerjee, Director of UN Women’s Civil Society Division
  • Peggy Hicks, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Phil Lynch, Director of International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Moderator: Hilary Power, Amnesty International

For some of my earlier posts on this topic: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/civil-society-organisations/

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FEf6ho01IE65f0u84nY7cmlYlSdgBziS/view

Group of Governments and Agencies formulate policies on LGBTI issues and human rights defenders

November 21, 2014

On the Occasion of the Annual Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Persons held in Washington from 12-14 November 2014, the governments of Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay, as well as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the European Union, UNAIDS – the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations Development Programme, adopted a communiqué, which is relevant to human rights defenders in particular through the following paragraphs:

Introduction

…..

We further recognize the work of civil society organizations and human rights defenders from whom we have heard over the last three days. We commend their tremendous dedication and resolve to bring about a world free from violence and discrimination. We are gravely concerned by the serious challenges, difficult circumstances, and in some instances violent attacks that human rights defenders and organizations face as they work to achieve this important goal. We are inspired by their commitment, and recognize their rich diversity and unique views from different regions and across different cultures and traditions.

Together we affirm the following:

….

6. We dedicate ourselves to exploring ways to strengthen our international assistance and diplomacy efforts to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons, through cooperating with additional governments and identifying new sources of funding and engagement, including from the private sector;

7. We will strive to ensure flexible and timely support, especially to meet the needs of the most vulnerable persons worldwide, including LGBTI persons;

8. We intend to guide our assistance and diplomacy efforts on the basis of need and when possible on the basis of needs assessments. We also recall the importance of co-ownership of assistance and diplomatic efforts with host governments as we work to advance the human rights of LGBTI persons;

9. We underline that governments, funders, civil society organizations and other implementing organizations should ensure involvement of local LGBTI communities and their allies in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of human rights and development cooperation efforts as appropriate;

…….

12. To further strengthen cooperation, coordination and communication of assistance and diplomatic efforts, we plan to continue to meet annually to discuss implementation of this communiqué and other relevant issues. The next meeting is expected to be organized by the Netherlands in early 2016.

For further information, please contact Chanan Weissman at WeissmanC[at]state.gov.

for full text: Joint Government and Multilateral Agency Communique From Conference to Advance the Human Rights of and Promote Inclusive Development for LGBTI Persons.

Ban Ki-Moon calls civil society “an indispensable part of the United Nations”

March 27, 2014

Civil society actors must be able to do their work freely, independently, safe from fear, retaliation or intimidation. This requires collective action to denounce reprisals and defend free voices and protect those targeted,” said the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, referring to civil society as “an indispensable part of the United Nations”. “We must expand the space for civil society to meaningfully participate and contribute,” he added in a video statement screened at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space, in the context of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagen

Civil society actors around the world face risks ranging from threats and intimidation to horrible reprisals, even killings”, said UN Human Rights Deputy, Flavia Pansieri at a discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society space. “From the NGO who is prohibited from receiving funding to the whistle-blower who is imprisoned for revealing corruption… we must work to protect civil society from such practices,” she said.

Hina Jilani, Read the rest of this entry »

Southeast Asian Voices of HRDs being stifled

September 12, 2013

As concerns grow in Southeast Asia over the use of national security, anti-terrorist and defamation laws to limit freedom of expression on the Internet, a coalition of international and local NGOs and activists from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia urged governments to stop using vague legislation based on ill-defined concepts such as “national security”, “sovereignty” or “lèse-majesté” to intimidate, harass and imprison independent voices. Speaking at an event in Geneva, which coincides with the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, FIDH, IFEX, Article 19 and PEN International united to call for the urgent revision of these laws to bring them into line with international human rights standards. Independent and dissenting voices, including bloggers and netizens, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, have increasingly been subjected to repression in Southeast Asia.

A lot more detail in  Human Rights Council : Stifled Southeast Asian Voices: NGOs Unite … – FIDH.

Egypt and its laws on NGOs: concrete example of abuse

June 6, 2013

In a recent post I discussed problems surrounding the new law on NGOs in Egypt. In case there was any doubt on the need for a new and IMPROVED legal regime, see here what Front Line Defenders reported yesterday, 5 June:

43 NGO staff members were condemned to prison termsFrontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped Read the rest of this entry »

New wind in Turkey? Charges against 10 NGOs dropped.

May 23, 2013

It is too early to jubilate but it is interesting to note that on 17 May 2013, charges were dropped in the case against the human rights organisation Van Women’s Association (VAKAD) and nine other civil society organisations in Turkey. Court proceedings for the closure of the ten groups were brought by the prosecutor on charges of links with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The hearing of 17 May 2013 was the second in the trial.Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Rightly Front Line Defenders remains deeply concerned that the charges were brought in the first place and that anti-terrorism legislation continues to be used against legitimate human rights defenders and their organisations.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22664

 

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concludes mission to India

April 29, 2013

Executive Director of HRA Babloo Loitongbam delivering the vote of thanks of the meeting

(Executive Director of HRA Babloo Loitongbam delivering the vote of thanks of the meeting)

The Indian agency E-Paonet reports in some detail on the visit by a UN Special Rapporteur to India. Let’s start by acknowledging India’s willingness to accept the Rapporteur (unlike other countries such as Eritrea I just reported on today)!

The Rapporteur in question is Rashida Manjoo the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences who held a consultative meeting with representatives of civil society organizations, women human rights defenders, victims and other advocates working on violence against women at Classic Hotel, on 28 April. As many as forty separate depositions were made during the meeting, the largest one during her current 10-day long official mission to India from April 22 to May 1. After hearing all the depositions, Rashida observed that it was not her mandate to comment on the depositions made before her, but assured that her report and recommendations would be based on facts and they would be placed on the table of the forthcoming session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which is scheduled to take place June this year at Geneva for necessary actions. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Watch video on Russian civil society under Putin

April 29, 2013

This video accompanies a new 78-page report, “Laws of Attrition: Crackdown on Russia’s Civil Society after Putin’s Return to the Presidency,  which describes some of the changes since Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012. The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, begun a nationwide campaign of invasive inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and – in a number of cases – imprisoned political activists, and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies. The report analyzes the new laws, including the so-called “foreign agents” law, the treason law, and the assembly law, and documents how they have been used. Many of the new laws and the treatment of civil society violate Russia’s international human rights commitments, Human Rights Watch said.HRW_logo

https://www.hrw.org/node/115102

Annual Report 2013 of the Observatory focuses on the issue of funding of NGOs

April 24, 2013

OMCT-LOGO
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In its  2013  Annual Report, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders focuses on a new setback impeding the work of human rights defenders. Access to funding, in particular foreign funding, is increasingly being hindered by governments, whose primary intentions are to silence human rights defenders. The Report of the Observatory, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), provides a global review of the violations of NGOs’ right to funding via various forms of restrictions imposed by States. It provides a detailed picture of this as yet insufficiently studied problem. This analysis is illustrated by concrete cases in 35 countries.
As also highlighted by Maina Kiai, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, in the Foreword to the Report, “The topic of this year’s Report is most pertinent as lately we have witnessed increased stigmatization and undue restrictions in relation to access to funding and resources for civil society organizations, in an attempt to stifle any forms of criticism […]”.
Based on the legal framework surrounding the right to access to funding and the embryonic jurisprudence on this subject, the Report seeks to foster an in-depth analysis of the negative impacts of these restrictive measures, and addresses recommendations to all stakeholders – beneficiaries, donors, governments and intergovernmental organisations.
Two of the three Final Nominees of the MEA this year (in Egypt and Russia) have to deal with these kind of restrictions.

For those who missed the publication when announced in February: Annual Reports : OBS Annual Report 2013: Violations of the right … – FIDH.