Posts Tagged ‘Democracy without Borders’

International Civil Society Week 2019: call for more NGO voice in the UN

April 14, 2019

The International Civil Society Week 2019 has finished. During the this meeting in Belgrade, that brought together over 850 civil society leaders, activists and concerned citizens from across the world, a large number of contribution were made and I will make reference to some of them in separate posts. Here one of the results:

A World Citizens’ Initiative as an instrument of citizen participation at the United Nations was promoted on 11th April 2019 at a plenary session of the International Civil Society Week 2019 (ICSW). Presenting the idea of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI), Caroline Vernaillen of Democracy International stressed that addressing the UN’s democratic deficit needs to be on the agenda, too. “The UN is a club of representatives of member states. There are no means for ordinary citizens to take influence and this has to change,” she said. The activist from Belgium stated that a UNWCI would help “create a citizen-based global political sphere.

Caroline Vernaillen and Andreas Bummel with CIVICUS’ Secretary-General Lysa John (middle)

According to Vernaillen, the instrument of a UNWCI would allow global citizens to gather support for specific proposals which then would have to be considered and acted upon by the UN General Assembly. She emphasized that a similar instrument already exists in the European Union, the European Citizens Initiative.

CIVICUS, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders have started preparing an international campaign to promote a UNWCI and participants of the civil society week were invited to join their efforts. The UNWCI campaign is planned to be launched in September or October 2019 when the next session of the UN General Assembly begins.

Joe Mathews, a board member of Democracy International and Co-President of the Global Forum for Direct Democracy, commented on Twitter that a World Citizens’ Initiative was a “powerful new idea” in direct democracy, “open to people everywhere, to attack big problems and check global power.”

The UNWCI campaign will be launched with a view of the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020. On 11th April 2019, one of the numerous sessions of the civil society week dealt with this topic. Jeffery Huffines of CIVICUS gave an overview of the UN’s preparations of a UN2020 summit (see also this recent article). He urged civil society representatives to engage with this process and proposed that NGOs should think about whether there should be a global civil society forum on the occasion of UN2020.

The new initiative Together First was represented at this session by Giovanna Marques Kuele. She said that the UN needed to become “more democratic, more representative and more transparent.” Together First plans to identify the most important reform proposals and push for them ahead of a UN summit in 2020.

Speaking at the ICSW, the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Fabrizio Hochschild, stated that on the occasion of 2020 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “will call for a global youth driven conversation on what kind of world we want 25 years from now, in 2045.

World Citizens’ Initiative promoted at international civil society week

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part II

December 11, 2018

Yesterday I published a small selection of events related to International Human Rights Day [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/] but things keep coming in so here is the follow-up with another 10 items:

  1. in the UN family: ReliefWeb published an overview of how the UN family has been making sure that this year’s Human Rights Day succeeds in raising awareness of the principles enshrined in the document, which are as important and relevant today, as they were in 1948. It refers to SG António Guterres and UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in Marrakesh for global migration pact on Monday…..

Threats to human rights were also being highlighted at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, where charities, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society were joined by Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, for a discussion about the ways that modern challenges, unforeseen 70 years ago, are impacting rights. The talk covered digital technologies, which have led to many benefits, but also brought about new risks which could replicate, and even exacerbate existing threats to human rights; and climate change, which risks making much of the planet uninhabitable.

Defending human rights in conflict zones:

..In Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) renewed its call for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected in the country, welcoming breakthroughs such as the work of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, new laws empowering the media, a new Penal Code reflecting the country’s commitment to promote fundamental freedoms, and the presence of women in civil service positions and in the private sector. Meanwhile, in South Sudan, commuters in the capital, Juba, got the chance to see their military in a different light on Monday: as athletes. Hundreds of military personnel – as well as police and prison officers, fire-fighters and members of the wildlife services – took part in a 10-kilometre race around the streets of the capital, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), to promote awareness of human rights and the need for peace in the conflict-affected country. Speaking on Monday, David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said that “the only way that South Sudan is going to recover is by having peace and respect for human rights. If respect for human rights is there, then there is peace. If there is peace, it involves respect for human rights and people’s ethnicity and political persuasion. The two things go hand in hand.

 

2. The Phnom Penh Post of 10 December () reports that the Cambodian authorities used the occasion to a ban march for Human Rights Day

Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless….In a letter issued on Saturday, Mean Chanyada, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor, said the NGOs concerned had been told that they could celebrate the anniversary at Freedom Park but marching was prohibited. “If [you] gather at a location outside the permitted area and continue to march on the street, which would affect security, safety and public order, the representatives will face the law,” Chanyada said. Sar Mory, the deputy chief of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN) said on Sunday that he was concerned that important messages would not reach the public if they were to celebrate the anniversary without marching. “The reason we want to march is that we want to get our messages heard, ……

 

3. The winners of the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition were announced on 10 December 2018. Nine young, creative artists from Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Iran, Portugal, Thailand and the United States have won the top prizes in the “Kids for Human Rights” international drawing competition, launched earlier this year by the United Nations and the Gabarron Foundation. The call generated more than 17,000 entries. The full list winners is available hereThe international jury was presided by internationally known Spanish artist Cristóbal Gabarrón and included Hani Abbas, a Syrian-Palestinian cartoonist who won the 2014 Editorial Cartoon International Prize awarded by Cartooning for Peace, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Susanna Griso, Spanish journalist and television presenter, Jenna Ortega, a young American actress, Tomas Paredes, President of the Spanish chapter of the International Association of Art Critics, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Youth.

 

4. The International Policy Digest used the occasion to draw attention to another international document that celebrates its 70th anniversary: the Genocide Convention which was signed into life a day before the UDHR, 9 December.,, It was the Polish-Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, who advocated for an international law for the crime of genocide. Before 1944, there was no law. However, in the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 260 (III) A on December 9, 1948 outlawing genocide. On January 12, 1951, the Convention came into force. …The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has argued that genocide continues to remain a “threat and reality.” She urged nations to act based on the “warning signs” often preceding genocide. She added that the crime of genocide is as real today as it was at the time of its signing. There are still 45 UN Member States who yet to ratify or agree to the Convention...

 

5. In Zimbabwe, a prominent human rights defender reminded Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he had termed the abduction of journalist activist Itai Dzamara “barbaric” and called on him to follow his words with actions to prevent and punish rights abuses. [Dzamara has been missing since March 2015].  Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko said: “With all due respect, I call upon the President to return to the words and show that it is barbaric. Such things are not expected from civilised people, inflicting pain on another person and the constitution clearly states that.”….Lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu, who has represented many abduction victims, called on the Zimbabwean government to ratify the convention on torture…The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said while the adoption of the new constitution with a modern Declaration of Rights, enshrined in chapter four, in 2013 has been an important milestone, a lot needed to be done to align laws, respect its provisions and establish a culture of constitutionalism. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/08/jestina-mukokos-150-000-triumph-in-zimbabwe-gives-hope-to-all-torture-victims/]

 

6. “As human rights declaration turns 70, development banks have a way to go to respect and protect rights defenders” writes Olexi Pasyuk in Bankwatch. To coincide with this milestone, Bankwatch together with more than 200 organisations globally has called on international financiers to ensure that these institutions support the realisation of human rights, avoid causing or contributing to rights abuses, promote an enabling environment for public participation, and safeguard rights defenders.

 

7.  

Today, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day – 20 years on from the first UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and on the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights – The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 published the final document of the action plan for the protection and the promotion of the work of human rights defenders. This action plan proposes a concrete set of measures and calls for a lasting commitment from States and other key actors to act to protect human rights defenders and to take concrete actions to offer better protection and create a more enabling environment for their work. We trust that this document will become a key reference for advocacy work at national, regional and international levels for the years to come. The action plan is available to download in five languages on the Summit’s website https://hrdworldsummit.org/action-plan/ It will be presented at the United Nations in New York on December 18th during the high level panel of experts on the situation of HRDs at the initiative of Norway. More information soon on the summit facebook page and website. See also  Summit’s Facebook page, and on the website. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/07/24/announcement-of-the-human-rights-defenders-world-summit-in-paris-october-2018/]

 

8. Democracy without Borders writes on the occasion that Human rights defenders continue to face onerous challenges. In response to these challenges, Democracy Without Borders joined more than 900 other civil society organizations from across the world in supporting a global statement that urges governments “to create an enabling environment for HRDs to operate in line with regional and international human rights obligations and standards.”

Supporters of the Yellow Umbrella human rights and democracy movement in Hong Kong face state persecution. Source: Studio Incendo/Flickr
…..Unfortunately, as is evident from the monitoring of the situation of HRDs, those at the forefront of defending, promoting and protecting human rights are prime targets of attacks perpetrated by state and non-state actors. HRDs are often victims of physical assaults, and arbitrary and unlawful detention is the number one tactic of repression used by states. It is the increasingly threatening situation for HRDs that motivates the current global statement. [CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]

9.  In the Philippines, in line with the country’s celebration of Human Rights Day, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) opened on Monday a freedom park to honor those who fought against human rights violation. Dubbed as the Liwasang Diokno, the CHR commemorated the heroic act of late Senator Jose ‘Ka Pepe’ Diokno, whom the agency tagged as a “symbol of freedom, democracy, and human rights.” Diokno was one of those individuals who fought to attain democracy in the country during the Martial Law era under the Marcos administration. a statue of Diokno was also installed inside the park with the approval of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.With the opening of the Liwasang Diokno at the central office of CHR in Quezon City, the human rights group urged the public to continue to be more active in defending the human rights. The freedom park has a 30-tier fountain in its center, symbolizing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

 

10.  A lights projection showing the faces of imprisoned, threatened and at-risk human rights defenders (HRDs) from around the world will shine at Dublin City Hall to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The faces will be projected on December 10th and 11th during a public reception, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring with Front Line Defenders, Dublin City Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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https://reliefweb.int/report/world/worldwide-un-family-celebrates-enduring-universal-values-human-rights

https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/phnom-penh-authorities-ban-march-human-rights-day

https://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/7C0D10EB243EC1FEC125835F003D589B?OpenDocument

https://intpolicydigest.org/2018/12/10/two-important-days-on-the-un-calendar-warranting-greater-attention/

https://citizen.co.za/news/news-africa/2048178/human-rights-defenders-urge-mnangagwa-to-walk-the-talk-on-rights-abuses/

https://bankwatch.org/blog/as-human-rights-declaration-turns-70-development-banks-have-a-ways-to-go-to-respect-and-protect-rights-defenders?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Bankwatch-blog+%28Bankwatch+blog%29