Posts Tagged ‘enabling environment’

Amnesty launches report on Laws designed to silence human rights defenders

February 21, 2019

The report lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline
Governments around the world are stepping-up their attacks on civil society organisations and human rights defenders, according to a new Amnesty International report. On 21 February 2019 RTE Ireland summarizes it as follows: It says governments are creating laws that subject non-governmental organisations and their staff to surveillance, bureaucratic hurdles and the threat of imprisonment. The international human rights group says the global assault on NGOs has reached a crisis point as new laws curb vital human rights work. The report, Laws Designed to Silence: The Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organisations, lists 50 countries worldwide where anti-NGO laws have been implemented or are in the pipeline.
Amnesty International says these laws commonly include implementing ludicrous registration processes for organisations, monitoring their work, restricting their sources of resources and, in many cases, shutting them down if they do not adhere to the unreasonable requirements imposed on them.
[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/global-statement-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-un-declaration-on-human-rights-defenders/]
We documented how an increasing number of governments are placing unreasonable restrictions and barriers on NGOs, preventing them from carrying out crucial work,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “In many countries, organisations who dare to speak out for human rights are being bullied into silence. Groups of people who come together to defend and demand human rights are facing growing barriers to working freely and safely. Silencing them and preventing their work has consequences for everyone.”  SEE ALSO NAIDOO’S OP-ED: http://news.trust.org//item/20190220144717-jcwuf/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/global-assault-on-ngos-reaches-crisis-point/

https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0221/1031852-amnesty_assault_on_ngos/

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

Report on Human Rights Defenders in States in Transition in Africa

March 17, 2018

recently published its report on ‘Lessons Learnt: Human Rights Defenders Working in States in Transition.’ A State’s transition towards democracy will invariably present particular challenges for human rights and their defenders. But it will also present opportunities. ISHR seeks to ensure that defenders have the tools that will enable the development of national laws and mechanisms that are compatible with, and give effect to, international human rights obligations. ISHR hopes that this report will be used by defenders to reflect on the strategies, successes and shortcomings of other campaigns and programmes in order to appreciate the impact they’ve had in various African States.

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/ishr-african-commission-monitor-july-31701?e=d1945ebb90

https://www.ishr.ch/sites/default/files/documents/final_sitroadmap_compressed.pdf

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launches major report on Human Rights Defenders

March 2, 2018

While all eyes are on the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – on 28 February – presented its report “Toward a Comprehensive Policy to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” in the context of the 167th session of the IACHR taking place in Colombia. The purpose of this report is to provide the States in the region with guidance in developing their domestic policies, programs, and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, in keeping with inter-American human rights standards.

The work of defending human rights in the countries of the Americas has become extremely dangerous,” said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The levels of violence against people who defend human rights in our region are alarming, and the rates of impunity for these types of crimes are very high. The focus of the IACHR’s concern is on the violent deaths of rights defenders, the impunity that tends to surround these types of crimes, and the remaining vulnerability of all persons and groups on whose behalf the defender had worked. This makes it essential and urgent for the States to adopt effective measures to put an end to this situation,” she added.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/22/amnestys-annual-report-2017-is-out-depressing-but-rays-of-hope/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

…….

“We are aware of and welcome the efforts made by some States to implement different mechanisms, laws, and policies to protect rights defenders, but unfortunately these have not been effective enough,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. “That is why the IACHR in this report has laid out the main components of a comprehensive protection policy, so that such a policy can be effective and so that we can manage to stop the killings and other attacks that are putting an end to the lives of rights defenders or preventing them from doing their work. The aim of the IACHR is to provide the States with a guide on developing domestic policies, programs, mechanisms, and practices for the effective protection of human rights defenders, in accordance with Inter-American human rights standards,” he indicated.

A comprehensive protection policy is based on a recognition of the State’s interrelated and interdependent obligations to enable rights defenders to freely and safely carry out their work of defending human rights. In this sense, a comprehensive protection policy refers to a broad, all-encompassing approach that requires extending protection beyond physical protection mechanisms or systems when defenders experience situations of risk. It requires implementing public policies and measures designed to respect the rights of defenders; prevent violations of their rights; diligently investigate acts of violence against them; and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any attack on human rights defenders.

The report also analyzes the main steps forward and challenges in terms of the efforts underway in some States, such as the national protection mechanisms, legislation, and policies and programs that exist in some countries. It also makes recommendations to the States on how to ensure better implementation of prevention, protection, and investigation measures to achieve a comprehensive protection policy.

..Human rights defenders are an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies in the hemisphere. Acts of violence against human rights defenders not only infringe on the defenders’ own rights as human beings but also undermine the critical role they play in society and in upholding democratic standards.

Contact info María Isabel RiveroIACHR Press and Communication Office mrivero@oas.org

http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2018/039.asp

ProtectDefenders.eu held its annual meeting 2017

December 28, 2017

The Newsletter of December 2017 of ProtectDefenders.eu contains a report of the 2017 Annual Meeting. The highlights:

On the 8th of November, ProtectDefenders.eu held its second annual meeting, under the motto “Champions of change – Human rights defenders at the forefront of development and democracy“. More than 30 human rights defenders at risk from all regions of the world who have benefited from the project gathered in Brussels with representatives of international NGOs and European institutions. This unique meeting has successfully brought together grassroots activists working on the frontlines for change and leading experts on the protection of human rights defenders, universal and regional protection mechanisms, and representatives of various EU institutions implicated in the protection of human rights defenders and current development agenda.

The meeting highlighted the crucial role and impact of human rights defenders around the world as promoters of a sustainable development and engaged development actors in how to integrate the protection of human rights defenders as part of an effective development and protection agenda. The widespread attempts to de-legitimise human rights’ discourse and human rights defenders’ work worldwide were addressed, by promoting a positive narrative grounded on the universality and indivisibility of human rights and its contribution to more advanced and developed societies. Human rights defenders and high-level speakers shared strategies to enhance the protection of those who strive to defend human rights, and to develop a positive narrative on the human rights’ work, legitimising their work at the local level and taking back the human rights discourse to the centre of the international agenda.

To conclude the meeting, the twelve partner organisations of ProtectDefenders.eu have issued a public statement urging all national authorities to “publicly recognise the crucial role played by human rights defenders and protect them in all circumstances from any form of judicial harassment“. As stressed by Antoine Madelin, FIDH Director for International Advocacy and Chair of the Board of ProtectDefenders.eu, “Human Rights Defenders are the pillars of democracy and of the rule of law but are too often subjected to unfair criminal prosecution, in an effort to undermine their work in the defence of human rights.”

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/24/video-of-the-defending-human-rights-is-not-a-crime-meeting-now-available/

https://www.protectdefenders.eu/en/newsletter.html

Protection International releases its 2017 FOCUS REPORT on human rights defenders: global trends

October 16, 2017

On 10 October 2017 Protection International (PI) presented the 2017 edition of its Focus Report, monitoring worldwide developments in the field of national protection mechanisms and public policies for the protection of human rights defenders (HRDs). Since the publication of its handbook Protection of human rights defenders: Best practices and lessons learnt (in 2011), the public debate regarding national public policies for HRD protection has evolved: initially only a handful of Latin American governments were addressing systematic attacks against HRDs through national protection mechanisms, and civil society organisations approached the issue with a lot of mistrust and scepticism. In recent years, it has become mainstream with the adoption of national laws and the emergence of draft bills in several countries of Latin America and Africa, while permeating the discussions on HRD protection in countries of Europe, Central and South-East Asia.

Many developments in this field of the HRD protection ecosystem also occurred since the publication of the last edition the Focus Report in 2014. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/12/03/protection-international-focuses-on-national-protection-mechanisms/] This heightened interest nonetheless, the implementation gap remains a big issue and trust is far from assured, especially among groups of HRDs taking the brunt of state repression and violence and those HRDs in remote areas where the presence of state authorities is weak or contested by non-state actors. Research shows that political will and backing is key to overcome these problems.

With the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on HRDs fast approaching, Protection International believes it is now high time to shift the focus of the debate away from adopting laws to protect human rights defenders at risk towards a more comprehensive approach, which addresses the structural violence and repression against them.

Source: New release: 2017 FOCUS REPORT | Public policies for the protection of Human rights defenders: global trends and implementation challenges – Protection InternationalProtection International

Nigeria: NGOs try to prevent the adoption of NGO-unfriendly law

August 1, 2017

Speaker Dogara

In a blog post on Vanguard News it is explained that the appeal dated 28 July 2017 was sent to Ms Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The organization said, “.. If adopted, the bill which is copied from repressive countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, would have a chilling effect not only on expressions of peaceful dissent by the citizens but also on the legitimate work of NGOs and individual human rights defenders and activists scrutinizing corruption in the National Assembly and exposing human rights violations by the government.”

The urgent appeal signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni read in part: .”.. the bill is by far the most dangerous piece of legislation in the country in terms of its reach and devastating consequences not only for the work of civil society but also the effective enjoyment of constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights of the citizens. The bill will devastate the country’s civil society for generations to come and turn it into a government puppet.”……

SERAP is also concerned that the proposed bill is coming at a time the members of the Senate and House of Representatives are proposing amnesty and immunity for themselves against prosecution for corruption and other economic crimes; and the government is proposing a social media policy to restrict and undermine citizens’ access to the social media ahead of the general elections in 2019.”

……

The provisions of the bill are also not subject to any judicial oversight. SERAP believes that independent groups and activists should have space to carry out their human rights and anticorruption work without fear of reprisals, such as losing their registration or being sent prison.”

 

[The House of Representatives debated the bill known as ‘An Act to provide for the establishment of Regulatory Commission for the Supervision, Coordination and Monitoring of NGOs, CSOs and Communities Based Organizations in Nigeria’. The bill will establish a commission responsible only to the president and the senate. Under section 7, the commission will monitor and supervise these groups supposedly to “ensure that they accomplish their missions according to law” and under section 26, strictly “in line with the programmes of government.” Section 8 of the bill even goes further by empowering the commission to coordinate the work of all national and international NGOs in the country. All groups must register with the commission and submit their annual reports for discussion and governmental approval. The commission may take any punitive action against civil society and “do all such things incidental to its functions” under the Act. Section 10 establishes ‘a documentation center’ to which all civil society groups must submit the list of their activities and other information that may be required or prescribed. Section 11 then requires submission of all proposed activities by civil society for approval. Section 12 requires registration of all civil society organizations on the payment of unspecified fees and other fees as the commission may require or prescribe. But registration may be turned down, as stated under section 13. Registration is valid for only 24 months and renewable, subject to conditions as may be prescribed. Registration may also be denied if the activities of civil society groups are not in line with “national interest”. Operations of the groups will be terminated without any such registration. Under section 19, workers of the groups must apply for work permits. The groups can only appeal to “a minister” if they are dissatisfied with the application of any of the provisions of the Act, as provided for under section 19. The bill in section 24 criminalizes behaviour that is inherently legitimate by prescribing severe criminal penalties, including fines of N500,000 or 18 months imprisonment or both, for operating without registration under the bill. Under section 26, any such person will be banned for 10 years from doing any civil society work. The combined effect of sections 25 and 26 is that no civil society group will be able to carry out any activity without first seeking and obtaining a ministerial approval.]

Source: SERAP drags Dogara to UN over ‘repressive bill to regulate, crackdown on civil society’ – Gistmaster (It appeared first on Vanguard News)

https://guardian.ng/news/serap-drags-dogara-to-un-over-bill-to-crackdown-on-csos/

Fascinating insight: local community can be the leading violators of rights of HRDs

July 6, 2017

Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs

We all assume that the biggest threat to human rights defenders comes from the State or similarly powerful actors. Now a report by the Human Rights Centre Uganda (led by former UN Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya, pictured above) shows that it can be the local community that is the leading violator of the rights of HRDs. Juliet Kigongo of KFM, reports on 16 June 2017 that – at least in Uganda – 28% of complaints recorded were about members of the community, against 17% about government officials and 16% about politicians. The study was carried out in nine districts of Kasese, Mbarara, Lira, Soroti, Gulu, Mbale, Hoima and Kampala with Arua being the most affected.

[The report compiled by the Human Rights Centre Uganda also raises the red flag over the slow investigations of cases of violations against rights defenders, warning that the “slow pace of investigation could be seen as condoning attacks on Human Rights Defenders. While launching the report Margaret Sekaggya, the center’s Executive Director appealed to parliament to review existing laws that impede the work of human rights defenders and ensure that the legislative framework reflects provisions of the constitution and Uganda’s international commitments to ensure a safe and conducive environment.]
That the danger comes from all sides is clear, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/30/uganda-killing-of-human-rights-defender-erasmus-irumba-by-security-forces/, but I really wonder what the situation is in other countries and whether other such studies have been carried out.

Source: Local community leading violators of rights of HRDs | KFM

International Service for Human Rights publishes Annual Report

May 16, 2017

The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has also published its annual report on 2016 (a bit confusingly called Annual Report 2017 as it also contains plans for 2017). Several chapters contain substantive information on the excellent work done for human rights defenders:

Agents of change | Empowering defenders to achieve impact (p 10)

Model Law | Groundbreaking new tool to protect defenders  (p 14)

Strange bedfellows | The role of business in protecting civil society space (p 18)

Reprisals | Ending attacks against those who cooperate with the UN (p 21)

Defending diversity | The struggle for LGBTI dignity and rights.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/supporting-defenders-achieving-change-2017-annual-report

Security and self-care must become part of the culture of human rights defenders

May 10, 2017

HOLLY DAVIS and MAGDA ADAMOWICZ published in Open Democracy of 10 May 2017 an important piece entitled “Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin“.  It states inter alia that by not paying enough attention to self-care, activists are compromising their own security—and that of their organizations. [It is a contribution to the debate on mental health and well-being.]

The authors rightly make the point that.. “in addition to threats against their personal safety and security, defenders face exhaustion and trauma and struggle with burnout.”


Flickr/ CDIH (Some rights reserved) Following the hearing on the human rights situation in Bajo Aguán held on April 5, 2016, a vigil was held by Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist who was murdered on March 3, 2016 in Honduras.

By including and addressing well-being, trainers have a critical role to play in expanding defenders’ understanding of security and increasing their capacity to adopt new habits. These changes can happen only by integrating security and self-care into the everyday work and culture of human rights defenders and organizations.

Each organization and individual will have different needs. They may include:

  • •Allowing time and dedicated funding for staff retreats, peer support groups, psychological or supervision support, or other individual practices.

  • •Creating space to discuss people’s well-being at the team or organizational level.

  • •Connecting activists with peers from other organizations so they can find solidarity and support.

  • •Designing an organizational self-care plan with clear goals, expectations, and boundaries that are transparent and to which teams are accountable. Such a plan might include expectations for work hours and off-hours availability, the option to work from home, time for a true break during the workday, offering activities like stretching and meditation, or simply scheduling a block of quiet time without meetings.

  • •Consistently implementing an organizational self-care plan, with staff supporting each other, and regularly checking-in with each other through meetings that include a well-being status update.

  • •Challenging what is truly a crisis requiring immediate action, breaking a cycle of stress where people feel like they cannot afford to stop working.

Above all, human rights organizations and funders need to remember that prioritizing the safety and health of defenders, preventing burnout, and treating trauma are not self-indulgences. Rather, they are best practices. Individual and organizational attitudes and behavior must evolve. This means mainstreaming security and moving towards organizational cultures in which self-care is inherently understood to be critical to success. The old refrain of “toughen up or leave” is obsolete.

Source: Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin | openDemocracy