Posts Tagged ‘meeting’

FIDH makes fresh start with Congress in Taiwan and new Board and President

October 28, 2019

Botswana human rights defender Alice Mogwe, newly elected president of the FIDH, says: “The universality of human rights is under attack – we must fight back!

The member organisations of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) elected their new president during its 40th Congress in Taiwan. Alice Mogwe, will lead the Federation for the next three years, ushering in its 100th anniversary in 2022. In December 2018 Alice Mogwe was the first civil society leader to address the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of over 250 human rights defenders from around the world. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/17/tuesday-18-december-first-time-a-human-rights-defender-addresses-un-general-assembly/] As founder and director of DITSHWANELO – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights – she has spearheaded efforts to advance human rights in Botswana and its Southern African neighbours.
Our fellow human rights defenders the world over are criminalised, disappeared, threatened, and even killed. The space given to us to express ourselves is shrinking. It is thus more important than ever to emphasize that our values are universal and that we must fight back!” declared Alice Mogwe. Ms. Mogwe’s academic background in law, public policy, African studies, and mediation has served her well in advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples, women, LGBTI+ communities, children, migrants and refugees. She also fought for the abolition of the death penalty in Botswana and Africa, and for demanding accountability from the extractive industry in her native country. “We must amplify local voices at regional and international levels. Member organisations are the lifeblood of FIDH; our strength lies in our diversity.

During her three-year mandate, Ms. Mogwe’s priorities will include:
• Strengthening the work of FIDH to raise attention and protect human rights defenders, who face an unprecedented wave of attacks all over the world. Responding to the closure of civic space through programmes providing rapid and practical support for human rights defenders;
• Protecting human rights defenders from digital surveillance and tracking, fostering safe and effective use of technology by human rights defenders, indigenous communities, ethnic, religious, linguistic minorities, and others;
• Strengthening horizontal cooperation between the Federation’s members, both intra- and inter-regionally, to fully utilise their collective power and capabilities. During the Congress, 16 new organisations were approved to join FIDH, increasing its membership to 192. The newly elected International Board is composed of 22 activists from 21 countries.

Composition of the new FIDH International Board:

President
Alice MOGWE

Treasurer
Dominique LEDOUBLE

Secretaries General:
Kaari MATTILA
Gloria CANO
Shawan JABARIN
Adilur RAHMAN KHAN
Drissa TRAORE

Vice Presidents
Sheila MUWANGA
Sandra CARVALHO
Alexis DESWAEF
Reinaldo VILLALBA VARGAS
E-Ling CHIU
Juan Francisco SOTO
Tola Thompson ADEBAYOR
Paul NSAPU MUKULU
Guissou JAHANGIRI
Reyhan YALCINDAG BAYDEMIR
Nedal AL SALMAN
Tolekan ISMAILOVA
Maryse ARTIGUELONG
Artak KIRAKOSYAN
Valiantsin STEFANOVIC

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/taiwan/botswana-activist-alice-mogwe-elected-new-fidh-president-the

The Asma Jahangir legacy

October 22, 2019

Asma Jahangir is rightly considered one of the foremost human rights defenders of our time [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/]. So, the two-day ‘Asma Jahangir Conference 2019Roadmap for Human Rights’ which concluded in Lahore, Pakistan on 20 October 2019 is fully justified. The News carries a long report on the meeting in which some 120 jurists, politicians, human rights defenders and media people acted as panellists from Pakistan, England, America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden and Afghanistan. Thousands of students, attended the sessions. They all resolved to carry forward the legacy of Asma Jahangir, who fought relentlessly against dictatorial forces and always sought due process of law, equality for women and protection of minorities in the country.

(Former) Politicians dominated the panels but other speakers at the sessions paid tribute to Asma Jahangir and appreciated her commitment to human rights with a resolve to uphold the rule of law and struggle for women’s rights. Munaza Hassan spoke of women’s right to inheritance. Daughter of Asma Jahangir and journalist Munizae Jahangir, who conducted the session, said: “It is a rare moment when all political parties are seen on the same platform.” She said that politicians conveniently forget to protect fundamental rights and right to expression when in they assume power. She said: “We are convinced that without freedom of the media, the rule of law and guarantees of security to human rights defenders, neither democracy nor justice, is possible. The main challenge to development of Pakistan and the rights of its citizens is a national security state. Until the national security is subservient, no other initiative in economy, health, education and rule of law can find success.

The day began with a short film on Asma Jahangir receiving the Right Livelihood Award, produced by True Heroes Films, where she spoke of growing expectations of citizens as far as what the governments should deliver. And governments falling ever further behind, internationally this gap of creative impulses of society on one side and governments dragging their feet on the other, has been the key engine of human rights challenges. Despite threats to her life, she spoke of never leaving Pakistan as it is a place where she has received most love and affection.

As a continuation of the discussion on ‘Art inspires politics’, Munizae Jahangir conducted a panel discussion on ‘How women can build bridges for peace in South Asia’. Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Afghan politician Fawzia Koofi, human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka Bhavani Fonseka, Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson and former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal opined that peace in South Asia was a prerequisite to securing women’s fundamental rights and the resources should be directed towards socio-economic areas rather than the military. Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Award-winning novelist Mohammad Hanif, Christian Caryl of the Washington Post, Wusat Ullah Khan, Ms Aisha Sarwari and Iqbal Khattak participated in the discussion on the role of social media.

Dr Bahia talked about the centrality of human rights in a thriving democratic society, and also the role of her government in supporting human rights initiatives all-over the world, including Pakistan. Aisha Sarwari talked about how women are systematically excluded from law-making process and, therefore, law-making concerning social media. She said it is essential for the social and economic development of all countries for women to be able to use the media as disruptive technology and end permission culture. Wusat Ullah Khan mentioned that the social media gives space to freedom, but also makes people extremely vulnerable. He said freedom of speech is part of a bouquet – you cannot talk about freedom of speech without talking about right to life and education and freedom of religion.

Iqbal Khattak, country representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF), spoke about the need for digital safety training and how one should protect oneself by disengaging with trolls. He particularly highlighted threats, accusations of blasphemy as threats that should be taken very seriously. He strongly encouraged use of PICA laws for individuals to seek online protection. He also highlighted Pakistan’s considerable investment in controlling social media spaces and vigilance on part of civil society. The Government of Pakistan should take social media as fundamental right.

On fighting the culture of shame and silence, woman rights activist Uzma Noorani, British professor of human rights Ms Siobhan Mullally, provincial Ombudsperson Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rukshanda Naz, Pakistan People’s Party leader Nafisa Shah, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fouzia Viqar said that there should be universality of rights, for all excluded communities including women and marginalised remote communities.

..

On ‘Silencing civil society’, Ms Fareeda Shahid moderated the session of Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. Ms Zohra Yusuf, human rights activist and council member of HRCP, Mohammad Tehsin, convener of Pakistan Civil Society National Forum, law expert Asad Jamal said registered civil society organisations should be allowed to function, 2013 policy of banning CSOs should be challenged. Mass communication needed to change narratives.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/544102-thousands-resolve-to-carry-forward-asma-jahangir-legacy

Panel against impunity for abuses against human rights defenders. New York on 16 October

October 9, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019
1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
UN Headquarters, New York
Room CR-11

This event is organised by Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights with the kind sponsorship of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations.

Event with panellists:

  • Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
  • Radya Al-Mutawakel, Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, Yemen
  • Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice Myanmar, Myanmar

Moderated by:

  • Sherine Tadros, Amnesty International

Welcoming remarks by:

  • Ambassador Mona Juul, Permanent Representative of Norway

Please RSVP by 11 October.

Download the flyer here

2019 Dublin Platform opens with 120 HRDs but five not able to attend

October 2, 2019

The 3-day 2019 Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was opened on 2 October by Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Over 120 human rights defenders (HRDs) from more than 80 countries are attending. Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Andrew Anderson, said that five human rights defenders were prevented from traveling to Dublin – Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Oyub Titiev (Russia), Said Boudour (Algeria), Michel Matos (Cuba) and Marivic Danyan (Philippines). See more below.

The opening ceremony featured a testimony by Bahraini woman human rights defender (WHRD) Ebtisam Alsaegh, who was finally able to leave Bahrain and attend Dublin Platform years after first being invited. Speaking in Dublin, she called for an immediate end to gendered and sexualized attacks against women human rights defenders around the world.

Over three days, human rights defenders will share tactics and strategies for their protection and security, while learning from each other about their struggles, protests, resistance movements and victories. On Thursday evening, the HRDs will march in a procession to Christchurch Cathedral as part of the “Set Them Free” campaign, calling for the release of HRDs facing multi-decade prison sentences around the world. The campaign includes former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Bahraini HRD Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, now serving a life sentence for his role in the peaceful pro-democracy uprising of 2011.

Four human rights defenders were either prevented from leaving their countries – or decided not to risk it due to pending charges. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/18/repressive-governments-and-ophelia-compete-to-prevent-hrds-to-travel-to-dublin/]

On 26 September, Cuban cultural rights defender Michel Matos was banned from travelling from José Martí International Airport in Havana while en route to attend the event in Ireland. Michel is an activist for cultural rights in Cuba. He, along with other artists, musicians and performers, has taken a stand against the controversial Decree 349, signed by Cuba’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel in April 2018, which grants the Ministry of Culture disproportionate power to control, cancel and sanction artistic expression, while containing vague and overly broad restrictions. While being processed at passport control, officials informed him he was not permitted to board the plane as he is on an automatic travel ban list. He was not shown any documents or given any further details on the ban, other than being told that the officials “were following orders”.

Due to his work advocating for the rights of political prisoners in Algeria, Said Boudour has been informed that he is currently being sought by the Algerian authorities. As he prepared to travel to Ireland to attend the Platform, he received advice from his lawyer that should he attempt to leave the country he would almost certainly be arrested at the airport. Said is a member of the Algerian League for Human Rights. He works on a range of civil and political rights in Algeria, with a particular focus on the rights of prisoners in the context of the ongoing anti-government demonstrations, and on democracy in Algeria. The human rights defender has been frequently harassed by the Algerian authorities; he has been previously detained three times and has been under regular police surveillance.

Khadija Ismayilova, a woman human rights defender and journalist from Azerbaijan, was also unable to accept her invite to the Dublin Platform due to a travel ban imposed against her following her release from prison in 2016. In 2018 the Baku Court of Appeal refused for the third time to lift the ban. Khadija is well known for her investigative reports on corruption in Azerbaijan, including the President’s family’s involvement.

Oyub Titiev, a human rights defender from Chechnya, was similarly prevented from travelling due to a travel ban stemming from his conditional release from prison in June 2019. He was detained in January 2018 on fabricated drug charges in retaliation for his work with Human Rights Center Memorial in Chechnya. Both Oyub and Front Line Defenders had written without success to the Russian authorities seeking permission for him to allowed travel to attend the Dublin Platform.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/2019-dublin-platform

More than 400 Global Shapers Meet in Geneva to Spark Global Change – why not start with Saba Kord Afshari?

August 30, 2019

The World Economic Forum announced that from 30 August to 1 September 2019 more than 400 members of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community of innovators, activists and entrepreneurs under the age of 30 meet in Geneva to Spark Global Change. The theme of the summit is Leading for Impact. The Shapers, representing about 150 countries, will share their experiences, their impact and the lessons learned in managing grassroots projects in their local Global Shaper Hubs and through regional and global collaborations. They will also participate in skills-building and leadership-development workshops.

The summit will focus on enhancing leadership in the community’s three main impact areas: standing up for equity and inclusion, protecting the planet, and shaping the future of education and employment.

In the past year, Shapers in 125 cities have developed grassroots projects to promote equity and inclusion, including awareness campaigns, education initiatives and skill-building efforts to reduce barriers to women in the workplace, increase civic engagement among minority groups and advocate for the rights of refugees.

Perhaps a good case would be that of Saba Kord Afshari who for the simple act of removing her hijab and taking a video was made a “criminal” in Iran. #SabaKordafshari was sentenced to 24 years prison for #WalkingUnveiled and being voice of the voiceless. Activists call on the world, all politicians, all celebrities, MeToo movement – and why not the Shapers of the WEF ? – to take action.

The never ending quest for the protection of journalists

July 14, 2019

Media (here the dailysabah of 13 July 2019) have referred to a Global Conference for Media Freedom, co-organized by the British and Canadian foreign ministries. The two-day conference, held at the Printworks event center in London, was joined by over a thousand guests from 100 countries, including journalists, academics, politicians and diplomats. The conference was held to trigger a global initiative to safeguard journalists and fortify global media freedom. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered last October and Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a bomb attack in 2017, were widely mentioned and marked by the panelists and participants.

One of the panel discussions placed a lot of importance on efforts to bring to justice those who have killed journalists, review national attempts to resolve cold cases and examine attempts to affect change in U.N. member states to prevent impunity. In addition to these topics and media-government interactions; the increasing relations between the media and investors in digital media also brought about new debates, such as ethical journalism and sustainability of the media.

One of the key proposals of the conference was creating an international judicial committee for journalists which will include judges, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders from all over the world. Also, to reduce pressure against journalists and media on a global scale, prevent journalist murders, attacks, kidnappings and ensure the safety of journalists; a new initiative based on international and civil society pressure to hold the governments accountable is to be created. In my personal opinion I doubt that there is really a need for creating new entities in an area where there are already so many NGOs, coalitions, campaigns and awards, but the severity of the situation perhaps justifies it (2018 was the worst year on record for violence and abuse against journalists – in 2018, at least 99 journalists were killed, a further 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. Beyond that, almost 1,000 journalists and media workers have been killed in the past decade. Among them, 93 percent of those killed were local journalists and 7 percent are foreign correspondents).  See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/journalists/

Another finding of the research conducted by these institutions is that the impunity for crimes against journalists remains the norm, with justice in only one in 10 cases.

https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2019/07/13/murdered-journalists-highlighted-in-global-media-forum-in-london

Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade: another step towards a binding instrument

June 17, 2019

The Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was launched in September 2017 under the leadership of Argentina, the European Union, and Mongolia. Today, the Global Alliance has over 60-member states that have proclaimed their determination to end international trade in instruments of torture and capital punishment. The Alliance is now introducing a draft resolution before the United Nations General Assembly with a view to adopt a legally binding instrument. A public panel event was held on 14 June 2019 in the Maison de la Paix in Geneva with experts from academia, policy practitioners, representatives from member states, civil society, and the interested public, to take stock of the developments leading to the creation of the Alliance and the prospects and challenges of adopting and implementing a global ban on tools of torture.

Panel discussion

  • Cecilia Malmström, European Union Commissioner for Trade
  • Barbara Bernath, Secretary General, Association for the Prevention of Torture
  • Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute, Geneva
  • Michael Crowley, Research Associate, Omega Research Foundation, and Project Coordinator of the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project, University of Bradford
  • Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture

Moderators

  • Nico Krisch, Co-Director, Global Governance Centre, and Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute, Geneva
  • Ezgi Yildiz, Postdoctoral Researcher, Global Governance Centre, the Graduate Institute, Geneva

This conference was organised with the support of the Global Governance Centre and is part of the EU Lecture Series “Europe Tomorrow”.

https://graduateinstitute.ch/communications/events/norm-making-banning-global-trade-tools-torture

One-day dialogue on Human Rights Council membership on 1 july 2019

June 12, 2019

ISHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organise a meeting on STRENGTHENING AND LEVERAGING HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP on Monday 1 July 2019, 13h00-14h30 Restaurant des Délégués, 8th Floor, Palais des Nations, Geneva.The composition of the HRC has captured significant public attention over the past year – with people around the world rightly asking: how can States accused of gross and systematic human rights violations become members of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council? And what does that mean for the credibility and effectiveness of this body? Clearly, for the HRC to be effective, and to be credible and relevant to the wider human rights community, and the wider public, it needs members committed to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad in its 47 seats, as foreseen by UNGA resolution 60/251. Of course, no State has a perfect human rights record, and a wide and diverse range of States should be encouraged to address their shortcomings and enhance their commitment to human rights through HRC participation and engagement. While the argument does not apply to candidates that are in clear breach of the membership criteria, HRC membership may be an important incentive for national-level change, particularly where States, as candidates, make voluntary pledges and commitments, and are willing and able to implement them. The framing and implementation of those pledges and commitments is, however, rarely discussed at national or international level. Against this backdrop, in February 2019, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and HRC-net convened a one-day dialogue bringing together national and regional actors – including human rights defenders and NHRIs – with a cross-regional group of State representatives, OHCHR officials and international civil society, to address two important and interlinked questions regarding HRC membership: 1) how can we encourage greater respect and application of the membership criteria clearly set out in GA resolution 60/251; and 2) how can a State’s membership of the HRC be leveraged for positive change on human rights at national level? Drawing on good practices and lessons learned, participants identified a range of challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations. A report of the one-day dialogue will be presented during a lunch time reception at the Restaurant des Délégués on 1 July, in the side-lines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council. The reception will provide an opportunity for the presentation of some of the key challenges, opportunities and practical recommendations identified in the report, including with regards to good practice relating to candidacy and membership of the HRC.

Speakers:

  • Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN
  • Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate
  • Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s Senior UN Advocate

Please RSVP by clicking here <https://crm.ishr.ch/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=884&qid=111418> by 19 June 2019 to confirm your participation at this event.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/02/hrc-elections-how-do-the-candidates-for-2018-rate-11-september-events/

Human rights in the response to HIV: a UN consultation

June 6, 2019

HIV and AIDS used to be a major and controversial topic. It has now moved a bit to the background but is still most relevant. This also shows some of the good work the UN is doing that many people dont know about:

In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 38/8, a consultation on human rights in the response to HIV was held in Geneva on 12 and 13 February 2019. It was attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of Member States and of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, special procedure mandate holders, experts and members of civil society, including persons living with, presumed to be living with, at risk of or affected by HIV. During the consultation, participants examined best practices, evidence, lessons learned and the challenges faced when removing human rights barriers and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV in regional and subregional strategies. Participants discussed issues and challenges pertaining to the respect for and the promotion of human rights in the response to HIV, with a focus on regional and subregional strategies and best practices. The full report published on 1 May 2019 can be found in the link below. These are the recommendations made at the consultation.

Recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations during the consultation, particularly with regard to regional and subregional strategies and best practices:

(a)States should remove structural barriers, including discriminatory laws and policies, and apply human rights-based approaches to the response to HIV, putting people living with HIV at the centre of their policies, programmes and practices. In order not to leave anyone behind, States should increase their efforts to reach the most marginalized women and adolescents, key populations vulnerable to HIV, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sexworkers, people who use drugs, transgender people, and persons in prisons and other closed settings. Communities should be involved in the design, implementation and delivery of policies, programmes and practices.

(b)States should review their laws in accordance with international human rights law. In order to improve the human rights aspect in the response to HIV, States and their parliaments could collaborate at the regional and subregional levels to develop human rights-based normative content to inspire the domestication of laws at the national level. In order to reach Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 and to leave no one behind, States should adopt legislation, policies and practices that decriminalize sex work, drug use, same-sex relations, and gender identity and expression, and provide access to gender recognition.

(c)In order to improve the effectiveness of the response to HIV, States should strengthen cooperation at the regional, subregional and global levels to support and invest in programmes and services that promote the right to health and the rights of people living with HIV.

(d)Strengthened accountability is vital to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV, including the right to health, are promoted and respected. States should collaborate with regional human rights mechanisms and engage with them in good faith, and follow up on decisions and sentences made by such bodies with a view to effectively implementing them.

(e)National human rights institutions and civil society have an important role to play in strengthening human rights accountability. The shrinking space for civil society is a key driver in leaving behind people living with HIV, particularly key populations. States should respect, protect and promote civil society space, provide an enabling regulatory and funding environment that allows civil society to work at the national, regional and subregional levels, and repeal laws that create barriers to the activities of civil society bodies. Civil society should be empowered to collect data, address human rights violations, participate in policymaking and decision-making, implementation and monitoring, including on issues relating to HIV and the rights of people living with HIV. In order to improve its effectiveness,civil society could cooperate at the regional level on joint advocacy efforts, including with regional mechanisms.

(f)In the current context of shrinking donor funding for HIV and health programmes, including in newly transitioned middle-income States, programmes aimed at removing barriers to human rights can be affected, particularly with regard to the rights of key populations. The retraction of global health funding in States transitioning to middle-income, without corresponding investment by domesticfunds, can lead to the loss of funding for services and rights programmes and advocacy for key populations, making them even more vulnerable. The Human Rights Council could develop guiding principles for health donors, which would be based on human rightsand should be formulated in coordination with UNAIDS and in consultation with States, key populations, communities and donors.

(g)States should review and adopt legislation, programmes and policies to combat stigma and discrimination, violence and abuseagainst people living with or at risk of HIV, with particular attention to key populations. States should work with United Nations agencies, civil society, communities and key populations to invest in programmes, education and other actions to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination in all areas of life, including through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate All Forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination. Regional and subregional networks have an important role to play in raising awareness and eliminating stigma and discrimination.

(h)States should ensure that universal health coverage promotes both the health and rights of all persons, including the most marginalized, such as people living with HIV and key populations, and addresseshuman rights barriers to health. States should ensure that human rights, including the right to health of persons living with HIV, are integrated into discussions on universal health coverage, including in the lead-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on universal health coverage and in its outcome document

UN Human Rights Council

Five Laureates of the Right Livelihood Foundation speak about woman human rights defenders

May 22, 2019

On 6 March 2019, two days before international women’s day, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation brought together 5 women Laureates from around the world to discuss ‘local realities and shared global challenges’ facing Women Human Rights Defenders. The side event, organised in parallel to the Human Rights Council’s fortieth session, was co-sponsored by CIVICUS, Human Rights House Foundation, International Network for Human Rights, and supported by the International Platform against impunity and the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

P2980249

Fabiana Leibl, Sima Samar, Mozn Hassan, Helen Mack Chang, Ruth Manorama, and Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth. Photo by: Amy Au

Here are a few takeaways from the discussion:

Fabiana Leibl, Head of Protection and Advocacy at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, opened the meeting by describing the worsening trend for women human rights defenders who are prevented from working, not only because they are advocating for human rights, but also because they are women. As the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders noted in his recent report, this trend is often fuelled by deeply rooted ideas about ‘who women are, and who they should be’. Nahla Haidar, a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, remarked that women are frequently ‘targeted with charges of counter-terrorism’, which allows their oppressors to act with impunity.

Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and a leading women human rights defender in Afghanistan, emphasised that achieving parity in educating people of all genders was a key starting point. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she explained, “we need female human rights defenders in order to really change the environment on the ground, and to make the environment conducive for the women to exercise their basic human rights.” She called for an end to the misuse and misappropriation of culture, tradition, and religion as justifications for male dominance. Access to paid work, reproductive services, and justice mechanisms was also identified as crucial in the struggle for gender equality. Samar received the Right Livelihood Award in 2012 “for her longstanding and courageous dedication to human rights, especially the rights of women, in one of the most complex and dangerous regions in the world.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/08/31/major-piece-by-departing-high-commissioner-in-the-economist/ 

Mozn Hassan, founder of Nazra for Feminist studies, is one of the defendants in the well-known NGO Foreign Funding case targeting civil society organisations in Egypt. Her career’s focus on sexual and reproductive rights adds additional restrictions to her work. In July 2018, she was charged with, among other things, establishing an entity in violation of the law and receiving foreign funding with the intention of harming national security. The charges – which are clearly politically motivated – could lead to life imprisonment. Hassan could not attend the event due to a travel ban imposed by the Egyptian government since 2016. However, via video message, she conveyed the serious dangers for human rights defenders, ranging from asset freezing to arrests, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances. On top of this, women must confront gender-specific threats from state and non-state actors. As Mozn noted, “women are facing various gender-based violence in their custodies from harassment to threats of rape.” Mozn Hassan received the Right Livelihood Award together with Nazra in 2016 “for asserting the equality and rights of women in circumstances where they are subject to ongoing violence, abuse and discrimination.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/right-livelihood-has-to-go-to-egypt-to-hand-mozn-hassan-her-2016-award/

Helen Mack Chang, who has persistently sought justice and an end to impunity in Guatemala as head of the Myrna Mack Foundation, emphasised that women often suffer multiple dimensions of discrimination. Indigenous women, for instance, “suffer double discrimination (…) when defending their land or territory against the claims of international corporations.” She noted that recent years have seen a resurgence of conservatism and of global threats to the rule of law and democracy. Corruption and impunity, she stressed, go to the heart of this challenge, in Guatemala and elsewhere. Helen Mack Chang received the Right Livelihood Award in 1992 “for her personal courage and persistence in seeking justice and an end to the impunity of political murderers.

Ruth Manorama is India’s most effective organiser of, and advocate for, Dalit women, belonging to the “scheduled castes” sometimes also called “untouchables.” She is, among other things, President of the National Alliance of Women (NAWO) and National Convenor to the National Federation of Dalit Women. Ruth called for counter-narratives to combat the negative view of human rights defenders in the media. In India, for instance, activists are routinely called “enemies of the State,” “militants,” “anti-nationals,” “traitors,” and “terrorists.” She stated: “I am a patriot. I am an Indian citizen. I must enjoy my constitutional rights. (…) Protecting human rights defenders is a state obligation.” Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to systematic sexual abuse at work, forced sexual slavery such as the Devadasi system, and forced labour. Manorama received the Right Livelihood Award in 2006 “for her commitment over decades to achieving equality for Dalit women, building effective and committed women’s organisations and working for their rights at national and international levels.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/07/forum-asia-25th-anniversary-event-in-geneva-on-16-november-2016/

Charlotte Dos Santos Pruth is an Advocacy and Policy Advisor at Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish organisation working to strengthen and promote women’s organisations in several regions of the world. She presented the findings of their recent report, “Suffocating the movement – shrinking space for women’s rights”, which identifies the main effects of shrinking civic space for women. “A strong feminist movement is the single most important factor to advance women’s rights and gender equality”, she stated, adding that women often have limited access to formal decision-making processes. “This makes defending civil society space particularly crucial”, Dos Santos Pruth continued by saying. She suggested that addressing the lack of funding for women’s organisations would be an important first step.

The speakers brought together experiences from very different cultural contexts. Nevertheless, there were important parallels in their descriptions of defending human rights on the ground. The panellists all showed that the crackdown on women human rights defenders must be viewed within the context of other global trends including growing material inequality, counter-terrorism, corporate impunity, environmental degradation, and corruption. As Sima Samar pointed out, in this worrying global landscape, international solidarity must remain an important principle. In her words: “We don’t only need women in positions of power, we need feminist women; women who don’t support male domination in order to keep their own space and position”.

rewatch the event: