Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Human Rights Watch

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Human Rights Watch, as submitted during the Informal Dialogue with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April 2020

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Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Amnesty International

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Amnesty International as posred on 8 April in Reliefweb: “Human rights defenders: We need them more than ever! States worldwide must protect Human Rights Defenders in the current COVID-19 crisis“:

At a time when some of our human rights have been restricted in order to implement public health measures, human rights defenders are more crucial than ever in our struggle to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that no one is left behind…..

Crisis like this one put these commitments to the test. It is paramount that states around the world recommit to protect and recognize those who individually or collectively take action to protect our human rights, including in the context of the pandemic. In particular, states must ensure that all measures restricting the right to defend human rights, including those imposing limitations on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, are strictly necessary and proportionate for the protection of public health. The authorities must not use restrictions imposed during the pandemic to suppress relevant information uncomfortable for the government or use the situation as a pretext to crack down critics and human rights defenders. States must recognise that human rights defence is an essential activity during emergency periods and ensure that human rights defenders can exercise their work free from reprisals, intimidation or threats, so that together we can all face up to this crisis.

Human rights defenders, including those working in the field of research, health and social care, journalism and other areas, have been key in informing the public about the challenges posed by COVID-19 at all stages of the crisis. Their work is essential in ensuring states provide accessible and reliable information in a fair and transparent manner and can raise the alarm when measures are damaging or inadequate. Governments must ensure that those carrying out this role can continue to do so. They must respond by being accountable and open to scrutiny as well as by providing evidence-based and accurate information as the pandemic unfolds. Other activists, including women and LGBTI human rights defenders, trade unionists, environmental and land defenders, refugees and migrants’ rights defenders and indigenous rights defenders, are also helping the public understand the impact and implications of COVID-19 in their communities and how it affects different sectors of society, particularly the most marginalized and at risk.

Human rights defenders play a key role in watching that the measures taken by authorities do not infringe unduly on human rights – for example on the right to freedom of expression, on the right to privacy, or on the rights to health, housing and to an adequate standard of living – and speak out when this happens.

Human rights defenders raise the alarm and demand action when marginalized groups or individuals are being disproportionately affected or forgotten by the new measures, that is those historically discriminated against: people in the informal economy, people at risk of domestic violence, refugees and migrants, or people in detention, for example.

Human right defenders keep a check on the misuse of power of non-state actors. For example, they raise their voice against abuses by businesses and corporations, including when they fail to uphold labour and human rights standards in their responses to the pandemic, or when they shift the economic impact on workers, or when they fail to provide adequate protection from contagion for workers at risk.

Health and social care workers are at the frontline of this pandemic, continuing to deliver services despite the personal risks to them and their families, including contracting COVID19 while doing their jobs, working long hours, enduring psychological distress and fatigue. At the same time, thousands of individuals are volunteering to help those in need and provide crucial services. Many others, such as those involved in cleaning, sanitation and domestic work, in running transport systems, in the production of food, and other key workers, are also providing critical services, sometimes without adequate protection for themselves. All these individuals are not only doing their jobs, they are also protecting everybody’s right to health despite serious challenges and risks. They should be given with urgency adequate and quality tools, protection measures and any other support they need to carry out their work in safety.

Without all the individuals and collectives who defend our human rights worldwide, it would be almost impossible to tackle COVID-19 and save as many lives and livelihoods as possible. It is therefore not just states’ obligation, but it is in the interest of states and society at large to recognise, protect and enable human rights defenders to carry out their crucial work so that the harshest impact of the crisis can be mitigated and ensure that no one is left behind.

Recommendations

In the weeks since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen a flourishing of solidarity and empathy towards people in need and those most at risk, including a revival of community initiatives and self-help groups. It is time for those in power to recognise and protect human rights defenders, who are precisely those leading the way in showing how to include all sectors of society in the effort against the pandemic. Human rights defenders have long led the way in delivering justice, equality and rights for all without discrimination, with their empathy, activism, passion and hope. They must be protected!

Authorities worldwide must send a clear, unequivocal message in all their communications stating that:

  • Human rights defenders are key allies to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore will be recognised and protected without discrimination at all times
  • Physical or verbal attacks against human rights defenders will not be tolerated and, where applicable, those responsible will be brought to justice in fair trials
  • Human rights defenders are key to overcoming the pandemic in a way that is inclusive and respectful of human rights, and therefore need to be included in any collective actions to tackle it
  • Those human rights defenders on the frontline of the pandemic must be given the necessary information, the tools and the protective equipment they need to carry out their human rights activities in safety

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Civil Rights Defenders

April 10, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of these weeks. Here the one by Anders L. Pettersson, Executive Director of the Stockholm-based human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders (as published in the The Globe Post of 9 April 2020): “COVID-19 Is No Excuse for Governments to Abuse Human Rights”:

……But the COVID-19 pandemic is no ordinary struggle. The world is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis with far-reaching political, economic, and social consequences. Basic human rights, such as the right to freedom of movement and assembly, are being suspended to contain the virus’ further spread. Put simply, drastic measures have to be taken, and we are entrusting our respective governments to take them.

A member of the military police wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, as he patrols the streets in Bogota, on March 25, 2020. Photo: AFP

This, however, must not be understood as a blank cheque for authoritarian leaders to tighten their grip on power. While most national constitutions, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the U.N.’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allow for the derogation of certain human and minority rights during a state of emergency, it is “only to the extent strictly required by the situation.”

Across the world, though, numerous examples point to clear overreach of such emergency power and, more depressingly, the abuse of trust vested in governments from civil society.

Abuse of Emergency Powers

  • In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev said in an address to the nation that his political opponents are trying to use the outbreak to destroy the country, and suggested that measures to “isolate” them might be required. The prominent opposition activist Tofig Yagublu has already been arrested and sentenced to three months of pre-trial detention. He faces up to six years in prison….
  • Meanwhile, Montenegro’s government made the inexplicable move of making public the personal data – including names and home addresses – of all those obliged to be in self-isolation, a gross infringement on the right to privacy.
  • Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, also wasted no time in flexing his newfound powers. Last weekend, he casually threatened his citizens by posting a video supposedly showing Spanish police beating and chasing people down the streets, with an outrageously inappropriate message “either respect social distancing… or you will also be running.” Except, the video was from a political protest, weeks ago – in Algeria, not Spain.
  • Speaking of “fake news,” we have received reports from partners in Cambodia that over a dozen people have already been jailed, or “re-educated,” for allegedly sharing false social media posts about the pandemic – a measure that we fear is prone to be replicated across the world, not least among E.U. states.
  • Namely, Hungary’s nationalist government recently passed legislation to parliament that would punish anyone who publicizes “fake news” that interferes with the “successful defense” of public health, with up to five years in prison. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/07/good-example-of-authoritarian-abuse-of-covid-19-emergency-hungary/]..

Civil society, therefore, finds itself in an incredibly delicate situation.

On the one hand, there is an understanding that the severity of the crisis calls for certain limitations on our fundamental rights. Only national authorities possess the legitimacy to enforce such constraints and the capacity to tackle the virus through strict health and safety measures. We have no alternative but to trust our respective governments to navigate us, and their intentions to save lives and minimize the virus’ impact. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to protect partners across the world, whose fight for democracy and fundamental human rights will be further strained as emergency powers, enforced curfews, and restrictions on free speech come into place. Some measures may be necessary, but others are clearly not – and all must be removed once this is all over. Further, using the pandemic to harass human rights defenders or abuse the rule of law for political gains, as we are already witnessing, is simply unacceptable. We will monitor your moves, keep you accountable, and call you out when the line has been crossed – this is our duty. Widespread trust that has been vested in governments – all governments – amounts to a historic responsibility. Civil society has reached out its hand; do not let us down.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post._

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

April 9, 2020

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak: Human rights defenders & civic freedoms

Public health measures and expanded government powers amid global pandemic pose added threats to freedoms and rights of human rights defenders, including those focusing on business-related human rights impacts. Some governments, and other actors, are using this crisis to attack defenders in new ways, stifle civic freedoms, and push through restrictive measures. Defenders become easier to target, when they isolate, which is compounded by the loss of protective accompaniment and the lack of media attention to their situation. In several countries, rural and indigenous defenders have lost their livelihoods and are experiencing lock-downs – including those in conflict zones – and are less able to raise concerns about harmful business projects as a result. There are also reports of factories using the pandemic to justify dismissal of labour rights defenders. Tech companies may also violate the right to privacy of defenders, as they cooperate with governments to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Some companies are keeping their businesses active, for example in Peru and Colombia, despite the local opposition – and some sectors are likely to use the crisis to lobby for lower regulations, as we are already seeing in Indonesia and the United States, which could lead to more tension and violence in the future. This crisis also underlines that businesses benefit from defenders being able to work freely: this is now more evident than ever, as silencing of health professionals that tried to raise alarm on COVID-19 early, helped turn this ‘potentially containable threat into a global calamity‘, with enormous consequences for businesses and the economy.

The Centre has a section that features the latest news on how the pandemic and the response to it is affecting human rights defenders that raise concerns about businesses, and their impacts on the rights to food, access water, labour rights, environment, housing and health. It also highlights impacts on fundamental freedoms, such as freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, that these defenders need to be able to organize and work. Finally, it will be tracking new ways of protesting and organizing by these defenders and groups amidst the pandemic, and new demands in response to it.

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See  In Depth Area for more on COVID-19’s implications for business & human rights

 

Policy response by human rights to COVID-19: the Human Rights Foundation

April 5, 2020

Further in the series of posts on this topic: On 13-14 April 2020, the New York based Human Rights Foundation will host COVIDCon, a virtual Oslo Freedom Forum event focused on how tyranny sparked and is exploiting the novel coronavirus pandemic to crack down on civil liberties. For earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

This two-day event, open to global audiences, will feature presentations and panels about the current pandemic and its relationship to state censorship, disinformation, surveillance, and the future of civil liberties. COVIDCon sessions will showcase the difference in the responses of authoritarian regimes and democratic governments to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Confirmed speakers include former Chinese prisoner of conscience Yang Jianli; Iranian journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad; Russian democracy advocate Garry Kasparov; recently expelled Wall Street Journal deputy China bureau chief Josh Chin; entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant; Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong; futurist and “After On” author Rob Reid; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum; Ideas Beyond Borders’ Melissa Chen; China-U.S. expert Kyle Bass; and others.

Day 1 of the conference will focus on how tyranny sparked the pandemic. Sessions will include:

  • Censorship in China: The Pandemic Spark
  • How Democracies and Dictatorships are Reacting to the Virus
  • China: Savior or Culprit?
  • Reporting on COVID-19: State Censorship and Surveillance
  • What the Pandemic has Revealed about Chinese Economic Dominance
  • The Increasing Risk of Synthetic Biology

Day 2 of the conference will focus on how tyranny exploits the pandemic. Sessions will include:

  • Iran’s Criminal Negligence: COVID-19’s Gateway to the Middle East
  • Pandemic Power Grab: State Abuse of Emergency Laws
  • Trampling on the Rule of Law and Undermining Public Health
  • Keeping Protest Movements Alive During The Pandemic
  • How the Pandemic Changes the Relationship Between Citizen, Technology, and State

REGISTER

https://mailchi.mp/dcbac9797509/authoritarian-regimes-ill-equipped-for-public-health-emergencies-287692?e=f80cec329e

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: Witness

April 5, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of the coming weeks. Here the one by Sam Gregory of

…..The immediate implications of coronavirus – quarantine, enhanced emergency powers, restrictions on sharing information –  make it harder for individuals all around the world to document and share the realities of government repression and private actors’ violations.  In states of emergency, authoritarian governments in particular can operate with further impunity, cracking down on free speech and turning to increasingly repressive measures. The threat of coronavirus and its justifying power provides cover for rights-violating laws and measures that history tells us may long outlive the actual pandemic. And the attention on coronavirus distracts focus from rights issues that are both compounded by the impact of the virus and cannot claim the spotlight now.

At WITNESS we are adapting and responding, led by what we learn and hear from the communities of activism, human rights and civic journalism with which we collaborate closely across the world. We will continue to ensure that our guidance on direct documentation helps people document the truth even under trying circumstances and widespread misinformation. We will draw on our experience curating voices and information from closed situations to make sense in confusion. We will provide secure online training while options for physical meeting are curtailed. We will provide meaningful localized guidance on how to document and verify amid an information pandemic; and we will ensure that long-standing struggles are not neglected now when they need it most.

In this crisis moment, it is critical that we enhance the abilities and defend the rights of people who document and share critical realities from the ground. Across the three core thematic issues we currently work on, the need is critical. For issues such as video as evidence from conflict zones, these wars continue on and reach their apex even as coronavirus takes all the attention away. We need only look to the current situation in Idlib, Yemen or in other states of conflict in the Middle East.

For other issues, like state violence against minorities, many people already live in a state of emergency.

Coronavirus response in Complexo do Alemão favela, Rio de Janeiro (credit: Raull Santiago)

Favela residents in Brazil have lived with vastly elevated levels of police killings of civilians for years, and now face a parallel health emergency. Meanwhile immigrant communities in the US have lived in fear of ICE for years and must now weigh their physical health against their physical safety and family integrity. Many communities – in Kashmir and in Rakhine State, Burma – live without access to the internet on an ongoing basis and must still try and share what is happening. And for those who fight for their land rights and environmental justice, coronavirus is both a threat to vulnerable indigenous and poor communities lacking health care, sanitation and state support as well as a powerful distraction from their battle against structural injustice.

A critical part of WITNESS’ strategy is our work to ensure technology companies actions and government regulation of technology are accountable to the most vulnerable members of our global society – marginalized populations globally, particularly those outside the US and Europe, as well as human rights defenders and civic journalists. As responses to coronavirus kick-in there are critical implications in how both civic technology and commercial technology are now being deployed and will be deployed.

Already, coronavirus has acted as an accelerant – like fuel on the fire – to existing trends in technology. Some of these have potentially profound negative impacts for human rights values, human rights documentation and human rights defenders; others may hold a silver lining.

My colleague Dia Kayyali has already written about the sudden shift to much broader algorithmic content moderation that took place last week as Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube sent home their human moderators. Over the past years, we’ve seen the implications of both a move to algorithmic moderation and a lack of will and resourcing: from hate speech staying on platforms in vulnerable societies, to the removal critical war crimes evidence at scale from YouTube, to a lack of accountability for decisions made under the guise of countering terrorist and violent extremist content. But in civil society we did not anticipate that such a shift to more broad algorithmic control would happen so rapidly in such a short period of time. We must closely monitor and push for this change not to adversely affect societies and critical struggles worldwide in a moment when they are already threatened by isolation and increased government repression. As Dia suggests, now is the moment for these companies to finally make their algorithms and content moderation processes more transparent to critical civil society experts, as well as reset on how they support and treat the human beings who do the dirty work of moderation.

WITNESS’s work on misinformation and disinformation spans a decade of supporting the production of truthful, trustworthy content in war zones, crises and long-standing struggles for rights. Most recently we have focused on the emerging threats from deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media that enable increasingly realistic fakery of what looks like a real person saying or doing something they never did.

We’ve led the first global expert meetings in Brazil, Southern Africa and Southeast Asia on what a rights-respecting, global responses should look like in terms of understanding threats and solutions. Feedback from these sessions has stressed the need for attention to a continuum of audiovisual misinformation including ‘shallowfakes’, the simpler forms of miscontextualized and lightly edited videos that dominate attempts to confuse and deceive. Right now, social media platforms are unleashing a series of responses to misinformation around Coronavirus – from highlighting authoritative health information from country-level and international sources, to curating resources, offering help centers, and taking down a wider range of content that misinforms, deceives or price gouges including even leading politicians, such as President Bolsonaro in Brazil. The question we must ask is what we want to see internet companies continue to do after the crisis: what should they do for a wider range of misinformation and disinformation outside of health – and what do we not want them to do? We’ll be sharing more about this in the coming weeks.

And where can we find a technological silver lining? One area may be the potential to discover and explore new ways to act in solidarity and agency with each other online. A long-standing area of work at WITNESS is how to use ‘co-presence’ and livestreaming to bridge social distances and help people witness snd support one another when physical proximity is not possible.

Our Mobil-Eyes Us project supported favela-based activists to use live video to better engage their audiences to be with them, and provide meaningful support. In parts of the world that benefit from broadband internet access, and the absence of arbitrary shutdowns, and the ability to physically isolate, we are seeing an explosion of experimentation in how to operate better in a world that is both physically distanced, yet still socially proximate. We should learn from this and drive experimentation and action in ensuring that even as our freedom of assembly in physical space is curtailed for legitimate (and illegitimate) reasons, our ability to assemble online in meaningful action is not curtailed but enhanced.

In moments of crisis good and bad actors alike will try and push the agenda that they want. In this moment of acceleration and crisis, WITNESS is committed to ensuring an agenda firmly grounded, and led by a human rights vision and the wants and needs of vulnerable communities and human rights defenders worldwide.

Coronavirus and human rights: Preparing WITNESS’s response

 

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: RFK

April 3, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of the coming weeks. Here the one by Kerry Kennedy of

 

 

 

 

…Nearly 52 years later, it is just as imperative that we take to heart his message to “remember those who live with us,” that our societal response to the coronavirus pandemic be tethered to the same strong sense of equity and social justice of which my father spoke.

In the midst of this global pandemic, that means:

Remembering the most vulnerable—those without a stable or permanent home, those with disabilities, and those without a safety net who have no ability to work from the shelter of their homes or take time off, by ensuring that everyone has access to adequate, affordable healthcare. Those of us who can afford to stock our pantries with reserves must not hoard, instead ensuring that local food depositories and soup kitchens are sufficiently funded and supplied.

Remembering the prisoners—who are unable to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of illness. At Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, we echo the increasing calls to release people being detained pretrial and in immigration detention, starting with the most vulnerable, to ease spread of the virus in crowded, unjust lockups. Jail and immigration detention should never equate to death sentences, and we hope that the current public health crisis will help us see with new eyes how these systems of mass human caging are and have always been so incredibly cruel, dangerous, violent, and unnecessary.

Remembering the truth tellers—as national governments increasingly declare states of emergency to bolster their responses to the pandemic and save lives, we must keep a watchful eye, given the rise of authoritarianism, to ensure that civic space is protected. Governments around the world have made a practice of using such states of emergency to curtail the legitimate activity of human rights defenders. These actions, such as China’s mandate that citizens carry cell phones so they can be constantly tracked, followed by Israel’s announcement that its citizens must do the same, must comply with international law mandating timeliness and sunset clauses, proportionality and nondiscrimination.

Remembering the first responders—our public health officials, the workers stocking the shelves of our grocery stores, and all others who are ensuring that our basic needs are met are putting their lives on the line. The government must do its utmost to make sure that these human rights defenders are armed with necessary resources and protections, including economic security, to stem the outbreak and stay safe.

International human rights law offers us a blueprint for action, reminding us that all citizens of the world have inalienable rights—no matter their race, gender, background, income level, or sexual orientation.

….We are all facing this unprecedented crisis together.see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/covid-19-spread-leads-to-reactions-and-messages-of-solidarity/

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/coronavirus-statement

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: ISHR

April 3, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many human rights organisations have been formulating a policy response. While I cannot be complete or undertake comparisons, I will try and give some examples in the course of the coming weeks. If there are special ones you would like to draw my attention to, please do not hesitate. Here is one from Phil Lynch, the Director of the International Service for Human Rights:

 

Staying true to our values is never more important than during times of hardship or crisis. At ISHR, there are five values driving our response to the COVID-19 global pandemic: solidarity, dynamism, alertness, wellbeing and hope.

Solidarity

…Solidarity is an essential value at this time. At ISHR this means showing solidarity with colleagues – with a number of staff volunteering to help and alleviate the workload of others who may have reduced capacity – as well as solidarity with human rights defenders, with our programme staff reaching out to national and regional-level partners to discuss their wellbeing, situation, priorities and needs. Please do reach out to us if there are any ways we can provide support to you at this vital time. In addition to showing solidarity, we’ve also greatly appreciated receiving solidarity. I’ve personally benefited from the wisdom, insights and advice of other NGO directors in terms of their response to this crisis, and discovered the musical talents of neighbours as we’ve gathered on our balconies every evening to clap and sing our gratitude to the doctors, health care professionals and sanitation workers on the frontlines of this crisis.

Dynamism

This crisis has highlighted the importance of dynamism, adaptability and planning for uncertainty, as well as the limitations of log frames, tightly earmarked funds, and donor restrictions on building organisational reserves.

At ISHR we are determined to use this crisis as an opportunity to innovate and to test and expand new ways of working. Last year, thanks to the support of several donors – including the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands – we launched the ISHR Academy – an interactive, online platform to build the capacity and skills of human rights defenders to leverage the UN human rights system to contribute to national level change. With a significantly increased demand for online training and strategic advocacy support, we’re currently working on new modules for the Academy, as well as translation into Spanish. With further financial support we’d love to develop even more modules and in additional languages. This would increase access to resources, strategic advice and tailored advocacy support for human rights defenders from all regions. The suspension, postponement and cancellation of a significant number of meetings and sessions of international and regional human rights mechanisms has starkly exposed the need for such bodies to develop means by which human rights defenders can more effectively engage and participate remotely. This is relevant not only now in response to the COVID-19 crisis, but in the longer term in response to the climate crisis and the imperative of reducing travel-related emissions. Effective means of virtual participation are also critical for defenders who lack the resources to travel to Geneva or New York, as well as those for whom travel may be restricted or banned by repressive governments. ISHR programme staff are actively engaged on these issues – leading and participating in strategic discussions and the formulation of practical recommendations as to how to use this crisis as an opportunity to make human rights mechanisms more accessible, effective and protective for defenders worldwide.

Alertness

ISHR is not the only body looking at ways to use this crisis as an opportunity. Unfortunately, some governments will use this emergency as a subterfuge to more permanently increase surveillance, as well as restrict fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, protest and movement. Alertness is therefore a critical value at this time. We must be vigilant to ensure that any laws or regulations enacted in response to COVID-19 are for the legitimate purpose of protecting public health, and that any restrictions they impose are reasonable, proportionate and strictly time bound….With persons in detention at particular risk, ISHR staff are also using the opportunity to push for the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, including several with underlying health conditions in States including China, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Wellbeing

..All ISHR staff have worked remotely since at least 13 March, with exceptions only for staff that need to attend the Geneva office for short periods for essential functions. Staff are working from various locations and states of confinement in Switzerland, France, New York, London, Brussels, Abidjan and Jakarta. We have agreed a complete restriction on work-related travel, with both this restriction and the work from home arrangements remaining in place for the indefinite future.

….Financial security is imperative at this time and I am so impressed and thankful for the initiative of major donors such as the Sigrid Rausing Trust and the Open Society Foundations to proactively reaffirm their funding commitment, to indicate that they will be highly flexible in the use of funds and reporting requirements, and to invite us to reach out if we need further support. Best practice at this time of unprecedented uncertainty is to enable the conversion of project or earmarked funds to core or unrestricted funds. I am working with the Board to evaluate and prepare for a range of scenarios, ensuring the long term sustainability of ISHR. Your contributions as private donors will be vital in this regard – every donation helps!

Hope

The final value motivating ISHR at this time is that of hope, which we draw from many places.

We take hope from the doctors, health care professionals and sanitation workers who bravely and tirelessly provide vital care and support.

….

I wish you, your families, your loved ones and your colleagues are and remain healthy, safe and well.

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See also my earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/covid-19-spread-leads-to-reactions-and-messages-of-solidarity/

http://www.ishr.ch/news/covid-19-focusing-wellbeing-solidarity-dynamism-alertness-and-hope

More on how COVID-19 affects human rights work..

March 20, 2020

The Corona virus relates to human rights in many ways.

One is of course that emergency measures are abused or used for other purposes. The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, indicates that emergency measures tend to become permanent and underlines ‘emergency or not, states must reach the same threshold of legality, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality for each measure taken’. Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director, Ken Roth, called upon states to ensure that COVID-19 is ‘reason to reaffirm, not abandon, everyone’s rights’. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/17/covid-19-emergencies-should-not-be-shortcut-to-silencing-human-rights-defenders/.

Another asepect is that the COVID-19 context makes it very difficult to operate for non-governmental organisations [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/20/covid-19-starts-to-affects-aid-and-civil-society/]. Florian Irminger, of Penal Reform International (PRI), in a piece in Medium on 19 March 2020 warns that …...charities will fall out of donations very quickly, at a time their services are more needed than ever. Right now, even the best intended of us tend to stop donations to charities. Foodbanks, shelters for victims of domestic violence, health charities or charities working with prisoners and their relatives will rapidly reach a cash-crisis.

Such service providing organisations will aim at being able to continue delivering their services to those most vulnerable of us. …..Organisations addressing human rights violations are more than ever needed to monitor situations in areas affected by COVID-19 outbreak…and …COVID-19 represents a high risk to populations in prisons. ……Detention facilities are always a risky place in regard to infectious deceases and are now more exposed than ever. Similarly for other human rights organisations, to be able to continue to operate where we are most needed right now means we must divert resources from other projects and invest in protecting their staff working in the frontlines….. COVID-19 must lead governments to empower and support civil society to continue its work. ..In a funding landscape for human rights and humanitarian NGOs largely based on project grants, civil society has little flexibility to adapt to external events hampering its ability to operate in certain territories and to deploy its staff. In other words, just like the for-profit-sector, not-for-profit organisations see their revenue decrease and have costs associated to a crisis like this one, but do not have reserves and little ability to divert costs associated to a specific project to address the new challenges.

Many private donors have already adapted their grant making. One of them, Ford Foundation, should be applauded for strengthening even further its flexibility on the use of resources by its grantees. Fritt Ord, a Norwegian foundation specialised in promoting freedom of expression, announced it would invest 40 million Norwegian kroner in its programmes, at a time the kind of human rights work it wishes to support will face financial difficulties.

PRI’s briefing note on COVID-19

View at Medium.com

International Women’s Day 2020: Joint Statement at 43rd session of UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2020

Many organisations, especially NGOs, used the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020 to highlight work carried out by women human rights defenders. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/27/women-human-rights-defenders-in-focus-at-43rd-human-rights-council/. Here an example of how 18 NGOs came together for a Joint Statement during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council

The speaker was: Paola Salwan Daher, Center for Reproductive Rights: