Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

“HRCnet” explained

June 23, 2020

HRCnet was established in 2006 to enhance NGO engagement with the Human Rights Council and to strengthen the Council’s impact and influence on the ground. Since then, HRCnet members working in coordination and solidarity, or as a network as a whole, have contributed significantly to some of the most important initiatives and outputs of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

HRCnet’s membership comprises 16 NGOs and organisations working at the international level and across almost all regions:

Africa

  • African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (The Gambia)
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) (Uganda)
  • Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (Zimbabwe)
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (Togo)

Asia-Pacific

  • Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China)
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM ASIA) (Thailand)
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India)
  • Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)

Latin America

  • Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) (Argentina)
  • Conectas Direitos Humanos (Brazil)

Middle East and North Africa

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt)
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt)

International

  • CIVICUS (South Africa)
  • Human Rights Watch (USA)
  • International Service for Human Rights (Switzerland)
  • Open Society Foundations (USA)

HRCnet members have substantially shaped debates and made influential policy proposals on country situations, as well as thematic and institutional issues. HRCnet works to:

  • Safeguard civil society:  through securing actions by key actors that have, in a number of cases, assisted in the release of human rights defenders from detention or in alleviating pressure on NGOs.
  • Enhance access: by assisting rights holders from the Global South in engaging with the international human rights system and strengthening capacity to influence States, and harness civil society, from all regions.
  • Amplify impact: by facilitating coordination and collaboration between international and regional NGOs.
  • Promote accountability: seeking the establishment of commissions of inquiry or other independent expert mechanisms to investigate and promote accountability for gross human rights violations.
  • Enhance scrutiny: through the mandating of new Special Procedures to monitor human rights and document violations.
  • Strengthen protection:  through the establishment of new Special Procedures and other mechanisms.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/01/welcoming-the-new-year-with-civil-society-in-geneva/

For more information, please contact Fabiana Leibl, HRCnet Coordinator, f.leibl@ishr.ch

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrcnet

Breaking: EU Court rules against Hungary’s foreign funding law

June 19, 2020

The EU Reporterof 19 June 2020 comes with the good news that on 18 June, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recognized that Hungary’s 2017 law “on the Transparency of Organisations Supported from Abroad” (i.e. receiving foreign funds) unduly restricts the freedom of movement of capitals within the European Union (EU) and amounts to unjustified interference with fundamental rights, including respect for private and family life, protection of personal data and freedom of association, as well citizens’ right to participate in public life. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/20/250-ngos-address-letter-to-hungarian-parliament-regarding-restriction-on-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders/]

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) welcomes this decision and hopes it will put an end to the Hungarian government’s constant attempts to delegitimise civil society organisations and impede their work.

It concerns decision (Case C-78/18, European Commission v. Hungary, Transparency of Associations).

This decision is more than welcome! It strongly asserts that stigmatizing and intimidating NGOs receiving funding from abroad and obstructing their work is not accepted in the European Union,” said Marta Pardavi, Co-Chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), member organisation of FIDH and of OMCT’s SOS-Torture Network. “Today’s ruling is a victory not only for Hungarian civil society organisations, who have campaigned fiercely against this law since its adoption, but for European civil society as a whole. It is a clear reaffirmation of the fundamental role played by civil society in a democratic State founded on the rule of law.”

Hungary should now withdraw this anti-NGO law and conform with the CJEU’s decision,” added OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

https://www.eureporter.co/eu-2/2020/06/19/eus-top-court-rules-that-hungarys-anti-ngo-law-unduly-restricts-fundamental-rights

Sweden’s aid to Cambodia refocuses on civil society

June 17, 2020

Sweden’s Ambassador to Cambodia Bjorn Haggmark (left) meets with Kem Sokha, leader of the dissolved main opposition CNRP, at Sokha’s home, in this photograph posted to Sokha’s Facebook page on May 19, 2020.
The Cambodia Daily

On 13 June 2020 this newspaper reported that Sweden said it would phase out bilateral development funding to Cambodia by the middle of next year in order to focus aid on promoting human rights, democracy and rule of law in the country following severe rights restrictions in recent years.

In a press statement on Friday, the Swedish Embassy in Phnom Penh said its government decided on Thursday to shift its funding away from bilateral aid to the Cambodian government and toward programs that aim to develop democracy in the Asia Pacific region, which would also aid Cambodia.

The statement said Sweden would still support civil society, human rights defenders and democracy advocates in Cambodia, though it did not clarify which organizations may qualify for assistance.

In full: https://vodenglish.news/sweden-to-refocus-cambodia-aid-due-to-rights-concerns/

https://english.cambodiadaily.com/politics/sweden-to-refocus-cambodia-aid-due-to-rights-concerns-165383/

Coalition of 187 global organisations issues joint statement re the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on LGBTI

June 11, 2020

Drafted by ILGA World, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), COC, OutRight Action International, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights (RFSL), GATE and ARC International, the statement was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in advance of its 44th session on 22 June 2020.

The statement addresses several issues, including:

  • the right to health;
  • the rise of stigma and discrimination and scapegoating of LGBTI persons;
  • access to housing, water and sanitation;
  • the right to work and impacts on livelihood; and
  • civic space restrictions.

While acknowledging that actions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are urgent and necessary, signatories of the statement urge UN Member States and stakeholders to ensure that international human rights obligations are complied with, and specific vulnerabilities of LGBTI persons are taken into account, during the implication of such emergency response measures.

Five key recommendations to States and stakeholders are included in the statement, including:

  • ensure accessibility of health care and services to every person, including sexual and reproductive health, without discrimination of any kind;
  • comply with international human rights laws and standards when implementing emergency measures, following requirements of legality, necessity, proportionality and non-discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC);
  • guarantee that shelters are inclusive for all persons regardless of their SOGIESC and implement measures allowing LGBTI persons to report violence and discrimination suffered in a private context, including at homes and shelters;
  • ensure that emergency measures to address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, as well as recovery plans, are inclusive to LGBTI persons – especially to trans, older and homeless LGBTI persons; and
  • ensure access to national, regional and international systems of accountability. States and stakeholders should implement lines of action designed to sustain and ensure the continuity of the engagement of civil society and human rights defenders in UN bodies and mechanisms.

In its conclusion, the statement urges authorities ‘to ensure that this public health emergency will neither exacerbate existing misconceptions, prejudices, inequalities or structural barriers, nor lead to increased violence and discrimination against persons with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics.’

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/18/17-may-was-international-day-against-homophobia-covid-19-makes-things-worse/

https://www.curvemag.com/us/ibahri-signs-joint-statement-on-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-lgbti-persons-human-rights/

India: complex picture growing darker

May 3, 2020

Government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have heightened the dangers to human rights across the world. In this podcast by Front Line Defenders, four human-rights defenders active in various parts of India share the challenges and concerns they have confronted since the start of the country-wide lockdown. The four are Gayatri Kandhadai, the Asia policy coordinator at the Association for Progressive Communications; Anindya Hajra, from the Pratyay Gender Trust in Kolkata; Sadam Hanjabam, from Ya All, an LGBT organisation in Manipur; and a human-rights defender in Kashmir who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of security.

Condemning the Modi government’s “misuse” of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) during the Covid-19 crisis, more than 60 human rights activists, student leaders and academics, in a solidarity statement, have said that the recent arrests of human rights defenders across India have been taking place in order to save the “real culprits” involved in inciting communal and caste disturbances in the recent past. UAPA is being invoked, alleges the statement, to “engineer the attempt to save indictable people affiliated to the right-wing ruling party like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are still at large”, the statement says, adding, “We firmly believe that the extremely draconian and regressive amended UAPA law has been strategically put in place to exterminate both dissent and dissidents during the lockdown.” For the text and signatories Click here.

“.org” saved – human rights defenders happy

May 1, 2020

On Friday, 1 May 2020 announced – with justified satisfaction – a ‘Stunning Victory’ in the efforts to #SaveDotOrg from private equity takeover. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/27/the-favourite-domain-of-human-rights-ngos-org-at-risk/]
Critics of the proposed private equity takeover of the .org domain held a protest in Los Angeles in January 2020.

In a move celebrated by advocacy groups across the globe as “a major victory for the millions of nonprofits, civil society organizations, and individuals who make .org their home online,” a body that oversees web addresses on Thursday blocked a takeover of the top-level domain by the private equity firm Ethos Capital. The decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board to reject the $1.1 billion deal, announced in November 2019, came ahead of a May 4 deadline and followed months of mounting concerns that the takeover could lead to censorship from corporate interests, increased costs, and service issues.

…ICANN’s board explained the decision with a blog post which said in part that “after completing its evaluation, the ICANN board finds that the public interest is better served in withholding consent as a result of various factors that create unacceptable uncertainty over the future of the third largest [generic top-level domain] registry.”

Critics of the attempted private equity takeover—who came together for a global #SaveDotOrg campaign—included NGOs, tech leaders, U.S. lawmakers, and U.N. special rapporteurs. According to the tech nonprofit NTEN, which managed SaveDotOrg.org, nearly 900 groups and 64,000 individuals signed various petitions opposing the sale.

CIVICUS and 600 NGOs: “don’t violate human rights while responding to COVID-19”

April 23, 2020

Six hundred NGOs signed a statement saying “We are in this together, don’t violate human rights while responding to COVID-19“:

As governments are undertaking extraordinary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, we recognise and commend the efforts states are making to manage the well-being of their populations and protect human rights, such as the rights to life and health. However, we urge states to implement these measures in the context of the rule of law: all responses to COVID-19 must be evidence-based, legal, necessary to protect public health, non-discriminatory, time-bound and proportionate.

All responses to COVID-19 must be deeply rooted in these cross-cutting principles: respect of human dignity, independence and autonomy of the person, non-discrimination and equality, and respect of diversities and inclusion. Any response must comply with international standards on emergency legislation and respect human rights and the rule of law. Extraordinary measures are legitimate only under exceptional circumstances, such as when there is an immediate threat to public health. These measures should be used in a necessary and proportionate manner and should be aligned to international human rights law.

To date, there are over two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world. The next few weeks are crucial as measures put in place by states will determine the course of the pandemic. Resources will come under severe strain and there may be more shortages of personnel and protective equipment which will put countries under immense pressure. More cases may be reported which will lead to stricter measures being implemented by some states. Despite the challenges faced by governments across the globe, responses to the pandemic should not be used as a pretext to restrict civic space.

We are particularly concerned by states that are abusing emergency powers to place restrictions on fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and the right to access information. Across the globe, journalists, human rights defenders and other independent voices are threatened and punished for speaking out about the extent of the pandemic in their countries, or the measures adopted in response to COVID-19. These countries include Tajikistan, Niger, Egypt, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Bangladesh and China. Other governments are adopting legislative measures to curtail fundamental freedoms, such as in Hungary, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Philippines. Some states are abusing their powers to suppress peaceful assemblies, including in Hong Kong.

Governments including India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, have enforced internet restrictions and shutdowns which prevent many people from accessing vital information about how to protect themselves against the virus. These restrictions also negatively affect the growing number of people who are working remotely so that they can practice physical separation.

Access to information is critical in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Governments must proactively share key information about the pandemic as soon as it is available, such as important decisions, the number of cases, availability of equipment and supplies, and clear advice. Information should be widely available to everyone, not just selected government officials or other intermediaries, as is the case in Uzbekistan. This ensures that individuals, communities and health workers can react quickly and responsibly to new information.

Migrants in detention centers, for example in Mexico and Greece, are living in dire conditions without access to adequate hygiene facilities. It is also impossible for them to practice physical distancing due to overcrowding. All asylum seekers who arrived in Greece since 1 March 2020 have been denied access to asylum. We commend states such as Portugal which have temporarily lifted restrictions on asylum seekers with pending applications. This ensures they have access to healthcare and social security in line with the rest of the population.

Women and children who experience or are at risk of domestic violence may be forced to remain in dangerous situations with an abusive partner or relative. At the same time, access to places of safety and support services may be reduced as shelters are impacted by public health measures and criminal justice resources are diverted.

We are concerned by governments confining persons with disabilities within institutions in several countries including France. This contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and it places persons with disabilities at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

We are concerned by governments that have imposed restrictions leading to human rights violations against LGBT+ persons, including in Peru, Uganda, and Colombia. Governments need to ensure that their policies are inclusive and that all public officials are trained on LGBT+ rights.

Several countries have released prisoners as part of their response to curb the spread of the pandemic. These actions are commendable as congested detention facilities and prisons are high risk areas. We urge countries including Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, India, and the UAE to include human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and prisoners of conscience among those being released.

We are further concerned by the growing practice of monitoring and closely controlling people’s movements, even at the cost of their privacy. Efforts to contain the virus must not be used to expand systems of invasive digital surveillance. Israel and Taiwan are notable examples of how technological surveillance is being used in this context, and how disproportionate the impact of such measures may be when they are not strictly defined and limited.

The unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 present an opportunity for states and civil society organisations to work together to defeat the virus.

We urge states to be transparent and accountable: this will ensure that any measures adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be effective. Specifically, we urge states to:

    1. Ensure all measures adopted in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic fully comply with states’ international human rights obligations, and that any associated restrictions on human rights are necessary, proportionate, inclusive and time-limited. Also maintain regular contact with civil society to ensure that new measures are in line with international standards.
    2. Ensure that COVID-19 is not used as a pretext for imposing unjustified restrictions on civil society; it must not be used to target human rights defenders and journalists, and to facilitate authoritarian power grabs.
    3. Ensure the pandemic is not used as an excuse to impose forced returns or refoulement in violation of international human rights law; or as a pretext to suspend or derogate from the fundamental right to seek asylum.
    4. Ensure that the independent judiciary, and not other branches of government, decides on any measures limiting the access and operation of courts. Allow independent courts to evaluate any unlawful imposition or unjustified extension of emergency measures, or the unlawful curtailment of the rule of law.
    5. Ensure that judiciaries and other relevant state authorities give particular consideration to urgent cases, where delay is most likely to cause irreparable harm, or where protective measures are required. This refers to: migrants (including asylum-seekers and refugees as well as internal migrants), women and children, LGBT+ communities, older persons, persons with disabilities, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.
    6. Release detainees; immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience. This will ease pressure on the prison system and reduce the chance of the prison population, and the population more broadly, of contracting COVID-19.
    7. Pay special attention to traditionally marginalised or vulnerable groups and ensure access to appropriate support, resources and protection mechanisms. Be aware of any issues relating to stigmatisation, exclusion, violence, hatred, labelling and the targeting of victims of COVID-19.
    8. Ensure that no one is left behind in the national policies and strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure policies are inclusive and effectively protect against discrimination on any ground. Consider persons with a disability and make sure all information is delivered in accessible formats.
    9. Apply a gender perspective in all policies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    10. Maintain reliable and unfettered access to the internet so that all have the right to access and share information. End all unjustified interference with internet connectivity.
    11. Protect the role of independent media outlets and public interest journalism. Ensure that measures to contain the virus, as well as the fight against disinformation, are not used as a pretext to muzzle the media or regulate media freedoms.
    12. Ensure any use of surveillance to track the spread of coronavirus is limited in purpose and time and abides by human rights safeguards. States should adhere to the rights of free expression, privacy, non-discrimination, confidentiality and protection of journalist sources.

To see the NGOs that have endorsed, follow the link below:

——–

See also:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/10/policy-response-from-human-rights-ngos-to-covid-19-civicus-protocol/

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4379-civil-society-s-call-to-states-we-are-in-this-together-don-t-violate-human-rights-while-responding-to-covid-19

https://www.newsweek.com/governments-accused-using-pandemic-threaten-human-rights-1499469

Joint NGO statement on civil and political rights at First Virtual Informal Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19

April 15, 2020

In the context of policy response by Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19 this joint statement should not be missing: On 9 April 2020 Reliefweb published the Joint NGO statement on civil and political rights at First Virtual Informal Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on COVID-19

This joint statement on the protection of civil and political rights in the context of the COVID-19 crisis was delivered on behalf of 33 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during the first virtual informal briefing with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 9 April 2020. It was delivered in conjunction with a separate joint statement on economic, social and cultural rights (IOR 40/2124/2020).

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/14/un-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-powers-in-time-of-covid-19-pandemic/

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