Posts Tagged ‘Open Society Foundations’

2017 (2): Why the Space for Civic Engagement Is Shrinking

January 11, 2017

This is the second item addressing the world of human right defenders in 2017. I do this with an ‘old piece’ by Chris Stone, President of the Open Society Foundations, dating back to 21 December 2015 saying that across the globe, governments are shutting down spaces for civic engagement. Something that indeed has become evident.

It starts with the short video clip above in which George Soros, Binaifer Nowrojee, Mburu Gitu, and other experts discuss why this is happening—and how civil society can unite to prevent it.

All around the world, active citizenship is under attack and the space for civic engagement is closing—not just in countries that have struggled under repressive or autocratic governments, but also in democracies with longstanding traditions of supporting freedom of expression. There are many different reasons for this shrinking of the public space.

In some countries, especially newer democracies or countries undergoing political transitions, those in power are fearful of civic activism. Seeing its power, officials in governments with no previous experience regulating political protests or public debates have come down with a heavy hand, erring on the side of preventing change rather than encouraging it.

In other countries, including France and the United States—partly in response to the fear of terrorism—well-established civil liberties have been suspended or cast aside in the name of security. Such measures, from mass surveillance to martial law, reduce the space for civic life, the space where citizens do the work of improving our communities and societies.

Civil society is enormous in its size and diversity. We are members of the media, for-profit businesses, volunteer associations, political parties, trade unions, faith communities, private foundations, and nonprofit organizations. If we are united at all, we are united by our work outside of government and the state to advance the common good—even though we have different ideas of what that looks like.

Because the space we need for this work is closing, we must come together, understand our mutual dependence and interrelatedness, and support each other in this work. We must forge a new solidarity.

Source: Why the Space for Civic Engagement Is Shrinking

see other posts:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/civil-society-organisations/ 

We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders…and to counter the anti-human rights mood

December 12, 2016

Almost 20 years ago the UN adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, but they face more danger than ever, say Iva Dobichina and James Savage (resp. of the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Global Human Rights) in a post on 10 December 2016 in the Guardian. “We must find new ways to protect human rights defenders” say the authors in an excellent article so rich and – in my view correct – in its analysis of the current climate that I reproduce it below in full. What is perhaps missing from the piece is a call for more sustained action by the worldwide human rights movement to improve its ‘performance’ in the battle for public opinion. A lot of the regression in the situation of human rights defenders seems to go hand-in-hand with an increase in public support for rights-averse policies (“Around the globe, a tectonic shift towards autocratic and semi-authoritarian rule by law, and the pernicious influence of corporate, criminal and fundamentalist non-state actors, has put human rights activists on the defensive and let rights violators go on the offence” state the authors correctly). To counter this we have to come up with equally convincing use of the modern media, especially through professional-level visualisation and ideas for campaigns that can broaden and galvanize the human rights movement. Read the rest of this entry »