Posts Tagged ‘Open Society Foundations’

Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations, publishes an important opinion

July 22, 2021

On July 21, 2021, Project Syndicate 2020 published his piece called” The Fight for Open Societies Begins Again”:

Democracy is back on policymakers’ minds. US President Joe Biden plans to host a summit on the theme, and invitations to a host of events on democracy and human rights fill my inbox.

This renewed focus is not good news. Rather, it reflects the erosion of both democracy and respect for human rights in recent years.

Freedom House reports that less than 20% of the world’s population now live in what it categorizes as fully free societies, the lowest share in more than a quarter-century. Many countries are drifting steadily toward authoritarianism.

Freedom is in trouble for well-known reasons. In many countries, increasing inequality and marginalization of different groups has fueled an embrace of right-wing (and in some cases left-wing) authoritarianism.

As the world grapples with rapid technological change and economic restructuring, many are far from convinced that democracies have the edge in terms of adaptation and forward-looking policymaking. The pandemic – which many democracies mishandled – deepened these doubts.

These are difficult times for those of us who profoundly believe that the absolute, non-negotiable basis of good government is a free, democratically empowered citizenry protected equally under law.

In 1980s Eastern Europe, the problem was sclerotic, aging communist governments that could no longer deliver for their people. Today’s situation is more complicated.

I am president of the largest private philanthropy in this domain. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that our traditional models of advancing democratic values and institutions are struggling.

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) was founded in the 1980s on the assumption that there was an urgent global public demand for freedom, and that a growing number of governments around the world were embracing its rules and norms.

That allowed us (in partnership with local activists) to use a mixture of shaming and encouragement to persuade governments to adopt and respect human-rights laws and democratic procedures.

Whether our work concerned the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe, LGBTQI communities in Africa, ethnic minorities in South and East Asia, women’s rights in Latin America, or worldwide migrant and refugee protection, it seemed that we were pursuing a historic mission. And one day, that pursuit might lead to all individuals enjoying full and equal rights and opportunities.

Today, however, a rising human-rights tide is not lifting all boats; on the contrary, it seems that all are at risk of sinking. This recent sharp reversal of 20 years of human-rights gains is forcing us to think again.

As a foundation chaired to this day by its founder, George Soros – a survivor of Nazism and a refugee from communism in his native Hungary – we will not move on to less challenging issues.

After all, Soros started the foundation when prospects for human-rights advances looked as difficult as they do today.

Presidents stole additional terms, official corruption surged, and agreements between states brushed aside people’s rights. Nowadays, human-rights defenders and those who support them are not welcome in much of the world.

So, the mission is non-negotiable. But we must revisit our approach. We must ask how to recover public support for democratic and human-rights norms, while also identifying more clearly the enemies of open societies and what will lead them, even grudgingly, to respect their obligations again.

In 1980s Eastern Europe, the problem was sclerotic, aging communist governments that could no longer deliver for their people. Today’s situation is more complicated.

True, a bipolar world again threatens freedom. Biden’s forthcoming Summit for Democracy is in part an effort to rally like-minded governments but also the wider world against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism. That may mean democracies have some uncomfortable bedfellows as pragmatism risks trumping values.

A dense web of trade, investment, education, and technology links mean China is tied to the West, and vice versa, in ways that the Soviet Union never was.

A relationship that is more economic than military gives democracies an array of options – from governmental and consumer boycotts to a more coherent international containment and engagement strategy – for pressing Xi’s regime to accept norms of good behavior at home and abroad.

Leaders on both sides will frame this contest primarily in terms of economics, but human rights can also be a big winner – or a big loser.

Soros has always called OSF’s work “political philanthropy.” What he means is that we need to engage with the wider dynamics of change and find entry points to champion our issues.

Whereas strong states were the sole or leading human-rights violators during the Cold War, today’s world is one of multidimensional human-rights menaces. Inequalities exacerbated by unregulated transnational financial and corporate power, together with dramatic shifts in individual states’ fortunes, are creating an ever more challenging landscape. The world is becoming more unequal – and angrier.

Many view the renewed attention to deep-seated institutional racism in the United States and around the world – and the recognition that marginalization based on race, gender, religion, and class is often mutually reinforcing – as exposing the limits of a human-rights agenda.

That anger is amplified (and fueled) by social-media platforms where polarization, abuse, and lies undermine trust in institutions. A technology that many saw just a few years ago as an enabler of citizens’ rights has become in many cases a tool for manipulating minds and closing societies.

The insidious copycat behavior that Donald Trump’s four-year presidency allowed and encouraged in regimes around the world accelerated a crisis of respect for the rule of law and human rights.

Presidents stole additional terms, official corruption surged, and agreements between states brushed aside people’s rights. Nowadays, human-rights defenders and those who support them are not welcome in much of the world.

Yet malign governments and globalization, with its unintended financial and corporate consequences, are only half the problem.

Many view the renewed attention to deep-seated institutional racism in the United States and around the world – and the recognition that marginalization based on race, gender, religion, and class is often mutually reinforcing – as exposing the limits of a human-rights agenda. Human-rights remedies, victims argue, have scratched the surface, not reached the roots.

Human-rights work needs to become more political: tougher and smarter in its attacks on oppressors, and clearer about being on the side of the oppressed.

We need to address the challenges people actually face, looking beyond narrow political rights to address the deeper causes of economic and social exclusion.

Call for applications: COVID-19 funding for artists and human rights defenders working together

April 14, 2020

The CAHR recognises that collaborative endeavours between activists and artists have the potential to provide innovative responses to the current COVID-19 emergency, whether in a reactive, therapeutic or imaginative form. The centre seeks applications from artists and activists to address one or more of the following three objectives:

  • Document, monitor and analyse events in real time.
  • Reflect on well-being, both your own and that of your communities/organisations.
  • Go beyond a reactive response to imagine new, alternative futures. This future oriented work could assess how crises and disruption open up new possibilities for creativity and innovation, as well as for regressive and repressive measures, and/or build on positive responses to the virus itself (local and global forms of solidarity).

Expected outputs

Activists could write a diary, make a weekly podcast, write a blog, etc. Artists could work in their chosen media to respond to the activist’s contribution and/or to wider developments in their country/region. The CAHR is open to innovative suggestions on the nature of the collaboration between activists and artists.

Project proposals

Activists and artists should apply by presenting a single collaborative project proposal that does not exceed two pages in length and includes the following:

  • A brief profile/bio of the artist(s) and activist(s) involved.
  • A brief description of the project/programme of work, highlighting in particular how it responds to the COVID-19 emergency and its links to activism and civic/political space; which of the three objectives set out above it responds to; any safety, security and ethical concerns, and how these will be addressed; whether it builds on existing initiatives or is a new collaboration, and through which media/methodologies it will be carried out.
  • The main beneficiaries and audiences of the project/programme of work and why the methodology/medium is appropriate for the local context.
  • Details of additional sources of funding or contributions.
  • The envisioned output(s) of the project/programme of work, for both the activist(s) and artist(s).
  • The amount of funding you are applying for, and a brief justification for the specific amount requested in the form of a basic budget and justification of resources (subsistence/salary costs can be included). It is envisaged that most grants will be for between £1 000 and £2 000. Additional justification will be required for larger awards, up to £3 000, for example, that the application involves groups of activists and/or artists.
  • One appendix featuring examples of artistic work can be included in the application. The appendix can be additional to the two-page application.

While applications need to be in English, activist and artist outputs that are in part or completely in local languages are welcome.

Criteria for assessment

  • Clear description of the link between COVID-19, and responses to the virus, on the one hand, and threats to activism and civic/political space on the other, affecting either the artists/activists making the application and/or their country.
  • Evidence of a strong working relationship between the artist(s) and activist(s).
  • Feasibility and relevance of the project in challenging and difficult circumstances (including consideration of safety, security and ethics).
  • Evidence of innovation and creativity.

Deliverables

Artists and activists are expected to provide a timeline for outputs in their application, between now and 31 December 2020. Artists and activists are also expected to submit a short joint report (two pages) detailing the activities undertaken as well as all expenses incurred, by 31 January 2021.

All inquiries and submissions should be directed to Piergiuseppe Parisiat at piergiuseppe.parisi@york.ac.uk (link sends e-mail)and Pippa Cooper at pippa.cooper@york.ac.uk(link sends e-mail).

Timeline

There is no fixed deadline for proposals – applications will be considered on a rolling basis over the coming months. The CAHR will endeavour to get back to applicants within two weeks. Successful proposals will be selected by a panel that will include CAHR staff and associates from a variety of backgrounds.

Copyright

Copyright for the outputs remains the sole and exclusive property of the artist and the activist. Terms of reference/contracts will provide the CAHR with the limited right to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and otherwise use the expected outputs in relation to the CAHR’s work, and as an example of work commissioned through the Open Society Foundations’ grant. Copyright will be addressed in terms of reference/contracts developed with successful applicants.

Confidentiality and ethics

The CAHR will discuss anonymity, confidentiality and other ethical issues with artists and activists as they arise in relation to specific projects.

Read the full call callforarctivists.pdf

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 »