Posts Tagged ‘Oxfam’

International Civil Society Week: counterterrorism used against human rights defenders

May 2, 2019

More than 200 civil society leaders and human rights activists from some 100 countries took to the streets of Belgrade, Serbia in solidarity with those whose basic freedoms are at risk. They participated in the International Civil Society Week (ICSW), sponsored by CIVICUS, which took place in Belgrade, April 8-12. I blogged about contributions to this meeting before [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/14/international-civil-society-week-2019-call-for-more-ngo-voice-in-the-un/]. Here another one: “Civil Society Under Attack in Name of Counterterrorism” b

Civil society has long played a crucial role in society, providing life-saving assistance and upholding human rights for all. However, counterterrorism measures, which are meant to protect civilians, are directly, and often intentionally, undermining such critical work. “Civil society is under increased assault in the name of countering terrorism,” Human Rights Watch’s senior counterterrorism researcher Letta Tayler told IPS, pointing to a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions as among the culprits.

…..The newly approved Resolution 2462, passed at the end of March, requires member states to criminalise financial assistance to terrorist individuals or groups “for any purpose” even if the aid is indirect and provided “in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act.” While the resolution does include some language on human rights protections, Tayler noted that it is not sufficient. “It is not sufficiently spelled out to make very clear to member states what they can and cannot do that might violate human rights on the ground,” she said…

Among the major issues concerning these resolutions is that there is no universal, legal definition of terrorism, allowing states to craft their own, usually broad, definitions. This has put civil society organisations and human rights defenders (HRDs) alike at risk of detention and left vulnerable populations without essential life-saving assistance. “I think it is irresponsible of the Security Council to pass binding resolutions that leave up to States to craft their own definitions of terrorism…that’s how you end up with counterterrorism laws that criminalise peaceful protest or criticising the state,” Tayler said.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Paul Scott echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “The Security Council, by being overly broad, is just giving [governments] the tools to restrict civil society.”

According to Front Line Defenders, an Irish-based human rights organisation, 58 percent of its cases in 2018 saw HRDs charged under national security legislation.

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin .. noted that country’s counterterrorism laws are being used as a “shortcut to targeting democratic protest and dissent.”

…..

….The problem has only gotten worse since then, Paul noted. “The measures imposed by governments are unnecessarily broad and they prevent us from working in areas that are controlled by designated terrorist entities. What they have essentially done is criminalise humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Tayler highlighted the importance of the UN and civil society to monitor how counterterrorism resolutions such as Resolution 2462 are used on the ground. “While we would love to see amendments to this resolution, pragmatically the next best step is for all eyes—the eyes of civil society, the UN, regional organisations—to focus on just how states implement this resolution to make sure that overly broad language is not used by states to become a tool of repression,” she said…

Paul pointed to the need to educate both the public and policymakers on counterterrorism and its spillover effects as well as the importance of civil society in the global system.

Civil society is a key part of effective governance. We don’t get effective public services, we don’t get peace, we don’t get to move forward with the anti-poverty agenda if civil society actors aren’t strong and empowered,” he said…

Inter-American Commission and Oxfam sign cooperation agreement on human rights in Latin America

March 5, 2019

On 4 March 2019 it was announced that Oxfam and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) signed a cooperation agreement on February 25, 2019 to promote and protect human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, with special emphasis on economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and on the crucial role of human rights defenders. The agreement is for five years, to implement a plan including projects on research and the exchange of information linked to the situation of human rights in the region, the protection of human rights defenders and the provision of joint training processes targeting civil society organizations.

Cooperating with the IACHR offers Oxfam a great opportunity to strengthen democracy in our countries and to weakening the current pattern of closing spaces for civil society,” said Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

We are very excited about signing this agreement. The excellent work Oxfam does to find lasting solutions to poverty is extremely interesting for the IACHR and for its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights. Based on that, we will be developing high-impact joint projects to fight that scourge,” said IACHR Executive Secretary Paulo Abrão.

Over the past year, the IACHR has expressed its concern about the lack of guarantees for the exercise of human rights in several countries in the region. The Commission has also held hearings on issues like Central American migrant caravans, legal proceedings on the murder of human rights defender Berta Cáceres in Honduras, and the growing safety problems faced by defenders in Latin America.

In the context of this new deal, Oxfam will join forces with the IACHR to ensure the exercise of human rights.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/20/human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america-under-constant-attack/

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/

http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2019/057.asp

Bikes and digital power for human rights defenders in Africa

April 27, 2018

Africa remains a continent of contrasts, also with regard to human rights defenders. Just to illustrate:
(1) Bikes for human rights defenders: Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) in Malawi has donated 30 bicycles to child protection groups in Dowa district to assist in its ongoing girl child protection programs. Speaking in an interview with the Malawi News Agency Mana after giving out the support at Kayembe Primary school, GENET Programs Officer, Twambilile Kayuni said their organization thought of providing the support as one way of easing transportation challenges among girl child protection groups in the area. “As GENET, we thought it critical to ease the challenge of transport among our village child protection groups so that when any violence has happened to a child they should be able to rush to the scene and take action“. She added that the bicycles have been given to all schools in the area, human rights defenders, mother groups, Area Development Committees (ADCs) and chiefs in order to assist in their child protection duties in a more coordinated manner…Group Village Headwoman Siwinda said:”In my area many girls were being forced to marry but now with the coming of GENET through COMIC relief and OXFAM Malawi things have changed and as of now many girls have gone back to school,” said GVH Siwinda.

Insight into correspondence between NGOs and UK Foreign office about Colombia

January 31, 2018

On 30 January 2018 IRIN reported that on 20 December 2017, ABColombia (a joint advocacy project on Colombia for CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire) sent a letter to Sir Alan Duncan, UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, expressing concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In the letter, ABColombia asked the Minister to ensure a statement is made at the UN Security Council regarding the extremely high levels of killings of Colombian HRDs and that the UK strongly requests the Colombian Government to officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]

In his response from 17 January 2018, Minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote:

[…] I share your concern about the increasing violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. As you mention in your letter, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that 73 social leaders were killed last year. It is verifying a further 11 cases. A disproportionate number of those killed are linked to disputes concerning land restitution. Some also appear to have been targeted for speaking out for the rights of local and indigenous communities. Please be assured that our Embassy in Bogota continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely.

As you know, Colombia is designated a Human Rights Priority Country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and protection of human rights defenders is a priority focus for our work. I regularly raise violence against human rights defenders during my meetings with Colombian Ministers and the Colombian Ambassador […]

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/violence-against-human-rights-defenders-correspondence-fco

Read the letter that ABColombia sent and the full response by Minister Alan Duncan

Unmitigated rise in attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, especially in the environmental area

October 31, 2016

Photo Credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet and 30 October 2016 she summarized the findings of the latest OXFAM report under the appropriate title: There Is an Epidemic of Assassinations Targeting Human Rights Defenders in Latin America.

Michel Forst – the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders – wrote on 21 October in the Guardian equally alarmingly about the problem faced by land rights defenders under the title: “Police and hired assassins are killing land rights defenders. Let’s end this violence.” He ends with the conclusion: “In a resource-constrained world heading towards a climate emergency, we urgently need to rethink our approach to land use, which pivots on short-term profit regardless of human and environmental cost. Working more closely with environmental defenders is not just about protecting individual lives; it’s about protecting our planet.”

Many (including HRW, AI and Front Line) have reported on the 18 October 2016 killing of human rights defenders José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio were murdered after they left a meeting of peasant farmers in the Bajo Aguán region of [AGAIN https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/honduras/Honduras. Both were organizers with the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). Read the rest of this entry »

NGOs give cautious welcome to UK Government’s Action plan on human rights & business, but want better enforcement

September 11, 2013

The UK government recently launched an Action Plan on Business and Human Rights by Vince Cable and William Hague.

On 5 September the CORE Coalition, whose members include Amnesty International, Oxfam, CAFOD and War on Want, supported by the Trades Union Congress, share the plan’s clear expectation that UK companies respect human rights throughout their global operations and supply chains, but question whether the governments proposals will be sufficient to reduce corporate abuses. CORE calls on the government to take effective steps to ensure companies respect human rights. The plan builds on the government’s commitment to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. The principles set out what states need to do to protect people from corporate human rights abuses and the actions that businesses should take to respect human rights. “While it’s positive that the plan sets out clear expectations for UK companies to respect human rights wherever they operate and explicitly applies to businesses’ supply chains in the UK and overseas, there’s little clarity on how the government’s approach will require companies with the worst human rights records to change their behaviour. Sharing good practice and offering guidance for businesses are important but are not enough on their own,” said Marilyn Croser, Coordinator of the CORE Coalition. Anne Lindsay, CAFOD’s Lead Analyst on the Private Sector said: “For local communities in countries such as Colombia, Peru and the Philippines, the key question is, will this action plan prevent abuses of human rights by companies or just maintain the status quo? We welcome the references to protection of human rights defenders and investment agreements for example, but these principles need to be linked to a much more comprehensive set of follow up actions.” Oxfam’s Robert Nash, Private Sector Policy Adviser added: “This is a welcome signal to businesses that corporate abuses must be tackled. However, plans must go further to strengthen protection for vulnerable communities and the means for them to seek redress. This includes identifying and addressing failures on vital issues like the governance of land, transparency and accountability of investments, human rights requirements and empowering women, who are often the most at risk yet the most likely to be excluded from having their voices heard.” The absence of clear commitments to improve access to justice for victims of corporate human rights abuse overseas and the reliance on voluntary corporate self-governance to ensure businesses respect for human rights is of particular concern to CORE and its member organisations. Murray Worthy, Senior Economic Justice Campaigner at War on Want commented: “This plan places the burden of responsibility for businesses’ respect for human rights in the hands of the companies responsible for violations of human rights. Such voluntary self-regulation has been found wanting for years. It failed to prevent the deaths through negligence of over 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers in the Rana Plaza disaster earlier this year. Now the government wants to extend this model so that even private military and security companies become self-regulating. The government needs to be more rigorous in preventing human rights abuses by UK companies.” Meanwhile, Owen Tudor, Head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department, said: “Global businesses mustn’t be allowed to avoid their ethical duties, and governments must work with unions and campaigners to hold them to account… The UN and the ILO have set international standards for corporate behaviour and this action plan is a key element in making sure multi-nationals meet those standards. Globalisation has let too many businesses undercut livelihoods at home by exploiting people abroad. Unions will seek to build on this action plan but won’t hesitate to demand stronger action if it is needed.”

via UK action plan on human rights urged to go beyond business as usual | Ekklesia.