Posts Tagged ‘social economic and cultural rights’

Policy response from Human Rights NGOs to COVID-19: CIVICUS’ Protocol

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 CIVICUS which has published a Protocol, that is open for endorsment by other NGOs. The Protocol (online<https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society>) has been endorsed by over 60 civil society leaders from across the globe, including Greenpeace International.

The 6 point Protocol proposes practical measures and actions that civil society groups can take to help workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is aimed at protecting employees from any adverse health, social or economic issues that will arise during this challenging period.

The 6 proposed measures:

  1. Systems to enable social distancing and other precautions
  2. Support for COVID-19 testing and treatment
  3. Protection of pay and jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown and escalation period
  4. Flexibility and support for home and care-related responsibilities
  5. Extending our community of care to our collaborators and constituencies
  6. Acting in solidarity with workers and other vulnerable communities

In a letter to civil society allies CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John <https://civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/3484-lysa-john-announced-as-new-civicus-sg> says,

“The ‘COVID-19 Social Security Protocol for Civil Society <https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society> ’ is first and foremost a call for us to recognise that the people we work with and alongside need to be assured of our support for their well-being if we are to remain resilient and relevant in the context of a dire and desperately uncertain future. Without the solid foundations of trust and authenticity, our organisations are not equipped to withstand the formidable challenges that all agencies – large and small – will need to respond to in the coming months.”

Recommendations:

1. Systems to ensure physical distancing and other precautions

What it involves:
  • Procedures to enable physical distancing are explicitly adopted and communicated alongside an overarching call to social solidarity
  • Transition to virtual ways of working wherever   possible, provision of protective gear and guidelines for frontline workers whose efforts are needed to ensure the continuation of critical and essential services (e.g. non-transferable support services to vulnerable populations)
  • Ensuring that pay and benefits for personnel who are unable to perform their duties virtually are not reduced at this time
Why is this important?
  • In keeping with WHO guidelines and corresponding national government regulations, all agencies are required to take active measures to protect their personnel from contracting or transmitting the virus
  • If relevant government authorities have not provided effective guidelines on social distancing, we can be proactive in implementing the WHO guidelines for our teams, and support advocacy efforts to ensure relevant   regulations are put in place.

 

2. Support for COVID-19 testing and related treatment

What it involves: Access to COVID-19 testing differs across countries. A few essential steps that we can take to support our teams in this context are:

  • Mapping and providing active information on testing procedures
  • Covering costs of testing procedures where these are not covered by health insurance.
  • Supporting the return of personnel located outside their home countries who request or require to be repatriated for health and/or family reasons
  • Fully paid sick leave for personnel needing to rest and recuperate; flexible arrangements in relation to time needed to care for family members and dependents. This could include ‘record-free’ leave provisions so personnel do not need to utilise their annual sick leave quota to cover illness related to the COVID19 outbreak
  • Full or partial support for costs of related treatment through existing group medical insurance plans; in case these are not available, explore organisation-supported reimbursements
  • Psycho-social support to deal with the mental health impacts of the pandemic, including with adverse effects of the outbreak within family and communities
Why is this important?
  • Ensuring access to basic health care for employees is an important responsibility for all organisations. For many organisations however, support to core costs that enable social security benefits for   employees is hard to negotiate and organise.
  • More ideas on how donors and intermediaries can support civil society groups to address core costs in this period are available in this Open Letter to Donors

 

3. Protection of jobs and pay across the COVID-19 lockdown and escalation period

What it involves: In anticipation of the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an important role to play in protecting our co-workers from reduction of pay and loss of employment. Some measures that can be considered include:

  • Extending employment contracts, till December 2020 for instance, as an immediate measure of protection. This should ideally include personnel who work part-time, such as consultants, fellows and interns.
  • In the event that an employment contract must end in this period, ensuring a source of income is available to support transition is a helpful measure. National regulations on allowances linked redundancy and unemployment, for instance, can be used to benchmark this and activate government-backed programs in this regard
  • Coordinating with donors and intermediaries to redirect costs for new positions that were to be proposed in this period towards costs for staff retention
  • Coordinating with Boards to approve the use of organisation’s reserves, if available, and requesting their support for costs related to employment protection measures
Why is this important?
  • The implementation of this recommendation is directly related to donor flexibility and proactive measures adopted by governance bodies of civil society organisations.
  • Ensuring an open conversation with donors to reallocate expenses related to activities that cannot be undertaken in this period, such as budgets linked to travel and in-person meetings, is one possibility in this regard.

 

4. Flexibility and support for home and care related responsibilities

What it involves: In order to support staff to cope with the added pressure of familial duties, while also taking care of their own needs, we can consider the following:

  • Flexible or reduced work hours for personnel (without affecting levels of pay)
  • Reduction of work related deliverables for staff who have responsibility for children and other dependents, including the elderly and disabled
  • Additional measures (economic and psycho-social) to support single parents, staff who live alone and those who risk violence and abuse within their homes
Why is this important?
  •  Working from home places significant demands on staff who are primary caregivers within their families. Women are often burdened with additional responsibilities in this time

 

5. Extending our community of care to our collaborators and constituencies

What it involves:
  • Disseminating information on necessary protection protocols advised by the WHO and, where possible, translating these into relevant languages and making them accessible in multiple formats
  • Providing information on support and services provided by our organizations in this time
  • Ensuring that contingency plans for critical services are in place and shared with them
  • Identifying and calling out public measures that are being used to restrict and intimidate civil society
Why is this important?
  • As we conduct our duty of care to our employees, we have the opportunity to extend care and share knowledge with the communities we serve and networks we work with.
  • Civil society across the world often works to respond to and fill critical gaps in service delivery, access to justice and government accountability. Taking steps to ensure that our collaborators and constituencies are informed helps to ensure transparent flows of information and mediate continuity for critical services where possible.

 

6. Acting in solidarity with workers and other vulnerable communities

What it involves: We have the opportunity to act in solidarity by:

  • Adding our voice and organisational support to campaigning for improved employment protections by organised labour, and for the most vulnerable casual workers and gig-economy workers
  • Supporting campaigns where there is an opportunity to advance progressive social welfare policies, including wage & income protection, universal social protection, access to healthcare and childcare support for frontline workers who are holding up essential public services.
  • Getting behind the bold, systemic reforms that challenge and change the fundamental inequities that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic
Why is this important?
  • Adding our collective weight and support right now, may help secure both immediate relief, as well as pivotal longer-term wins for progressive campaigns

 

A list of resources to help determine and action relevant measures is available here.

For more information: | @CIVICUSalliance | https://www.facebook.com/CIVICUS/


For other posts like this see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

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https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/4367-protecting-our-co-workers-during-covid-19-a-social-security-protocol-for-civil-society

UK’s human rights policy after Brexit

February 13, 2020

With Brexit a number of commentaries have appeared about the UK‘s human rights stance in the future. Here two examples:

Maria Arena wrote on 3 February 2020 in Feature about the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), saying it will continue to keep a critical eye on the EU’s external policies while playing a constructive role in upholding international law and human rights standards. She is the Chair of the Subcommittee. It reads almost as of no Brexit has taken place……

The issue of business and human rights is currently one of the most high-profile areas of attention, with a focus on moving towards more responsible business conduct globally, through the introduction of new voluntary standards as well as compulsory company due diligence. Compulsory due diligence at EU level was a key European Parliament demand during the previous parliamentary term and we are determined to deliver on this. There is also a clear need to face up to new challenges and threats such as climate change. Migration linked to serious human rights violations and conflicts continues to be a global challenge. DROI members are keen to continue their task of scrutinising all new EU policy developments, particularly the recently announced EU human rights sanctions regime; legislation repeatedly called for by Parliament.

As the Subcommittee’s chair, I am also determined to look for new and more effective ways to protect human rights defenders. I must emphasise right at the outset: the Subcommittee cannot do this alone. This is a task for Parliament as a whole. One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system. We need to work towards safeguarding and improving the EU’s credibility in the world as an actor that recognises human rights and a rules-based international system as a strategic interest, not as a distraction from other foreign policy objectives.

..There can be no progress without injecting human rights into the policy debates about development, empowering women and civil society, as well as contributing to a stable and democratic neighbourhood for the EU….Citizens’ expectations are clear: people across the EU want us to stand up for universal values and deliver active and effective EU external action that protects and promotes human rights. I will never side with those who say that security or economic interest should trump human rights. …“One of our biggest challenges is upholding European ambitions on universal values and human rights standards, against the backdrop of a weakened multilateral system”

……
The EU should not shy away from establishing redress and complaints mechanisms. We need to deliver true and measurable improvements on the ground before granting trade preferences and should raise the bar on implementing international commitments with our partners. I also think we should be more ambitious about understanding the full environmental and human rights impact of our trade relations and perhaps be more vigilant about inward investment to the EU.

Benjamin Ward, UK Director (Acting) & Deputy Director, Europe & Central Asia Division of HRW, wrote in Euronews of 3 February 2020 that “Britain Should Stick To Its Principles For Brexit Success

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/feature/committee-guide-2020-droi-ambitious-and-vigilant

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/02/05/britain-should-stick-its-principles-brexit-success

Social assistance fraud detection system violates human rights says Dutch court

February 12, 2020

An algorithmic risk rating system implemented by the Dutch state to try to predict the likelihood that social security claimants commit benefits or tax fraud violates human rights laws, a court in the Netherlands ruled. The Dutch Risk Indication System (SyRI) legislation uses an undisclosed algorithmic risk model to profile citizens and has been directed exclusively to neighborhoods with mostly low-income and minority residents. Human rights defenders have called it a “welfare surveillance state.”

Several civil society organizations in the Netherlands and two citizens instigated legal action against SyRI, seeking to block its use. The court today ordered an immediate stop to use the system. The ruling is being hailed as historical by human rights defenders, and the court bases its reasoning on European human rights law, specifically the right to privacy established by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ( ECHR) instead of a specific provision in the EU data protection framework (GDPR) that relates to automated processing.

Article 22 of the GDPR includes the right of individuals not to be subject to automated individual decision-making only where they can produce significant legal effects. But there may be some uncertainty about whether this applies if there is a human somewhere in the circle, such as reviewing an objection decision. In this case, the court has avoided such questions by finding that SyRI directly interferes with the rights established in the ECHR. Specifically, the court determined that the SyRI legislation does not pass an equilibrium test in Article 8 of the ECHR that requires that any social interest be considered against the violation of people’s private life, and a fair and reasonable balance is required.

In its current form, the automated risk assessment system did not pass this test, in the opinion of the court. Legal experts suggest that the decision sets some clear limits on how the public sector in the United Kingdom can make use of AI tools, and the court is particularly opposed to the lack of transparency on how the algorithmic rating system worked….

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who intervened in the case by providing the court with a human rights analysis, welcomed the ruling, describing it as “a clear victory for all those who are justifiably concerned about the serious threats that digital welfare systems represent for human rights. ” “This decision sets a strong legal precedent for other courts to follow. This is one of the first times that a court stops the use of digital technologies and abundant digital information by welfare authorities for human rights reasons, ”he added in a press release.

In 2018, Alston warned that the UK government’s rush to apply digital technologies and data tools to socially redesign the provision of large-scale public services risked having a huge impact on the human rights of the most vulnerable. Therefore, the decision of the Dutch court could have some short-term implications for UK policy in this area.

The ruling does not close the door to the use by states of automated profiling systems, but it does make it clear that in Europe human rights laws must be fundamental for the design and implementation of risk tools.

..It remains to be seen whether the Commission will push pan-European limits to specific uses of AI in the public sector, such as for social security assessments. A recent leaked draft of a white paper on AI regulation suggests that it is leaning towards risk assessments and a mosaic of risk-based rules.

Blackbox's social assistance fraud detection system violates Dutch human rights and judicial rules – Newsdio

Asma Jahangir memorial lecture at second anniversary of her death

February 12, 2020

At the second anniversary of her death, an ‘Asma Jahangir memorial lecture’ was held in Islamabad [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/].

Human rights defender Rehman presented an overview of the human rights situation in Pakistan at the first ‘Asma Jahangir Memorial Lecture’ held on Tuesday 12 February 2020. On this occasion he warmly recalled HRCP’s co-founder, remembering her as the ‘voice of sanity and compassion’. Rehman spoke about people’s fundamental right to ‘economic justice’. Citing examples ranging from bonded labourers and small farmers to lady health workers and journalists, he said that people’s economic rights – the ‘right to employment, and just and equitable conditions of work’ should not be subject to the “availability of resources.” He also reminded the government of their international commitments for political and civil rights.While the Constitution protected people’s social and economic wellbeing, said Rehman, it was critical to secure the substance of these rights, their availability to all citizens and their incremental expansion. “Economic justice must not, therefore, be sacrificed at the altar of national security,” he said. He reminded the audience that ‘all citizens of Pakistan’ had the right to economic justice, and that Asma Jahangir would not have stood quietly by in such a situation.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary-General Harris Khalique announced that the Commission was instituting the Asma Jahangir Award for Human Rights Defenders, and resuming the Nisar Osmani Award for Courage in Journalism and the I. A. Rehman Research Grant in Human Rights.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/612817-asma-jahangir-memorial-lecture-held

Expert Meeting on “Cultural Rights Defenders”

December 27, 2019

In the hard-to-define area of cultural rights, the following is an interesting contribution: On 22 October, 2019, the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) hosted a meeting alongside the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune, at the Bahá’í International Community’s UN Offices in New York City. The aim of the meeting was to gain expert insight in support of the Special Rapporteur’s next report, on cultural rights defenders (CRDs), which will be presented in March 2020 to the UN Human Rights Council.

Cultural rights, including the right to take part in cultural life, the right to freedom of artistic expression, the right to scientific freedom, and the right to access and enjoy cultural heritage, are being increasingly recognized and mainstreamed internationally, and at the same time are regularly violated by states and other actors. Cultural rights defenders (CRDs) – those human rights defenders who act in defense of cultural rights – need much greater recognition and support to be able to carry out their critical work defending this part of the universal human rights framework. The meeting invited experts and actors working across the field of human rights and cultural rights, including artistic freedom, to share their knowledge on the state of cultural rights and those working to defend them. Participants included UN experts and representatives of UN bodies, representatives from NGOs, frontline cultural rights defenders, experts in cultural heritage work and scientific freedom, as well as those working on the cultural rights of specific categories of persons, including women, persons with disabilities, LGBTI people, minorities, indigenous peoples, artists, and cultural heritage defenders.

The meeting engendered a thought-provoking discussion on topics such as:

  • An intersectional approach to CRDs that is cognizant of gender, indigeneity, fundamentalism, LGBTQI identity, religion, cultural diversity, climate change, and disability.

  • The nature of the risks faced by CRDs, how they vary contextually across the Global North and South, and the recourse that such a term offers (or fails to offer) to actors in varied contexts.

  • What the term “Cultural Rights Defender (CRD)” entails, its use (or not) by human rights defenders and relevant actors across the field of culture, and the potential for its use as a means of redress for cultural activists at risk.

  • Strategies to better support the work of CRDs, including legal frameworks, the role of the internet, the role of national governments, and systems of censorship.

Inputs from the meeting will be included in the Special Rapporteur’s next report, which will be made public in March 2020. To keep abreast of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, you can follow their statements, reports, and feature stories here.

https://artistsatriskconnection.org/story/cultural-rights-defenders-experts-meeting

Turkmenistan’s cotton activist Matalaev free after 3 years

September 11, 2019

Gaspar Matalaev

valdosta / Pixabay

blogged in Value Walk of 9 September 2019 about “Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment”.  Gaspar Matalaev, a labor rights monitor from Turkmenistan, was released from prison on 6 September after three years’ imprisonment in retaliation for his reporting on forced labor. A court in Turkmenabat sentenced Matalaev on spurious charges of fraud in 2016 and Matalaev served the entire three-year sentence. “We are relieved that Gaspar is out of prison and home with his family where he belongs,” said Ruslan Myatiev, director of turkmen.news, a member of the Cotton Campaign. “But make no mistake, every day that Gaspar spent in prison was a travesty of justice to punish him for his human rights work and intimidate others from speaking out about abuses.”

Gaspar Matalaev, a reporter with turkmen.news who had monitored and reported on the systematic use of forced adult and child labor in Turkmenistan during cotton harvesting, was arrested in October 2016, just two days after turkmen.news published his extensive report on Turkmenistan’s labor practices. While in detention, Matalaev was tortured by electric shock and held incommunicado. Throughout the investigation and trial, he did not have access to effective legal representation or to key files, information, and documents. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions determined that Matalaev’s arrest and imprisonment was arbitrary.

“Matalaev and others take great personal risks when they document these abuses,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum, which hosts the Cotton Campaign. “Turkmenistan’s international partners, including in the U.S., EU, and the international development banks, should use their influence with the government of Turkmenistan to press for greater protections for human rights monitors and journalists.” International Labor Rights Forum honored Matalaev with its annual Labor Rights Defender award in 2019.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the government of Turkmenistan to release Matalaev. …….

The Cotton Campaign and investors called on companies to sign the Turkmen Cotton Pledge, and work to ensure that cotton from Turkmenistan produced with forced labor does not enter their supply chains. Thus far 70 major apparel and home goods brands and industry associations have signed the pledge.

Thanks to the work of reporters and human rights defenders like Gaspar Matalaev, companies and consumers can make informed sourcing and purchasing decisions,” said Patricia Jurewicz, vice president of the Responsible Sourcing Network, Cotton Campaign co-founder, and host of the Turkmen Cotton Pledge. “Companies can take a stand to end the human rights abuses in Turkmenistan, and ensure that materials produced with forced labor do not enter their supply chains.”

Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of human rights, labor, responsible investor, and business organizations dedicated to eradicating child and forced labor in cotton production.

 

Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment

Plea to see labour rights defenders as human rights defenders

May 21, 2019

Appropriately on  Labour Day, 1 May 2019, Ana Zbona and Sanyu Awori (at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre). wrote in Open Global Rights “When space closes for labour rights defenders, the situation is far worse for those at the margins. Labour rights are human rights and must be protected“.

Photo: SolidarityCentre/Flickr


…..Several recent examples of human rights movements that have been led and supported by labour rights groups include: coalitions to rebuild democracy in Honduras after a coup; the mobilizing of workers in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain during the Arab uprisings; and the pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe, led by the country’s labour federation…

Distinctions are often made between labour rights defenders and human rights defenders, but as former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association Maina Kiai expressed: these distinctions are artificial. Labour rights are human rights, and any person or organisation defending them is a human rights defender.. As Sharan Burrow, the Secretary General of the ITUC, put it: “Workers and their unions are the defenders of rights and freedoms.” We must be vigilant to any distinctions that try to separate our struggles”.

Labour rights defenders regularly experience violence and restrictions on their rights in various ways, including clamp downs on unions where governments and employers obstruct them from functioning freely and independently, laws that limit collective bargaining, and dismissals. In the past year, the International Trade Union Confederation reported an increase in violence, especially to prevent unionizing, and the safety of trade union leaders remains precarious. In Colombia, 19 trade unionists were killed in 2017; in Cambodia, trade union leaders are criminalized; and in Zimbabwe trade union leaders are regularly harassed by government authorities. With respect to laws that limit labour rights, 81% of countries deny some or all workers the right to collective bargaining and 65% of countries exclude some groups of workers from labour law, such as domestic, agricultural and contract workers, up 5% from 2017. Peaceful protests by workers are often met with heavy handed policy or army responses. In addition, the most common reprisal workers face for speaking up about violations are dismissals, a tactic used by employers to stifle civic action. As one example, over 12,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh were fired for their protests in December 2018 and January 2019 over wages.

The Business & Human Rights Resource documents attacks against defenders working on corporate accountability, and our database shows that agriculture, food and beverage, and apparel are the most dangerous sectors for labour rights defenders. The most common forms of violence against individual union leaders and workers are arbitrary detentions and lawsuits, followed by intimidation and threats, and killings.

A particularly concerning trend is the use of defamation lawsuits to silence labour rights defenders. As one example, since 2016, Thammakaset Company Limited, a Thai-owned poultry company, filed more than 13 civil and criminal lawsuits against former workers who denounced labour rights violations, as well as against the activists and journalists supporting them. Governments and companies, including international brands, need to ensure such judicial attacks do not happen. As Sutharee Wanasiri, a labour rights defender from Thailand, and one of the people sued by Thammakaset, said: “It is also the responsibility of international brands that buy from Thailand to make sure the companies they are sourcing from are not engaged in judicial harassment that creates a chilling effect on whistle blowers and other defenders. They should establish mechanisms that allow workers and defenders to communicate with the brands directly and ensure that they are protected from any retaliation from suppliers during the investigation. The results should be made public and bring accountability for the abuses.

With long and fragmented supply chains, it is particularly important to ensure that we hear workers’ voices, especially those of the most marginalized at the bottom of economic hierarchies, and guarantee dignified and decent work. This includes people working in the informal economy. Workers and civil society organizations are currently focusing on redefining legal employment terms, and reconsidering union strategy in light of changing labour relations, especially in the gig economy, in which non-conventional workers are not afforded adequate legal protection—either because they do not fall within the definition of a “regular employee” under national laws, or because of gaps in legislation when it comes to regulating new forms of employment. The lack of an applicable legal protection and collectively agreed terms of employment hinders the ability to exercise work-related rights, including the right to organise and collectively bargain.

……..

Labour rights defenders should be seen as critical allies in building equitable and sustainable societies. Several businesses are also beginning to recognise that the protection of human rights defenders and the ability for them to do their work is in their interest, and that an attack on defenders is an attack on responsible business. This is encouraging, as now more than ever we need to be brokering connections and building solidarities across movements and sectors to counter threats to the shared space we all depend upon.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/rising-restrictions-on-labour-rights-threaten-the-heart-of-social-justice/

Nominations for the European Civil Society Prize 2018 closing soon

September 1, 2018

Although not a human rights award in the strict sense, I think that the current state of civil society in large parts of Europe does need a boost [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/04/europe-also-sees-shrinking-space-for-human-rights-defenders/]. So the EESC Civil Society Prize 2018 on identities, European values and cultural heritage in Europe is most welcome and human rights groups and defenders should apply.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) this year is promoting initiatives to do with European values, identities and cultural heritage. The deadline is 7 September 2018. The Civil Society Prize, now in its tenth edition, was launched by the EESC to reward and encourage by civil society organisations and/or individuals that have made a significant contribution to promoting the common values that bolster European cohesion and integration.

Prize money totals EUR 50 000 and will be awarded to a maximum of five winners and it will reward innovative initiatives which have made a significant contribution to:

  • raising awareness of the multiple layers and richness of European identities;
  • exploiting the full potential of Europe’s cultural wealth;
  • facilitating access to European cultural heritage; and
  • promoting European values such as respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

The full list of requirements and the online application form are available on webpage – EESC Civil Society Prize 2018.

The EESC Civil Society Prize is open to all civil society organisations officially registered within the European Union and acting at local, national, regional or European level. It is also open to individuals.

The award ceremony will take place on 13 December 2018 in Brussels.

https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/news-media/press-releases/eesc-civil-society-prize-2018-applications-closing-soon

Has the Human Rights Movement failed? A serious critique.

April 25, 2018

The last year or so there has been a lot soul-searching within the broader human rights movement, questioning its relevance or even survival at a time of resurgent ‘anti-human rights’ attitudes in the superpowers (regression in China, USA, and Russia, with the EU vacillating between careful diplomacy and trade interest). A number of smaller countries have also taken enthusiastically to human rights bashing (just to mention Turkey, Philippines, Hungary, Venezuela and Burundi). In all these cases the leadership seems to imply that human rights are niceties that no longer have the support of the majority of their population, which could well be true due to the extent that their control over the media and relentless whipping up of populist feelings make this self-fulling.This blog has tried to monitor – at least illustrate – this phenomenon on many occasions [too many to list]. Now comes along an interesting piece written by professor Samuel Moyn of Yale university under the provocative title “How the Human Rights Movement Failed” (published on 23 April 2018 in the New York Times). The piece is a must read (in full) and I give the text below in green. Even if I disagree with some important parts, it remains a coherent and thought-provoking article (once you get over feeling offended by the idea that you are a plutocrat).

The key notion is expressed in the following quotes:

“.those who care about human rights need to take seriously the forces that lead so many people to vote in majoritarian strongmen in the first place.”

and

The truth is that the growth of international human rights politics has accompanied the very economic phenomena that have led to the rise of radical populism and nationalism today. In short, human rights activism made itself at home in a plutocratic world.

Where I most disagree with the author is that there is lot more going on in the human rights movement than the defense of civil and political rights or playing along with elites. Either he does not know it or ignores it on purpose. The thousands of human rights defenders working in their own countries are fully aware of the realities on the ground and are often prioritizing social, economic, cultural and community rights [just a cursory sample of blog posts on environmental activists will show this: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/environmental-activists/]. International and regional NGOs mostly help and protect them! Also, the author seems to underestimate the potential attraction of the human rights cause in civil society (especially victims and young people), whose mobilization is still patchy. If the human rights movement can overcome its fragmentation and use media better this potential could turn tides. Say I!.

Here the piece in full/ judge for yourselves:

The human rights movement, like the world it monitors, is in crisis: After decades of gains, nearly every country seems to be backsliding. Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and other populist leaders routinely express contempt for human rights and their defenders. But from the biggest watchdogs to monitors at the United Nations, the human rights movement, like the rest of the global elite, seems to be drawing the wrong lessons from its difficulties.

Advocates have doubled down on old strategies without reckoning that their attempts to name and shame can do more to stoke anger than to change behavior. Above all, they have ignored how the grievances of newly mobilized majorities have to be addressed if there is to be an opening for better treatment of vulnerable minorities.

“The central lesson of the past year is that despite considerable headwinds, a vigorous defense of human rights can succeed,” Kenneth Roth, the longtime head of Human Rights Watch, contended recently, adding that many still “can be convinced to reject the scapegoating of unpopular minorities and leaders’ efforts to undermine basic democratic checks and balances.” 

That seems unlikely. Of course, activism can awaken people to the problems with supporting abusive governments. But if lectures about moral obligations made an enormous difference, the world would already look much better. Instead, those who care about human rights need to take seriously the forces that lead so many people to vote in majoritarian strongmen in the first place.

The truth is that the growth of international human rights politics has accompanied the very economic phenomena that have led to the rise of radical populism and nationalism today. In short, human rights activism made itself at home in a plutocratic world.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was promulgated in 1948 amid the consolidation of welfare states in Europe and North America and which formed the basis of the human rights agenda, was supposed to enshrine social protections. But in the 1970s, when activists in the United States and Western Europe began to take up the cause of “human rights” for the victims of brutal regimes, they forgot about that social citizenship. The signature group of that era, Amnesty International, focused narrowly on imprisonment and torture; similarly, Human Rights Watch rejected advocating economic and social rights.

This approach began to change after the Cold War, especially when it came to nongovernmental advocacy in post-colonial countries. But even then, human rights advocacy did not reassert the goal of economic fairness. Even as more activists have come to understand that political and civil freedom will struggle to survive in an unfair economic system, the focus has often been on subsistence.

In the 1990s, after the Cold War ended, both human rights and pro-market policies reached the apogee of their prestige. In Eastern Europe, human rights activists concentrated on ousting old elites and supporting basic liberal principles even as state assets were sold off to oligarchs and inequality exploded. In Latin America, the movement focused on putting former despots behind bars. But a neoliberal program that had arisen under the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet swept the continent along with democracy, while the human rights movement did not learn enough of a new interest in distributional fairness to keep inequality from spiking.

Now the world is reaping what the period of swelling inequality that began in the 1970s through the 1990s sowed.

There have been recent signs of reorientation. The Ford Foundation, which in the 1970s provided much of the funding that made global human rights activism possible, announced in 2015 that it would start focusing on economic fairness. George Soros, a generous funder of human rights causes, has recently observed that inequality matters, too.

Some have insisted that the movement can simply take on, without much alteration of its traditional idealism and tactics, the challenge of inequality that it ignored for so long. This is doubtful.

At the most, activists distance themselves from free-market fundamentalism only by making clear how much inequality undermines human rights themselves. Minimum entitlements, like decent housing and health care, require someone to pay. Without insisting on more than donations from the rich, the traditional companionship of human rights movements with neoliberal policies will give rise to the allegation that the two are in cahoots. No one wants the human rights movement to be remembered as a casualty of a justifiable revolt against the rich.

If the movement itself should not squander the chance to reconsider how it is going to survive, the same is even truer of its audience — policymakers, politicians and the rest of the elite. They must keep human rights in perspective: Human rights depend on majority support if they are to be taken seriously. A failure to back a broader politics of fairness is doubly risky. It leaves rights groups standing for principles they cannot see through. And it leaves majorities open to persuasion by troubling forces.

It has been tempting for four decades to believe that human rights are the primary bulwark against barbarism. But an even more ambitious agenda is to provide the necessary alternative to the rising evils of our time.

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Samuel Moyn is the author of “Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World.

Eulogy of Pakistan’s Abdul Sattar Edhi, “the richest poor man”

July 11, 2017

edhi

Farah Jamil published on 10 July 2017 a blog post “The Richest Poor Man” recalling the life of the great humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi from Pakistan. Leading humanitarian and the most endearing person in the country. ‘Edhi’ left us at the age of 88 last year on July 8. He had been suffering from kidney failure since 2013 and was on dialysis. Edhi dedicated his life for the welfare of the poor irrespective of their caste, class and creed and that’s what makes him an asset for the whole universe. “He was not only an asset for this country but for the whole humanity because of his selfless work”.

It was in 1974 when a formal institution by the name of Edhi Foundation was set up. …..with more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan’s largest welfare organization.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the “largest volunteer ambulance organization”. The Edhi Foundation’s slogan is: “Live and help live”.….

Edhi Sahab received many national and international awards included the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, Lenin Peace Prize, Hamdan Award for volunteers, Peace and Harmony Award (Delhi), Peace Award (Mumbai), Gandhi Peace Award (Delhi), UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize.

Throughout his life, Edhi sahab set examples for the world to follow through his actions. He was a simple man with a heart of gold. He slept in a windowless room adjoining the office of his foundation furnished with just a bed, a sink and a hotplate.…..

His last words were:

–Bury me in same clothes, donate all my body parts, and make sure my clothes are distributed among others.

—Take care of the poor people of my country.

…….Edhi sahib, you indeed were the richest poor man!

Source: #MainEdhiHun: The Richest Poor Man | SAMAA TV