NAIROBI, March 31 (IPS) – As conflicts and crises escalate to create humanitarian emergencies that have displaced over 100 million people worldwide, the vital role of civil society in advocating for victims and monitoring human rights cannot be overemphasized.
The awarding of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to activists and organizations in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for working to uphold human rights in the thick of conflict underpins this role.
Yet this has not stopped gross violations of civil space exposed by the state to civil society Report from CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, officially launched on March 30, 2023.
“This year’s report is the 12th in its annual published series, and it is a critical look back to 2022. Explores trends in civil society action, at every level and in every arena, from struggles for democracy, inclusion and climate justice to calls for global governance reform” , said Ines Pousadela from CIVICUS.
In particular, the report highlights the many ways in which civil society is under attack, caught in the crossfire and or deliberately targeted. For example, the Russian laureate, the human rights organization Memorial, was ordered to close before the war. The laureate from Belarus, Ales Bialiatski, received 10 years in prison.
Mandeep Tiwana stressed that the suppression of civic voices and actions is far from unique. In Ethiopia, “activists have been imprisoned by the state. In Mali, the ruling military junta has banned the activities of civil organizations receiving funding from France, hindering humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict. In Italy, civil society groups are on trial for rescuing migrants at sea.”
The analysis presented in the report, which spans six chapters titled Responding to Conflict and Crisis, Mobilizing for Economic Justice, Defending Democracy, Advancing Women’s and LGBTQI+ Rights, Sounding the Climate Emergency, and Calling for Global Governance, is based on an ongoing analysis initiative. , CIVICUS Lens.
Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine spoke of the Russian invasion and the subsequent “unprecedented level of war crimes against civilians such as torture and rape. And lack of accountability despite documented evidence of crimes against civilians.”
Bhavani Fonseka, from the Center for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka, addressed the issue of mobilizing for economic justice and how Sri Lanka caught the world’s attention a year ago with protests that started small in neighborhoods and ultimately led to the president fleeing the country.
Launched in January 2022, CIVICUS Lens is directly informed by the voices of civil society affected by and responding to today’s big questions and challenges.
Through this lens, a civil society perspective on the world as it appears in early 2023 has emerged: a perspective plagued by conflict and crisis, including democratic values and institutions, but where civil society continues to strive to make a decisive difference in people’s lives .
In terms of defending democracy, Amine Ghali of the Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center in Tunisia spoke of the challenge of removing authoritarian regimes and making significant progress in levels of democracy only for the country to revert to authoritarianism.
“It starts with the narrative that democracy does not deliver; let me have all power so that I can deliver for you. But they don’t deliver. All they do is consolidate power. A government with democratic legitimacy that destroys democracy is where we are in Tunisia, he said.
Erika Venadero of the National Network of Diverse Youth, Mexico, spoke about the country’s journey that started in the 1960s towards equal marriage. Today, same-sex marriage is provided for in the law.
On global governance reform, UNA-UK’s Ben Donaldson spoke about global governance institutional failures and the need to improve what works and reform what doesn’t, with a particular focus on the UN Security Council.
“It is useful to talk about Ukraine and the shortcomings of the UN Security Council. A member of the UN Security Council cannot hold one of its members accountable. There are therefore tensions at the heart of the UN. The President of Ukraine and many others are asking, what is UN to if it can’t stop the invasion of Ukraine?
Baraka, a youth climate activist and sustainability consultant in Uganda, spoke of ongoing efforts to stop a planned major pipeline project that will exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis and affect lives and livelihoods.
His concerns and actions are in line with the report’s conclusions that “civil society continues to be the force sounding the alarm about the triple threat of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Call for action using all available tactics, from street protests and direct action to litigation and advocacy in national and global arenas.”
But in the face of pressure on the civil space and enormous challenges, the report further finds that “civil society is growing, diversifying and broadening its repertoire of tactics.”
Moving forward, the report highlights 10 ideas, including an urgent need for a broad campaign to win recognition of civil society’s critical role in conflict and crisis management, and greater emphasis by civil society and supporting states on protecting freedom of peaceful assembly.
In addition, civil society must work with supporting states to produce plans for reform of the UN Security Council and proposals to open up the UN and other international institutions to much greater public participation and scrutiny.
Overall, strengthening and enhancing the membership and reach of transnational civil society networks were also strongly encouraged to enable rapid deployment of solidarity and support when rights are under attack.
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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service