CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

Archive for September, 2010

International Day of Peace

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 30, 2010

Written By Megan MacGarry, CSI Programme Officer

The International Day of Peace (IDP) was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. It provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date.  The day has been declared global ceasefire day (or a day of nonviolence) but this is not adhered to with enough regard or importance as it needs/ should be. It seems that the more advanced humanity becomes, the more barbaric we have become: technology improves to lengthen people’s lives and saves more lives, yet at the same time, technology improves to make more comprehensive guns to become more deadly. So one day in a year to be a day of peace is simply not enough, especially when it is not that well known or publicized. Is ringing a bell at the UN headquarters enough to push for global peace?

This year’s IDP took place during a time when the world has been plagued by wars, closing borders, repression and silenced media, human rights abuses and lack of freedom for civil society around the world. What then does this day mean for an organization like CIVICUS trying to be the voice of the voiceless and open up space for civil society?

This day of peace -21 September- was a strange occurrence as I never, much to my embarrassment, heard of the UN created global day of peace. But it was the occasion for me to learn a new buzz word in the international development sphere, that of ‘jingoism’. This was mentioned in an article I was briefly skim reading in a rush to gather basic information on the exact purpose of peace day, only to discover it was an opinion piece about the current state of geo-political disarray that the world seems to be in. We were about to go into a CSI meeting and so I wasn’t able to properly read the article, and I have yet been able to find it since, but it sparked an interesting chain of thoughts that have led to this blog and numerous discussions since.

I have been working in the ‘development’ sector, that of international/local politics, development, poverty alleviation, civil society and such (it has so many names these days, can anyone ever keep up!?), for approximately 6 or so years now. All my tertiary level studies leading up to this were also in these fields, and so, without boasting or bragging, I have a marginally substantial knowledge on these topics and this broader field. And yet, despite this extensive history, I had never heard of International Day of Peace. I had never heard of the date, or the concept behind it. Please excuse my massive ignorance it would seem, but I feel this gap in my knowledge is also due to the fact that this vitally important day does not receive or capture the attention, the media hype or the global focus that it rightly, importantly or so timeously deserves to. And that, in its own right, is what I found so tragic about this situation (along with my poor knowledge and awareness).

The history around this international day is that it is a calendar day dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might happen in a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It has become increasingly observed by many nations, political and military groups and people around the globe as the one day throughout the year where everyone puts down their weapons and adheres to a global ceasefire, regardless of the circumstances of the situation or the war. The ‘peace bell’ is rung at the UN headquarters in New York. The inscription on its side reads “long live absolute world peace”. This is a statement that sits with difficulty with me; it is such a wonderful goal and ambition, but one that is ultimately a dream, an ultimate that seems almost impossible to achieve in this current world that we live in. Too many people are still denied basic human rights, such as access to clean water or a space to sleep at night, never mind a complex and at times seemingly academic and removed notion such as ‘absolute’ peace.

In a world where people are denied so much, and face a magnitude of problems beyond comprehension, where humanity often seems to be failing to such a degree sometimes, is it possible that we will ever be able to achieve such an ambitious goal as absolute peace for all? I sincerely hope so. Every bone of my body and every cell of my being need to believe that this is an achievable absolute; that peace will win and triumph over war, conflict and strife in this complex, yet amazing planet of ours, as it is so worth continuing to work towards.

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Civic Education, Participation and Human Rights

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 29, 2010

– Written by Ikechukwu O. Nwokedi, CSI Research Intern –

The critical elements towards ensuring that global human rights abuses are minimized significantly are “an improved civic education and participation”.  A large number of people, particularly in developing countries continue to experience human rights abuses, partly as a result of weak engagement through citizen participation and civic education. As the drive towards reforming societies continues, the questions remains:

  • Are the citizens fully aware of their human rights?
  • A re the civil societies doing enough to engage citizens?

It is alarming that despite the growing numbers of civil societies globally, people’s rights are still being abused in many countries. A recent (2009) report by Amnesty International points that people are abused and tortured in 81 countries, face unfair trials occur in 54 countries, are restricted in their freedom of expression in 77 countries,  and continued marginalization targets women and children.

It is obvious that the minorities and the underprivileged in our societies continue to be the major victims of these abuses and leadership structures in these countries contribute to the suppressing of the voice of the citizens.  Hence the ‘messenger is often silenced’!

Achieving an almost zero mark on the level of abuse is indeed a Herculean task and requires that civil societies should direct their efforts towards educating people about their rights through campaigns geared at improving citizen’s participation.  Indeed, as Shulamith Koenig* claimed at the United Nations, “most of the women, men, youth and children in the world – six billion of us – for whom the holistic human rights framework was created – with great efforts and moral authority by all nations – do not know about the relevance of human rights to their lives. They are not aware of the extent that their government made commitments and undertook obligation to implement human rights, but are slow in doing so”.

– Ikechukwu O. Nwokedi –

*Shulamith Koenig, Executive Director of the PDHRE (People’s Movement for Human Rights Education), is a recipient of the 2003 UN Prize in the field of Human rights.

[Illustration – HREOC]

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Guinea – Call for reform in the army to ensure democracy

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 28, 2010

– Written by Anaelle Planckaert, CSI Communications and Outreach Intern –

The first anniversary of the killing of over 150 unarmed prodemocracy demonstrators and the rapes of over 100 women takes place in a very heated electoral climate. Almost two years after the military coup in December 2008, Guinea is halfway through a landmark presidential poll raising hopes to restore the civilian rule in the country. The first round of voting on June 24 was seen as the country’s first democratic vote after 24 years under the rule of autocratic President Lansana Conte. The second round, planned at first on 19 September, has now been postponed to 10 October, raising heightened tensions that already made one victim.

According to Human Rights Watch, one year after the notorious massacre and widespread sexual violence by Guinea security forces in Conakry, “none of those responsible for the killings has been brought to trial”. International watchdog groups claim the absolute need to put the dismantling of this culture of impunity and the reform of the army as a top priority for the next Guinean president.

As stressed by Human Right Watch Senior West Africa Researcher, Corinne Dufka, “The Guinean military has a history of engaging in very serious human rights abuses and common crime committed against ordinary Guineans.  The new government, once elected, must begin by addressing these very serious patterns of abuses and the impunity that they enjoy by holding accountable those responsible for the 2009 violence.”

[Photo: AFP/Getty Images]

The success of a future democratic government highly depends on a complete reform of Guinea’s undisciplined military forces. A report issued earlier this month by the International Crisis Group, Guinea: Reforming the Army, calls for a civilian-led reform towards reduced military numbers and greater financial transparency. However the success of such a reform also depends on the cooperation from senior military officials.

Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group West Africa Project Director, emphasizes the risk that “the armed forces will want to impose their own agenda on the reform process”. It is consequently crucial that the international community strives to ensure that the elections take place without any further delay, but also remain engaged afterwards to guarantee stability in Guinea and West Africa. Such engagement will not only require strong political will, but also long-term donor commitment and resources.

– Anaelle Planckaert –

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World Leaders must act decisively before it’s too late

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 27, 2010

“Achieving the MDGs in the next five years requires world leaders to fulfill their existing commitments, become accountable to each other and their people, re-commit to human rights, and ensure civil society has the freedom to exist, express and engage.” Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS Secretary General – MDG Summit 2010.

The three-day high level Summit on the Millennium Development Goals closed on 22 September on a series of recommendations and concrete acceleration strategies put forward by civil society and official representatives, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Strong recommendations were notably made to put social security and equitable distribution of wealth at the heart of MDG strategies.

CIVICUS now urges governments to unconditionally implement these solutions presented by civil society experts, and ensure that the principles of accountability and participation are an integral part of MDG strategies.

To find out more about the recommendations, please read the CIVICUS Statement on the MDG Summit.

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Go Barefoot for Human Rights – Lose your shoes on Human Rights Day, December 10th

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 27, 2010

Every Human Has Rights, launched by the Elders and now hosted by CIVICUS, exists to raise awareness and engage the general public on human rights, bringing to life the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Human Rights Day on the 10th December every year celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On 10 December 2010, Every Human Has Rights stands up to bring people together, even for a few moments, to think about other people whose rights have been violated. By creating empathy we might begin to build an understanding and begin to make the fight for human rights part of everyone’s lives.  In particular this year the focus will be on people living in poverty – people who don’t have food to put on their table, let alone shoes to put on their feet.

The belief: The world would be a better place if every person walked a mile in another person’s shoes

On 10 December, at 12 noon local time, take off your shoes, step out onto the street and walk around the block to declare your solidarity.

“A march for human rights can reach some hearts now, but we know we have a long way to go in this generational struggle.  But the march begins with the first steps – within us.  If we end such hate and such disrespect for human rights within ourselves, then we have begun the march as a barefoot warrior for human rights.”

Barefoot in the War of Ideas for Human Rights by Jeffrey Imm, June 2010

How it will work:

1. Raising profile through new media
People across the world lose their shoes and walk around their office, church, school barefoot.  They take pictures and videos to upload onto the Lose Your Shoes website.  We hope to persuade one or two high profile figures / celebrities to go barefoot to help promote this action through digital and traditional media.

2. Raise awareness of human rights issues
Stories and case studies online and used in digital promotions will help us demonstrate that violations of human rights are one of the biggest obstacles to eradicating poverty and how people are taking action to uphold Universal rights.

3. Steps for human rights
By drawing people to the Lose Your Shoes website, we will ask them to pledge to take STEPS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS by starting with actions on the day and then throughout the year, 12 steps – one each month.  We’ll send them the steps they can take each month by email, feature them on the website and eventually by SMS. The steps can be a range of actions from signing a petition, to going to an event or watching a video and sharing with 10 friends.

Will you have the courage to go Barefoot?  How you can get involved:

1.    We’re asking organizations globally, big and small, to mobilize their constituents to go barefoot and spread the word about Human Rights Day this year. We’ll design the promotional tools: posters, digital banners, widgets etc.  You can go barefoot for women’s rights, free education for all, people living with HIV/AIDs etc.

2.    Supply Every Human Has Rights with actions for people to take – on Human Rights Day itself and throughout the next year that we can feature as a step for human rights. We can promote individual organizations actions, particularly from the south.

3.    We’ll also be looking for some simple case studies and stories to help tell the story of human rights & poverty, let us know if you can help.

Share your ideas about how we can go barefoot together or find out more with Rashmi Mistry, Every Human Has Rights coordinator at CIVICUS: rashmi.mistry@civicus.org


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Claiming Citizenship: Special Book Offer for CIVICUS Members

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 23, 2010

The Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability is offering free copies of its two latest books to the first twenty members of the CIVICUS network to supply their mailing address. The only condition is that the books be made available widely within an institution.

Both books are timely as 140 leaders gathered in New York to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals, the most ambitious commitment ever made in the effort to fight poverty. Big questions face international development regarding how we will measure our success, and whether global civil society is properly equipped for new challenges?

Citizen Action and National Policy Reform: Making Change Happen (John Gaventa and Rosemary McGee, eds.) looks at how citizen activism can lead to changes in national policy. Which factors help make myriad efforts by diverse actors add up to reform? What is needed to overcome setbacks, and to consolidate the smaller victories? This book brings together eight studies of successful cases of citizen activism for national policy changes in South Africa, Morocco, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Turkey, India and the Philippines. They detail the dynamics and strategies that have led to the introduction, change or effective implementation of policies responding to a range of rights deficits. Drawing on influential social science theory about how political and social change occurs, the book brings new empirical insights to bear on it, both challenging and enriching current understandings.

Globalizing Citizens: New Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion (John Gaventa and Rajesh Tandon, eds.) explores how globalization has given rise to new meanings of citizenship. Just as they are tied by global production, trade and finance, citizens in every nation are linked by the institutions of global governance, which brings new dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. This expert new analysis presents case studies from cities and villages in India, South Africa, Nigeria, Philippines, Kenya, The Gambia, Brazil and South Africa to explore how new forms of global authority shape and build new meanings and practices of citizenship – across local, national and global arenas. For some, globalization has provided a new sense of global solidarity that has inspired them to join transnational movements and to mobilize to claim their rights. But for others, globalization has meant greater exposure to the power of global corporations, bureaucracies and scientific experts, adding new layers of exclusion.

To request a free copy, please write to Nicholas Benequista on n.benequista@ids.ac.uk. Just make sure to write quickly. Offer ends soon!

You can find out more about the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability on www.drc-citizenship.org

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Reviewing the Role of Civil Societies on Climate Change and Human Security Issues

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 22, 2010

– Written by Ikechukwu Nwokedi, CSI Research Intern –

Civil society organizations (CSOs) globally, continue to achieve successes amidst the difficult environments in which they have been operating particularly at this period of economic uncertainties. Their strengths lie in their ability to influence state decisions, advocate for positive change and effectively represent concerned citizens on relevant issues. As such, their scope has widened from tackling regional problems to more global issues like climate change and globalization. This widening scope came as a result of the growing debate on climate change and the associated human security impacts like drought, flooding, etc. This is evident from recent climate change conferences and workshops (Climate Change Conference in Bolivia-2010, Copenhagen Climate Change Conference-2009, Civicus World Assembly-2010) where CSOs effectively engaged world leaders and stakeholders on human security issues. Similarly, a statement by Eduardo Giesen (Friends of the Earth) before the climate change conference held in Bolivia (April 2010) reads: “We are going with the expectation of the creation of a genuine social and popular movement that takes up the environmental questions – in this case the climate crisis – as a social and socio-political problem, and that it is constituted beyond the non-governmental environmental organizations”. [In article by Daniela Estrada]

This article reviews some of the successes of CSOs in influencing decisions affecting the society as a whole within the context of climate change. Climate change as a global phenomenon, affects human existence through a number of ways. Examples are the flooding experienced in Mozambique (2007) and drought spells in Kenya (2009). These events took their toll on the respective societies as livestock were lost, downstream dwellers had their villages destroyed and people lost their lives to drought. These issues briefly highlight the vulnerability of societies (particularly the poor) to climate change impacts.

[A family takes refuge on top of a mosque while awaiting rescue from flood waters in Sanawa, a town located in the Muzaffar Ghar district of Pakistan’s Punjab province – August 5, 2010. Reuters/Stringer]

The interest of CSOs on climate change issues came with a paradigm shift from the assessment of vulnerabilities and adaptation systems of societies to the evaluation of mitigation measures through a strong stakeholder engagement. Hence, various CSOs have contributed in the mainstreaming of environmental issues within developmental policies. Among the successes is the agreement by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) in Rome 2008 to engage CSOs/Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on issues relating to biofuel/energy production from plants and the impacts on agriculture in an elevated climate change environment. Likewise, in the Capsian region (between the Caucasus and Central Asia, Russia and Iran), NGOs, through their concerted efforts, have continued to improve the level of public awareness on environmental issues and engaged authorities and corporations on the environmental impacts of an already full-scale pollution on the citizens. Other CSO’s successes can be recalled at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the public participation in environmental decision making was adopted. In Africa, the recent (May 2010) World Economic Forum in Tanzania, saw communities calling for emission reductions and investments in clean energy. This came as a result of the activities of companies on their society, as prolonged droughts and floods continue to impact agricultural produce.  The Nigerian CSI Country Report (2007) suggests that 90% of the NGOs within the Niger delta focus on environmental issues, and although there is recognition that CSOs activity had some positive impact on the society, their actions however are still drops of water in the ocean.

Having highlighted some of the achievements of CSOs in relation to climate change on a global context, there is still a huge gap between the actual engagement of stakeholders and the positive outcomes of those engagements. In essence, CSOs should focus not just on engaging stakeholders, but also on monitoring their progress through regular reviews towards finding ways to ensure that commitments made are followed up on. For instance, through the effective engagement with country partners, the CIVICUS CSI measures such stakeholder engagements and respective CSOs in those countries (particularly those involved in environmental issues) can utilize the available data for research and decision making. Using this index as a tool, the role of CSOs in advocating for environmental rights and sustainable practices can be effectively achieved.

Ikechukwu Nwokedi

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Is Civil Society Dying a Slow Death?

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 21, 2010

– Written by Sinqobile Dube, CSI Support Officer –

The recession has come and gone, or is still lurking in the shadows, who knows. Some are still feeling its after-effects, some lost their lives and some made billions of out it. The question is: what damage did the recession do to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)?

A known fact is that CSOs cannot strive without the support of donors like the FORD Foundation, SIDA, CIDA, NORAD, and IRISH AID just to name a few, bearing in mind that these were also hit by the elusive giant called recession. This in turn resulted in a number of these donors pulling out of some, if not all CSOs’ funding. CSOs are drying up fast, caught up in a desert without any oasis in sight. Since the wells are drying up faster than anyone can keep up,

  • Who will bail CSOs out?
  • Which direction will take the agenda of CSOs?
  • How can CSOs make sure that their voices are heard at a minimum cost?
  • Are the growing accountability efforts among CSOs effective enough?
  • How civil can society be without the voice of CSOs?

Already some members of the civil society arena have been forced to close down. This is the time to take stock of your own CSO to make sure that it has the funds and vision to sustain its agenda and growth for another decade. We can work together to ensure the sustainability of civil society without losing what we have achieved so far. We have the potential to face the ongoing hazards while ensuring that our voices are still heard. It is in our hands to make the change that we want in this world. It is in our hands to work together as one for this change to be as effective as we have always dreamed. Let’s keep in mind the echoing voices of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. In the context of the United Nations MDG Summit in New York, and the coming GCAP and Open Forum Global Assemblies, let’s push the agenda forward and speak up, now more than ever.

“The liberties of our society, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks”. Samuel Adams

Amandla ngawethu: It’s in our hands!

– Sinqobile Dube –

Ingrid Srinath, CIVICUS Secretary General and CEO, and Mandeep Tiwana, CIVICUS Policy Manager, are attending the United Nations High-level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals from 20 to 22 September 2010 in New York.

Katsuji Imata, CIVICUS Programmes Deputy Secretary General, will attend the Global Call to Action Against Poverty Global Assembly from 23 to 25 September in New York. He will then attend the Open Forum Global Assembly from 28 to 30 September in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Albanian Policy Action Brief is ready!

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 20, 2010

The Albanian CSI partner, the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) was the first to publish its CSI Country Report in July 2010. Now the official Policy Action Brief, the final output of the CSI implementation, is ready for print. Congratulations to the IDM team!

The Policy Brief draws on the recommendations from both the Country Report as well as the CSI national workshop, where working groups on each of the CSI Diamond dimensions presented their agenda for change.

Some of the main recommendations from the Policy Brief, which is addressed to Albanian civil society, government, as well as international donors, are:

  • In order to increase citizen engagement and participation in civil society activities, the Policy Brief recommends that CSOs must rely on and engage citizens as stakeholders more actively rather than perceiving citizens only as beneficiaries.
  • CSO accountability and good governance continues to be one of the main challenges of Albanian CSOs. It is thus recommended that the state put in place improved legislation to give CSOs incentives to be more accountable for their actions. Further, a donor coordination forum is suggested in order to overcome some of the concerns and challenges.
  • In order to improve CSO impact on policies and other processes in society, the Policy Brief recommends, amongst other, a long-term strategy to be put in place to improve CSO, state and interest-group relations. Also, actions to improve civil society’s public image need to be implemented.
  • One of the main target groups of the Albanian Policy Brief is the donor community, and a main recommendation to particularly international donors is to diversify its focus in both thematic and geographical coverage. In addition, the coordination between donors is suggested as an important step in order to improve the current challenges.

It was identified, however, that the root causes and effects for these problems are not isolated within a single context. Therefore, a holistic approach to addressing some of the concerns is critical.

The Albanian Policy Action Brief is the first one of the current CSI implementation phase. It augurs a long series of new reports coming soon!

To read the entire Policy Brief, please download the Albania Policy Action Brief. The Policy Brief is also available in Albanian.

If you wish to contact IDM for any follow-up actions as recommended in this Policy Brief, feel free to write to index@civicus.org and we will put you in contact with the right persons.

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LTA Resource Centre – The new platform for Civil Society accountability

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 16, 2010

As repeatedly pinpointed by the CSI, Transparency and Accountability of civil society organisations are essential for the Legitimacy, sustainability, effectiveness and protection of their activities. Now more than ever.

Through its Legitimacy, Transparency and Accountability (LTA) programme, CIVICUS wants to improve the public trust and the credibility of non-governmental organisations by helping them enhance their accountability systems and structures.

With the ultimate aim to bridge, connect and convene LTA practitioners, researchers and academics and guide civil society organizations to the resources they need, CIVICUS LTA Programme now offers the brand new LTA Resource Centre. The new platform offers access to various resources (articles and reports, case studies, guides and frameworks, legal resources, statistics and surveys, etc) and the latest LTA news around the globe. But it stands above all as a valuable community of practice, by offering organisations the opportunity to add their own resources and showcase best practices of CSOs’ accountability within the sector.

The LTA Resource Center has already aroused the interest of many civil society stakeholders and will undeniably establish itself as an essential platform for the third sector.

Find out more about the LTA Resource Centre: http://lta.civicus.org/

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