Chile: New Constitution in the Hands of the Far Right

Credit: Martín Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

By Inés M. Pousadela
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 19 2023 (IPS)

On 7 May, Chileans went to the polls to choose a Constitutional Council that will produce a new constitution to replace the one bequeathed by the Pinochet dictatorship – and handed control to a far-right party that never wanted a constitution-making process in the first place.

This is the second attempt at constitutional change in two years. The first process was the most open and inclusive in Chile’s history. The resulting constitutional text, ambitious and progressive, was widely rejected in a referendum. It’s now far from certain that this latest, far less inclusive process will result in a new constitution that is accepted and adopted – and there’s a possibility that any new constitution could be worse than the one it replaces.

A long and winding road

Chile’s constitution-making process was born out of mass protests that erupted in October 2019, under the neoliberal administration of Sebastián Piñera. Protests only subsided when the leaders of major parties agreed to hold a referendum to ask people whether they wanted a new constitution and, if so, how it should be drafted.

In the vote in October 2020, almost 80 per cent of voters backed constitutional change, with a new constitution to be drafted by a directly elected Constitutional Assembly. In May 2021, the Constitutional Assembly was elected, with an innovative mechanism to ensure gender parity and reserved seats for Indigenous peoples. Amid great expectations, the plural and diverse body started a one-year journey towards a new constitution.

Pushed by the same winds of change, in December 2021 Chile elected its youngest and most unconventional president ever: former student protester Gabriel Boric. But things soon turned sideways, and support for the Constitutional Assembly – often criticised as made up of unskilled amateurs – declined steadily along with support for the new government.

In September 2022, a referendum resulted in an overwhelming rejection of the draft constitution. Although very progressive in its focus on gender and Indigenous rights, a common criticism was that the proposed constitution failed to offer much to advance basic social rights in a country characterised by heavy economic inequality and poor public services. Disinformation was also rife during the campaign.

The second attempt kicked off in January 2023, with Congress passing a law laying out a new process with a much more traditional format. Instead of the large number of independent representatives involved before, this handed control back to political parties. The timeframe was shortened, the assembly made smaller and the previous blank slate replaced by a series of agreed principles. The task of producing the first draft is in the hands of a Commission of Experts, with a technical body, the Technical Admissibility Committee, guarding compliance with a series of agreed principles. One of the few things that remained from the previous process was gender parity.

Starting in March, the Commission of Experts was given three months to produce a new draft, to be submitted to the Constitutional Council for debate and approval. A referendum will be held in December to either ratify or reject the new constitution.

Rise of the far right

Compared with the 2021 election for the Constitutional Convention, the election for the Constitutional Council was characterised by low levels of public engagement. A survey published in mid-April found that 48 per cent of respondents had little or no interest in the election and 62 per cent had little or no confidence in the constitution-making process. Polls also showed increasing dissatisfaction with the government: in late 2022, approval rates had plummeted to 27 per cent. This made an anti-government protest vote likely.

While the 2021 campaign focused on inequality, this time the focus was on rising crime, economic hardship and irregular migration, pivoting to security issues. The party that most strongly reflected and instrumentalised these concerns came out the winner.

The far-right Republican Party, led by defeated presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, received 35.4 per cent of the votes, winning 23 seats on the 50-member council. The government-backed Unity for Chile came second, with 28.6 per cent and 16 seats. The traditional right-wing alliance Safe Chile took 21 per cent of the vote and got 11 seats. No seats were won by the populist People’s Party and the centrist All for Chile alliance, led by the Christian Democratic Party. The political centre has vanished, with polarisation on the rise.

What to expect

The Expert Commission will deliver its draft proposal on 6 June and the Constitutional Council will then have five months to work on it, approving decisions with the votes of three-fifths of its members – meaning 31 votes will be needed to make decisions, and 21 will be enough to block them. This gives veto power to the Republican Party – and if it manages to work with the traditional right wing, they will be able to define the new constitution’s contents.

The chances of the new draft constitution being better than the old one are slim. In the best-case scenario, only cosmetic changes will be introduced. In the worst, an even more regressive text will result.

People will have the final say on 17 December. If they ratify the proposed text, Chile will adopt a constitution that is, at best, not much different from the existing one. If they reject it, Chileans will be stuck with the old constitution that many rose up against in 2019. Either way, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand the recognition of rights will have been lost, and it will fall on civil society to keep pushing for the recognition and protection of human rights.

Inés M. Pousadela is CIVICUS Senior Research Specialist, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  


The Privilege of Making a Choice

By Yasmine Sherif
NEW YORK, May 8 2023 (IPS)

A civilian student named Saber was caught in the crossfire in Khartoum. He had two choices: either flee and lose everything; or die. But within a moment his option to choose was violently denied: he died.

As a result of the brutal internal armed conflict in Sudan right now, UNHCR projects that 860,000 people will flee across the borders as refugees and returnees into the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan. About 50% will be children and adolescents below 18.

Will they arrive alive? They can’t choose. They can only hope.

Making it worse, none of the neighboring countries has the financial and structural capacity to manage such influx, and yet they too, have no choice.

Indeed, an enormous international response will be required to support the Refugee Response Plan developed by 134 partners, including UN agencies, national and international NGOs and civil society groups, and launched on 4 May 2023.

Fleeing children and adolescents will need immediate psycho-social support and mental health care to cope with the stress and trauma of the conflict and perilous escape. They will need school meals. They will need water and sanitation. They will need protection. In the deep despair of their young lives, they will need a sense of normalcy and hope for their future. They need it now and a rapid response to establishing education can meet these needs.

Or to paraphrase ECW’s new Global Champion, the world-renowned journalist, Folly Bah Thibault – who reaffirms the need for speed and quality: the humanitarian-development nexus in action – in her high-level interview in this month’s ECW Newsletter, “We need to deliver with humanitarian speed and development depth.”

The choice is ours.

ECW is now traveling to the region to support host-governments, UN and civil society colleagues who jointly produced the Refugee Response Plan and who are on the ground working day and night in difficult circumstances. ECW will provide support both through an initial First Emergency Response investment and through our global advocacy.

We all have a choice to act now. Our choice is not between losing everything or die. Our choice is between action or inaction. Between humanity and indifference.

Prior to the breakout of the internal armed conflict in Sudan, Samiya*, a 17-year-old refugee student, wrote in her recent Postcard From the Edge: “Education is our future dream. Education is one of the most important factors to progress in life. Through education, people can thrive in their lives; they can also develop their skills and improve their life quality.”

We can help make Samya’s dream come true at the hardest, darkest moment of her life. Samiya does not have that choice. Only, we have that choice. Let us recognize it for what it is: as a privilege or blessing of choosing responsibility and humanity.

Yasmine Sherif is Director of Education Cannot Wait.

IPS UN Bureau


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  


Statement on the G7 Hiroshima Summit, the Ukraine Crisis and “No First Use” of Nuclear Weapons

Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Credit: Seikyo Shimbun

By Daisaku Ikeda
TOKYO, Japan, May 8 2023 (IPS)

The Ukraine crisis, which in addition to bringing devastation to the people of that country has had severe impacts on a global scale—even giving rise to the specter of nuclear weapons use—has entered its second year. Against this backdrop and amid urgent calls for its resolution, the G7 Summit of leading industrial nations will be held in Hiroshima, Japan, from May 19 to 21.

In February of this year, an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly was held, where a resolution calling for the early realization of peace in Ukraine was adopted. Among the operative paragraphs of the resolution was one that urged the “immediate cessation of the attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and any deliberate attacks on civilian objects, including those that are residences, schools and hospitals.”

With that as a first essential step, all concerned parties must come together to create a space for deliberations toward a complete cessation of hostilities. Here I would like to propose that, as negotiations advance through the cooperative efforts of the concerned countries, they be joined by representatives of civil society, such as the physicians and educators who work in schools and hospitals to protect and nurture people’s lives and futures, participating as observers.

In March, the leaders of Russia and China issued a joint statement following their summit meeting which reads in part: “The two sides call for stopping all moves that lead to tensions and the protraction of fighting to prevent the crisis from getting worse or even out of control.” This is aligned with the resolution adopted by the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly.

The G7 Hiroshima Summit should develop concrete plans for negotiations that will lead to a cessation of hostilities.

I also urge the G7 to commit at the Hiroshima Summit to taking the lead in discussions on pledges of No First Use of nuclear weapons. The current crisis is without parallel in the length of time that the threat of use and the fear of actual use of nuclear weapons have persisted without cease.

Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha of those cities, in coordination with the larger civil society movement, have stressed the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons; non-nuclear-weapon states have engaged in continuous diplomatic efforts; and the states possessing nuclear weapons have exercised self-restraint. As a result, the world has somehow managed to maintain a seventy-seven-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons.

If international public opinion and the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons were to fail to provide their braking function, nuclear deterrence policy will compel humankind to stand on a precipitous ledge, never knowing when it might give way.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, I have written two public statements. In both, I referenced the joint statement by the five nuclear-weapon states (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China) made in January 2022, which reiterated the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” and called for it to serve as the basis for reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use.

Also of important note is the declaration issued by the G20 group in Indonesia last November, which stated: “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

The G20 member countries include nuclear-weapon states as well as nuclear-dependent states. It is deeply significant that these countries have officially expressed their shared recognition that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is “inadmissible”—the animating spirit of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

It is vital that this message be communicated powerfully to the world from Hiroshima.

As the G7 leaders revisit the actual consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation and the bitter lessons of the nuclear era, I urge that they initiate earnest deliberations on making pledges of No First Use so that their shared recognition of the inadmissible nature of nuclear weapons can find expression in changed policies.

If agreement could be reached on the principle of No First Use, which was at one point included in drafts of the final statement for last year’s NPT Review Conference, this would establish the basis on which states could together transform the challenging security environments in which they find themselves. I believe it is vital to make the shift to a “common security” paradigm.

Commitment to policies of No First Use is indeed a “prescription for hope.” It can serve as the axle connecting the twin wheels of the NPT and TPNW, speeding realization of a world free from nuclear weapons.

For our part, the SGI has continued to work with the world’s hibakusha, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—which arose from its parent body IPPNW—and other organizations first for the adoption and now the universalization of the TPNW. As members of civil society, we are committed to promoting the prompt adoption of policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons, generating momentum to transform our age.

The author is Peace builder and Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda, who is President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Read full statement here full statement.

IPS UN Bureau


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  


Uzbekistan: A President for Life?

Credit: Victor Drachev/AFP via Getty Images

By Andrew Firmin
LONDON, May 5 2023 (IPS)

Where will you be in 2040? For Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the answer is: in the Kuksaroy Presidential Palace. That’s the chief consequence of the referendum held in the Central Asian country on 30 April.

With dissent tightly controlled in conditions of closed civic space, there was no prospect of genuine debate, a campaign against, or a no vote.

Repression betrays image of reform

Mirziyoyev took over the presidency in 2016 following the death of Islam Karimov, president for 26 years. Karimov ruled with an iron fist; Mirziyoyev has tried to position himself as a reformer by comparison.

The government rightly won international recognition when Uzbekistan was declared free of the systemic child labour and forced labour that once plagued its cotton industry. The move came after extensive international civil society campaigning, with global action compensating for the inability of domestic civil society to mobilise, given severe civic space restrictions.

While that systemic problem has been addressed, undoubtedly abuses of labour rights remain. And these are far from the only human rights violations. When one of the proposed constitutional changes announced last July sparked furious protests, the repression that followed belied Mirziyoyev’s reformist image.

Among the proposed changes was a plan to amend the status of Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region. Formally, it’s an autonomous republic with the right to secede. The surprise announcement that this special status would end brought rare mass protests in the regional capital, Nukus. When local police refused to intervene, central government flew over riot police, inflaming tensions and resulting in violent clashes.

A state of emergency was imposed, tightly restricting the circulation of information. Because of this, details are scarce, but it seems some protesters started fires and tried to occupy government buildings, and riot police reportedly responded with live ammunition and an array of other forms of violence. Several people were killed and over 500 were reported to have been detained. Many received long jail sentences.

The government quickly dropped its intended change, but otherwise took a hard line, claiming the protesters were foreign-backed provocateurs trying to destabilise the country. But what happened was down to the absence of democracy. The government announced the proposed change with no consultation. All other channels for expressing dissent being blocked, the only way people could communicate their disapproval was to take to the streets.

Civic space still closed

It remains the reality that very little independent media is tolerated and journalists and bloggers experience harassment and intimidation. Vague and broad laws against the spreading of ‘false information’ and defamation give the state ample powers to block websites, a regular occurrence.

Virtually no independent civil society is allowed; most organisations that present themselves as part of civil society are government entities. Independent organisations struggle to register, particularly when they have a human rights focus. New regulations passed in June 2022 give the state oversight of activities supported by foreign donors, further restricting the space for human rights work.

It’s been a long time since Uzbekistan held any kind of recognisably democratic vote. The only presidential election with a genuine opposition candidate was held in 1991. Mirziyoyev certainly hasn’t risked a competitive election: when he last stood for office, to win his second term in 2021, he faced four pro-government candidates.

A flawed vote and a self-serving outcome

The referendum’s reported turnout and voting totals were at around the same levels as for the non-competitive presidential elections: official figures stated that 90-plus per cent endorsed the changes on a turnout of almost 85 per cent.

Given the state’s total control, voting figures are hard to trust. Even if the numbers are taken at face value, election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe pointed out that the referendum was held ‘in an environment that fell short of political pluralism and competition’. There was a lack of genuine debate, with very little opportunity for people to put any case against approving the changes.

State officials and resources were mobilised to encourage a yes vote and local celebrities were deployed in rallies and concerts. State media played its usual role as a presidential mouthpiece, promoting the referendum as an exercise in enhancing rights and freedoms. Anonymous journalists reported that censorship had increased ahead of the vote and they’d been ordered to cover the referendum positively.

Mirziyoyev is clearly the one who benefits. The key change is the extension of presidential terms from five to seven years. Mirziyoyev’s existing two five-year terms are wiped from the count, leaving him eligible to serve two more. Mirziyoyev has taken the same approach as authoritarian leaders the world over of reworking constitutions to stay in power. It’s hardly the act of a reformer.

The president remains all-powerful, appointing all government and security force officials. Meanwhile there’s some new language about rights and a welcome abolition of the death penalty – but no hint of changes that will allow movement towards free and fair elections, real opposition parties, independent human rights organisations and free media.

The constitution’s new language about rights will mean nothing if democratic reform doesn’t follow. But change of this kind was always possible under the old constitution – it’s always been lack of political will at the top standing in the way, and that hasn’t changed.

Democratic nations, seeking to build bridges in Central Asia to offer a counter to the region’s historical connections with Russia, may well welcome the superficial signs of reform. A UK-based public relations firm was hired to help persuade them. But they should urge the president to go much further, follow up with genuine reforms, and allow for real political competition when he inevitably stands for his third term.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  


Fiji: Deeper Democracy or Continuing Danger?

Credit: Pita Simpson/Getty Images

By Andrew Firmin
LONDON, Apr 28 2023 (IPS)

It’s been a time of significant change in Fiji following the country’s December 2022 election. A close vote was followed by the formation of a new coalition government. Frank Bainimarama was out as prime minister after 16 years, replaced by Sitiveni Rabuka.

Rabuka was hardly a new face, having been prime minister in the 1990s, and both Bainimarama and Rabuka had previously led military coups. For Fiji’s civil society, the question was whether this political shift would bring improvements in civic and democratic freedoms. Bainimarama’s government had shown itself increasingly intolerant of dissent.

People who criticised the government were subjected to harassment and arrest. In July 2021, nine opposition politicians were arrested, questioned and accused of inciting unrest. In 2020, opposition party offices were raided by police in response to social media posts critical of the government.

The outgoing government used the Public Order Act to restrict protests, including by opposition parties. The Fiji Trade Union Congress was repeatedly denied permission to march and its leader charged with public order offences. Police often used excessive force against protests, with impunity. There was, in short, much room for improvement.

Positive steps on media freedom

The most encouraging move so far is the repeal of the Media Industry Development Act. This law, passed under the Bainimarama government, established a highly interventionist government-controlled media regulator. Journalists could be jailed for two years and media outlets slapped with heavy fines if their reporting was judged to go against the national or public interest – vague terms open to broad interpretation. This encouraged self-censorship.

The law was one of the main reasons Fiji was the lowest-ranking Pacific Island nation on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. Media freedom constraints came from the top, with the government favouring state-aligned media, including by withholding advertising from more critical outlets.

Now the media and civil society will be looking for the government to go further. A sedition law that can bring extensive jail sentences remains in need of reform. And beyond this, the government needs to actively support the development of independent Fijian media, including through the fairer distribution of ad spending.

The new government has also moved to rebuild relationships with trade unions. In February it confirmed it would re-establish an effective tripartite forum that brings together government, trade unions and employers; its predecessor was accused of not taking this seriously. The new government has said it will bring to an end the harassment, intimidation and arrest of union leaders. Unions will work to hold the government to these promises.

A fall from grace

These changes have come against a backdrop of continuing political polarisation. It’s been quite the journey for Bainimarama since losing power. In February he was suspended from parliament. This came after he used his first speech as leader of the opposition to deliver a stinging critique of Fiji’s president, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere.

In his speech, Bainimarama appealed to the military to ‘not forsake their constitutional role’. This seemed a coded plea for military intervention: the 2013 constitution, introduced by Bainimarama, gives the military the power to intervene to ensure the ‘safety and security of the country’. When he was still prime minister, as post-electoral negotiations were taking place, Bainimarama had ordered the military onto the streets.

Bainimarama’s response to his suspension was to resign from parliament. But he made clear his intent to stay politically active and remains party leader.

Last month Bainimarama was charged with abuse of office while prime minister. He was granted bail after pleading not guilty. He’s alleged to have intervened to stop a police investigation into alleged corruption at the University of the South Pacific. Police Commissioner Sitiveni Tukaituraga Qiliho, currently suspended, is also charged with abuse of office for the same case and has also pleaded not guilty.

Dangers ahead

The obvious danger is that Bainimarama, no longer confined by parliamentary niceties, could seek to stir unrest through sensationalism and disinformation, which could offer a pretext for his supporters in the military to intervene. The spectre of military rule is never far away in Fiji. There have been four coups since independence in 1970. Rabuka led two in 1987 and then Bainimarama headed coups in 2000 and 2006. In this context, it’s ominous that in January the head of the army expressed concern about ‘sweeping changes’ being introduced by the new government.

On all occasions the pretext for coups has been ethnic unrest, with Fiji’s population broadly divided between Indigenous Fijians and people of Asian heritage. Civil society and the international community will need to stay alert to any attempts to foster division and mobilise one population group against the other.

At the same time the new government needs to beware of fuelling narratives that it’s being vindictive towards Bainimarama and his party. There’s a need to ensure that diverse points of view can be aired – including from the new opposition. As a former coup leader, Rabuka needs to keep proving his commitment to democracy.

What happens next in Fiji is of concern not just for Fijians but for the region, since the country is a major hub and host of key regional institutions. China and the USA, along with Australia, are trying to build closer relations with Fiji as they compete for influence among Pacific Island nations. So whether Fiji becomes more democratic and opens up civic space matters.

In these early days of the new government there can be no room for complacency. Fiji’s civil society must be supported and enabled as a vital democratic force. And it must keep on engaging constructively to ensure that government promises are followed by deeds that advance rights.

Andrew Firmin is CIVICUS Editor-in-Chief, co-director and writer for CIVICUS Lens and co-author of the State of Civil Society Report.


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);  


“Defending Human Rights Is a Crime in Some Countries and a Deadly Activity in Others”

An activist in Colombia, the deadliest country in the world for human rights defenders in 2022, accounting for 186 killings – or 46% – of the global total registered last year. Credit: Sebastian Barros

By Bibbi Abruzzini and Clarisse Sih, Forus
BRUSSELS, Apr 27 2023 (IPS)

In today’s world, human rights defenders face immense challenges, with threats, attacks, and repression being rampant in many countries. According to the latest report by Front Line Defenders, killings of rights defenders increased in 2022, with a total of 401 deaths across 26 different countries. Despite the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders 25 years ago, the threats faced by defenders persist globally.

One striking example of the dire situation is in Bolivia, where violations of freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and the right to defend rights have been recorded by the Observatory of Rights Defenders of UNITAS, with the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights of Bolivia (APDHB) being a longstanding victim of attacks and delegitimization. A total of 725 violations of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, democratic institutions and the right to defend rights have been recorded by the Observatory of Rights Defenders.

Gladys Sandova, a human rights and environmental defender in the Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia, reveals how the state often aligns with oil businesses instead of protecting communities. “Tariquía is the lung of Tarija,” Gladys explains, yet this vital source of water for southern Bolivia and home to over 3,000 people, is at risk due to the state-owned Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) seeking to revive oil exploration in the reserve.

“Oil companies are here, we are going to lose our natural richness, they are going to affect the lives of families, and contaminate our water and our air,” says Gladys, reflecting the urgent need to defend human rights and the environment.

Her story is similar to that of several other human rights defenders across the globe : they are victims of hostilities, interference, threats, and harassment. The campaign, ReImagina La Defensa de Derechos, by UNITAS collects the testimonies of human rights defenders and indigenous leaders across Bolivia raising awareness about the challenges they face.

Stories from human rights defenders from across the globe are also featured in the #AlternativeNarratives campaign, which seeks to amplify the voices of civil society organizations and grassroots movements that work towards social justice, human rights, and sustainable development. The campaign encourages the use of storytelling, multimedia tools, and creative expression to highlight alternative perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and advocate for positive chang while fostering a more inclusive and equitable narrative space that reflects the diversity of human experiences and promotes solidarity, empathy, and mutual understanding.

Human rights defenders, including women defenders, continue to mobilize against repressive regimes and occupying forces in countries like Afghanistan, the DRC, El Salvador, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, and Ukraine. Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, highlights the underreporting of human rights violations against defenders, particularly women, and outlines “disturbing trends” in relation to civic space worldwide.

Repongac, representing over 1,200 NGOs in Central Africa, states that “human rights in Central Africa are no longer guaranteed,” with civil society actors, journalists, and defenders facing repression, prosecution, and arrests. Recent campaigns organized by Repongac in Central Africa and Repaoc in West Africa, supported by Forus and the French Development Agency, brought together diverse stakeholders, including human rights defenders, political parties, parliamentarians, journalists, and security personnel, to initiate a dialogue and protect civic space amnd fundametnal freedoms in the region.

To support activists and defenders globally, the Danish Institute for Human Rights has launched a monitoring tool that assesses whether an enabling environment for human rights defenders exists across five critical areas. Developed in collaboration with 24 institutions and organizations, including the United Nations and civil society networks, the tool not only tracks the number of killings of human rights defenders but also analyzes the presence of appropriate legislation and practices to protect defenders.

As Carol Rask, a representative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, explains, defending human rights is a crime in some countries and a deadly activity in others. It is a call to action for change, urging individuals, organizations, and governments to prioritize and protect the crucial work of human rights defenders worldwide.

Griselda Sillerico, human rights defender in Bolivia for over 30 years, quotes Ana María Romero and says “human rights are seeds that we continue to plant and that over the years we harvest.” Griselda Sillerico’s quote echoes the enduring spirit of human rights advocacy, where the work of human rights defenders like her is a constant effort to sow the seeds of justice, equality, and dignity for all. Despite the challenges and setbacks, human rights defenders across the world continue to plant these seeds, often at great personal risk, with the hope of reaping a future where human rights are universally respected and protected.

IPS UN Bureau


!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+’://’;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, ‘script’, ‘twitter-wjs’);