A slippery slope in Southern Africa

The news from southern Africa is certainly depressing. The region is experiencing a major backslide in democratic freedoms, further damaging the reputation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and its ability to bind its members to common values.

Recent restrictions on civil society in the region, whether through regressive laws, policies or vigorous persecution of activists, fly in face of the SADC treaty which calls upon its 14 members to uphold human rights and the rule of law and promote common political values through democratic, legitimate and effective institutions. This current reality on the ground is causing human rights defenders to question whether it is time to write the obituary for SADC as a body committed to progressive, pro-human rights values. Continue reading

The sustainable human development approach starts with…

The sustainable human development approach starts with the recognition that people’s knowledge, skills, experience, culture, energy and inventiveness are every country’s most valuable resource, and that people and their traditions must be regarded as assets, not liabilities. This approach gives prime emphasis to the role of human beings in their social context. For this reason, a strong civic society, in which norms of reciprocity, cooperation and trust are respected, would be the best way to underpin sustainable human development” – Stefan de Vylder (‘Sustainable Human Development and Macroeconomics. Strategic Links and Implications’, UNDP Discussion Paper, New York, 1995).

I had the chance to represent CIVICUS at the recent Global Human Development Forum organised by UNDP and the Turkish Government, held from 22 to 23 March, in Istanbul. I spoke at the first plenary on Greening Human Development, moderated by Olav Kjørven, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy. Continue reading

The SEED Initiative: Africa’s green economy, climate change and the role of grassroots entrepreneurs

The SEED Initiative was a high-level symposium held 29 March 2012 as part of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) International Convention in Pretoria, South Africa. The event offered an opportunity to meet some of South Africa’s key actors in the drive towards a ‘green economy’, a key area of discussion at the upcoming Rio+20 sustainable development conference, to be held June 2012.

Amongst the day’s keynote speakers were such noteworthy names such as Nomcebo Manzini, Regional Programme Director for UN Women, and Richard Young, Head of Development Cooperation of the EU Delegation to South Africa. Founding partners included the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The discussion saw views shared by people from government, CSOs and businesses. Continue reading

Changing face of civil society in the Caribbean?

Mark Nowottny is Coordination and Planning Manager at CIVICUS, and is currently based at the offices of CIVICUS member the Caribbean Policy Development Centre in Barbados.

On Tuesday 20 March, CIVICUS co-hosted, with the Association of Development Agencies, a national consultation in Kingston, Jamaica on the changing global environment and state of civil society. The consultation formed part of the CIVICUS alliance’s process of setting new strategic directions and a new civil society agenda for 2013 to 2017, but also explored the needs and possibilities for civil society strengthening in the Caribbean. Continue reading

Israel severs ties with UN Human Rights Council: what might the implications be?

The Israeli foreign ministry announced on 26 March 2012 that it has cut all contact with the UN Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office and the Human Rights Treaty Bodies. Israel has refused to cooperate with a fact-finding mission to investigate the settlement issue and whether the rights of Palestinians are being abused.

A resolution authorising the inquiry into the impact of settlements on Palestinian rights was adopted on 22 March 2012 by the 47-member council with 36 votes in favour and 10 abstentions. Only the US voted against it. Continue reading