Towards global health justice at the CIVICUS World Assembly?

Eric A Friedman is a member of the Steering Committee of the Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health (JALI). Ahead of the CIVICUS World Assembly, he urges participants to make the connection between their issues of concern and the campaign for global health rights and justice.

Global health justice: that is the calling card of an initiative to redress global health inequities, with the right to health – and for people to have the knowledge and tools to claim their rights – at its centre. The Joint Action and Learning Initiative on National and Global Responsibilities for Health (JALI), seeks to help define the post-2015 development agenda for health – and redefine the global social contract on health. How can its principles feed into the CIVICUS World Assembly discussions, and the post-2015 session immediately preceding the Assembly, as well as the post-2015 discussions that will continue afterwards? Continue reading

Debate sobre un Nuevo Contrato Social en Buenos Aires

El debate sobre la necesidad de un Nuevo contrato social comienza en Buenos Aires! En coincidencia con el eje central de la Asamblea Mundial de CIVICUS, La Fundación Compromiso, una organización de la sociedad civil con más de 18 años de historia en la Argentina, desarrollará su jornada nacional el próximo 28 de Agosto, teniendo como eje central de debate la necesidad de un nuevo contrato social para el desarrollo sustentable.

Partiendo de una visión amplia de lo que significa la creación de bienes públicos mediante la articulación con el sector publico y privado, este espacio tendrá   como panelistas a representantes del sector privado, organismos públicos, gobiernos locales, academia y de la sociedad civil.

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2 years in detention? I predict a Pussy Riot

“I don’t see the point of what you’re doing Charlotte” said the man in the expensive suit scratching his head. “You as an individual are not going to change the world.”

It was my last day as a corporate lawyer and I was exiting the building to go work in human rights. Last week, and some years later now in my role as Policy and Advocacy Officer for CIVICUS, I sat glued to the internet gleefully realising that although I have not changed the world, I hope I am helping, and the man in the suit had got it very wrong. His words, I think, continue to be a defeatist excuse for not trying actively to change things that are unjust in some way. Don’t get me wrong, by all means let profit be your motivation in life, just don’t defend your decision to stay quiet with these old lines, because three young Russian girls signing punk rock in balaclavas did just change their world, and got the rest of our attention.

Their arrest was a gift to those of us who work in human rights, frequently campaigning as we do for activists leading lives unimaginable to our target audiences. But young women in multicoloured balaclavas and flirty dresses challenging the might of the Russian machine? Ad-men around the world must be kicking themselves they didn’t come up with the idea first! It has spawned hipster campaigns that show you how to knit your own balaclava, editorials in newspapers and music magazines around the world, and support from everyone from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The truth is, it’s shone more attention on injustice in Russia in the last 10 days than we could have hoped to achieve in a year. Continue reading

At the eye of the storm: South African women in governance

Women’s month in South Africa is a time to reflect on the long road that South African women have travelled from the painful apartheid era to today. It has not been an easy journey for the emancipation of women and there is still a lot to be achieved, especially considering that 2015 is the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, and the deadline for the achievement of the 28 targets set by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on gender is just around the corner.

Women in South Africa had to live within a discriminatory environment of apartheid and gender inequality for decades. As the hunger for justice and racial equality topped the agenda before 1994, many women endured torture, imprisonment and exile. However, these struggles were compounded by the struggle for gender equality by women in South Africa and all over the world. The desire for women to have decent work, to participate actively in governance and to break the glass ceiling of the patriarchal society accelerated in the 20th century.

As early as 1912, long before organised movements for women, women in South Africa were already playing a major role against the apartheid regime. This is an indicator of the ability of South African women to organise themselves even in restrictive environments and fight for justice. Women such as Charlotte Maxeke and Helen Joseph stood up and refused to let the apartheid system thrive. They realised the injustices in the mining sector, restrictive citizenship laws, such as the pass laws, and the limited opportunities for women’s economic empowerment. The march to the Union buildings in 1956 was a symbol of the power of women to create a unified voice against the apartheid regime. Continue reading

World citizenship: is it really a utopian vision?

Personal reflections from the UN Alliance of Civilisations 2012 summer school

Let’s face it. Today, with virtually no distance and no time between humans, each person is the focus of a global process. Everything happening in the world affects, sooner or later, each individual. With computers and satellites, the forces on the individual have become supranational. So could the idea of world citizenship in today’s highly globalised world be so completely unattainable?

Carlo Strenger, an Israeli existentialist psychoanalyst and professor at Tel Aviv University, came to address the UN Alliance of Civilisations summer school participants on how he believes the creation of a consciousness of world citizenship can be possible with the right approach.

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Radicalism of the ordinary: reflections on a Tokyo no nukes rally

I would like to call it PPM (a purposeful, prudent mob). But this PPM doesn’t sing “where have all the flowers gone?” Instead it chants: an endless chant of “Saikado hantai!” (no re-activation!). Listening to these chants for a few minutes, you find yourself chanting along, first with a small voice but gradually as loudly as you can. There is no listening to long speeches of self-proclaimed leaders, and no having to endure the never-ending ranting of ideologues of the past. Around you are young and old, couples and families with children, all chanting the same message.

Tokyo NoNukes Protest Rally

These people are purposeful. They come together with a single and sole message of ending nuclear energy. They are prudent, as they behave well and don’t go out of the designated side streets for pedestrians; and thus calling them a mob may be misleading, except that they come from everywhere with very little organised mobilisation. This is different from traditional rallies, marches or sit-ins, in that they are scattered across a few key locations in central Tokyo – prime minister’s residence, national Diet (parliament) building and METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) – and now other locations all across Japan. It started in front of the prime minster’s residence a few months ago, and has now grown into a weekly event that starts every Friday evening between 5 and 6pm, when people gather around, standing or sitting, some raising a banner or placard, most of them chanting, and adjourns at 8pm as if it is just a weekly serene ritual. No fanfares, and no immediate victories.

I was there early August. In front of the parliament, one side is designated as a “speech area” where you can walk up and share your reflections. The other side is a “family area” reserved particularly for families with small children, elderly couples and others who might be afraid of pushing, shoving and stampedes. In front of the METI was a smaller but equally persistent, fun-loving crowd with horns, drums and dances. Walking towards the prime minister’s residence, I ended up at the rear end of a long queue which eventually didn’t go anywhere but just dispersed at 8pm. Continue reading

Translating powerful ideas into action for youth: Gandhi’s legacy

Personal reflections from the UN Alliance of Civilisations 2012 summer school

This year, CIVICUS, through my representation, is participating in the 2012 UN Alliance of Civilisations summer school, held in Coimbra, Portugal. The UN Alliance of Civilisations aims to forge a collective political will and to mobilise concerted action aimed at improving cross-cultural understanding among countries, peoples and communities. The week-long summer school course focuses on empowering young people by strengthening their intercultural skills and competences, as well as facilitating moments of mutual learning and exchange among young people.

Within the programme of the summer school are a series of interactive workshops where participants are invited to attend or present on a particular project that they are passionate about. So I attended a workshop on ‘Youth Leadership and Participation’. There I heard a very interesting presentation by a fellow participant from India, Abhishek Thakore. He provided an insightful interpretation into Gandhi’s ideas, which he translated into concrete action points for young people to take in their leadership roles.

Basically, Gandhi followed six guiding principles. The first was the principle of non-violence, which is probably the most popular idea associated with Gandhi. He was an exemplary figure in the way that he was able to lead a diverse group of people, and managed to pull it off non-violently in the face of great adversity. So, translated to young people, a real leader should be able to profess and follow the principle of non-violence in his or her daily activism. Continue reading