Justice for Khayelitsha and Angy Peters

Twenty minutes down the road from beaches covered in bronzed supermodels and shimmering sands, lies Khayelitsha, South Africa’s second largest township. Under a cornflower blue sky, this murder hot spot in Cape Town is blocked from the views of many by a curvaceous set of mountains delineating two very different realities.

I was there on a fact-finding mission for CIVICUS last week to investigate the murder of a local criminal named Rowan Du Preez. He died following an attack on the night of October 13, apparently after being ‘necklaced’. Necklacing is a grim form of murder hungover from the apartheid era when a petrol filled tyre is set alight around the victim. It is a method of murder undergoing an awful renaissance here with 18 cases reported in Khayelitsha this year. Intended as a deterrent to local criminals, this kind of mob justice is beginning to fill the vacuum left by poor policing and the reported incompetence, if not worse, of Khayelitsha police officers and magistrates in solving criminality. Continue reading

Unravelling the Significance of Rio+20 and the Multi-Stakeholder Approach

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) – commonly known as Rio+20 – came to an end this year on the 22 June. Its conception at the United Nations General Assembly in 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit talks on climate change and sustainable development. Now, four months later, world leaders have much tidying up to do as they decide on how best to tackle the conference’s main outcomes, establishing several inclusive and transparent intergovernmental processes for implementation and follow-up. Among the different processes and bodies created by Rio+20, member states promised to establish by September 2012, a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations General Assembly. In addition, the Organizing Partners of the Major Groups have offered a proposal for a Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), to generate recommendations for further engagement. This is a positive trend for the summit process as the world fast approaches the path beyond 2015.

Tackling the issues around sustainable development is no simple task and yet states are increasingly realising that inputs from civil society organizations are essential to the success of sustainable development implementation. Today 1 billion people are malnourished, 1.1 billion lack adequate sanitation facilities and 844 million lack access to safe drinking water. Runaway climate shifts and changing weather patterns are wreaking havoc in the form of natural disasters such as floods and droughts, and these are just some of the areas where civil society can play a profound role.

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What does Barack Obama’s re-election mean for Global Civil Society?

Progressive civil society across the globe breathed a collective sigh of relief on the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama. This was not because of the colour of Obama’s skin or the eloquence of his speeches. It is because the Republican proposition was outright dangerous: giving free rein to the narrow interests of mammoth corporations and pursuing an aggressive foreign policy bordering on war mongering.

The world is still reeling from a financial crisis precipitated by corporate excess and a lack of accountability. Unsustainable development and the pursuit of economic growth to serve the interests of the rich and powerful are fuelling climate change. Despite the hopefulness generated by last year’s people’s revolutions, intolerance and extremism are rising. Democratic governments are continuing to selectively invoke and manipulate the language of human rights to serve their own ends. The solution is not more but less war. Obama has done some to address the multiple integrated global crises but clearly he has not done enough. This time the expectations are much higher.

What the world needs is hope and “change we can believe in”. The kind promised by candidate Obama prior to his first presidential election. With a strong mandate from the people of the United States, the leader of the world’s most powerful country has a great opportunity to shape global events for the better while also enhancing U.S.’ adherence to the international human rights framework. From Civil Society’s perspective there are key issues that President Obama touched upon in his acceptance speech which will have a critical impact on the world as we know it. Continue reading

Multi-stakeholder participation is vital to advancing the post-Rio / post-2015 agenda

On 20-21 October I attended a multi-stakeholder consultation organised by the Stakeholder Forum, UNEP, UNDESA and the Green Economy Coalition with Jeffery Huffines, CIVICUS’ UN Representative. The event was held at Pace University, NYC where the concrete outcomes stemming from Rio+20 were discussed as well as the current process moving forward with the post-2015 development agenda. The two-day conference gathered a number of participants from all over the world, mostly key actors who have been involved in advancing the sustainable development agenda through Rio+20 and even before that through previous related UN processes and conferences. I took on the role of communications officer at the event by tweeting the most interesting snippets of the discussions and rapporteuring for the working group session on the 10 Year Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production, while Jeff formed part of the panel that reported on the outcomes of Rio+20 and the post-2015 agenda.

As Oliver Greenfield, Convener of the Green Economy Coalition, emphasized in the opening plenary, an important outcome of the meeting would be to identify the links between the role of Major Groups within the new governance architecture post-Rio+20, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, the green economy, the 10 Year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10 YFP on SCP), and the implementation and delivery of Rio+20 outcomes. Indeed these five themes correspond to some of the main successes achieved at Rio, which is why the meeting was structured to provide adequate space for discussion through working groups. Continue reading

Sex happens…

“…if not, none of us would be here.”, concluded Kate Gilmore, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director Programme of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at an event on 24 October in Berlin, Germany. The very brilliant Kate Gilmore was one of the keynote speakers of the 10th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development, an event I had the opportunity to attend as a representative of CIVICUS. It was a mind-blowing experience, I must say.

I thought it would be all about population control, planet limitations and controversies about reproductive rights. But it was all about rights and progressive people-centred policies! I measured the gap between demographers and population dynamics specialists and all of us. Actually, I learned a lot and the famous economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) and his followers would not feel at ease in these discussions, notably because of the truly multi-stakeholder nature of the conversation.

The truly multi-stakeholder nature of the 10th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development

10 years ago, a private organization obtained funding from the Shering Corporation to hold an international dialogue on population issues. Since then, Shering was bought by Bayer AG, the German government got on board and the Berlin dialogues are happening every year. Attendees include German development cooperation officials, CSO partners from the Global South, United Nations delegates, private sector representatives, etc. Which is appropriate, talking about population issues requires this type of multi-stakeholder participation. I was very impressed by a group of courageous Pakistani women from Peshawar who, against all odds, advocate for and counsel women and girls about their sexual and reproductive rights in this violence-torn country. Continue reading

UN Member States Call on the Republic of Korea to Remove Arbitrary Restrictions on Freedom of Expression and Assembly

by Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Consultant, CIVICUS

Consistently ranked among the top nations in the UNDP’s Human Development Index and with a robust, consolidated democracy, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is largely insulated against international criticism for its human rights shortcomings.

However, on 25 October 2012 during 14th Session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UN UPR), South Korea’s human rights record was put under the microscope.

Of the approximately 70 governments which made interventions during the three-and-half-hour examination, thirteen governments, including Hungary, Japan, South Africa and the United Kingdom, raised concerns relating to arbitrary and unwarranted restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Highlighted by CIVICUS and the South Korea-based People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) in a joint submission to the UPR in April 2012, the government of South Korea has increasingly silenced dissenting voices under the National Security Act (NSA), which criminalises speech in support of North Korea. In February 2012, Mr. Jeong-gun Park, a prominent South Korean activist was arrested for re-tweeting messages from the North Korean Government’s official twitter account. Since 2008, at least 80 other people have been arrested in South Korea for posting pro-North Korean comments online. Continue reading