Burkhard Gnärig

10 January, 2017

“We urgently need to come together in a powerful global movement to defend tolerance against the intolerant, pluralism and the rule of law against authoritarianism, and our future as a global community against chauvinism and xenophobia.” This appeal at the end of my most recent post demands action – and it demands a plan: What do we have to do?

  1. We need to take the rise of xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, and authoritarian government seriously

For years, a small number of individuals and organisations have warned of rising intolerance and shrinking civic space, but still too many of us think that this worrying trend will not affect us directly, eventually passing by. I recently discussed this phenomenon with a friend who is part of the German political establishment. His comments: “This is democracy. There is not much we can do. It will turn worse before it gets better”. I don’t think we can afford such fatalism. We have seen democracies turning into nasty dictatorships before, Germany being a case in point. We have left the stable political environment where two or three moderate parties replaced each other in government from time to time and arrived at a point where intolerance, racism, chauvinism, and authoritarian leadership are entering the mainstream. Democracy allows us to elect representatives of these nasty ideologies – but will we have enough democracy left to kick them out once we recognise that they are doing a terrible job? If we truly value democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law, we must act now, and with determination.

A Jones CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr

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Burkhard Gnärig

20 December, 2016

The biggest, most unexpected and most shocking events of the past year for me and for many people in our sector were Brexit and Trump. Already in my review of the year 2015 I wrote: “As authoritarian government is on the rise globally, the space for civic participation is shrinking”. However, it was far beyond my imagination that, in 2016, developments would speed up so dramatically.

With Brexit, the courageous and farsighted European project of post-war reconciliation is being seriously endangered. As aggressive nationalism is spreading its wings across Europe, we need to once again start worrying about war in Central Europe, a concern we thought we had overcome for good.

For me personally, 2016 was the year in which I used my privilege of being a European citizen and moved to Portugal where I feel welcome and very much enjoy living in a different culture and speaking a different language. Will future generations no longer be able to enjoy such privileges? Will they be tied back into old, primitive, and dangerous concepts of national superiority? The fact that a majority of young Brits voted against Brexit provides some hope. Building a united Europe never looked like an easy task. We will have to allocate more time and effort to this task and brace ourselves for further setbacks – setbacks which don’t mean that the idea is wrong, but that we just need more time to learn and overcome old prejudices.

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Burkhard Gnärig

13 December, 2016

A brief review of Paul Raskin’s essay Journey to Earthland

JTE-Cover-SampleIn Journey to Earthland, Paul Raskin, the founding President of the Tellus Institute and founding Director of the Great Transition Initiative, charts the way to a peaceful, just and sustainable world, which he hopes we will have achieved by 2084.

As we start our journey we find ourselves as passengers on a plane that has lost its direction and cannot determine its location: “Zombie ideologies—territorial chauvinism, unbridled consumerism, and the illusion of endless growth—inhabit the brains of the living. Coherent responses to systemic risks of climate change, economic instability, population displacement, and global terrorism […] lie beyond the grasp of a myopic and disputatious political order.” MORE

Alexia Skok

6 December, 2016

 

Are your rights secure? Will they be gone tomorrow?

From Hungary to Cambodia – and everywhere in between – we are witnessing an onslaught of aggression against civil society organisations (CSOs), activists, and everyday citizens. At every turn, governments, politicians, and powerholders are attempting to block civic participation. We see the ‘Trumps of Europe’ scaremongering citizens to give up their rights in the name of national security. Police and military are arresting and detaining protestors, denying them their rights to freedom of association and expression. In other corners of the globe, governments are laying down arbitrary laws and increasing bureaucracy in an attempt to slow down the effectiveness of organisations which are trying to improve the lives of their citizens.Photo by Debra Sweet via CC BY 2.0

Yet, in the face of this constant suppression, people and organisations are standing up to defend themselves and their communities. They are uniting, they are fighting, and they are claiming their space! From this growing solidarity the Civic Charter – the Global Framework for People’s Participation was born.

Over the past two months, Disrupt&Innovate has shared stories on the state of civic space across the globe. See highlights here, and share your experiences in the battle for civic rights in the comments section below. MORE

Prakash Bhattarai

29 November, 2016
An Overview of CSOs in Nepal

Civil society organisations (CSOs) began to flourish in Nepal immediately after the establishment of multiparty democracy in 1990. Although some were active earlier, they were very few in numbers due to the lack of congruent space to operate independently. However, the democratic setup formed after the success of the People’s Movement of 1990 not only provided an independent space for civil society to operate across the country, but also recognised CSOs’ roles in the socio-economic and political development processes. According to the Social Welfare Council, in 2015 there were nearly 40,000 registered CSOs in Nepal, a mighty jump from the 193 in 1990.

Photo by Punya via CC BY-SA 4.0CSOs have played a crucial role in establishing a human rights and democratic constituency in Nepal, and in areas such as: community empowerment; political mainstreaming of subjugated social issues; promotion of collective bargaining; organisation of marginalised groups; and promotion of democracy and individual rights.

Large CSOs’ relentless lobbying and advocacy also contributed to the establishment of various constitutional commissions, fought against the king’s takeover of people’s power in 2002, and played a leading role in sparking the nonviolent movement of April 2006. Likewise, the rural, grass-roots women’s groups, mothers’ groups, consumers’ groups, and users’ groups have been successful in managing community forests, irrigation facilities, health services, primary schools, and drinking water projects. MORE

Moses Isooba

22 November, 2016

© Africans Rising: 2016 Participants at the Africans Rising conference, Arusha, Tanzania, August 2016The liberation era struggles of the 1950s on the African continent has seen the move from colonial era and one-party dictatorships to a semblance of multiparty democracy and regular free and fair elections in many countries. Accompanying this has been the emergence of relatively vibrant and organised civil society formations, acting as the vanguard for accountability and activism, trying to hold governments accountable for their actions or the lack of them.

The growth of vibrant civil society has been against the backdrop of failed neoliberal economic policies and, an increase in foreign funded transnational criminal activity such as Boko Haram in West Africa and Al Shabab in the Horn of Africa. These conditions together with the uprisings and insurrections in the Maghreb that dislodged long time dictators, have sent shock waves and fear into many African Big Men whose regimes are bent on, and preoccupied with, survival and regime consolidation. MORE

Laura Sullivan and Ben Phillips

15 November, 2016

All the world’s eyes remain transfixed on the ongoing fallout following the US elections. Many European commentators have expressed grave concern about what events “over in America” mean in terms of society’s basic humanity. But how are Europeans themselves faring when measured against that old core value? With leaders like Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban keen to seal up borders, the Turkey deal sweeping the ‘problem’ of people escaping war under the proverbial carpet and the European mainstream narrative sounding increasingly similar to what the populist right have been saying for years, you do wonder, are people in Europe responding to their own Trumps?

Photo by Gage Skidmore via CC BY-SA 3.0

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Miriam Niehaus

8 November, 2016

Brochure_CoverOver the recent weeks we have read about the increasingly harsh realities civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists experience. Peaceful demonstrators face arbitrary arrests, CSOs are vilified, and political activists are disappeared and murdered. While this trend presents itself in a variety of heinous examples – most recently the response of authorities to the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota (USA) – it is glaringly obvious that we are in this battle together globally. We, as civil society activists, must stand together in our struggles.

Since 17 October, citizens all over the world have been holding launch events for the Civic Charter – a much-needed tool that offers precisely this opportunity to connect and amplify our struggles. The document empowers us to stand together more united than ever and, in turn, stronger in the face of growing restrictions and threats to our inherent rights. MORE

Harsh Jaitli

1 November, 2016

India is known for its vibrant voluntary sector, which has contributed not only in the development and growth of India, but also to global discourse.

The existence of the voluntary sector is as old as the recorded history of the country, where it has shared responsibility with the state to provide decent life with dignity to marginalised people. The more structured form of civil society originations (CSOs) came into existence with the formation of Societies Registration Act of 1860, but the contribution of the sector has reached far beyond it. After independence, India faced the herculean task of providing basic services to the remotest corners of the country that were trying to recover from devastating draught and pains of partition. During this transitional period, Mahatma Gandhi became the inspiration for many grass-roots organisations popularly known as Gandhian Organisations. Mahatma Gandhi established that India had only achieved political freedom, and freedom from hunger and disease, and that overcoming deprivation and marginaliation was still to be achieved. He advised the freedom fighters that those who wanted to achieve this through political means could join the electoral politics, while the others should join the social service sector.

The space in which CSOs in India operate is influenced primarily by three factors: regulatory environment, availability of resources, and internal mechanisms. These elements can be targeted by the government to make the functioning of CSOs difficult. MORE

Sopheap Chak

25 October, 2016

It is within the context of a global shrinking of civil society space that Cambodia has seen its own space for civic participation quickly diminishing. This shrinking of space presents Cambodian civil society organisations (CSOs) with a very real need to adapt in order to face the challenges ahead.

In recent months, CSOs in Cambodia have felt an increased tightening of their fundamental freedoms by the government, particularly following the arbitrary arrest and detention of five human rights defenders – four senior staff members from local CSO the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and the deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee. All five have been detained in pre-trial detention since 28 April on trumped-up charges in relation to their provision of legitimate human rights assistance to a former beneficiary.

 CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 Walther Tjon Pian Gi via Flickr

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