October

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October 2007

Contents

In Memoriam: Anna Pkhrikian

Democracy Alerts/Appeals
Human Rights Organizations Appeal to End Abuse in Burma
Solidarity Center Condemns Murder of Guatemalan Union Leader
Women's Learning Partnership Calls for Further Support in One Million Signatures Campaign
Human Rights Organizations Express Concern over Arrests of Ethiopian Activists
Egyptian Government Takes Action against Independent Press

Announcements and Events
Center for International Media Assistance Announces New Media Assistance Resources
John Smith Fellowship Program Accepting Applications for 2008
Call for Applications: Course on Human Rights Leadership Development and Training
Call for Applications: Fellowships for Harvard's University Committee on Human Rights Studies
Call for Applications: Young Creators Award
Call for Applications: Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship Program

Civil Society Strengthening
Scholarship Competition on the Legal and Political Environment for Civil Society Announced
Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center Presents Award for Excellence in Democratic Action
Al-Quds Center for Political Studies Holds Conference on Civic Democratic Islamic Discourse
Comparative Study on Role of Civil Society in Southern Africa

Elections
ACE Electoral Knowledge Network Launches New Regional Electoral Resource Centers

Gender Issues and Sexual Minority Rights
Women's Learning Partnership Empowers Women to Win Political Positions
New Informational Resources Available for Women's Fundraising and Organization Building

Good Governance, Transparency and Anti-Corruption
Pakistan NGOs Raise Concerns over Transparency of the Election Commission
Transparency International Issues 2007 Global Corruption Report

Human Rights, Equality and Access to Justice
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, India Awarded 2007 Rafto Prize

Media, Freedom of Expression and Communication Technology
National Endowment for Democracy Presents Annual Democracy Awards
Worldwide Events Mark Anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's Death
Women in Rural South Africa Use Mobile Technology to Promote and Protect Human Rights
Reporters Without Borders Publishes Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
Regional Consultation with Journalists Held in Serbia

Political Parties and Political Leadership
Using Sports to Promote Political Cooperation in Liberia

Research
Dutch Human Rights Resource Center Updated

Tolerance and Religious Freedom
US Institute of Peace Releases Report on Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy
World Youth Movement for Democracy Marks World Youth Day
Center for International Private Enterprise Announces Winners of 2007 Essay Contest
Report on Armed Conflict and Young People Released

World Movement Participating Networks, Organizations and Individuals Mentioned in this Issue

 

In Memoriam: Anna Pkhrikian
On September 7, 2007, our dear colleague and friend, Anna Pkhrikian, who was a staff member of the World Movement Secretariat at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from 2002 through 2006, lost her extremely brave battle with cancer. She was 33 years old. Anna was greatly committed to the work of the World Movement and to NED. On the World Movement staff, Anna acted as the liaison to World Movement participants in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and contributed to facilitating various networking efforts. Anna also helped in the organization of our global assemblies in Durban (February 2004) and Istanbul (April 2006), among her many other contributions. A very kind and gentle person, Anna was a real fighter, not only in confronting her health challenges over a number of years, but also for peace, democracy, human rights, and social justice around the world. Those of us at NED who worked with her daily, and especially those of us on the World Movement staff, will miss her friendship, optimism, and dedication to all that is good in the world. A memorial gathering for Anna was held at NED on October 10.

 

Democracy Alerts/Appeals

Human Rights Organizations Appeal to End Abuse in Burma
On August 15, 2007, the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar doubled both petrol and diesel prices, triggering a sharp rise in the cost of rice and cooking oil.  On August 19, responding to these economic conditions, pro-democracy activists led a 400-person march, demanding a price reduction.  That day the government rapidly responded by arresting dozens of activists.  Small peaceful protests continued across the country, and on September 5 in Pakokku, a small town in central Burma, troops injured several monks when they used force to disband the protesters.  The following day monks took several government officials hostage in retaliation demanding that the government issue an apology by September 17, but when the apology never came, the monks began protesting in increasing numbers and withdrew their religious services from military officials and their families.  Protests began mounting across the country.

On September 21, the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks emerged to coordinate the growing protest movement, issuing a statement describing the military government as “the enemy of the people,” and calling on the public to join them in protest.  On September 23, according to the Associated Press, 100,000 people joined a procession led by monks, igniting the largest protest in Burmese history.  Five hundred monks walked to pro-democracy leader DAW Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, where she greeted them in her first public sighting in 4 years.  As protests escalated the government began issuing warnings of a crackdown.

The crackdown then began with an increased troop presence in Rangoon and Mandalay, and on September 26, arrests, beatings, and detentions began.  Raids on monasteries resulted in brutal violence against the clergy, and democracy activists have been arrested and jailed.  The government has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the population.  Internet access has been cut and soldiers have been specifically targeting anyone with a camera.  The number of casualties is unknown; the official state toll remains at 13, but experts estimate an exponentially higher number.  During the last week, thousands of monks have been rounded up, and many of the people arrested during the protests remain held in undisclosed locations.  DAW Aung San Suu Kyi and other public figures within the pro-democracy movement have been transferred to high security prisons.

A number of World Movement participating organizations have condemned the recent actions of the Burmese government and have mobilized support for, and built solidarity with, democracy movements in Burma: World Movement participant and Singapore Democratic Party leader, Chee Soon Juan, and three of his party members were arrested on October 8 for protesting against the city-state’s ties with Burma after a week of unprecedented demonstrations outside the Burmese embassy.  Chee Soon Juan had sought to deliver a petition to the office of Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, asking the government to disclose its dealings with Burma’s military leadership.  In addition, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has created a Web page devoted to the events in Burma that includes video and photographs; the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-Asia) has sent a letter to the president of the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling for a special session on Burma; a coalition of human rights organizations has issued a call to all Asian governments urging action regarding the ongoing situation in Burma, targeting the Asian members of the Human Rights Council; and the Venerable Thich Quang Do of Vietnam has held a prayer service in Saigon for the monks and people of Burma, and has urged Vietnamese to stage peaceful protests outside Burmese embassies to call for an end to the bloodshed and a dialogue with the democratic opposition.

To read updates from the AHRC regarding the protests, go to: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burmaprotests

To read the letter from the coalition of human rights organizations, go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews2a.pdf

To read more about the protests and subsequent arrests in Singapore, go to: www.singaporedemocrat.org/articleburmaprotest18.html

To read the letter from FORUM-Asia, go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews2b.pdf

For more information on Thich Quang Do’s call to action, go to: www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=852

Solidarity Center Condemns Murder of Guatemalan Union Leader
On September 23, Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela was murdered as he left his home on his way to work at a banana plantation.  He was the Secretary of Culture and Sports of the Guatemalan Banana Workers Union of Izabal (SITRABI).  The Solidarity Center condemns this brutal murder and calls on the Guatemalan government to conduct an investigation and bring those responsible to justice.  SITRABI has been the target of several attacks over the past few years.  The previous attack involved the interrogation of union leaders by Army officers.  Military officers had been punished by the Ministry of Defense for this attack just days before Marco Tulio Ramirez Portela was murdered.  SITRABI believes that they are being targeted because of a workers training program that they are conducting in the Izabal and Southern Coast regions.

Go to: www.solidaritycenter.org/files/pressrelease_SITRABI092507.pdf

Women's Learning Partnership Calls for Further Support in One Million Signatures Campaign
In light of recent developments in Iran, the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP) is calling for further support in the "One Million Signatures" campaign petition, which calls for an end to discriminatory laws against women, such as men's uncontested right to divorce, polygamy, and child custody.  At the end of September, the Iranian parliament submitted legislation attempting to push back current family laws, reversing the few rights that exist for women.  In a statement issued on September 20, 2000, equal rights defenders objected to the Family Support Legislation submitted to parliament by the executive branch.  The statement asserts that while lawmakers have claimed that the Family Support Legislation intends to address shortcomings in the law and bring it up to date in accordance with the needs and realities of today’s family, it has in fact pushed back family legislation and the status of women by 42 years.  Most recently, Ronak Safazadeh, a member of the campaign, was arrested at her home in Sanandaj, Kurdistan on Tuesday October 9.  According to reports from the Kurdistan Human Rights News Agency, security forces arrived at her home, and searched and seized some of her property, including her computer, copies of the Campaign's petition, and the Campaign booklet explaining Iranian laws.  Ms. Safazadeh was then arrested and transferred to the detention center of the local Office of Information and Security Ministry in Sanandaj.  According to reports, the nature of the arrest of Ms. Safazadeh and the search of her home by security forces was violent.

To sign the petition for the One Million Signatures Campaign in English, go to: www.weforchange.info/english

To sign the petition for the One Million Signatures Campaign in Persian, go to: www.we4change.info

For more information on recent developments, go to: www.learningpartnership.org/advocacy/alerts/iranmillionsigns0207

For more information about Ms. Safazadeh’s arrest, go to: www.learningpartnership.org/advocacy/alerts/iranwomenarrests0307

Human Rights Organizations Express Concern over Arrests of Ethiopian Activists
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) are deeply concerned over the recent arrests of Ethiopian activists.  Eleven individuals, including three members of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, remain detained in Nekemte for alleged links with the armed opposition group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).  Police searched their homes, but found no proof of the allegations.  Several of the activists appeared in court on September 3 and were remanded in custody until September 13.  One was transferred to Addis Ababa Central Criminal Investigation Department and has since appeared in court, although the outcome is unknown.  There has been no information as to why the others have not yet appeared in court. 

Go to: www.fidh.org/spip.php?article4687

Egyptian Government Takes Action against Independent Press
On September 13, four prominent figures in the independent press in Egypt, Ibraheem Isa, Adel Hamouda, Wail Al-Ibrashi, and Abd-Al-Haleem Kandeel, were each sentenced to one year in jail and fined following their conviction for insulting and defaming the President of Egypt and leaders of the ruling National Democratic Party.  ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship condemn the recent spate of prosecutions of independent media professionals in Egypt, and call upon the Egyptian government to urgently improve protection of freedom of the press.  Likewise, the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists (APHRA) has emphasized that the sentences go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Egyptian Constitution, and several rulings by the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court.  APHRA calls on civil society to launch a campaign in support of freedom of the press and in solidarity with the journalists involved.

For the press release from ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship, go to: www.article19.org/pdfs/press/egypt-media.pdf

For the press release from APHRA, go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews6.pdf

 

Announcements and Events

Center for International Media Assistance Announces New Media Assistance Resources
The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) has added several new resources to its Web site, including new reports on media development and a bibliography of media resources.  The new reports include “Media Law Assistance: Establishing and Enabling Environment for Free and Independent Media to Flourish,” “Toward Economic Sustainability of the Media in Developing Countries,” and “University Journalism Education: A Global Challenge.”  The bibliography contains books, reports, articles, working papers, and manuals relevant to the field of international media assistance.  CIMA welcomes additions to the bibliography.  Citations and electronic versions of publicly available literature can be sent to CIMA@ned.org.

To read the reports, go to: cime.ned.org

To read the bibliography, go to: www.ned.org/dbtw-wpd/textbase/searchMediaBib.html

John Smith Fellowship Program Accepting Applications for 2008
The John Smith Memorial Trust based in London is currently seeking applications from potential candidates for its 2008 Fellowship Program, to take place in June/July next year.  The program aims to strengthen and deepen democratic awareness and good governance through a study program in the United Kingdom and placements that show the workings of democratic organizations and their role within a democratic society.  Applicants must be from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, or Ukraine.  The Trust aims to recruit influential young leaders who will make a substantial impact on the future development of their countries.  The Fellowship Programme is open to political leaders, government officials, journalists, media experts, lawyers, and leaders from civil society or the NGO sector.  The ideal candidate will be between 25 and 35 years of age with a track record of concern for good governance and promoting democratic values.  Good written and spoken English is essential.  The deadline for applications is November 6.

Go to: www.johnsmithmemorialtrust.org/Web/Site/Programme/how_to_apply.asp

Call for Applications: Course on Human Rights Leadership Development and Training
The Global Human Rights Leadership Training Institute (GHRLTI) based in Nigeria is now accepting applications for a certificate course in “Human Rights Leadership Development and Training” to be held on November 1 – December 10, 2007.  This course seeks to provide participants with an introduction to the concept of human rights, as well as to the design and implementation of successful human rights learning in their organizations and communities. The course can be used to establish or strengthen human rights policies and practices both in the public and private sectors.  The program consists of six different modules, discussion, and empowerment sessions, each of which is geared towards helping the participants understand the human rights-based approach to development.  The deadline for applications is October 27.

Go to: www.justicegroup.org/training

Call for Applications: Fellowships for Harvard's University Committee on Human Rights Studies
Harvard’s University Committee on Human Rights Studies is now accepting nominations for fellowships for 2008.  Six years ago, the President's Office, in conjunction with the University Committee on Human Rights Studies, established a one-year visiting fellowship at Harvard to host a scholar who is at risk of persecution.  This risk may be related to the scholar's work, but it may also be a consequence of the scholar's ethnicity, religion, or political opinions.  A faculty committee has been constituted to choose the Scholar at Risk fellows.  Past fellows chosen from a pool of nominees submitted by faculty members include an Iranian lawyer, a Sri Lankan mathematician, a Palestinian physicist, a Turkish psychiatrist, a Rwandan human rights scholar, and the former Minister of Higher Education in Iraq.  This year the University Committee on Human Rights Studies is additionally pleased to welcome a contemporary novelist from Iran, a nuclear physicist from Iran, a Uyghur anthropologist from China, a historian from Turkey, and a Shakespeare scholar from Iraq.  Scholars from any discipline represented at Harvard are eligible.  The purpose of the fellowship is to enable scholars whose lives have been disrupted to pursue their research interests and to benefit from the scholarly environment that Harvard can provide.  Interested individuals are invited to submit nominations for the fellowship.  The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 16, 2007.  Nomination forms, as well as details of the Scholars at Risk initiative and the selection committee membership, can be found on the Web site. 

Go to: www.humanrights.harvard.edu

Call for Applications: Young Creators Award
The Knight Foundation and MTV have partnered to found the “Young Creators Award” that will be given to innovative projects that use digital news media to improve communities.  This initiative is part of the Knight News Challenge which focuses on using digital technology to transform community news.  It is being promoted by MTV and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  The competition is open to young people around the world.  The application deadline is October 15, 2007.

Go to: www.mtv.com/thinkmtv/features/young_creators/ or www.youngcreatorsaward.com

Call for Applications: Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship Program
The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship Program at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC invites applications from candidates throughout the world for fellowships in 2008–2009.  Established in 2001, the program enables democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and to enhance their ability to promote democratic change.  The program is intended primarily to support activists, practitioners, and scholars from new and aspiring democracies; distinguished scholars from the United States and other established democracies are also eligible to apply.  Projects may focus on the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural aspects of democratic development and may include a range of methodologies and approaches.  A working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.  The application deadline for fellowships in 2008–2009 is November 1, 2007.

Go to: www.ned.org/fellowships/reagan-fascell-democracy-fellows-program

 

Civil Society Strengthening

Scholarship Competition on the Legal and Political Environment for Civil Society Announced
The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and Cordaid have announced a US $25,000 prize competition to encourage scholarship on the legal and political environment for civil society, with a focus on civil liberties.  Possible topics could include, but are not limited to counter-terrorism, civil liberties, and civil society; the legal and policy framework for the foreign funding of civil society; gender effects of counter-terrorism policies and the impact on women’s human rights; strategies to advance civic space in countries with limited adherence to the rule of law; the legal framework for civil society in fragile or post-conflict environments; and the legal environment for faith-based organizations in politically complex countries. Manuscripts should contain between 5,000 and 25,000 words.  The deadline for submission is January 31, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern US Time.  One person will be chosen for the ICNL-Cordaid Civil Liberties Prize of US $15,000.  Two other participants will receive Distinguished Research Awards of US $5,000 each.  In addition, selected manuscripts will be published in ICNL’s online International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law.   Scholarship from all regions is welcome.

Go to: www.icnl.org/prize

Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center Presents Award for Excellence in Democratic Action
Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, based in Tunis, Tunisia, have awarded the Zaytuna Silver Award for Excellence in Democratic Action.  The award recognizes the role Arab individuals and institutions play in promoting democracy.  Winners included Dr. Saad-Eddin Ibrahim (Egypt), President of Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies; Dr. Taieb Baccouche (Tunisia), President of the Arab Institute for Human Rights; Mrs. Amina Bouayach (Morocco), President of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights; Mr. Ali Djerri (Algeria), Chairman of the Board of Al-Khabar newspaper; Mr. Ezz-Eddin Asbahi (Yemen), General Director of Taiz-based Human Rights Information and Training Center; Mr. Hasan Abu Nimah (Jordan), Director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies; and Mrs. Emma Bonino (Italy), a prominent human rights activist and Minister in the current Italian Government.  In addition, at its June 2007 regional meeting, the Al-Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center decided to establish an Arab Citizenship Movement.  It is designed to be an inclusive organization, bringing together NGOs, political parties, local and national authorities, social organizations, religious institutions, intellectuals, and artists who are working to promote democratic reform.  A strategic planning workshop will be held in Morocco in November 2007 to develop a more detailed work plan.

Go to: www.kawakibi.org

Al-Quds Center for Political Studies Holds Conference on Civic Democratic Islamic Discourse
On Sepetember 1-2, the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies based in Jordan and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung held a second conference in a series on Civic Democratic Islamic Discourse in Amman, Jordan.  The conference, entitled “Constitutionalism based on Islamic Values and Principles of Governance,”  brought together academics and activists from 20 Arab and Muslim countries.  The conference participants discussed state identity, political systems, and rights and duties of citizens that are in line with the values and teachings of Islam.

Go to: www.alqudscenter.org/english/pages.php?local_type=122&local_details=1&idd=80

Comparative Study on Role of Civil Society in Southern Africa
The Southern African Development Community Council of Nongovernmental Organizations (SADC-CNGO), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Oxfam America have published a study on the role of civil society in the Southern African Development Community.  The report is a study on how civil society organizations (CSOs) interact with states in different levels of development.  The three countries compared are Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.  According to the study, In Mozambique, a developing democracy, there is a high level of collaboration, while in South Africa, a strong state, there is a tendency for CSOs to be marginalized.  In Zimbabwe, a weakening state, there is a desperate need for CSO involvement, but CSOs face a high level of suspicion by the state.  It is important for CSOs to become more organized and thus engage more effectively with governments.  They should also consider how their sources of funding affect their relationship with the state, and how to remain conscious of attitudes within the state.

Go to: www.civicus.org/new/media/PGSADCStudyJune2007.pdf

 

Elections

ACE Electoral Knowledge Network Launches New Regional Electoral Resource Centers
The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, a joint endeavor of eight partner organizations that provides comprehensive and authoritative information on elections, promotes networking among election-related professionals and offers capacity development services, recently launched nine Regional Electoral Resource Centers.  The centers are based at the Association of European Election Officials in Hungary, the Goree Institute in Senegal, the Institute for Education in Democracy in Kenya, the Commission Electorale Independante in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Electoral Institute for Southern Africa in South Africa, Al Urdun Al Jadid Research Centre in Jordan, the Centre for Electoral Reform in Indonesia, Instituto Federal Electoral in Mexico, and Jurado Nacional de Elecciones in Peru.  These centers will allow information and expertise to be shared more effectively both within each region and between ACE and the different regions.  Regional center Web pages have also been created, and ACE’s country pages have been redesigned and will soon include translations into multiple languages.

Go to: http://aceproject.org/today/news/ace-is-expanding-the-regional-dimension-of-ace

 

Gender Issues and Sexual Minority Rights

Women's Learning Partnership Empowers Women to Win Political Positions
The Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP) has been providing its Leading to Choices and regional training programs to build capacity of women serving in public office.  As a result, in Jordan, three WLP alumni have won seats in municipal councils; in addition, two alumni from regional training programs in Africa served as National Election Commissioners in Sierra Leone.  The Leading to Choices program is designed to teach women effective leadership skills and prepare them for leadership positions in their communities.  Culture-specific adaptations of the manual, “Leading to Choices: A Leadership Training Handbook for Women,” are currently available online in English, Maghreby-Arabic, Shamy-Arabic, Assamese, French, Hausa, Malay, Meiteilon, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Shona, Spanish, Swahili, and Uzbek.  Bahasa Indonesian, Kokborok, Turkish, and Tagalog editions are forthcoming.

For more information about the alumni success stories, go to: www.learningpartnership.org/news/enews/2007/iss17/alumnae

For more information about the Leading to Choices handbook, go to: www.learningpartnership.org/publications/training/ltc

New Informational Resources Available for Women's Fundraising and Organization Building
The Global Fund for Women and the Association for Women in Development (AWID) have compiled new information to aid women in fundraising.  The Global Fund for Women developed a handbook on techniques for raising money, geared especially towards beginning fundraisers.  The book is available in English, French, and Spanish.  AWID has also put together a collection of articles on topics such as fundraising, organization building, feminist resource mobilization, and the new UN agency for women.  Regional articles are also included.  These resources are also available in English, French, and Spanish.

For more information about the Global Fund for Women handbook, go to: www.globalfundforwomen.org/cms/content/view/180/142

For more information about AWID resources, go to: www.awid.org/go.php?pg=mm_summaries

 

Good Governance, Transparency and Anti-Corruption

Pakistan NGOs Raise Concerns over Transparency of the Election Commission
On September 18, Consumer Watch Pakistan (CWP) raised serious concerns about the lack of transparency of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).  Two examples on non-transparent procedures were the secretive manner in which the ECP amended the rules governing presidential elections and the lack of information concerning the verification process for the 2007 draft election rolls.  The CWP has called on the ECP to become more open in its functioning, organize itself on corporate lines, hold regular consultations with stakeholders, and adopt completely transparent procedures in its decision making.  The Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Pakistan (CPDI-Pakistan) also raised concerns over the way in which the ECP amended the rules for presidential elections.  CPDI-Pakistan questions the timing of, and the need for, the amendment, and also calls on the ECP to hold meetings with stakeholders such as political parties and civil society organizations.

For the press release from CWP, go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews19a.pdf

For the press release from CPDI, go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews19b.pdf

Transparency International Issues 2007 Global Corruption Report
Transparency International recently released its 2007 Global Corruption Report.  The 2007 report focuses on judges and courts, and looks at political, economic, and societal pressures on the judiciary in 35 countries. A survey on citizen experiences with corruption in the judiciary and empirical research on corruption are also featured.  Recommendations are offered in the areas of judicial appointments, terms and conditions, accountability and discipline, and transparency.

Go to: www.transparency.org/publications/gcr

 

Human Rights, Equality and Access to Justice

The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, India Awarded 2007 Rafto Prize
The Board of the Thorolf Rafto Foundation for Human Rights awarded the 2007 Rafto Prize to the Indian organization, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), for its brave struggle to promote Dalit rights and for its efforts to emphasize that the discrimination and oppression resulting from caste prejudice is a serious violation of international human rights.  Of India's 1 billion citizens, 167 million are labeled as “casteless.”  These people have named themselves Dalits, meaning “the oppressed.”  NCDHR was established in 1998 by a group of human rights organizations and activists concerned with the status of Dalits' rights in India.  The organization has developed a wide support network of volunteers, organizations, and groups throughout India.  In cooperation with local organizations they have established committees to monitor the Dalits' circumstances.  NCDHR's efforts include documenting human rights violations, providing legal assistance to victims of discrimination and atrocities, and lobbying within India and internationally. 

Go to: www.rafto.no/DesktopModules/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=84

 

Media, Freedom of Expression and Communication Technology

National Endowment for Democracy Presents Annual Democracy Awards
On September 18, the National Endowment for Democracy presented the 2007 Democracy Awards to four individuals and organizations who work to increase and preserve press freedom around the world.  This year’s recipients were Hisham Kassem (Egypt), Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (Venezuela), Kavi Chongkittavorn (Thailand), and (posthumously) Anna Politkovskaya (Russia).  Hisham Kassem is one of Egypt's most prominent publishers and democracy activists.  He was until recently the publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt's first independent daily paper; he was also Vice President of the opposition Hizb Al-Ghad Party.  Instituto Prensa y Sociedad is a press freedom monitoring group established in 2002 during a period of growing concern about the state of freedom of the press and expression in Venezuela.  It has since become an authoritative voice on freedom of expression issues in the country, and is a point of reference for journalists, academics, and human rights defenders.  Kavi Chongkittavorn, a member of the World Movement for Democracy Steering Committee, is a tireless campaigner for press freedom throughout Southeast Asia and worldwide.  A journalist for more than 20 years, he is the assistant group editor of the Nation Media Group, which publishes of The Nation, Krungthep Turakij, and Kom Chat Luek newspapers in Thailand.  Anna Politkovskaya, the courageous reporter for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta who was murdered at her apartment building on October 7, 2006, was an outspoken advocate for human rights and an end to the devastating war in Chechnya.  She was honored recently by various events marking the first anniversary of her murder (see next item).

Go to: www.ned.org/events/democracy-award/2007

Worldwide Events Mark Anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's Death
October 7 marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist and human rights advocate whose murder is thought to have been carriet out as political retribution for her work on Chechnya and for her criticism of the Russian government.  The anniversary of her death was commemorated in memorials around the world:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has compiled a photo gallery in remembrance of Politkovskaya with slides from memorials in Moscow and Paris.  RFE/RL has also created a special Web site that examines her life and work, and includes videos of the conference, “Russia: One Year After the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” which took place on October 4 at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, with panel discussions about the effect Politkovskaya's death has had on the media environment in Russia.

On October 6, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russian officials detained five foreign activists, a Briton, three Spaniards, and a German, along with a Russian colleague, who were on their way to attend a memorial.  They released them after almost five hours, and fining them for violation of their visa status.  The BBC has posted coverage of this memorial and on the demonstration in Moscow’s Pushkin Square.  In Saint Petersburg, about 350 people gathered to place flowers, candles, and portraits of the journalist in front of a monument to victims of political repression.

There were also several events held in Europe.  Reporters without Borders held a ceremony on October 5 at the Trocadero human rights plaza in Paris, displaying photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Politkovskaya alongside 18 coffins representing the 18 journalists killed in connection with their work in Russia since Putin became president in March 2000.  In London, Saturday's edition of THE TIMES published a letter signed by more than 60 dignitaries and celebrities calling on Russia to bring Politkovskaya's killers to justice.  Signatories included South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu, British playwright Harold Pinter, US actress Susan Sarandon, and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy. In Berlin, Reporters without Borders and Amnesty International organized a protest in front of the Russian embassy, which drew around 100 participants, including activists, NGO workers, artists, journalists, and deputies from the German parliament.

Voice of America covered events in New York City, where Russian immigrants gathered across from the Russian Mission to remember the spirit of Anna’s work.  The participants called for the naming of a square across from the Russian mission to the United Nations in her honor, lit candles, and marched through the streets.  After the march, Anton Krylov, a journalist and organizer of the memorial, publically burned his Russian passport and renounced his Russian citizenship, claiming he would no longer be a part of a country whose government murders journalists.

For the RFE/RL photo gallery, go to: www.rferl.org/photogallery/330.html

For the special feature RFE/RL Web site with links to the conference, go to: http://rfe.rferl.org/specials/politkovskaya

For BBC’s report from Russia, go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7030000/newsid_7032700/7032754.stm?bw=nb&mp=rm&nol_storyid=7032754&news=1

For a copy of the letter to the Times: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article2599269.ece

For Voice of America’s report of the events in New York (in Russian), go to: www.voanews.com/real/voa/eurasia/russ/russ1600vb.ram

Women in Rural South Africa Use Mobile Technology to Promote and Protect Human Rights
In August, the Community Media for Development trained women and men in South Africa on how to produce their own radio shows about the human rights issues that affect them directly.  The training program was an initiative of the UmNyango Project, which is currently using SMS technology for rural women and men in KwaZulu Natal to access information about and to report incidences of violence against women and children, as well as violations of women’s right to land.  The trainees produced programs on issues of evictions from farms, evictions of widows from their marital homes, violations of women’s inheritance rights and the impact of HIV/AIDS, sexual violence against girls, forced/arranged marriages, and the challenges of employment for young women.  The programs have been made available to local radio stations, as well as being distributed over the Internet as podcasts.

To read more about these programs, go to: www.afronets.org/archive/200709/msg00025.php

To listen to podcasts of these programs, go to: www.pambazuka.org/en/broadcasts/podcasts.php and www.cmfd.org/cmfdprojects/ruralwomen.html

Reporters Without Borders Publishes Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
Reporters Without Borders has developed a handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents to help individuals in countries with media censorship effectively distribute information.  Blogs have become an important tool in the promotion of freedom of expression and allow individuals to fill in the gaps of traditional media sources.  Moreover, bloggers are often the only uncensored source of information in countries where the media is tightly restricted.  The handbook contains sections on how to set up a blog, how to get people to notice your blog, the ethics of journalism, how to remain anonymous, and how to evade censorship.  It is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Russian, and Arabic.

Go to: www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=542

Regional Consultation with Journalists Held in Serbia
On September 27, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Belgrade, the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) in Sarajevo, and Documenta in Zagreb, in cooperation with regional associations of journalists, held a consultation meeting with journalists on mechanisms of truth-seeking and truth-telling in the former Yugoslavia.  They discussed the role of journalists in uncovering information on crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and keeping public attention focused on their resolution.  Participants in the consultation included journalists from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, and the International Center for Transitional Justice.  HLC, RDC, and Documenta have facilitated several similar consultations with different segments of civil society to develop policy recommendations for national and local governments.  

Go to: www.hlc-rdc.org/english/Conferences/War_Crimes_Trials/index.php?file=1719.html

 

Politcal Parties and Political Leadership

Using Sports to Promote Political Cooperation in Liberia
On September 15-30, members of five Liberian Political Parties participated in a soccer and kickball tournament organized by the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections-Partners for Democratic Development (NAYMOTE-PADD).  The goal of the tournament was to encourage partnership and cooperation among the political parties to foster national unity and development.  Participating political parties included the ruling Unity Party (UP), the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the former ruling National Patriotic Party, the Liberia Action Party, and the Liberty Party.  The Liberian National Soccer Team (Lone Star) has historically been a unifying force in Liberia, and NAYMOTE-PADD used this as the inspiration for the program.

Go to: www.wmd.org/documents/oct07demnews27.pdf

 

Research

Dutch Human Rights Resource Center Updated
The Humanist Committee on Human Rights (HOM), a Dutch organization, has just completed an update of the Human Rights Impact Resource Center (HRIRC).  HRIRC is an online database with a wide range of information and documentation on human rights impact assessment.  Individuals can now submit books, reports, journal articles, manuals, evaluations and other material directly to the site.  Additional improvements to the site include an improved search feature, a refined news section, and a more user-friendly layout.

Go to: www.humanrightsimpact.org/top/register for information on how to register, and www.humanrightsimpact.org/fileadmin/hria_resources/user_guidelines.pdf for information on how to add materials.

 

Tolerance and Religious Freedom

US Institute of Peace Releases Report on Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy
The United States Institute of Peace recently issued a special report entitled, “Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy.”  The report examines the experiences of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) working with Islamist parties in three countries: Morocco, Jordan, and Yemen.  Based on extensive interviews and discussions with NDI, IRI, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), it emphasizes that US engagement of moderate Islamists must be understood within the broader political context of the ideological battle in the Muslim world over the place of Islam in public life. Moderate Islamist parties that reject violence and practice democratic ideals are an important counterweight to Islamist extremism, and their work should be encouraged.

Go to: www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr190.pdf

 

Young People's Political and Civic Participation

World Youth Movement for Democracy Marks World Youth Day
The World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD), the World Movement’s Youth Network, is encouraging its participants to design programs to raise awareness of the role of youth in democracy in celebration of World Youth Day for Democracy on October 18.  Ideas for possible events include school essay contests, cultural activities, letter writing campaigns, and meetings with local government.  The WYMD Web site includes resources to help plan events and a chat room to share ideas with others.  Projects from previous years have included workshops, debates, and surveys.  Projects can be registered on the WYMD Web site, and the international secretariat will highlight events on their Web site and send out stories to inspire future events.

Go to: www.ymd.youthlink.org/ymd/launchday.html

Center for International Private Enterprise Announces Winners of 2007 Essay Contest
The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has announced the winners of its 2007 essay contest, “Engaging Youth in Reform.”  The essay competition was designed to encourage young people aged 18-30 to share their ideas about citizenship, democratic and market-oriented reform, and youth leadership, and nearly 450 young people from 72 countries participated in the competition.  The winning essays came from Bulgaria, India, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United States, and Zimbabwe.  The essays and winner profiles are available online.

Go to: www.cipe.org/programs/women/essayresults.php

Report on Armed Conflict and Young People Released
In connection with the “Machel Strategic Review,” the Global Youth Action Network (GYAN), in partnership with UNICEF and others, released a youth report on the situation of children affected by armed conflict.  In 1996, a study prepared for the United Nations recommended how to better protect children and young people affected by armed conflict.  Now, ten years after that report, UN agencies, NGOs, and other partners have conducted the “Machel Strategic Review” to assess progress.  The recently released report, featuring findings from the assessment, will be presented to the UN General Assembly on October 17, 2007.  As part of the strategic review process, a separate report entitled “Will You Listen? – Young Voices from Conflict Zones” has been published, including perspectives of over 1700 young people from 92 countries.

Go to: http://petitions.takingitglobal.org/machel

 

World Movement Participating Networks, Organizations and Individuals Mentioned in this Issue