October 2011

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October 2011

Contents

 
Democracy Alerts/Appeals
 
World Movement Network Updates
 
Announcements & Events
 
Defending Civil Society
 
Civil Society Strengthening
 
Elections
 
Gender Issues & Sexual Minority Rights
 
Human Rights, Equality, & Access to Justice
 
Media, Freedom of Expression, & Communication Technology
 
Research
 
Role of International Institutions
 
 
Special Announcement
Dear Reader,
 
With this issue of DemocracyNews we are pleased to include a new section, entitled “News and Views from the Steering Committee,” that provides information about recent publications and activities of Committee members, as well as occasional brief commentaries on current democracy issues. The Steering Committee is the international leadership body of the World Movement with members from some 30 countries around the world, many of whom are known for their accomplishments in advancing democracy in their countries and for their knowledge of the challenges to democracy within their regions and globally. We hope you find this new section of our monthly newsletter of interest. Thank you very much.
 
The World Movement Secretariat

 
Democracy Alerts/Appeals
 
Egyptian Blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad Remains in Jail
On September 22, the World Movement issued a DemocracyAlert  on jailed Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad. According to Reporters Without Borders, Sanad was arrested by the Egyptian military on March 28 for “denouncing human rights violations and the military’s close relationship with the government” on his blog. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that he started a hunger strike on August 23 to protest “his continued imprisonment, his alleged mistreatment at the hands of the military prison guards, and the delay in dealing with his appeal.” 
 
According to Reuters, an Egyptian appeals court ordered a retrial on October 11, but no date has been set. Sanad’s family says that he continues to refuse food, and will only drink water.
 
To read more, go to:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information: http://bit.ly/qCHgyy

 

World Movement Network Updates
 
LAC Network Issues a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations
On October 12, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (LAC Network) issued a declaration addressing the struggle of indigenous populations in the Americas. Through its call to action, the LAC Network “1) raises its voice so that all governments recognize the rights of indigenous populations; 2) manifests its worry over governments that do not recognize the land rights of these populations; 3) rejects the misuse of natural resources and echoes the need for these indigenous populations not only to be informed, but also to become active participants with regards to any decisions that may affect them; 4) expresses its concern for large projects that put indigenous populations at risk and that; 5) are run without the prior consent of these peoples, such as the construction of roads in Peru and hydroelectric dams in Mexico. For the aforementioned reasons, the LAC network stands in solidarity with these indigenous populations and demands the respect of their legitimately acquired rights.”
 
To read the full declaration, go to: http://bit.ly/rnLR8E
 

Announcements & Events
 
World Movement for Democracy Issues Statement on 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
The World Movement issued a statement congratulating the three winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman, a leader of the pro-democracy movement in Yemen. Karman is also a World Movement participant who attended the Sixth Assembly in Jakarta in 2010.
 
To read the full statement, go to: http://bit.ly/qrtQLo
 
WYMD Democracy Photo Contest
The World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD) is hosting its first annual Photography Contest: "Youth in Action: A Snapshot of Democracy."  World Youth participants should submit photos that demonstrate an understanding of the workings of democracy by capturing images of youth igniting change, democracy in action, or the building of movements to create change within their communities. The deadline is Nov. 1, 2011. 
 
For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/nFf8tj
 
Call for Submissions: The 2012 RFK Book and Journalism Awards
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights is now accepting submissions for the 2012 RFK Book & Journalism Awards. Awards are presented to individuals in the field of human rights and justice who best reflect the work and ideals of the late Robert F. Kennedy.   The deadline is February 1, 2012.
 
To learn how to apply, go to: http://bit.ly/qzDdTa
 
International Human Rights Law Course to be Offered Online
The Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) and the University for Peace Human Rights Center will be offering an e-learning course entitled “An Introduction to International Human Rights Law” from November 2 – December 13. The six-week course will provide a foundation for students to develop their knowledge of human rights law. Applications, as well as a full list of courses offered, are available online.
 
For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/pAuTTm
 
Idasa Holds Seminar Series
In September, Idasa: An African Democracy Institute published a report on its first roundtable conference: “Africa and the Green Economy: Crucial Conversations.” The August session was the first in a series of workshops being held in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Durban later this year. The seminars, a part of IDASA’s Public Expenditure and Smallholder Agriculture Project, aim to “promote citizen participation and smallholder farmer engagement with discussions on climate change.”
 
For the full report, go to: http://bit.ly/qkERnv
 
Asian NGO Network Issues Statements on Role of National Human Rights Institutions
The Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) presented a series of statements at the 1st Biennial Conference of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. The statements focused on the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) as human rights defenders. ANNI emphasized that the institutions are key to economic and social development because they serve as bridges between their countries and UN human rights mechanisms. ANNI also stressed that the institutions must work to protect the rights of sexual minorities.
 
For more information, go to:
 
Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=11068
 

Defending Civil Society
 
World Forum for Democratization in Asia Commends Possible Reforms in Malaysia
The World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) released a statement saying it was encouraged by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent speech in which he promised to either repeal or amend a variety of anti-democratic Malaysian laws and policies. Prime Minister Najib delivered the speech on September 15, the International Day of Democracy. In its statement, the WFDA says that “these steps would be a major step towards building the rule of law and implementing human rights in Malaysia. Moreover, we believe they would have a wider positive impact around the Asian region. Thus, we call on the government and the parliament to act quickly to fulfill the Prime Minister's pledges.”
 
To read the full statement, go to: http://www.wfda.net/news_detail.asp?nid=61
 
Belarus Cracks Down on Freedom of Assembly
According to the Telegraf, the Council of the Republic National Assembly of Belarus has approved a bill that will significantly reduce the ability of civil society organizations to operate within the country. The bill, “On Making Addenda and Amendments to Some Laws of the Republic of Belarus” increases the punishment for participating in unsanctioned meetings, rallies, street marches, demonstrations, picketing, etc. Organizers of such events will receive a warning, fine, or administrative detention. The law also makes it illegal for public organizations to keep their money abroad. 
 
To read more, go to: http://bit.ly/oUzPei
 

Civil Society Strengthening
 
Southern Africa Trust Launches Regional Initiative
On September 30, the Southern Africa Trust launched “Leadership for Change,” a regional initiative aimed at developing civil society leaders’ capacity to implement change in southern Africa. The Trust’s executive director, Neville Gabriel, explained the reasoning behind the Initiative: "Civil society formations in the region need better opportunities for collective strategic reflection and planning so that their positions and actions are better informed, improved skills to engage with leaders in business and government, and support for new generations of civil society leaders to emerge who are able to work at once with multiple interest groups to create lasting change for the benefit of poor people in the region."
 
To read more, go to: http://bit.ly/nfaQt4
 

Elections
 
Positive Observer Reports of Zambia’s Election
The African Union, Civil Society Election Coalition, and the Commonwealth Observer Group monitored Zambia’s tripartite elections on September 20, and all three organizations report that the elections met international and regional standards, despite a few minor administrative issues that do not appear to have influenced the final result.
 
For more information on the monitoring missions, go to:
African Union Statement: http://bit.ly/o9S21F
CSEC Final Statement: http://bit.ly/nuVi1z
Commonwealth Observer Group: http://bit.ly/nU8YoD
 

Gender Issues & Sexual Minority Rights
 
Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Receives Two Human Rights Awards
Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha will receive the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award on November 10. The award is presented to individuals whose “courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy.” Mr. Mugisha is being recognized by the RFK Center for his work defending the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, a country that heavily discriminates against homosexuality.
 
Mugisha will also be accepting the 2011 Rafto Prize on behalf of his organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). 
 
To read the RFK Center’s press statement, go to: http://www.rfkcenter.org/node/157751
To read about the Rafto Prize, go to: http://www.rafto.org/?page=55&news=233
 
Rights for Change Releases Online Map of Violence Against Women
On October 10, Rights for Change announced a new resource called “Mapping Violence Against Women: A Tool to Map the Prevalence of Violence Against Women and the Interventions Addressing It.” This tool will allow NGOs to “get an overview of both the nature and scale of the prevalence of violence against women in its various forms, and the existing and lacking interventions to address it.”
 
By mapping the information, Rights for Change seeks to make it easier for NGOs to access data, which can be used for strategic planning, reporting, and advocacy purposes.
 
To learn more about this project, go to: http://bit.ly/n4WuY1
 
Program Launched to Teach Poor Women How to Engage Government
Raising Her Voice, a five-year global program coordinated by Oxfam GB, “which promotes the rights and capacity of poor women to engage effectively in governance at all levels,” organized a mock tribunal for women who have been the victims of violence to practice testifying during the organization’s annual “16 Days of Activism.” “About 90 percent of women confidently and openly testified. This had the dramatic impact of increasing the women’s self-esteem and confidence, as well as exposing the devastating consequences of violence against women.”
 
In addition, the organization has compiled lessons on how women can more effectively engage government by “working with the media as strategic allies,” and making “concessions if it helps achieve the desired result.”
 
Raising Her Voice is coordinated by Oxfam. To learn more, go to: http://raisinghervoice.ning.com/
 

Human Rights, Equality, & Access to Justice
 
Human Rights Observer Denied Entry into Belarus
The International Observation Mission of the Committee on International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus reports that Ukrainian civil society activist Volodymyr Senko, a member of the All-Ukrainian Youth Public Association “Foundation of Regional Initiatives,” was denied entry into Belarus by border police, and was informed by the Belarus security services that his “entry [was] undesirable or banned.” The border guards failed to explain why Senko was refused entry.
 
For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/oTpkiF
 
Media, Freedom of Expression, & Communication Technology
 
Free Media under Attack in Sudan
On September 29, the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) issued a press release on the “ever-worsening environment for freedom of expression in Sudan.” In the past four months, the Sudanese Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has disrupted the work of nine newspapers, acting in violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Sudanese Interim National Constitution. “The ACJPS calls on the government of Sudan to respect the freedom of expression through its regulatory body, the Press and Publications Council, and end its anti-freedom of expression policies and actions.”
 
To read the full press release, go to: http://bit.ly/qurC2w
 
Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Welcomes Release of Nigerian Journalists
The Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL) issued a press release on October 14 welcoming the release of seven Nigerian journalists from jail. The journalists – reporters for The Nation – were arrested by Nigerian officials on October 11. In the statement, IHRHL calls on the Jonathan Administration to protect the rights and meeting standards required by international law.
 
For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/nKHrdn
 
Activists in Azerbaijan Sentenced to Prison
According to Amnesty International, three of Azerbaijan’s leading opposition activists were sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on October 3. “Arif Hajili, Chairman of the Musavat Party; Tural Abbasli, head of Musavat’s Youth Organization; and Mahammad Majidli, of the Popular Front Party (PFP) were convicted of “promoting social disorder” after taking part in a pro-reform protest on 2 April, which was violently dispersed by police… Amnesty International considers the three imprisoned activists to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
 
To read the full statement, go to: http://bit.ly/o5Tylk
 

Research
 
Citizen Action to Combat HIV and AIDS
A report produced by IDASA’s Governance and AIDS Program outlines how individuals and civil society can help supplement government efforts to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa. The report documents different cases of successful action taken by civil society to help fight the disease. It concludes that government cannot effectively confront this problem on its own and needs to partner with its citizens in the effort against HIV and AIDS.
 
 
Consensus on Democracy Weakening in Pakistan
After completing an assessment of the quality of democracy in Pakistan, the Democracy Assessment Group (DAG) convened by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) has concluded that the pro-democracy consensus in the country is weakening. DAG cites the Pakistani government’s inability to pass a comprehensive accountability law and the weak global economy as the primary causes. It encourages citizens to be politically active, and work to strengthen democracy in Pakistan.
 
To read the full statement, go to: http://bit.ly/qRQVAU
 
Open Society Foundations Reports on Western Balkans
In October, Open Society Foundations (OSF) released “Building Open Society in the Western Balkans, 1991-2011,” which surveys 20 years of OSF’s activities in the region, and includes articles written by scholars and leaders from the region. The authors discuss the wars and conflict of the 1990s, and the subsequent efforts to create a more open, free and transparent society. The publication also includes an annual breakdown of events and individual country reports. 
 
To read the full publication, go to: http://bit.ly/okXw8t
 

Role of International Institutions
 
New Community of Democracies Governing Body Meets
The Governing Council of the Community of Democracies held its first meeting in New York last month, during which it admitted eight new members. Now at 25 members, the new Governing Council pledges to “support democratic transition and consolidation worldwide and help bridge the gap between the principles of democracy and universal human rights.” The governing structure of the Community of Democracies was recently reformed; the members at the meeting “expressed their satisfaction for the creation of the new body and committed to actively participate in the Governing Council and Community of Democracies’ initiatives.”
 
For a list of attendees at the meeting, go to: http://bit.ly/r5TDEh
To read the reform paper, go to: http://bit.ly/roUrSR
 

News and Views from the Steering Committee
 
The Chair of the World Movement Steering Committee, the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell (Canada), recently led a Club de Madrid mission to the Kyrgyz Republic in the run up to the country’s presidential election on October 30. The goal of the mission was to promote the principles of participatory democracy, credible election, respect for human rights culture, and the strengthening of governance institutions for further consolidation of democracy.  
 
 
Alicja Derkowska (Poland) was awarded the
Officer Cross of the Polonia Restituta by the President of Poland, the Honorable Bronislaw Komorowski on September 15, in Warsaw.  Ms. Derkowska, of the Education Society of Malopolska, attended the ceremony with a group of 45 NGO activists who were honored for their achievements in building civil society and strengthening democracy in Poland and abroad.  We extend our congratulations to Ala Derkowska on this important and well deserved recognition.
 
Vladimir Ryzhkov (Russia) publishes a weekly editorial in The Moscow Times, Russia’s premier English-language daily newspaper. 
 
To read “Russia for All of its Citizens,” go to: http://bit.ly/qGEZMa
To read Ryzhkov’s September 13 editorial, “’Useful Idiots’ Back Medvedev’s Re-Election,” go to: http://bit.ly/pS8WfY
 
Maina Kiai (Kenya) currently serves as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association. In a statement released by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Kiai “warned that the current public draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations in Cambodia - if adopted - risks breaching the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
To read the full statement, go to: http://bit.ly/rmlNeo
 
Ron von Meijenfeldt (Netherlands) of the European Partnership for Democracy wrote a policy brief detailing the EU’s support for democracy and the possibility of establishing an independent institution called the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). The idea for an independent body to carry out the European Union’s democracy promotion efforts has recently gained support from leadership in Europe, and the proposal remains under discussion. Von Meijenfeldt outlines a series of guidelines that the EU should follow when creating the EED.
 
To read the full policy brief, go to: http://bit.ly/n53LIn
 
Von Meijenfeldt also wrote a working paper for the European Partnership for Democracy.  To read the paper, go to: http://bit.ly.pQTiWP
 
Paul Graham (South Africa) will present a comparative study conducted by Idasa: An African Democracy Institute in partnership with think tanks “on the role and potential of national governance assessments in strengthening democratic governance in sub-Saharan Africa” at the UNDP’s Africa Forum on Civil Society and Governance Assessments, from November 10-12 in Dakar, Senegal.