This is a joint article by Miriam Niehaus, Securing Civic Rights Manager at the Centre and Matt Beard, Executive Director of All Out. Here, they each write how the fight for greater Civic Rights and LGBT+ Rights are conneected to the fight for our Human Rights.
Criminalized and persecuted in many countries, the LGBT+ community and their activists are often on the frontline of the human rights struggle. So today, on Human Rights Day, I ask the Civic Charter Community and all of those believing in Human Rights, to stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ Community.
The Civic Charter Community are those who believe in and are committed to its principles; principles, which are based on human rights. We stand in solidarity with each other when we come under attack, when governments want to take away our rights to our most basic freedoms – freedom of expression, assembly and association. This growing community is rich in diversity as members come from all over the world and work on a range of issues from climate change, to development, to ensuring free media. Our strength derives from being inclusive – and in turn, being united. This means it is imperative to look at shared struggles from different perspectives, so that they remain relatable to others.
Some 6 weeks ago, I participated in an eye-opening meeting. From 22-24 October, we convened the International Civic Forum, usually set up as a meeting of civic freedom experts from different sectors. For the first time, we ran this meeting not as a stand-alone event but within another conference and therefore with another audience: the International Anti-Corruption Conference. Consequently, the topics of the Civic Forum sessions all related civic freedom issues to corruption.
One session stood out in particular. It was run by Matt Beard from All Out, along with Sana Ahmad and Bisi Alimi, on extortion of gay men in Nigeria, among other aspects. By understanding extortion as a method of corruption, the anti-corruption community could readily relate to the struggle that All Out is in. At the same time, the then described method of state actors rang familiar to participants working more generally on civic freedoms, who are aware of a wide range of government methods, usually used to intimidate activists and CSOs.
In this instance, a new sense of connectedness between activists and CSOs of different ‘sub-sectors’ came about. And it is this spirit in which we need to show more solidarity with each other, making a conscious effort of relating our different experiences to each other and being open to that.
The opening line of the Civic Charter boldly declares “We, the people, have the right to participate in shaping our societies”. For LGBT+ communities living in hostile environments around the world, this is a rallying call for our equality, our dignity and our agency as citizens. And with 69 governments around the world continuing to make same-sex love illegal (and nine of these using the death penalty against us), these words are also a call for our very existence as citizens.
LGBT+ people are so often denied the vision for human rights outlined in the Civic Charter. There are far too many examples. In Russia, a so-called anti-gay “propaganda” law prevents freedom of expression – earlier this year, a sixteen-year-old boy, Maxim, was arrested for posting gay-related content on a social network. In Uganda, a Government Minister, Simon Lokodo, has repeatedly denied the LGBT+ community the right to freedom of assembly, using violence to prevent peaceful Pride celebrations. In Tanzania, LGBT+ civil society organizations are obstructed or closed down, in a denial of freedom of association. In deeply hostile environments like Indonesia, LGBT+ people must hide in the shadows, unable to play a role in the community and denied effective participation. In Chechnya, the state’s duty to protect failed massively in 2017 as gay and bi men were rounded up in a state-sponsored purge, taken to illegal detention centers, tortured and, in some cases, murdered. In Nigeria, LGBT+ people are denied public accountability – gay men are regularly arrested for no reason, with their families forced to pay bribes for their release.
At All Out, we believe that human rights are inalienable and indivisible. We believe that the common struggle to achieve human rights for all is a deeply uniting force that makes us stronger. We believe in the vision of Martin Luther King that there cannot be justice anywhere until there is justice everywhere. We therefore support and endorse the Civic Charter enthusiastically and want to use it as a framework to reach out to and collaborate with other groups fighting for human rights, justice and equality.
“I think my last word will be, ‘Yes!’ We need to stop saying ‘no’, we need to be positive and change the narrative. So we need to say ‘yes’ to changing things.” The words of Fouzy Mathy, a young woman from SOS Children’s Villages International at Global Perspective 2018.
Fouzy, and her ally Divine Usabase also from SOS, unexpectedly took to the stage in the final session when they swapped places with Jennifer Morgan, the Greenpeace International Executive Director, who was on the panel titled “What to do next, with who and how?”. The pair had an answer; we need to unite and make our voices and actions count. Fouzy illustrated what happens when we fail to do so.
She shared the story of a young person who took their own life because they did not feel supported. The young person in question had fled their home country due to conflict and famine caused by climate change. However, after arriving in Europe – somewhere they thought would be safe and supportive – that young person felt so abandoned and insecure that they took their own life.
Fouzy told this story as a clarion call of why we need to act together to show compassion and humanity in our work and lives. Their concrete proposal was to create a project called “Yes4Humanity”. The project will engage a wide range of people with causes important to them, sharing personal, powerful, positive stories. There would be one small difference they wouldn’t be the #NewGeneration but a global #NOWGeneration.
Fouzy and Divine’s intervention in the conference was timely. It symbolised the hand over from old to the now generation, in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the event. After all, this kind of changing of the guard was discussed extensively at the event.
Let’s rewind then to the beginning of the event to understand how we ended up here…
Opening: Open the door to young people
The conference opened with Paula Peters explaining how and why it is important to open the door to young people. She challenged everyone to rethink how we should let young people engage us, rather than how international civil society organisations can engage them. This was a call for a fundamental shift in power and control over resources, campaigns and messages and bureaucratic accountability. This will help those young people who already do amazing work.
For example, Anshul Tewari founded Youth Ki Awaaz, India’s largest social justice media platform. It’s the place for young people to make a change in their societies. Additionally, Maha Babeker, a women’s rights activist in Sudan, shed light on how Sudanese young people are speaking out against Gender-Based Violence. These were just two examples of some of the amazing work done by young people.
What we wanted participants to get out of the conference
We had a variety of awesome speakers and insightful workshops. When we set out to put this conference together we sat down and thought about what we wanted people to get out of it.
We decided that at Global Perspectives 2018 we wanted to:
To do this we aimed to inspire and showcase cross-cutting content. We chose organisations with three themes in mind:
We wanted you to hear from as many people who represent each theme. We held a mixture of objective focused workshops and open-ended discussions called campfire sessions from the following organisations:
|· Amani Institute||· Talents4Good|
|· Amnesty International||· Telecommunications Software & Systems Group|
|· NetHope||· The Open University|
|· OECD||· The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy|
|· OXFAM||· Toladata|
|· Plan International||· Viva con Agua|
|· Restless Development||· WEF|
|· Save the Children||· Youth to End Sexual Violence|
|· SDI Net|
As if this was not enough, we hosted a Future Scenario track. In these sessions, the participants attempted to identify the characteristics of a CSO 12 years from now that is successful in engaging youth.
The group predicted a very different global environment of megatrends with great impact and influence on young people. Although only 12 years’ away, there was systemic and rapid change in social and political organisation, technology and data-driven inequality, precarious work/economic situations, and intense climate change, antibiotic resistance and genetically modified food systems.In this context, the successful CSO of 2030 would have characteristics fundamentally different from the mindsets, skills, structures and ways of working today.
Radical and cause-driven, it would be focused on campaigns, advocacy/policy and amplifying what others are doing, with devolved peer-to-peer accountability and consensus decision-making communities both internally and with supporters.
What next for “Yes4Humanity”?
There are several ICSOs keen to take part there will be a kick off meeting next month which the International Civil Society Centre is part of. You can read more about their plan here.
There were many excellent ideas at Global Perspectives, we’ve tried to capture them all in our Outcome document. You can find them under recommendations. You’ll see we have ideas on peer-to-peer learning, developing a youth strategy, including young people’s voices more, be accountable to young people and committing to work together without ‘egos or logos’.
A future scenario workshop at our Global Perspectives 2018 conference explored what an international civil society organisation (ICSO) in 2030 successfully ‘Engaging a #New Generation’ would look like. The group predicted a very different global environment of megatrends with great impact and influence on young people. Although only 12 years’ away, there was systemic and rapid change in social and political organisation, technology and data-driven inequality, precarious work/economic situations, and intense climate change, antibiotic resistance and genetically modified food systems.
In this context, the successful CSO of 2030 would have characteristics fundamentally different from the mindsets, skills, structures and ways of working today. Radical and cause-driven, it would be focused on campaigns, advocacy/policy and amplifying what others are doing, with devolved peer-to-peer accountability and consensus decision-making communities both internally and with supporters.
One clear idea was intergenerational ICSOs working on major complex multi-generational issues. We imagined an organisation where all staff – regardless of age and number of years of professional experience – know how to catalyse change, engage the public, and mentor others. This includes multi-directional mentoring across a four- or five-generation workforce, in an organisation where everyone receives leadership training. With CSOs’ professional and technical staff expertise also seen as available through a `draw down´ service to partners, this would also increase in importance.
Undoubtedly, the ICSO of the future will need to expertly balance experience and youth for powerful leadership and ‘manage the intergenerational mix’. There is some general analysis out there but not much detailed exploration for our sector in particular. How much are organisations thinking about this and preparing internal scenarios, tools and processes to make this an easy and effective transition? We may explore this further with the Global Heads of Division in 2019, which will include HR Directors for the first time. Please get in touch if you are already working on this.
A number of ICSOs in the foresight community Scanning the Horizon are experimenting with or interested in engaging young audiences in developing future scenarios. The purpose of which is to inform their current cycles of organisational strategic planning. In a recent webinar organised by the Centre, Amnesty International shared insights from their first ever youth futures workshop within the organisation’s 2018 Global Youth Summit, with 100 young volunteers and activists. An initial round of internal thinking narrowed down the strategic topics to explore in the scenarios, including technology and human rights, economic inequality and cultural power. In groups, the young people then answered three overall questions:
The participants then created the vision of the world they wanted to see in 2030, completing a blank newspaper front page as the framework to define the future headlines they could help shape. The practical exercise enabled them to identify influencing strategies for different actors under each theme, make connections between topics, and gave them the confidence to replicate the exercise in their own peer networks. Amnesty International now plans to repeat this targeted process with more young people in regional spaces.
As UNICEF’s ‘Adolescents shaping their future: a foresight toolkit’ notes, involving young people in foresight process is important for a number of reasons, including ‘living with the consequences’ of current decisions and policies longer than those making or planning them in the present. Foresight does not require accurate predictions, but rather diverse and participatory generation of ideas about multiple potential futures. This should make it a relatively exciting and easy entry point to include young people, and increase open and more democratic exchanges, including where young people ‘have limited say in their lives or community affairs’. This could include some ICSO processes!
Engaging youth in developing future scenarios might be a first step towards ultimately making foresighting processes fully intergenerational as well. In developing a preferred vision of the future and how to get there, recognising and incorporating different perceptions of time is important. How far away does 2030 seem to people of different ages and stages of their lives? Integrating varied notions of time may highlight different senses of urgency or perceived levels of agency to change situations, and shake things up beyond incremental or even cynical thinking, to a more ambitious and optimistic outlook of what can be achieved. Appreciating different temporal dimensions may be important in intercultural foresight processes as well.
It is clear that there is both appetite and need to explore thinking on intergenerational working and future strategy development processes, and how ICSOs can implement these in more systematic and practical ways. The conversations will continue with our communities and through our convening in 2019.