Posts with the tag
“Civic Charter”

Rapid response mechanism webinar by ProtectDefenders.EU

11th February 2019 by Thomas Howie

On 7 February up to 40 participants joined a Civic Charter Webinar on rapid response mechanisms led by was Javier Roura Blanco, Communications and Reporting Officer at ProtectDefenders.EU. It focused on their tools and resources available to activists who work on the frontline of defending human rights. is the European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism, and provides emergency assistance and support to activists in many ways: from advocacy and capacity-building to material support, including temporary relocation, tailored to the specific needs of each individual, community or organisation.

Vincent Koech, Kenyan Human Rights Activist Vincent Koech, said:

“Personally I have learnt something new on how to protect myself and how to seek help and the presentation by Javier was on point and easy to understand and I would like to participate in another similar webinar”.

Miriam Niehaus, Securing Civic Rights Manager, said:

“From the number of registrations and participants we received, we can tell that this topic really hit a nerve with our Civic Charter community.”

“While there are a lot of fantastic resources available for defenders at the frontline, many don’t know how to access that or that they are even eligible. We will endeavour to offer more such relevant webinars in the next weeks.”

You can find all information about upcoming events and webinars in our events section.

Communications Manager

International Civil Society Centre

Civic Charter Community standing in solidarity – LGBT+ rights are human rights

10th December 2018 by Miriam Niehaus and Matt Beard

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 connected to the fight for our Human Rights. 

Miriam Niehaus:

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.

Matt Beard:

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.

Miriam Niehaus

Head of Programmes

International Civil Society Centre

Miriam leads the Centre’s programmes. She started at the Centre as Executive Assistant in 2014 and then, as Project Manager, developed and implemented the Centre’s projects on civic space between 2016 and 2019. Prior to joining the Centre Miriam worked for VSO International and GIZ in the Palestinian Territories. She holds a BA in Islamic Studies and Social Anthropology from the University of Freiburg and an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Matt Beard

Executive Director

All Out

Civil Resistance One on One

2nd October 2018 by Jasmina Golubovska

At the end of June, people from different continents gathered in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss civil and political rights in the countries they currently reside. The meeting was organized by International Civil Society Centre, and I was lucky enough to be invited as person who was involved in civic activities which contributed to this political change in a hybrid system.

Civil Resistance participants arrange post-its on a wallSitting for 7 hours at the Istanbul airport en route to the meeting got me thinking about nation-state concepts and people living under different political and legal environments. Some are more intrusive to civilian spaces than others, yet nearly all try to limit open public spaces for free communication, interaction and information to people coming from such diverse communities in this world and Universe we all share. Some governments are reluctant to open the world to its citizens while others actively spew hatred towards the “otherness”.

However, looking at the millions of different individuals interacting daily only in this airport, I realized that there is no repressive model invented able to stand the need of people to move, explore, exchange, socialize. Even repressive regimes need to maintain their economic and military strength if they plan to maintain power, and thus they have to participate in the exchange of labor, products, and services on global level. So, closed borders, militarization, wars, heavily urbanized killers (of health and nature) cities… are these constructed spaces just a product of our imagination as humans? And if so, can we imagine something better in future? Can we take a leap on the evolutionary scale by recognizing such constructs and think of all natural space as an empty canvas on which we can draw a better picture? Is that just a prelude to the next step: aware humanity?
Civil Resistance speaker
Is the social interaction and exchange the key to opening the door to awareness of the co-dependence of all beings with nature? Can mistakes and destruction lead to comprehension that natural resources and our habitat as we know it is expendable, while humanity being dependable may parish?

This thought stayed with me on the 10 h. flight to Arusha, and throughout the 4 days which passed faster than those 17 hours of travel! I met people, heard stories, and developed deep friendships with activists from:Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina, Uganda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cameron, Tanzania, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Germany, United States of America…

We share the same vision on what our civic space should look like as spaces extending to communities where social interaction take places, where people see each other even without communication, where friends meet, or celebrate and cultures mix. Something like the scenery I’ve tried to capture while pondering the airport in Istanbul.

One may ask, did we succeed to finding a way to protect our spaces for communication and democracy? Did we detect and overcome the obstacles to future participatory democracies with citizens well-being put on the top of the political agenda? Have we thought of ways to remove the different restraints on civil and political rights? How to protect your self and others from government oppression, military power, hunger and live in societies which allow people to organize, participate and communicate among each other without fear of prosecution, pollution, famine, overall natural and human deprivation?

Well, reaching the end of the text the obvious answer is no, we didn’t find the way. We didn’t solve the world hunger, wars, dictators or housing problems, but we have few ideas on how to get people together to socialize and communicate their hardship openly and freely. We thought of ways how people can help each other across borders, governments and continents and that is a force to be reckoned. Remember that one thing I’ve mentioned that governments and militaries can’t stop, at the beginning of this text?

Well, they can’t stop us from meeting, talking, thinking and acting in the public or virtual world. They may slow the process by different forms of oppression, but they can’t stop it.

Jasmina Golubovska

Macedonian artist, activist, and member of the Civic Charter community


Strengthen Civil Society on Your Mobile!

17th July 2018 by Auli Starck

The English version of this blog was published on Funzi blog and originally published in Finnish on the Kepa blog 

In cooperation with Funzi, Kepa has developed a mobile course to give citizens tools to defend the space for civil society.

The Civic Charter is a charter for civil rights, a tool to defend civil rights and freedoms. It discusses the rights of all of us to unite, meet, and express our views. It also reminds us of civil society’s rights and opportunities for participation, as well as access to information, funding, and cooperation.

Defending the space for civil society is at the moment topical in just about every country, as the annual progress report, State of Civil Society Report 2018 by Civicus, points out. One step towards supporting civil societies is raising awareness. It is precisely to address this need that Kepa developed the Civil Society Today mobile course with Funzi; a course that introduces the Civic Charter and civil society rights.

We hope that Finnish civil society organisations, together with their partner organisations, will actively take advantage of this course, published in English. In emerging countries, the smartphone is more useful for many than the computer. Because the course works directly in the browser, it can also be used on all phones with an Internet browser.

Meanwhile, we have gained valuable experience using new learning platforms – in this case, mobile. Along with traditional on-site training, we at Kepa also want to offer opportunities for new kinds of learning. Mobile learning can be utilised as such or as one tool in training programs, or even in communication and global education.

“Funzi has had nearly 6 million users, mainly in the developing markets in Africa and the Middle East,” says Saila Kokkonen, Account Manager at Funzi.

“This experience strengthens the fact that mobile is an extremely important tool in people’s everyday lives. Not just in communication, but also in taking care of errands and increasingly also as an enabler for continuous learning,” Kokkonen adds.

For Funzi, cooperation with Kepa has brought an important addition to the courses openly available for everyone at, most of which have previously focused on developing skills for entrepreneurship and job-seeking. The intent is to also support the wholesome development of individuals and communities, which is now in part enabled by the Civil Society Today course.

You can also get acquainted with Funzi and Funzi’s courses at the World Village Festival on May 26-27, 2018, in Helsinki, Finland (R515).

So grab your mobile and start studying the Civil Society Today mobile course now. And once you finish, remember to sign the Civic Charter!

Also, check out:

Auli Starck

Programme Adviser


Macedonia is ready for the Civic Charter

15th May 2018 by Biljana Jordanovska

As a human rights organization, CIVIL is always in contact with the citizens, on the ground, and has been highly visible, effective and successful in the promotion of the Civic Charter.

In a swift and uniquely composed and conducted campaign, CIVIL teams have reached thousands of people in direct communication, and many more through the CIVIL’s media platform, which is rich in content and highly influential in the society. Workshops and meetings, as well as the conference at the end of the campaign, have involved decision-makers at the local and national level, including politicians, government officials, institutions, civil society and media. Active citizen participation in decision making processes at local and national level have proven to be imperative for building a healthy democratic society.

Our analysis has shown that local governments have been put under pressure by the central government for a long time. Although the previous regime has fallen and a democratic government formed, the process of democratic transformation is very slow, and local level decision making is still facing big challenges. Fear of institutions and active citizenship is deeply rooted.

Nevertheless, CIVIL has shown visible success in encouraging active citizenship and strengthening public awareness on the Civic Charter.

The support citizens have given to the Civic Charter, at public squares throughout Macedonia, has shown that there is a strong will for cooperation and participation on issues within the area of the Civic Charter. As many have told us, they know best what the needs and priorities of their communities are. And they agreed with the Civic Charter.

The workshops and the conference have shown that there is readiness for cross-sectoral cooperation and partnership between civil society, the local and central government, business community and political parties in the field of citizen participation in the decision-making processes.

CIVIL through mutual interaction, pointed out to the participants of these sectors of society that if there is a wish, on the one hand, and political will, on the other hand, that joint cooperation will encourage effective participation, but will also contribute to the changes that the citizens need at the local and national level.

Biljana Jordanovska

CIVIL Macedonia