New Tactics Blog
A restaurant near Shanghai is charging customers a “clean air fee”to breathe unpolluted air. This is a response to air pollution levels hitting “red alert” status. It begs the question: is a healthy living environment a human right or a commodity?
"The essence of the communication strategy is to recognize that people are very sensitive not only to what your message is, but to how it is communicated, and, perhaps most importantly, to who is transmitting it."
By Shalya Rajathurai
Image: Kaushalya "Shalya" Rajathurai
This book was published by Jabal Amman Publishers in partnership with The Children Museum Jordan and launched in October, which is the Arab Child Month. At the book launch event for Ana Insan – I am Human, Mr. Sinan Sweis, managing director of Jabal Amman Publishers, said “For several years it has been a dream to work on creating an Arabic human rights book with child friendly content that empowers children. In Arabic you might find content regarding the Child Rights Convention, but nothing about the International Declaration of Human Rights that is directed at children.”
Recently, I attended the Civil Society Knowledge Forum II: “Assessing progress, Advancing change” organized by FHI360, a nonprofit dedicated to improving lives through locally driven solutions. The participants represented NGOs working with FHI360 to advance civil society.
Defending human rights in Russia can be perilous. One only needs to recall the killings of human rights defenders, investigative journalists and lawyers like Anna Politkovskaya, Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova or Memorial activist Natalia Estemirova. Opposition activists also face physical danger. In February 2015 Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister during Yeltsin’s second presidency, was shot dead near the Kremlin in Moscow. Moreover, some organisers and participants of demonstrations have faced prosecution and imprisonment. Since 2005, the Russian authorities have implemented legislation isolating the political opposition and curtailing the funding of HRDs. These laws have included restrictions in the activities of the foreign organisations, increased fines for organising and participating in unsanctioned demonstrations. They also modified existing laws on treason and recriminalised libel. These laws affect the whole spectrum of civil, cultural, and human rights associations.
The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms passed in 1998 by the UN General Assembly marked a milestone for the defense of human rights. It was a moment of joy and hope, built on years of advocacy and negotiations to obtain the explicit support of the UN and governments for the thousands of activists and organizations that had been defending human rights for so long. But now, almost 17 years after that moment, we believe that it is time to critically consider some key aspects of the UN Declaration.
The situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) is dire. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t hear about a new piece of legislation restricting the space for civil society or legalizing surveillance. HRDs around the world are threatened, and in some cases, harmed for exercising their rights to expression, association, etc. HRDs are discredited and ostracized for challenging social and cultural norms that violate their or their community’s human rights.
While this wave of repression and aggression against HRDs is consistent in its persistence, it is marked by ever changing adversarial tactics. This, coupled with the fact that HRDs experience these aggressions in very different ways means it is difficult to ensure that the international protection regime stays responsive and relevant for HRDs at risk.
In the recently released Special Issue on Human Rights Defenders Protection in the International Journal of Human Rights, we argue for the importance of critically appraising the construction, function, and evolution of the international protection regime as well as its multi-scalar social and political effects.
Recently I participated in the closing session for the Regional Youth Forum "Mosharka, Working Together," which aims to promote youth leadership and participation in the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The event was organized by Equitas in collaboration with the Arab Network for Civic Education (ANHRE) and other partner organizations in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Around thirty young leaders from the MENA region attended this forum.