Hivos International

Human Rights

Gender equality is missing from most of the studies on transition processes in Syria. This gender gap in transition planning prompted the publication of this policy brief by IFE-EFI and Hivos. The insights are based on more than two years of debate between Syrian women’s rights activists both inside and outside Syria and our common work bringing together researchers, activists and policymakers from Syria and internationally. 

Over the past two years, a combination of security crises has caused a wave of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Middle East and North of Africa. Contrary to common belief, the main challenge is not so much the inflows of immigrants from the MENA to Europe, but rather the massive movements within the region itself that may compound incipient political tensions and could impact on the future of countries in transition.

The theme of this issue is the blogosphere in authoritarian states. Recent developments in West Asia let us to pay closer attention to the direct influence of the Internet on democratic processes within an authoritarian state. Questions arise regarding what role new types of media can play in the interaction between civil society and an authoritarian regime. Several articles in this newsletter examine aspects of the blogosphere in Iran and Syria.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.

On a daily basis scores of Syrian activists upload their YouTube footage of protests and the regime’s atrocities, hoping that someone will watch them, become outraged, and act in ways to support the uprising. Given the regime’s information blackout, a lot can be learned from these video snapshots. Yet otherwise the eerie silence from Syria has been deafening. Rarely are Syrian activists given a voice to express their grievances, wishes, desires, aspirations and dilemmas. It is against this background that this newsletter has given the floor to some of such Syrian writer-activists who, despite the high risks involved, continue to publish their commentary in the Arabic-language media. It is in the power of their stories that these Syrian and Arab authors prove themselves to be true revolutionaries.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.

This working paper outlines the current theoretical debate about civil society and democratisation and examines how such general debates have informed studies of civil society in the Arab world. It analyses in depth the case of Morocco, where civil society activism has greatly increased in the course of the last decade, coinciding mainly with the arrival to power of King Mohammed VI. More specifically, this study examines three areas of civil activism in the Kingdom: women’s rights and the 2004 reform of the family Code; human rights and specifically the rights of political prisoners in the aftermath of the Casablanca bombings; the developmental issues related to the National Initiative for Human Development.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia. 

This paper analyzes the role of the judiciary in Syria’s strongly authoritarian setting wherein ‘the rule by law’ serves as a tool of repression; qualities that have far-reaching implications for foreign assistance programs on judicial reform, the rule of law and reform generally.

The topics of human rights and civil society provoke a lively debate on both sides of the Mediterranean. It is important to underline the fact that in the political arena these two issues are particularly emotive. This publication examines this synergy, looking at the role of external participants (in this case, Europeans) in promoting democratic values, and looking at the reception that has been given to this “interference” by official bodies of the societies in question. The debates and contradictions concerning the issue of human rights and the use to which it has been put – neutral or self-interested – explain the feelings of reticence and suspicion.

This paper comprises four case studies of communities in different parts of Uganda. All four examine how local communities deal with issues of human rights and justice, accountability, access to resources and conflict resolution. They illustrate how ‘community governance’, ‘culture’ and the State interplay when it comes to access to land, as in one of the examples.

Cultural values and traditional mechanisms for decision-making play a role in matters of conflict and justice in many local communities, whether indigenous or not. Yet as donors, especially when following a human rights approach, we tend to support strategies that focus on claiming legal rights at the level of the nation state, often overlooking the fact that statutory law and traditional practice coexist.

More culturally sensitive practices could render rights-based approaches more powerful and offer new opportunities for effective funding practices.

LGBT activists oppose cutting of aid to enforce sexual rights

The British government’s threat to withhold aid from countries with  homophobic policies has received critical responses from LGBT activists themselves. In a public statement, more than 150 African social justice activists argue that aid conditionality does not result – in and of  itself – in improved protection of the rights of LGBT people.