Hivos International

Social Movements

During the last decade, Iran has witnessed a modest revival of labour activism. Not a week goes by without reports of demonstrations, strikes or other forms of protest against lay-offs, low or non-payment of wages, hazardous working conditions and so on. At the same time, labour  activists are subjected to arrest and violence, while independent trade unions are banned. Thus, the issues of labour activism and democracy are tightly connected. This working paper aims to analyze the development of labour activism in Iran and its relationship with the wider struggles for democratic transformation.

What we see in global civil society depends on what value lens we use to define it. The trend towards networked organisation may have emancipatory effects, but may also obscure inequalities and clashing values. Working Paper 14 systematically describes the different expectations people have of global civil society. Each of us, Marlies Glasius suggests, carries a slightly different picture of the concept in our head. She describes the different normative connotations, normative ideal types, the new actors (or not so new actors) and the trends in global civil society.

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

On the 10th of September 2009, violent unrest broke out in Kampala, the capital of Uganda in East Africa. Groups of youngsters attacked people and destroyed property. Police and army responded with force. Within two or three days, 27 people were killed and many more injured. Journalists were arrested and hundreds of people taken into custody.The rioting came after the central government moved to prevent the Kabaka (king) of the Baganda people – Uganda's largest ethnic group – from visiting a part of his traditional territory.

Two people describe how their personal journeys as Muslims in India and their research has made them think differently about identity, social justice and change. Ansari tells about his feelings after the demolition of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in 1992 (followed by large scale violence between Hindu and Muslims): “… I was raised in a very secular environment, as my family was not particularly religious during my youth. I could not really make sense of what had happened. I didn’t actually find the incident very disturbing.

In this paper, Ansari makes new meaningful connections between international contemporary academic debates on pluralism and democratic social transformation on the one hand and discourses circulating within Indian subaltern spaces on the other. Through a particular case study of ‘the pasmanda counterpublic’, Ansari aims to enrich the debates within civil society as well as open new possibilities for engagement with social change.

The paper starts with a brief introduction on the general context in which Ugandan universities are currently anchored as institutes for Higher Education in Africa and in Uganda in particular. Then the paper presents its main research findings and concludes that a number of cross-cutting realities have emerged. These realities and challenges, are thematically reviewed and highlight issues of ethnicity and language, religious affiliation, gender and economic status. The paper is full of quotes from those who were interviewed.

The power of ‘together’: Charting our paths towards Movements Rethink

During the MovementsRethink event, special guest blogger Jessica Horn reports. This is the first blogpost in the series.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, so begins Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. Although evoking the moment of the French Revolution, Dickens’ words could well have been describing our contemporary era. At the start of the twenty-first century we are once again in a “movement moment”, arguably not seen at this scale since the anti-colonial, anti-dictatorial, anti-war and women’s movements emerging across the global South and North in 1960s and 1970s. From the popular uprisings to oust unrepresentative regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, to youth-led activism for democracy in Senegal, to growing protests in Brazil questioning economic disparity and state expenditure on the FIFA World Cup and around the commercialization of public green space in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, to the recently commemorated 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s catalytic I Have a Dream at the March on Washington.

Activism in digital geographies

An interview with Jac sm Kee

During Movements Rethink, Jessica Horn sat down with Jac sm Kee, an internet rights feminist activist from Malaysia and manager of the Women’s Rights Programme at the Association for Progressive Communications, to explore the place of the digital in contemporary activism.

Party Politics : The Positive as Power

Part of a series of reflections around Movements Rethink, convened by the Hivos Knoweldge Programme, 9-12 September 2013

Say the word ‘activism’ and what images first come to mind? Is it a street full of protestors expressing rage through angry slogans? It is the intense eyes of the ‘survivor’ speaking hard-faced into a microphone at a policy forum? Is it a city square full of people from a spectrum of communities rocking to conscious hip-hop? Is it young woman embracing her body as beautiful?

In defence of small utopias

The last in a series of reflections around Movements Rethink, convened by the Hivos Knowledge Programme, 9-12 September 2013

Let’s face it, the world is a mess. Maybe it has always been, but in some respects that is not relevant. What matters is that for now it is, and at times the mess feels unbearable. We are committed to manifesting love and to celebrating human goodness. We also know that a minority control our means of livelihood and determine- in a structural sense- whether we live or die. Many states imagined ostensibly as guardians of the health, well-being and security of their citizens are being overtaken by private interest, not just in the increasing privatisation of social services, but in the hijacking of states by actors in drug and arms trades. Amongst ‘the people’ new and amazing revolutionary visions for what it means to be gendered (with all its intersections), exist alongside new forms of violent patriarchy. The world it seems is intent on being a mess. So why bother with activism?