Reflecting on the Closing of Civic Spaces and its Impact on Marginalised Groups in Southern Africa
2018 marks the 20th anniversary since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the landmark Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (commonly known as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders). The adoption of the Declaration was a critical moment in human rights history because it recognised, in international law, the importance and legitimacy of fighting for human rights and the need to protect those who carry out the work. Increasingly, the discourse around human rights is being negated and human rights defenders are under attack in many countries in Africa. In many instances we cannot rely on governments to automatically protect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly, even though these rights are critical to the protection and promotion of all human rights. It is only through solidarity that civil society can effectively and sustainably engage against encroachments on civic space.
This Closing Civic Spaces Report is a collection of articles from human rights practitioners, activists and human rights defenders (HRDs) operating in the Southern Africa region. The articles highlight contemporary issues of concern and paint a political and socio-economic context in which human rights defenders operate. The publication forms the background for a regional conference bearing the same title. The conference will take place in Johannesburg from 14 to 16 November 2018 and is a collaborative effort between SALC, ARASA, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
This publication and the Regional Summit is funded under the Global Fund’s Africa Regional Grant on HIV – Removing Legal Barriers.