How secrecy impedes effective governance

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Over the past decade, my foundation has attempted to do exactly this through the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a database of almost 90,000 data points that is available for citizens, governments, institutions and business to assess exactly how well governments are performing. Subsequently, in the past two years, I have been involved in the Open Government Partnership, an entirely new multilateral organization that focuses on exactly this politically charged issue – how to inject more transparency and accountability into national governance.

The Open Government Partnership Annual Summit took place in London this week, shortly after publication of the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, currently the only global measure of transparency in the world’s leading aid organizations.

For the first time a U.S. agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, ranked #1 and USAID saw significant gains. However, the aid charity Oxfam complains, “only six out of 22 US government agencies that administer foreign aid are publishing information that allows them to be included in the index.’

Groups like the Mo Ibrahim Foundation “are reliant on partners to collect the data and are the first to acknowledge where gaps exist – in key areas of poverty, equity, gender and unemployment,” Ibrahim writes for The Financial Times:

Rather than relying on civil society to collect data, we are working to open up access to government data. Remarkably, governments are beginning to embrace the idea that nothing enhances democracy more than giving voice and information to everybody in the country. Why not open their books if they have nothing to hide?

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Mass violence an ‘imminent threat’ in Central African Republic

cenafricHuman rights and civil society groups fear that the growth of inter-communal and sectarian violence in the Central African Republic could result in mass atrocities.

“The Central African Republic (CAR) is rapidly sliding into anarchy,” says an appeal signed by several leading NGOs:

Civilians in many parts of the country are at severe risk of mass atrocity crimes resulting from increasing inter-communal and sectarian violence and reprisals.  Compounding this is an increasingly dire humanitarian situation that threatens the stability of the entire country.  The international community must act quickly in order to protect civilians and prevent atrocities against them.  Establishing security, protecting and expanding access for humanitarians, and investing in community-based violence reduction, conflict prevention and peace-building programs to address inter-religious and inter-communal tensions between communities should be immediate priorities.

The past few weeks have seen a significant increase in systematic violence against civilians, attacks on religious institutions, and increased pressure on humanitarian organizations’ ability to operate.  CAR has witnessed civil strife for decades, but renewed displacement and increased violence have exacerbated the pre-existing chronic emergency conditions.  Key indicators of devolution and continued violence against civilians include:

  • Increase in interreligious and intercommunal nature of violence.  Attacks that were once rebel-driven are now taking on more organized ethnic and sectarian tones.
  • Massive displacement.  There are close to 400,000 internally displaced persons within CAR.  Just under 220,000 refugees that have fled the country. 65,000 of these refugees fled as a result of the most recent conflict.
  • 1.6 million children and families are suffering from food shortages.
  • Rape, arbitrary killings, kidnapping, forced amputations and other abuses, and pillaging and looting of villages have been committed by ex-Seleka and other forces.
  • Children, particularly girls, exposed to a wide range of sexual and gender based violence.
  • New counter-militias forming, motivated by climate of fear and retribution. Hundreds of armed youth are among the ranks, many of whom were subject to forced recruitment.
  • Limited UN presence outside the capital Bangui and large humanitarian coverage gaps due to insufficient security and protection.

As advocates and organizations dedicated to the prevention of violent conflict and mass atrocities, we are deeply disturbed by the violence that is plaguing CAR.  The most recent wave is tipping the situation beyond control and is taking a trajectory towards large-scale interreligious and intercommunal violence.

We urge the international community to act swiftly to prevent atrocities and ensure civilian protection. The international community must rapidly expand its presence in the country, extend protection beyond a few selected sites, and allocate the resources necessary to address the complex and protracted nature of humanitarian needs.

Signed,

The Enough Project

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Genocide Watch

Invisible Children
Jesuit Relief Services

Mercy Corps

The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative

Save the Children

Search For Common Ground

STAND: The Student-led Movement to End Mass Atrocities

United to End Genocide

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Briefing with Belarusian Civil Society and Human Rights Activists

Despite upcoming major international and domestic events that will draw attention to Belarus, in particular the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship and the following presidential elections, Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime has taken no steps to stop the repression of civil, political, and economic rights in Belarus. Instead, the trends set by the violent suppression of the protests over Mr. Lukashenka’s disputed re-election in December 2010 continue, all the while the Belarusian government seeks greater dialogue with the West and demands the repeal of international sanctions.

This briefing will provide an opportunity to hear first-hand perspectives from Belarusian civil society leaders on the ongoing restrictions of human and economic rights and fundamental freedoms, receive an update on Belarusian political prisoners, and discuss the delegation’s views on how the United States’ foreign policy and assistance for civil society has affected the situation with human rights and freedoms in Belarus.

November 4, 2013

10:00-11:00 am

Cannon 210

Capitol Hill

Washington, DC

Hosted by Freedom House and FIDH

in conjunction with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Speakers: 

Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka, the President of The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius since 2010 and a Board Member of the Human Rights Centre Viasna. Originally founded to help the victims of the government crackdown following the 1996 democratic protests, Viasna is now the most prominent human rights organization in the country and has been a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) since 2004. Despite the government of Belarus revoking Viasna’s legal registration in 2003 and continuing to ban it to this day, Viasna continues its human rights work in Belarus. In 2006, Tatsiana Reviaka received the 2006 Anna Lindh Award for working to achieve change with peaceful measures and democratic channels. 

Mr. Valiantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer and the Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Centre Viasna in Belarus. In November 2011, the President of Viasna and Vice-President of FIDH, Ales Bialiatski, was falsely accused of tax evasion associated to his human rights work, and sentenced to four and a half years of prison with hard labor. Mr. Stefanovich was also wrongly accused of tax evasion in a related case and was subjected to heavy fines. Since Mr. Bialiatski’s trial and imprisonment (which have been widely denounced, including by the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention), Mr. Stefanovich has headed Viasna and represented the organization on the Board of FIDH.

Ms. Zhanna Litvina, an award-winning Belarusian radio journalist, chair and co-founder of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). BAJ was awarded the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for acting “as a champion of the independent media” in 2004. Ms. Litvina has advocated for freedom of speech for decades despite pressure from a regime that consistently threatens and detains journalists, and was awarded the Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism in 2004, and the Ebert Foundation Human Rights Award in 2008.

For any additional questions, please contact Katya Migacheva at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (Katya.Migacheva@mail.house.gov202-225-3599).

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New network advancing ‘inclusive democratization’ in Asia

ADNAssembly2

Asia Foundation

“As civil society in Asia has made significant progress over the past several decades, the need for a forum that brings together the major players to focus on key challenges to inclusive and participatory democracy has become increasingly important, The Asia Foundation’s Barbara Smith and Peter Beck write:

Although there have been attempts at organizing civil society organizations in Asia into a broader network, the Asia Democracy Network is positioned to be more active and have a more enduring impact. The network is made up of over 100 NGOs and civil society organizations from 26 countries around the region working in fields ranging from media freedom to human rights. The network aims to promote and consolidate democracy and democratic governance, making use of international cooperation and solidarity in the fields of information sharing, capacity building, and research and advocacy.

In the name of advancing democracy in Asia, over 80 participants from 50 civil society groups representing 20 countries in Asia agreed a Charter of Principles and adopted the Seoul Democracy Declaration at the network’s Founding Assembly in Seoul, South Korea on October 21. 

The inaugural ceremony was addressed by a number of civil society and pro-democracy advocates, including Min Ko Naing, one of the main leaders of Burma’s “88 Generation Students Group,” Maria Leissner, the first secretary general of the Community of Democracies, Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, and Suren Badral, ambassador-at-large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mongolia.ADNAssembly3

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