Venezuela must end action against human defender Diamanti

vzla rodrigo diamantiHuman rights and pro-democracy groups are calling for the immediate cessation of all unwarranted harassment and legal action against leading human rights defender Rodrigo Diamanti by the Government of Venezuela. 

Diamanti has been summoned by the Venezuelan Attorney General to appear on September 25, some four months after his arrest and detention in May.  It is likely that unsubstantiated criminal charges will once again be brought against him. Rodrigo has been prohibited from leaving Venezuela since his detention in May.

He founded the non-governmental organization Un Mundo Sin Mordaza (A World Without Censorship) to promote human rights with art and education, and is internationally renowned for using innovative methods to mobilize thousands of Venezuelans, particularly youth, in favor of peaceful democratic change in the country. 

On May 7, Diamanti was arrested at Maiquetía International Airport and detained for two days by the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN).  The World Movement joined with the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (Redlad) in condemning that arbitrary detention by the security forces in an alert issued on May 8.  The statement demanded that the Government of Venezuela restore the dignity of Venezuelan citizens by immediately respecting their rights to freedom of speech, association, and peaceful assembly as articulated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The World Movement is closely monitoring, and will speak out against, the unjustified actions of the Venezuelan Government against peaceful civil society organizations and their leaders, such as Diamanti.  

Promoting Shared Societies: Inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Campbell_-_photog_Martin_DeeAs the Millennium Development Goals’ expiration date of 2015 approaches, groups around the world have proposed various frameworks and priorities as the basis for the future global development agenda. Club de Madrid, an independent nonprofit organization composed of the world´s largest collection of former heads of state and government, has advanced a “shared societies” perspective for the post-2015 development agenda, which argues that the inclusion of all segments of society, especially marginalized identity groups should serve as a foundation for the new global development goals.

On February 7, the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings will convene a high-level panel to discuss how social inclusion should fit into the post-2015 development agenda. Panelists will include Club of Madrid members: Kim Campbell (left),* former prime minister of Canada; Wim Kok, former prime minister of the Netherlands; and Cassam Uteem, former president of Mauritius. They will be joined by Santiago Levy, vice president for Sectors and Knowledge at the Inter-American Development Bank and John Podesta, a former member of the High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Brookings Senior Fellow Homi Kharas will moderate the discussion.

After the program, the panelists will take audience questions. Join the discussion during the event using #SharedSocieties.

Register to attend the event in person » Register for the live webcast »

*From 2004 through 2006 Ms. Campbell served as Secretary General of the Club of Madrid, an organization of former heads of government and state who work to promote democratization through peer relations with leaders of transitional democracies. She served as Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL) from 1999-2003. The Council’s membership consists of women who hold or have held the office of President or Prime Minister.

Ms. Campbell is Chair of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy, headquartered at the National Endowment for Democracy. She is a Trustee of the Int’l Ctr for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London. She also serves on advisory boards of numerous other international organizations such as the Arab Democracy Foundation, which launched in Doha in May of 2007, the Middle Powers Initiative, and theAsia Society New York.

Remembering Joel Barkan

Jennifer Cooke, the Africa Program Director at the Center for International and Strategic Studies has published a moving tribute to a leading Africa specialist and advocate for democracy in the sub-continent:

We are all deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Joel D. Barkan, a long-standing senior associate of the CSIS Africa Program and an internationally recognized expert on African political and economic development. Joel passed away on January 10 while on a family vacation to Mexico City. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joel’s wife, Sandy, his two children, Bronwyn and Josh, his grandchildren, Arlo and Gabriel, and his mother, Theresa Barkan Willets.

Joel’s knowledge of African political affairs was rooted in more than 45 years of teaching, research, and travel throughout Africa—in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. He had an abiding passion for Kenya, where he first traveled in 1962, and was skilled not only in understanding and conveying the complexities of Kenyan political dynamics, but also in seeking practical ways to support democratic consolidation and empower voices of reform.

Unlike many Africanist scholars of his generation, Joel embraced—and actively shaped—both the worlds of academics and foreign policy. After serving for three years on the faculty of the University of California Irvine, Joel joined the University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1972. In 1992, he went on to serve as the first regional democracy and governance adviser for eastern and southern Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Over many years, he advised USAID, the UK Department for International Development, the UN Development Program, the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the World Bank…..

Joel touched a wide ranging community of African and Africanist scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. He was a generous mentor of young professionals with an interest in African affairs, an optimist, and a refreshing straight-talker with a wry sense of humor and irony. Joel was tireless in reminding us all of Africa’s countless possibilities and the enduring responsibilities that Americans have to know and engage Africa seriously. (Read the rest.)

Activists are also paying tribute to the memory of a staunch advocate of African democracy.

Joel was a major contributor to the World Movement for Democracy Project on “Assessing Democracy Assistance,” funded by the UN Democracy Fund. He conducted an online survey of democracy assistance recipients which revealed a healthy realism about the capacity of external actors to impact democratic prospects. Assistance can facilitate change, for example, by helping enable local actors and organizations, the survey suggested, but it is ultimately local factors and forces that determine prospects for democratization.

He was a co-principal investigator for the African Legislatures Project (ALP), a comparative study of legislative institutions in 17 African countries funded by DfID, the Heinrich Boll Foundation, USAID and the World Bank and based at the University of Cape Town. 

In addition to spending time as a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the NED, he was a frequent contributor to the Journal of Democracy and served on the Research Council of the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies. His articles for the JOD included: Kenya’s 2013 Elections: Technology Is Not Democracy, Democracy Assistance: What Recipients Think, Progress and Retreat in Africa: Legislatures on the Rise? and Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective.

Joel was also an enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan of African music, including the work of Hugh Masekela (see below).

He will be sorely missed.