Civil Society and Human Rights in Peril: Threats and Responses Across the World

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Everybody, I know it's a Friday It's been a long week and this is the last mile, but you're all here for what I think is a very exciting event, this panel on Civil Society and Human Rights in Peril

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My name is Patrick Keller I'm a professor in the department of sociology, and I am in here also at the Watson Institute And I'm really honored to be able to present our panel today, but I want to tell you a little bit more about this event For the last four years, Peter Evans, who's a senior fellow at the Watson Institute, Cesar Arnaldo, who's going to be our first speaker He's Executive Director of Dejusticia and a sociologist as well

For the last three years, we've worked together to run a series of events on what we call north-to-south dialogues And the idea begins with the recognition that there are really important, things happening in the global south But unfortunately, because of global power hierarchies and dynamics, it's rare that those ideas from the south trickle up to the north So we were hoping to use the Watson as a platform to instigate a number of dialogues We've had dialogues on business and labor rights

We've had dialogues on transnational activism And this year's theme precipitated more by events than anything else, this notion of civil society in peril This is almost one-year anniversary of an event that none of us want to talk about, and we're all in a sense of panic And we have senators standing up and talking about the debasement of public debate in the United States of America And it is dramatic, and at times, farcical

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But in much of the global south and parts of Eastern Europe, it's arguably more serious that there have been systematic attacks on the autonomy of civil society and organizations And the larger effect, we started this morning with a number of conversations, and there is a consensus There are 15 human rights activists amongst us today, as well as a number of academics who work on this subject And I think, across the board, the consensus is that there's a wave happening There's a trend globally that state-sanctioned attacks against civil society, they take many, many forms

And so what we'd like to do in this panel is document some of those mechanisms, try to identify some patterns, and also, think collectively about the creative ways in which those deciding organizations have responded So we've assembled what I think is truly a dream team of global civil society activists, beginning with Cesar, who is largely responsible for bringing this network together And then, as I said, Cesar is a well-known sociologist of law and the executive director of Dejusticia And for those of you who don't know, this is an incredibly powerful NGO working out of Bogota that does lot of work in Colombia But it has also, with support from the Ford Foundation, been doing a lot of global networking and the transnational activism

We have Mandeep Tiwana from Civicus, which has been monitoring and actively documenting a lot of trends that we'll be talking about today We have Biraj Patnaik, who is the regional director of Amnesty International for South Asia Stephanie Kapronczay, I apologize for my pronunciation, who is the executive director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union And we have Bilge Yesil, who is an associate professor at at City University of New York Cesar is going to begin with some introductory remarks, and then each panelist will speak for 10 minutes

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And everyone is going to be super disciplined and stick to their ten minutes so we'll have plenty of time for discussion And before I forget, I don't see her Ellen, where's Ellen White? Ellen White? None of us would be here None of us would have been fed No plane tickets would have been bought

We wouldn't be having these conversations if it wasn't for the extraordinary work of Ellen White and for the entire Watson team So I know they're streaming this live, and hopefully, they're watching So hopefully, you'll all join me in thanking them for this [APPLAUSE] It's activated by clapping [LAUGHTER] OK

Thank you, Patrick And thank you, Peter, Ellen, and the Watson community It's a true pleasure for me to come back I was a visiting professor here at the Center for Latin American Studies about three, four years ago And that's actually when we conspired to create this partnership that's proved to be particularly fruitful and congenial

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Just a couple of weeks ago, we launched the first book Cambridge University Press published a book that we did out of the 2014 workshop on business and human rights Then we did another one a couple of years ago on those national advocacy networks And this is the third such event And as Patrick said, in addition to being an effort to invert the south-north logic and geopolitics of knowledge, it is also an effort to bring together activists and scholars to brainstorm and hopefully develop responses to challenges that are relevant to the practice of social justice and human rights

Now, since we have an audience of students, I wanted to make sure that we don't give the impression that this is a grim world, that there is a crisis in the human rights movement We still want to recruit students like Sean and Camilla for Dejusticia, so take this with a big grain of salt With OSF last year, we ran a number of regional workshops out of the human rights live in Dejusticia on whether or not there was a crisis in human rights activism And one of our colleagues in the event originally went to Europe and came up with this framing of transformation as opposed to crises that I like because there is a number of challenges Some pieces on the challenges and transformations in human rights practice, among which are the responses to the crackdown on civil society around the world

But as I see it and has Chris, my colleague with whom I've done all of this work, and I tend to see the glass half full Human rights and social justice activists could not have expected to get away with the same strategies with the same discourse wherever It's been 30 years of being a relatively successful story of the expansion of human rights norms One treaty after another was adopted in one country after another The human rights discourse became the lingua franca of progressive politics in many parts of the world

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So by any comparative standard, it's been a story of considerable progress But of course, the targets, governments, corporations, and other types of targets of human rights activism, social justice advocacy, they also learn And they react, and they wise up to those strategies And in a way, what's been going on over the last 10, 15 years is a learning process on the part of the targets of human rights activism So you by the by the 20th year that an organization funded by US foundation gives you a hard time, you started thinking, what if I tinker with the flow of funds coming from the US into Kenya

And when you lose yet another battle before the courts as a national government, because you were accused of being anti-minorities Maybe the skillful government lawyer will come up with a way to use the course of minority rights to go after what they see as an elite that's been using this human rights framework to go after a minority that you want to protect as a human as a state official So this is what we call, and I'm going to explain this I'm just going to show you this little graph so that there's some recollection of what's been happening over the last 15 years Many human rights scholars used to talk about the forward-looking, the forward-moving spiral of the expansion of human rights declarations, conventions, and norms in general

So the idea was that there was this norms cascade, as Kass Sunstein called it in one of his books, in which there was an evolution from state denial of human rights violation all the way to, slowly but surely, normative recognition of the value of human rights And eventually, behavioral changes, which actually states not only recognized the normative value of human rights but also actually complied with those norms What we may be seeing, and Chris and I in Dejustica started this project, when in one country after another, we would go and work with the counterparts, say, in India This is a true story And we would partner on a project on socioeconomic rights

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And on our partners would informally tell us about how the Indian government was cracking down on their organizations Then, it was Turkey, same story Just next door, we're based in Colombia, Venezuela And I'll have a little graph here put together by fantastic human rights organization, a very well-known human rights organization in Venezuela that's been introducing really exciting innovations in human rights activism So this is in Spanish, but you know that President Maduro used to be a bus driver

So this is the backsliding of the Venezuelan democracy So they said, look at all the stops that Maduro has been going through in dismantling the democratic apparatus, the democratic institutional frame So first, he gets elected, then he co-ops the justice system Then, he uses a state of exception, or state of siege powers, to go after those who, according to him, threaten public stability and public order Then, he goes all the way to co-op and control the electoral commission

And finally, he suspends elections So those are all the types of measures that we're concerned with, that we can see in one country after another in a worldly, large sample And beyond what happens to human rights organizations, the question is, at what point does this regime turn into an autocracy? So this is not just with the way this conference and this panel is framed in terms of attacks against civil society What one sees in many of these places is the erosion, and sometimes the destruction of democracy itself So that's why when we see what's happening with a lot of apprehension in the US, one description of the Trump presidency that resonates with me is someone said that this was the Latin Americanization of the US

And hopefully, it won't last very long But when you see one measure after another, that sounds familiar It looks familiar see You could paint a similar picture Luckily, not so dire, at least yet

But the question is that, beyond tinkering with the protection of a civil society spaces, what many of the authoritarian or semi-authoritarian governments in different parts of the world, what they are chipping away at is that basic infrastructure of them of democratic governance And I'm going to end and turn it over to my colleague Chris by simply giving you a sense of the processes that we're trying to analyze in our own seminar and in the publication that's going to come out of this workshop For those of you who are interested in sociology or all these interesting processes of transnational dissemination, there's a lot of similarities, a lot of affinity, and actually, textual similarities among the different laws that are being implemented in and that embody this crackdown on civil society spaces This is the process of dissemination quickly I don't have time to discuss any of the details

So what's called the Foreign Agents law, meaning a law, this is Russia, the center of this network here is Russia, one of the pioneer countries that put in place a legal framework whereby any NGO would be considered a foreign agent for state security purposes just by the fact that they received foreign funding And similar laws can be seen in all of these countries So Hungary, we have Steffy here, and we can go on and on This is all the countries that we could fit in one single slide But very recently, Venezuela, and a few years ago, Ecuador

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The process that we're interested in now is in creating a reverse dissemination process What if we look, do an inventory of responses by civil society organizations, by scholars, by many actors interested in maintaining and renewing the strength of the democratic governance and the guarantee of human rights So what we're doing here is trying to write short case studies of promising responses And hopefully, over time, contribute to the dissemination of good ideas and good responses like the ones that the network that Mandeep works for has also promoted over the last few years I'll skip this and turn it over to wrap up to Chris

So Cesar has talked about this crackdown on civil society, but what exactly do we mean by that? There's this wave that was mentioned We identify the different types, or manifestations, of the crackdown into two types One would be an attack against the legitimacy of civil society, and the other one would be an attack against the efficacy of civil society Let's start with legitimacy And I'll focus on a particular sector of civil society, knowing, of course, that civil society consists of a diverse array of actors from individuals, e-activists, labor unions, et cetera

But in our research, we decided to focus on human rights NGOs What is a source of legitimacy of human rights NGOs them apart or puts them above other actors in society? Number one, they're considered as principled entities By principled, we mean that, first, they are nonprofit They're not motivated by profit, and them apart from businesses The second one is that they share an affinity of aspirations with citizens

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And the third one, supposedly, is that they uphold high moral standards And how do you attack the legitimacy of human rights NGOs knowing these characteristics? First, nonprofit Like what Cesar said, the Foreign Agents law in different countries Basically, human rights NGOs in many places are being attacked as hired guns, or mercenaries I am quoting here actual statements used by governments to smear the reputation of human rights NGOs and in terms of their connection with citizens

They try to break that link by saying, they don't really care about the things you care about They're too elitist They're technocratic They speak in dry, scientific language They're all based out of the capitals of their countries

And in fact, they don't care about development In the case of India, that's one strong narrative that the government is using against environmental NGOs that oppose extractive projects They're saying they're anti-development, and according to the Indian Intelligence Service, without proof, they claim that NGOs actually lessened the GDP of India by 2% to 3% per year So that kind of narrative, that kind of smear campaign, is a form of crackdown against civil society The second one, non-politicized

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By that, I don't mean that human rights NGOs cannot make political stances What I mean is that, unlike political parties that formally contest governmental power, human rights NGOs supposedly don't And the third one is human rights NGOs are supposedly nonviolent, and them apart from security forces or insurgent movements which achieve their goals through the use of violence And the attacks against the legitimacy of civil society organizations is precisely to show the opposite, that human rights NGOs operate like businesses They're hired guns, they are violent, or that they are immoral

However you define it, based on the context of the society like in Russia, it would be a powerful narrative to claim that someone is homosexual because that there's strong bias against homosexuality in Russia And then, the second type So these are the specific manifestations of attacks against legitimacy I was speaking about smear campaigns and also attacks against the media, which also includes using the media as a form of propagating the smear campaigns And the second one is efficacy

This refers to the material capabilities of human rights NGOs to do their work So what the government would do would be to restrict the funding sources of human rights NGOs to impose a lot of administrative restraints on them Not allowing them to register, or allowing them to register, but requiring them to go through so many administrative hoops that it becomes impossible to run as an NGO And finally, attacks against their fundamental freedoms– prevention of protests, arbitrary detentions, and the like So these are different and additional types of attacks

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Co-optation, this means that in addition to directly restricting civil society, you create an alternate civil society, government-owned NGOs, or you just hire members of legitimate civil society into governments to co-opt, or silence, them And also attacks against individuals, which I will end with A very disturbing phenomenon that we've seen It has existed even before, but even moreso now, I think, is the direct attack, or the subjection to personal liability of members or directors of NGOs And Stefania here has personal experience of that

She has to appear in court very soon for a personal charge of defamation for signing a petition as director of her organization that was a petition or statement by the organization But take it with a grain of salt It's fun to be in human rights Stefania, do you mind going next? [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, because that's the perfect segue After all this? [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, thank you

So I will start with reading a quote It is very important that we make it clear that we are not opposing non-governmental organizations here It is not non-governmental organizations who are moving against us, but paid political activists who are attempting to enforce foreign interests here in Hungary And I will discuss about how we at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union responded to this But before that, I would give you just a little bit of overview of what is happening in Hungary

Because oftentimes, I get the question like, oh, really, Hungary? It's a part of EU, so what's going on there? So what we saw in Hungary– hi– since 2010, it has become a liberal state from a progressing European democracy There were two terms of the current government The first can be characterized as reshaping the constitutional system And the second one is shrinking the democratic space, including weakening the media pluralism, but also clamping down on dissenting voices And like, among the dissenting voices we can count the NGOs

And the one way of attacking NGOs and civil society organizations in general is the Foreign Funded Organizations Bill that Cesar mentioned And the other one is the very concentrated smear campaign that is ongoing against civil society organizations And for that you have to understand that the majority of the media outlets now are in the hands of the government, either state-owned or owned by businessman having close ties to the government That's one part you have to bear in mind when I'm telling you this story And the other one is the type of language that it's using

It's a highly stigmatizing language that connects true facts in a way that suggests that there is some sort of conspiracy and stigmatizing in a way not only saying that it's foreign funded organizations, but it's also serving foreign interest, which in the government rhetoric means that it's not serving Hungary's interests It's unpatriotic what these organizations are doing And my organization along with other organizations are regularly named in those articles So this is what we are up against and why I think the smear campaigns that attack our legitimacy is very important Because it speaks to the question of credibility and the reputation of NGOs, of civil society organizations, which are one of, in my opinion, the biggest asset of these organization

Because this comes from my beliefs that human rights organizations and civil society organizations truly benefit the people They are truly beneficial for the people But if that belief is questioned and put into question by the government, then we have a problem Because we won't to be able to carry out our job that is protecting the rights of the people in our case So I think legitimacy and contranarratives are really key when tackling the current shrinking space of civil society phenomenon

And it's also a very interesting work to engage with, because we human rights lawyers are very much used to the rationalized abstract rights-based language that we learned in law school and in universities And actually, coming up with a contranarrative, we realized that rationality is not the only driver for human behavior But there's also emotions and values that are much, much stronger in explaining why people follow certain ideas And that's one part of it And the other way it was really fun, because we realized that usually human rights organizations are seen as protecting the most vulnerable, the most prosecuted, that the majority of the society usually sees that they are somebody, but not us

And while we were looking at our work, we really realized that what we are up against is the system, is the establishment, that is actually failing a lot of people, not only a small fraction of the society So when we realized this that there are these values and emotions that are really important in our work and we are doing this work not because of the money, but because of these values, we don't have to be defensive about our work Because, actually, we are protecting a lot of people in the country That's when we came up with the ACLU Is Needed campaign and a couple of ideas about it And I don't know how much time I have left

Five, four minutes– oh, great So I will slow down So first, I would like to highlight that we decided we won't respond directly to the stigmatization That was really key Because when you respond directly, you are in a defensive position

You don't have the media outlets to respond to And you kind of come across as explaining yourself And what we decided to do instead, we will create an alternative narrative And we use the limited media landscape and social media that is still quite free in the country to create a compelling narrative And that became the ACLU Is Needed campaign

I have a couple of comments about the content of it, which are that we wanted to show who we are, what we believe in, and who do we really work for, which is not, you know, foreign money and George Soros, but the clients that we are working for That was one part of it And the other one– I think format was really important as well Human rights organizations tend to produce really lengthy reports in a jargon that not many people outside of these conference rooms understands or care about So we decided that, OK, so it's a social media campaign

So let's look at the formats that are really spreading across social media And we came up with the idea that we should create memes But how do you create memes? And we decided that we will put our values on these pictures on media that look like inspirational quotes that I'm sure you are all familiar with this And that gets shared a lot So we put faces to the human rights organization

These are the clients who we are working for These are the people who work here, and they work here because we believe in this stuff, and we are so sure that, OK, these are our values And what was also important about showing these values that they are coming from this realization that we are not only working for a small minority but a bigger constituency So we showed that that work that we are already doing, for example, tackling hospital infections So in human right sharing on the right to save health care

But what it meant really for the society or for the majority of the people that I don't want to get infected when I'm getting treated in the hospital So this is what we put on So the format and the content as well– so we were really experimenting with the language How do we tell the compelling narrative about human rights that doesn't change what human rights are but actually telling it in a way that people can resonate with? And that tells the real story of human rights that is for the people and for those people those who are failed by the system and I will leave it [INAUDIBLE] can I go last, maybe? Because I think because you'd be sharing reasonable examples, and I– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Sure

Thank you, friends It's a great privilege to be here Thanks to Patrick and to Cesar for inviting me over I just wanted to bring attention to what's happening in India As Krishna said in the introductory remarks, that there was an intelligence bureau report, which alleged that 2% to 3% of the GDP is being reduced in India because of the activities of non-governmental organization

And then it went on to list the Intelligence Bureau Report, which was leaked to the media in 2014, just barely weeks after the new government had come to power, which listed a few organizations, including Greenpeace What followed was a massive crackdown on foreign-funded organizations And in 2014– just that one year– 23,000 plus organizations had lost their ability to receive foreign funding in India So they were essentially deregistered from receiving foreign funding in India, which represented roughly half of the number of organizations who had the ability to receive foreign money A lot of these organizations were deregistered on technical grounds, but 25 organizations out of these were specifically targeted for acting against public interest

And it was no surprise that a vast majority of those 25 organizations had links to either their work in Gujarat in 2002, immediately after the riots that followed when Mr Modi was the chief minister or two very prominent campaigns against private sector organizations So there we are in terms of what's happening on the deregistration on this foreign agent law Now this is not to say that this law is new to India This was an emergency legislation which was introduced in 1976, called the Foreign Currency Regulation Act– essentially, at a time when India suspended all civil liberties for two years

And in an atmosphere where it was felt that the next Chile is going to be New Delhi, that the CIA was on the verge of overthrowing the government We needed a new law, and the law was– in its original form– was less about civil society and more about public servants receiving foreign funding The narrative changed in 2010, when the Congress government the UPA was in power when suddenly, this law was turned into something that addressed far less the political parties that it was meant to check and much more on civil society And ironically, the only two major defaulters on foreign funding for public activities are the two main political parties in the country, which is the Congress Party and then the National Congress and the BJP And when they were caught out, within a day, our legislation was passed in parliament with retrospective effect, which changed the rules retrospectively, allowing the Congress Party and [INAUDIBLE] Party to have received these funding because essentially, they received it from companies who were registered abroad

And therefore, they were ineligible to fund political parties in India But a slight tweak in the law overnight allowed them to receive this funding, and the matter is now pending in the Supreme Court Now this is just one example of how this has happened You also saw travel bans on individuals, most notably on [INAUDIBLE] Greenpeace You had the deregistration of organizations, which of course, thankfully, the courts have stayed

But every month, literally, if not every week, sees a new assault on the ability of civil society to mobilize on the right to association and so on I mean, if you take just this month of October, the month started with the National Green Tribunal, which is an environmental tribunal banning the presence of NGOs to protest at the only venue in Delhi Which they were allowed to protest, which is Jantar Mantar Which is about four kilometers away from Parliament and so on And this venue was reserved for a protest

So the only venue was removed And now it's being moved many, many kilometers away where you will have no access to government, no access to politicians, no access to institutions of government in Ramlila Maidan which is difficult to reach What is notable is that even this pace of protest was designated after 1988, when millions of farmers turned up in Delhi at the boat club– close to half a million farmers And government officials had great difficulty getting to work So they decided that this part of Delhi can't be designated as a protest zone, and it was shifted to [INAUDIBLE]

And now even that venue's been taken away Later that week, we saw the [INAUDIBLE],, which is the new variant of the Planning Commission of India past orders which said that every NGO is to compulsorily register with them and get a unique identity number, which in itself seems quite harmless because this is something that organizations which were getting government funding had to do earlier But now the [INAUDIBLE] says that if you get foreign funding, you have to get this number So why should one be alarmed with being registered with government? It's because you are already registered in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

You're registered with the tax authorities You are registered with the GST authority You registered with the Registrar of Societies or the trust, as the case may be And you registered with the Interior Ministry, which is the Ministry of Home Affairs under a very regressive law, which is the FCRA And you have one more layer of registration Why a number? Because it allows the deep state to track individuals associated with NGOs in a way that was not possible three years ago

So every NGO has to– every office bearer has to give the unique identity number, three hours of their tax returns, and so on and so forth already under existing legislation and state which other NGOs they are associated with, which means that you'll just by a flick of a switch on a computer program, you can actually make a network of any individual, who's associated with an NGO with other organizations and draw your own conclusions We also had in the name of transparency in attempt to force office bearers of NGOs to declare their assets and those of their spouses and dependents and put it in the public domain under a law, which was essentially meant for public servants, which is a [INAUDIBLE] Act And of course, because a number of NGOs were also philanthropic trusts of major corporations in India, and they wouldn't want their assets to be made known, they made common cause with civil society organizations And now that measure stands suspended So friends, I'd like to say that this extraordinary attack on civil liberties, the extreme form of which is the tragic and sad lynching of individuals from the Muslim community on the alleged consumption or possession of beef, which Housh spoke about when he spoke about yesterday– when he spoke about the caravan of love that he carried out or the killing of journalist, the most recent one being that of Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore

It is not that the space for civil society was very large under earlier regimes And as I pointed out, a number of these laws which are now being used to oppress civil society were actually passed by governments before this government came to power What we have now, therefore, is what's changed is a heightened sense of impunity that did not exist earlier, the ability– whether it's of television anchors or trolls on the internet [INAUDIBLE] to attack, individuals or organizations without any legal basis make a slew of allegations and get away with it The active involvement of tax and regulatory authorities in going after organizations and individuals who are dissenting And also, the mainstreaming of the discourse on the attack on minorities– mainstreaming in a way which was inconceivable to slander say, national monument like a Taj Mahal or something, as being edifice constructed by invading Muslims and therefore something that the state didn't need to protect or a legitimizing of the attacks on people allegedly possessing or consuming beef

So I think that mainstreaming, which we see now, is quite frightening, and that is something that frames the context in which civil society is under attack in India Thank you Do you want to go next? Next? Mhm Hi, thank you to the organizers And thanks, everyone, for being here today

My area of expertise is in media studies– more specifically Turkish media, culture, and politics and also media in the Middle East But this year, a lot of new terms that have entered our lexicon– our everyday language– has brought a lot of memories So one is fake news The other one is post truth And every time my American or US-based colleagues, who study journalism and American media and politics and political communications have expressed their shock, like the ubiquity of fake news or the presence of a so-called ill-informed public, or a presidential candidate and then the president lying and simply getting away with it

Every time they have expressed their shock, I used to say you're new at this So how does all of this resonate? And I'm not necessarily going to make a comparison between United States and Turkey, especially in terms of their media systems And definitely not a comparison between Trump and Erdogan, president of Turkey since 2002 But I want to, nonetheless, map some connections And perhaps this will give us some food for thought in terms of the relationship between civil society, the media landscape, and electoral politics

So over the past year or so, there's been increasing interest, especially among the scholarly community and the rise of populism So this is not unlike a phenomenon unique to the United States, but also we see this in Western Europe like with Brexit and the rise of like far-right parties in Austria and even in Germany So tied to this, like the rise of, especially right-wing nationalist populist discourse and nationalities– excuse me– there is also the appeal of the strong man So Trump and Erdogan and other global leaders definitely carry that appeal, while at the same time, they identify themselves as like the man of the people, or they align themselves with like the ordinary folks and perpetuate this kind of anti-elite discourse So the anti-elite can be like the universities, academics, or even NGOs– international NGOs and also media institutions

So another thing that has resonated for me is how, for example, both Trump and Erdogan and maybe we can give examples from like Latin America because you talked about Latin Americanization Me and my Turkish origin– colleagues here in the United States were like the United States is becoming like Turkey now But so we can multiply these examples So this appeal of the strong man and the anti-elite currents And especially the framing of media organizations as a lead institution

So when Trump calls out like New York Times and CNN and The Washington Post, and they say, oh, they're spreading fake news This is what a lot of the populist nationalist leaders do as well And I think this has crystallized what Trump called media– sort of the media institutions– the enemy of the people All right, so there is that very clear labeling of certain critical media outlets as anti-people or against the nation or against national unity propagating fake news So this brings us to the politicization and polarization, not only in the political field but also in the media field

And I want to tell you a little bit about the arc of Turkish media landscape So maybe we can continue this conversation about similarities and differences between Turkey, US, Latin America, China, Russia, and whatnot I think one of the first things we need to think about is the commercial and the corporate nature of media So a lot of times, academics, media analysts or pundits, and even ordinary folks at cocktail parties tend to think that media is free, and we have a democratic and liberal press system in the West But like all those you know like unfortunate journalists in the third-world or in the Middle East or in Latin America are suffering is suppressive media regimes

So even that the Western liberal press ideals and how they come to being interrogated and challenged and opposed, I think that what's been happening since the Trump presidency, and what's been happening in the media field has kind of blown up all those ideals and has led us to question them So when we start looking at these liberal Western ideals, oftentimes we do not think about the commercialized and the corporatized nature and how media owners, media companies, or their parent conglomerates can be in this kind of political economic relationships with the government or the state So in the case of Turkey, this has become a very pronounced problem, starting with the 1980s and the 1990s when Turkey began to enter into the global economic system and restructured its economy, which brought with it to rapid commercialization of the media landscape So a lot of businessmen and entrepreneurs who wanted to have these close relationships with the government to carry favors with them and to extract bids, privatization deals from the government, started entering the media business And of course, in the United States is a completely different story

I mean, like Fox News, it is owned by Murdoch and News Corp, but they're not necessarily in like energy or finance or construction But nonetheless, they very much seek to maintain friendly relations– maintain those illogical or political affiliations with either the Democrats or Republicans because when they were like seek out new ventures or merge with another media entity or by another newspaper or a giant television outlet These all have to be approved your the FCC or the courts and whatnot So there is your political alliance right there And like Trump– according to some anecdotal evidence, Trump used that as a threat to CNN because CNN's parent company was trying to merge with or acquire a major telecom company

And Jared Kushner had a meeting with the head of Time Warner and made some remarks about how this could be derailed So and the United States manifest itself in different ways, but this political economic-collusion is just obviously a problem, and it is a global problem How many did you say? Two minutes Oh, oh, OK, OK Yeah, all right, other constraints on media freedoms in Turkey has to do with the legal framework

And this does not necessarily apply to the US context because like, obviously, the First Amendment And in the US, we do not have like general or federal laws that apply to all press outlets or journalists But in the case of Turkey, from the Constitution to the penal code to the anti-terror law, there are several provisions that can restrict the work of journalists and their freedom of speech and expression But there are also specific media laws, such as the press law, the internet law, and broadcasting law So on one hand, you have this seemingly commercial media system, which are owned by like individual entrepreneurs or private companies

But they are very much state dependent because of their economic needs, economic imperatives, but they're also under a lot of pressure because of the application– the selective application of the legal provisions– which can always and it does like lead to several numbers of huge numbers of journalists being imprisoned, jailed, or leading to self-censorship of journalists and reporters for fear of a legal crackdown So at this point, one final thing about social media and the online public sphere, since the Arab Spring, like there has been a lot of celebratory thinking around social media like it's been called a Twitter revolution, Facebook revolution, which always makes me go like ahh But still, in places like Turkey and other countries, when the press is under so much economic pressure because of financial stakes And when the government has cultivated its own partisan media by providing them like financial carrots And when a lot of journalists either are like self-censoring themselves or are in prison, so they like very effectively silenced

So the last refuge seems to be like the online public sphere And again, it's kind of like this cyclical thing So the activists, dissidents, and human rights activists, civil society actors kind of migrate to that new arena, and then the government like tries to impose stricter rules But then that imposition of stricter internet laws, in Turkey at least, has generated new kinds of creative responses OK, so I'm going to stop there

I have to stop there, but I'm sure we'll have time to talk about this later Thank you Thank you First of all, I want to thank those TCN Brown University for hosting me here I'm going to speak from the perspective of CIVICUS, which is a global civil society alliance

So I'm going to try and tie-in some of the things that you've been speaking But I wanted to throw something out there for the audiences We live in a very interesting moment or actually a sad moment in world history I mean, if you look at the history of human rights in the late half of the 20th century, we made progress, whether it was a decolonization movement, whether it was the civil rights movement, whether it was the struggle to accept refugee rights, migrant workers' rights The International Convention on Migrant Workers was signed in second half of 20th century

Whether it was the women's rights movement, whether it was the struggle for climate justice, environmental rights, we made a lot of progress in the 20th century But in the first 17 years of the 21st century, we've actually started to go back, which is a matter of deep concern for us Rather than going forward, we find that there's been a steady erosion of human rights And this is a big challenge– particularly for those of us who work on human rights and social justice norms, whose work involves speaking truth to power, holding the spotlight to very powerful people And we find that there's a greater number of attacks that are happening in democracies and in authoritarian countries

We find that there's new kinds of laws that are being introduced, which make it very difficult to form associations, which provide government control and greater intrusion over the work of civil society organizations We find in some countries powerful political figures tend to stigmatize civil society activists, which I think some of you want have already spoken about In some countries, activists have been attacked They had been implicated in false cases, and they continue to face a lot of obstacles in their work The issue of civil society earlier used to be thought is a problem with the developing world

It's a problem of nondeveloping But this is a global problem today It's a problem of the global south, as well as the global north, and it's an all-pervasive problem if you want to if you look at it And it's creating some particular challenges for us in advancing the human rights discourse So I with this premise, I just wanted to dig down deep a little bit into what are some of the root causes of this decline in civic space or the notion of closing civil society space that we are speaking about

In fact, the degradation started to happen immediately after 9/11, when Western democracies started to lower their standards on human rights They started fair trial standards, and then there was a slippery slope that started to happen A number of authoritarian governments saw this as an opportunity for them to start attacking those who challenge them, who challenge their power, who tried to impose accountability on them And it's continued further And then in 2011, we had a very important moment, and many of us were really excited when we found the revolution happening in Tunisia

And then in Egypt, there was a people's mobilizations And these mobilizations happened in Syria There was people's protest In Zimbabwe, there were protests In Uganda, there were protests

In fact, when people talk about the so-called Arab Spring, people oftentimes forget that there were lots of mobilization in sub-Saharan Africa and countries like Congo and elsewhere too And what happened was that because of these mobilizations, what happened in Libya and in Syria and of course, in Egypt and Tunisia, the authoritarian leaders became extremely fearful of the power of civil society to append the existing political discourse So they started to really hit back with harsher tactics and which is, of course, playing out now today But we also find that another challenge to advancing the civil society in human rights discourses, we live in a time of setting inequality In fact, many people have spoke about we are now facing 19th-century levels of inequality

And I know it's not very popular sometimes to say that, but I think this is because of economic policies that have been pushed into the politics of economic fundamentalism, where you find that in almost every country of the world, you have businessmen with extensive political interests, and you have business people in politics, who have extensive business interests, and people from business coming into politics to protect their business interests So you don't know where the state ends, and business starts And there's increasing collusion between political and economic elites So if you are a land rights activist, if you're an environmental activist, if you're opposing a big agriculture project or a big mega industry, or you're shining a spotlight on corruption that involves relatives of politicians, you are likely to be attacked, and it's creating big challenges There's also another challenge that we faced in the 21st century, which is that there's increasing ghettoization of the world

We have rising extremism– extremism of both religious type, and extremism of an ideological type So civil society organizations, those who believe in the values of peace and tolerance and justice for them to civil society organizations are the ready unexistential threat So these people who believe in the politics of hate or in the ideology of divisiveness for them They tend to attack civil society organizations or audit quality for that matter So if you're an LGBTI activist, a number of extremist groups would attack you

If you're a women's rights activist, in some parts of the country, you get attacked Or if you speak out on the rights of refugees and migrants populations, you get vilified and stigmatized and attacked and worse And on top of that, we are facing a monumental crisis of democracy In fact, I'm going to say in many countries of the world, we have– and in all continents, in fact– we have megalomaniacs and sociopaths, who have managed to come to power using the electoral system These are people we won't even trust to babysit our children for an hour, and they get to run countries

And that's the big challenge And these people– they really believe in electoral power So they actually do believe in the process of elections, and they go through it But once they get elections, for them, then that means their mandate is absolute So then they start to talk in terms of their mandate

They divide societies And then if civil society organizations that speak about the rights of excluded populations, then they start to attack these organizations They start to de-legitimize them, or those that demand accountability from these powerful figures There's obviously many, many challenges And coupled with this, we find there's a retreat from progressive internationalism

If you've been watching the UN debates that happened last month, you would find there's greater talk about sovereignty, about national values, cultural values, which is an anathema to those of us who believe in the universality of the human rights discourse, who believe that the human rights system,– and if you look at it in the post-Second World War was to create a universal human rights system that will permeate all cultures because the right to be treated fairly, the right to be treated without discrimination, the right to be able to be what you can be, to live to your full potential is a fundamental human aspiration, yet many of these whether they are autocratic monarchs, or whether they are right-wing populists, or whether they are military-backed regimes, they tend to want to degrade that So the degradation of democracy is, in fact, at the moment, presenting a great challenge And in fact, many governments that used to speak the language of human rights and democracy and external discourse have now started to do a retreat So we are facing a time of falling standards In fact, we've done some research because we have a participatory research methodology, where the three freedoms on which civil society rests– the freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly are rarely being challenged

And in fact, our research finds that only 2% of the world's population now live in countries where these freedoms are adequately protected So what do we do in this situation? Those of us who believe in human rights and social justice– what do we do? So one thing certainly we need to do is we need to understand the problem We need to engage We need to engage with the fact that there are people who are voting for these populist leaders And I think you did speak about that, Stefania, a little bit

So we need to understand We need to engage directly with them but without compromising our values We need to engage We need to have a reasoned debate with them but without appeasing the politics of xenophobia or sexism or ultra-nationalism We also need to get people to understand– these people, a lot of the right populists, believe in propaganda

They are extremely clever at using the social media They speak in very simple language that appeals to certain sections of people and that obviously appeals to the hatred that many people to abetted hatreds or abetted feelings in people So they try to bring those out So we really need to get people to understand why it's important to have civil society What are the contributions of civil society to national life? How civil society promotes equality, sustainable development, cleaner water, or good governance

We need to be able to make that argument much more We really need to get the public's– because the public's rights are actually civil society rights Constitutional freedoms and civil society rights– there's a very clear relation with them And when civil society in a country flourishes, people in that country are going to have better governance and less corruption So but we also need to, as civil society organizations, we also need to work on our own accountability

We have to understand that like judges, we will be held to a higher standard by societies And so we need to have impeccable accountability practices and communities of practice within civil society on values, so we can successfully challenge allegations of being controlled by outside forces and so on And importantly, we need to work beyond our silos Oftentimes, even within the civil society discourse, firstly, civil society is a large concept It's the arena outside the market, the family, and the state

And within that, there's NGOs, which are classic Non-Governmental Organizations There are trade unions There are think tanks There are community-based organizations And then, of course, within that, there's groups that work on democracy, the groups that work on internet rights, the groups that work on LGBTI rights, groups that work on clean water, or provision of basic social services

So we really need to understand and come together wherever we are– whether you are a human rights lawyer, or whether you're a student activist spending your free time working on water registration and so on That the struggle really is a struggle for the progress that humanity has made on human rights since 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed So we need to really come together But more importantly, we need to avoid a narrative of disempowerment Oftentimes, people talk about, yes, it's getting bad

And there are many challenges Yes, there are many challenges, but civil society is also continuing to win many decisive victories Because of the power of international solidarity, we have had freedom of information laws passed Activists have been released in some countries, and some countries have adopted resolutions on human rights Defenders at the international level– we've been able to make some progress

But more importantly, people's mobilizations are continuing to happen And also, obviously, this is a particular time when a number of in Asia and Africa and Latin America and North America and Europe, where you find a number of right-wing populism has come together And that's because we live in an interlinked world, and these changes happen But we need to ready ourselves for the time when the outrageous and contrary and unsustainable promises that have been made by these right-wing leaders People are going are going to be unraveled

People are going to start to understand that this glory or this making countries great again when they've already quite great Those promises are going to unravel pretty soon So we need to ready ourselves And we can't accept a narrative of disempowerment in these times All six of you have been so awesome

We've actually got a bit of time for discussion So we're just going to open it up, and you can address your questions to any one of the panelists And don't forget [INAUDIBLE] sitting over here or address your question to [INAUDIBLE] or the floor is open Thank you for your comments I wonder if all the panelists could comment a little bit more on the relationship between legitimacy and legality

This idea of dark times for civil society has a lot to do with the idea that there is a peeling away of legal protections for civil society organizations or the diminishing of legal rights But if we think about social movements and particularly acts of civil disobedience, the power of acts of civil disobedience has less to do with the acts of protest and more to do with the spectacle of the consequences say the punishment, say protester getting detained, beaten up by police, whatever And so in that sense, the legitimacy of those kinds of disruptive actions– it has a basis in more than just morality Whether or not that is correlated with legality, it has more to do with an appeal to a sense of injustice And so another way of phrasing this question would be, can we think about possibilities of a strong civil society that is not legally sanctioned? If we think about an important historical moment, that would kindle academic interest and civil society

It was solidarity in Poland and that wasn't legal Maybe we can collect a few questions, and then when we can have different panelists respond? OK, this is– I'm sorry I didn't get your name But for the leader of the organization in Hungary, you spoke about how legitimacy is key to combat government rhetoric And I was wondering if you can talk about how your organization has strengthened its legitimacy? You mention the names that you all have created and things like that, but I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more, please

I'm going to quickly jump in then You don't often talk about political parties in all of this, and I want to ask about political parties because a civil society like political parties of this are a key mediation role to play, but they do it in very different ways Parties are much more instrumental and interested in securing power And once they have power, they're interested in staying in power But they also often have a very tense relationship with civil society

When I talk to politicians in India and South Africa about civil society or participation or movements, the first thing they always say is, who elected those guys, anyways? And I'm sure you've heard this a million times that it does raise the fundamental question of why you guys or you guys or any of us get to speak in the name of civil society? How are we authorized? What makes a representative? And to what extent has this wave or this clampdown of, obviously, the state is the key actor in so far as it can enforce laws then or precedents [INAUDIBLE] But again, so much of this is being done In South Africa, it's the Africa National Congress as you were emphasizing

And a lot of the laws that are being used now by the BJP were used by the Congress, which was more than happy to silence civil society when it could as well So where do we situate political parties in this larger story? Maybe you guys could field this round of questions [INAUDIBLE] or is there a handout on this one? [INAUDIBLE] Oh, OK, so I will take the direct one about the impact if I got you right off our fort So what I was getting at that I really believe that we need to find a narrative that has a true story about human rights organizations, and that we all contribute to, on the one hand, strengthening our legitimacy but also protecting it Because it's not directly related, but I think that that's a good signal that in every society– and that's true for Eastern Europe as well– from all the institutions, like state institutions, businesses, civil society is still the most trusted sector by the people So I think really the trend is that we will lose that legitimacy, not so much that we don't have it, and we have to build it

And in terms of the concrete numbers of this campaign, I can tell you that– and it can be completely separated from the fact that this campaign runs on in the early months of 2017 when there was anyway quite a lot of media attention on the organization But that had us carry this alternative story So our Facebook followership increased by almost 20% in six months In the strongest month, in April, the postengagement and the post reach doubled, as compared to the previous month In 2017, our individual number of individual donors also doubled

And it's still not many, but it doubled And in one year, the ratio of people who know what the ACLU is grew about 6% So it's not only this campaign, but I think we did pretty well, and I'm extremely proud of my team And one of the most uplifting moments of this campaign– and there was a series of demonstrations in the spring– was when we were standing with my colleagues in front of the parliament and just observing the demonstrations And then all of a sudden, a new chanting started, and it included the ACLU's needed term

And that's how we really realized that, OK, this has a life of its own, and people picked it up And it's really working I mean, just to respond to you, Patrick, on where do political parties lie on the spectrum of opinion on this It really depends on whether they are in opposition, or whether they are in power And that's a simple answer because if you look at it every– today, the same minister, who was the interior minister in the opposition's legislations, says that he loves the fact that he did it

He finds it unacceptable that these laws are being used to suppress opinion of civil society, and that's common across the world If you take 1998, Erdogan is a prisoner of conscience of Amnesty International Today, he feels empowered enough to lock up the chair and director of amnesty for months together And he says these are non-compatible If you dig the BJB, during the emergency, when all of them were in prison– in prison of conscience of amnesty, you have blog posts written by the most powerful leaders, and they got money, saying how great they felt that they received these letters from amnesty supporters

They come to power today, and they charged amnesty in there with sedition So I mean, the gunman charged them in a state government, and they went after amnesty So it really depends on whether you're in power or in opposition In India, I think one point when all political parties are united against civil society was in 2012 during the anti-corruption protests And a lot of politicians were friends with members of parliament

Or ministers, I recall, did come up to me and say that, look, it's going to take years now before any trust or credibility is going to be restored between political class and civil society because you've broken the compact mass mobilization of this scale across the country on an issue like corruption This is the end game for you And I think a lot of what followed was along predictable lines So I think it really depends on the perceived threat from civil society at any point in time and whether you're in opposition– I mean, the two instances in India, for instance, mass mobilization that happened was the end of UPA regime One was around the gang rape victim in Delhi, and the other was on anti-corruption

And finally, it was perceived that it was the anti-corruption agitation that led to the election of the multi-government in power So I think very simply put, it's located on where they are in terms of their politics You want to take? So I think the question that you asked was about civil disobedience Were you saying to what extent is it OK to break the law? No, she's saying that can we think about a story about civil society that is not legal– that legality has legitimacy Yeah, I mean, why do you need a structured– think that sort of thing

OK [INAUDIBLE] I think you've restated it OK, no, but for example, apartheid was legal, but it wasn't just So we have to realize at some point, when a law is just, and when a law is– and then take a considered decision But the other thing I would say is that many of us in civil society also use peaceful rules as a tactics

And sometimes people get very frustrated with certain tactics, and then they want to use maybe more aggressive tactics It's all about a matter of tactics, but it certainly– I would say that if you use peaceful means, you, of course, hold the moral high ground in that sense to be able to achieve our objective The credibility question– I think you've probably addressed your question But in case, you can always ask us follow-up question But on the credibility question, that's interesting because the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly are enshrined in almost all the constitutions of the world

They are part of customary international law So nobody can go back and say that like, why are you asking me that question because people who have power have been elected by the people, but they also are answerable to the people And civil society, in that sense, may not– people may not have wanted us But as it's a part of constitutional democracy, and we would like to believe that every country should aspire to be a constitutional democracy means that it's not just the voices or the opinions or the wishes of those who voted for the government of the day that should be part of national discourse plan So we as civil society oftentimes take represent alternative voices– people who are not counted in the political calculations of the government of the day

So that's our legitimacy, in a sense, to make sure that everybody's voice is taken into account That those voices, particularly and of excluded populations, are represented in the political discourse So can I answer that question? I just wanted to respond to her as well Yeah, on the issue of legality and legitimacy, you're absolutely right There are lots of actions as we've seen in the last few years, which are done by civil society, which have increased the legitimacy without necessitating a legal structure or a legal organizational form

But on the other hand, there are lots of things that civil society does, which requires a legal structure It could because there's civil society and civil society There's civil society that runs schools, that runs hospitals, that does a lot of development work There's the human rights organizations who mobilize people, but there's also human rights organizations who do human rights education and education in schools or post bail bonds for prisoners or do a lot of action which requires funding, requires resources of various kinds and so on So I don't think it's an either/or option

Yes, there are legitimacy certainly increases when you're more for social movement and not necessarily in a legal form But you can be as legitimate– even if you are legally registered or as an organization that receives resources or distributes resources So I don't think it's an either/or question in that sense I know I had I've heard Diana [INAUDIBLE] I mean, all or none of you In fact, I'm being slightly provocative [INAUDIBLE] as well and as where [INAUDIBLE] I could ask the question in a variety of ways

Let me use language of strategy a distinct between civil society and political society And the question would be then to what extent are you [INAUDIBLE] in other words, [INAUDIBLE] which are seeking to force system of human rights [INAUDIBLE] which in the end, exclude and marginalize poor working people And therefore, this is what we're confronting in South Africa In order to be genuinely progressive, one needs to push organizations like yourselves out the way so that a genuinely progressive transformational government can, if you like, break the rules in order to realize real transformation So if from that perspective, because that perspective is just very hard [INAUDIBLE] to reconciling extreme nationalists with [INAUDIBLE] in the politics the sense that you will we are actually part of the problem

We're obstacles to genuine transformation I'd like to continue that connotation in the sense that something we've been talking about– we haven't talked about today is just how civil society is I think we assume that society is good And I don't mean that in an abstract theoretical way Sorry, Patrick, I'm not going to get into compromise or anything like that

But I just mean very concretely that we associate it with good practices of voting in people who are your leaders, transparency and budgeting, participation and deliberation, and more or less let equality among numbers But what you see– and the case that I know [INAUDIBLE] of course And I hate to say this, but I think– I'm not the only person who has noticed that there are instances of what you could call a type of authoritarian mimicry, where because people are born and raised and are educated in an authoritarian system that does not value those things A very civil society that is given birth in that environment replicates those kinds of authoritarian practices And so a very concrete example of that is when I was working with organizations in China, and I won't say what kind, but the leader of the organization would be called "big boss

" Big bosses can do everything They can purge you if they want from your civil society work innovation They do not have to release where funding comes from They don't have to release where it goes And so as a result of that, yes, there are advancing liberties, and they are at the frontlines of change

But at the same time, the internal dynamics do not reflect the type of dynamics that we associate with civil society And I always think back to the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement And to the outside world, yes, was a moment of hope, and I certainly feel like that it was But at the same time, if you watch this wonderful documentary called The Gate of Heavenly Peace There's an interview with some of the activists saying the people who got in power– I mean, the activists were the ones who got in control of the microphone

And the people got in control of the microphone were people who were the first ones to rush to the train station to recruit new followers by calling themselves leaders, even though they weren't leaders at all And then they would rush to Tiananmen Square and get in control of the means of communication, and that would be the way they established activism And so I guess this is a broader question to those of us who work in civil society in different contexts is how are they these phenomenons prevalent in other settings? And how do we tackle that? I mean, my question also sort of follows [INAUDIBLE] And it's a question that sort of might apply to a more exceptional context, which is refugees, where the same perhaps civil liberties at all don't even apply legally speaking

So I heard somebody [INAUDIBLE] whose presentation because NGOs are often one of the ways in which NGOs are smeared, and civil society organizations are smeared is by considering them foreign agents And I was wondering if it's possible for NGOs to be doing important work to protect civil liberties But at the same time, be foreign agents? I mean, it can be both at the same time And the example I have in my head is, for instance, human rights organizations working in Jordan and Lebanon with Syrian refugees, where, on the one hand, you have organizations doing extremely important work trying to protest against the Lebanese and the Jordanian But especially the Lebanese government's routine rounding up of refugees, torture, mistreatment

But at the same time, in being funded by European governments, one of the reasons that European governments have been funding, pumping so much money into civil society organizations in Lebanon and Jordan is precisely to keep the refugees there [INAUDIBLE] seem to transform or translate when it comes to refugees in Europe and want to see what is happening to refugee policy in Europe And in fact, it's not something that they're unaware of because in so many of the interviews I do with civil society activists, one of the dilemmas they express is, on the one hand, having to lecture the government employees about how to better respect the human rights of refugees, knowing fully well that their own governments are not doing that And so on one level, without wanting to, I've almost had to sort of sympathize with the government line, even though it's a horrific line to take That we don't want the refugees, yet we want to kick them out

Because of the fact that civil society organizations have sort of played that game rather selectively as to who has to fulfill these rights and who doesn't And a lot of that, of course, has to do with schools funding the civil society organizations So I was wondering, how do you negotiate that sort of dilemma in terms of the responsibilities to funders and the responsibilities to human rights? We had one more question? And so I came late, so I hope I didn't miss something, and I have a question or a comment if you wish really for Mandy [? Twoness ?] Discussion of that there is this second half of the 20th century, there's kind of a golden age of civil society, and we've fallen from that And I think someone who's old enough to been working the NGO Washington back in 1979, 1981, to be in the Reagan period, I can tell you that presumption really was not at all that it was easy for that it was a golden age

And I think in retrospect, you can look back and see that But when you look at detailed histories of civil society movements historically, deeply historically to the present time, many of them suffer from some of the same kinds of attacks that people are suffering from today And I don't say that to minimize at all But I think we can learn by realizing the past It wasn't perceived at the time as the golden age

It was perceived as exactly this kind of struggle that people today continue to go through Who wants to go? OK, so I will be provocative as well I think the reason why there is such an effective clampdown in today's society is because we haven't done everything too well and because we made mistakes and because there are a lot of issues to tackle within the human rights movement And I'm focusing on human rights movement because I know that most but probably a lot of that can be extrapolated to the civil society organizations, in general So I think we were already engaging in a more inward-looking critical discussion about our role in society when this whole phenomenon was identified

Maybe it's not started because it's really hard to say when it was started but when it was identified So I think there are a lot of criticism that are justified and very legitimate towards civil society organizations Just to name one, the transparency issue– I think that's very important And also, I mean, you see so many practices that are, to say the least, controversial in a society replicated within organizations Me, as a woman, having a civil society organization, I can tell you a lot of stories about how misogyny and me being a woman was a difficult issue among civil society organizations

So I don't think that we are detached from the real world and all being angels, working for the right causes and whatever So and I think that's a very useful process, and we realize our own biases And we do realize that, for example, at an organization, like say, the ACLU, they are not, we are working on Roma rights But actually, the people who are working on Roma rights, none of them are Roma And then you start changing that

So I do think that there are a lot of– there's a lot of value in self-reflection And that also, I think, speaks to the question of for your own question because, in a sense, it was society organizations, just like any other organizations, can contribute to maintaining the system by human rights I have this very strong belief is about questioning the system and questioning the establishment to make sure that it works better for more people And I will end with a saying by [? Mina Keyeye, ?] who I think many of you know, who is a former UN special reporter on freedom of expression or association and assembly And he always says that the problem means that the human rights organizations started to become a project, and they used to be a struggle

So we have to go back to the struggle and on the projects phase And I think that's kind of a response to your question as well The question, are be standing in the way of the revolution, comrade? I mean, look, I'm one would accept the criticism that a lot of the human rights organizations have sought to rise the regime of rulemaking to a point where it does not resonate with common people, which is also the argument that's made about liberals in many of these recent elections that you've had, where populist regimes have been elected to power But I don't think you can extrapolate that to say that, therefore It's a binary position that you can either have a social transformation led by social movements and yours have no bond, or that, in some way, they do not want that genuine transformation to take place because it would challenge their position in the hierarchy in civil society

So I'm cognizant of that criticism of international NGOs, but I think, again, it's not a binary because in a large number of cases in India, for instance, social movements work hand-in-hand with established civil society organizations, NGOs in particular A lot of the research, for instance, for social movements comes from academia, comes from NGOs, which are funded, resourced, have the ability to deliver it on a range of issues, whether it's on employment, on the right to information, and so on and so forth Second, the organized civil society or the NGO sector– what do you mean? Has assisted in mobilizing for even social movements, in many cases Not just in India, but in many, many other parts of the world So I don't really see it as a binary, in that sense

I'm not sure whether the kind of political transformation that one is aspiring for can really happen within the existing because it's about economics It's about a whole lot of things that are way beyond the control of or beyond the pay grade national NGOs in the context of local politics and political economy So I don't see them playing that huge role, even in the coming years To your comment So yeah, I think when we look at civil society as a concept, it's large

It's 13 outside the family, the market, and the states So it's so huge, and I think none of us can afford a claim to speak for civil society because civil society is necessarily huge And just like the rest of society, civil society reflects the society it comes from But I would still say that civil society organizations that work on human rights and social justice issues bring a certain amount of commitment People who do work with relatively lesser salaries

They're usually quite overworked, if you see They are driven by the motive of trying to do social good So in that sense, I would say there is a certain advantage from civil society organizations that comes But that said, I mean, there are civil society organizations Democratic governments also have government-organized NGOs

These government-organized NGOs are not only from non-democratic countries In fact, a number of Western governments also have government-organized NGOs, or they are organizations that don't always follow the value and so on And there are many, many issues, in that sense I think what I was trying to say about the 20th century because I only started my career in 2002 So I wouldn't want to call something a golden age that I obviously don't know much of

What I was trying to say is that the human rights discourse made advances Whether it was the Convention on Discrimination Against Women or whether it was Civil and Political Rights Convention or even if the Durban Conference on Racism or whether it was the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers in the 20th century, those advances happened But as soon as we got into the 21st century, the war on terror really reversed the right to a fair trial, like torture Torture was government shamefacedly did it But here you had a government that actually wanted to legislate torture

That's when the slippery slope, I think, started to happen And obviously, now we're at a stage where a legal argument has been made on drone strikes I mean, without declaring or declaring a war on the whole world I mean, the war on terror and then you just go beyond state sovereignty and so on So that's what I'm trying to say is that the respect for international norms is not that– it may even be better today than the 21st-century

But we made advances, and we don't seem to be making substantial advances like he made in subsequent decades of the 21st century It seems we are starting to regress But what they just said, for example, so many advances in LGTBI rights The first country that legalized since the [INAUDIBLE] was 2000 And then others, what? 24 countries that have done it

What about rights of people with disabilities? That's a 21st century issue mainly So it's not that no advances came up No, no, certainly, [? Lauren ?] That's exactly– that's not what I'm saying I'm just saying that the pace of advances has somewhat gotten reduced

There's been major obstructions that are starting to happen under the discourse The security discourse has become a very important part I mean this is being repurposed Security– there are general concerns from terrorism, but these genuine concerns have been repurposed by people who don't believe in the value of human rights and or people who are genuinely misinformed Or people who just– they actually believe maybe some of them actually believe what they do are right things

It's not been an advancement It's like it's been a reversement but certainly not to discount– No, just to add to that, I mean, it's indisputable, I think, over the last two, three years in particular, that you are seeing a reversal in the legitimacy of the human rights regime globally If you just look at the statement of European leaders and the United States of America, and if you look at the legitimization of torture, it was inconceivable four years ago that a leader of the UK would speak about it, or the leader of the US would speak about it Or the kinds of misogyny that's entered mainstream global politics I think there is a general reversal– the respect for the human rights regime globally

The ability of countries to say at the UN that, look, the Human Rights Council needs to sort itself out Otherwise, we're not going to be part of it I think there is a sense that we are at the cusp of a profound change in which the established order on human rights is really seeing a reversal I mean, I don't know where it will lead us to, but the kind– if you just look at the public statements made by global leaders over the last two, 2 and 1/2 years it would be deeply worrying Whether it's walking out of the European Court of Human Rights with the UK, or as I said or as [INAUDIBLE] spoke about legitimization of torture and so on

There is a crisis that one sees on the entire human rights regime, which I think is indisputable, which is of a very recent nature OK, so we have time for one more round of questions, and I have [INAUDIBLE] and anyone else? Very quickly because I agree with some of the premises that provoke the questions But I think it was unfair to most of the people on the panel [INAUDIBLE] I mean, those are guys who work impartial only because those are guys who work with advocacy And civil society, as Mandeep said, is a huge animal

But since I did wear the two hats, we're going to say it was provision as well as advocacy and human rights You cannot address that question on refugees, my friend in the middle here, because, at the end of the day, there's a huge element of [INAUDIBLE] that happened to both foreign and local NGOs that work with service provision, as well as actually [INAUDIBLE] they are a governmental but have been instrumentalized, politicized, and there's a long history of that But the solution is not definitely to side with the government like the government of Lebanon, whose powers are party to the problem in Syria, as a matter of fact causing the million refugees that went out from Syria, and that will not help anybody, anyway, at the end of the day But service provision organizations are in a much more difficult position because even the background with the rules of advocacy and human rights guys and IHRL, they are similar to IH, but they are actually different I mean, when you work for the ICRC, and you went to the Auschwitz, those guys hate what they've seen in Auschwitz for decades, and they thought they were actually part fine with the one conviction because they have access in exchange for silence

And ICRC did that in Abu Ghraib, until one of them actually leaked the information as well So it's really different dynamics, and you can put them in the same place in the same basket As I asked Diane about corruption and incompetence and maybe supporting or stopping transformation as [INAUDIBLE] when I look at the organizations in North Africa, for example, are being harassed or brought to trial or interrogated, they are usually like maybe 6 to 10 in each of them out of maybe 40,000 registered organizations or [INAUDIBLE] and you look at them They are not gongos They are usually your service providers, unless they are part of a golden net worth apart from Muslim brother network

There are usually advocacy organizations working on policies that the government [INAUDIBLE] And that gives you a sense of actually how to differentiate between serious independent progressive civil society organizations, and civil society organizations that actually would like and benefit from the status quo I would like to continue [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, thanks

I guess the the discussion is whether there is this overall retreat and some you guys [INAUDIBLE] some are specific [INAUDIBLE] also related to the fact that there's now not this kind of clear-cut, coherent set of human rights, and they all together either progress or [INAUDIBLE] So my question was [INAUDIBLE] is activism in organizations that base, as you said in your alleged tendency, to an important extent on this reference to human rights How you deal with this notion of struggle, not only a sense of struggle for human rights But because of this nature of human rights is the not kind not the [INAUDIBLE] said It's also always a struggle over human rights

And so even if you have every organization could point to specific human rights that is established here and there, you're engaging in these kind of struggles and politics in the sense that you have to decide which one you're promoting in a particular way because there are, of course, many, many human rights, and they lend themselves to different interpretations and prioritization So you yourself engage in these kind of politics if you decide You prioritize You interpret And so how do you deal with this issue if the whole alleged tendency and just because it's so important in the sense that there are these established [INAUDIBLE]

Thanks [INAUDIBLE] So I said that I wouldn't say that a crisis– that there definitely is a crisis A crisis is also an opportunity– can become an opportunity I think this is a moment where we need to do it out of reflection Some of this has been said but still what is the practice [INAUDIBLE]? What is that practice of solidarity of truth, of equality, and of justice? [INAUDIBLE] how do we practice it in our world? [INAUDIBLE] Keep reminding us the importance of consistency of means and ends

So are we using means that are compatible with [INAUDIBLE] You spoke once, and I disagreed and said for people that civil disobedience was a principle that you needed to, [INAUDIBLE] that's despite causing something [INAUDIBLE] and using your own suffering to bring about change I think that's something that we have lost along the way So I think that we need to– and this is an opportunity to reflect unique human rights work, less detached, less [INAUDIBLE],, more engaged and more funded in our fundamental principles and [INAUDIBLE] I think that is one, but the other opportunity I do think is to look at the profit margin, and I do think there's a global crisis [INAUDIBLE] is the outcome of that There are many aspects to it, but in my own country, is so spectacular [INAUDIBLE] I think a million people to the workforce every single month

1 million people Plus they want eight million people or so who [INAUDIBLE] which means [INAUDIBLE] every year, which means about 20 million people The number of jobs officially created, was about 200,000 in the last year And this is actually a lot of jobs are getting destroyed in the formal sector [INAUDIBLE] so I think it's an opportunity for us on one hand, [INAUDIBLE] society and a more compassionate [INAUDIBLE] But it's also an opportunity to look at the context in which the promises that were made 25 years ago [INAUDIBLE] And I'm thinking we need to address those opportunities of the small places [INAUDIBLE] Any other questions? Yes, please My question is for [INAUDIBLE] you just kind of shuddered in a sense when you talked about this idea of a Facebook revolution and a Twitter revolution So I was wondering if you could kind of hammer out why– your opinions about that

And if so, if those aren't the right outlets for people to protest or express their opinions, especially for the youth What other outlets do you can see as a better alternative? Terrific, so we have just a few more minutes left So we'll get to the panel for this one These Yeah, I'm not really a big fan of Facebook or Twitter First, I think these terms turned overemphasize the technology at the expense of human agency

Like when thousands of people were gathering in Tahrir Square overnight because people were sharing messages Yes, they were all right But even before Tahrir Square, there was the long history of Egyptian activism going back to at least– I'm not an expert, but as far as I know going back like six to eight years So there was all the if not underground, but kind of this below ground activism and organization that human right activists and other civil society actors in Egypt were actively engaged then it was every time Western media or Western analysts political or media analyst name these revolutions, Facebook or Twitter, it is if thanks for these Western technologies and Western corporations and companies– all these Eastern societies or non-western societies rise up or something like social, political, and/or economic change so my issue with that I'm not necessarily suggesting that you know like these technologies do not play in your role at all

They certainly do I mean, they help people marginalized, organized, share information and also in the case of third-degree and [INAUDIBLE] protests because they help share news and information about, police brutality which wasn't covered in the media at all So for bringing those questions and issues to the fore– yes, they do play a part, but people are organized nonetheless they were never without Twitter or Facebook OK, so I think the question– there was a question about human rights and different motions of human rights I think I would say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a fair enough framework in its 20 articles about the word

Of course, the issue of sexual orientation is not there, but the right against discrimination is there So you can in a sense, the framework is broad enough It has economic and social rights It has and political freedoms It even talks about internationalism

So and I'm very proud that actually there is an Indian woman called, [INAUDIBLE] in fact, if you look at the first section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it was supposed to say all men are created equal It actually says all human beings are created equal, which was on Samantha's insistence She drew on social activism, when she was part of the debates that happened And then an interesting anecdote is I mean and then again, there's the Challenge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in South Africa

They're presented with [INAUDIBLE],, who really didn't believe in the human rights of its fellow South, but the point is that I think the debate about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has to be settled in a sense So it does provide us some amount of framework, and I would certainly say, I think you raised a good point about being hopeful And I also feel that this is going to lead to a pendulum shift We're a particular moment in history People are really feeling the neoliberal economic policies market fundamentalism

There's already huge amounts of inequality There are people who have really benefited a lot, and there are huge amounts of losers– monetized access to public services actually sending more and more people into poverty It's very easy to slip from the lower middle class into poverty, and that's a challenge because the social contract between the citizen and the state has failed because we pay taxes to the state But our state wants to take the taxes from us, and then give a contract to somebody else to provide policing to us, to provide water to us, provide electricity to us And then we have to pay into that company, and we have to pay taxes to the state

So it's double whammy in a sense And plus we don't get the information that we want from those companies because this company– it doesn't feel obligated And I know that it's very difficult in a US context to talk about it because the US organized itself very differently But the rest of the world– it's very natural for us to get elected I grew up in socialist India, and we had electricity company that ran in lost and that's fine that it ran and lost because that's why we pay taxes

Everybody pays direct and indirect taxes, and you expect something in return You don't expect the state to give that to somebody else and use that as an avenue for profit making So there is going to be a blowback from that, and I think and there's going to be a blowback from right-wing policies in this And we just have to ready ourselves for that moment, and it's actually it's quite strange Because we live in an age when we have so much more social cultural economic relations yet these politicians have to tried to categorize us

People are marching across People across regions People are moving the history of human civilization, as they steal migration So I don't know how anybody can even make these national constructs are what– 200 all these boundaries– These borders I saw them off as they never even existed 50 years or 50 years ago If you had the world map was different 100 years ago

That's totally different If you look 150 years ago, it was totally different So there is going to be some there is going to be some amount of change and perhaps maybe young people are going to lead that change because their values are certainly much more open They're much more than others And I think for us in civil society that the big challenge that most of us people like me, who actually work, is that sometimes we get overprofessionalized are a rigorous adherence to the plan comes in the way of sometimes make successful gateway, why we hurt in the first place

We are here to promote social justice and human rights and And but sometimes we spend our time doing things– doing the wrong things And answering emails when we should actually be speaking to our people you know speaking to constituents And so on So and also there the legitimacy

I think the issue of legitimacy Whose legitimacy do we believe in? We need to have legitimacy and in the values We need to have legitimacy for two words Those are our first primary responsibilities to words those we purport to serve but unfortunately sometimes it's become we become more accountable to whether it's donors or whether it's the public at large towards dawn doorknobs are the words of boards are the words of fellow peers But we should actually be first and foremost accountable to those we [INAUDIBLE] So and I know the issue Foreign agents came up on us and now And here is the Foreign Agents issue is just a bogey because all those governments that talk about foreign agents off have no problem doing military exercises or accepting aid that doesn't make the governments foreign agents The Ethiopian government itself actually gets the vote was actually the trendsetter in this with the child is in society's proclamation when you know the Foreign Agents law, gets huge amounts of foreign assistance, but it doesn't call itself a foreign government But if you are a civil society organization, you get more than 10% funding, you become a foreign agent

Your military can do exercise with a foreign government but it doesn't get influence you can go to the World Economic Forum and come and tell foreign governments to come and invest in your country But at the same, you are you are attacking those civil society organizations that get piddly amount of money So there's so much hypocrisy in these foreign agents thing is Really need to unravel that– much more Just to respond to Jonas' question on I think the human rights industry does have a lot to answer for in the way certain rights are privileged to others particularly of the last few years

That's indisputable, and that is linked to the way global societies are functioned So for a decade, workers' rights were not fashionable, not on But LGBTI rights are on There was money available for donors who were willing to pump in funds whether or they were not able to get worker's rights For years, we've seen how civil, political rights were accorded far more importance, even though all rights are indivisible– all economic classes or social rights, and many observers have noted that it was this inability to take on economic, political, economic, cultural, and social rights, which led to the alienation of all the people in the global south from the human rights movement, of the human rights industry so I tend to agree with you that yes we have a lot to answer for in terms of at different points in time privileging some rights over the others

I mean it calls for reflection for sure [INAUDIBLE] but sometimes it can be made easy for you I remember my very first job, I was hired to [INAUDIBLE] All the funding in the Phillipines was there, and you got– I forgot how much EU funding, It was a three-year project when you're trying to build grassroots a quick reaction mechanism And so the motion of the film is Three Years is Not Enough

By the end of his third year, we're coming up with your proposal So different from those that [INAUDIBLE] We'll have issue trafficking [INAUDIBLE] trafficking, human trafficking and USA just made out a call So I was talking to my boss, and I said, so what do we do? Well, can you write a new proposal on human trafficking? This was a very good organization but had to reg them with choices or needs for survival And so I first job straight out of law school, and I was like OK Right, OK, so I guess human trafficking or the rise of all right associated situations is executed and enforced disappearances

And then years later, that's why I got so preoccupied with this issue of funding And you're not the date of my daughters You make the decision, but you have to make it So later on, I did this research We spoke with more than 100 people in different countries

And I found out that the lower level you don't mean, you can work ratchets you are just the more vulnerable you are to these choices So I remember when Sessler hired me three years ago My first day I asked him So that's my budget lower my deliverables when issues are funded, et cetera And then he told me, just decide on what issues are most important [INAUDIBLE] the I was like, are you kidding? But then she seems very privileged in that sense that we're given mostly poor funding to work on what [INAUDIBLE]

But most organizations, NGOs in the world are in the wrong position Well, on that note, I would like to thank all of you for participating

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