Defending human rights in Russia can be perilous. One only needs to recall the killings of human rights defenders, investigative journalists and lawyers like Anna Politkovskaya, Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova or Memorial activist Natalia Estemirova. Opposition activists also face physical danger. In February 2015 Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister during Yeltsin’s second presidency, was shot dead near the Kremlin in Moscow. Moreover, some organisers and participants of demonstrations have faced prosecution and imprisonment. Since 2005, the Russian authorities have implemented legislation isolating the political opposition and curtailing the funding of HRDs. These laws have included restrictions in the activities of the foreign organisations, increased fines for organising and participating in unsanctioned demonstrations. They also modified existing laws on treason and recriminalised libel. These laws affect the whole spectrum of civil, cultural, and human rights associations.
New Tactics Blog
The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms passed in 1998 by the UN General Assembly marked a milestone for the defense of human rights. It was a moment of joy and hope, built on years of advocacy and negotiations to obtain the explicit support of the UN and governments for the thousands of activists and organizations that had been defending human rights for so long. But now, almost 17 years after that moment, we believe that it is time to critically consider some key aspects of the UN Declaration.
The situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) is dire. Rarely a day goes by that we don’t hear about a new piece of legislation restricting the space for civil society or legalizing surveillance. HRDs around the world are threatened, and in some cases, harmed for exercising their rights to expression, association, etc. HRDs are discredited and ostracized for challenging social and cultural norms that violate their or their community’s human rights.
While this wave of repression and aggression against HRDs is consistent in its persistence, it is marked by ever changing adversarial tactics. This, coupled with the fact that HRDs experience these aggressions in very different ways means it is difficult to ensure that the international protection regime stays responsive and relevant for HRDs at risk.
In the recently released Special Issue on Human Rights Defenders Protection in the International Journal of Human Rights, we argue for the importance of critically appraising the construction, function, and evolution of the international protection regime as well as its multi-scalar social and political effects.
Recently I participated in the closing session for the Regional Youth Forum "Mosharka, Working Together," which aims to promote youth leadership and participation in the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The event was organized by Equitas in collaboration with the Arab Network for Civic Education (ANHRE) and other partner organizations in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Around thirty young leaders from the MENA region attended this forum.
Zina Mhamdi is an advocate in the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux (FTDES) Kasserine branch, located in the west-central region of Tunisia and one of the poorest in the country. Zina provides an excellent example of how the network of New Tactics Method trainers is expanding while advancing human rights advocacy efforts through direct application of the method.
When CVT’s New Tactics in Human Rights program launched the Middle East North Africa (MENA) initiative to strengthen the capacity of human rights defenders in the MENA region, we began training local human rights activists in the New Tactics 5-Step Strategic Effectiveness method. Fotouh Younes with the Arab Network for Civic Education (ANHRE) was one of those who learned the Strategic Effectiveness method and became a local trainer in early 2010.
In the spring of 2010, the New Tactics in Human Rights program launched the Middle East North Africa (MENA) Initiative to strengthen the capacity of human rights defenders in the MENA region. This new phase of the program included training local human rights activists in the New Tactics 5-Step Strategic Effectiveness method.
In December 2014, New Tactics in Human Rights MENA Initiative and AHEL, a social enterprise registered as a training company, unveiled a unique collaboration which provided a method-merging training to benefit human rights advocates in the region. It is important to note that collaborative efforts do not emerge overnight – successful collaborations take time.
It is with sadness that the New Tactics team announces the departure of Susan Atwood. Susan has served as the New Tactics Program Manager for the past 2 years. Prior to this, she served as a long-time volunteer with the program. During her tenure, she was instrumental in mentoring, stewarding, and maximizing the expertise of our New Tactics team, both at headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota and in our Middle East North Africa regional office in Amman, Jordan.