Civil Society Under Fire #SkollWF 2017

Civil Society Under Fire #SkollWF 2017


This is a panel that’s entitled Civil Society
Under Fire and we’ll try to have some fireworks although the numbers
are relatively small. That doesn’t mean we
can’t be very passionate. In fact, maybe we can be
even more passionate. So it came as a surprise to me
when Karen, one of our panelists, pointed out during the planning
session that we’re all lawyers, all four of us up here are lawyers. That was not at all by design, but I guess
it’s not a coincidence in the sense that the theme for the panel is human rights
and there is a connection of course, between human rights and law. Now, framing
it in the context of the Skoll World Forum, there’s been much talk about systems
and so I would simply point out that, of course, a legal system is a system. And more aspirationally, we might even
sometimes call it a justice system. But I want to talk about system failure
because human rights is also a system, The International Human Rights System. And it is essentially a system that was
designed out of system failure. As you all know, in Hitler’s Germany,
Hitler was elected by democratic election. His policies were implemented very
consistently and rigorously through law. But it resulted in a cataclysmic war and in
genocide and the response of some very entrepreneurial people with access
to power was to create a system, The International Human Rights System. That’s what gave birth to The International
Human Rights System, was recognizing that system failure
and trying to correct for it. And unfortunately, nowadays many
of us look around the world and we see system failure. That’s something that I think we very
much feel but I want to put that into the context of this panel which is
about civil society. Last night there was an excellent film that
I hope you all saw, I was there, called, Bending the Arc. Very, very well
made documentary film. And it tells a story and the story it tells,
the metaphor of the title is clearly about the well-known saying that
the arc bends towards justice but the arc does not bend by itself. And the film does a great job of illustrating
how that arc sometimes bends. In the case of the film, it bends through
the efforts of Paul and Jim, and not just them but their partners
and their patients and a number of individuals
who make that arc bend. That’s what local human rights groups
and civil society organizations do, they do that every day. We can
think of them, in a way, as the last mile of the international human
rights system and they are essential. But they also have a built-in vulnerability. For 25 years now, civil society organizations
have mushroomed around the world driven by some global trends. But there is a built-in vulnerability that most
of them share because in most countries, almost all NGO’s receive almost all of
their funding from outside the country and that creates a vulnerability that lately
has been exploited by politicians, basically. By governments and politicians who would
consider NGO’s to be a nuisance sometimes in the policies they want to be
implemented or in maintaining power. And the vulnerability is that it becomes
very easy to label those NGO’s that are receiving foreign funding as being
foreign agents. In fact, they’re not foreign, in fact these NGO’s are, as we know very well from here, because we meet many social entrepreneurs
from all around the world. Sometimes those social entrepreneurs
are running NGO’s, sometimes not, but they look like NGO people all over the world.
They’re local, they are local founders of organizations. They have local agency, they have their own agency,
they are not foreign agents of anyone else. But because of following the money backwards,
it’s very easy to stigmatize and label those organizations as being foreign and
worse, it’s a very contextualized phenomenon. And so in some countries, you’ll find that NGO’s
are being labeled as foreign agents, especially in places where there are
strong memories of the Cold War and the word foreign agent has
a certain connotation. They’ll be labeled as corrupt briefcase
NGO’s or they’ll be labeled as undermining local economic priorities, or rather, national economic priorities. They might be labeled as subverting
national values, representing some cosmopolitan
concerns about the other. There’s many labels. But it has become
a very common phenomenon and there’s a sort of a potent combination that has become almost viral in the spread of
smear campaigns of one sort or another coupled with very technical regulatory means driven
at least in justification by legitimate priorities. Priorities about countering terrorism or
trying to combat money laundering. So globally approved regulatory
models that are used after a smear campaign is softening
up the general public to be supportive of those efforts. And as I said,
this has been an almost viral phenomenon that’s reached near epidemic proportions. In the
last 5 years, there are 70 countries in the world that have passed restrictive laws controlling NGO’s
of one sort or another. One third of the laws, some 40 of them, have been about restricting
foreign funding and that’s you know, there were laws before 5 years ago. Some of them sort of, in India for example, involve amending
a law that’s been on the books for a very long time. So it’s not completely new, but the
pace of new efforts to develop these restrictive frameworks is
something very new. The very rapid pace. So the purpose of this panel
is not to dwell on that. There’s been a lot of discussions in many
different forums about this trend and it’s now increasingly recognized as
a trend that’s not going away. The purpose of the panel is to think about,
you know, what can we do about it, what are the solutions, what do we need
to do to address this sad state of affairs? And that’s what I’ve asked the panel. The
panelists and I have all collaborated on talking about different ways of having
a conversation about what can be done about it and we’ll proceed with a few questions
to elicit their respective points of view and then we’ll open it up to
all of you for your comments. So Poonam, I’m sure you agree that civil society
is integral to the human rights system. And of course, in part, not only does civil society help
the human rights system to affect its purposes but also the human rights system is there to protect
civil society too, it’s a reciprocal relationship. And yet that seems increasingly not to be
working so what can be done? Okay. First of all, thank you very much for
the invitation to speak on this panel and great to be part of such a great
and diverse panel. Well, apart from the fact that we’re all human
rights lawyers, so maybe not that diverse. Before I sort of go into solutions, I just wanted
to touch on a couple of problems. Not that we don’t have enough on the table
but just to kind of give you a sense I think, of what somebody like me or the human rights
funders are kind of seeing the world and seeing the limitations of those sort of
strategies and what do we do next. So I think, you know, first, as you were saying those
traditional strategies aren’t working and you know, to simplify the problem, there’s
couple of issues there. There’s the crisis-ness of the effectiveness
of the human rights framework and system, and you know, and you have this proliferation
of international regional institutions, national level institutions from which
human rights were supposed to kind of trickle down and turn into meaningful
rights at the local level. And often, you know, we haven’t seen that happening.
We’ve seen sort of pragmatism ceded to sort of sticking to principles. We’ve
seen laws pass but not implemented. But the other sort of challenge is the human
rights framework was also supposed to be about a set of common values that are
quite moral at their heart and what you’re seeing—a lot of people have been
speaking about this for the last couple of years. But you see it really kind of accentuated by the
election of Donald Trump in the US, as the kind of idea of the end of shame. And the kind of end of the idea, I’m not saying
it is the end, but you know, potentially the end of an idea of universal
values and universal rules. And instead what governments are going
to sort of be shifting towards is sort of pursuing their interests based on
transactions, on the kind of art of the deal, on what’s in there sort of proposing or
in the best interests of their country. And that’s also been couched very
powerfully as, Ed, you sort of described, in a number of countries including in Russia,
across Central Asia, elsewhere, in the language of sovereignty and nationalism. So you’re really seeing kind of local people buying
into that sort of interpretation of what’s happening. Second, you’ve got this sort of crisis of accountability.
So I think, you know, seeing across the world, both in autocracies but increasingly in democracies,
a resistance of power to being held to account. And what do you do when the checks and balances,
those institutions and those pillars of democracy, that were supposed to hold power to account,
you know, you have depleted political opposition, you have judiciary under attack, you have media
being co-opted or controlled or stifled and we’ve got civil society coming under attack.
You know, who’s left to hold power? Be it in the form of government,
be it in the form of corporations, be it in the form of far-right movements,
who’s going to hold those powers to attack? So my sort of suggestion is sort of looking
at two particular things. One, I think it’s kind of the need to look local,
which is not giving up on the international and not giving up on the regional,
but in terms of creating local ownership and legitimacy
of human rights values. You know, suddenly we as funders
are going to look at who are the actors we need to
support at the local level? And maybe sort of, you know, 5 or 10 years ago,
we might have said, “Well, actually maybe people aren’t
that engaged.” You know, sort of people were almost talking about
the end of politics and the end of history and we were all sort of occupying
this sort of central middle ground. And we can see, just through the rise of protests.
So, Carnegie Endowment have done sort of very interesting mapping, I think
there were 60 countries in which there’ve been major protests in the last few years.
This is a new phenomenon, it’s here to stay. So you see sort of anger and you see disruption
and you see a desire for civic engagement. So how do you engage that in a constructive way?
Because the reality is, a lot of that protest has ultimately been disruptive and hasn’t resulted
in social justice and human rights outcomes. And how do you also support individuals? I mean,
I think you know, in a very restrictive context, who’s left to hold government to account? It’s going
to be individuals, it’s going to be citizens. So how do you sort of support civic engagement and a kind
of much more sort of deepened form of democracy? So just to give you a very quick
example of the challenge ahead. So the Council of Europe, a number of INGO’s were
lobbying for a resolution on the right to support civic, or the right of civic participation. And that negotiation,
sort of advocacy for that resolution was stifled, you know. And I’d sort of like you to sort
of guess, you know, which is the country that blocked the idea that citizens have a right
to participate in their democracy day in, day out and not just at elections? So, I don’t know,
if you guys have any quick ideas? Who do you think would be the top
candidates in a European context? Albania. Albania. Any others? I think I heard
something. Poland. It was Norway. It was Norway that said your job is to elect us and
it’s up to us what we do the following 4 years. So that’s the situation that we’re in. I mean,
Hungary and Poland are doing this, but you know that sort of idea of, what
do we mean by democracy I think, that kind of goes to the heart of this. And then the second point I’ll just put it briefly is,
Ed, you were talking about the NGO model and the kind of legitimacy and that disconnect
between NGO’s and their constituencies. And the reality are, there are lots of really great,
talented advocacy litigation groups out there. We fund many of them through the trust.
But I think the question we as funders have been asking ourselves over the last couple
of years is, how meaningful is their impact and what role have we played as funders in deciding
whose agenda is progressed on the ground? In many cases it’s been a donor agenda.
The vast majority of funding that goes to human rights democracy work is government
money and private foundations. But it’s also whose definition of success
and impact are those groups are working to? And the reality is, in the vast majority of cases,
it’s the agenda set by the donors. And so one of the things I think we really have
to look at are new models of that relationship between funders and NGO’s, but NGO’s and communities,
and where they get the resources to do their work. So that’s going to look at new models that will address
and support greater legitimacy, greater resilience. So that means getting more funding from local sources,
so it’s not so easy for governments to say, this is foreign money. And then finally,
money that will support the freedom of those local leaders
to respond to local agendas. Okay thank you, Poonam. So David, you’re a lawyer.
I’m not going to emphasize that point too many more times. And I just had the horrified realization
we’re dressed almost identically so, other than the glasses and the
two-day scruff, we are. There you go, there you go. So we’re of a mold
and so therefore, since we look alike, I know that you must think like me too, and a lawyer
generally sees a human rights problem and has a certain set of tools and techniques
that they use to solve that problem. But you haven’t done that and I tried. Okay. Well, we’ll hear about that a second.
You haven’t done that and we heard, at one of the plenarie, we heard Hamdi
talking about business being a solution, that seems to be what you think, too.
So tell us about that and how you’ve dealt with the trafficking
issue in Asia? Yeah, so basically as Ed said, I started as a lawyer.
I guess I’m still technically a lawyer, a reformed lawyer. And as a young man growing up in the
southeast part the United States right in the shadow of you know, Martin Luther
King’s Ebenezer Baptist church. I often asked myself as a young man, I am middle
class, I am white, I am in the south, would I, if I lived, you know, 300 years earlier, would
I have been willing to be a slave owner, right? And just I guess a natural question that
a young boy, I don’t know why, clearly I had a strange mind even at that point. But in 2007, I moved to Hong Kong with a law firm
and realized it was not a hypothetical question. But it was in actual fact, there are more
slaves living in the world right now today than there ever have been in
the history of humankind. And that was something that was very transformational
from my kind of legal perspective. Because again, I thought this was a problem we
had solved and I certainly did not expect it— wouldn’t expect to see it so openly in a
modern economy like Hong Kong. And so I was practicing law full-time and using
my pro bono time, I focused on these types of issues that I cared very deeply about. UNHCR, refugee asylum representation, you know,
foreign migrant worker type of representation, human trafficking type stuff, and every day felt like I was
beating my head against a very painful brick wall. And after two years working as a lawyer full-time
in Hong Kong, joined the business faculty at the University of Hong Kong. That is where I teach now and have
been for the past eight years and tried to diversify my approach to
this type of problem solving. I call myself a modern day abolitionist and what
I essentially try to do is create market-based solutions to complex regional problems. And as I was working with an NGO, and we know
the typical NGO perspective, which is good, is helping that one lost lamb sometimes at the
expense of the 99, right? And so my perspective, thinking about it logically, from a market-based solution,
was, but wait a minute, what about the 99? And so I actually, in a fit of very misplaced anger,
once started yelling at one of the NGO’s that I was supporting saying what are you doing?
You’ve been doing this for 20 years. Why aren’t you trying to stop this problem? Why are
you just putting your finger on this gaping wound? And again, it was misdirected anger, but that
was the way my perception started changing. I said okay, once I understand the problem we’re
going to figure out a market-based solution to overcome or alleviate that problem. So
we created the Fair Employment Agency. 80% of human trafficking is labor trafficking
and this is especially true within Asia. And out of that labor trafficking, the vast majority
of that is facilitated by a legal process whereby, imagine you are a young woman, let’s say you’re
a young mother, 25 years old, living in Guimaras, a beautiful island, the Mango capital of the Philippines,
and in an attempt to provide an education and a roof over the head for your children, you leave your
small community which you have never left before and you want to travel to a place like Hong Kong
and be a migrant domestic worker. Now what that typically means is you’re
going to be essentially a housemaid, right? 10% of Hong Kong’s working population
are foreign domestic workers. That represents almost—it’s over 350,000 people
and that number is growing exponentially each year, and that is true across Asia. And so you
go through the legal process, which legally you are required to receive government
accredited training, it’s called TESDA training. You then have to work with a local agency who
then has a partner on your destination country side, so a second agency, so that eventually you
can find a job as a domestic worker. In this setting, because of the information asymmetry as you
can see from the numbers here, the average foreign domestic worker
is charged anywhere from 5 to 10 sometimes 25 times the
legal limits in placement fees. The agencies use these placement fees
in order to line their own pockets and when the domestic workers cannot pay these
fees, which they inevitably cannot, the agencies very helpfully finance this with a friendly
money lender who is also a partner of theirs, who then charges them usurious
and illegally high interest rates. They take their passports until they can pay those
fees back and they end up, on average, paying anywhere from 2 to sometimes 8 or even
12 months of their salary without receiving a dime. They have to work oftentimes up to a full
year before they have paid off their debt. Now they’re not going to these set of circumstances
unless they need that money to give to their family, which means they’re taking on additional debt
during that 6, 8, 12 months which means they enter into a debt cycle, without access
to travel documents like a passport, and so they are perpetually in that cycle. So if there is physical, sexual,
other type of violence or abuse against them they’re unable usually
to leave that situation. So we did a very simple thing. This is the traditional,
it’s a very simple solution to a very complex problem. If the pressure points were these agencies,
we decided to bypass these agencies and we created the first ever social
enterprise employment agency, as far as we know, anywhere,
but certainly within Asia. It’s called the Fair Employment Agency.
We have eliminated the money lenders and the unethical agency and the fees they
charge, and instead we follow the International Labor Organization standard
of charging zero placement fees to domestic workers. And yet for the past three out of four
months, we’re a profitable, ongoing entity that is with very
expansive growth. We’ve gone from one employee to more than 22
full-time employees in the past 2 years and we’ve entertained a lot of other kind of business
types of solutions to this issue. So even in this kind of hyper growth phase,
we are thus far at least break even if not profitable. And so we’re looking at the ability to expand this model,
to license this model, to franchise this model. And thankfully, because of our position,
we’re seen as a systems-based solution that is neutral and therefore, we become
friends to everyone involved which allows us hopefully to create a legal, ethical
and professional path to migration for workers. So there we go. So, that’s a market-based
solution to a human rights problem although it happened to come from a lawyer.
But you didn’t need to be a lawyer to come up with that solution and it has the
virtue of not requiring outside resources. It’s a completely—well, maybe you’re
not completely indigenous, David. Now if anyone has outside resources,
we will take your money. But thankfully—Well and if the resources come in then
they’re an investment and that’s a different category. Exactly, it’s growth capital. So it’s not based on foreign charitable funds which is
the model that’s so much under attack all over the world. You meet a visionary individual with
a passion for a social issue and then you can easily help that person to scale up their
efforts by directing them to charitable funds. That’s not necessarily the model of
social entrepreneurship, but it is a model that has been prevalent over the last 25 years
that has created tens of thousands of advocacy organizations all over the world. Now another alternative. Well, I’m not going to steal
her thunder but there are other alternatives also that don’t require setting up advocacy
organizations and Karen, you have a model that has had you working
in some 40 countries around the world. Working on very important human rights
issues like the eradication of torture. And you use a model where there’s a lot
of international collaboration therefore, you must run into this trend of antagonism
towards foreign supported local efforts. So what does that look like
from your vantage point? First, I want to say thank you
and thank you to everyone here. It’s actually nice that the room has become
fuller as people are coming in. I sometimes feel that I sound like a
Pollyanna because I say, you know, things have always been bad and always been
good and we can keep working towards it. But I think that that is actually the reality of the situation,
particularly in the area that we work in. So we are looking at ending torture as an investigative
tool in many developing countries by placing a lawyer early on in police
stations and in courtrooms. And that’s because, as Poonam mentioned
earlier, there are many laws on the books, we’ve done a very good job of this. So there’s
out of the 113 countries that torture, 93 of these countries all have laws on the
books that say you’ve a right to a lawyer, right not to be tortured. The issue has really
been that these laws are not implemented and if you are picked up, and this affects
the majority of the poorest of the poor, if you’re picked up and you cannot afford a lawyer, the police will start breaking your fingers immediately
because it is the cheapest form of investigation. So for us, our mission really is to end
investigative torture and implement due process rights by placing lawyers early on. And the reason that I say it’s always been
challenging is because it’s always been— I usually hate this word when governments
say, but this is “sensitive.” Well, it’s not sensitive, but the reality of it is that
it is sensitive, because we aren’t going in and looking at one prisoner or five
prisoners are coming in after the fact. But we’re looking at what you described
earlier as system change. We realize that in order for us to actually
not cherry pick our cases of like this wonderful poster child or this person, if we want to in fact help the majority of
people, and there’s over 3 million people, it’s something that happens on a daily basis
for the majority of countries. We have to work together inside the
system with one part of the system which happens to be the government
in order to access the prisons, work with the police officers and implement it. So I would say that for us and for many of our
partners, it’s not that things haven’t gotten worse. We’ve also seen people who have received
larger jail sentences, some of our staff, one who’s been killed. We’ve also seen some
tensions and at the same time that actually has always been true since the
year 2000 and it’s been really, I’d say, the testament of the phenomenal creativity and
resourcefulness of all the lawyers and defenders on the ground who’ve always
come up with different ways of doing it. So I mean, I could remember even starting
offices in one country, and I think we’re taped, I’m not going to mention specific countries, but
in one of our initial meetings, the lawyer said, “You know, everybody knows that often we stand
in court we say, my client been tortured, it’s against the law,” and the next thing we know we
are in danger being handcuffed, brought into jail, beaten until we’re bloody
and then a confession taken of us saying, you know, “We have obstructed justice.” And they said to us the only way that you can
protect us is to go in and sign an MOU, with the government, with Ministry of Justice. So that as we stand up together, as we begin
to implement this together, we can say we’re not doing anything illegal
as you see. You yourselves, you the Ministry of Justice,
have signed this MOU. So from the very beginning, we started looking
at how we form relationships with governments in order to protect the lawyers who are doing
the very work which is part of the system. And I think that’s a huge part of it is that we recognize
that, you know, if you’re doing system change, it’s going to be very tricky. Sometimes you’re sort
of walking a tight rope and at the same time, if you’re attacking one part of the system for say, system change it’s not going to be
sustainable in terms of generation. Okay. So thank you, Karen. Now Poonam,
we just heard two different kinds of activities that are getting at the same problem that
human rights lawyers are trying to get at. But in ways that your foundation
hasn’t typically supported, not the classic advocacy model
of human rights NGO. What do you think about these models?
Are they enough? Are they transformative enough? I mean firstly, I kind of recognize the kind of
innovation in terms of both of those models and I think the reality is where you’re particularly
looking at very restrictive environment, we as funders or supporters of the human rights movement
can’t sit there and be purist and say, no. You know, your only position is to be antithetical
to power and one of those debates we are having is, you know, the scope, the role of supporting
organizations that are able to engage with power in different ways that can be pragmatic,
that maybe work on issues that don’t look so controversial but actually
are still leading to protection and change on the ground. Because
if we sort of only operate at that sort of meta level, we’re going to lose the
people on the ground, the domestic workers, the people are being tortured and those
protections aren’t going to be in place. So I think that’s sort of very valuable. But I think there’s a limitation to sort
of where pragmatism is going to get us and I think as I was sort of saying earlier,
what you also see is sort of growing anger and rage and
protest also taking place. And you know, alongside that sort
of very practical hands on work, demand for kind of large scale sort
of reform and there are actors who are going to sort of engage in
resistance and struggle. And in terms of us sort of fundamentally
changing the model, we as funders are going to look at supporting
actors that are coming up with ideas for new models, that are going to sort of be using a
combination of protest and advocacy. But also, and I think here’s the bridge
between the two, who are able to engage with unlikely
allies who are already in power. Because you know, the reality is although
the world is looking increasingly polarized, we know there are many people sitting
within corporations, within military, within intelligence who also are
worrying about, you know, where the world is heading at the moment. So just a sort of a couple of examples of that. You know, Cambodia, a couple of years ago,
where you had the government cracking down on the right of unions to
operate and you had a whole coalition of garment and textiles companies
who said, actually, you know, “For us to remain profitable but in
terms of maintaining our reputation, we’re going to need to protect the role of
unions to advocate on behalf of workers.” And I challenged the Cambodian government
that then sort of took a step back. I mean, things have deteriorated since then,
but kind of very interesting examples emerging of corporations saying, “We actually
need rule of law and democracy and human rights to meet your goals and to meet
our goals,” in terms of sort of military, security. I mean, we’ve seen it most recently with a
lineup of senior military officials who said, “Torture is not going to result in better security.”
So the sort of question is going to be, you know, how do you have that conversation,
between the activists and between power, about sort of new solutions that come up with
systemic change and new ideas about what we mean about development
around democracy, around security and around human rights and I think for us,
we sort of see our role particularly in keeping open the space for
plurality and dissent. So you know, it’s not our space, the human
rights funder, to fund particular social movements. But it’s to sort of keep the space open for
the people on the margins to be able to engage and question those in power by protecting
the framework in terms of the right to dissent, the right to express your views, the right to sort
of organize and mobilize. And I think that piece of work absolutely
has to sit alongside this. I think the sort of final point I’d make in terms
of just the foreign funding and our role and also recognizing our limitations. So when
I was in Warsaw recently and speaking to a whole range of statesmen, statesmen
of the kind of silver society movement, who’d been involved in activism with the
solidarity movement, so pre-1989, and they were saying, “Oh my God, things
are so bad now, you know, what are we going to do?” And I said,
“Well, actually tell me is it as bad as it was pre-1989?” And they were like, “No, actually, it’s nowhere
near as bad.” And I said, “Well, you know, you, among you, you know how to mount
a long term resistance. You know, you have the tools and actually
you have something that a lot of other people don’t have which is you have the memory
to be able to share with the younger generation and say this is what autocracy feels like
and this is how we can stop it.” And those movements were not funded
necessarily from the outside. They had political support from the outside,
but if you look at the anti-apartheid movement, if you look at solidarity, if you look at the
struggle for independence in India. You know, none of those things ran to a log frame,
they weren’t funded by Sida and USAID. You know, they were sort of indigenous movements that
needed regional and international levels of support. And I think our role as funders is to keep the space
open for those movements and that level of plurality and keeping the space for a number of people to
come together to be able to provide alternative solutions and to make sure those
movements remain resilient in the long term. Okay, thanks. So David, you’re running a business,
but you’re running a business in an area which is also occupied by a lot of
community groups and advocacy groups and movements, and does that create tensions
and how do you resolve those tensions? Yeah, so I am less involved in the day-to-day
running of the Fair Employment Agency, and so instead, what I do is I tend to stay
3 and 4 years ahead of the organization and try to like, you know, beat down a path so
that the organization can continue to grow. Because there are regulatory issues, there are
stakeholder issues, and one of them being, in this kind of NGO environment, well,
it’s not just NGO’s. I mean, you have governments, you have
the United Nations, you have, you know, more traditional local or regional NGO’s. But then we also have employers and we also
have local governments and then we have our, you know, initial stakeholders,
the workers themselves. And all of them have very disparate
and sometimes conflicting needs. And so what my job was at the beginning
of Fair Employment Agency, was to change the way that the entire region talked about
human trafficking and migrant labor. Because all of the NGO’s who I was very,
very intimately familiar with because of my legal work with them, and very intimately
frustrated with because of my work with them. They literally would be housed in the same
building, a 100 steps from each other, funded by the exact same organization,
do 80% of the same work and yet within 10 years had never stepped in each other’s offices
because they see everything as a zero sum game, they see everything as, you know, competition and
they were not collaborating or cooperating at all. And so what I did was create a quick, I guess, group,
we called it the Domestic Worker Round Table, and created a baseline set of rules
and it was essentially, you cannot advocate for any changes to
the law, right? Because what had happened over the period
of three decades was, you were either pro-worker or you
were pro-employer. And if you’re pro-employer that means
you’re pro-government, if you’re pro worker, you’re anti-government. And so everything that they were doing, they
were constantly fighting with the government. They were saying you need to change the laws,
you need to do this, this is unfair and instead I said, “Look,
you cannot advocate. You can do whatever you want outside this
room but when you step in this room you cannot advocate for the change in law.”
And instead what we did, we isolated the focus solely on that one
pressure point, the bad agencies. And so over the course of two years we
completely changed the conversation that people had about how to solve this issue. And when we did that, when we
changed that perspective, all of a sudden the governments were
on our side, the UN was on our side, all of the NGO’s came along, because they
realized we were accomplishing things that they were, at least till that point,
were unable to. We were sitting and having like cabinet level
government discussions with various stakeholders like the Indonesian government, the Philippines
government, the Hong Kong government. Meetings that they had never been able to
pull together before because now we were on the same side of what used to
be a very contentious coin. Now we have the luxury, and I think
Poonam is exactly right, we have the luxury of the bad actor not being
the government, in this instance, right? And so we were able to kind of judo
flip the momentum and say “Hey, by the way, we all want the same
thing and so why don’t you back what we’re doing?” And we just painted
a target on a different actor. And so now because of that, I call it our
hub and spoke model of advocacy. I tell our team, we’re not an advocacy group,
we’ll never be an advocacy group, we’re a systemic solution to this issue.
And if people use our services, it’s because we’re going to be better than everybody
else, and if we exist 10 years from now, it’s because we’re better than everybody else.
It has nothing to do with the social mission and because of that we are now, I guess, seen as
neutral partners that anyone, the government, various governments. I think we’re working
with 11 different governments right now, 2 or 3 UN organizations and all of these
various NGO’s because all of them come to us thinking we’re on their
side even though sometimes we’re working like directly counter
to their public positions. Okay. So Karen, how does that look for you?
That whole set of problems? Because international human rights
law will say that, of course, the governments are responsible for
ultimately torture, unlike David’s issue, and yet your engaged with government
rather than confronting government. And so how do you reconcile that and
how do you make sure that you’re not just engaged in palliative
care but actually transforming systems? Thank you. I think going also back to what
Poonam said, we need both, right? It’s not, is it enough? Is one side enough, it’s opening and keeping the space open for plurality and dissent and yet at the same time, we need both, we also need to move in. I think since the beginning this has been
one of the biggest frustrations for the defenders on the ground. Since the beginning of the work that we’ve
begun, time after time, defenders and lawyers came to us and they said, you know, “We can’t find any support because all the funders
say, it’s the government responsibility.” Right? And we kept coming together,
I mean almost what we’re saying. I live in Geneva and we have meeting after
meeting after meeting about, you know, can we talk about, you know, the right
to not be tortured? I mean, this was a passed in 1948, right?
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, right not to be tortured. We’ve passed
every single thing and yet we keep having these conferences where we
talk about how to make it better, you know, how do we protest better, how do we do this,
how do we do that, and actually, the laws are there, they need to
be implemented. And I think one of the bigger issues where
we’ve had to become creative is that, I used to get this response oftentimes
from funders who said, “It’s the government’s responsibility.
So yes, people are being tortured. Yes, the governments may allow
you to come in and us to come in to help support these people by
giving them a lawyer, but we can’t do it because it’s
their responsibility.” And I think that it’s actually ridiculous when
you see people being tortured every single day. And we’ve seen it, I mean, just
even recently in Burundi we had this big huge crazy thing
because, you know, we had over a hundred people who
were picked up, tortured, mothers were calling the office saying,
you know, “My son’s been badly tortured,
desperately needs a lawyer.” And one of the funders didn’t fund us and
when we sat down with them they said, “Because we heard that maybe you work
too closely with the government.” Because the Ministers of Justice had
come to our training at one point, which is the only reason we could stay there. But there was this view that, if you’re
not fighting against a government, if you are working inside the prisons and the police,
then you’re too close so we can’t support you. And there’s a way in which that makes no sense,
because who else are you going to support? And they said, “Well, we actually haven’t been
able to support anyone else in the situation but we also couldn’t support you because we
think you’re in bed with the government.” And I think that that dichotomy, in terms of
the way that we see things, makes no sense if we’re going to move forward in this world today It’s about how do we collaborate, how do we
talk, how do we come together and say, we want to work together on these issues, whether
you’re on the good side or the bad side. You know, what part of you will contribute to
this and how do we move it forward? Okay. Well, thank you. So I had one more
question to ask all of the panelists but it’s the right time to go to discussions. So the
last question was about opportunities in 2017 to exploit in order to help gain
ground for civil society. But I’ll just throw that open instead and
panelists can come with their thoughts and integrate them into the Q&A. So with that,
I’ll open the floor for questioning. There’s a microphone that’s going around
if you have a question or a comment. Yet another lawyer. Oh my God. Wait, are you wearing
blue and grey just like him? Blue. It’s what they teach you in law school. I’m Mark Wolf.
I’m a Federal Judge in Boston. I’m here in my capacity as Chair of
Integrity Initiatives International, which is a very new NGO dedicated to
advocating for the creation of an international anti-corruption court
to hold the kleptocrats who robbed their countries of resources that ought
to be used for health and welfare of their people, education, accountable, because the existing
criminal laws cannot be enforced against them. They control the police, the
prosecutors and the courts. And I want to pick up on some things that
Poonam and Karen said, particularly, and then come to a question. And this
is civil society under fire, non-governmental organizations under fire, but I’ve learned over time that the canary in the
coal mine is often the treatment of honest judges. As Karen said, frequently there are laws on the books
that would keep the space open for dissent. Many countries do not have
admirable judiciaries, they’re corrupted judiciaries, but they’re
not monolithic, they have honest judges. And they tend to be persecuted as a forerunner
to persecuting members of civil society. So in 2012 and 2013 I was working with
a group of honest judges heading the Turkish Judicial Training Academy
trying to make the judges more expert, more impartial and more independent.
The day after the attempted coup in Turkey last July, 2,700 judges were arrested,
including my friends and former colleagues. You can’t prepare 2,700 arrest warrants
in 12 hours in the aftermath of a coup and it’s since been admitted that this
list had been prepared for years. The imprisonment of the judges who can’t be found, despite my meetings with the Assistant
Secretary of State for Human Rights, my communications with the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, among others, was
the forerunner for then later imprisoning innumerable journalists and university
professors and others who would dissent with a very chilling effect. Similarly, I’ve experienced
in Russia, younger lawyers 25, 45 years old, very courageous who’ve been labeled
as foreign agents, lost their NGO’s. In one case, Ivan Pavlov’s American wife
was deported and he almost lost his adopted child. So, while this is a session on civil society,
non-governmental organizations under fire, there are essential synergies between
the judiciary and the members who would enforce the laws to protect
civil society in dissent, and lawyers who Jeremy Bentham said, “The law is
not made by the judge alone, the law is made by the judge in company.” You need lawyers for judges to operate.
So what, may be turning this around a bit, what can civil society do to try to project judges
who are striving in embattled circumstances to give integrity to the promise of the
rule of law and to lawyers who are dedicated to try and make the
legal system work for everybody, including those who are under
fire in civil society? That’s a hard question. Who wants to answer that? I mean I can just sort of briefly say it’s something
that we really are thinking about. I mean, I think you’re seeing the rise of,
in a sense, judicial activism, in the face of the executive trying to sort
of override rule of law. So we’ve seen it sort of recently in Poland
where civil society has sort of very strongly spoken out in
terms of the government’s attack on the constitutional tribunal court there. I think
we’ve seen it in the US where, you know, where the judges who’ve sort of
opposed the travel ban, they have also been sort of backed up by mass
protests and sort of individual support. And I was speaking to one of our trustees
who runs a center around rule of law, and we were sort of trying to sort of
brainstorm and think, you know, what kind of support can be given to those
judges? Is it about sort of bringing them out of the country, bringing them together, helping
them to strategize, sort of providing solidarity? But sort of beyond that I think it’s something
we’re still really grappling with so I’d be sort of very interested to hear kind
of your ideas and other people’s ideas on how we support those judges that are
trying to fight for an independent judiciary. I think that’s part of, actually central to
part of what we do which is we always have round table discussions and we bring in
judges and prosecutors and police together with our defenders. And you very clearly see, like in Cambodia
for instance, from the Ministry of Justice they always sent a prosecutor in. You could see where the support is and also,
where they’re looking for support in different ways. We’ve often begun our work from civil society
contacting us. So for instance, in Burundi, it was a human rights organization that asked us
to put up these Advisement of Rights Campaigns. We had no money at the time,
but we designed it for them, they put it all up and then they were going
to the judges and prosecutors seeing which ones would support them
and which ones they could begin to work with in different ways So I think it’s some formalized structures,
like round table discussions, and then some of the informal relationships
which begin to build. Yes? Thank you. Dixon Osburn with the Center for
Justice and Accountability in San Francisco. Could you maybe do a deeper dive for
us so we get a better sense of what’s happening maybe in India, for example. I know that there’s been a huge crackdown
there. There were some 22,000 NGO’s that were receiving foreign funding. The primary funders were from the US, UK and Germany,
to the tune of about two billion dollars. That’s a significant amount of funding that
then is lost because of the crackdown. And India has taken away the registrations I think
of 9,000 NGO’s and placed others on watch lists. Now including organizations like Greenpeace So how has this impacted… and I’d say in
addition to that, India is the place where I think it was an Amnesty International
survey of attitudes toward torture and the question was: do you fear that if you are
arrested by the police you will be tortured? And India was a place that had a
significant response rate of, “Yes, we think we will be tortured
or captured by the police.” So how has this impacted either
your advocacy, your funding, prior grantees or partners that
you’ve worked with in India? And if India is not the right example,
maybe Russia is the right example. I’d just like a deeper dive on what’s
happening on the ground? Okay, okay. I think maybe I’ll start with
a couple of high level points but Poonam, are you active in India? Not at the trust, but I was… Okay, so we’ll ask you to fill in a little bit. So
India and Russia are two good examples but on the other hand, we can also
come up with another couple of dozen that are equally good examples. India is a little bit misunderstood in certain ways
because of those very compelling facts that are accurate. But one contextual point to
bear in mind is that the number of NGO’s— although there’s been many organizations
deregistered in the thousands, the majority of them were not
active organizations. So, you know, if we want to really do
a deep dive and look at all the nuances. Although, Greenpeace is under serious
pressure, and legal cases and so on, in ways that are most likely politically
motivated, let’s say. And there’s Lawyers’ Collective
which is a local organization, longstanding human rights group,
which is also in the legal process. So they’re very important examples. The numbers can be a little bit deceiving
because a large number of those NGO’s were not active and the total number
of NGO’s is enormous in India. When you say 10,000, 15,000 NGO’s,
it sounds dramatic but it’s a small fraction of the
total number of NGO’s. It’s a very large country. So I just want
to make those more nuanced points. But clearly, there is something going on in
India, and it’s partly new and partly not new, because the legislative framework being
used which was amended in 2010, actually goes back to Indira Gandhi and was
enacted originally for similar motivations. And I don’t think that I’ll go into
more detail right now because I think Poonam maybe can
get to more of the nitty gritty. I mean, the Foreign Contribution Regulation
Act was first well, was amended in 2010, which was by the previous center-left
coalition which had sort of generally had a pretty good relationship with civil
society and it introduced lots of reforms around things like forest rights, land reform,
right to employment, right to welfare. But what they were sort of hitting a barrier
with was with sort of pursuing their economic agenda which sort of
involved support for kind of multinationals coming in and setting up large infrastructure
and extractives projects. And so they had grassroots resistance,
giant social movements blocking that. And when they changed the law, what they
did was, to sort of characterize certain activities as now being political and
therefore, not eligible for funding from the outside, and those kind of activities were mobilizing
workers, mobilizing, mobilizing farmers. But also, characterizing certain strategies
as being political so this is sort of rallies, protests, roadblocks, jail surrounds. I mean, this is like pretty much the bread
and butter of what the sort of mass membership groups and movements
in India use to raise their voice because they don’t have individually any power. So your power comes from leveraging your numbers.
But what you saw happening under the newly, the sort of the newer government, BJP
government that was elected, in 2015 now, is that they sort of took that and
intensified the crackdown, but also accompanied it with smear attacks. So there
was this leaked intelligence report, I think in 2015, which accused sort of a handful of environmental
groups, but also their funders, of reducing India’s GDP by 2% to 3% and
it invoked this idea of sort of foreign agents. And my previous role was working for
the Fund for Global Human Rights which funds grassroots groups in many countries
but had a very well established program in India where we funded mass membership groups working
on labor rights, on land and resource rights. So I think what we saw was, yes, they went
after the Greenpeaces and the Amnestys, but what was happening at the kind of local
level was a sort of chilling effect. Because all of those groups were
dependent on foreign funding and they were all up for renewal and needed to get
permission to continue to receive foreign funding, you saw them kind of shutting down and
self-censoring and waiting to see if they got their permissions. And when
they did all get their permissions, which I thought was a very clever tactic by the Modi
government, because they could turn around and say, “See, you know, they were all just scare mongering.
We haven’t stopped anybody getting funding,” Kind of, you know, international
limelight sort of goes away and then they start going after those groups
one by one. And so that’s what we’re seeing is,
and in particular they’re targeting groups that are blocking their economic agenda
and groups that are trying to hold the Modi government to account and
ministers for past communal violence. And you know, interesting, you know, one
of the things of what’s happening in the US is that it kind of eclipses what’s happening
everywhere else in the world. So you only kind of see the worst practice
or the most sort of severe violations by states now sort of breaking through
into the international media. So it’s Turkey and it’s the Philippines. You know
in comparison, kind of Modi looks okay, India looks okay, but the reality
is it’s not okay, you know, and you have the world’s largest democracy which
is shifting towards becoming more intolerant to the point where the Governor of the Bank
of India, who is not at all a political figure, a couple of years ago said, “I’m really worried
about rising intolerance.” He wasn’t specifically talking about the civil
society, but when it gets to the Bank of the Governor of India sort of raising of, you know,
concerns, that’s kind of where we’re at in India. And so I do think in India, I think one of the characteristics
of the closing space is this idea of contagion. So you see governments looking at what
other governments are doing. Russia is a very powerful player.
Kenya, Nigeria, India, these hugely significant regional and global
players, and when they start cracking down you see their neighbors going, “No one’s
holding them to account, we’re going to do it.” So I think India is sort of very important
also in the symbolism of India doing this and getting away with it and shifting the
idea of what it means to be a democracy. Yeah and there’s a couple other points
that I—one second. There’s couple other points I’d like to highlight
which is you mentioned Russia and Poonam mentioned the political activities notion that’s
built into a lot of these new regulatory efforts. In Russia, that’s the case, so if you’re an organization
and you receive foreign charitable support and if you engage in quote unquote political
activities then you have to declare yourself a foreign agent on all
of your brochures and literature. A very stigmatizing label, of course, which
NGO’s resisted and if you don’t do that then you can be shut down and many have been. So, but what is political activities?
And I think this is a notion that we really need to think about because
you may be getting the impression from the way we’re talking about it up
here, the way I’ve presented it, that the front lines of civil society that are
under attack are human rights organizations. That may be true in some context but it’s not
only human rights organizations by any means. Poonam just mentioned environmental
groups, transparency groups, but also just your basic development
groups, even conservation groups. So one of the organizations in Russia
that was shut down for foreign funded political activities
was a bird sanctuary. I’m just emphasizing this point
because it’s a very, very— we should not be mistaken into thinking
this is just a sector of civil society or something that’s at risk. This is actually across the board,
these are sector wide attacks on civil society and fundamentally on
democratic values. I think we also thought that, you know,
things were going to just be awful and terrible and all activities were
going to stop. And for us, one of the things that was
so interesting is that number one, they didn’t. But number two, we found out how
unnecessary, not exactly unnecessary, but it was like it became so strong. And I remember in India one of our justice makers
wrote to me and I was writing saying, “Hey, listen this is a problem because of this
and this and this, we can’t get funding.” And she wrote back to me like, you know,
“What’s wrong with you?” She said, “Karen, I have learned with
International Bridges to Justice, when we were last talking together
at our training, to never lose face. So we are going to just keep on.”
And you see that we have actually put no money in the last several years and the activities
have been incredible. I mean, luckily for us, we did the national training
first in 2008, so they were ready to go. But they figured out within themselves how
to find sponsorships within the country, they found, you know, even like Lexus or, you know, within the country they could publish
their manuals. They found really creative ways to actually—
and then now, you know, we can’t afford to fly so they go, “Don’t worry, we will Skype you in into this
training that we have.” But for us we’ve seen that, yeah. Okay. So you’re entering the realm of
the new solutions and that’s great. Those are great points to build on. But I saw a hand in the back before
that I’d like to call on. Hello, my name is Cecelia Flores-Oebanda
from the Philippines, Visayan Forum Foundation. First, I would like to thank Ed for,
you know, hosting or facilitating. I think this topic is really timely and
relevant as a lot of NGO’s on the ground are really suffering and under attack. As you mentioned, it’s a whole range.
Because definitely there are crackdowns, there are these perceptions that the NGO’s,
or a lot of NGO’s, is doing you know, hocus pocus activities. But in reality, a lot
of the NGO’s are working on the ground. The only capital that they have is their integrity
and the impact of their work. Not all who are accused are guilty, a lot of
them are politically motivated, some of them just would like to destroy
their credibility and to throw down the impact of the work that they’re doing. The problem, our problem on the ground is that
we defenders, no one defends us, okay. Where we are accused no-one will defend NGO’s. NGO’s is good at defending others but there
is no movement or there is no group who’s taking care of those who have been
defending others to be defended in different levels of this whole ecology
of so-called development. Now the problem is that I think that’s
actually counterproductive, you know, a lot of NGO’s on the ground become really demoralized
and those years of very good experience with just seeing in their own eyes, draining
in the ground and that really demoralized and destroy the impact that they’ve been
working so hard with sweat and blood and tears. So I think that’s a wonderful point and
one that we shouldn’t lose sight of. Taking it from a high level perspective, there’s
25 years of building incredible social capital, is one way we could call that and for using
an economist frame of mind. Social capital around the world which might
be just going down the drain or, you know, I don’t want to exaggerate too much but that’s
what the concern is. That’s what we’re worried about. So, there and then there. Bunker Roy from the Barefoot College. I’ve been
in the civil society area since 1971 in India. And I think if civil society has never been under
fire, there’s something wrong. There are layers and layers and periods when
civil society will always be under fire. But the trouble unfortunately with civil
society is we’re not one. We’re always fighting among ourselves and
we don’t have a common face for civil society. I was asked to write the first Civil Society Policy
Statement for the Government of India in 1984 when I was in the Planning
Commission, and there I said, we should have a code of conduct for the
voluntary sector, for the civil society sector. How we should behave with each other,
how we should behave with government and have one voice and one forum where
we could tackle the government with the issues which threaten us. We never got civil society people together because
we’re always fighting with each other. The rural people wanted the code of conduct,
the urban people didn’t want the code of conduct. The urban people had good salaries,
they had no salaries. Big mess, but I was public enemy number
one because they thought I was a part of the government. I was
close to Rajiv Gandhi and they said, “Oh, this is Rajiv Gandhi’s tool.” So everything of it was a mess. But the fact was that we said civil society
have to get their act together. And we haven’t been able to get our
act together because we have so many ego problems among
the civil society leaders, that we haven’t been able to speak to
government with one voice and they have taken advantage
of that all the time. FCRA. 10,000 organizations—Before
Modi’s government, something very revolutionary happened
which Modi’s government is still fighting, is that we had a Right to Information
Act which was passed by Mrs. Roy, my wife, but she was under fire, but anyway. The Right to Information Act allowed
the civil society people to get lots of information from the government
that they didn’t want to concede, they didn’t want to give, but they had to
under the law give this information. And lots of things came out about voluntary
groups and civil society groups who were penalized because of the lack
of interpretation of the FCRA Act. For instance, if someone protested against
nuclear they said it is anti-government. When they went on marches, they said
it was anti-government. When they said that there was mining
taking place in tribal groups, they said this is anti-government. And we kept on saying this is not anti-government,
this is anti-establishment. Please make out the difference between the two. We’re not really anti-government but we’re
anti this work that is going on. As a result about 10,000 groups lost their FCRA
license because some section officer in a little, little cubbyhole somewhere in the
government of India made a list and no one actually looked at it and
in that list was Ford Foundation, Greenpeace and everyone was horrified. And the Joint Sectary himself lost his job
because they said, “What have you done? You should check your list at least. This man has made it in the little cubbyhole
in the middle of a little gutter somewhere and now you’ve made this into a national
embarrassment.” But it happened and even Ford Foundation
was on the watching list. The trouble was that the civil society just
didn’t get the act together. FCRA law said you must give your accounts every year.
10,000 of them didn’t give their accounts. Of course, they will be canceled. Of course.
They said that you have to actually, simple laws that they have to follow which
they didn’t follow and of course, my wife piled on to me and said,
“Oh, look at your government, look at what they’re doing.” I said, “If they only actually observed the law of the
land, none of the FCRA’s will be canceled.” But this happened and it became a big thing
and then it became very religious. I think Charity International in the US. There was some Compassionate International
also almost lost their license because of this. Somehow, somewhere, civil society have
to come together. Forget the egos and come with one voice and
then they have something to tell the government. We haven’t been able to do that in India. I don’t know about the other countries around
the world but we haven’t been able to get— we’ve asked for meetings with government and
the government just does not see us as one voice. This is the tragedy today. Okay. Thank you for adding that perspective.
We have very little time left so I’m going to take another question before
we turn it back to the panelists. A comment or a question. David Jones from Microsoft. I’m not a lawyer
and hopefully, this is a very easy question. But as somebody who lives and breathes
technology every day, I keep asking, like my burning question is,
can technology play a role to help here? Your thoughts on that? Okay, yes! But let’s get more specific. Can I address that? Yeah, sure. It’s interesting because I am very much
an outsider in terms of perspective and the way that I address these problems,
at least currently. And in a lot of the comments that have
been made, and this is certainly not to downplay the
risks or the challenges and definitely not to downplay the impact that civil
society has had over the decades. But from an optimistic perspective,
I would echo what was said earlier. The reason why governments are opposing
many of these initiatives is because they’re legitimately scared of the effect
and the power that you’re having, right? A lot of that comes because they cannot
control many of the messages in the ways that they have in the past, right?
Whether it’s through social media or other things. So the only thing that I would add to the conversation
that’s been had is, please understand, there is so much opportunity in all of
the very legitimate complaints that have been addressed here today and
especially if civil society not only comes together. That was the reason I started Fair
Employment Agency, because I was so disgusted with the way
they didn’t collaborate with each other. It just made no sense to me, there was
so much overlap in what they did, it was incredibly frustrating. But more
importantly, the idea that, if you’re doing what you’re doing the same
way that your organization did, you know, 10 or maybe even just 5 years ago,
you’re probably doing it wrong. And you’re probably not doing it well, at
least not as well as you could do it, right? And technology is not a panacea, technology
is not going to save everything. But there are so many tools out there and
I’ve been appalled at the way that civil society doesn’t integrate business
solutions into what they’re doing. Again, not just technology, right. Document management systems, client relationship
management systems, right, like utilizing I mean, everything, right,
management principles. And it is shocking to me at how much time
and how much money is wasted. It’s shocking to me. I love that what Michael,
the musician, said yesterday. He said, “Our job is not to convince,
it is to connect.” And if governments constantly see you as
in opposition to them, it’s going to be very difficult for us to
continue—now, there are some times we must oppose, right? But again, there’s a lot of common
ground that can be had. And if you have to oppose the government, then understand there’s common
ground and communication that can occur within other
stakeholder groups. Whether they’re commercial entities like
Microsoft, which brings significant power, whether it’s, you know, stakeholder bases,
grassroots communications, right? Those, you don’t have to go through the
government or other. The reason President Trump is so powerful is because he doesn’t have to go through
traditional sources of media, right? He has a direct microphone to the people.
And so to the extent we can utilize those things, to the extent that we can really capitalize
on those things, I think a lot of your organizations will vastly
outpace what they’ve done in the past because you’re going to find
that they’re not actually impediments but springboards in terms of what you want to do. Okay. Do other panelists want…? We’re
almost at the end, so do other panelists want to say anything? Yeah, just on the technology piece too
that we see this as a huge opportunity for us to actually take the network
and give it a home. Because more and more there have been different
partners who’ve come across the type of work and have said, “We want to give our contribution
to the whole, how do we do it?” And we see it as, right now we have like
390 partners so it’s like, this, this and this. But there’s a way in which, if we’re able
to place this together on the justice hub and everyone can contribute to it,
including governments, if they’re willing to put that commitment in,
we can move it forward. So I think technology is a huge part of
what we see for the future as well. Okay. Do you want to add anything, Poonam? I just want to add an example. So I think
the points you raised around tensions within civil society are so kind of spot on and
it’s part of the reason we see civil society, not just human rights, defenders
development groups. We see kind of human rights and development
groups at odds with each other which allows the government to bring in
restrictive legislation. I’ve been in India where I was
asked to facilitate a meeting, not because I was the best facilitator, but I was the only person everyone
in the room didn’t hate, you know. So this was our own (inaudible) about
sort of 3 years ago and I was like, oh my God, this is not going to work. So I’ll give you two very quick examples
of where civil society have come together. And we haven’t completely fully understood
why it’s working there and not elsewhere. Kenya. So Kenyan civil society has pushed back against
several iterations of restrictive legislation. They’ve done it by forming a broad
civil society alliance between human rights and development
organizations and movements. They were able to show, for example
an issue like the HIV/AIDS pandemic could only be addressed with the support
of foreign funding and local civil society. They were able to target rural MPs
in their constituencies and say, “You know what, you are going to be responsible
for the decimation of education and health services if you pass this bill.” So they, you know, that’s one
successful example. And another one, it’s the last one I’ll make,
is Nigeria, where it’s still I mean, there’s constant struggle and pushing back
against what the government’s doing. But it kind of points to the kind of I guess,
the use of technology here. So there you’ve seen the development
of a very broad alliance that also includes faith groups,
it includes university students, it includes human rights lawyers,
and they’ve all taken on different roles because they have to be
constantly vigilant. So an example is a law was being proposed
that would have criminalized anyone that used social media to
criticize the government. And it was the lawyers who were vetting
all legislation, it was kind of hidden in a bill, they picked up on it, they sent it to the
university students who’re the only people who had time 24/7 to blog, you know,
which those of us in our 30s and above, you know, you have other
things that we have to do. They were then able to sort of connect
with the faith groups who could see how the legislation would also
crackdown on their ability. And it was a mixture of sort of grassroots,
very diverse, you know, civil society movements using
social media, using litigation, and they were able to stop that law being passed.
And I think that’s going to be the future. The future is going to be working in alliance
and building broad coalitions and using all the allies and all
the tools we have to do that. Great. So just to tie that back to
technology and then finish. Of course, we have to recognize that
technology these days provides the tools for expression and association and
these are pillars of civil society. So one thing I think that we need to do is
not lose sight of the fact that’s obvious, which is that civil society and NGO’s
are not exactly the same thing. And it’s obvious and yet, in my world anyway,
we’re constantly forgetting that lesson. So we’re stuck in our models and we have
to think a little bit more open-minded and creatively about how
to build those alliances and I’ll end on that and I thank you
very much for your attention.

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