Partos Civic Space Conference: integrating human rights in civic space.


On the 17th of December, a large crowd of NGOs and Dutch government officials joined the Partos Civic Space Platform in the Hague to discuss strategies to strengthen the cooperation on an integrated agenda of development & human rights. The afternoon started off with three keynotes, after which the attendees joined in-depth workshops to further explore how human rights mechanisms can be integrated in civic space activism.

Plenary session: different speakers on the opportunities of human rights mechanisms 
Ines Pousadela, a researcher and activist from Argentina who works for CIVICUS, spoke about developments in Civic Space in Latin-America. Pousadela showed that the targeted restriction of civic space disproportionally affects certain groups of activists, such as women, LGBTQ+  and indigenous people. She also discussed the unique role that CSOs have in working towards the SDGs and argued that human rights are crucial for having a full-functioning civil society.

Furthermore, Nicole Sprokel from Amnesty International refreshed our knowledge on human rights instruments. Starting from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she discussed different human rights mechanisms that have been put into place by the UN and the EU and which can be used to protect human rights defenders and to promote human rights worldwide.

Lastly, Bahia Tahzib-Lie, the human rights ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held an inspiring speech on the importance of human rights in the Dutch foreign policy. She stated that Human rights are an integral part of democracy, development and stability. This is why human rights must be at the core of peace, justice and sustainable development policy. 


Workshops: In-depth discussions on the integrated agenda of Human Rights and development
After the plenary session, the group split up for five workshops and in-depth discussions.

Ines Pousadela discussed the funding of Latin-American civil society. She showed that resources for local CSOs working with migrants, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders are very low despite significant crises in the region. Maintaining resilient CSOs in the region is crucial as the region remains the most unequal region in the world and accounts for a large part of the activists that are killed.

Liliana Jauregui and Antoinette Sprenger from IUCN-NL hosted a workshop on opportunities and challenges of integrating a human rights perspective in environmental activism. While many environmental activists do not identify as human rights activists, they are often at the same risks as human right defenders. In the workshop, the role, the risks and the potential needs of environmental defenders were discussed, and experiences were shared on how CSOs can aid in keeping these activists safe.

Nicole Sprokel from Amnesty International and Joyce Brummelman from Plan International went into more detail on how they use the human rights instruments in practice. Joyce shared how Plan uses existing human rights mechanisms with the Girl’s Advocacy Alliance on a community, local and national level but also on an international level. Nicole discussed the recommendations of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

Partos hosted two workshops on the new strategic partnerships. One workshop, facilitated by Koos de Bruijn, was on the cooperation between civil society and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The main message of this workshop was the importance of the good relations between embassies and CSOs. Suggested recommendations for both the MFA and CSOs, as well best practices were exchanged.

The other workshop was facilitated by Anne-Marie Heemskerk and considered the cooperation between the different strategic partnerships. Again, the role of embassies was highlighted as a partner to bring together different INGOs and local CSO networks. Also, the need for joint learning was discussed. 


Jeroen Kelderhuis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the final remarks on the collaboration between NGOs and the ministry. According to him, collaborating and sharing expectations and ambitions is crucial for successfully integrating human rights into development cooperation. 

Together, we concluded that that human rights should be an integral part of foreign policy and development and that there are many opportunities for human rights activism to be integrated into the works of NGOs in strategic partnerships. Creating long-term coalitions, in which local organisations and embassies are involved, remains essential in integrating development cooperation and human rights.

Thanks to CIVICUS, IUCN-NL, Amnesty International, Plan International and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for contributing to the conference.  

Here you can find the presentations of Ines Pousadela and Nicole Sprokel.

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