From Mexico to Mongolia, thousands of citizens around the world gathered last Saturday to exercise their fundamental rights to speak out, organize and take action on a wide-range of social issues.
More than 100 events in 50 countries saw a combined total of over 20 000 citizens engaged as part of the `Global Day of Citizen Action’. The purpose of the international campaign was to raise awareness about ‘civic space’, which represents the freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
The campaign comes at an important time, as in many places around the world civic space is under threat from governments and, in some cases, from corporates and fundamentalist groups.
“As citizens increasingly speak out against state and corporate power, we are witnessing a disturbing trend of repression around the world,” said Zubair Sayed, Head of Communication, at the global civil society alliance, CIVICUS. “From gag laws and media blackouts to oppressive police tactics and the persecution of activists, civil society is under threat. Creating awareness about these threats to our fundamental rights is critical for citizens the world over,” said Sayed.
The Global Day of Citizen action saw civil society organizations engage citizens on their rights and, in a variety of different public forums, citizens came together to discuss the state of democracy, civil society and human rights in their countries.
In Uganda, Rwenzori region based Twerwaneho Listeners Club organized a public event that was attended by victims of illegal evictions, human rights activists, political and cultural leaders. Over 5,000 people gathered to openly speak out on the importance of exercising the right to speech and association as a means of bringing to public light their concerns. This event followed past event that were violently stopped by police on the pretext of enforcing the Public Order Management law that limits gatherings intended to discuss issues of public interest without police permission
While addressing the people present, Gerald Kankya of Coordinator Twerwaneho Listeners Club called upon members of the public to embrace the power citizens have through publically speaking out their concerns. He noted one voice is better than 1 million silent voices.
Pictorial from Uganda
In Malawi, young people were mobilised by a youth organisation and took to the streets, marching from Chirimba to Blantyre, engaging with citizens as they went, drawing awareness to the importance of a vibrant civil society.
In Pakistan, families of human rights activists killed for their work, lawyers, teachers, student federations, civil society members and journalists gathered to talk about restrictions on civic freedoms and human rights.
In the Philippines, events were held outdoors and included music, dance, poetry and, on a more somber note, calls for activists to be released from prison.
In Ukraine, a single civil society organisation organised nine events in different parts of the country where they spoke with passers-by on how they felt about the status of their constitutional liberties.
In addition to the in-person events, the campaign reached over one million people on social media.