On the occasion of Global Day of Citizen Action in Berhampur at Ganjam Kala Parishad Youth for Social Development (YSD) along with other civil society groups and CIVICUS a world alliance for citizen participation, organized a workshop and a peaceful demonstration on protection of citizen’s rights and create civic space for progressive dialogue with government.
In many parts of India civic spaces are now under threat. It makes citizens and civil society groups voice slow down, restrict citizen’s freedom, make operations or financing for civil society groups difficult; increased the surveillance of ordinary citizens, activists and civil society organizations. Civil society also faces threats from non-state actors, including powerful corporate entities, extremist right- wing and fundamentalist groups.
The Global Day of Citizen Action is global events that takes place on Saturday, May 16th where ordinary citizens will tell us whether they feel free to speak out organise and take action. By participating, citizen’s help us understand what’s happening in your country and help us create awareness about the importance of `civic space’. Civic space exists when individuals and organisations have the freedom to speak out, organise and take action. In other words, to freely express, associate and assemble. The objective is to get people thinking about ‘civic space’, understanding their rights, increasing awareness about the importance of civic space and our need to monitor and protect it. This year is very important because governments are meeting to decide on a set of goals to tackle the world’s most urgent problems (the Sustainable Development Goals or “SDG’s”) and we think that they should include protecting `civic space’ as one of them.
Indian civil society today, standing in solidarity with India’s most marginalized communities, with the NGO sector and donors who support us, affirmed by the guiding principles of our Constitution – justice, equality and liberty. NGOs work both in the welfare sector and in empowering people to be aware of and enforce their rights as enshrined in our Constitution. Such action may include questioning and protesting decisions taken by government in many areas. This work is both our right and our responsibility as civil society actors in a democratic nation. Indeed the Indian government acknowledged this. At the Universal Periodic Review of India at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, the Government spoke of ‘…the Government’s active association with civil society and the increasing and important role that civil society and human rights defenders are playing in the area of human rights.’ Government of India further said that, ‘The media, civil society and other activists have helped the Government to be vigilant against transgressions’.
Therefore we demand
- Put an end to coercive actions against NGOs, civil society and donors, without reasonable cause or due process, or seek to cripple the ability of these organisations to carry on their legitimate and sanctioned work.
- Initiate an immediate dialogue between the NGO sector and Government to address our concerns going forward. Amend the presently opaque FCRA rules and regulations; ensure complete clarity and transparency on provisions and processes, as well as forums and mechanisms of redress; remove all provisions that are amenable to subjective interpretation; ensure their uniform application to all NGOs, trusts, foundations, and societies.
To help raise our voice, Youth for Social Development (YSD), a local NGO working on governance, citizen participation, transparency and accountability in Odisha, with CIVICUS a world alliance for citizen participation have joined a global campaign called action/2015 that asks world leaders to set a range of goals that can really change lives and make a difference to all people and our planet and get involved and be sure to hold your government accountable for the promises it makes.
In this occasion more than 10 civil society organisations, 5 activists, more than 100 citizens including women, youth gathered to raise voice to create civic space. Mr. Pradip Pradhan, RTI Activist, Prof. Jantrana Parikhita, Adv. Chandranath Dani, Mr. Lokanath Mishra, Social Activist, Mr. Mangaraj Panda joined in this program and discussed various issues. A workshop and a peaceful protest organised in Ganjam Kala Parishad, Utkal Ashram Road, Berhampur, Ganjam in Odisha on 16th May, 2015 10.30 am to 2.00pm.