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Open Society Foundations;
Despite deep concerns about the future of democracy, people in Central and Eastern Europe retain a strong attachment to civil society and faith in the freedoms achieved with the collapse of Communism, according to States of Change: Attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, a report from the Open Society Foundations.
Based on polling by YouGov conducted in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, States of Change provides a snapshot of current opinion on democracy, freedom of speech, the market economy, and the media in the former Eastern Bloc and Germany.
Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York;
After 1990, US and European foundations and government agencies invested in a series of Partnerships and Trusts to support civil society in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, the Balkans and the Black Sea regions. Analyzing the long-term impact of these investments is crucial, especially as many politicians across these regions increase their anti-civil society rhetoric. Three long-time US foundation staff look back at the legacy and impact of this funding and derive a series of lessons for practitioners seeking to understand how best to sustain civil societies for the long term.
Rockefeller Archive Center;
The ascendance of a norm of non-violent protest or "civil resistance" against a government or occupying force may, at first, seem self-evident. As modern states have come to attain overwhelming military and policing powers over their populations, the idea of using violent means to oppose a regime seems ineffective, at best, and dangerous, at worst. Yet, the near total embrace of and insistence on non-violence should not be considered a foregone conclusion. They must be examined historically so as to understand how people across time and space have supported what was fundamentally a radical ideology of resistance to inequality, colonialism, and political repression.
This project centers on the question of how non-violence became a norm for resistance and struggle. It focuses on the potential entanglement of two processes of transformation: the Black American freedom struggle and the regime changes in East Central Europe in 1989, that are inexorably linked to non-violence or peaceful transition. It considers how the "other" transatlantic relationship, between Black Americans and eastern Europeans during the Cold War, shaped opposition politics in East Central Europe. This project places a special emphasis on the intellectual roots, social organization, and tactical methods of non-violent political opposition and peace movements in Hungary from approximately 1947 to 1990. It will also pay special attention to how the socialist ideal of revolutionary action changed over time, as the needs of socialists states changed. These changes then required a reformulation of what type of behavior fit into the framework of communist and anti-communist revolutionary activity, but also a reformulation of masculinized heroism that butted heads with older tropes of the muscular industrial worker and the defiant freedom fighter.
Open Society Foundations;
The 17th edition of the ScholarForum showcases a diverse, thoughtful range of articles from the Open Society Scholarship Programs' community of grantees and alumni. This year's publication has a topic focus of social movements, and a geographical view on Eastern Europe. Many of the articles published exhibit a melding of these two foci, especially as contributors explore the impact of a social movement within the borders of Ukraine.
This edition includes an array of highly interesting abstracts and longer research pieces within the Academic Showcase section, which highlights the rigorous work Scholarship Programs' grantees are pursuing. It also features short vignettes on the current professional lives of a selection of alumni in the Alumni Updates section.
Open Society Foundations;
Across Central and Eastern Europe, hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities are excluded from full participation in society—from education and employment, to housing and marriage. Not all countries with inclusive policies have transformed these into meaningful action.
Following the European Union's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, member states must align their policies with their practices to ensure that the human rights of people with disabilities are respected. In 2010 the European Parliament adopted the European Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which established a framework to achieve this goal.
This publication by the European Network on Independent Living is a resource for state governments and civil society involved in the development of national disability policies and strategies. It proposes priorities and steps for governments to take to protect the human rights and full social inclusion of people with disabilities. It features an annex of resources that includes a descriptive list of all international and European legal and policy documents relevant to people with disabilities.
Freedom on the Net 2013 is the fourth report in a series of comprehensive studies of internet freedom around the globe and covers developments in 60 countries that occurred between May 2012 and April 2013. Over 60 researchers, nearly all based in the countries they analyzed, contributed to the project by researching laws and practices relevant to the digital media, testing the accessibility of select websites, and interviewing a wide range of sources, among other research activities. This edition's findings indicate that internet freedom worldwide is in decline, with 34 out of 60 countries assessed in the report experiencing a negative trajectory during the coverage period. Broad surveillance, new laws controlling web content, and growing arrests of social-media users drove this overall decline in internet freedom in the past year. Nonetheless, Freedom on the Net 2013 also found that activists are becoming more effective at raising awareness of emerging threats and, in several cases, have helped forestall new repressive measures.
Civil society is increasingly coming under assault around the world, as authoritarian governments grow more bold and sophisticated in stifling independent groups that monitor elections, expose corruption, or otherwise give citizens a voice in how they are governed. In response, senior U.S. officials have reaffirmed their support for universal rights, including freedom of association, while mid-level officials have criticized specific abuses against civil society. However, only modest U.S. government efforts have dealt systematically with the global nature of the crackdown on civil society. This weak U.S. response to the crackdown hurts U.S. interests and undermines U.S. credibility abroad. The U.S. government needs to respond to the threats against civil society more forcefully.
To curb the global crackdown, the United States needs to systematically oppose efforts by authoritarian governments to control civic space, take vigorous political and diplomatic measures to support civil society organizations that come under threat, and get around government restrictions designed to isolate local organizations from the international community. Effective U.S. policy to defend civil society needs to respond comprehensively to the global nature of the crackdown and, at the same time, turn the tide in key countries where repression of civil society has significant regional repercussions. While bipartisan collaboration is critical to make such policy effective, a strong U.S. response to the global crackdown on civil society must begin in the White House.
Open Society Foundations;
A hepatitis C epidemic fuelled by the "war on drugs" is sweeping amongst injecting drug users globally, says a new landmark report released today by the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Of the 16 million people who inject drugs around the world, an estimated 10 million are living with hepatitis C. The report, entitled "The Negative Impact of the War on Drugs on Public Health: The Hidden Hepatitis C Epidemic," condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of hepatitis C infection and other drug war harms.
Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that repressive drug law enforcement practices force drug users away from public health services and into hidden environments where hepatitis C and HIV risk become markedly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug users also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic.
"Hepatitis C has to be one of the most grossly miscalculated diseases by governments on the planet," said Commissioner Michel Kazatchkine, who is also the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. "It is a disgrace that barely a handful of countries can actually show significant declines in new infections of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs."
The hepatitis C virus is highly infectious and easily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. It therefore disproportionately impacts upon people who inject drugs, and is more than three times more prevalent than HIV among this population. In some of the countries with the harshest drug policies, over 90 percent of people who inject drugs are living with hepatitis C, with highest numbers reported in China (1.6 million people), the Russian Federation (1.3 million people), and the USA (1.5 million people).
Globally, most HIV-infected people who inject drugs are also living with a hepatitis C infection. The hepatitis C virus causes debilitating and fatal disease in around a quarter of those who are chronically infected, and is an increasing cause of premature death among people who inject drugs. Harm reduction services—such as the provision of sterile needles and syringes and opioid substitution therapy—can effectively prevent hepatitis C transmission among people who inject drugs, provided they are accessible and delivered early and at the required scale.
"The war on drugs is a war on common sense," said Commissioner Ruth Dreifuss, who is also the former President of Switzerland. "Repressive drug policies are ineffective, violate basic human rights, generate violence and expose individuals and communities to unnecessary risks. The Hepatitis C epidemic, totally preventable and curable, is yet another proof that the drug policy status quo has failed us all miserably."
This is the third report published by the Global Commission, the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for drug policy reform, including alternatives to incarceration, greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use, decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation of drugs. Released in June 2011, its first report, War on Drugs, generated unprecedented media coverage and catalyzed international debate about the urgent need for a paradigm shift on the global drug prohibition regime. The second report, The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS, was published in June 2012 in advance of the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. and was successful on exposing the links between the HIV pandemic and the criminalization of drug use.
This report explores and compares access to effective defence in criminal proceedings in Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine. It finds that people suspected or accused of crimes in the five countries are frequently unaware of their rights, and routinely prevented from mounting an effective defense.
Similar results were produced by an earlier 2010 study that covered nine European countries. The two studies together have identified the right to legal representation and legal aid as a recurring weak point in many criminal justice systems in Europe, and make detailed suggestions for setting overall EU standards on these issues.
The new study was based on a research project conducted under the framework of the Legal Aid Reformers Network (LARN) with financial support from the Human Rights and Governance Grants Program of the Open Society Foundations and implemented by the Soros Foundation–Moldova, in cooperation with Open Society Institute–Sofia, Open Society Georgia Foundation, International Renaissance Foundation–Ukraine, and the Open Society Justice Initiative.
The Oak Foundation child-abuse programme has funded and supported a range of civil society actors over the course of the last ten years, with the aim of reducing the incidence of the sexual exploitation of children, focusing primarily on work in East Africa, Eastern and Central Europe, Brazil and India. The Foundation is committed to expanding this work, focusing 50 percent of resources over the next five years, within two priority areas:
* The elimination of the sexual exploitation of children;
* The positive engagement of men and boys in the fight against the sexual abuse of children.
Under the first of these priorities Oak Foundation requested Knowing Children to produce two documents to guide a strategic-planning meeting of the child-abuse team in mid-October 2011:
* Reducing societal tolerance of sexual exploitation of children;
* Preventing children's entry into all forms of sexual exploitation.
Open Society Foundations;
The Project Generating Facility (PGF) is one intervention of the Making the Most initiative (MtM) which is aimed at building capacity of stakeholders at the local level to articulate Roma concerns as part of the local development agenda and to access EU funding in order to address these concerns. This MtM tool is currently operational in Central-Eastern Europe and in South-Eastern Europe region.
Open Society Foundations;
For many people across the world, using financial services is a simple part of their daily routine. From depositing salary checks to applying for consumer loans, banking activities are basic and essential features of life in contemporary society.
Yet there are still large numbers of people in the world who have no access to banking services. In Central and Eastern Europe, Roma make up a significant number of this "unbanked" population. The lack of access to financial services further exacerbates the already dire economic conditions found in many Roma communities.
Financial inclusion—making basic financial services such as savings, payments, and credit accessible—can help improve poor people's lives and contribute to the growth of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises that can provide self-employment for many.
Using financial inclusion to give Roma access to the basic and vital services offered by banks is as important a component of Roma inclusion as employment, housing, health or education. In order to truly make a difference in the lives of Roma communities across Central and Eastern Europe, advocates and policymakers must make financial inclusion a well-integrated element of Roma inclusion efforts