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Analysis of civic space violations cannot be divorced from economic models and rules which benefit few influential people and co.s, says CIVICUS

Author: Cathal Gilbert, CIVICUS, for Open Government Partnership blog, Published on: 10 February 2017

"OGP must protect space for people power - Before it is too late", 3 Feb 2017

The mobile phone footage may be shaky, but there is no doubt about what is happening – and it’s a disturbingly familiar scene.  A...black protester Jerry Afriyie is punched in the head by a policeman...and repeatedly beaten with batons. Afriyie’s violent arrest...took place...during a protest against racism in Dutch society [in November]. Brutality like this is what [we] call a ‘civic space violation’...[T]his means any abuse, violent or otherwise, which prevents a person from organising, speaking out or taking peaceful action on an issue of concern to them..[W]orryingly...serious violations [increasingly] don’t just happen in authoritarian countries...Our analysis of...these violations...reveals...some surprises. [Protesters were] targeted most often when they sought directly to challenge the state...[, but] police often used [excessive force] to attack crowds of people calling for very basic needs to be met [:] disability benefits, access to land and job opportunities. This...[shows]...combination of political and economic driving forces [is] behind the increased activism on our streets – and...behind...repression [of] activists...[W]e cannot divorce our analysis of civic space violations from the economic models and rules being pushed forward by our democratically elected leaders, which benefit a few influential people and companies, rather than the majority of the population...A quick win is for OGP countries to include...commitments on civic space in their national action plans (NAPs). There is already evidence from Latvia, Bulgaria and Guatemala on how this can be done.

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