Stories written by Andrew Firmin

UAE Complicit in Sudan Slaughter

Sudan is the scene of unimaginable suffering. As war between army and militia continues, civilians are paying the highest price. Both sides are killing non-combatants and committing gross human rights crimes.

Myanmar: International Action Urgently Needed

Myanmar’s army, at war with pro-democracy forces and ethnic militias, must know it’s nowhere near victory. It recently came close to losing control of Myawaddy, one of the country’s biggest cities, at a key location on the border with Thailand. Many areas are outside its control.

New Caledonia: Time to Talk about Decolonisation

The violence that rocked New Caledonia last month has subsided. French President Emmanuel Macron has recently announced the suspension of changes to voting rights in the Pacific island nation, annexed by his country in 1853. His attempt to introduce these changes sparked weeks of violence.

Haiti: Transitional Administration Faces Stern Test

There’s been recent change in violence-torn Haiti – but whether much-needed progress results remains to be seen. Acting prime minister Garry Conille was sworn in on 3 June. A former UN official who briefly served as prime minister over a decade ago, Conille was the compromise choice of the Transitional Presidential Council. The Council formed in April to temporarily assume the functions of the presidency following the resignation of de facto leader Ariel Henry.

India’s Election: Cracks Start to Show in Authoritarian Rule

India’s Hindu nationalist strongman Narendra Modi has won his third prime ministerial term. But the result of the country’s April-to-June election fell short of the sweeping triumph that seemed within his grasp. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has shed seats compared to the 2019 election, losing its parliamentary majority. Modi remains prime minister thanks to coalition partners. It’s a long way from the 400-seat supermajority Modi proclaimed he wanted – which would have given him power to rewrite the constitution.

North Macedonia Turns Back the Clock

The old guard is back in North Macedonia, as the former ruling party – the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) – returns to parliamentary and presidential power.

Solomon Islands: A Change More in Style than Substance

There’s change at the top in Solomon Islands – but civil society will be watching closely to see whether that means a government that’s grown hostile will start doing things differently.

Another Climate Victory in Europe… and Counting

A group of senior Swiss women recently won a powerful victory offering renewed hope for tackling climate change. Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the government of Switzerland is violating human rights because it isn’t doing enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Alarm Is Ringing – It’s Time to Stop Silencing It

The heat records keep tumbling – 2023 was the hottest year in recorded history. Extreme weather events keep mounting up. And yet the voices most strongly calling for action to prevent climate catastrophe are increasingly being silenced.

Global Governance: Time for Reform

At last the UN Security Council has passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. While stopping short of demanding a permanent end to the violence, it goes further than the world’s peak peace and security body had so far managed since the start of the current brutal phase of conflict in October. But the time it’s taken to get to this point signals an ongoing failure of global institutions to uphold human rights.

Russia: Moments of Dissent after Two Years of War

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine marked its second anniversary on 24 February. And while civil society is offering an immense voluntary effort in Ukraine, in Russia activists have faced intense constraints. The suspicious death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is part of a great wave of repression. He’s the latest in a long list of people who’ve come to a sudden end after falling out with Vladmir Putin.

Pakistan’s Election Outcomes Leave Many Unhappy

Pakistan’s 8 February election has resulted in an uneasy compromise that few wanted or expected. There’s little indication the outcome is going to reverse recent regression in civic freedoms.

Myanmar’s Military Catastrophe: Three Years and Counting

The military must have expected an easier ride. Three years ago, it ousted Myanmar’s democratically elected government. But the coup has been met with fierce resistance, unleashing a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

Serbia’s Suspicious Election

Serbia’s December 2023 elections saw the ruling party retain power – but amid a great deal of controversy. Civil society has cried foul about irregularities in the parliamentary election, but particularly the municipal election in the capital, Belgrade. In recent times Belgrade has been a hotbed of anti-government protests. That’s one of the reasons it’s suspicious that the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) came first in the city election.

Bangladesh: Election with a Foregone Conclusion

Bangladesh just held an election. But it was far from an exercise in democracy. Sheikh Hasina won her fourth consecutive term, and fifth overall, as prime minister in the general election held on 7 January. The result was never in doubt, with the main opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), boycotting the vote over the ruling Awami League’s refusal to let a caretaker government oversee the election. This practice, abolished by the Awami League government in 2011, was, the BNP asserted, the only way to ensure a free and fair vote.

Sudan’s Conflict Needs Civil Society Solutions

It’s recently been reported that the two main protagonists of Sudan’s current conflict – leaders of the armed forces and militia at war since April – have agreed to face-to-face talks. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African body, announced the potential breakthrough – although Sudan’s foreign ministry has since claimed IGAD’s statement is inaccurate, creating further uncertainty.

Netherlands Latest Country to Tilt to the Right

The Netherlands is the latest country to lurch to the right amid the global cost of living crisis. Its November election saw maverick far-right populist Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) come first. A hardline Islamophobe who’s called for the Quran to be banned could be the next prime minister.

COP28: Climate Summit in Closed Civic Space

The need to act on the climate crisis has never been clearer. In 2023, heat records have been shattered around the world. Seemingly every day brings news of extreme weather, imperilling lives. In July, UN Secretary-General António Guterres grimly announced that ‘the era of global boiling has arrived’.

New Zealand: Political Volatility under Cost-of-Living Crisis

It’s a rapid reversal for New Zealand’s Labour Party, in power for six years. At the last election in 2020 it won an outright majority, the first party to do so under the current voting system. But three years on, it’s finished a distant second in the election held on 14 October. The result speaks to a broader pattern seen amid economic strife in many countries – of intense political volatility and the rejection of incumbents.

Maldives Election: What Now for Civil Society?

Ahead of the presidential election, Solih faced accusations of irregularities in his party’s primary vote, in which he defeated former president Mohamed Nasheed. The Electoral Commission was accused of making it harder for rival parties to stand, including the Democrats, a breakaway party Naheed formed after the primary vote. The ruling party also appeared to be instrumentalising public media and state resources in its favour. Solih’s political alliances with conservative religious parties were in the spotlight, including with the Adhaalath Party, which has taken an increasingly intolerant stance on women’s and LGBTQI+ rights.

Senegal: Democracy in the Balance?

Civic space is deteriorating in Senegal ahead of next February’s presidential election. Recent protests have been met with lethal violence and internet and social media restrictions. Senegal’s democracy will soon face a key test, and whether it passes will depend largely on whether civic space is respected.

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julie caplin