Stories written by Inés M. Pousadela

Iran: One Year on, What’s Changed?

It’s a year since a photo of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini – bruised and in a coma she would never recover from after being arrested by the morality police for her supposedly improperly worn hijab – went viral, sending people onto the streets.

Gabon: The End of a Dictatorship… and the Beginning of Another?

On 26 August, Gabon went through the motions of an election. Official results were announced four days later, in the middle of the night, with the country under curfew. Predictably, incumbent President Ali Bongo, in power since the death of his father and predecessor in 2009, was handed a third term. Fraud allegations were rife, as in previous elections. But this time something unprecedented happened: less than an hour later the military had taken over, and the Bongo family’s 56-year reign had ended.

Guatemala: Change Within Reach

On 20 August, Guatemala witnessed a rare event: despite numerous attempts to stop it, the will of the majority prevailed. Democracy was at a dramatic crossroads, but voters got their say, and said it clearly: the country needs dramatic change and needs it now.

Cambodia’s Election a Blatant Farce

The title shouldn’t fool you: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest-ruling autocrats. A political survivor, this former military commander had been bolted to his chair since 1985, presiding over what he turned into a de facto one-party system – and now apparently a dynastic regime.

Brazil Back on the Green Track

At a meeting with European and Latin American leaders in Brussels this July, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva reiterated the bold commitment he had made in his first international speech as president-elect, when he attended the COP27 climate summit in November 2022: bringing Amazon deforestation down to zero by 2030.

Guatemala Clings to Democratic Promise

When Guatemalans went to the polls on 25 June, distrust and disillusionment were rife. First place in the presidential contest was claimed by none of the candidates: it went to invalid votes, at 17 per cent. Many didn’t bother, resulting in an abstention rate over 40 per cent.

UN Cybercrime Convention: Could the Cure Be Worse than the Disease?

If you’ve never heard of the Cybercrime Convention, you’re not alone. And if you’re wondering whether an international treaty to tackle cybercrime is a good idea, you’re in good company too.

Climate Change Gets Its Day in Court

As a matter of global justice, the climate crisis has rightfully made its way to the world’s highest court. On 29 March 2023, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on the obligations of states on climate change. The initiative was led by the Pacific Island state of Vanuatu, one of several at risk of disappearing under rising sea levels. It was co-sponsored by 132 states and actively supported by networks of grassroots youth groups from the Pacific and around the world.

Chile: New Constitution in the Hands of the Far Right

On 7 May, Chileans went to the polls to choose a Constitutional Council that will produce a new constitution to replace the one bequeathed by the Pinochet dictatorship – and handed control to a far-right party that never wanted a constitution-making process in the first place.

Cuba: Elections Without Choices

The uncertainty that’s the hallmark of a democratic election was absent on 26 March, the day Cubans were summoned to appoint members of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the country’s legislative body. A vote did take place that day – people went to the polls and put a ballot in a box. But was this really an election? Cubans weren’t able to choose their representatives – their only option was to ratify those selected to stand, or abstain.

Bahrain’s Botched Whitewashing Attempt

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an organisation whose motto is ‘For democracy. For everyone’, just held its global assembly in a country with a mock parliament and not the slightest semblance of democracy. For Bahrain’s authoritarian leaders, the hosting of the IPU assembly was yet another reputation-laundering opportunity: a week before, they’d hosted Formula One’s opening race.

Civil Society a Vital Force for Change Against the Odds

Brave protests against women’s second-class status in Iran; the mass defence of economic rights in the face of a unilateral presidential decision in France; huge mobilisations to resist government plans to weaken the courts in Israel: all these have shown the willingness of people to take public action to stand up for human rights.

Nicaragua: An Opportunity for Democratic Solidarity

On 9 February, Nicaragua’s dictator, Daniel Ortega, unexpectedly ordered the release of 222 political prisoners, including several former presidential candidates, opposition party leaders, journalists, priests, diplomats, businesspeople and former government supporters branded as enemies for expressing mild public criticism.

Venezuela: The End of Civil Society as We Know It?

In late January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, finished an official visit to Venezuela. He said he’d found a fragmented society in great need of bridging its divides and encouraged the government to take the lead in listening to civil society concerns and responding to victims of rights violations.

Peru’s Democracy at a Crossroads

On 25 January, roughly six weeks after being sworn in following her predecessor’s removal, Peruvian president Dina Boluarte finally recognised that elections were the only way out of political crisis. Elections were rescheduled for April 2024, much earlier than the end of the presidential term she’s been tasked with completing, but not soon enough for thousands who’ve taken to the streets demanding her immediate resignation.

India: Hijab Row the Latest Show of Hindu Nationalism


 

 
    In an election season, India’s ruling party has again resorted to the right-wing populist playbook, stirring up divisions for political gain. This time it is the turn of Muslim women, caught in the crossfire of a backlash against both the rights of religious minorities and women’s rights. The controversy over the wearing of the hijab in schools is just the latest chapter in the saga starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party in their quest to consolidate power. Their attempts will continue, as will civil society resistance and struggles for rights.

Commission on the Status of Women: The Streets Have Already Spoken

The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was just launched. Due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main annual global forum on gender equality is once again taking place in a hybrid format – both at the UN’s New York headquarters, where government delegations will be meeting, and online, where most civil society activity will take place.

Teachers and Students: Tip of Iceberg of Mexico’s Human Rights Crisis

Mexico is experiencing a monumental human rights crisis. There is abundant evidence of widespread human rights violations in the country, including torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and violence against journalists and human rights defenders.

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