Time to react – Conference June 2017 (English version)

Time to react – Creating an enabling environment for civil society

International conference at the German Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, 1 June 2017

Location: Library at the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), Berlin
Address: Werderscher Markt 1, 10117 Berlin
Date: Thursday, 1 June 2017 , 2 pm – 7 pm, doors open at 1:30 pm
Languages: German/English with simultaneous interpreting

Organized by Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office

More information: Sarah Kohrt, project manager LGBTI-Plaform Human Rights, Email: sarah.kohrt(at)hirschfeld-eddy-stiftung.de

Blog articles 

Despite positive developments and stronger movements toward democracy in many countries, the opposite tendency is also evident on a global scale. Civil societies are under threat from actions taken not only by authoritarian but also by democratic governments.

“Before I knew what that ? `shrinking space’ was supposed to mean, our organization was affected“, says Henri Tiphagne, Director of People’s Watch in India. Many different types of action are restricting civil society. These include legally enacted legislation or administrative regulations that affect women’s rights groups, foundations, human rights organizations, and land rights and environmental protection work. They also include relatively new laws designed to protect national values or identities, which are used to criminalize vaguely defined unpopular political action. NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the registration requirements in many countries. New laws also make it harder to receive funding from abroad.

Organizations for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) have long faced registration challenges, especially in countries that criminalize homosexual acts. Russia´s new `anti-propaganda laws´ make any positive mention of homosexuality – even for health education – a punishable offense. Less well known internationally are anti-NGO laws such as those in Uganda or laws that seek to uphold “national dignity”. These especially affect LGBTI organizations which are frequently their primary target.

It is time to come together to develop counter-strategies that reflect and incorporate the special role of LGBTI organizations. This conference focuses on foreign policy, development cooperation, NGOs, and donors. The aim is to formulate questions and discuss possible solutions. What alliances, good examples, and ideas already exist that can help both foreign policy and development cooperation react to the shrinking space for civil society?

Time to react – Creating an enabling environment for civil society

Conference program

2:00 - 2:15 pm Welcome

Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, Federal Foreign Office
Axel Hochrein, Executive Board Member, Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation

2:15 - 3:00 pm Analysis and characteristics of the closing space

Introductory presentation: “Characteristics of the closing space”
Iva Dobichina, Open Society Foundations

Research presentation: "The Perfect Storm – The closing spaces for LGBT civil society in Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Kenya, and Hungary”
Matthew Hart, Global Philanthropy Project

Moderator: Klaus Jetz, Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation

3:00 - 4:45 pm Practical examples 

Botswana: LEGABIBO wins court case on right to register
Monica Tabengwa (video message), Director of Pan Africa ILGA (PAI), on freedom of association

Russia: Anti-NGO legislation and its dimensions
Gulya Sultanowa, Side by Side St. Petersburg, on the LGBT Community as vanguard and victim

Eastern Europe and Central Asia: focus on Trans Rights
Julia Ehrt, Transgender Europe (TGEU)

Uganda: Anti-NGO laws
Kasha Jaqueline Nabagesera, Co-Founder FARUG Uganda, with a call to build alliances

Moderator: Sarah Kohrt, Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation

4:45 - 5:30 pm Coffee break

5:30 - 7:00 pm Panel discussion: Where to go from here? How to respond without doing harm? Promising counter-strategies and alliances

Dr. Bärbel Kofler, German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights
Dr. Heike Kuhn, Head of Human Rights Division, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Barbara Unmüßig, Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, President
Björn van Roozendaal, ILGA-Europe, Programmes Director

Moderator: Dr. Annette Weber, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

7:00 - 8:00 pm Reception with beverages and snacks