Challenges facing NGOS in Conflict and Post-Conflicts Situations – Highlights
On 26 February, the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe organised a webinar entitled ‘Challenges Facing NGOs in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations’ to celebrate World NGO Day and pay tribute to the work of civil society that is focused on Human Rights, reconciliation, and the Rule of Law, in conflict and post-conflict settings. As a Member of the Conference, Herminio Correa represented Parents International at this interesting event.
Unresolved conflicts continue to affect certain parts of the European continent, putting at risk the safety, unity and democratic governance of societies and threatening the populations concerned, including NGOs. The Council of Europe must contend with such situations. In these territories NGOs contribute significantly by documenting all kinds of human rights violations, bringing them to light, caring for victims and assisting them in seeking justice. While certain information about the human rights situation in these regions is publicly available, little is known about the situation about civil society and NGOs, the environments they operate in and the challenges they are confronted with.
The last two decades have seen NGO’s staff, individual activist, lawyers, journalists being harassed, threatened, abused, tortured, and outright assassinated. In areas of armed conflict, persons collaborating with foreign organizations, included the most recognized humanitarian NGO’s, are exposed to the risk of prosecution for espionage. The lives and safety of people involved in the work of peace-building NGO’s are also frequently at risk, the authorities either targeting them directly or allowing very vehement discourse against them, thus favouring violent actions.
Conflict situations are also those that NGOs encounter when operating in polarized societies. Growing polarization within societies in Council of Europe member States is endangering democracy and the rule of law in Europe. In political debates, extreme groups amplify the tensions within communities that operate in a hostile climate marked by hate speech, negative stereotypes and prejudices addressed towards the “other side”.
Children and youth represent the majority of the population in most countries affected by armed conflicts and are thus disproportionately affected by war. Their suffering bears many faces – they are recruited as child soldiers, are killed and maimed, deprived of education and health care, and separated from their families.
Sexual violence is increasingly a characteristic of conflict with detrimental long-term.
psychological effects on children and youth.
Since several years, civil society groups, NGO’s and INGO’s play an important role in the in the defence of Human Rights and Children’s Rights and in peace building transitional justice and reconciliation efforts on the territories affected by diverse conflicts.
The welcome to the webinar was given by Anna RURKA, President of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, and the introduction was made by the keynote speaker.
Clément NYALETSOSSI VOULE, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.
This webinar had two panels:
1st Panel: CIVIL SOCIETY in the context of armed conflict and post conflict situations.
Arzu ABDULLAYEVA (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), who spoke about the conflict between Afghanistan and Armenia that has lasted for over 30 years and that has caused profound damage on both sides.
Kety ABASHIDZE (Human Rights House Foundation), who described the situation in Georgia.
Ion MANOLE (Promo Lex), who described the situation in Moldavia.
Sasha ROMANTSOVA (Center for Civil Liberties), who described the situation in Ukraine (Crimea)
Anna SEVORTIAN (EU-Russia Civil Society Forum who described the situation in Russia.
Krenare GASHI KRASNIQI (Regional Youth Cooperation Office – RYCO), who spoke about the conciliation process in the West Balkans (Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia)
Rory TRUELL (International Federation of Social Workers), who spoke about the importance of the work of social workers.
Isuf HALIMI (European Center for Human Rights), who spoke about the issue of respect for human rights in these conflicts.
Laila AIT BAALI (Wo=Men who spoke about the situation of women in conflicts.
2nd Panel: When violence is a part of public life – Civil Society and top-down polarization.
Wielie ELHORST (European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups – EFLGBTCG), Tezcan ERALP ABAY (Association of Civil Society Development Centre – STGM), Ana KOTUR-ERKIC (European Network on Independent Living – ENIL), Goran MILETIC (Civil Rights Defenders), Mirela RAJKOVIC – SEEYN), Piotr SADOWSKI (Volonteurope), Nick VAN DER STEENHOVEN (Choose Love), Alfonso ZARDI (Pax Christi International), Beata ZWIERZYNSKA (Education in Action).
Where each speaker addressed the issue of this panel from the point of view of its specific area of intervention.
The session was closed by Christoph SPRENG – Vice President of the Conference of INGOs.