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Four international groups awarded grants to protect civic space

AFSC funds projects in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines

Photo: / AFSC

PHILADELPHA (August 16, 2021) – Today, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) announced four grants to civil society organizations who are advocating for the protection of civic space. The groups are taking action to protect civil rights and liberties during the pandemic, and will be using these grants to implement innovative projects in four locations across the globe.

This initiative is part of AFSC’s Under the Mask project, which works to identify, monitor, and resist the misuse and normalization of extreme measures that restrict civic space or further alienate marginalized peoples. In a time when authoritarianism is on the rise globally, some governments are exploiting the public health crisis to impose dangerous policies that could last generations. AFSC strongly supports necessary public health measures such as masks, vaccines, and temporary lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19. This project’s intent is to identify and counter policies that are excessive or contribute to the global decline in democracy.

Grant recipients include LBH Yogyakarta, based in Indonesia; a collaboration between three organizations, the Informal Urbanism Research Hub (InfUr) at the University of Melbourne, Save San Roque Alliance (SSR), and Metro Manila Vendors’ Alliance (MMVA), based in the Philippines; Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), based in Zimbabwe, and a fourth grantee, whose name is not being shared due to security concerns. Grantees will use the funding for short-term innovations, and will document their advocacy process, including successes and lessons learned, in a case study that will be published and shared with activists around the world.

“We are so excited to support the vital work of these organizations,” said Kerri Kennedy, Associate General Secretary for International Programs at AFSC. “Our goal is to document and share effective approaches to protect civic space and address authoritarianism around the world. The project will contribute to rebalancing the asymmetry of power between the people and their governments, and affirm the important role of civil society in making change.”  

Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Yogyakarta, or LBH Yogyakarta) is a civil society organization that works with people’s movements to determine the direction of political, economic, social, cultural, and gender-just political transitions, as well as to guarantee and protect people’s economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms. They are considering resorting to legal action against the local government for endangering lives by failing to follow its own COVID-19 guidance.

Informal Urbanism Research Hub (InfUr) at the University of Melbourne, Save San Roque Alliance (SSR), and Metro Manila Vendors’ Alliance (MMVA) are three organizations working to protect civic space in the Philippines. The Informal Urbanism Research Hub (InfUr) at the University of Melbourne has been working with three informal settlements in the north east district of Metro Manila, studying issues related to informal transport, street vending, informal settlement upgrading, and community-based organizations. Save San Roque Alliance (SSR) is a small non-government organization (NGO) helping to fund 28 community kitchens in two settlements as normal sources of income have been blocked due to the lockdown. Metro Manila Vendors’ Alliance (MMVA) is a coalition of informal street vendors with memberships across different cities in metropolitan Manila. They work to assist street vendors who have been out of work for several months due to lockdown restrictions. These three groups will use the funding to develop rapid response groups that will challenge the government if they make arbitrary or unfounded arrests.   

Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) is a non-governmental organization involved in monitoring and documenting breaches of peace and human rights violations in Zimbabwe. ZPP was formed in 2000 by a group of church-based and human rights organizations concerned about the high levels of violence after the constitutional referendum. They envision a Zimbabwe where there is peace, justice, dignity and development for all. ZPP will use the grant to develop an app where citizens can submit abuses. ZPP will verify these accounts, compile the information, and bring them to the attention of the government.

The fourth grantee is initiating a project to educate communities about their civic rights during COVID-19 and the ways the government has failed to honor these rights. They will also be supporting groups who want to hold the government accountable for these violations.

Learn more about AFSC’s Under the Mask project to protect civic space and counter authoritarianism at https://underthemask.afsc.org/ 

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The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions.