Crisis Action update: November 2022
In this month’s update, the latest news from our work with partners on our emergency response campaign on Ukraine, our core campaigns on The Sahel, Yemen and Ethiopia, our UN-focused market responses on Myanmar and Syria, and our strategic engagement on Russia.
Building understanding and solidarity between Ukrainians and Africans
When intelligence gathered by partners indicated that Ukrainian Foreign Minister (FM) Dymitro Kuleba was planning a diplomatic tour of Africa in October, Crisis Action swiftly arranged for African civil society leaders to brief senior officials within the FM’s team, to ensure his messaging engaged audiences and reflected African perspectives and sensitivities more effectively than President Zelensky’s poorly received address to the African Union had in June. The briefing was well-received by the FM’s team. In the subsequent UN General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories, Senegal – one of the four countries the FM visited following our briefing – moved from abstaining on Ukrainian issues to voting in favour of the resolution. Although an intensification of bombing in Ukraine caused the FM’s tour to be cut short, the Ukrainian special envoy to Africa continued to visit all countries recommended by Crisis Action and partners during the briefing.
Co-creating the next stage of our strategy
Also in October, we convened a call involving nearly 50 partners from Ukraine and across the globe, to hear how Crisis Action could best support them to enhance the protection of civilians and speed an end to the conflict. Potential angles identified during the call included: enhancing accountability; boosting the humanitarian response; emphasising peacebuilding and mediation; highlighting the role of sanctions and fossil fuel embargos; and managing the global impacts of the crisis. We will continue to consult partners and allies to further explore these angles and identify whether and how Crisis Action can best engage on a conflict that continues to cause devastating human suffering.
Pushing Ethiopia’s conflict onto the UN Security Council agenda
Towards the end of August, the fragile humanitarian truce in Ethiopia ended, and fighting once again began to escalate. With Ethiopia being repeatedly blocked from the Security Council’s formal agenda, we supported a delegation of leading pan-African civil society leaders – including the Executive Directors of the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Atrocities Watch-Africa (AWA), and the African Leadership Centre (ALC) – to meet with senior UN officials and UN Security Council (SC) member diplomats in New York, and share their growing concerns about accountability, humanitarian access and the protection of civilians in Ethiopia. In addition to these 18 meetings, the delegation also held a roundtable meeting with New York-based NGOs hosted by our ally, Security Council Report.
Pushing for a more effective response to dire humanitarian needs
Earlier this year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) stipulated that Myanmar’s military junta should coordinate humanitarian action in the country, ensuring that ASEAN and UN access will be restricted only to districts considered loyal to the junta. To push for a more equitable and effective humanitarian response, Crisis Action supported a high-level delegation of Burmese partners comprising the Women’s League of Burma, the former ASEAN AHA Center Director, and Progressive Voice, to travel to New York in October.
The delegation met with UN humanitarian agencies, humanitarian NGOs, and the UN missions of ASEAN members and key donor states, receiving clear acknowledgment from donor states that humanitarian engagement with the junta is not working. Building on this initial round of discussions, the delegation is continuing its advocacy in key capitals and with humanitarian NGOs.
Securing backing for an international mechanism on the fate of the missing
In early November, Crisis Action worked with partners Families for Freedom, Caesar Families Association, Impunity Watch and The Syria Campaign to engage key UN member states in support of a new international mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in Syria (as recommended in an August report from the UN Secretary-General). The delegation efforts included a high-level roundtable event at the German Mission involving UN Assistant Secretary General Ilse Brands Kehris and other senior officials, as well as meetings with other UN Missions from the different regional groupings of the UN.
To encourage support from Latin American countries (given the region’s shared experiences with missing persons), Crisis Action also arranged for Families for Freedom and Caesar Families to be interviewed by news network NTN24, which will broadcast a 30-minute special on the issue in mid-November to an anticipated audience of up to 40 million across Latin America. We are continuing to work with partners to push for establishment of the new missing persons mechanism in early 2023.
Enabling Sahelian civil society to inform policy-making at the EU and AU
Throughout September and October, our work focused on supporting members of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel to brief officials at both the African Union and the European Union on the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in the region, and the need to address the root causes of the conflict (as outlined in the landmark report launched with the People’s Coalition for the Sahel in June).
Clémentine Tarnagda of ONIDS briefed key African Union stakeholders at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Addis Ababa in September, and Dr Daouda Barké Diallo of the Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization (CISC) briefed members of the European Parliament in October.
We also shared the People’s Coalition report at the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) humanitarian summit in Dakar in October, presenting its findings with key policymakers such as the High Representative of the AU for Mali and the Sahel, Maman Sidikou, and High Representative of the international Sahel Coalition, Djimé Adoum (who cited the People’s Coalition in his opening address as one the most important actors in the region).
Convening partners in the wake of the coup d’état in Burkina Faso
Within days of the second coup in nine months, marking the latest inflection point in Burkina Faso’s political instability, we convened Burkinabé partners to discuss the impact of the coup on the ground and identify immediate campaign priorities. We followed this with a global partner call to enable our wider coalition to hear from Burkinabé partners, and to discuss what the political shifts mean as we now look to adjust our collective strategy accordingly.
Supporting Nigerien partners in their national advocacy effort
Nigerien members of the People’s Coalition for the Sahel, ANDDH, supported by coalition partner ASSN and Crisis Action, organized a workshop in Tillaberi, Niger, to present and disseminate the recent People’s Coalition’s report amongst regional authorities and civil society organizations, kick-starting a national advocacy campaign in Niger focused on securing progress on priorities laid out in the latest milestone report of the People’s Coalition.
Addressing acute threats at the nexus of conflict and climate
With a giant oil tanker continuing to degrade off the coast of Yemen, threatening the regional economy, ecology and the fragile truce with the potential spill of its 1.1 million barrels of oil, Crisis Action worked with partner Greenpeace to push donor countries and private oil firms to close the funding shortfall for the delayed rescue. Our efforts included behind the scenes appeals to major petro-economies including Norway and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the US, France and the Netherlands. Our campaign to target oil companies and governments included piloting a parody Twitter account (@therealFSOSafer) to generate public attention. In early September, the UN announced that it had managed to raise the funds needed for the first phase of the clean-up; we continue to monitor efforts to raise funds for the next phase of the clean-up, ready to recommence campaigning if needed.
RUSSIA STRATEGIC ENGAGEMENT
Supporting a landmark vote for human rights in Russia
Ahead of the September meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), we supported Russian partners to campaign for a UN-mandated special rapporteur to monitor human rights in Russia. In addition to providing strategic advice and coordination, we secured supportive coverage across an array of key media, including: an op-ed (targeting the French government) in Libération by 16-year-old exiled Russian activist Alexander Lavut; an op-ed (targeting the HRC’s African group) in South Africa’s Daily Maverick by human rights campaigner Violetta Fitsner; an episode (targeting HRC diplomats) of the influential podcast Inside Geneva; an article (targeting the Malawi government) in Malawi 24; and further articles in global media, including the New York Times, Associated Press, and NBC. On 7 October, the UN HRC voted to establish a Special Rapporteur to Russia: the first time in history that the Council has mandated an international monitoring mechanism on a permanent UN Security Council member.
Convening a global dialogue on Russian violations
In October, we supported the Assemblée Européenne des Citoyens (AEC) in a panel discussion, moderated by the Chair of our Board Anya Neistat, that brought together activists from Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Ukraine in a discussion about the common themes and patterns of Russia’s conduct in recent conflicts. Entitled ‘Dialogue Against Impunity’, the interactive event drew a diverse global audience including academics, campaigners and journalists, and underscored the risks of impunity in one conflict driving repeat patterns of atrocities and abuses across other conflicts. The event is the first in a planned series that will inform our scoping of a new strategy for securing accountability and justice for the victims of Russian violations.