Looking Back: No Day Without Us – 70 Years of Human Rights – 10th December

On the 10th of December of 2018, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated. On this day, in Lisbon, the Citizenship Academy promoted the meeting of representatives of more than 20 organizations of the Civil Society of Portugal. This event, “No Day Without Us”, was an initiative of the European Civic Forum, which mobilized several European organizations to celebrate the 70’s Human Rights through the promotion of online activities and events throughout Europe in December 2018.

In Lisbon, “NoDayWithoutUs” happened at EKA Palace (Vila Maria Luísa) and was attended by the following organizations:

Citizenship Academy organized this event with the following objectives: 1. Celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 2. Promote contact between various representatives of Civil Society; 3. To reflect the framework of Civil Society in the protection of Human Rights in Portugal; 4. Enable the creation of synergies between the organizations present.

The event was structured in three activities: 1. Speed Date among the various organizations present; 2. Discussion on specific aspects of the protection of Human Rights in Portugal; 3. Debate on the evaluation of the impact of Civil Society work in Portugal and survey of what to do next.

The Speed Date began with brief introductions by the representatives of the organizations present. After the introductions, people were asked to schedule 15-minute meetings with the organization’s representative who attracted them the most. In an activity lasting 1 hour, people were able to have 4 meetings, through which, the present organizations began to know better the work of other counterparts in Portugal, in the scope of creating links for future partnerships between them.

In the second activity the following topics were discussed, of which the people present arrived at these conclusions:

1. The responses of civil society to violations of human rights in Portugal:

  • Virtual Activism Platforms;
  • Trigger and claim from organized groups directly at local institutions;
  • Creation of capacity building;
  • Organization of meetings;
  • Alliance of Minorities;
  • Protests and social movements;
  • Social networks, alerts and pressure;
  • Volunteering and Participation: values vs. financing.

2. The difficulties faced by civil society in Portugal:

  • Striving to unify struggles / difficulties collectively;
  • Affordable and quality social education;
  • Have long-term articulation, not just in an emergency situation;
  • Welfare (precarious wages, which do not always meet needs);
  • Indifference;
  • Discouragement;
  • Cultural deficit;
  • Identity crisis;
  • Culture of fief;
  • Poor access to resources;
  • Lack of stability;
  • Little openness to novelty;
  • Devaluation of the concept of civil society.

3.The relationship of civil society with the State and with the market in Portugal:

  • It favors some market players;
  • The market in an attempt to maximize profits and reduce losses requires the state to deregulate those traditionally protected themes: work, health, housing. The state executes and civil society tries to reduce the impact;
  • The current hierarchy follows the form of Market> State> Civil Society;
  • The state may have a greater responsibility in the relationship between civil society and the Market;
  • State dismisses civil society, not for the benefit of the market, but for the benefit of government and elements of actors in the monopoly market;
  • State divides to reign, opposing civil society to the Market as adversaries rather than allies, for the benefit of dominant actors influencing it;
  • There is still much work to do between civil society, the market and the state;
  • Greater regulation of the market (in specific situations);
  • Promiscuity in the relationship between Market and State.

4. The achievements of civil society in the defense of Human Rights:

  • Level of active participation in movements. Urban activism is beautiful;
  • Large changes with strong and very rapid impact by communities;
  • Mixed classes (at the level of the sexes);
  • Education for citizenship in public schools;
  • Replacement of people from the neighborhood May 6:
  • Disappearance of barracks outside Lisbon and their replacement;
  • Legalization of homosexual marriage;
  • Domestic Violence and Bullying considered a public crime;
  • Voting rights for all people;
  • Rights to strike;
  • Decriminalization of abortion;
  • Liberation of political prisoners from social pressure;
  • Stop oil prospecting in Aljezur;
  • Denunciation of pollution in the Tagus river;
  • Decreased use of disposable plastic.

5. Errors, failures and incapacities of civil society in Portugal;

  • Difficulty in opening space for dialogue with political agents;
  • Lack of claim of participation space;
  • Engagement mechanisms are not friendly;
  • Investment in conflict rather than collaboration;
  • Lack of long-term investment and sustainability;
  • Difficulties in accessing political decisions;
  • Communication faults;
  • Lack of participation / associative involvement;
  • Lack of notion of the rights and duties of each citizen;
  • Lack of connection between city and periphery;
  • Competitiveness and lack of space for dialogue and networking.

6. How should civil society act to make the defense of human rights more effective?

  • Investing more in human rights education;
  • Promoting social responsibility;
  • Investing more in education for civic education;
  • Lack of political action;
  • Embodiment of ideas;
  • Education for Human Rights;
  • Equality and equity;
  • Demand accountability;
  • Questioning and confronting power structures;
  • End impunity of states, corporations (such as financial and multinational institutions) and security forces;
  • Fostering mutual aid and cooperation;
  • Make Human Rights a daily concern and practice.

To organize the debate, the participants were divided into six groups and assigned a theme. Each of them, after an internal discussion, selected a representative from the group to present their reflections to the rest, in a open circle. In this way, each time, the themes were being discussed by all, taking into consideration the answers that each group presented. This activity was useful to probe the evaluation of the work of protection of Human Rights in Portugal. With the information extracted here, it is possible to establish a strategy that seeks to overcome difficulties and threats and to take advantage of the forces and opportunities of the space in which civil society fits in Portugal.

The third and final activity was initially thought to serve as a moment in which the people present would debate the general assessment of the impact of Civil Society on the protection of Human Rights in Portugal. Taking into account the information gathered from the previous activities, as well as the already established connection among the people present, it was also mentioned the possibility of continuing to promote similar activities aimed at stimulating the contact between Civil Society actors.

In conclusion, the activities of the “NoDayWhitoutUs” have met the objectives set by the Citizenship Academy. The 70’s anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were celebrated through a reflection on the achievements that Civil Society has already achieved in Portugal and the challenges it faces today. The fact that this was an event that had the participation of several associations allowed them to dialogue and think together about their actions in Portugal, in terms of future partnerships, discover interesting projects or even in terms of ideological, political and social discussion. This event allowed certain alliances to flourish, however it is necessary to bet on the regularity of such events, in order to guarantee the sustainability of partnerships and the possible creation of new ones. There is also a need to create close activities so that the space of civil society asserts itself and be better prepared for the reflexes strategies imposed by the market and state.

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