FIDH chooses Johannesburg for its 39th Congress

Press release
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(Paris) FIDH, together with its member organisations, Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa, DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights in Botswana and Zimrights in Zimbabwe, is holding, under the high patronage of Desmond Tutu, its 39th Congress in Johannesburg from 23 to 27 August 2016. This unique event will be attended by the 178 FIDH member organisations, gathering more than 400 human rights defenders from around the world.

It is the third time, after Dakar in 1997 and Casablanca in 2001 that FIDH has decided to hold its Congress in Africa. We didn’t choose South Africa by chance. This country plays a growing and key role at the continental level and at the same time has to cope with major internal challenges, stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President and added, Organising our Congress in Johannesburg means paying tribute to the South African civil society which, in a country marked by decades of apartheid, showed the courage and perseverance to restore the rule of law and which is still fighting to consolidate its achievements”.

The year 2016 is also the African Year of Human Rights and a year of important anniversaries for South Africa - the first democratic constitution 20 years ago, the Soweto revolt 40 years ago, and the women’s march against apartheid 60 years ago – but also for Bostwana - 50th Independence Anniversary. FIDH also will be paying tribute to these struggles and victories for human rights.

The Congress will begin on 23 August with a 2-day Forum – open to the press and the civil society –entitled: Fighting back for human rights: Enabling a vision, implementing a strategy and ensuring the space for civil society as the cornerstone of human development.

The theme of the Forum was decided upon, after the following assessment: through their work and efforts, civil societies have contributed to increasing the respect for human rights throughout the world, but for the past few years, they have been attacked on all fronts: stigmatisation, judicial harassment, threats, assaults, assassinations. These attacks go beyond people, for they target the universality of human rights, a universality that is being called into question by states that allude to specific cultural mores, the fight against terrorism, or economic interests. The purpose of the Forum will be to provide an opportunity for civil society representatives from around the world to meet and discuss how they cope with these attacks. It will bring out the extraordinary capacity of the world movement of human rights defenders to resist and fight.

Over 100 representatives of NGOs from Southern Africa have been invited to participate in the Forum. This region is often described as one of the most stable on the African continent. Yet it is faced with major challenges that are related to security, equality, and protection of human rights. In several countries repressive measures have been implemented to still the civil society while corruption and political racketeering contribute to increasing socio-economic disparities, and violence and discrimination are often directed at women, migrants and LGBTI persons. To respond to these difficult situations, the NGOs of Southern Africa have devised strategies and created tools to protect against arbitrariness and impunity.

FIDH Congress will be dedicated to all human rights defenders detained solely for their activities, including Nabeel Rajab, FIDH Deputy Secretary General (Bahrain), Abdolfattah Soltani (Iran), Razan Zeitouneh (Syria) to mention just a few.

The program of the Forum is available here.

The internal congress will be held from 25 to 27 August, following the Forum. During this important event for the NGOs, action strategies will be discussed and FIDH International Board, – composed of 1 President, 1 Treasurer, 15 Vice Presidents and 5 Secretaries General, – will be elected.

For accreditation to the Forum and requests for interview please contact the FIDH press service:
 Arthur Manet, Head of Press Relations, +27 6 42 84 95 53 (South Africa) +33 6 72 28 42 94 (France)
 Audrey Couprie, Press Officer, +27 6 42 84 95 53 (South Africa), + 33 6 48 05 91 57 (France)

For more information about the Forum and the Congress, please visit :

FIDH is an international human rights NGO federating 178 organisations from close to 120 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has been defending all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. FIDH’s headquarters are in Paris and the organization has offices in Abidjan, Bamako, Brussels, Conakry, Geneva, The Hague, New-York, Pretoria and Tunis.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is an independent human rights organisation with a thirty-seven year track record of human rights activism and public interest litigation in South Africa. LHR uses the law as a positive instrument for change and to deepen the democratisation of the South African society. LHR operates from six office around South Africa and focus on the following programme areas, namely Refugee and Migrant Rights, Strategic Litigation, Land Reform and Housing, Penal Reform, Gender Equality and Environmental Justice. 

DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights was established in 1993. It works in the three areas of accountability and awareness-raising; access to justice and regional solidarity. It focuses on civil society collaborations in the strengthening, promotion and protection of a human rights culture, nationally, regionally and internationally. Key areas of work have included and include the death penalty, indigenous peoples, sexual orientation and gender identity, refugees and asylum seekers, children, HIV and Aids, youth, and protection of human rights defenders’.

Zimrights is a grassroots membership based organisation founded in terms of a constitution, and is registered under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act. It is a charitable, non- governmental, non- partisan and non-profit with an estimated current membership of at least 108,000 active members throughout the country. Its structure consists of the Annual General meeting (AGM), National Council, Management Committee, Regional Councils, Local Chapter Committees and the Secretariat. Its mandate is to promote, protect and defend human rights in Zimbabwe.

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