Back on track in a troubled EuroMed region
Foreword of EuroMed Right’s annual report 2021, by the President and the Executive director.
In October 2021, EuroMed Rights held its 12th General Assembly. Although the pandemic forced us to go online, our members showed resolve and enthusiam during three full days. We enjoyed the political debates, the reporting, and the online networking. Still, the key achievements of the General Assembly were the unanimous adoption of a new organisational strategy built around ten goals that we together will strive to reach over the coming six years, and the successful election of a new 12-member Executive Committee – with full respect for gender equality within it – including a directly elected President. Another important moment was the wholehearted welcome of six new members of the network. Consolidated and motivated, EuroMed Rights will face the troubles and challenges that 2022 will offer to our continued promotion and protection of human rights in North Africa, Europe and the Middle East with a will to test new ways of operating.
2021 also provided us with the second year of lockdowns, which in spite of the troubles it created also provided a prolonged opportunity to draw lessons from online work. In particular, we improved our online working group meetings and established new cross-thematic webinars carried by participants and speakers who may not have had the opportunity to participate in a physical seminar or conference. We also established smaller taskforce-based collaborations between members, and gave attention to build new partnerships with a broader range of actors – often reaching beyond civil society actors to engage representatives from public institutions and policy-makers in “co-creating” solutions to human rights and democracy issues.
Despite our efforts and those of like-minded organisations and governments, the situation in the Euro-Mediterranean region did not improve in 2021. The power grab by Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on 25 July, and the subsequent concentration of power in the Presidency cast a dark shadow over Tunisian politics and the model that its transition away from autocracy had been for activists in the region in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Particularly worrying were the Tunisian President’s will to limit the freedoms that civil society organisations had enjoyed prior to his arrival to power, and his decision to dissolve the troubled but democratically elected Tunisian Parliament. Outside Tunisia, the situation was, sadly, not much better. In our General Assembly final declaration, for instance, we put the focus, together with our members, on the appalling continuation – and in some cases even increase – of racism and discrimination throughout the EuroMed region, from the North to the South. Recognising that racism is structurally rooted and endemic, we also recalled that this can and must change. And here, indeed, 2021 did offer a glimpse of hope: Throughout the region, we observed the emergence of a host of vibrant and multi-faceted anti-racist initiatives, combining local anti-racist activism with global calls for racial justice and an end to structural oppression, segregation and apartheid as in the case of Israel/Palestine.
So far, 2022 promises more trouble to come. Since February 2022, President Putin’s military attack on Ukraine has caused massive human rights violations and forced millions to flee for safety. Diminished food exports and hiking prices on basic commodities are likely to increase the risk of domestic insecurity and subsequent government repression across the entire Southern Mediterranean shores.
As we, in EuroMed Rights, gear up to celebrate our first quarter century anniversary in the fall of 2022, we have taken stock of these and related developments. We remain committed to continue using our deep knowledge and experience as a member-driven network to push ahead with the struggle for human rights and democracy for another 25 years.
We cannot conclude this foreword without mentioning the passing of our friend, honorary president, Michel Tubiana, on 2 October 2021. Michel had for decades been a relentless activist who put his knowledge, practice of law, and determination into the fight for human rights, for dignity, and for international collaboration between civil society actors. He will be missed. And he will stand as a beacon of light in our continued struggle to promote and protect human rights and democracy across and within the borders of the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Wadih Al-Asmar Rasmus (President) & Alenius Boserup (Executive director)
You can read the full 2021 Annual Report below or by using this link.