Out of Darkness, Towards the Light

Darkness to lightThe long, dark year is over. Months of life-threatening illness combined with money problems to make my 2017 a year not to be repeated and best forgotten. It has been a challenge both personally and for the IMAXI Cooperative, which was also down and out for months at a time. The darkness obscured the route ahead, and our important research project on participation in global health institutions, All Aboard, had to be halted before it arrived at its final destination.

It was not the first year in which some of IMAXI activities had to be postponed or cancelled due to our members, all volunteers, falling either seriously ill, seriously skint or just blown off track. Yet 2017 will be the last. The Board of the IMAXI Cooperative has decided at its recent meeting to change its way of working so that a crisis affecting individual members does not derail all of our collective efforts. In short, we recognise that our all-volunteer approach to functioning must change, and that resources should be found so that project teams are supported both financially and materially. The failure of one individual’s health or finances must not bring the collective’s progress to a full stop again.

 This change requires that the Cooperative establish a revenue stream independent of the projects that we develop. We are presently studying three different ideas which could possibly deliver sufficient income to provide some support for our activities and the activists who work on them. This would be a major relief as IMAXI has tried to function only through our own donations since it was established in 2010. Since we are all poor, living with disabilities or diseases, this system may have been appropriate to ‘start-up’, but it is no longer workable. So we are down in the IMAXI Forge, designing some prototypes for our own use. In the next few weeks we will decide which of these would work best.

After a year often derailed in the darkness, we are now beginning to roll forward. We can not only see the light at the end of this long tunnel, but can almost breathe the fresh air that awaits us. From full stop to full speed ahead, soon.

Defend Civil Society

Stop_AttackCS_203_pxDefend Civil Society
I had an e-mail today from the Lawyers Collective in New Delhi (see attached pdf) that outlined the Indian Government’s campaign to stifle their work defending human rights. The Lawyers Collective are an NGO that for decades has fought for justice for people living with HIV, women’s rights and other issues that affect folks in poor communities across India. Moreover, they have been fighting Big Pharma in court to assure access to affordable generic medicines for people everywhere.

Also today, a dozen activists from an NGO in Bangkok were jailed for handing out leaflets urging people to vote no in a referendum on the draft Thai constitution, a daily scene from the ongoing crack-down on civil society by the ruling military regime.

Every day I hear of another civil society organisation (CSO) in Asia, Africa, Europe or in the Americas that is being threatened and attacked by their governments, in an effort to close down these groups that provide a voice for the marginalised and that try to hold the authorities to account. Governments are erecting legal and administrative barriers, making it more difficult for civil society organisations who receive foreign support and funding to operate. In many countries, human rights NGOs are restricted when they attempt to hold public gatherings, express their views or set up new organisations. Governments have passed new regulations that make it impossible to operate, others arrest and detain activists, while a few have been implicated in torture and murder, as in the case of the NGO COPINH in Honduras recently.

Civil Society is under threat around the world, and this is a serious menace to all people that value democracy, accountability and human rights. Some governments have long hoped that activists would just disappear, but now they are taking action to close down organizations and stop the participation of individuals that are associated. This new repression is working — in face of the all-powerful state apparatus of control, many are forced to stop activities on issues or programs that the government or its allies find troublesome.

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