Geneva – At a regional seminar in the South African city of Johannesburg, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief of Programmes and Communications, Muhammad Shehada, delivered two key lectures to a group of activists from ten grassroots and civil society organisations across the region, including South Africa, Mauritius, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Denmark.
Coordinated by Danish organisation Global Aktion, the seminar aimed to address the question of “How do we rebuild strong social movements with real political alternatives, after two years of COVID-19?” Global Aktion brought together more than 50 activists from different countries to share experiences and help establish what it is that organisations across the region have in common, in order to facilitate alliance and capacity building.
Entitled “Safety risk management systems in unstable and dangerous environments: Tools for enhancing efficient crisis management and organisational resilience”, the lecture Shehada delivered on Thursday aimed to provide training, share experiences, and enable the exchange of views among organisations, human rights defenders, and activists working in volatile areas. The session touched on a number of crucial topics related to safety and security, such as assessing, deciding, acting upon and communicating risks; scenario planning and forecasting; preparing for “unknown unknowns”; and enhancing situational awareness. This first lecture also touched on tools towards building high reliability organisations in the face of increasing uncertainty and danger, as well as practical steps to protect activists and defenders confronted with cyber threats, heavy surveillance, and crackdown on dissent.
The following day, Shehada delivered a lecture entitled “Shrinking space for civil society in the MENA region and the role of transnational solidarity: The case of Palestine”, in which he shared the experience of operating as an activist in the occupied Palestinian territories in light of Israeli restrictions, violence, and surveillance. The lecture touched on Israel’s recent blacklisting of six prominent Palestinian human rights groups as well as similar Israeli practices of defaming and harassing activists and international organisations in the oPt. Shehada emphasised the need for transnational solidarity between civil society groups, as well as learning from similar struggles for freedom and dignity across the world.
“It was remarkable to share views and experiences with colleagues from Southern Africa, especially in terms of learning from one other about the striking similarities in these struggles and the shared goal of a normal, dignified, and free life, as well as similarities in the tools of oppression”, Shehada said.
Participating in this activity reiterates Euro-Med Monitor’s strategic goals—to work together with international as well as community-based organisations, and support grassroots organisations globally by providing them with the guidance and technical support necessary to maximise their positive impact. “Just like oppressive regimes around the world are learning and borrowing tactics and tools from each other”, added Shehada, “there is a need for civil society to establish transregional and transnational alliances and solidarity groups”.