Democracy And Human Rights Festival organised by Forum SYD at the Kenya National Theater on 31st of January and 1st of February of 2018 supported by the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi.
Speech by the ambassador of Sweden to Kenya Anna Jardfelt
Forum SYD works to strengthen marginalized people who organize to claim their rights. This is done through strengthening civil society role in championing for democracy and human rights and the realization of gender equality for sustainable development.
The CSO sector has succeeded in pushing for reforms when they come together and it has demonstrated that it is possible to be the alternative voice when it comes to reforms and citizens agenda. The CSO has already played a key role in reforms in Kenya, and has a huge potential to be a critical player in pushing for democratic culture and respect for human rights depending on how it engages with the national government and works with county governments in the interests of the public.
Wajibu Wetu programme works with media, cultural and gender focused civil society organizations to reach out to a critical mass of right-holders in order to deepen democracy, strengthen inclusive citizen participation and accountability while at the same time bringing gender mainstreaming at the forefront of the governance agenda in Kenya.
WajibuWetu first phase has demonstrated that the space to engage exists especially through various cadres of government — all the way from grassroots to the national level. CSO need to carry this momentum to broaden its scope from national level to the grassroots where critical mass of right holders engages.
Despite these achievements, Kenyan CSOs like their counterparts in the region are increasingly facing the challenge of hostile operating environment due to the state trying to manipulate the regulatory laws with the purpose of controlling the sector. The shrinking civic state for CSOs, media and citizens in general is a huge challenge for this sector to effectively carry out its mandate.
WajibuWetu will continue to work with the new frontier of cultural, media and art actors who excellently employed innovative advocacy mechanisms to advocate for a democratic culture, human rights and gender equality.
Culture interventions have demonstrated concretely how to effectively address both the economic and human rights dimensions at the same time, while providing solutions to complex development issues in an innovative and multisectoral manner. Indeed, culture has a transformative power on existing development approaches, helping to broaden the terms of the current development debate and to make development much more relevant to the needs of people. Supporting cultural actors engaged in innovatively promoting human rights and democracy is crucial to expand civic space to engage and protect the rights of marginalized groups.
Activism behind art and culture (‘Artivism’) is a growing area of advocacy in various parts of the world. Artivism when well utilised can lead to the creation of free thinking society, with responsive institutions and freedom of expression which are currently curbed to an extent. The growing trend of youth engaging in creative art and music pieces expressing injustices, discrimination, rights of women from their own point of view, offers great potential for tapping on a growing caucus in promoting sustainable development and gender equality.
The use of community radio in WajibuWetu Programme has introduce plural voices to the media, to deliver development messages, and to empower communities to take charge of their own information needs and to develop appropriate formats for meeting them. Community radios like Kalya FM and Wajir Community Radio have for instance been effective instruments for promoting grassroots democracy by airing local issues, providing an alternative source of information to official channels, and reflecting ethnic and linguistic diversity, mostly to marginalized communities.
Artivism is also fast emerging as a driver of democratisation especially in regions coping with shrinking space due to extreme state hostile operating environment of for civil society. It enables and encourages citizens to express their views in the public sphere, fomenting open and inclusive public discourse. The arts, like the media, are also a mouthpiece with which civil society holds duty bearers to account.
Democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the active participation of citizens.