The Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), through a grant from the Open Society Foundations, has set up a fund – Arctivists – to support activists and artists across the world responding to the outbreak of Covid-19 and its implications for human rights defenders, activism, and shrinking civic and political space.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has put a strain on governments around the world and is adversely affecting particularly vulnerable communities, activists and human rights defenders, including by further shrinking existing civic and political spaces. For example, in response to the Covid19 emergency, the Hungarian Parliament recently granted PM Viktor Orban the power to rule by decree, in a country that has already witnessed considerable restrictions on democratic spaces; in Colombia, shifting governmental priorities in the wake of the Covid-19 emergency have left rural and indigenous communities unprotected, thus facilitating the targeting of their leaders by illegal armed groups; Chinese activists who denounced the government’s approach to tackling the pandemic have been incarcerated for subversion; Algerian civil society organisations have denounced a government clampdown on anti-regime protesters taking place while the world is distracted by the pandemic. These are only some of the challenges that have resulted from the emergency framework adopted by several governments in response to the spread of Covid-19.
At the same time, the emergency has bred new responses, and forms of both local and global solidarity, that either build on existing, positive official or unofficial responses to the virus or compensate for a lack thereof. For example, media activists in Brazil, Perú, South Sudan and elsewhere are sharing public health information in their communities, in the form of comics, videos or cartoons; civil society organisations across Latin America are encouraging human rights workers to participate in therapeutic sessions where they can share their feelings through art, whether in the form of artefacts, stories or music.
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CAHR recognises that collaborative endeavours between activists and artists have the potential to provide innovative responses to the current Covid-19 emergency, whether in a reactive, therapeutic or imaginative form. They seek applications from activists and artists to address one or more of the following three objectives:
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- Document, monitor and analyse events in real time.
- Reflect on wellbeing, both your own and that of your communities/ organisations.
- Go beyond a reactive response to imagine new, alternative futures. This futureoriented work could assess how crisis and disruption open up new possibilities for creativity and innovation, as well as for regressive and repressive measures, and/or build on positive responses to the virus itself (local and global forms of solidarity).
Activists could write a diary, make a weekly podcast, write a blog, etc. Artists could work in their chosen media, to respond to the activist’s contribution and/or to wider developments in their country/region. They are open to innovative suggestions on the nature of the collaboration between activists and artists.
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Paired activists and artists are able to apply for up to £3,000; it is envisaged that most grants will be for between £1,000 and £2,000.
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The activist(s) and artist(s) are expected to provide a timeline for outputs in their application, between now and 31 December 2020. The artist(s) and activist(s) are also expected to submit a short joint report (2 pages) detailing the activities undertaken as well as all expenses incurred, by 31 January 2021.
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Criteria of Assessment
- Clear description of the link between Covid-19, and responses to the virus, on the one hand, and threats to activism and civic/political space on the other, affecting either the artists/activists making the application and/or their country.
- Evidence of a strong working relationship between the artist(s) and activist(s).
- Feasibility and relevance of the project in challenging and difficult circumstances (including consideration of safety, security and ethics).
- Evidence of innovation and creativity – notwithstanding point 3) above, they are willing to take risks with this fund to support work that is provocative and challenging.
For more information, visit https://www.york.ac.uk/cahr/news/2020/callforarctivists/