Shrinking Civic Space

Helen (CFP Cape Verde)

Hello, good afternoon, I hope all of you are well. Let me introduce Mr Irwin Iradukunda, an activist involved in the shrinking civic space with a background on youth, LGBT and sex workers issues. He was a speaker leader on the main stage at One Young World summit (held in the Hague this week). Can you introduce yourself please?

I am Irwin Iradukunda – I am a Human Rights Defender whose experience expands to the restrictions in terms of civic participation, mobilizing and actions. In that very spectrum, LGBT organizing becomes quite tough/impossible in the Sub-saharan response to end HIV because of increasing criminalization of same-sex relationships, despite the worsening HIV prevalence amongst LGBT and sex workers. The denial to register groups affects the community mobilisation and outreach needed to test and treat the most vulnerable population on HIV. Moreover, I am a member of CIVICUS, an organization that works on the civic space globally.


What is the most challenge aspect of your area of work?

In countries where youth are the larger part of the population, more exposed to new HIV infections and least developed, there is a need to make sure that we create conditions that are enabling all the youth to achieve their full potential, while ensuring that we have more healthy communities/youth that would take in full the development of our countries


How is the engagement of the others institution on this work, because to create condition you really need resource?

My experience at the One Young World was moving in terms of engagement and interactions with the other delegates, but also with my counsellor – long time activist and Secretary General of Amnesty Kumi Naidoo. So, if for instance I take the example of my country, Burundi – which is the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, and has been targeting Human Rights Defenders for speaking out on gross human rights violations, restraining/deregistering/freezing bank accounts of human rights organizations (including LGBT and sex workers’ organizations) – the LGBT/Sex workers label does not mean anything anymore, because simply as a human rights organisation/defender you cannot operate safely in my country. This is the reason for my actual focus on the shrinking civic space. Because of the closure from the governmental bodies, the remaining/more conclusive options include the regional and international human rights bodies which I regularly engage with. Presently I am at the 63rd ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Paul (Steering Group)

If you are saying that shrinking civil space is a consequence of an authoritarian approach by national leaders how do you change the system? What should be the first steps?

I think that it is time to be rational and thoughtful as young activists operating in hostile environments/gross human rights violations zones. If we think we cannot change the actual systems, we should think to become public servants and run for people representatives at House Assemblies. Be part of the policy making


At the OYW it was mentioned several times that youth must run to become representative at House Assemblies. This way we can change by steps the system. Most importantly, we must act with the resources and tools we have, and through that way we can improve. I want to thank you Irwin for you availability. NAYD CFPs wish you all the best in your work. Keep moving ahead!

Thank you for having me here. If you have more comments/questions you are welcome. I would be thrilled to hear about your work as well at your earliest convenience.

Irwin can be contacted at 

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