Posted on 14 April 2020
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.
Against this backdrop, and the obstacles to accessing reliable information regarding how responses to the virus are affecting civil society, synergies between activists and artists are more important than ever. For example, art in all its forms amplifies activism and facilitates conveyance of key messages and information, which may compensate for the lack or manipulation of official narratives. Where civic spaces have shrunk, art can provide an alternative venue for activists to broaden their movements and support their work despite curtailed democratic spaces. The imaginative spaces that art offers can bypass traditional barriers that governments may erect in an attempt to stymie civil society activism, for example, by conveying ambiguous or subtle messages. We recognise that the many activists are artists, and vice-versa – as such we will be flexible in how we apply these categories.
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. We seek applications from activists and artists to address one or more of the following three objectives:
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. We are open to innovative suggestions on the nature of the collaboration between activists and artists.
Activists and artists should apply by presenting a single collaborative project proposal that does not exceed two pages in length and includes the following:
While applications need to be in English, activist and artist outputs which are in part or completely in local languages are welcomed.
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. All inquiries and submissions should be directed to Piergiuseppe Parisi (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Pippa Cooper (email@example.com).
There is no fixed deadline for proposals – applications will be considered on a rolling basis over the coming months. We will endeavour to get back to applicants within 2 weeks. Successful proposals will be selected by a panel that will include CAHR staff and associates from a variety of backgrounds.
Copyright for the outputs remains the sole and exclusive property of the artist and the activist. Terms of reference/contracts will provide CAHR with the limited right to reproduce, publicly display, distribute and otherwise use the expected outputs in relation to CAHR’s work, and as an example of work commissioned through the Open Society Foundations’ grant. Copyright will be addressed in terms of reference/contracts developed with successful applicants.
CAHR will discuss anonymity, confidentiality and other ethical issues with artists and activists as they arise in relation to specific projects.