Marlies Stappers 2

A message from our Executive Director Marlies Stappers

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I would like to wish you all a happy new year.

As we bid farewell to 2019, we are grateful for the work we have been able to do this year, hand-in-hand with our committed partners, colleagues and supporters.  Without you, many of the results we have been able to achieve would not have been possible. We are fully committed to reinforcing our strategy for 2020 and look forward to continuing our joint efforts.


Last year witnessed major political and security developments again, many of which unfortunately further reduced the space for human rights and civil society.  We observe 2020 with much prudence, but we are confident that with our partners we will find or create space to do meaningful work even in the most difficult situations.   We are constantly motivated by the dedication and hard work of human rights activists, civil society organisations and victim groups. They prove, by the day, that it is possible to achieve important results and that a change for the better is inevitable no matter how gloomy the picture gets. 

Impunity Watch operates in a number of challenging contexts. On January 14, Guatemala’s new president Alejandro Giammattei, a former director of the Guatemalan prison system, took office after having won the elections in August 2019. Guatemalan activists and civil society organisations are vigilant, as they anticipate a further collapse of the rule-of-law in the country amidst the state’s increasing tendency toward the breakdown of its institutions and democracy, increasing militarisation and closing of civic space. We are trying, with our Guatemalan partners, to resist these negative tendencies. To this end, we are working with independent justice operators and supporting the building of a strong victim movement.  Meanwhile, the Burundians are expected to cast their ballots in May 2020, as the country holds presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. Burundi’s civil society has been dealing with a serious crackdown, since the crisis that broke out around the 2015 elections including on international NGOs operating in the country as of 2018. We thus look with much carefulness to any political and security developments that could precede the elections and will be ready to adapt our work to the circumstances in order to ensure its continuity as much as possible. Moving on to the Middle East and North Africa region, the explosive situation there will require our full attention as well; particularly in light of the escalation which started in the very first days of 2020 with the US killing of Iranian Military Commander Qassem Suleimani by drone strike and Iran’s missile attack on an Iraqi Base housing US troops in retaliation. Moreover, the ongoing horrific violations of human rights in Syria and Iraq remain a major concern with no clear signs of a near political solution. In this context, it is essential to invest in strengthening of bottom-up approaches and establishing movements of those most affected to build broad platforms that can resist these developments and carry an agenda for real change.

As we enter this new decade, it is clear to everybody that the world is facing serious global challenges which pose a real threat to stability and peace in the world. Among these global challenges are the increasing polarisation in the international political scene, the climate crisis, erosion of the Human Rights agenda, increasing social and economic inequality, and gender imparity amongst many other issues. Facing these global threats, it is impossible to close our eyes and not think about how we can contribute to addressing the problems within this bigger picture.  We realise that there is a need for us to rethink our role within the specific field in which we operate.  We need to define the best ways to be connected to and support a global movement of concerned citizens (young and old), actors and organisations that chose to take action for change. We have no choice but to remain optimistic. Only together we can create a wider space for hope and change. To reach that end, it is key that we start thinking beyond our thematic and geographic silos as individual organisations. As Impunity Watch, we are keen to start forging new and strong cooperation across the different fields (humanitarian, development, human rights and others) and to be part of partnerships and movements that have the strength and the resilience to make their voices heard collectively. Within these partnerships, we will focus on supporting bottom-up movements in their ability to resist the increasing threats against them. Meanwhile, we are adamant to learn from the wisdom and perspectives of our local partners.

Impunity Watch’s ambition is to promote and be part of the afore-mentioned efforts. We look forward to intensifying our cooperation with all of you to that end.

Best Regards,