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5 Nov, 2015

UN expert: Curbing civil society spacefor “national security” becoming global trend

NEW YORK (26 October 2015) – United Nations human rights expert Ben Emmerson today urged governments across the world to ensure that the NGO sector be allowed to continue to play an indispensable role in co-ordinated efforts to counter the spread of terrorism.

“A functioning civil society is an essential cornerstone of an open society,” he stressed. “The abuse of counter-terrorism measures to stifle legitimate opposition and to choke public interest and human rights organisations around world is gathering pace, and has become a first rank priority for the UN human rights mechanisms,” he noted.

“In the past three years, this ideological pandemic has started to spread. More than 60 States have proposed or passed laws during that time restricting freedom of assembly, or prohibiting the foreign funding and activities of civil society organisations,” he warned.

“The international crackdown on civil society space has not been confined to those States that have adopted repressive legislation directly targeting the NGO sector,” said Mr. Emmerson in his latest report to the UN General Assembly. “Many of the international and national measures aimed at countering terrorist financing and the provision of material support have also had a direct and chilling impact on public interest groups, restricting the ability of entirely lawful organisations to secure funding or to operate effectively,” he noted.

“NGOs must be formally recognised as indispensable partners in effective and intelligent counter-terrorism initiatives. They have the unique ability to reach out to local communities; to provide assistance in protecting and promoting human rights; to give a voice to the disaffected and marginalised sections of society; to promote the needs of those who are politically, economically or socially excluded; to deliver humanitarian relief in areas affected by conflict; and to play an integral part in the realisation of longer term development goals,” said Mr Emmerson.

“The message of today’s report is that States that make up the UN need to back off and let lawful public interest organisations get on with the vitally important work they do”.

“States need to recognise, in all the regulation that is adopted, that lawful civil society organisations are not enemies of democracy and the rule of law, but key allies,” Mr. Emmerson concluded.

Download the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/70/371): http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/70/371&Lang=E