CIVICUS on behalf of the Civic Space Initiative  welcomes the High Commissioner’s presentation of its landmark report on protecting and promoting civil society space.

We are seriously concerned by the growing implementation gap between states’ international human rights obligations and commitments, including those set out in HRC Resolution 27/31, and national realities facing civil society. CIVICUS has documented serious human rights violations against civil society in 109 countries in 2015. ICNL has documented 153 restrictive legislative initiatives since 2012. This underscores the urgency of an international response to prevent the closing of civic space.

We urge all states to develop national action plans, with the full and effective participation of civil society, to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendations, including the key needs for:

  1. A conducive legal framework and access to justice, ensuring that all security measures, including counter-terrorism measures, comply with international human rights law and standards;
  2. High-level political support for the independence and diversity of civic activity, ensuring accountability for any acts of intimidation or reprisals; 
  3. Access to information, including through enacting clear laws, regulations and policies that guarantee the proactive disclosure of information held by public bodies, and, where identified in the report, for access to information held by private bodies;
  4. Right to participation in public decision-making processes recognised in legislation but also meaningfully enforced in practice
  5. Long-term support and resources for civil society organisations, including guaranteeing for civil society a right of access to resources as a part of the right to freedom of association.

We urge all states to support a robust and progressive follow-up resolution on civil society space at this session, fully incorporating these standards. 

Against these benchmarks, states must use existing international and regional human rights mechanisms, including this Council’s UPR and Item 3 General Debates, to demonstrate what they are doing to safeguard civic space.  

Civic space must also be guaranteed within the UN and other international and regional bodies, which must adopt transparent practices and ensure effective civil society participation. In particular, we call on states to ensure the ECOSOC Committee on NGOs ceases unduly preventing NGOs from obtaining accreditation.

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