Open Letter to president of Venezuela regarding the proposed International Cooperation Bill

Presidente de la República
S.E. Hugo Chávez Frías
Palacio de Miraflores, Caracas,
Venezuela
Fax:+58.212.806 3698
E-mail: 
 
Your Excellency,
 
Re: Proposed International Cooperation Bill
 
I write as the Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance of civil society with members and partners in over a hundred countries. CIVICUS works to strengthen civil society and citizen action throughout the world.
 
We at CIVICUS, our members and partners, are deeply concerned about your recent comments urging National Assembly members to adopt a "severe" law to effectively stop international funding for NGOs. We would like to emphasise that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play an extremely important role in national life. Their constructive criticism and quest for greater accountability in public life are important assets for the nation. We therefore urge your government to respect expressions of legitimate dissent and unequivocally uphold civil society's rights to express, associate and assemble freely.
 
We would like to draw your attention to the International Cooperation Bill, currently being discussed by law makers. We believe that the bill has been drawn up without adequate consultation with civil society. Moreover, we are deeply apprehensive that that passage of the Bill in its current form will severely curtail civil society space in the following ways:
 
  • Subjecting CSOs to additional layers of bureaucracy by requiring them to register with the government in order to receive funds from international sources could increase the possibility of subjective denial of registration to CSOs who have been critical of official actions.
  • The creation of an official fund for International Cooperation and Assistance for the collection of monetary grants from overseas and their subsequent disbursement by the government is likely to impede international cooperation activities between Venezuelan CSOs and their counterparts abroad. Moreover, it will lead to government ownership and prioritisation of international cooperation funds rather than democratic ownership by CSOs and local communities.
  • By increasing executive discretion to monitor CSO affairs through the creation of an Agency for International Cooperation, limits of whose powers and have not been clearly defined, raising apprehension of increased restrictions on CSO affairs.

We believe that the registration and funding requirements of the Bill, given their ambiguity, have the potential to breach the right to freedom of association embodied in the Venezuelan Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration. 

We urge you to use your executive powers and influence to carry out consultations with civil society with regard to the need for an international cooperation law as well as the principles that should underpin any regulatory mechanism for civil society.

Sincerely,

Ingrid Srinath
Secretary General
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

 

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