Today, the United Nations Human Rights council adopted a new resolution recognising the role of civil society during the pandemic and in the recovery efforts.
We welcome that the resolution (A/HRC/47/L.1) highlights key challenges faced by civil society, exacerbated or engendered by COVID-19 and the response to the pandemic. These challenges include the use of legal and administrative measures to restrict civil society activity; restrictions on access to resources; restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression and increased impact of the digital divide.
Having proved an invaluable partner in responding to the pandemic, it is deeply concerning that civil society is still facing these challenges which, in some instances, threaten its very existence.
Such threats call for a robust response which reflects the gravity of the situation and actively addresses it. The resolution mandates the High Commissioner, with support from Special Procedures, to examine such challenges. While we welcome that the resolution enjoyed broad support, we urge States to prioritise the protection and promotion of civil society and to ensure that civil society is able to participate meaningfully in post-pandemic life.
The resolution recognised that civil society is critical to ‘providing accurate information about the situation and needs on the ground, designing responsive measures that are inclusive, safe and enabling, contributing to the implementation of measures adopted by the authorities, providing essential services and feedback on recovery and response measures, and pursuing transparency and accountability.’
In order for civil society to provide the same critical support during the next global emergency, real action is needed. We call on States to build on the resolution by taking concrete steps to protect civil society by rolling back restrictive emergency measures, providing protections for online civic space and through ensuring an enabling environment and promoting access to resources.