Last week, 65 countries from all regions supported a joint statement expressing concern about a negative trend of criminalisation of human rights defenders and their organisations.
Reports continue to highlight a growing concern that some Governments place restrictions on access to foreign funding to curtail the activities of associations engaged in various types of human rights work, sometimes extending to environmental protection work in relation to natural resource exploitation activities, and that some States may also target members of civil society based on their foreign citizenship. A common theme in the conclusions of many reports to this Council have been the need for international cooperation and solidarity, including through finance and technology. Increasingly, however, restrictive laws are put in place to target organisations working on issues that authorities find sensitive. More specifically, organisations receiving such funds have even been called as “foreign agents.”
We would in this regard reiterate the call on states in resolution 22/6 of the Human Rights Council, adopted by consensus in 2013, to ensure that states do not discriminatorily impose restrictions on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of human rights defenders, and that no law should criminalise or delegitimise activities in defence of human rights on account of the origin of funding.
Norway is concerned that, provisions on funding to civil society, including domestic legal and administrative provisions regarding national security and counter-terrorism legislation, have sought to or have been misused to hinder the work and endanger the safety of civil society in a manner contrary to international law. This has been pointed out by the Human Rights Council in a resolution on civil society space at the 27th session. We would like to stress the urgent need to prevent and stop the use of such provisions, and to review and, where necessary, amend any relevant provisions in order to ensure compliance with international human rights law.
As noted in one of the reports by the High Commissioner to this session, it is important to support civil society organizations with limited resources to increase the capacity of local communities and marginalised stakeholders. Foreign funding is an important source of such support, and should not be the target of limitations and restrictions.