Strengthening of a Pluralistic Civil Society

Thank you, Mr. President.  This statement is read on behalf of a group of 57 states. [Note: Additional states joined after the statement was read. The full list is provided below.]

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action (VDPA) recommends actions to “promote democracy, development and human rights,” with special emphasis on “strengthening of a pluralistic civil society and the protection of groups which have been rendered vulnerable.” The VDPA recommends various efforts, including increased allocation of resources to programs that uphold the rule of law and promote human rights awareness, including through civil society.

We stand firm in our commitment, consistent with our human rights obligations, to support a pluralistic civil society.  Protecting and promoting civil society space means recognizing the rights of individuals, as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to organize and meet peacefully in groups to discuss and affect the issues that matter to them. People working together freely bring us innovation, economic growth, vibrant pluralistic democracies.  Moreover, pluralism is related to tolerance.

In order to promote these goals, we call upon States: not to criminalize freedom of association; not to label nonviolent associations as “subversive”; not to attack or imprison civil society actors for peaceful activities; not to undertake reprisals, such as harassing or jailing individuals for engagement with UN or other international human rights mechanisms; and not to hinder the work of civil society organizations through undue restrictions, such as on communication and financing, including funding from foreign sources.  We deplore all such measures intended to prevent individuals from organizing and working together.

We will work individually and together to defend pluralistic civil society. We will strive to review our own legislation and policies to ensure that civil society actors do not have burdensome or vague registration requirements; that unregistered associations are not prohibited per se; and that groups are able to access the funding necessary to conduct peaceful and legitimate activities. We call on governments not to promulgate restrictive legislation, administrative measures, policies, or criminal penalties aimed at interfering with the exercise of the right to freedom of association.

Mr. President, we will continue raising this important issue at the Council. We appreciate the work being done by OHCHR and the special procedures, and hope that work will continue.

Joined by: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala,  Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Ukraine.