Category - Civic-space (14)

Maina Kiai’s Foreword to the Civic Charter: the Global Framework for People’s Participation

Oct 31 2016

The following is adapted from the Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai’s foreword to the Civic Charter – the Global Framework for People’s Participation, which was facilitated by the International Civil Society Centre and released in October 2016: It is no secret that our world faces a multitude of problems in the early years of the 21st century: growing poverty and inequality, violent extremism, intolerance of “the other,” potentially catastrophic climate change, and failing states, just to name a few. Indeed these problems sometimes seem so vast and complex that it is easy to despair. But our biggest difficulty, truly, is that so many of us are excluded from having a say in how to solve these problems. Billions of people – indeed the majority of the world – are cut off in their ability to contribute their talents, share their ideas and express their wishes. I observe this gap each and … Continue reading →

UN rights experts urge India to repeal law restricting NGO’s access to crucial foreign funding

Jun 16 2016

GENEVA – Three United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government of India to repeal the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which is been increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding, and fails to comply with international human rights norms and standards. “We are alarmed that FCRA provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and on freedom of association, Maina Kiai. The experts’ call comes as the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs suspended for six months the registration of the non-governmental organization Lawyers Collective, under the FCRA. The suspension was imposed on the basis of allegations that its founders, human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and … Continue reading →

India: Special Rapporteur’s legal analysis argues restrictions on foreign funding contrary to international law

Apr 25 2016

NAIROBI/GENEVA – United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has published a legal analysis arguing that India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) – which regulates foreign funding to certain individuals, associations and companies – is not conformity with international law, principles and standards. The analysis, which was submitted to the Government of India on April 20, 2016, is available here. The FCRA, which was enacted in 2010, bars “organizations of a political nature” from accepting foreign contributions. Acceptance of foreign contributions may further be prohibited where the Government “is satisfied that the acceptance of foreign contribution… is likely to affect prejudicially… public interest.” The law has come under scrutiny in recent years, with some sources reporting that nearly 14,000 NGOs have seen their licenses to receive foreign funding revoked by the Government. The Special Rapporteur argues that the ability of civil society organizations to access resources, including foreign funding, is a … Continue reading →

Kiai to financial crime body: foster civil society as a partner, not an enemy, in the fight against terrorism

Apr 18 2016

VIENNA – Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has called upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – an intergovernmental body that sets standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing – to improve its cooperation with civil society, and to consider the sector’s significant contributions in the fight against terrorism. He also commended the body for its decision to review its interpretation of Recommendation 8, a controversial measure that requires FATF member States to ensure that their laws sufficiently prevent non-profit organisations from financing of terrorism. The Recommendation has drawn sharp criticism in recent years, with many civil society organizations – and Kiai himself – reporting that oppressive governments have used it as an excuse to crack down on dissent. Kiai, who is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, made the comments via a written submission to FATF’s “Consultation and Dialogue Meeting with … Continue reading →

Civil society needs ‘new tactics’ to reverse shrinking space, Kiai tells Asia-Pacific activists

Nov 09 2015

SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – Civil society must pursue “new tactics and strategies” if it hopes to reverse the trend of shrinking civic space, Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai told a gathering of activists in Seoul on Nov. 5. “Governments have been clever” at conjuring new ways to restrict the operations of critical organizations, especially those working on human rights, he said. “The old methods aren’t working. Maybe it’s time for us to think of new ways to push this agenda. We need to think outside the box.” The UN expert’s remarks came during a consultation with civil society from the Asia-Pacific region, which was convened as part of a joint project on civic space between Kiai’s mandate and the Community of Democracies. The project focuses particularly on civil society’s right to access resources, and aims to expand the body of knowledge on this subject while hearing about challenges that activists … Continue reading →

“The clamp-down on resourcing” – an essay comparing how States regulate funding for business and civil society

Jul 09 2015

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has co-authored an essay with Community of Democracies Secretary General Maria Leissner comparing the ability of business and civil society to access resources worldwide. The piece appears in CIVICUS’s 2015 “State of Civil Society Report,” and previews one of the issues that the Special Rapporteur will explore in his upcoming report to the UN General Assembly in October 2015. “At first glance, the business and civil society sectors may seem strange bedfellows for comparison. Conventional wisdom tells us that these two entities are distinct, warranting separate rules and treatment,” Kiai and Leissner write. “But beyond their dissimilar profit motives, just how different are businesses and civil society? And how differently should governments treat them?” The essay cites a number of examples where several governments go to much greater lengths to create a conducive environment for business investment, while virtually shutting off similar funding for civil … Continue reading →

Vibrant civil society fundamental to Latin America’s successes thus far – and equally important going forward, Special Rapporteur says in Chile

Apr 29 2015

SANTIAGO, Chile – UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai met with regional government and civil society leaders here this week, telling them that civil society is “necessary in any society” – and that access to resources is equally essential for the sector’s very existence. “Not a single country in Latin America that can say it accomplished what it has without the help of civil society,” said Kiai, who is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “And it is equally important going forward.” “Civil society is critical in combatting extremism, and in channeling dissent and frustrations in a legitimate way through the system. Civil society gives States a legitimate and open partner that it can work with, and it channels people’s views in an open and transparent way.” The UN expert’s remarks came during meetings with government officials and civil society members from the … Continue reading →

Special Rapporteur in Geneva for events surrounding 28th session of the Human Rights Council

Mar 01 2015

GENEVA – United Nations Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will be in Geneva this week to participate in several events on the margins of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, including the launch of landmark joint guidelines on the right to freedom of association. The guidelines – which were developed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) and the Venice Commission – are the first of their kind in the field on association rights. They were adopted and released last December, and are being officially launched on March 5. The guidelines are currently available via the OSCE-ODIHR website via this link: The guidelines offer advice and expertise on how to legislate on freedom of association-related matters in a manner consistent with international human rights standards and OSCE commitments. They also reflect evolving good state practices, and are … Continue reading →

Surmounting civil society restrictions “the great challenge of our time,” Special Rapporteur tells activists

Nov 20 2014

PRETORIA, South Africa – Overcoming the current wave of government efforts to silence peaceful activists across the globe is “the great challenge of our time,” UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai told African civil society leaders this week. Civil society, donors and activists “must do better” in order to address this challenge, Kiai said, including by becoming more creative in how they confront restrictions on their fundamental rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. He focused particularly on donors, whom he said often utilize dated and inappropriate benchmarks to measure civil society’s work. “Donors need to be more flexible in funding human rights work,” Kiai told participants. “Some want results in six months, but you don’t get that with human rights work. That’s not the way human rights works.” Kiai’s remarks came during a two-day conference in Pretoria on protecting civic space, organized by the International Center for Not-for-Profit … Continue reading →

Special Rapporteur: Restrictions on assembly and association rights contribute to the rise of extremism

Oct 25 2014

WARSAW, Poland – UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai spoke out against shrinking space for peaceful assembly and association rights this week in Warsaw, warning that governments who weaken civil society are “playing with fire, because the alternative … is extremism.” The comments came during an Oct. 22 consultation with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)-region governments on civic space and civil society’s ability to access resources. “We are at a very difficult time in the world, and I think it’s not accidental that we are seeing extremism rising,” said Kiai, who is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “A government that weakens civil society is playing with fire, because the alternative to peaceful assembly is extremism – and this, no one wishes to achieve.” The regional consultation with OSCE governments was part of an ongoing project on protecting civic space … Continue reading →