Tag - civic space ( 11 )

News | The Assembly and Association Briefing, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Issue 26) – February-March 2017

Mar 15 2017

Issue No. 26 of the Assembly and Association Briefing, the newsletter of Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. In this issue: • Kiai visits Geneva for final Human Rights Council session as Rapporteur • UN rights expert: ‘Fundamental right to strike must be preserved’ • Bangladesh: stop enforced disappearances • 10 Principles civil society guide: Advocate for better management of assemblies • Letter from the Rapporteur: Our fight isn’t just about closing space; it’s a ‘struggle for future of democracy’ • Maina Kiai releases annual report: 2016 in assembly & association rights • Experts urge Kenya to end crackdown on rights groups to ensure fair elections • Viet Nam: end detention of ‘Mother Mushroom’ • Burundi: UN experts raise alarm at growing repression of NGOs and human rights defenders • UN expert concerned about recurring violence against demonstrators in Belarus • Assembly & association rights: By the numbers • Special Rapporteur news in brief: February – March 2017 • World briefing: Assembly & association rights in the news For a link to the newsletter, click on the image at right or click here (1.7 MB file). To subscribe to our... Continue reading →

News | Letter from the UNSR: Our fight isn’t just about closing space; it’s a ‘struggle for future of democracy’

Feb 10 2017

As my time as Special Rapporteur nears its end, I have been reflecting a great deal on my six years in the position - and just how much the world has changed since the Human Rights Council created my mandate in October 2010. Could anyone have imagined what the years 2011-17 would bring? Back then, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were somewhat neglected in the pantheon of our most cherished rights - known, but rarely in the headlines. In the years since, they have underpinned some of the most cataclysmic political events of the 21st century: revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere; mass protests that forced out leaders in Ukraine, Guatemala, Iceland, South Korea, Burkina Faso and Brazil; citizen movements in Hong Kong, Bahrain, Malaysia, the United States; and so much more. And remarkably, all of this happened while governments everywhere were embarking upon the most comprehensive rollback of civic freedoms since the end of the Cold War: anti-NGO laws, restrictions on protests, increased militarization of police, and campaigns of violence, intimidation, stigmatization and arrests against activists, just to name a few. As Special Rapporteur, I was lucky enough to have a front row seat as these events unfolded - to witness them, to meet with the people who shaped them,... Continue reading →

News | 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 every day in my work as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The space for meaningful participation in many of our societies – from repressive authoritarian regimes to the “traditional” democracies – has been hijacked. Sometimes this is done structurally, through repressive legislation that closes off democratic space. Other times it is blunter, through... Continue reading →

News | In final presentation to UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur reflects on time in mandate; warns that situation for civil society remains ‘precarious’

Oct 20 2016

NEW YORK – In his final presentation to the General Assembly today, Maina Kiai reflected on his 5½ years as the United Nations’ first-ever Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and warned that the environment for exercising civic freedoms remained hazardous worldwide. “Unless there is renewed commitment from the world’s leaders, away from fear and control of their own people, and toward respecting the dignity of all, the situation will remain precarious for civil society globally,” the UN expert said. Kiai noted that his mandate was created at a time – late 2010 – when it was increasingly clear that individuals were demanding a larger say in public affairs and in decisions that affect them. It also covered a period during which the world faced a series of severe crises, ranging from growing poverty and inequality to violent extremism, to climate change, to failing states. “It was – and still is – a time when assembly and association rights were needed most, as an avenue for people to peacefully speak out, contribute their talents, share their ideas and help society work towards solving its problems,” he said. Yet many governments have reacted to these crises by taking destructive and counterproductive measures. “Instead of... Continue reading →

News | Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to the 71st session of the General Assembly

Oct 20 2016

Statement by Maina Kiai SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND OF ASSOCIATION 71st session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, Agenda item 68 (b) 20 October 2016, New York Madam Chairperson, Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present to you my final report as the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. It has been an honour to appear before this august body for the past four years and to draw much-needed attention to the challenges facing those who exercise the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association around the world. My mandate was created at a time when it was increasingly clear that individuals wanted and were demanding a larger say in public affairs and in decisions that affect them. The uprisings in different parts of the globe, most prominently the colour revolutions in the former Soviet Republics and the Arab awakening are testament to this. My time in the mandate also covered a period during which the world faced a series of severe crises: growing poverty and inequality, violent extremism, financial collapse, intolerance of “the other,” climate change, and failing states, just to name a few. It was – and still is – a time when assembly and association rights were... Continue reading →

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

Apr 22 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 fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under international law, standards, and principles – and more particularly part of the right to form an association. He further asserts that India’s limitations on access to foreign funding do not meet... Continue reading →

News | Letter from the UNSR: Reclaiming our rights in 2016 will require creativity, courage and innovation

Jan 12 2016

There are any number of words that could be used to describe the events of 2015 - inspiring, uplifting, informative, moving, even maddening. But there is one word that cannot be used: satisfying. That is unfortunate, because the year was filled with stirring tales of courage, dedication and passion from activists all over the world: Burundi, the Maldives, Malaysia, Brazil, Bahrain, Venezuela, Russia and more. Some made lonely stands for justice in the face of daunting odds. Others stood shoulder-to-shoulder to demonstrate with tens of thousands of their compatriots. And in a few cases, some of these individuals even spurred rapid, remarkable change – as was the case in Guatemala, where protests played a key role in forcing the President to resign in the face of corruption allegations. The problem is that far too many of these stories had the wrong ending in 2015. One of Burundi’s leading activists, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, narrowly escaped assassination for standing up for his beliefs; his son and son-in-law were not so lucky. Citizens who took to the street calling for an investigation into a US $700 million corruption case against the Malaysian Prime Minister found some of their numbers arrested; yet no one implicated in the scandal has been charged. In Russia, an opposition activist was... Continue reading →

News | 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 face. Nearly 20 civil society leaders from 14 countries across the region attended in the consultation. Ambassador Maria Leissner, Secretary General of the Community of Democracies, opened the meeting. Participants said that restrictions on civic space in Asia have accelerated in recent years, with governments taking escalating measures to silencing dissenting voices. In... Continue reading →

News | 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 Latin America and Caribbean regions, which were convened as part of a joint project with the Community of Democracies designed to strengthen civil society’s ability to access to resources. Roughly a dozen representatives from across the region participated in the government consultation on April 27, while more than 25 civil society representatives attended a separate... Continue reading →

News | Video: Maina Kiai speaks on the trend of narrowing space for dissent in Canada

May 04 2014

Maina Kiai visited Canada last fall on an unofficial academic visit, during which he met with a wide range of people within civil society. He also took time to sit down with the Voices-Voix Coalition for a brief interview about civic space in Canada. The interview is now available via the link below (in English with French subtitles). In the interview, Kiai speaks about what he sees as a trend toward narrowing space for dissent in Canada and the need for an honest assessment of where fundamental democratic rights stand in the country. He also urges Canadians to exercise their rights to assemble, protest and organize. These rights - and indeed democracy itself - should not be taken for granted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoaQI5U9Gs   For more on the Special Rapporteur's work on Canada, see this... Continue reading →