Tag - civil society ( 24 )

News | UN experts urge Kenya to end crackdown on rights groups to ensure fair elections

Feb 14 2017

GENEVA – Three United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government of Kenya to cease its systematic crackdown on civil society groups, which has intensified in the lead-up to national elections scheduled in August. “We are extremely alarmed at the increasing number of attacks on civil society as the elections draw closer,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. “It appears that there is a systematic and deliberate pattern to crack down on civil society groups which challenge governmental policies, educate voters, investigate human rights abuses and uncover corruption. These issues are extremely important in a democracy, and attempting to shut down the debate taking place in the civic space threatens to irreparably taint the legitimacy of the upcoming elections,” they added.* The experts’ call comes just a month after the Interior Ministry called for the closure of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) deemed to be ‘not properly licensed’. A Government circular alleged the groups had been involved in ‘nefarious activities’ and claimed they posed a serious threat to national security including money... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: Des experts de l’ONU tirent la sonnette d’alarme face à la répression croissante des ONG et des défenseurs des droits humains

Feb 06 2017

GENEVE - Un groupe d’experts des droits humains des Nations Unies a condamné aujourd’hui la récente interdiction et la suspension provisoire d’un certain nombre d’organisations de la société civile au Burundi et a mis en garde contre «l’effet obstructif, restrictif et stigmatisant de la législation récente sur les ONG, dans un contexte de répression croissante des défenseurs des droits humains ». Le 19 octobre 2016, les autorités burundaises ont radié cinq organisations de la société civile*. De même, en décembre 2016, la Ligue ITEKA, l’une des principales organisations de défense des droits humains du pays, suspendue en octobre, ainsi que l’OLUFAD - ONG de promotion de la bonne gouvernance et de lutte contre la corruption - ont également été interdites. Par ailleurs, quatre autres organisations ** ont été provisoirement suspendues. Suite à cette décision, l’Assemblée nationale a adopté, en décembre 2016, deux projets de loi visant à contrôler étroitement l’action des ONG locales et internationales. Cette nouvelle législation oblige les ONG locales à obtenir l’autorisation du ministre de l’Intérieur pour toute activité ainsi qu’à recevoir des fonds d’origine étrangère par l’intermédiaire de la Banque centrale. Le travail des ONG... Continue reading →

News | Burundi: UN experts raise alarm at growing repression of NGOs and human rights defenders

Feb 06 2017

GENEVA – A group of United Nations human rights experts today condemned the recent ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi, and warned about “the obstructive, restrictive and stigmatizing effect of recent legislation on NGOs, in a context of growing repression of human rights defenders.” On 19 October 2016, the Burundian authorities banned five civil society organizations*. In December 2016, the Ligue ITEKA, one of the leading human rights institutions of the country, which was suspended in October as well as OLUFAD – an NGO promoting good governance and the fight against corruption - have also been barred. Another four organizations** were provisionally suspended. Following that move, the National Assembly adopted two bills in December 2016 aimed at closely controlling the action of local and international NGOs. This new legislation compels local NGOs to obtain authorization from the Minister of the Interior for any activity and to transfer funds of foreign origin through the Central Bank. The work of foreign NGOs must comply with priorities set by the Government. “These moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi,” the experts, said. “Disturbingly, these measures take... Continue reading →

Report | 10 Principles civil society guide: How to advocate for better management of assemblies

Jan 12 2017

The ability to assemble and act collectively is vital to democratic, economic, social and personal development, to the expression of ideas and to fostering engaged citizenry. Yet despite the increasingly prominent role that assemblies play in today’s world, there is sometimes a lack of clear understanding of the applicable international human rights law and standards. To provide more clarity, the Human Rights Council requested in 2014 that the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, to prepare a joint report on the proper management of assemblies. That report (A/HRC/31/66) was published in March 2016, and compiled a series of practical recommendations oriented around 10 guiding principles applicable to the proper management of assemblies. The recommendations were based on consultations with over 100 experts and more than 50 UN Member States. This 10 Principles Civil Society Guide is a companion publication to that report. It is designed to help civil society organizations use the compilation to advance the protection and promotion of human rights in the context of assemblies domestically. It provides suggestions, tools and inspiration to CSOs as they... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: Mapping the history and achievements of civil society over the past decade

Dec 16 2016

The space for civil society globally has shrunk dramatically over the last 10 years. In established democracies as well as in autocratic regimes and states in transition, laws and practices constraining freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly have flourished. Despite this context, civil society has also made numerous significant achievements over the past decade. NGOs, charities, social movements, religious groups, labour unions, journalists, and other civil society groupings have radically improved societies and peoples’ lives across the globe. Civil society has protected and defended civil and political rights, worked to alleviate poverty and advance development objectives, worked to regulate corporate behaviour, protected the environment, and delivered essential services, to name but a few examples. For his final report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur plans to comprehensively codify the achievements and successes of civil society over the last decade. The report is intended to serve as a reminder of just how important civil society is for peace, security, prosperity, social progress and human rights. What’s your opinion and experience? The Special Rapporteur convened an expert consultation to discuss this subject in November 2016 in Bangkok. But he would also... Continue reading →

News | Egypt NGO bill threatens to “devastate” civil society, UN expert warns

Nov 23 2016

GENEVA – United Nations expert Maina Kiai has expressed serious alarm at Egypt’s approval of a draft law which would impose major restrictions on the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Mr. Kiai said that if the bill became law, it would devastate the country’s civil society for generations to come and turn it into a government puppet. The Egyptian Parliament approved the bill on 15 November and sent it to the State Council for review; it will be sent back to the Parliament for a final vote at an unknown date. The government did not hold consultations with civil society on its contents. Mr. Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said the law appeared to be “deliberately drafted to curtail civil society’s ability to operate, and to stifle their ability to freely express themselves”. The bill’s provisions violated international law and contradicted Egypt’s own constitution, he said. “This bill proposes perhaps the worst restrictions on fundamental freedoms in Egypt since the 2011 uprisings,” Mr. Kiai said. “It aims to destroy Egypt’s foundation for peaceful, civic engagement at its very roots. If it becomes law, it would devastate civil society not only in the short term, but possibly for generations to... 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 | UN rights experts urge Cambodia to stop attacks against civil society and human rights defenders

May 12 2016

GENEVA – United Nations human rights experts, including Maina Kiai, today called on the Government of Cambodia to stop targeting civil society, human rights defenders, parliamentarians and UN personnel, and to take effective measures to protect civil society and respect fundamental freedoms in the country. “The escalation of criminal charges, questioning, court proceedings and public statements against them must cease,” the experts said. “We urge the Cambodian authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society, which play a critical role in holding the Government to account and bringing benefits of human rights to the whole of Cambodian society.” The human rights experts’ appeal comes as the courts investigate an alleged extra-marital affair of an opposition parliamentarian, as well as the related allegations of bribery brought against staff members of a prominent human rights organisation ADHOC. An anti-terrorism department inexplicably initiated these charges, and then anti-corruption unit further pursued the case after ADHOC had provided legal and material support. “We are also troubled by the actions taken by Cambodian authorities to deter and disperse peaceful demonstrations and arrest individuals protesting what they see as... Continue reading →

News | UNSR releases ‘sectoral equity’ country background reports, comparing laws on businesses and CSOs in 34 countries

Nov 26 2015

Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has released 34 country background reports that he consulted in drafting his recent report comparing the enabling environments for businesses and civil society around the world. The Special Rapporteur's report, which is available here, was presented to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2015. It found that States and others often impose more burdensome regulation upon civil society, both in law and in practice, with businesses receiving more favourable treatment. The net result is that for businesses the enabling environment — defined broadly as action or inaction by States and other actors to promote a particular non-State sector — is typically much better than it is for associations. The country background reports were prepared by pro bono counsel for the American Bar Association's Center for Human Rights, which coordinated the research on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. They provide an overview of the legal environment for both businesses and non-profit associations in 34 countries, focusing on: (1) registration procedures, (2) tax laws, (3) financial transaction laws, (4) auditing and reporting requirements, (5) and penalties for non-compliance with the law. Limited time and resources dictated that research could not be commissioned on all 193 UN... Continue reading →

News | UN expert: Promote civil society by elevating its treatment to the same level as business

Oct 27 2015

NEW YORK/GENEVA – Civil society’s contributions to a nation’s wellbeing are just as important as those made by businesses, UN expert Maina Kiai told the UN General Assembly today. He called on States to give the same level of respect and create enabling environments for civil society groups, just as they do for companies. Speaking during the presentation of his latest report, which compares the operating environments for commercial and civil society sectors worldwide, Kiai said that it was clear that businesses generally operate in better environments than non-profit entities – largely because States go to great lengths to create such facilitating environments. Unfortunately, governments make comparatively little effort to improve conditions for civil society, resulting in its marginalization. “There is no compelling reason why the civil society sector should have to operate in such a hostile environment, when it is possible for States to do much more to facilitate and promote a more enabling environment, like they do for businesses,” said Kiai, who is the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. “Both sectors, after all, are equally deserving of promotion by the State, and both contribute enormously to the overall wellbeing of a... Continue reading →