Tag - Discussion ( 7 )

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 →

Discussion | Discussion: Assembly and association rights for the world’s most marginalized workers

May 16 2016

The globalization of the world economy in the past half-century has contributed to a dramatic rise in the power of large multinational corporations and has concentrated wealth in fewer hands. State power to regulate these business entities, meanwhile, has been simultaneously eroded and co-opted by elite economic actors themselves. Unconstrained power – whether public or private in origin – is now, more than ever, a critical threat to the protection of human rights. This power shift has created a challenging environment for the enforcement of human rights, as Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has documented in his two most recent reports on natural resource exploitation and the imbalance between how States treat businesses and civil society. For his next report to the UN General Assembly (October 2016), the Special Rapporteur plans to explore a new dimension of this power shift: its effect on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association of workers – specifically the most marginalized portions of the world’s labor force, such as global supply chain workers, informal workers, migrant workers and domestic workers. He will also examine gender and racial dimensions of the issue. The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in the links between the political, social, and economic... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: Exploring fundamentalism’s impact on assembly and association rights

Dec 15 2015

For his next report to the Human Rights Council in June 2016, Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai will explore the subject of fundamentalism and the intolerance that it can spur, leading to violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The contours of this subject, however, are not necessarily what they might seem at first glance. The term “fundamentalism” lacks a formal academic or legal definition, but for many people it can be a loaded term, implying religious extremism or terrorism. These connotations only capture a small part of the story. For this report, the Special Rapporteur will be approaching the subject of fundamentalism from a different, and much broader, perspective. He believes that fundamentalism encompasses strict adherence to the principles of any given subject, discipline or ideology – not just religion. It also frequently implies intolerance of other views. The purpose of the report is not to make a judgment on whether fundamentalism is good or bad, but to look at its often detrimental impact on the realization of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. Thus, the report will also explore other variations of fundamentalism, some of which may not traditionally be viewed as fundamentalism at all: market fundamentalism, nationalist... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: Getting down to business – comparing the enabling environments for the business and civil society sectors

Mar 25 2015

At first glance, the business and civil society sectors may seem strange bedfellows for a comparative study. In the mind of the public and policymakers, these two entities appear distinct, warranting separate rules and treatment. The basis for this treatment seems to boil down to one dividing point: One exists to make a profit; the other is non-profit. But beyond their dissimilar profit motives, are businesses and associations really that different? Both are non-state actors, potential employers, providers of goods and services, magnets for investment, and possible platforms for mobilizing people and influencing policy. Both are crucial to economic and political development, both domestically and internationally. And both have potential to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights. Despite these sweeping similarities, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of assembly and association Maina Kiai has observed over the past four years that many governments do, in fact, single out CSOs for special treatment – not all of it good. The reasons for this difference in treatment are not always clear, and are often suspicious on their face. In some countries, for example, a business can be registered in a matter of hours, while NGO registration can take months. In others, it is forbidden... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: assembly and association rights in the context of natural resource exploitation

Nov 28 2014

The need for natural resources such as land, water, timber, minerals, oil and gas is continually increasing worldwide. That increasing demand has naturally led to more competition – and often more social conflict. In many cases, decisions concerning the exploitation of natural resources are made in an opaque manner. Governments cut backroom deals with corporations without the input of those affected. Official corruption often looms large. The ostensible owners of the property being exploited may not benefit at all from the project. The systematic exclusion of key stakeholders in the context of natural resource exploitation is counterproductive and may, in some circumstances, amount to a deprivation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. More to the point, this exclusion can lead to anger, divisions within society and long-term threats to the project in question. For his upcoming report to the Human Rights Council in June 2015, UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai plans to focus on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of the exploitation of natural resources. The importance of assembly and association rights in the context of the exploitation of natural resources cannot be understated. Indeed in many countries, social... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: Funding restrictions for civil society

Mar 13 2014

The ability to seek, receive and utilize resources is an inherent part of the right to freedom of association. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement. By definition, organizations need resources – financial, human and material – to operate. Without money, staff and equipment, an association is reduced to an empty shell – a vehicle stripped of its engine, fuel and driver. Unfortunately, civil society’s ability to access resources is far from secure in today’s world. Restrictions on funding have in recent years become a major threat to associations in a range of countries across all regions of the world, as UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has repeatedly pointed out. There is clearly a trend toward strangling civil society with the financial noose, and the trend is growing. There is an urgent need to further strengthen associations’ ability to access resources, and to protect it. In this spirit, the Special Rapporteur recently partnered with the Community of Democracies to launch a project dedicated to enhancing space for civil society, with a particular focus on the ability to access financial resources. More on the project – which is funded by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs— is available here. The centerpiece of the project will be a series of five regional dialogues led... Continue reading →

Discussion | Discussion: Call for further information on our next report (groups most at risk)

Dec 12 2013

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai convened an expert consultation in Geneva on December 9 to help shape the parameters of his next thematic report, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2014. The thematic report will focus on how laws and practices may discriminate against and exclude certain groups when exercising or seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The Geneva consultation was organized to focus on problems faced by specific groups that the Special Rapporteur and his team had identified as frequently at risk, including youth, women, LGBT individuals, indigenous peoples, minorities, refugees, migrants and other non-nationals/stateless persons, and persons with disabilities. This is, of course, a non-exhaustive list. As one of the participants in our consultation pointed out, all of us can face heightened risks in certain circumstances (as Kiai’s latest thematic report on elections makes clear). As the consultation participants shared their stories and expertise, however, it became clear that most groups face similar types of threats – at least broadly speaking – despite coming from different countries and advocating for different issues. These threats can be categorized, and given the large and diverse number of groups... Continue reading →