Crackdown on NGOs’ access to funding: Unprecedented resolution adopted at the UN

Urgent Appeal
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The continuous crackdown on human rights defenders worldwide remains more than ever a subject of concern at the Human Rights Council. On March 21, 70 States co-sponsored an unprecedented resolution on "Protecting Human Rights Defenders" introduced by Norway.

The continuous crackdown on human rights defenders worldwide should remain more than ever a subject of concern at the Human Rights Council. While opening the session, High Commissioner Pillay paid a tribute to their work: « national human rights defenders are the heroes of our time » she said in her opening statement.
Indeed, recent developments in Russia, in Egypt and in other countries in all parts of the world, show that human rights defenders remain vulnerable groups, often targetted for their very contribution to the promotion of human rights for all, too often criminalized, delegitimized, and victims of smear campaigns.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders released on 28 February a thematic report on NGOs access to funding, and its main conclusions were presented in a high level side event in Geneva on Thursday 28th February. The side event was co-sponsored by the Permanent mission of Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

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On this occasion, the Deputy High Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang commanded the work of the Observatory, in particular its role in advocating in favour of courageous Human Rights Defenders :

And Antoine Bernard, FIDH Ceo recalled us the past and continuing work of the Observatory in the defense of Human Rights Defenders worldwide:

It was an opportunity for local Human Rights Defenders from various regions to share practical difficulties faced in their daily work, with a particular focus on Egypt :

A resolution has been introduced by Norway at this 22th session to enhance the protection granted to defenders and counter attempts to delegitimize their work. Access to funding is one of the key issues that has been addressed in the resolution:

«the Council demonstrates today its clear support to Human Rights Defenders and organisations targetted by these stigmatizing measures» said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Despite last minute hostile amendments proposed by the Russian Federation, Cuba, China and Egypt which called for, the neutralisation of the paragraph calling upon States to ensure that no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defense of human rights carried out with foreign funding, the resolution has been adopted by consensus.

This resolution confirms and reinforces the previous conclusions of UN human rights mechanisms affirming the non-compliance of restrictive and repressive practices and laws with international human rights law. This was illustrated recently by the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on Ales Bialiatski’s case, which stated that Belarus was in breach of its international obligations in interfering in the funding of human rights NGOs’ activities and requested Belarus to release him immediately.

Listen to Antoine Bernard, FIDH Ceo on Ales’ case :

Moreover on BELARUS: Landmark UN decision: Ales Bialiatski’s detention arbitrary, release and compensation requested

All relevant UN mechanisms should now build on this text to enhance the protection of human rights defenders targeted by legislations and practices curtailing their legitimate activities in many countries.
As stated by Norway prior to the adoption of the resolution : "The Council must respond with a clear message of support. Support for the important and legitimate role of HRDs – in the promotion of human rights democracy and rule of law".
Listen to Farida Makar’s, CiHRS Researcher :

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