Civil society—not repressive regimes—should discuss inequality at G7

The 45th G7 summit will start later this week in Biarritz, on France’s Atlantic coast. French president Emmanuel Macron is proposing what he deems a "renewed format" to address pressing global issues of inequality, particularly gender equality. This year’s summit, however, is marred by the presence of governments notorious for their repression, as well as a glaring lack of participation from civil society. FIDH and 82 of its member organisations worldwide have mobilized to address this open letter to President Macron, calling for the fight against inequalities to be done alongside civil society, and not with repressive regimes.

Later this week, France will host the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, with a theme of “fighting inequality” — including gender inequality. FIDH and 82 members of its global federation are surprised that the Elysée (the French presidency), in a bid to widen participation in the summit beyond its core of rich nations, invited states which are notorious for grave and systematic human rights violations, such as India and Egypt, and met with Russian president Vladimir Putin just days before the summit. Twenty human rights NGOs have called on President Macron to denounce Egypt’s human rights record during the summit.

The African Union and the G5 Sahel will also be represented, while human rights violations committed in the context of fighting terrorism in the Sahel are rampant. We urge French president Emmanuel Macron to seriously address the issue of inequality by including representatives of concerned populations and civil society as key stakeholders in the debate and calling on participating countries to implement United Nations Special Representatives’ valuable recommendations on addressing inequality and promoting human rights.

This “revamped” summit – according to the Elysée’s rhetoric – on combating inequalities, especially gender inequality, was slated to include the participation of "key civil society actors". However, it will ultimately be open to only ten figures from national and international organisations, who, thus far, have not been granted access to most fora, including the media center. This limited level of involvement of major actors in the fight against inequalities, particularly human rights defenders and feminist associations, is unacceptable. They should be able to participate fully and actively in the discussions. To show its sincerity in evolving the group’s format towards partnerships rooted in democratic values, the Elysée should grant these key actors a real—not merely symbolic—place at the table.

The currently planned approach of reduced participation of civil society—while regimes that regularly violate fundamental rights and contribute to widening inequalities enjoy greater participation—seriously undermines the credibility of the summit. This is all the more worrying given that the Elysée considers that these states share a commitment to democratic values.

The regime of Russian president Vladimir Putin, far from upholding fundamental freedoms, has been steadfast in its determination to suppress, by any means necessary, the peaceful protests that have taken place in Moscow over the past month. In addition to this internal repression, Russia, with its undisputed support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has potentially become complicit in grave violations of international humanitarian law. Furthermore, Russia sets a poor example in terms of protecting the rights of women and sexual minorities, as evidenced by the authorities’ unprecedented decision in 2017 to decriminalise domestic violence and failure to investigate repression against gay men and women in Chechnya. It is worth recalling that in 2014 Russia was suspended from the former G8 because of its annexation of Crimea. The meeting between Presidents Putin and Macron just five days prior to the G7 seems to suggest the latter’s openness to Russia’s rapprochement with this group, despite the situation in Crimea deteriorating.

With regard to Egypt, our organisations have, for years, incessantly denounced the bloody repression perpetrated by the regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi against the Egyptian people. This repression—partly “made in France”—has entailed grave human rights violations. In the face of these blatant and egregious abuses, the French government continues, under the pretense of fighting terrorism, and contrary to its international commitments, to authorise the sale of military and surveillance equipment to the Egyptian regime, which the latter potentially uses for internal repression. Furthermore, perpetrators of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and female genital mutilation, enjoy nearly total impunity, calling into question the decision to invite the Egyptian regime to a G7 dedicated, in part, to the fight for gender equality.

This summit has also been designated by the Elysee as an occasion for dialogue to “build equal partnerships” with the African continent. The Burkinabe, Egyptian, and Senegalese presidents are invited in their respective roles of G5 Sahel president, African Union president, and African Union Development Agency president. Moussa Faki, chairperson of the African Union Commission, is also invited. With regard to security, citizens of African countries are the top victims of terrorist attacks, abuses committed during anti-terrorist operations, and amalgams of terrorism, rebellion, political opposition and peaceful civil society engagement.

In the face of Boko Haram’s resurgence, which threatens the countries surrounding Lake Chad, as well as recurring inter-ethnic violence in central Mali, the undersigned organisations underline that the fight against terrorism is not simply a military concern; states must also ensure respect for human rights, rule of law and democratic principles, strengthen the fight against impunity, and develop policies that foster sustainable and egalitarian social and economic development for their populations, including youth.

India is another guest which happens to be a buyer of French weapons (the top client, in fact, according to the figures available for 2009-2018). Indian authorities’ ongoing repression in Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 500 people were reportedly arbitrarily arrested in recent days, is deplorable not only in terms of individual freedoms, but also due to the grave threats to international peace and security implied by Indian authorities’ recent decisions in Kashmir.

We reiterate our request to the French government to reconsider its cooperation and strategic partnerships with these states that have repeatedly failed to respect human rights.

In 2015, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, lamented the absence of human rights in the debate on inequality, recalling their essential role in overcoming it. He emphasised again in June 2019 the link between these issues and the climate crisis. This and other UN Human Rights Council reports show that the issue of inequality cannot be tackled without ensuring respect for human rights, the full participation of civil society, and making both public and private economic actors aware of their responsibilities.

Accordingly, we call on President Macron to center the discussion on respect for and fulfillment of human rights, and to include in the debate civil society actors who defend those rights and those who suffer abuses. We urge states participating in this G7 summit to work towards clear commitments to implement the relevant recommendations of the UN Special Representatives dealing with inequality and the climate crisis.

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  • Co-signatories

    FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    and the following FIDH member organisations:

    Albanian Human Rights Group
    Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
    Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial (Russia)
    Armanshahr/OPEN ASIA (Afghanistan)
    Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (Spain)
    Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM) (Morocco)
    Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH) (Morocco)
    Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Egypt)
    Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
    Centre Libanais des Droits Humains (Lebanon)
    Centro de Capacitación Social de Panamá
    Centro de Derechos y Desarrollo - CEDAL (Peru)
    Centro de Investigación y Protección de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras - CIPRODEH
    Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos - EQUIDAD (Peru)
    Civic Committee for Human Rights (Croatia)
    Collectif des Familles de Disparus en Algérie (Algeria)
    Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador
    Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos - CEDHU (Ecuador)
    Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos de la República Dominicana
    Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence - KontraS (Indonesia)
    DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights
    Finnish League for Human Rights
    FLAC Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd. (Ireland)
    Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux (Tunisia)
    Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda)
    Groupe Lotus (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
    Hellenic League for Human Rights (Greece)
    Human Rights Association (Turkey)
    Human Rights Center (Georgia)
    Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia)
    Human Rights Center Viasna (Belarus)
    Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan)
    Human Rights Commission Pakistan
    Human Rights in China
    Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan
    INREDH (Ecuador)
    International Campaign for Tibet
    International Legal Initiative Foundation - ILI (Kazakhstan)
    Internet Law Reform Dialogue – iLaw (Thailand)
    Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI)
    Justiça Global (Brazil)
    Justice for Iran
    Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
    Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
    Kylym Shamy (Kyrgyzstan)
    Ligue Guinéenne des Droits de l’Homme (Guinea-Bissau)
    La Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos - LIMEDDH (Mexico)
    Lao Movement for Human Rights
    Latvian Human Rights Committee
    Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
    LDH – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (France)
    League for Defence of Human Rights - LADO (Romania)
    Legal Aid Society (Uzbekistan)
    Legal and Human Rights Centre (Tanzania)
    Legal Clinic "Adilet" (Kyrgyzstan)
    Liga Voor Mensenrechten (Belgium)
    Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH) (Algeria)
    Ligue des électeurs (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
    Ligue Iteka (Burundi)
    Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme (Ivory Coast)
    Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains (Senegal)
    Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’Homme (Chad)
    Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (Tunisia)
    Maison des droits de l’Homme du Cameroun (Cameroon)
    Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (Ivory Coast)
    Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (Brazil)
    Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    Organisation guinéenne des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen (Guinea)
    Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (Morocco)
    Organisation nationale des droits de l’Homme (Senegal)
    Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) (Lebanon)
    People’s Watch (India)
    Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’Homme - RADDHO (Senegal)
    Réseau Doustourna (Tunisia)
    Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
    Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (Sudan)
    Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
    Taiwan Association for Human Rights
    The Public Committee against Torture in Israel
    The Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF) (Yemen)
    Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

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