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More than 150 civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals worldwide have joined together to call on G20 leaders to take action to protect and expand civic space.
With the G20 Summit scheduled for November, the Civil 20 Civic Space Sub-Working Group, which includes ECNL (the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law) as a member, published a policy brief for the leaders on 22 July. Urging action, it draws attention to policies worldwide that are challenging civic space by limiting the freedom of association, assembly, expression, and other civil and political rights, in both the physical and digital domains.
The sub-working group states in the brief that “due to inadequate legal protection that most countries are having, human rights defenders are now at a greater risk of getting hostile retaliation from state and non-state actors when exercising rights to defend public interest.”
However, eliminating these challenges, it says, is possible and will have not only have benefits for human rights organisations and activists, but also for governments, businesses and individuals globally. In the policy brief, the sub-working group points to the positive impact the expansion and protection of civic space has had on the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, and especially Goals 16 (Promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies) and 17 (Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development).
The Group is therefore calling on the G20 governments to take concrete action and to:
- Protect and expand civic space by ensuring the fair and non-discriminatory use of digital technologies and facilitating CSO access to resources, such as crowdfunding.
- Put an end to attacks, criminalisation, stigmatisation through legal protection for human rights defenders against threats, attacks, or violence, and by monitoring and reporting on human rights violations against civil society actors by independent commissions.
- Involve civil society more in public policy development and decision-making by creating and sustaining partnerships with CSOs, by allowing them to participate fully and by engaging them meaningfully in national or global decision-making processes, starting at the G20 level.
In addition, the sub-working group is also calling for a permanent civic space working group to be established in the G20 and its engagement group C20.