Equal participation in political and public affairs - CIVICUS Statement at Human Rights Council

33nd session of the Human Rights Council

CIVICUS welcomes this opportunity to address the High Commissioner and the Council on the evolving discussion to develop a more robust guiding framework to protect and promote the right to participate in political and public affairs. We applaud the High Commissioner and Council for facilitating an inclusive process, including the recent expert working group meeting, to enable wide engagement among a diverse range of stakeholders.

Critical to these standards is the notion that this right goes beyond periodic elections and includes the right to be consulted through legislative drafting and policymaking processes. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are intrinsically connected and indispensable to the fulfilment of the right to participate in political and public affairs. The promotion of these rights creates essential spaces for civil society organizations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) to effectively ensure that elections and participatory processes are in compliance with international human rights norms.

Mr President, 

Despite the recognized centrality of protecting and promoting civil society rights during elections periods and of creating participatory mechanisms and processes, CSOs and HRDs are commonly subjected to targeted persecution to prevent them from engaging in election-related activities. Such legislative and extra-legal restrictions, including prohibitions of public rallies, judicial harassment of government critics, and unwarranted limitations on the legitimate activities of CSOs, undermine the possibility of free and fair elections and the inclusivity of public decision-making processes.

We urge the Council to adopt the resolution on political participation, currently under discussion, which reflects these intersecting issues and further requests the Office of the High Commissioner to develop action-oriented guidelines to facilitate the operationalization and implementation of the right to participate in public affairs. Given the nature of the issue, it is critically important that the Council and the High Commissioner ensure an open, transparent and inclusive drafting process in broad consultation with a diverse range of civil society actors. Thank you Mr. President.