Human Rights Council: Restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better

Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Thank you, Madame President; High Commissioner.

We welcome your update and strongly agree that recovering better requires ensuring participation for all. In this very difficult year, we are encouraged that civic activism has continued as people have mobilised to demand their rights.

But across the world, civil society has been impeded in its work.  The CIVICUS Monitor shows that in the context of COVID-19 measures, protest rights have been violated and restrictions on freedom of expression continue as states enact overly broad emergency legislation that limits human rights.

We reiterate that restrictions on civil society will curtail any chance of building back better. States should indeed be investing in protecting and promoting a free and independent civil society at this crucial time.

The Council has the opportunity to act immediately on a number of situations where civic space is being threatened. In Sri Lanka, attacks against civil society are compounding grave failures of accountability. In Nicaragua, where ahead of elections, restrictions on civic space and expressions of dissent are likely to escalate. Myanmar, where we are inspired by the courage of people who risk lives and freedom every day to protest the coup, who continue to fear violent crackdown on dissenting voices. In India, where the government has continued its persecution of human rights defenders, student leaders, journalists and other critics, including through restrictive laws, prolonged pre-trial detention and excessive force perpetrated against protesters. 

We call on the Council this Session to take measures to support civil society by acting now, on the situations brought before it. Situations which require immediate action.