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30 June 2016

Open Letter to Member States of the UN Human Rights Council

Re: Call for your support and solidarity in rejecting amendments to HRC32 draft resolution protecting civil society space (A/HRC/32/L.29)

29 June 2016

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned 244 civil society organizations, spanning across all regions of the world, call on your delegation to stand in solidarity with civil society by supporting the draft resolution on the protection of civil society space, to be considered for adoption at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council (on 30 June or 1 July).  We urge you to cosponsor the draft resolution, reject all amendments, and vote in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

The draft resolution, presented by a cross-regional group of States comprising of Chile, Ireland, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia, was developed through broad consultation with States and civil society and in the past was adopted by consensus.

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The essential ingredients for States to create a safe and enabling environment for civil society are spelled out in the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report, on which the draft resolution is based. It affirms that:

“If space exists for civil society to engage, there is a greater likelihood that all rights will be better protected. Conversely, the closing of civil society space, and threats and reprisals against civil society activists, are early warning signs of instability. Over time, policies that delegitimize, isolate and repress people calling for different approaches or legitimately claiming their rights can exacerbate frustrations and lead to instability or even conflict.”

The draft resolution welcomes the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and recognizes the key role of civil society in achieving the goals. Once adopted, the resolution will be a substantive contribution to the Council’s work to protect civil society space. In particular, it:

  • Emphasizes the positive contribution of independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society to peace, security, sustainable development and human rights, and highlights good practice in protecting and supporting this role;
  • Provides useful guidance for States to ensure that legal and policy frameworks are enabling for civil society and prevent intimidation and reprisals against civil society actors;
  • Helps States and civil society to identify areas of legal, policy and administrative reform to safeguard the ability of civil society actors to fully exercise the rights to freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and association, and to participate in democracy and public life, without hindrance. This includes on registration and reporting requirements, access to information, and securing resources for the vital work of civil society;
  • Creates opportunities and incentives for States to voluntarily share and develop their good practices, and to lay the groundwork to benefit from the transformative potential of a vibrant civil society in any healthy, pluralistic and participatory democracy;
  • Mandates OHCHR to study practices and procedures for civil society to contribute to the work of international and regional organisations, and consolidate best practices and challenges in that regard; and
  • Invites United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programs to themselves contribute to the protection and expansion of space for civil society.

However, fifteen amendments (L. 51 – L. 66) tabled by the Russian Federation seek to remove these essential elements from the draft resolution, and insert language to justify illegitimate restrictions on civil society that would undermine the protections of international human rights law. Many of the amendments challenge previously agreed HRC or General Assembly language.

If adopted, the amendments would undermine international efforts to safeguard space or civil society, including because they would effectively:

  • Reject the expert guidance and practical recommendations made by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on civil society space, including to remove substantive recommendations to states on ensuring: a supportive legal framework for civil society and access to justice; public and political environment for civil society; access to information; public participation of civil society actors, and human rights education (L. 63);
  • Remove or otherwise limit commitments to protect and promote the right to freedom of association, in particular civil society’s right to access resources for its vital work, and to be free of arbitrary registration and reporting requirements that seek to hinder the work and safety of civil society (L. 56, L. 57, L. 61, L. 63);
  • Remove references to the gravity of threats civil society faces, including illegitimate restrictions to their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as reprisals against those seeking to cooperate or cooperating with the United Nations and other international bodies (L.51, L.54);
  • Narrow the understanding of “minority groups”, by seeking to include only a limited and under-inclusive list of protected characteristics to the exclusion of others recognised under international human rights law (L. 59);
  • Remove reference to the term “human rights defenders”, as well as previous work of the HRC on their protection (L.51, L. 53);
  • Remove concerns that restrictions on civil society may limit the United Nations in achieving its purposes and principles (L. 52), and removing the emphasis on the Universal Periodic Review as an important mechanism to create space for civil society (L.62).

Excellency, we therefore ask that your delegation stand in solidarity with civil society by cosponsoring draft resolution L.29 on civil society space, opposing any amendment that would weaken the text, as those tabled appear to do, and voting in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.


  1. Abibiman Foundation
  2. Access Now 
  3. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
  4. Adala Center for Human Rights
  5. African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  6. Akahata AC
  7. Albanian Helsinki Committee
  8. Alkarama Foundation
  9. Alliance for Democracy in Laos
  10. Alliance for Good Governance (AGG)
  11. Allied Rainbow Communities International
  12. Alternatives
  13. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  14. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  15. Amnesty International 
  16. Anuak Justice Council (AJC)
  17. Arab Forum for the rights of people with disability
  18. ARTICLE 19
  19. Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  20. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  21. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)
  22. Association des victimes et parents du 28 Septembre 2009
  23. Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE)
  24. Association for Progressive Communications
  25. Association for Promotion of Sustainable Development, Hisar, India
  26. Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
  27. Association of Scientists, Developers and Faculties
  28. Association of Women for Awareness & Motivation (AWAM)
  29. Association of World Citizens
  30. Baha'i International Community
  31. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  32. Bahrain youth society for Human Rights
  33. Boat People SOS
  34. Both ENDS
  35. British Humanist Association
  36. Brot für die Welt
  37. Burma Task Force/Justice for All
  38. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
  39. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  40. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  41. Center for Development of International Law
  42. Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
  43. Center for Inquiry (USA)
  44. Center for International Environmental Law
  45. Center for Reproductive Rights
  46. Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rutgers University
  47. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
  48. Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan
  49. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  50. Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género
  51. CEPAZ (Venezuela)
  52. Child Rights Connect
  53. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  54. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  55. Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE)
  56. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  57. Coalition de la Societe Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral (COSOME)
  58. Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CIDDH)
  59. Coalition of African Lesbians
  60. CODDHD (Niger)
  61. COFADEH (Honduras)
  63. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos
  64. Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement - Terre Solidaire
  65. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  66. Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (South Sudan)
  67. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  68. Concertation Nationale de la Societe Civile du Togo (CNSC- TOGO)
  69. Conectas Human Rights
  70. Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC)
  71. Coordination des associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
  72. CREA (India)
  73. Deepti Bhuban
  74. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
  75. Dimension Humaine
  76. Due for youth and women Tainment Forum (Nigeria)
  77. East Timor and Indonesia Action Network
  78. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  79. Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
  80. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
  81. Emonyo Yefwe International
  82. End Impunity Organization
  83. Equality Myanmar
  84. Ethiopian Human Rights Project (EHRP)
  85. European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
  86. European Center For Not For Profit Law
  87. European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
  88. Femmes et Droits Humains
  89. Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA)
  90. Foundation for Media Alternatives
  91. Foundation for Media Alternatives (Philippines)
  92. Freedom House
  93. Front Line Defenders
  94. Function 8 Ltd
  95. Girls Education Mission International
  96. Global Bersih
  97. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  98. Global Fund for Women
  99. Global Human Rights Group
  100. Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
  101. Global Initiatives for Human Rights - Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
  102. Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
  103. Hawaii Institute for Human Rights
  104. Help & Shelter
  105. Helsinki Citizen«s Assembly, Vanadzor
  106. Hope for Community Development Organization(HCDO)
  107. HRM "Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan"
  108. Human Rights and Legal Aid Network (HRLAN)
  109. Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE)
  110. Human Rights Defenders Alert - India
  111. Human Rights Defenders Network
  112. Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)
  113. Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
  114. Human Rights Law Centre
  115. Human Rights Watch
  116. Humanitaire Plus
  117. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
  119. Hungarian Civil Liberties UNion
  120. Hurisa
  121. IFEX
  122. IHEU in New York
  123. iilab UG
  124. Indian Social Action Forum - INSAF
  125. Insight Namibia
  126. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa
  127. Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM)
  128. Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  129. International Alliance Of Women
  130. International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges IAAI
  131. International Center For Not For Profit Law
  132. International Commission of Jurists
  133. International Dalit Solidarity Network
  134. International Federation for East Timor (IFET)
  135. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  136. International Humanist and Ethical Union
  137. International IDAHO committee
  138. International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
  139. International Platform against Impunity
  140. International Presentation Association
  141. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
  142. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  143. International Women's Development Agency (IWDA)
  144. International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM)
  145. Iraqi Al-Amal Association
  146. Irish Council for Civil Liberties
  147. Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
  148. JASS (Just Associates)
  149. JOINT LIGA DE ONGs em Mocambique
  150. Jonction
  151. Justice and Peace Netherlands
  152. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  153. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
  154. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
  155. Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS)
  156. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU) Malaysia
  157. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
  158. Korean House for International Solidarity
  159. Kuwait Watch
  160. Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La'o Hamutuk)
  161. Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre
  162. Lawyers Rights Watch C anada
  163. Legal and Human Rights Centre
  164. Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs, Slovenia
  165. LGBT Human Rights NASH MIR Center
  166. LIDEJEL
  167. Loretto Community
  168. Lutheran World Federation
  169. Mariakani Magnet Theater
  170. Martin Ennals Foundation
  171. Mauritius Council of Social Services
  172. Men against Violence and Abuse Alliance
  173. MINBYUN - Lawyers for a Democratic Society - South Korea
  174. Minority Rights Group
  175. Mityana Rural Sustainable Farmers Organisation
  176. Mongolian Gender Equality Center
  177. Mouvement pour les Libertes Individuelles
  178. Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri )
  179. Nagorik Uddyog
  180. National Center For Advocacy Studies
  181. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders -Burundi
  182. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders-Kenya
  183. National Human Rights Monitors Organization (NHRMO)
  184. New Future Foundation
  185. New Woman Foundation
  186. NGO Federation of Nepal
  187. Niwaafa (Nigerian women agro allied farmers association)
  188. Observatorio de derechos humanos de la Universidad de Los Andes
  189. ONG Ezaka ho Fampandrosoana any Ambanivohitra, ONG EFA, Madagascar
  190. P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
  191. Pacific Womens Indigenous Networks
  192. Pacificwin-SamoaNZ
  193. Pacificwin-Youth
  194. Palestinian Consultative Staff for Developing NGOs
  195. Pan Africa ILGA
  196. Partnership for Justice
  197. Peace Brigades International
  198. People in Need (PIN)
  199. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
  200. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
  201. Privacy International
  202. Public Association "Dignity"
  203. Public Sphere Project
  204. Public Verdict Foundation
  205. Pusat KOMAS
  206. Radio Souriat
  207. Renewable Freedom Foundation
  209. Reseau de Defenseurs des Droits Humains de l'Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)
  210. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  211. Rural Reconstruction Nepal
  212. Seguridad en Democracia (SEDEM)
  213. Sexual Rights Initiative
  214. Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)
  215. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM), Malaysia
  216. Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia
  217. Stichting Global Alliance for LGBT Education (GALE)
  218. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  219. Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA)
  220. Supolnasc Centre
  221. Tenaganita
  222. The Norwegian Human Rights Fund
  223. Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La'o Hamutuk)
  224. Togolese Coalition for Human Defender's Right
  225. Transformation Resource Centre
  226. Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos -Guatemala
  227. Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social
  228. United Federation for peacekeeping &Sustainable Development
  229. United Religions Initiative
  230. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
  231. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  232. VOICE
  233. We women Lanka
  234. Women Peace Network-Arakan
  235. Women Thrive Worldwide
  236. World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
  237. World Movement for Democracy
  238. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  239. World Uyghur Congress
  240. Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms
  241. Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD)
  242. Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
  243. Zimbabwe United Nations Association
  244. Zo Indigenous Forum