Action on Resolution on Civil Society Space
In a resolution (A/HRC/C/L.29) on civil society space, adopted with a vote of 31 in favour, 7 against, with 9 abstentions, the Council urges States to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity; also urges States to ensure access to justice, and accountability, and to end impunity for human rights violations and abuses against civil society actors; and calls upon States to ensure that domestic provisions on funding to civil society actors are in compliance with their international human rights obligations and commitments. The Council invites States to seek technical assistance and advice in this regard; and requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report compiling information on the procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organizations, and to submit the compilation to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.
The result of the vote was as follows:
In favour (31): Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Against (7): China, Congo, Cuba, Nigeria, Russian Federation, South Africa, and Venezuela.
Abstentions (9): Bolivia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam.
Ireland, introducing draft resolution L.29 on civil society space, said ensuring that the space in which civil society operated was safe was a priority. The draft resolution was about enabling civil society with the freedoms and rights that allowed them to carry out their work, including social assembly, association and expression. The work of civil society was to promote human rights, development, peace and security. This was work that underscored the purposes of the United Nations. The draft resolution was practical, capturing some challenges that civil society faced, as well as their contributions. Ireland thanked all States for their participation in the negotiations, and said that 30 revisions had been done to respond to all the differences. It regretted that 15 amendments had been proposed despite the revisions. Ireland hoped that these oral revisions would convince all those Member States who had proposed amendments to withdraw them.
Sierra Leone, also introducing draft resolution L.29 on civil society space, said civil society played a key role in the promotion and protection of human rights. The core group had a representation which reflected the broad scope of this issue. To ensure that all voices were heard and no one was left behind, the process had been an inclusive one. Over 34 revisions had been accepted since the negotiations. One of the primary objectives was to ensure not only the momentum of the past resolution, but to achieve a consensus text that would further ensure the promotion and protection of civil society actors. Sierra Leone hoped that the draft resolution would be supported by Member States.
Russian Federation, introducing amendments L.51 through L.65, said that it was presenting a set of amendments on behalf of a number of countries. The amendments were a necessary step. The countries on whose behalf the Russian Federation was speaking today attached importance to the issue under discussion. Regret was expressed that the main sponsors had only looked at civil and political rights. The inclusion of economic and cultural rights had been suggested many times but that suggestion had not been heeded. The amendments contained in L.51, L.57 and L.58 were withdrawn. Amendment L.63 had been proposed, which removed the direct quotes and references to that report. Other amendments and their contents were detailed. Regret was expressed that the main sponsors of the initiative were not prepared to find mutually acceptable solutions. Many of the issues and concerns could have been resolved through additional meetings. There had been defamatory media messages and messages on social media; the latter had included non-governmental organizations’ participation. That behaviour was an attempt to prevent countries from expressing concerns, and was a violation of the conduct of negotiations. Russian Federation asked for the consideration of the amendments separately.
Switzerland, speaking in a general comment on behalf of the co-sponsors, regretted that so many amendments had been made in spite of the multiple revisions that had aimed at satisfying the differences. Therefore, the co-sponsors would vote against all the amendments.
The President of the Human Rights Council announced that amendments L. 51 L.57 L.58 had been withdrawn.
United Kingdom, speaking in a general comment, said it strongly supported draft resolution L.29. Civil society organizations provided life-saving and life-changing services, in health, development and many more fields Civil society actors dedicated their lives to help others, often at personal risk. It regretted that such a large number of amendments had been tabled, many of them related to points already raised during the negotiations. The United Kingdom would vote against all amendments and called on all those who valued civil society to do the same.
Paraguay, speaking in a general comment, said it opposed amendments L.53 and L.64. The term human rights defenders was clear and understood, and it had been accepted in hundreds of resolutions, many of which had been adopted by consensus. In relation to L.53, the operations of civil society needed protection. The mention of Nobel Peace Prize actors did not set special rights for anyone. Paraguay also specified its rejection of amendment L.64. Paraguay called upon Member States to vote against these amendments.
Belgium, speaking in a general comment, said that human rights defenders played a key role in societies. Concern was expressed because space given to civil society was shrinking in many places. Belgium supported the resolution and called on all members to support the text as it was, without weakening its content, and to reject the amendments which were not accepted by all.
Portugal, speaking in a general comment, said civil society was crucial to all societies. The draft resolution recognized that important role for civil society. It provided practical options on how to maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society.
Republic of Korea, speaking in a general comment, said it was a matter of priority to ensure a safe environment for civil society. Appreciation was expressed for the main sponsors’ efforts to strengthen the text. The text before the Council addressed a wide range of issues regarding the participation of civil society. A crucial part of the text was found in operative paragraph 13 on civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process. The Republic of Korea lent its support to the resolution as it stood and its opposition to all amendments.
Action on Draft Amendment L.52
Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of co-sponsors, rejected amendment L.52 and said that civil society facilitated the achievement of principles and purposes of the United Nations.
Mexico, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft resolution recognized the important role of civil society on local, national, regional and international levels. Mexico would vote against this amendment.
The Council rejected draft amendment L.52 by a vote of 12 in favour, 22 against and 12 abstentions.
Action on Draft Amendment L.53
Panama, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the concept of human rights defenders was well established in the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and in the regional human rights mechanisms. Panama rejected amendment L.53.
United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, welcomed the award of the Nobel peace prize to civil society, which was a reflection of the profoundly crucial role that civil society could play. Such was an example of the Tunisian Quartet. The United Kingdom firmly opposed the amendment which sought to delete the terms human rights defenders, which had been recognized by the Human Rights Council since its inception, and had been mentioned in many of its resolutions. There was no rational reason for its deletion; it was an attempt to remove legitimacy of those figures engaged on the frontline of the promotion of human rights.
The Council rejected draft amendment L.53 by a vote of 12 in favour, 23 against and 12 abstentions.
Actions on Draft Amendment L.54
Slovenia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it strongly opposed amendment L.54. Civil society presented a moral compass and was a mirror of success and failure. It was the Human Rights Council’s duty to protect these rights. For these reasons, Slovenia would vote against the amendment, and called upon other Member States to do the same.
Latvia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the reprisals against those engaged in human rights and the retaliation against them was a harsh reality. Acts against civil society actions as well the increase in curbing their rights was a reality. For this reason, Latvia would vote no on amendment L.54 and requested all to do the same.
Netherlands, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed the amendment. Civil society helped to make the case for stronger protection of human rights and as such was an indispensable partner of the Human Rights Council. It was important that the resolution on civil society space addressed their safety. Not doing so would send the wrong signal. It would say that this Council does not value their space and safety. Therefore, the Netherlands would vote against this amendment and called upon all others to do likewise.
Amendment L.54 was rejected by a vote of 13 in favour, 23 against, with 11 abstentions.
Action on Draft Amendment L.55
Netherlands, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed amendment L.55 as it would undermine the draft resolution as a whole and reminded all that the language used in the draft resolution was a result of the consensus. Who would decide what constituted a “responsible civil society” that the amendment sought to introduce, and on what basis, asked the Netherlands. It noted that this qualifier would undermine the activity and safety of civil society activists, and would restrict rather than facilitate the work of civil society. The Netherlands would vote against the amendment.
United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the new wording would introduce qualifiers in relation to civil society which were worrisome and would ensure the protection of civil society only of it acted in an “open, transparent and responsible manner”. The term “responsible” was highly open and it would be up to each State to define its meaning, and this would open the space for abuse, especially for civil society which raised issues that State authorities found hard to hear. The United Kingdom would vote no and called on all other Council members to do the same.
The Council rejected draft amendment L.55 by a vote of 17 in favour, 21 against, with 9 abstentions.
Action on Draft Amendment L.56
Germany, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of co-sponsors, opposed this draft amendment and said that this paragraph was the heart of the resolution as it described the challenging environments in which civil society actors operated. Germany would vote no on amendment L.56 and called on all other Council members to do the same.
Switzerland, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft amendment would change the aim of the resolution and would dramatically change the scope of preambular paragraph 12, which referred to instances where domestic legislation had a negative impact on civil society, instances where domestic legislation was not in line with international legislation, or if it was, it was used for different purposes. Switzerland would vote against this draft amendment.
The Council rejected draft amendment L.56 with a vote of 16 in favour, 22 against and nine abstentions.
Action on Draft Amendment L.59
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it gave utmost importance to civil society space. Regarding L.59, the core group and co-sponsors opposed this amendment. The language used in the draft resolution was agreed upon language. It was a broad term which was aimed at integrating all groups, empowering those most at risk. For these reasons, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would vote no on this amendment, and called upon others to vote against it.
Belgium, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, called on all to vote against L.59. The deletion of the views would be very unhealthy. Indeed an important part of civil society was that it brought a significant perspective to bear on society as a whole. The right to freedom of expression was not and could not be limited to views of government. This was unacceptable. Belgium would vote no on this amendment and called on all members to do likewise.
Amendment L.59 was rejected with 9 votes in favour, 22 against, and 15 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.60
Mexico, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.60, expressed surprise at the amendment which attempted to modify agreed language. The proponents of the amendment had agreed on that very language. It was incomprehensible why that discussion should be re-opened. All were called on to vote no.
Lithuania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it would vote against the amendment and invited all Council members to do the same.
The Council then rejected amendment L.60 with a vote of 13 in favour, 22 against, with 12 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.61
Latvia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said amendment L.61 was a re-write that did not just reorder operative paragraph 8, but was also in other ways neither appropriate nor acceptable. Other measures of the amendment were unnecessary and confusing.
Germany, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said as a co-sponsor of the resolution, the amendment would remove a key concept from the resolution, adding that Germany would vote no, and invited all Council members to do likewise.
The Council then rejected the amendment by a vote of 15 in favour, 22 against, with 10 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.62
Republic of Korea, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it did not support amendment L.62, as it would weaken civil society space. Operative paragraph 13 was fully in line with the Universal Periodic Review. More importantly, its purpose was to encourage the involvement of civil society in the Universal Periodic Review process. Therefore, the Republic of Korea would vote no on this amendment and called on all States to do the same.
Belgium, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, opposed the amendment and called on all others to do the same. Consulting civil society when preparing the report and involving them during the recommendations were key for the Universal Periodic Review. Belgium would vote no on this amendment and called upon others to do likewise.
Amendment L.62 was rejected, with a vote of 15 in favour, 22 against, and 10 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.63
France, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.63, said that France opposed it because it aimed at withdrawing a key paragraph from the resolution. Freedom of expression for civil society was sine qua non for smooth expression of civil and political rights. For that reason France called for a vote on the amendment and would vote no.
Slovenia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Slovenia rejected the amendment which was aimed at the heart of the resolution. The paragraph did not impose anything on States, but encouraged them to identify good practices. Slovenia would vote no.
The Council then rejected the amendment by a vote of 13 in favour, to 22 against, with 12 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.64
Albania, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.64, said that the core group opposed the amendment. The rationale of the amendment was difficult to understand. The paragraph was expressed as an invitation on a voluntary basis. A vote was called on the amendment, and Albania would vote against it.
The Council then rejected the amendment by a vote of 11 in favour, to 23 against, with 13 abstentions.
Action on draft amendment L.65
Germany, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.65, said that the amendment could not be accepted. Germany would vote no and called on all members of the Council to do likewise.
Georgia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on amendment L.65, said the rationale for the draft resolution’s request for the participation of civil society was a constructive one, which would be useful to all relevant actors.
The Council then rejected the amendment by a vote of 9 in favour, to 22 against, with 15 abstentions.
Action on Draft Resolution L.29 on Civil Society Space as a Whole as Orally Revised
South Africa, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the delegation of South Africa would never challenge the role of civil society. The role of civil society in post-apartheid South Africa was established in the Constitution, in a context which was clear, and with separation of powers. South Africa pointed out that it would vote against the draft resolution because it made a claim that there was a clampdown on civil society in South Africa, which was not the case. In addition, it made a claim that the registration of civil society organizations was contrary to international law. Three, it did not address limits to freedom of expression. Four, it created new obligations. South Africa could not support the draft resolution because it placed obligations on States that allowed transfer of funding, provided tax incentives for donors, and allowed unregistered organizations to operate. It also exonerated private entities. It deliberately omitted the Economic and Social Council resolution governing the participation of civil society in the United Nations system. Therefore South Africa could not support the resolution.
India, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said despite differences of opinions, the sponsors of the resolution had come to adopt a highly one-sided approach, as well as over generalisation and unsubstantiated assertions. India could not agree with a proposal that limited any restriction on funding. The world had to acknowledge that funding of civil society could be misused. This misuse adversely impacted the credibility of the entire civil society. Both the report and the draft resolution ignored the fact that civil society was often made up of diverse groups. The report only listed those rights which some States chose in a selective manner. Civil society must function within the laws. Advocacy should be tempered by the need of transparency and sobriety. While India supported the gist of the overall resolution, it regretted that its principal concerns had been unacknowledged. Therefore India disassociated itself from preambular paragraph 13, and operative paragraphs 8, 14 and 16 of the draft resolution.
Saudi Arabia, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on behalf of Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates, said they supported civil society organizations. The support that these countries provided allowed civil society organizations to act within a framework of social responsibility and was based on financing and transparency of the organizations. The draft resolution proposed operational conditions which would open the door endlessly. The group of countries insisted on using criteria that prevented creative acts and freedom of speech from being taken to the detriment of other human rights, including ethnic or racial discrimination. Rights and freedoms were guaranteed by law in this group of countries. Freedom must not give rise to public disorder nor undermine the freedom of others. Saudi Arabia noted that preambular paragraphs 6, 8, 9, 11 and 14, as well as operative paragraphs 1,4,7, 8, 13, and 14 were all of concern.
China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, regretted that most of the amendments had not been adopted. It believed that the orally adopted draft resolution had many defects. First, it failed to deal with the concept of civil society. One should respect countries and their national domestic laws in guiding the healthy development of civil society. Second, it distorted the concept of democracy and traditional consensus. It put labels on normal practices. Third, it weakened economic and social rights and the right to development. Fourth, it failed to balance the rights and obligations of civil society organizations. It stressed their freedoms while avoiding mentioning that these should operate in a constructive manner in accordance with the law. Finally, it used non-validated information as a tool to force upon countries obligations and so-called standards on communication technology applications and so forth. These jeopardized relevant and credible civil society initiatives and did not promote consensus. In view of the above, China would vote against L.29.
Viet Nam, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.29, said it was clear that there were still different views on the subject that L.29 was dealing with. Constructive contributions had been rejected, and some concerns raised by other speakers had to be addressed.
Russian Federation, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.29, said that Russia was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms. A mature civil society was something Russia was giving attention to, developing dialogue with civil society through coordinating and advisory structures.The Russian Federation welcomed the attention of the Council to legitimate activities of civil society. It regretted that the co-sponsors of L.29 had not wished for an open, constructive dialogue and refused to take in amendments. The State should provide support and provide a favourable environment to various structures in civil society. In various countries there had been considerable progress. The Russian Federation wished to draw attention to the fact that of the amendments it had proposed, not one was rejected by a majority of the Council. That showed that the co-sponsors were in the minority and were trying to impose their views. The Russian Federation, together with China requested a vote on the text of L.29 and would vote against the draft, calling on other members of the Council to do the same.
Cuba, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L.29, said the draft resolution before the Council did not promote a cooperative focus. Cuba did not favour attempts to impose solutions on States. For the aforementioned reasons, Cuba could not support the draft resolution.
United Kingdom, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the Council should not shy away from addressing the challenges that civil society faced. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were central to the Council’s work. The United Kingdom shared concerns about the way the NGO Committee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council had been misused to defer the accreditation of human rights organizations, in order to prevent them from participating in the activities of the Council. There were also very serious allegations that human rights defenders had received death threats on social media from a delegate at the end of the previous session of the Council. At this session, travel bans had been imposed on activists to prevent them from coming to Geneva. The United Kingdom called on all Member States to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
The Council then adopted draft resolution L.29, as orally revised, by a vote of 31 in favour, 7 against, with 9 abstentions.
GENERAL DEBATE ON HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS THAT REQUIRE THE COUNCIL’S ATTENTION
GENERAL DEBATE ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
GENERAL DEBATE ON THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS
GENERAL DEBATE ON THE REPORT OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER OF HUMAN RIGHTS
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON EXTREME POVERTY
INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND OF ASSOCIATION
INTERATIVE DIAGLOGUE ON THE RIGHT TO HEALTH
UN COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA: ISIS IS COMMITTING GENOCIDE AGAINST YAZIDIS
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
Action on Draft Amendments L.71 to L.81
Action on Draft Resolution L.2/Rev.1
Action on Non-Action Motion
Action on Operative Paragraph 2
Action on the Title of Draft Resolution L.2/Rev.1
Introduction of the Resolution
Separate Action on Operative Paragraphs 3 To 7
Action on the Amendments L.82, L.83, L.84 L.89
Action on Draft Resolution L.35
Action on Amendments L.52, L.53, L.54, L.55, L.56, L.59, L.60, L.61, L.62, L.63, L.64, L.65
Action on the Resolution on Civil Society Space
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