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.