Abstract: Creating a Safe Environment for Civil Society

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May 26, 2016

In an April 2016 report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a variety of recommendations for “the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.” The report came in response to a request from the Human Rights Council, which recognized the vital role of civil society in encouraging good governance and contributing to the creation of peaceful democratic societies.

The report includes contributions from all types of actors, from Member States to human rights institutions to diverse civil society organizations, and reflects examples of good practices from all regions across the globe. The report also discusses the reasons for protecting civil society space, including among them the mandates of international human rights law, enhanced social cohesion and minority participation, greater citizen engagement in decision-making, and increased business and economic success based on transparency and access to information.

The High Commissioner places special emphasis on the presence of five “essential ingredients” for fostering the health and growth of civil society. These components are: “a robust legal framework compliant with international standards that safeguards public freedoms and effective access to justice; a political environment conducive to civil society work; access to information; avenues for participation by civil society in decision-making processes; and long-term support and resources for civil society.” 

The report goes on to provide a number of practical recommendations to Member states to create and sustain each ingredient and for regional and international entities to monitor the system as a whole.

Read the full report here.