Threats to civil society space: a joint statement from the G20 Civil Summit in Russia

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat

Translations: RU

The G20 Civil Summit is an excellent opportunity for G20 governments to interact with representatives of global civil society who are working on issues related to G20 priorities. As participants in this summit, we welcome this forum and commend the government of the Russian Federation for organising it.
At the same time, though, the G20 Civil Summit is not occurring in a vacuum.  
In Russia, severe restrictions are being placed on civil society organisations' freedom to operate as new laws require organisations that have received funding or other support from overseas to register as 'foreign agents' or risk being shut down. People across the Russian Federation stand to lose the most from the termination of the work undertaken by these organisations, which ironically is often undertaken at the request of the government itself. It is crucial that governments differentiate direct services, advocacy and policy work from political activity, which is completely different.
We underscore that Russia's treatment of civil society organisations is part of a wider trend – both in other G20 countries and across the globe – in which the space for civil society activity is shrinking. People in the non-profit and civil society sectors IN MANY COUNTRIES are harassed, imprisoned, threatened and even kidnapped or killed. We strongly condemn all such harassment, including actions that affect the independence, funding and scope of civil society work.  Tolerance of diversity and respect for human rights should be the hallmark of all societies.
An active, independent civil society forms an integral part of a healthy, democratic society. Civil society organisations play an essential role to identify problems and work constructively and in partnership towards solving them.  This work requires a legislative environment which allows this work to be undertaken without undue interference.  In addition, in an increasingly globalised world – in which governments acknowledge the need for collaboration through forum like the G20 – it is legitimate for civil society organisations to work together across boundaries, including the provision and sharing of resources.
The Civil 20 process must not be a substitute – or perceived to be a substitute – for genuine and committed engagement with civil society.
Signed by:

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