India and South Africa in UN Human Rights Council remain reluctant towards civil society

October 1, 2014

Under the title “India dissociates itself from UN Human Rights Council resolution favouring pluralistic civil society“, Counterview of 30 September 2014, expresses its disappointment with the position taken by India (and other States such as South Africa) who one would normally expect to come out in support of a vibrant civil society, including specifically human rights defenders. They did not call for a vote – so the resolution passed – but expressed strong opposition. This is in line with earlier behaviour in the Council [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/india-and-south-africa-forsaking-their-human-rights-credentials/]. Here some extracts:

“The day Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched New York, September 26, an important development which missed everyone’s attention took place. While the UN Human Rights Council urged all member-states to adopt a resolution for ushering in a pluralistic civil society, India decided to dissociate itself from any such move. The resolution got more than 66 co-sponsors, and it asks the UN High Commissioner to prepare “a compilation of practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling environment for civil society.”………
ARTICLE 19 executive director Thomas Hughes noted “We are perplexed that supposedly democratic States, like India and South Africa, have taken issue with this basic principle.” The resolution was tabled by Ireland, with a core group of Chile, Japan, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia. Hughes said, “This resolution is a vital and timely response to the shrinking of civil society space that we see globally. We welcome that the Council rejected attempts to weaken this text, thus reaffirming that a pluralistic civil society is critical to strengthen democracy and development, provide essential services, and promoting and protecting human rights.”  …

Crucial points of principle based on states’ existing obligations under international human rights law which became part of the resolution included:

  • The ability of people to collectively solicit, receive and utilise resources is a key component of the right to freedom of association;
  • National-security and counter-terrorism legislation, and provisions on funding should not be abused to hinder the work or safety of civil society;
  • Civil society space is particularly important for persons belonging to minority and marginalised or otherwise disadvantaged groups, as well as for persons espousing minority or dissenting views and beliefs;
  • The real and effective participation of people in decision-making processes should be secured, including at the domestic level in the development, implementation or review of legislation, but also at the regional and international levels.

Several countries came with what are called “hostile amendments”, including Bahrain, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Russia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela….

C O U N T E R V I E W: India dissociates iself from UN Human Rights Council resolution favouring pluralistic civil society.

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