For the third year in a row, the European alliance SOLIDAR, of which we are a member, organized the “Global Week of Action”. The week of action took place on the occasion of the UN World Day for Social Justice (February 20). This year’s theme was “Countering Shrinking Civic Space” – countering increasing restrictions on human rights and civic freedoms. After all, the restriction of spaces for action and fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly, association and expression is a bitter reality for many people and has a direct impact on their lives.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor, only 3.4 percent of the world’s population today live in countries with open civic space for action. While the phenomenon sounds abstract in Europe, it primarily affects people in our project countries in the global South. Illegal arrests of trade unionists, killings of activists or smear campaigns against activists, trade unions and organizations are constantly increasing. In Cambodia, the government recently cracked down on striking trade unionists, arresting several of them. This uncompromising approach violates the right to freedom of association and assembly as enshrined in ILO conventions. These worrying tendencies are the reason why we, together with civil society organizations around the world, are mobilizing against this threat to fundamental rights on the occasion of the World Day for Social Justice 2022. Therefore, together with our network SOLIDAR, we want to highlight the issue and show what are challenges and possible solutions for activists, NGOs and trade unions to act against it.
SOLIDAR publishes a statement with demands to the EU as an important actor for the enforcement of human rights, rule of law, democracy and peace. This is because governments have the political and financial tools to support these struggles against restrictions in civil society space.
We address the same with certain demands from the Declaration to the Swiss government:
- We demand that Switzerland works for a just transition to an environmentally sustainable and green economy, involving civil society organizations and trade unions.
- That stronger, legally binding formulations of human and labor rights obligations be included in free trade agreements and that strong monitoring and accountability mechanisms for rights violations be established.
- That urgent human rights issues and obligations under international treaties be highlighted during dialogues with partner countries.
- That funding mechanisms to support independent and representative civil society organizations and trade unions, particularly in countries where access to funding is restricted by the authorities, be made more flexible and developed, and that a structured and meaningful dialogue with civil society organizations and trade unions be promoted so that proposals in this regard are heard.
- That an ongoing dialogue on human rights, including through safe, face-to-face meetings, be ensured to protect the integrity of vulnerable CSOs, unions, and activists. That channels be created through which actors working on the ground can conduct dialogues to address urgent human rights issues.