Civil society faces pressure worldwide: Civic charter published

Today the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the International Civil Society Centre, and numerous civil society organizations from around the world presented the Civic Charter. This “Global Framework for People’s Participation,” drawn up by organizations from many regions across the globe, is a challenge to all governments of the world to guarantee fundamental human rights and rights of participation for civil society actors. In a growing number of countries, civil society has increasingly less room to maneuver: repressive measures against non-governmental organizations, environmental and human rights activists, bloggers, and journalists are on the rise around the world.

“With unprecedented severity, states are repressing critical civil society actors who advocate for democracy, human rights, and social and environmental justice. Many states are driving back civil society with new ‘NGO laws’, legal restrictions, bureaucratic obstacles, and repression. The Civic Charter calls on governments around the world to abide by current international law and to guarantee and protect fundamental rights such as those of expression, assembly, and association,” said Barbara Unmüßig, president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. “The Civic Charter is meant to bolster organizations and activists campaigning for their civil, social, and environmental rights.”

Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, stated: “Our world is facing major challenges. Democratic participation and the collective voice of civil society is essential in order to tackle persistent poverty, rising inequality, climate change and a host of other pressing issues”. Kiai continued, “Despite this, civil society is under attack in virtually every corner of the globe today – meaning our voices are less likely to be heard. The Civic Charter is a necessary political statement to defend and secure the participation of civil society.”

“Shrinking political space is fundamentally about people, their rights and aspirations for a better life for them and their communities. In an era when the scope of action for civil society is narrowing, it is important to show solidarity with people denied political participation and facing persecution,” said Arthur Larok of ActionAid Uganda. “The Civic Charter emboldens us to do exactly that.”

The Civic Charter emphasizes the special role and importance of civil society in shaping social realities.

The Civic Charter was developed in collaboration with civil society actors from different continents and countries through extensive consultation and advisory processes. The process was supervised by a Steering Group of renowned civil society organizations, with participation from CIVICUS, ICNL, ActionAid, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Rendir Cuentas, VANI, Africa Platform, the Oak Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and the Open Society Foundations. The Civic Charter is supported by its signatories and is open for signing by all those who feel connected to the rights and principles declared therein.

The Civic Charter is available in many different languages and can be signed by organizations and individuals through the platform at The Charter was launched in different locations around the world – from New Delhi via Nairobi to Berlin."

Press Contact:

Heinrich Böll Foundation, Press Officer
T  +49-(0)30-285 34-224/-202

See also the Web Dossier: “Squeezed – Space for Civil Society”.