Press Release of the Community of Democracies for the High Level Event on Supporting Civil Society, 23.9

September 23, 2013

Community of Democracies

Initiatives and Activities Defending Civic Space

The Community of Democracies provides a global platform for efforts to defend and engage civil society.  The founding document of the Community of Democracies, the Warsaw Declaration, states "the right of every person to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including to establish or join their own political parties, civic groups, trade unions or other organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to allow them to operate freely on a basis of equal treatment before the law."

Representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) sit alongside governments in the Community’s Working Groups, Task Forces, and Governing Council. The Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society alerts partners and coordinates diplomatic action when governments attempt to impose new restrictions on CSOs, but more action is needed.

As part of global efforts to push back against undue pressure on civil society, the Community of Democracies presents today key initiatives and activities to broaden our efforts to defend and empower civil society:

We are:

Intensifying efforts to increase the membership and activities of the Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society, including encouraging members to issue joint demarches in response to legislative actions that could constrain the work of CSOs.

Regularly inviting civil society leaders to the Governing Council of the Community for dialogue on how the international community can help resolve the challenges CSOs face.

Exploring the introduction of a United Nations’ resolution on Democracy and Development, where we will seek to highlight and incorporate the importance of a strong and vibrant civil society as part of the post-2015 global development agenda.

Revitalizing and expanding the civil society pillar of the Community, allowing civil society leaders from countries around the world to participate in the Community’s efforts, and ensure civil society a voice in our work.

Funding a range of initiatives that benefit civil society; these may include programs such as youth tech camps to provide activists with tools and technologies to make their work safer and more effective.

Expanding civil society participation in the LEND Network for Leaders Engaged in New Democracies. LEND uses cutting edge technology to connect key leaders in countries undergoing democratic transitions.  LEND provides on-demand expertise to help young democracies as they work to build strong institutions, establish the rule of law, and develop a vibrant civil society sector.

Expanding our cooperation with the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.

Considering a cooperation agreement with the Open Government Partnership in order to allow for the mainstreaming of OGP principles –including civil society engagement –  in CD initiatives, and CD participation in OGP events.

Developing initiative to train diplomats on how to work with and support civil society, based on the Handbook for Diplomats developed by the Council for a Community of Democracies.

Community of Democracies meetings will continue to provide a platform for governments to make, renew, and fulfill commitments to support civil society.