28 April 2016, New York – On the occasion of the New York launch of the #EU4Humanrights campaign, the EU Delegation to the UN hosted an event at the United Nations entitled, “Making more space – civil society in the multilateral context.”
The event focused on the role of civil society in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide and on exploring ways how to safeguard civil society space at the UN. it also provided an opportunity to discuss the role of civil society in keeping governments, intergovernmental bodies and international organizations accountable. Head of EU Delegation João Vale de Almeida opened the event and Silvio Gonzato, Director of General Affairs at the European External Action Service, moderated the discussion between Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, Karel van Oosterom, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to the UN, Stephanie David, Representrative of the International Federation for Human Rights to the UN, and Debra Jones, Director and UN Representative of Save the Children in New York.
— EU Delegation to UN (@EUatUN) April 28, 2016
In his welcoming remarks, Head of Delegation Vale de Almeida reaffirmed that the protection and promotion of civil society space is one of the EU’s core commitments in the field of human rights; the EU and its MS will continue defending that principle at the UN in the face of increasing efforts to reduce civil society participation. Director Gonzato presented the #EU4HumanRights campaign which aims at raising awareness about human rights issues in the world and at encouraging public discussion on human rights priorities in EU foreign policy. He underlined that the campaign is especially valuable at a time when the EU comes under criticism for issues such as the migration crisis. Since shying away from such conversations is not an option, the best way forward is to engage in dialogue and partnerships in Europe and beyond.
Civil society representatives acknowledged that there is an alarming global trend towards shrinking space of civil society. Ms. Stephanie David in particular stressed that there are states that accuse legitimate and legal civil society organisations (CSOs) of acting against the interest of states with the aim of weakening legitimate actors. At the same time, she mentioned CSOs are being increasingly marginalized and excluded at the UN in New York than in Geneva, including the difficulties faced by CSOs in obtaining ECOSOC consultative status (giving them greater access to the UN) and the increasing politisation of the NGO Committee which makes those decisions. In Ms. David’s view, the larger the number of “GONGO’s” (government organized non-governmental organizations) increases in the UN context, the more difficult it is for independent NGOs to gain access.
The EU and its like-minded allies’ commitment to continue defending and protecting civil society and human rights defenders worldwide was clearly underlined at the event.
— ValedeAlmeidaEU (@ValedeAlmeidaEU) April 12, 2016
The event also marked the New York launch of the #EU4HumanRights campaign. EU Member States’ Ambassadors have had their photos taken with the campaign banner which have been tweeted together with campaign slogans.
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