In a statement on World NGO Day the EU reiterates its commitment to protecting space for civil society and human rights defenders. This is particularly relevant in relation to organisations and defenders working to fight caste discrimination as they are increasingly facing threats and sanctions.

The statement issued on the 27 February includes the following passages:

“There has been a backlash against civil society over the past years as governments, in a significant number of countries, seek to suppress opposition or criticism, with a clear trend towards an increasingly restricted space for independent civil society, as well as outright threats made against individuals and organisations.

The EU is firmly opposed to any unjustified restrictions to the rights of Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly or to the work of civil society. We have adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and an Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 in which Freedom of Association and Peaceful assembly is one of the key priorities on human rights for the EU.

The EU promotes these rights in its human rights dialogues with third country authorities, at the UN Human Rights Council, by supporting the Human Rights Defenders resolution at the UN General Assembly and the mandates of UN Special Rapporteurs monitoring the current trend of shrinking democratic space for civil society.”

The statement also covered the value of civil society for democracies and the success of the EU mechanism for Human Rights Defenders