17th EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights, Brussels

Dec 3-4, Brussels: 17th EU-NGO Forum on Human Rights

Two of the lead partners in the global coalition of NPOs on the FATF, Lia van Broekhoven (Human Security Collective) and Hanna Surmatz (European Foundation Centre), spoke at the forum on the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on civil society space. Organised by The European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission in conjunction with the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), the overarching theme of the event was ‘Protecting and Promoting Civil Society Space’, including:

  • Analysis and monitoring of legal threats that undermine the work of civil society and how to build an enabling legal environment;
  • Developing effective response strategies and narratives to counter the closing of space for civil society;
  • Ways of protecting freedom of peaceful assembly;
  • Ways of fostering active and effective participation of civil

In her overview, Hanna Surmatz spoke of the shrinking of civic space worldwide, caused in part by governments implementing counter-terror (CT) and anti-money-laundering (AML)  rules and legislation. She outlined the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – what it does and why it is so effective, including FATF Recommendation 8 that specifically targets the NPO sector. The implications for civil society were highlighted with concrete in-country examples.

Lia van Broekhoven then spoke on what NPOs are doing and what  national governments/the EU could do. This was reinforced with input from resource persons on national/regional initiatives. Emphasis was laid on the following:

  1. Having a say in how FATF, EU and national governments design CT/AML policies and how they are implemented
  2. Content: Revision of Recommendation 8 (R8) and the Interpretative Note (IN) to R8
  3. Process: Consultation by FATF with NPOs on R8 revision but also long-term engagement and dialogue with NPOs beyond R8
  4. What are NPOs doing?: global, regional and national initiatives and examples (lessons learned and good practice)
  5. What can national governments do?
  6. What can the EU do?

The EU’s counter-terrorism strategy was also discussed in this context.

Other sessions at this 17th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum were on:

  • Countering restrictive NGO laws
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly and strategies to protect and use public space
  • Strategies to counter the criminalisation of human rights defenders
  • Practice of non-state actors
  • Participation of marginalised groups
  • Funding policies and strategies
Plenary sessions addressed broad questions, such as the current state of the enabling environment for civil society, the impact of current international and regional response efforts, and suggestions on the way forward with ideas for possible follow-up actions. For more details visit the website here.