ICNL Joins President Obama in Support of Civil Society


Today’s High Level Event on Supporting Civil Society, hosted by President Obama, highlighted the need to protect and promote civil society in the face of growing restrictions around the world. Speakers included:

  • US President Barack Obama;
  • UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson;
  • Mexican civil society leader Alejandro Gonzalez Arreola;
  • President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj of Mongolia;
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Maina Kiai;
  • Burmese activist Khin Lay; and
  • ICNL President Douglas Rutzen.

All speakers emphasized the fundamental role of civil society in human progress and social and economic development.  They expressed deep concern about the worldwide crackdown on freedoms of association, speech and peaceful protest, urging the international community to step up its support – both financial and political – for the tireless efforts of civil society activists and organizations under threat.

All agreed, however, that rhetoric is not enough; an action plan with concrete steps is needed.

Mr. Rutzen outlined ICNL’s commitments to contribute to an emerging action plan:

  • ICNL offers assistance to any country that wishes to reform its legal framework for civil society, including those willing to lead by example by improving already progressive legislation;
  • ICNL launches the world’s largest collection of civil society legal materials, containing over 3000 documents from all UN member states;
  • ICNL pledges to engage with multilateral platforms, international organizations, and civil society partners to maintain momentum following this event and commits funding to support the process.

A video of the event can be viewed here.