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UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Civil Society Space (2016)

GE.16 -12549(E)
 
Human Rights Council
Thirt y-second session
Agenda item 3
R esolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 1 July 2016
32/31 . Civil society space
The Human Rights Council ,
Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Guided also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna De claration
and Programme of Action, the International Covenants on Human Rights and all other
relevant instruments,
Recalling the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups
and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally R ecognized Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms ,
Recalling also its resolution s 27/31 of 26 September 2014 , on civil society space ,
and 24/21 of 27 September 2013 , on civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law
and in practice, a safe and enabling environment,
Recalling further all other Human Rights Council resolutions relevant to creating
and maintaining civil society space, inter alia, those addressin g freedom of opinion and
expression ; the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association ; protecting
human rights defenders ; equal participation in political and public affairs ; cooperation with
the United Nations, its representatives and mechani sms in the field of human rights ;
promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests ; and the
promotion, protection and enjoyment o f human rights on the Internet,
Recognizing the important role of civil society at the local, national, regional and
international levels, that civil society facilitates the achievement of the purposes and
principles of the United Nations, and that the undue restriction of civil society space
theref ore has a negative impact upon their achievement,
Welcoming the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ,1
including the commitments therein to , inter alia , promote peaceful and inclusive societies
for sustainable development, provide acce ss to justice for all, build effective, accountable

1 General Assembly resolution 70/1.

United Nations A /HRC/ RES/ 32/31

General Assembly Distr.: General
20 July 2016

Original: English

A/HRC/ RES/ 32/ 31
2
and inclusive institutions at all levels, and strengthen the means of implementation and
revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development , and also welcoming its
recognition of the importance of multi -stakeholder partnerships for the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals ,
Welcoming also the award ing of the Nobel Peace Prize to various civil society actors
and human rights defenders as recognition of the decisive contribution that civil society can
make in the promotion of human rights , the creation of peaceful dialogue and the building
of pluralistic democracies, including the award to the civil society -led National Dialogue
Quartet in 2015,
Gravely concerned that , in many countries , persons and organizations engaged in
promoting and defending human rights and fundamental freedoms frequently face threats,
harassment and attacks and suffer insecurity as a result of those activities, including
through restrictions on freedom of associat ion or expression or the right to peaceful
assembly, or abuse of criminal or civil proceedings, or deplorable acts of intimidation and
reprisal intended to prevent their cooperation with the United Nations and other
international bodies in the field of hum an rights,
Underscoring that the legal framework within which civil society operates is that of
national legislation consistent with the Charter and international human rights law,
Mindful that domestic legal and administrative provisions and their app lication
should facilitate, promote and protect an independent, diverse and pluralistic civil society,
and in this regard strongly rejecting all threats, attacks, reprisals and acts of intimidation
against civil society actors, and underscoring that States should investigate any such alleged
acts, ensure accountability and effective remedies, and take steps to prevent any further
such threats, attacks, reprisals or acts of intimidation,
Deeply concerned that, in some instances, domestic legal and administ rative
provisions, such as national security and counter -terrorism legislation, and other measures,
such as provisions on funding to civil society actors , or registration or reporting
requirements, have sought to or have been misused to hinder the work and endanger the
safety of civil society, and recognizing the urgent need to prevent and stop the use of such
provisions, and to review and, where necessary, amend any relevant provisions in order to
ensure their compliance with international human rights law and, where applicable,
international humanitarian law,
Recogni zing that the ability to seek, secure and use resources is essential to the
existence and sustainable operation of civil society actors , and that undue restrictions on
funding to civil society actors undermine the right to freedom of association,
Reaffirming that special emphasis should be given to measures to assist in the
strengthening of a pluralistic civil society, including through the strengthenin g of the rule of
law, social and economic development, the promotion of the right to freedom of expression,
online and offline, including artistic expression and creativity, access to information, the
rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including soliciting, receiving and
utilizing resources, and the administration of justice, and to the real and effective
participation of the people in decision -making processes,
Recognizing the crucial importance of the active involvement of civil soc iety, at all
levels, in processes of governance and in promoting good governance, including through
transparency and accountability, at all levels, which is indispensable for building peaceful,
prosperous and democratic societies,
1. Emphasi zes that crea ting and maintaining a safe and enabling environment in
which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity assists States in fulfilling
their existing international human rights obligations and commitments, without which

A/HRC/ RES/ 32/ 31
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equality, accountab ility and the rule of law are severely weakened, with implications at the
national, regional and international levels;
2. Takes note of the report of the U nited Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights on practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and
enabling environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned ;2
3. Reminds States of their obligation to respect and ful ly protect the civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights of all individuals, inter alia, the rights to
freedom of expression and opinion and to assemble peacefully and associate freely, online
as well as offline, including for persons espousin g minority or dissenting views or beliefs,
and that respect for all such rights, in relation to civil society, contributes to addressing and
resolving challenges and issues that are important to society, such as addressing financial
and economic crises, re sponding to public health crises, responding to humanitarian crises,
including in the context of armed conflict, promoting the rule of law and accountability,
achieving transitional justice goals, protecting the environment, realizing the right to
developm ent, empowering persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable groups,
combating racism and racial discrimination, supporting crime prevention, countering
corruption, promoting corporate social responsibility and accountability, combating human
trafficking , empowering women and youth , promoting the rights of the child , advancing
social justice and consumer protection, the realization of all human rights and the
implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ;
4. Urges States to create and ma intain, in law and in practice, a safe and
enabling environment in which civil society can operate free from hindrance and insecurity;
5. Emphasizes the importance of civil society space for empowering persons
belonging to minorities and vulnerable group s, as well as persons espousing minority or
dissenting views or beliefs, and in that regard calls upon States to ensure that legislation,
policies and practices do not undermine the enjoyment by such persons of their human
rights or the activities of civil society in defending their rights;
6. Also emphasizes the important role of artistic expression and creativity in the
development of society and, accordingly, the importance of a safe and enabling
environment for civil society in that regard, in line wi th article 19 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
7. Urges States to ensure access to justice, and accountability , and to end
impunity for human rights violations and abuses against civil society actors, including by
putting in p lace, and where necessary reviewing and amending, relevant laws, policies,
institutions and mechanisms to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment in
which civil society can operate free from hindrance, insecurity and reprisals;
8. Calls upon States to ensure that domestic provisions on funding to civil
society actors are in compliance with their international human rights obligations and
commitments and are not misused to hinder the work or endanger the safety of civil society
actors, and unde rlines the importance of the ability to solicit, receive and utilize resources
for their work;
9. Urges all non -State actors to respect all human rights and not to undermine
the capacity of civil society to operate free from hindrance and insecurity;
10. Emphasizes the essential role of civil society in subregional, regional and
international organizations, including in support of the organizations’ work, and in sharing

2 A/HRC/32/20 .

A/HRC/ RES/ 32/ 31
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experience and expertise through effective participation in meetings in accordance with
relevant rules and modalities, and in this regard reaffirms the right of everyone, individually
and in association with others, to unhindered access to and communication with
subregional, regional and international bodies, and their representatives an d mechanisms;
11. Recognizes the valuable contribution of national, subregional, regional and
international human rights mechanisms and bodies, including the universal periodic review
and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the human right s treaty bodies
and national human rights institutions, to the promotion and protection of civil society
space;
12. Encourages the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, the treaty
bodies and relevant U nited Nations bodies, agencies, funds and p rogrammes to continue to
address relevant aspects of civil society space in the framework of their respective
mandates;
13. Urges States to ensure that the issue of the creation and maintenance of a safe
and enabling environment for civil society is addr essed in the context of the universal
periodic review , and encourages States in that regard to consult civil society in the
preparation of their national report s, to consider including in their national reports
information on relevant domestic provisions and steps, to consider making relevant
recommendations to States under review, and to assist States in the implementation of
relevant recommendations through, inter al ia, the sharing of experiences, good practices
and expertise and offering technical assistance on the basis of requests and with the consent
of the States concerned , and conducting broad consultations with civil society in the follow –
up to their review;
14. Also u rges States to create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and
enabling environment for civil society , and in this regard encourages States to use good
practices such as , inter alia , those compiled in the report of the High Commissioner on
practical recommendations for the creation and maintenance of a safe and enabling
environment for civil society, based on good practices and lessons learned 2 by, inter alia:
(a) Taking steps to ensure a supportive legal framework and access to justice,
including by acknowledging publicly the important and legitimate role of civil society in
the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law , including through public
statements and public information campaigns , and better addressing business -rel ated human
rights abuses through the effective implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business
and Human Rights;
(b) Contributing to a public and political environment conducive to civil society
work, including by strengthening the rule of law, the administration of justice, social and
economic development, access to information, the promotion of the rights to freedom of
opinion and expression online and offline, and of peaceful assembly and association , and by
par ticipat ing in public affairs and promoting the real and effective participation of the
people in decision -making processes , and taking steps to ensure that all domestic legal
provisions with an impact on civil society actors , including counter -terrorism me asures ,
comply with relevant international human rights obligations and commitments , including
the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of
Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Funda mental
Freedoms, maintaining accessible domestic procedures for the establishment or registration
of organi zations and associations, and access to national, regional and international human
rights mechanisms;
(c) Providing for access to information , inclu ding by adopting clear laws and
policies providing for effective disclosure of information held by public authorities and a

A/HRC/ RES/ 32/ 31
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general right to request and receive information subject to clearly and strictly defined
exceptions in accordance with international human rights law;
(d) Providing for the participation of civil society actors , including by enabling
them to participate in public debate on decisions that would contribute to the promotion and
protection of human rights and the rule of law and on any ot her relevant decisions, and to
provide input on the potential implications of legislation when it is being developed,
debated, implemented or reviewed, and exploring new forms of participation and
opportunities brought about by information and communicatio ns technology and social
media;
(e) Providing for a long -term supportive environment for civil society , including
through education that is aimed at strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms;
15. Invites States to seek technical assistance and advice in this regard, including
from the Office of the High Commissioner, relevant special procedures of the Human
Rights Council and from regional human rights mechanisms;
16. Invites States and other stakeholde rs to brief, on a voluntary basis, the Human
Rights Council at its thirty -fifth session on measures taken to implement the
recommendations contained in the report of the High Commissioner; 2
17 . Welcomes the work of the Office of the High Commissioner to promote and
protect civil society space, including its work on widening the democratic space, and invites
it to continue efforts in this regard;
18. Requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report com piling information
on the procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and
international organi zations , including United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and
programmes, and the contribution of civil society to their work a nd challenges and best
practices, and in that regard to continue to engage with and seek input from those
organi zations and entities , as well as the views of States, national human rights institutions,
civil society and other stakeholders , and to submit th e compilation to the Human Rights
Council at its thirty -eight h session;
19. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
46th meeting
1 July 2016
[Adopted by a recorded vote of 31 to 7, with 9 abstention s. The voting was as follows:
In favour :
Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador,
El Salvador, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Latvia,
Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Panama,
Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland,
the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland

A/HRC/ RES/ 32/ 31
6
Against :
China, Congo, Cuba, Nigeria, Russian Federation, South Africa, Venezuela
(Bolivarian Republic of)
Abstaining :
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) , Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam ]

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