Joint Submission on the Call for inputs – Report of High Commissioner – “Civil society space in multilateral institutions”

Joint Submission by

The Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA)

and The Coalition for Peace and Ethics (CPE) on the

Call for inputs – Report of High Commissioner –

“Civil society space in multilateral institutions”

 

The Foundation for Law and International Affairs (FLIA) and the Coalition for Peace and Ethics (CPE) welcomed the invitation, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for contributions from national human rights institutions, civil society and other stakeholders for the forthcoming report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 32/31 on civil society space. In connection therewith, FLIA and CPE hereby submit the following contribution.

In its Resolution 32/21 on Civil Society Space, adopted on 1 July 2016, in its paragraph 18 the Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner to:

prepare a report compiling information on the procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organizations, including United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, and the contribution of civil society to their work and challenges and best practices, and in that regard to continue to engage with and seek input from those organizations and entities, as well as the views of States, national human rights institutions, civil society and other stakeholders, and to submit the compilation to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session.

FLIA and the CPE are honored to have an opportunity to provide their views on the premises, structures and frameworks within which it might be possible to speak to effective civil society involvement with regional and international organizations. Those premises, in turn, are grounded in the core principle that such engagement must be undertaken in a contextually relevant way. More importantly, such participation should contribute to the continued development of the political, religious and societal systems within which civil society operates to ensure that such systems remain true to their own principles and fulfill their own aspirations. It is in that context only that one might effectively speak to the established and official ways in which independent groups of global citizens linked by a common interest can:

(a) obtain access to United Nations bodies, other regional and international organizations, programmes and funds;

(b) work in coordination with regional and international organizations, included United Nations bodies, in order to reach their respective goals, and bring a meaningful contribution to the overcoming of shared challenges;

(c) come to the aid of United Nations bodies in order to contribute to developing established and official methods of participatory governance, which are accepted as being effective and correct by the majority of the persons and institutions who take part to global governance, or else are in any way affected by it.

FLIA and the CPE start from the important principle that the aspirational goals Resolution 32/21 strives towards are dependent upon reaching a consensus about the notion of a civil society space. The United Nations’ A Practical Guide for Civil Society – Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System,[1] defines civil society spaces as:

the place civil society actors occupy within society; the environment and framework in which civil society operates; and the relationships among civil society actors, the State, private sector and the general public.

Any definitional enterprise presents the inherent challenge of resulting in the placing of conceptual borders and limitations on the object one attempts to define. To a certain extent, the conceptual borders any definition entails are designed and then placed around the definiendum, in ways coherent with the Weltanschauung of those who choose the definiens. This Weltanschauung, in turn, is the product of specific societal and historical forces, which are active in some societal and geographical domains, and do not always extend beyond them. If unmet, this challenge may delay or preempt reaching the goals of Resolution 32/21. To that end, the procedures and practices in respect of civil society involvement with regional and international organizations, including United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, and the contribution of civil society to their work and challenges and best practices must be built on the following core contextually based principles: (1) civil society space as an aspirational space; (2) civil society space as a multilateral space; and (3) civil society space admits of diversity and dialogue. Each is discussed below.

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