Dear Prime Minister Turnbull,
We write to you as leaders of Australian civil society, appointed by the Australian Government to form the Civil 20 Secretariat during Australia’s G20 presidency in 2014. As you prepare to represent Australia in Hamburg, we wish to alert you to the dire reality facing civil society actors in many G20 member states and ask you to raise the issue of the shrinking space for civil society at the upcoming G20 Summit.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor more than 100 countries actively limit the space for, and in many cases violently repress, civil society. Peaceful and democratic civil society organisations – from grassroots movements to large international NGOs– and their staff face undue vilification, threats, arrests, frozen bank accounts, revoked licenses, blocked websites, coerced registrations with government bodies, and the closure of their offices. In many countries today, civil society activists fear for their lives, with many disappearing or murdered at the hands of government or government-supported forces.
Australia has a long and proud history of promoting the important role of strong and robust civil society in advancing social and economic development and securing human rights and social accountability around the world. Through its aid program, Australia has supported transformative civil society strengthening efforts in many developing countries and through ongoing bilateral human rights dialogues, Australian leaders have been steadfast in expressing concerns about the suppression of civil society in many of our neighbouring countries. As Australia continues its campaign for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, we have no doubt that these issues will continue to be a high priority for your Government.
The G20 need a peaceful, organised, and protected civil society to help achieve the goals established through the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The active engagement of people in all societies contributes to alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, achieving gender equality and countering the dangers of extremism and violence by working with the marginalised and disenfranchised. Repressing civil society creates an unstable economic and political environment and obstructs the transition towards a just, equitable, and sustainable world.
During the past year, civil society organisations from around the world have come together to create a Civic Charter, which clearly articulates the globally established obligations of states to secure civic rights for all people. We hope to see Australia and all other governments around the world acknowledge and fully implement the Civic Charter. As an important step in doing so, we ask you to implore your fellow G20 leaders to ensure that the issue of civil society participation features prominently on the G20 Agenda.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or to provide further information on this important issue in advance of the Summit. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dermot O’Gorman: 0438 222 114 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Dermot O’Gorman CEO
Marc Purcell CEO
Australian Council for International Development
Dr Cassandra Goldie CEO
Australian Council of Social Service
Tim Costello Chief Advocate
World Vision Australia
His Honour Judge Rauf Soulio
District Court of South Australia
Helen Szoke CEO
Rev. Tara Curlewis Minister
Uniting Church of Australia
Sally Sinclair CEO
National Employment Services Association
Janelle Weissman Executive Director
UN Women National Committee Australia
Colonel Kelvin Alley
The Salvation Army
Greg Thompson Executive Director International
Transparency International Australia
Dear Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel,
As you prepare for the G20 Summit under your presidency, we urgently want to alert you to the dire reality of many civil society actors in the G20 member states and ask you to place this concern at the heart of the G20 Summit agenda.
According to the CIVICUS Monitor all G20 member states, except for Germany, narrow the space for civil society or even repress civil society violently. Peaceful and democratic civil society organisations – from grassroots movements to large international civil society organisations – and their staff face undue vilification, threats, arrests, frozen bank accounts, revoked licenses, blocked websites, coerced registrations with government bodies, and the closure of their offices. Civil society activists have to fear for their lives, with many disappearing and becoming victims of murder.
The perpetuation of this negative trend for civil society actors over the last years causes serious concern for civil society, enlightened governments, farsighted business, philanthropy and the media. As the global community is confronted with persistent poverty, growing inequality, violent extremism, and climate change, we are in dire need of the active engagement of civil society.
The G20 countries are dependent on peaceful organized civil society if they want to tackle the challenges you laid out and address the priorities you set out for this year’s G20 agenda: Organised Civil society plays an important role in communicating the needs of the people to the government and thus ensuring the usefulness and sustainability of political and economic measures. Civil society actors expose corruption and human rights violations and hold the state accountable – all of which are prerequisites for a just and peaceful society. Moreover, the active engagement of people in their societies contributes to alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, achieving gender equality and countering the dangers of radicalisation and violence by working with the marginalised and disenfranchised. Repressing democratic civil society makes for an unstable economic and political environment; and without the active and unrestrained engagement of
people around the globe, the transition towards a just, equitable, and sustainable world as laid down in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement will not be possible.
During the past year, the International Civil Society Centre facilitated a global civil society process which created a Civic Charter. The Civic Charter contains national governments’ obligations to secure civic rights for all people, as enshrined in UN conventions and international law. We expect all governments worldwide to fully implement the Civic Charter.
As the host of this year’s G20 Summit, we ask you to remain true to the respect we know you hold for civil society: please make sure that the topic “Civil Society Participation” features prominently on the G20 Agenda and implore your fellow G20 leaders to guarantee all people the right to fully participate in shaping their societies.
International Civil Society Centre – Burkhard Gnärig, Executive Director
Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Barbara Unmüßig, President
ADRA – Jonathan Duffy, President
ActionAid – Adriano Campolina, CEO
Care – Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General/CEO
BRAC – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairperson
Caritas – Michel Roy, Secretary General
ChildFund Alliance – Meg Gardinier, Secretary General
HelpAge Interational – Justin Derbyshire, Interim CEO
IPPF – Tewodros Melesse, Director-General
Islamic Relief – Naser Haghamed, CEO
SOS Children’s Villages International – Norbert Meder, CEO
Transparency International – Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director
Terre des Hommes – Ignacio Packer, Secretary General
VSO – Philip Goodwin, CEO
World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts – Anita Tiessen, CEO
World Vision – Kevin Jenkins, President/CEO
World YWCA – Malayah Harper, General Secretary