Growing threats to civil society


A healthy and functioning civil society is vital for human rights and democracy everywhere, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission writes:

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a crucial role in realizing the rights protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  They educate individuals about their rights; document human rights abuses; monitor the behavior of governments, including police and security forces; and advocate for the rule of law. CSOs also contribute to development, provide disaster relief, and deliver humanitarian aid in war zones.

But in recent years, civil society has been under threat.  The legal “space” in which civil society is permitted to operate is being systematically “closed.”  More and more countries are passing restrictive laws that hamper civil society organizations by limiting or even criminalizing the receipt of foreign funding, imposing onerous administrative requirements, or defaming CSOs as terrorists or foreign agents.  Even worse, advocates for human rights and political reform face torture, disappearance, and assassination. These repressive policies are no longer confined to authoritarian states or countries in transition, but are occurring in established democracies, including in close U.S. allies like India, Egypt, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on threats to civil society around the world.

March 21, 2017

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

2255 Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill, Washington DC.

At this hearing, experts will discuss the range of threats to civil society world-wide, analyze their impact on human rights and democracy globally, and offer policy recommendations for the Congress and the U.S. government.

Panel I

Maina Kiai (above), United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of  peaceful assembly and of association

Panel II

Vanessa Tucker, Vice President for Analysis, Freedom House

Margaret Huang, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA

Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Maria Stephan, Senior Policy Fellow, United States Institute of Peace

This hearing will be open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed via YouTube on the Commission website. For any questions, please contact Elizabeth A. Wilson at 202-225-3599 or (for Mr. McGovern) or Jamie Staley at 202-226-1516 or (for Mr. Hultgren).

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