Virtual side event at HLPF 2020

Protecting civic space during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Examining the role that SDG 16+ can play in responding to current threats

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated substantial and swift state intervention to contain both the virus and its socio-economic impact. While many of these measures reflect a legitimate commitment to stem the contagion and comport with derogation protocols for international human rights treaties, COVID-19 has also been systematically invoked to unwarrantedly and illegitimately restrict fundamental human rights, such as the right to freedoms of expression, assembly and association. In both policy and practice, measures to censor public scrutiny and the free flow of information surrounding COVID-19 acutely undermine the possibility of an inclusive, sustained and effective recovery. A successful response and fulsome recovery from COVID-19 require a renewed commitment to multilateralism, participatory governance and respect for all human rights.

The UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)16 provide a crucial mechanism to assess and monitor measures taken by states to promote and protect human rights and freedoms essential for civic space. While SDG 16 articulates a robust framework to build effective, accountable institutions at all levels, we must leverage the theme of HLPF 2020 “Realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development” to assess the gaps and opportunities in SDG 16 to effectively advance civic space. This calls for additional reflection on how to more systematically monitor civic space under Goal 16. The report recently released by the global civil society network, Forus, entitled “Realising the promise of Goal 16 to protect civic space” offers important reflections in this regard.

By contextualizing the findings of the above-mentioned report in the national civic space contexts of partner organisations, as well as evolving multilateral processes, we will provide a dynamic space in this side event to discuss how to augment civic space during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Furthermore, we will explore the potential of human rights standards and mechanisms to guide SDG.16 implementation, both in the immediate Covid-19 crisis response and long-term recovery strategies, for securing more enabling environments for civil society and human rights defenders.

On the occasion of HLPF 2020,this side event will seek to bring together civil society representatives,
UN bodies, national human rights institutions, and State representatives to discuss their respective
and complementary roles in protecting and securing civic space in the implementation of SDG 16.
In particular, the event will:
1. Provide an analysis of how civic space has evolved at the national level since the advent of COVID-19
2. Identify ways in which SDG Goal 16 and human rights can be jointly leveraged to effectively monitor and advance civic space
3. Examine findings from the recent report by Forus: “Realising the promise of Goal 16 to protect civic space”
Co-sponsors: Zambian Council for Social Development (ZCSD), Co-operation Committee for Cambodia (CCC), Global Focus, Forus, CIVICUS, Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) and the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR).
Keynote speech: Martin Bille Herman, Ambassador, Permanent Danish Mission to the UN in New York

 Dierdre De Burca, Global Advocacy Coordinator, Forus
 Dr Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, Head, Colombian Ombudsman’s Office, and Chair, Global Alliance of National Human Rights institutions (GANHRI)
 Leah Mitaba, Director, Zambian Council for Social Development (ZCSD)
 Sarouen Soeung, Director, Co-operation Committee for Cambodia (CCC)
 Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer, CIVICUS, Global Alliance for Citizen

 Moderator, Sara Brandt, Political Advisor, Global Focus
When and where: July 10th from 8:00-9:30 EST (14:00-15.30 CET)