How do NGOs navigate shrinking civil society space?


Learning Stream on Navigating Change:
How Do NGOs Navigate A Shrinking Civil Society Space? Jun. 20, 2019 Hello, everyone, and welcome. My name is Angharad Laing. I’m the Executive Director of PHAP. That’s short for the International Association
of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection. I am absolutely delighted to be welcoming
all of you today for this second session in this series Learning Stream on Navigating
Change jointly organised by ICVA and PHAP. We’re particularly excited today to see
such a great turnout with participants I saw coming in from more than 100 countries joining
both here on the Adobe Connect platform as well as on the live stream via YouTube. Great to have everyone with us for this discussion. The starting point for today’s event comes
from the ICVA scoping study entitled Civil Society Space in Humanitarian Action. I believe my colleague Shiela will be posting
links in the chat to this and other resources that are mentioned throughout the coming hour-and-a-half
for your ease of access. My co-facilitator from ICVA, Nishanie Jayamaha,
she will start by providing an overview of the scoping study from ICVA and then we will
hear from four experts about the critical issues of restrictions on civil society space
and discuss the implications for humanitarian action. I’d like to warmly welcome for the first time,
actually, Nishanie as co-host. She has been behind the scenes for all of
the PHAP-ICVA webinars over the last couple of years. It is great to have her here as co-host. Nishanie, if you want to introduce yourself
as well. Thank you so much, Angharad. It’s actually a pleasure to be on this webinar. It’s amazing to see so many people online
joining us from all over the world to our second session: How Do NGOs Navigate the Shrinking
Civil Society Space in our learning stream on navigating change. So at a time when the political landscape
across the world is changing at a rapid pace, it is timely we think to discuss not only
the challenges and how it impacts the operations, the NGOs’ operations, but also how NGOs
are already navigating in this environment, especially in conflict and complex emergency
contexts. We also have the opportunity today to hear
from other actors, such as ICNL, a research and education-based organisation, and the
Danish government on what are some of the measures that can be taken to respond to the
current trends. This is, of course, in addition to our NGO
colleagues NRC and South Sudan Forum who is here. Let’s maybe look at how we can look at some
ways forward to navigate this changing environment we’re in. I’d also like to thank our donors Conrad N.
Hilton Foundation, the German Humanitarian Assistance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Denmark, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency SIDA, the Swiss Agency
for Development and Cooperation, and our ICVA members who provide special support to the
learning stream and core support to ICVA to make these learning sessions a reality. Thank you, Nishanie. Now, before we start the substance of this
session, I will briefly explain a few technical aspects of the platform that you can all get
the most out of this interactive experience. First, submitting questions. If you have any questions for the speakers
at any time throughout the coming hour-and-a-half, submit them using the Ask a Question box in
the lower right-hand corner of your screen. Note, if you would like to ask the question
anonymously you should make a note of this when submitting it, otherwise, we’ll use
your first name and perhaps your location if we know where you’re joining from today. If you’d like it to be anonymous, just make
a note of it and we’ll be sure to do that. Next, you will be seeing snap polls appearing
several times during this session used to gauge your views or experience and add to
the richness of the discussions. You’ll see now a couple of test polls displayed
as an example. You can just click on a response or, for free
text polls as on the right-hand side, click in the text box, enter the response and click
Submit. Note that for all of the polls whether multiple
choice or free text polls, all of your answers are anonymous. Finally, if you encounter any technical problems
with the platform, you are invited to use one of our video or audio backup live streaming
options. These are helpful as they use less bandwidth. However, note that they do not allow for the
same degree of interactivity. To connect to them, just follow the links
that you see now on your screen. My colleague Shiela will also share these
links again, if needed, during the event in the chat. So if you’re having a problem with the audio,
just make a quick note in the chat and Sheila will be sure to send those links through to
you again so you don’t have to go back hunting for them. So to get started with today’s events, and
before handing over to Nishanie who’s going to give us an intro based on ICVA’s work
on this topic, I would like to introduce our guest panellists. First of all, David Moore who is Vice President
for Legal Affairs with the International Centre for Non-profit Law, ICNL as, Nishanie mentioned,
will provide a broad overview, share some of the trends and drivers of shrinking civil
society space. Second, we’re very pleased to have with
us, and I do hope the connection works because we had a bit of trouble earlier on today,
but hopefully we’ll have with us Pius Ojara who is Director of the South Sudan NGO Forum
and who will provide his perspectives on issues faced regarding shrinking space in South Sudan
and how they have been addressing these issues in that specific context. Next, we’re delighted to have with us Emma
O’Leary who is Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor with the Norwegian Refugee Council
here in Geneva who will discuss the impacts of counterterrorism measures for NGOs working
in humanitarian response. And last but not least, Thomas Hansen, Senior
Policy Advisor and Team Leader for the Civil Society Team within the Department for Humanitarian
Action, Migration and Civil Society with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, will
discuss what governments can do to improve support for civic space at the EU, the UN,
and in bilateral relations with other states. I’ll note in addition to Thomas Hansen, I
believe we have his colleague Thomas Thompson who will mostly likely be jumping in as well. So we have two Thomases on the line from Denmark. Welcome to both of you. Now, without further ado, we will hear from
Nishanie who will provide an overview of ICVA’s scoping study. A brief overview, I’ll say, because we do
want to hear from our guest speakers today. Starting with an essential question, is it
actually the case that the space for civil society is actually shrinking. Over to you, Nishanie. Thank you, Angharad. I’m waiting for it to load. It is interesting this question: is the space
for civil society actually shrinking, was asked at OECD Civil Society Days conference
in Paris earlier this June. Some argue that it is not shrinking but it’s
actually changing. If we take a look at the data, in 2017 the
CIVICUS Monitor reported that there was a serious systemic problem with civic space
in 109 countries. In 2018, this number has gone up to 111 countries. Furthermore, of an estimated 7.5 billion world
population, over 6 billion people in the world are living in either closed, repressed, or
obstructed states. I will not go into the overall trends on this
because David in this presentation also will delve deeper into this aspect, but one of
the things that we want to highlight is the space for humanitarian action, is that shrinking. The CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John highlights
in the space of civil society report that the right to provide humanitarian response
is under attack in a way unparalleled since the Second World War. That’s quite a statement. But humanitarian organisations work in extremely
challenging contexts, such as conflicts or severely politically unstable settings or
man-made or natural disaster situations. For staff and organisations working in such
challenging environments, the restrictions placed on them by host government, institutional
donors, and non-state actors for the existing restrictive space, and hinder the delivery
of life-saving support to people seeing such circumstances. Not only is the space for civil society shrinking
in countries that the largest number of refugees are fleeing from, as you can see the graphics
in the presentation. But attack from civic states has been increasing
in countries where they were rarely experienced before. Even in stable governments where they were
more open before have become restrictive, especially in the refugee and migrant policy. You can read more on this in the Report of
the Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity on the issue of criminalisation
or suppression of the rendering of humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees who enter
a State in a regular manner. This is a long, winding topic but Shiela will
share with you the link to this support as well. It is in this context that ICVA, through the
independent scoping study carried out in 2018 by Andrew Cunningham in Tibet wanted to capture
what ICVA members and our network of national and international, regional NGO networks and
NGO fora were facing as challenges. And we wanted to try and understand what their
needs might be. We also wanted to look at what could ICVA’s
role be in supporting NGOs to better navigate civil society and humanitarian space. You can read our full report online. It’s on our website. Also, the link will be shared to you on the
chat. And you will see polls coming up right now. I hope you can actually give us some of your
feedback because we want to hear from you as well. So kind of giving a quick glance, and as mentioned
by Angharad, we don’t want to spend too much time on these issues. We’re really here to pick out some of these
challenges and have the speakers and experts and practitioners here on our panel to give
you a bit of a better overview and their perspectives on this. But in our study, 50% of both national and
local NGOs indicated that in the past few years, around five or so years, in their opinion
and in their experience, challenges of operating as a humanitarian actor had increased substantially. The UNSG’s report on the 2019 ECOSOC session
on strengthening of coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the UN indicates
that in 2017, 158 major incidents of violence against humanitarian operations occurred in
22 countries affecting 313 aid workers. The report refers that, at the field level,
the acceptance of humanitarian workers have increasingly challenged and that looting,
misappropriation, and violence against, and detention and abduction of humanitarian workers,
mainly national staff, continue to take place. That is quite alarming. So the main challenges that we see and are
hearing from some of these reports that are coming up, but also from the scoping study,
surveys, and interviews is access. Access to populations, geographic areas for
the delivery are some to name. And the nature of armed conflicts has changed
with an increasing lack of respect to protection of civilians, by non-adherence to IHL and
International Human Rights Law. The scoping study indicates that legal barriers
and restrictions are some of the main issues impeding access to populations. We will hear a bit more from David and Emma
on how legal frameworks and counterterrorism legislation is impacting humanitarian action
and what measures and recommendations they may have for NGOs and other actors to navigate
within this space. We’ll also hear from Pius from South Sudan
NGO Forum, who will share his perspectives on the challenges faced by NGOs due to bureaucratic
and administrative barriers, to deal with life-saving assistance at the country level
among other barriers that are faced by NGOs on the ground. Also to note that with rising need, the funding
gap is also increasing. Not only do NGOs face challenges in accessing
populations but they also face obstacles to access, principled humanitarian funding, which
in turn hamper organisations to deliver efficient and effective humanitarian assistance on the
ground, especially to NGOs and especially national NGOs. We look forward to hearing from Thomas Hansen
and Thomas Thompson to provide us a bit of perspective from donors and governments on
how they’re supporting NGOs who are faced with such challenges. So we hope that we can tease out a few of
these issues during our webinar. Over to you Angharad to introduce the first
speakers. Thank you. Thank you, Nishanie. Yes, we are first going to turn to David. David Moore, as mentioned, is Vice President
for Legal Affairs with the International Centre for Non-profit Law, ICNL, where he has worked
since 2001 managing several of ICNL’s global programs designed to protect and expand civic
space. He has published extensively on issues of
civil society law and has served as a trainer on civil society legal issues for government
officials, civil society representatives, and UN staff. So David, I will turn the virtual floor over
to you. Your presentation should appear momentarily. Thank you very much. Thanks to the organisers, thanks to Nishanie
and Angharad, and to the technical team as well as on whom were all dependent. Thanks to everyone for joining. It’s a real pleasure to be participating. For more than 25 years, ICNL has been working
to protect and expand civic space. That is the legal environment in which individuals
and groups exercise their civic freedoms: rights to association, assembly, and expression. We at ICNL believe that the legal environment
for civil society is essential for the work of civil society organisations, including
humanitarian organisations. Since 2001, however, civic space has been
under threat, subject to increasing government restrictions, legal restrictions, on civil
society. We’ve seen several waves of restrictions in
the past 19 years in the wake of the colour revolutions in the mid 2000s, in the wake
of the Arab Spring. But what of late? Let’s look at the data from the past five
years. Since 2013, ICNL has tracked 269 regulatory
initiatives affecting civil society. Of these 269 regulatory initiatives, 67% can
be called restrictive while 33% may be labelled as enabling. So you can see as a threshold point that it’s
a mixed picture, and not one without hope. But nonetheless, the predominant trend globally
is one, and remains one, of increasing constraints. Drilling down on the 67% that is the 180 restrictive
initiatives, we can see that the trend is truly global. No region is immune and the trend affects
diverse political systems as well, including both authoritarian states and democracies. Considering the impact of this global trend,
it’s legitimate to ask which segments of civil society are most affected. There are a couple of different ways to view
this. One is a core-periphery view, by which I mean
that, in many countries, it’s the human rights and advocacy organisations that are
really the core target group of legal restrictions. But the closing space affects a broader array
of organisations, including development and humanitarian organisations, because the laws
that are put in place are often generally applicable and because the stigmatising rhetoric
that government uses to justify the constraints end up tarnishing the sector as a whole. But at the same time, in some countries, humanitarian
organisations themselves may be the primary target of restrictive measures. We saw this years ago in 2009 in Sudan, for
example, where the government there ordered the expulsion of 13 of the largest INGOs providing
humanitarian aid in response to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal
Court. And just last week, I was in Myanmar meeting
with international NGOs there who are struggling to deliver humanitarian aid to conflict areas
in the country due to a prohibitive set of approval procedures that target those groups
in particular. So whether it’s a question of being a core
target or a peripheral target, the impact of closing civic space is pervasive. How do the legal barriers actually affect
civil society organisations? For the up to 180 restrictive initiatives
that we’ve been tracking since 2013, we find that more than half are constraint for the
life cycle of organisations. That is the formation, the registration, or
the activities of organisations. Roughly 22% constrain the exercise of assembly
rights and 20% target the flow of international funding. So you can see from these categories of barriers
that there would be significant impediments for humanitarian organisations as well, particularly
in terms of life cycle barriers that are impediments to the formation or registration of humanitarian
organisations, and international funding barriers, which often include advanced government approval
processes before international funds can be received, but also will include those measures
that stem from counterterrorism approaches, which often result in things like bank de-risking
and the exclusion of CSOs from financial services. Again, I think we’ll hear more about that
in this presentation. There are often questions about what’s driving
this closing of civic space trend. Of course the factors are diverse and it does
depend on the individual countries, in fact. But I’ll put a few ideas on the table that
I think are often relevant for many regions, for many countries. One is the broader democratic recession. I think the civic space challenges we’re
seeing cannot be separated from the broader challenges we’re seeing to democracy in
countries around the world and the fact that civil society is often no longer viewed as
a pillar of democracy but rather viewed as a conduit for foreign interference, also a
significant problem and a shift that we’ve seen in the past 20 years. Their range of factors of justifications,
including counterterrorism, transparency, development effectiveness, which are legitimate
but, nonetheless, are often used by governments to justify overreaching regulation. Counterterrorism in particular, again, since
2001, at least 140 governments around the world have adopted counterterrorism legislation. Clearly, this is a key driver. We’re also seeing a range of global societal
trends around climate change, conflict, migration, all of which can lead to reactions from civil
society, protests from civil society, which can in turn lead to increasing State responses
in the form of regulation. So – a number of factors we see as relevant
to driving this civic space problem. The diagnosis is much easier than the cure. Here, I’m going to try to consider in a
couple of minutes the effective tools and strategies to respond to this closing civic
space challenge to protect and expand civic space. I think a key point here is that the chosen
strategies I’ll put on the table have proved effective in a number of country contexts
and international contexts. None of them are guaranteed, none of them
are a magic bullet, but they all are potential tools that are worthy of consideration. So starting with enhancing international standards,
we’ve seen significant work done around UN Human Rights Council resolutions relating
to civic space, Special Rapporteur reports dealing with issues from access to resources
to, most recently, the fundamental freedoms in the digital era, as well as the impact
of counterterrorism on civic space are also recently published. These expand the soft-law norms around civic
space which can then, in turn, be used by national level partners for advocacy. We’ve seen this happen with some effect in
a number of places. Advancing legal reform: Despite the global
trend, we have seen successful pushback against restrictive proposals and successful enabling
reform as well. For example, last year in Sri Lanka, restrictive
amendments to a CSO law there were withdrawn following a concerted pushback by civil society
groups. Earlier this year in Ethiopia, a new proclamation
on CSOs enacted repealed and replaced the notorious 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation,
so a clear improvement for Ethiopia. So there are successes that can be celebrated. Civil society coalitions are often a key means
for advancing legal reform but also, of course, have broader potential value. We’ve seen this both at the national level
and at the international level. For example, NPO coalition on engagement with
FATF, the Financial Action Task Force, has proven effective in engaging with that multilateral
body. Dialogue with policy actors, hugely important. Again, we’ve seen this work to great effect
at the national level. For example, in Afghanistan there is an informal
CSO government working group. We’ve also seen this with multilateral bodies. I just mentioned a moment ago FATF, the Financial
Action Task Force. There’s also engagement with the open government
partnership with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI, and a number
of other levers through which organisations can help address civic space concerns through
different lenses. But in some cases, advocacy improvements are
really not on the table. There, we try to work with local partners
to navigate the restrictions more effectively that is to be able to pursue their missions
in a hostile legal framework without being subjected to closure or other sanctions. We do this through things like voluntary legal
audits or compliance trainings so the groups can reduce their vulnerabilities and still
try to pursue their missions effectively. Of course, there are rapid response mechanisms
as well. I won’t detail them but just to say that
there is emergency grant support available for embattled CSOs. Again, there are a number of things that have
proven, that are proving successful. This is not a comprehensive list, just a few
ideas. And I’ll leave you with the question of how
humanitarian organisations can engage effectively in some of these response mechanisms and look
forward to discussing them. Thank you. All right. Thank you, David. Just a couple of quick reflections on the
polls to note that we had the vast majority of participants in today’s events experiencing
themselves the kinds of restrictions that you’ve described and some interesting examples. Sure, there are far too many now to list,
but just to highlight a few examples, restrictions on political lobbying from foreign-funded
bodies, other issues related to foreign funding, another example related to freedom of speech
issues. Restrictions on rural communities speaking
up about water shortages was one example raised. But, really, bringing examples from all over
the world, as you noted, it truly is a global phenomenon. We’ve had a number of great questions come
in. I know Nishanie has one lined up for you. Over to you, Nishanie. Thanks, Angharad. And David, it’s really a lot of food for
thought there. There are lots of avenues for civil society
and NGOs to engage. It is true that I would like to, one, ask
you back – have you had any examples where NGOs in the humanitarian sector have had any
opportunities to take the opportunity to use some of these tools that you mentioned to
come back or navigate the shrinking space? Then the other thing is that do you have any
best practice or one good example that has come out from your work and from what you’ve
been doing in helping these NGOs that can be a shining example? At least something to think about for our
participants out there. Thank you. Thank you, Nishanie. In terms of trying to answer this, the question
I pose myself in terms of how humanitarian NGOs can engage, I see interesting possibilities
both at the international level and at the national level. First, at the international level, I think
there are important opportunities to contribute to the norm-setting or the standard-setting
around the soft law norms affecting civic space, affecting counterterrorism through
input to the UN Special Rapporteur thematic reports, for example, and, again, we’ve seen
I think a couple of reports come out just recently that are relevant to civil society
broadly and humanitarian organisations in particular. And there may be opportunities that help ensure
that those reports are received, known about, understood among partners at the national
level so they can use those advocacy tools. Moving away from soft law to slightly harder
and more binding requirements, there is engagement with multilateral mechanisms such as FATF,
I’ve mentioned that during the presentation, the Financial Action Task Force. There is much work to be done there and a
role for humanitarian organisations in the risk assessment processes that is taking place
that the national governments should be conducting prior to a FATF evaluation of the country’s
counterterrorism law. That’s a process that should be open broadly
to civil society but should certainly include humanitarian organisations. So basically good opportunities for input
in some of these soft-law and multilateral processes at the international level. At the national level, we have some humanitarian
organisations contribute to the coalitions of civil society around changes the laws. For example in Myanmar, when the association
law was revised back in 2014, humanitarian organisations were part of that discussion. They were part of that process, both local
groups and international groups. I think when you talk about a shining example,
even though there can be different concerns among different segments of civil society
and, clearly, humanitarian organisations have distinctive concerns, there are also shared
concerns. To see the groups come together and speak
to one coalition it’s more likely to lead to a positive impact with the government lawmakers. Thanks, David. This is Angharad jumping in. Just a follow-up on that point, so you were
speaking about the value of coming together in a shared coalition, we just had a question
come in from Sylvia. She’s wondering would it be possible for you
to expand a bit on the different types of barriers and constraints that are faced between
international NGOs on the one hand and local NGOs on the other? Would there be any examples you could potentially
share? Sure. In too many countries, the governments do
take a targeted regulatory approach towards INGOs, towards international NGOs. But from a perspective of good international
practice, we like to think of an equal playing field between domestic and international organisations. Both groups should be able to be registered
without serious impediment and be able to operate without too much burden. But in many countries, the international organisations
will be subject to special regulations, sometimes a separate law on INGOs, and special scrutiny. In some cases domestic groups may have a voluntary
registration system, INGOs, in most cases, have a mandatory registration system in order
to operate. They are often subject to higher reporting
burdens and so on. So, yes, INGOs do come under special scrutiny. We see this time and time again. Myanmar is one example, Pakistan is another,
and China. There are a range. I’ve been focusing on Asia in recent months
as you might be able to tell, but there are a range of different approaches that the governments
will use. What that often does is create a split in
terms of the response, because it can be hard to get domestic and international groups on
the same page in terms of how to respond. In some countries we’ve seen the domestic
groups feel like INGOs should be subject to greater regulation. In other cases we’ve seen them come together
and work and to respond more effectively. I hope that answers the question, at least
in part, but of course it is a complex subject. It does. That was very, very helpful. Thank you. So we’re going to move now to Emma. Emma O’Leary, as I mentioned at the start,
is NRC’s Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor with a focus on the impact of counterterrorism
measures on principled humanitarian action. She is the author of Principles Under Pressure,
NRC’s recent report on the issue. She previously worked in Yemen and Afghanistan
for NRC and for the International NGO Safety Organisation, INSO on issues of humanitarian
access and negotiations. Emma, over to you. Thank you and thank you to PHAP and ICVA for
bringing us together today on this important topic. From what I can see, there are some little
elements of my first slide missing, but perhaps I can start and we can try and bring those
elements back in. I want to start by framing the issue. What are we talking about when we say or when
we talk about the impact of counterterrorism on humanitarian action? Since 9/11, we’ve seen governments and international
organisations like the UN and the EU step up their efforts to try and prevent funding
and other forms of support to going to what are called terrorist organisations. This is, broadly speaking, done in the following
way. So the UN, or the EU, will designate a group
or an individual as terrorist then add them to a list of designated terrorists. They’ll then make it illegal to provide that
individual or group with funds or with support. Member states must then reflect this list
at the domestic level, but they can of course also develop their own lists as, for example,
the U.K. and the U.S. have done. Both have a comprehensive domestic list of
their own. It’s key here to remember that there’s actually
no internationally recognised definition of terrorism. This means that States have adopted very broad
definitions of terrorism domestically and they’ve criminalised vastly different activities
and groups as a result. For humanitarian organisations, it’s important
to remember that donors will often then reflect domestic legislation around counterterrorism
in grant agreements. They do so in very different ways. Some will not mention counterterrorism at
all in their grant agreements, believing it’s covered by existing requirements around anti-diversion,
anti-money laundering policies, and so on, but others may go well beyond domestic legislation
under very, very strict requirements. An example here is the USAID Anti-Terrorism
Certification. So every USAID grantee needs to sign a certification
which essentially says their organisation has not within the past 10 years and will
not in the future provide any form of material support to designated terrorist groups. So very, very strict requirements there. We, as humanitarian organisations, are legally
bound to comply with legislation and sanctions around counterterrorism. Then we’re, of course, contractually bound
to comply with relevant clauses in our grant agreements. These measures then become an issue for us
when we operate in areas that are controlled by designated terrorist groups. We need to engage with those groups for the
purposes of securing access to the populations who are in need of assistance. As we all know these groups also establish
themselves as local authorities in their areas of operation. They have well-established systems of checkpoints,
of taxations. This means that we run the risk of potentially
falling foul of these counterterrorism measures in the course of our engagements with them. So when we raised this issue of the impact
of counterterrorism on humanitarian action, people sometimes question whether or not there
have actually been any legal repercussions for NGOs. The answer is a definite yes. There aren’t a lot of examples of this happening
but there are enough, and they’ve had quite a significant impact on this sector. The first major such case was the case of
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder versus the Humanitarian Law Project which took place
in 2010. In that case, the Humanitarian Law Project,
a small U.S. based NGO, it provided training in international humanitarian law to the Kurdish
PKK and to the Tamil Tigers. Both of these groups are designated as foreign
terrorist groups by the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that those trainings
provided by the Humanitarian Law Project for those groups essentially amounted to support
for terrorist group. The Supreme Court in its ruling stated that
those trainings could actually legitimise these terrorist organisations and free up
the organisation’s resources so that they could use them for terrorist activities. This case really sent shockwaves throughout
the sector because it reflected that something as innocuous and as potentially innocent as
a training in international humanitarian law could be seen as support to a designated terrorist
group. There are several other examples here as well. The most recent one being that involving Norwegian
People’s Aid. That was last year. Norwegian People’s Aid was fined two million
U.S. dollars by USAID due to an unintentional breach of the USAID Anti-Terrorism Certification
that I mentioned earlier. That certification required the grantee to
say they have not, within the past 10 years, and will not, in the future, provide support
to designated terrorist groups. This was in relation to NPA’s activities
in Palestine and in Iran. This is a very interesting case with lots
of intriguing nuances. We could certainly do a one-hour webinar on
this alone. I won’t go into the details here because
of time constraints, but I would encourage you, if you haven’t already read about the
case, to go away and have a look at it if you’re interested. Moving on, I want to take a quick look at
some of the impacts that we’ve seen of counterterrorism measures at field level. Here, I think it’s important to remember
that the impacts of counterterrorism measures are sometimes linked with wider security issues,
logistical constraints, and so on at field level. They can be challenging to identify but they
are there. One of the key impacts I wanted to talk about
today is the fact that counterterrorism measures can prevent organisations from programming
on the basis of needs alone. They force us to take into account the presence
of certain groups and to potentially avoid areas where those groups might be operating. An example here is Nigeria. There’s an ongoing conflict in the northeast
of the country between the government and Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a designated terrorist group. The government of Nigeria is very much using
a counterterrorism agenda to limit the humanitarian response in the northeast of the country. There are very few humanitarian organisations
working in or trying to work in areas outside of government’s control in the northeast
of the country. Those that have tried to expand their operations
have been accused by the government – by the security forces – of diversion of aid
and of support to terrorism. These restrictions based on humanitarian action
in Northeast Nigeria have had a really devastating impact on principled humanitarian action there. There are conservative estimates now of 800,000
people in areas under the control of Boko Haram and these people are not getting access
to the aid that they need simply because of their location in an area that is under the
control of a designated terrorist group. Another interesting example of impact is Somalia
where we’ve seen counterterrorism measures and sanctions really cause organisations to
self-centre and to also restrict their operations to government-held areas. Somalia is the only country where there is
a humanitarian exemption to a UN Security Council sanctions regime. This exemption was introduced after sanctions
against Al Shabaab negatively impacted their response to the famine in 2010. The sanctions resulted in a dramatic cost,
really, in donor funding for operations in Al Shabaab-held areas and they caused NGOs,
in some cases, to actually stop their operations in those areas because there were concerns
about the legal implications of doing so. After lobbying by humanitarian organisations
who were concerned by the limitations of the sanctions placed on their operations and their
response to the famine, the exemption was introduced. However, despite the fact that the exemption
is in place, almost no humanitarian organisations are actually operating in Al Shabaab-controlled
areas today. This is partly because the exemption is limited. It is limited to UN agencies, to their implementing
partners and to organisations with UN observer status or the ICRC, but it’s also because
the exemption hasn’t always been reflected by every member state. There’s a real concern among humanitarian
organisations that they’re still legally exposed and they could still be at risk of criminal
prosecution as a result of their operations in Al Shabaab-held areas. It’s widely known that Al Shabaab has a
system of taxation and there’s a huge fear among humanitarian organisations of even one
incident of diversion having massive reputational impacts for them and a resulting impact on
funding streams as well in a very competitive funding environment. As a result, organisations are really reticent
to use the exemption. Many of them believe it’s just simply easier
to operate in government-held areas in this kind of environment. Of course this serves to reinforce Al Shabaab’s
existing perception of humanitarian organisations as non-neutral and as potentially supporting
or endorsing one party to the conflict. Finally, in terms of impact, I want to mention
the issue of bank de-risking, which has already been mentioned by David in his presentation. So humanitarian organisations are, of course,
not the only ones who need to comply with anti-terrorism rules. Banks do as well. In recent years, we’ve really seen enforcement
action against banks for anti-terrorist financing and anti-money laundering violations increased. Banks have far less appetite for risk than
they might have had previously. As a result, they’re taking an increasingly
conservative approach towards their dealings with NGOs. Banks are now asking for extreme levels of
due diligence information prior to providing NGOs with services such as bank transfers. And organisations reported that the banks
have asked them to provide the names of every single one of their donors, even if they provided
$5 or less, before agreeing to provide bank transfers for the NGO in question. Obviously, this causes massive delays and
sometimes, even despite the provision of that information, banks can still refuse to carry
out transfers. And, crucially, they can do that with no notice
and with no explanation as to why they’ve taken that position. Of course this has widespread effects. It’s very challenging to ensure program
continuity in areas where bank de-risking is an issue. It can make it challenging to pay staff, to
pay contractors and suppliers. And in conflict-affected environments, of
course, there are obvious protection and security risks around that as well. While the impacts are widespread, I think
it’s important to mention that small NGOs and Islamic NGOs are particularly impacted
by bank de-risking largely because of the really unfortunate bias that banks have in
terms of viewing these organisations as particularly at risk of being abused for the purposes of
terrorist financing. Ultimately, this issue of bank de-risking
serves to push organisations outside of formal banking systems where bank transfers aren’t
available. They’ll have to find other ways of getting
money at where it needs to go. This has resulted in an increase in the use
of tactics like cash carrying and where staff members of organisations might carry large
amounts of cash on their person over borders, obviously, at great personal risk to themselves
of course – ultimately, actually increasing the risk that this money falls into the hands
of designated terrorist groups. Ultimately, what we’re going to see, if
this really worrying trend continues, is that banks will ultimately dictate where humanitarian
organisations can operate. I want to move on to quickly take a look at
some of the mitigating measures and the coping mechanisms that organisations have used as
they tried to deal with what is an increasingly restrictive counterterrorism environment. I, first of all, would mention the rise of
risk management or the increased use of risk management. The focus on risk management, I think we can
all agree that across the sector, organisations have increasingly been focusing on due diligence
and compliance in recent years. In many ways, this is positive. We all want to ensure that aid reaches its
intended recipients and that it isn’t diverted. In 2015, NRC produced the Risk Management
Toolkit in relation to counterterrorism measures. This is a public document and it can be accessed
by anyone. It outlines different compliance strategies
and HR tools, ways of analysing donor grant agreements and so on. So different tools that can be used as organisations
try to maintain compliance while also maintaining a principled approach to their programming. On the more worrying side, we have the rise
of remote management. This is a strategy whereby international organisations
will pull out of an area and they’ll, instead, choose to implement through a local partner
organisation in that area. This is often presented quite positively and
it’s presented as sometimes part of the localisation agenda and efforts to use the
skills and capacity of local organisations to better effect. However, it must be recognised that there
is often an element of risk transfer where remote management is used. What we are sometimes seeing is international
organisations passing on the risks, including the counterterrorism risks of operating in
these complex environments to local organisations who often simply don’t have the same compliance
capacity as large organisations. What we’re seeing in many cases is a risk
transfer from donors onto international organisations and then some national organisations and to
NGOs. Finally, I want to briefly mention in terms
of mitigating measures related to two humanitarian exemptions. I previously outlined the humanitarian exemption
in Somalia and the issues that arose there. While the application of the exemption entirely
was not perfect, I think it’s important to remember that if worded well and applied
correctly, humanitarian exemptions are the surest possible way to protect humanitarian
operations from the impact of counterterrorism measures. This has been the subject of some strong joint
advocacy recently. An example in point is the U.K. Counterterrorism
Bill that was introduced at the end of last year. That would have given the U.K. Home Office
the power not just to designate individual organisations as terrorists but also to designate
areas, and to essentially make it illegal for British citizens or residents to travel
to those areas. There was no humanitarian exemption included
in that bill originally and then it would have had a massive impact on staff of organisations
who were British or who lived in Britain and needed to travel to conflict-affected environments
for the purposes of their work. After a very focused lobbying campaign, an
exemption for humanitarian organisations was introduced to that bill. We need to see a lot more advocacy around
this issue in future in order to ensure that humanitarian organisations are protected from
the worst impacts of counterterrorism measures on our work. Finally, I want to talk about some of the
recommended ways forward that we have for dealing with this issue. I think a key one is the need for open dialogue
between donors and the humanitarian community and, indeed, with other stakeholders on this
issue. Traditionally, NGOs have not been very open
to widely discussing this issue either with NGO coordination mechanisms or with donors
and this is for a variety of reasons. It’s partly because counterterrorism measures
and discussions around them are often tied up with issues related to dealings with non-state
armed groups, to operations in complex environments. Organisations can understand the reticence
to talk about some of these more sensitive topics. I will say that we are certainly seeing an
increasing willingness among organisations to discuss these issues in response to ever
more restrictive environments. But it’s also crucial that we widen the
discussion and that we bring in other key actors here, those who may not be traditionally
interlocked their process as humanitarian organisations. Here, I’m talking about parliamentarians
and people working in the Treasury who are responsible for counterterrorist financing
rules, and people working on the security side, on the counterterrorism, the hard counterterrorism
side. These are where these measures are often being
developed. It’s very important that we start to engage
with a wider group of stakeholders so that they can take our concerns and the potential
impacts on our operations into account in developing these measures. And the issue of risk sharing, I quickly just
want to mention, I mentioned earlier this idea of risk transfer from donors on humanitarian
organisations. What we’re increasingly seeing from some
donors is this zero-tolerance approach towards counterterrorism measures in conflict environments. That presents a very challenging environment
for us because zero tolerance stances they’re simply not compatible with working in what
are very complex, very volatile environments. We have to be able to discuss issues and challenges
as they arrive. And if the donor espouses a really hard-line
zero-tolerance approach then that can really have the effect of shutting down the conversation
before it even begins. So what we’re encouraging donors to do is
to be more open to discussing the risks and to sharing the risks with us so it’s not
simply a vendor relationship where they’re passing the grant onto us and, in the same
line, also passing all of the risk onto us – that we have more of a shared responsibility
towards this issue. Finally, I’ll just mention the issue of clear
guidance. Often, when we talk about these issues around
counterterrorism, what we discover is that staff at field level feel they don’t have
clear guidance or clear indications from their head offices of what they’re expected to do,
what their responsibilities are – what they’re allowed to do in relation to counterterrorism
issues. Similarly, when we discuss with donors, they
can also lack clarity too. Again, this goes back to the issue of the
need for open dialogue. We need to get clear on what responsibilities
and communications are both within organisations and also from donors as well in order to ensure
that we can enable our colleagues who are working at field level to carry out their
work in the safest possible way and in a way that enables them to do their work in a full
way and doesn’t constrain them. Finally, just finish by saying that when we
discuss this issue, it’s important for us to remember that we’re not contesting States’
rights to introduce counterterrorism measures. That’s well within their rights. What we’re doing is rather asking for balance
in the development and application of these measures in order to ensure an adequate protection
for humanitarian action. Thank you, Emma. You’re right that this is a whole conversation
in itself. But we have a question for you specifically
on joint advocacy. I’d like to bring up the question from Kimja
from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The question, how can we engage specifically
more the UN humanitarian leadership on the advocacy on some of these issues, especially
counterterrorism? Do you have any examples that you’d like to
share of recent joint advocacy? Good question. As I’ve kind of alluded to, this has traditionally
been a challenging area for joint advocacy but we have seen some strong advancements
over the last year, even six months or so. I mentioned in my presentation advocacy around
the U.K. Counterterrorism Bill which was a real advocacy win for humanitarian organisations. Specifically, in relation to the UN, it’s
certainly true that we need to see a stronger stand taken by the UN agencies on this issue
and we need to see them speaking out more. Yesterday, a group of 13 NGOs sent a letter
to USG Lowcock in advance of ECOSOC Week, which is next week, urging them to take action
on this issue of counterterrorism, thanking them for the efforts that they’ve taken to
date in this regard, but really asking them to step up their activities in relation to
this issue and to take a leadership role within the UN in terms of trying to protect humanitarian
action. That’s really something that we need to
see them pointing the way on. Thanks so much, Emma. I know we have more questions for you but
we’re going to move on now. Hopefully, we’ll be able to come back to
it in the Q&A. I would like to welcome now to the virtual
floor Pius Ojara who has been the Director of the South Sudan NGO Forum since December
2016 where he has been directly working on issues regarding civil society space in the
country. He was previously a conflict advisor with
DFID and a professor at Arrupe Jesuit University in Harare, Zimbabwe, as well as Head of Department
for Research and Advocacy with the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University in Uganda. Now, Pius, I hope that the connection will
work. We’ll give it a try now. Do we have you on the line? Yeah. Okay. Very good. I think if you can speak closely to the mic
then I think this will work very well. Over to you. Thank you very much. I decided really to explain the humanitarian
diplomacy to protect operational space, because in South Sudan we’re really an interesting
case regarding shrinking humanitarian space and civic space. I call it operational space. Now, the context of South Sudan is really
one of protracted emergency which started in December 2013 due to political failure,
which led to civil war. Our situation in South Sudan is really a difficult
one. 80% of the population lives below poverty
line. Nearly 4.5 million people have fled their
homes and 2 million are internally displaced and about 2.5 are refugees. About 60% of the population, that is nearly
7 million people, are facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. Then only one in five births involves a skilled
healthcare worker. And 70% of children who should be going to
schools are not doing that. Nearly 1 million kids are facing the risk
of severe malnutrition. That’s the context in South Sudan. Now, in terms of the NGO Forum and the civil
society space, in South Sudan there is no law that allows civil society actors to register
except for formal NGOs. The law means that there is no real space
for informal civil actors in South Sudan. So the predominant actors in the civil society
space are essentially NGOs and in the civil society landscape in South Sudan there is
really a need for NGOs. In this case, one, there is no dedicated funding
for local values based programming: governance, accountability, human rights advocacy, public
finance. There’s no dedicated funding from donors. The funding that are coming are few and mostly
on humanitarian expense. The Forum has now 331 members, employing about
24,000 staff, at least about 2,000 are international. So you see that the Forum members actually
are providing employment opportunities, providing services, and building capacity of future
leaders of the country. In addition, staff pay for personal income
tax, and contribute to the national coffers of the country. Now, in terms of the State, there’s a lot
of pressure and demand on NGOs and in the Forum, in that respect. Part of it is external set of pressures. Another set of pressures is internal. As for the external pressure, we see there
are always pressures around cutting of funds, donor fatigue, and all of that. That is creating pressure on members. There are also legal ambiguities in South
Sudan with laws, different lawyers and sometimes even different government institutions and
that are interpreting laws differently, contradicting each other that creates pressure on NGOs. Then also the case of diversion of humanitarian
assistance. In a statement from NGOs some evidence about
it, what do humanitarian and what NGOs are doing. And then they include the restrictions on
what we can actually do. These are not the law. It only applies to NGOs but does not apply
to civil society actors. As I said, people engaged on value-based activity,
like human rights and justice. So that puts a lot of pressure in that segment. Now, in terms of the bureaucratic and access
impediments, and here I’m really thinking of what we have encountered over the last
two years at the NGO Forum, is that we have, first number one, and you might be quite familiar,
restriction of movements. Threats, intimidation, harassment and against
organizations. We have a lot of operational interference
at field level, custom restrictions, taxation emerging especially at local level overnight. Interference with staffing, decisions regarding
property, confiscation of assets, visa-renewal, tax exemption denial, and registration renewal
denial. So those are some of the key impediments that
NGOs have in their operation there. Now, from there, what we have also seen is
what are the factors and the agents that are impacting this space? As you can see from the list there, starting
from legal ambiguities, which is to really determine the position or non-unified position
of government institutions. You see also government institutes there,
the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, the county authorities, local authorities
on the government side, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC-Government), National Security
Services. Local authority group of the armed opposition
and their chairman Riek Machar. The IDPs and IDP leaders themselves also are
affecting operations, state government, communities around IDPs and their leaders. Non-State armed actors. Actually, when I got word six hours ago, some
NGOs were ambushed in… they were travelling somewhere in the middle of South Sudan and
they lost everything. So non-State actors have been very active
in South Sudan. They need also to consolidate their presence
and their need. Then the humanitarian wing of the armed opposition
– we call the Relief Organization of South Sudan. That was exclusive from restriction. Interestingly, UNMISS, the UN mission in South
Sudan, this is connected with the bureaucratic processes. So those are the factors and the agents that
have impacted NGO operations there. So what have we done? In South Sudan we provide updates to members
and leaders. Security updates, operational updates, contract
updates from different issues. Like today we are discussing around development,
how we can develop a guideline in customs clearance for humanitarian NGOs with the National
Revenue Authority. We have maintained a very strong professional
character in order to communicate with both government and armed opposition groups across
the country and in order to communicate across a number of institutions as well. But we are only able to do that we have maintained
a very strong professional character. We have developed for what we are. Then the other thing is we have developed
is strong relationships. I just said I’m able to communicate with
National Security Services senior government leaders, the minister, armed opposition group
leaders. I even worked with, at one point last year,
the leader for armed opposition groups Riek Machar. Then for the customs of the Humanitarian Country
Team where we were led by the humanitarian coordinator to mediate, talk to Riek Machar
about the peace and practice enforced in the armed opposition areas and then they lifted
the standards here. We are engaging them for a number of critical
issues and we manage communication flow. It’s so important to manage flow of communications
when engaging with senior leadership, both government and armed opposition. We also issue public statements. We go on radio, we’re on social media. So we are engaging from the public radio in
the country. And then we document all the issues we are
having and then present them to the authorities bilaterally or in public meetings. I met officials in South Sudan, including
from the president to senior cabinet members, senior security and military authority to
present these issues. Often, they respond to that very constructively. The issues really have increased as the result
in terms of safe operations. And keeping lines of communication open with
everyone and being very transparent about it. We are also facilitating engagement with the
national and sub-national authorities. South Sudan is a semi-federal government so
at the state level, authorities can make their own decisions, come up with their own procedures. We try to then take the relevant authorities
their everyday security, Ministry of Labour, Release and Rehabilitation Commission, or
any other institution relevant we go with them and they take authority in dealing with
state governance and the cabinet. We just had last week in one of the states
and that really it’s helping to resolve a lot of issues and also create relationships
between the Forum and NGOs, the Forum and the state authorities. We have also facilitated evacuations in emergencies. There have been quite a number of critical
situations where there are very high risks for the safety and security of NGOs so we
facilitate that with the in-house supplies in coordination with UN mission as well where
sometimes we ask members to move to the area. We also provide internship programmes to young
graduates because that has really helped build up relationships with community across the
country. We did provide a lot of briefings, workshops,
trainings, and meetings to address issues. My team provides a lot of briefings as well
to the UN, to government. And we organize workshops, and that is really
helping a lot. Then we work with the government, for example,
to develop the NGO Recruitment Guidelines as a government policy. We completed with drafting that and the government
adopted that, developing that together with us and now that’s the government policy. And we maintain very strong formal communication
with donors, UN, and authorities. I already mentioned that. And critically, we are forging relationships
of trust and confidence with everyone. That seems to make a big difference. Then, lastly, we organise social events at
which we invite government, donors, UN agencies, INGOs, and national NGOs so that people can
informally interact and build at trying to be part of a team that is working together
to respond to the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. This is also where we try to engage in summary
with the donors over how can we have dedicated funding for international NGOs to do the work
that they need to do, like civic education, governance, accountability. The kind of environment that is required on
effective civic space in South Sudan. So that is really what we do in South Sudan. As a result, we address a number of impediments
that are coming up our way. We are already preliminarily engaging with the
government to work together in amending the NBR which is supposed to come in place to
revitalise transitional government as much no limitation from funds hopefully in November. Thank you very much, Pius, for sharing. Thank you very much. And not only an elaboration of the challenges
faced in the context in South Sudan but also the very interesting practical examples of
what’s being done. Very interesting and useful to hear. A number of our participants have posed questions
for you, however, we are running very short on time and the connection is a bit challenging. I think, as with the other panellists today,
we will ask that you potentially provide some responses in writing even after we finish
the discussion because people do want to hear a lot more from your experience. But now we’re going to move to Thomas Nikolaij
Hansen. Thomas is Team Leader for Civil Society, as
mentioned, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark where he advises on civil society
development, democratic governance, and human rights. He is trained as a political scientist and
has lived and worked extensively in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Prior to his current position, he worked as
an adviser in the civil society unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General
for International Cooperation and Development. As mentioned, Thomas is joined also by his
colleague Thomas, Thomas Thompson, and the two of them will be sharing the microphone
on their end. So over to you, Thomas. Thank you very much for that introduction
and thanks from the Danish MFA for inviting us to be part of this webinar. Thomas and I have been learning a lot already
listening to the previous speakers. Just to stress that I am representing the
MFA from the civil society side of things. I’m here together with Thomas Thompson who’s
the Team Leader for our humanitarian engagement. Thomas is not only close to me physically
in the room here. Actually, we are trying from the Danish side
to see how we can work better together, better use both the long-term civil society development
fund from the humanitarian assistance. That’s the core part of our current strategy. I should maybe also just emphasise that we
are actually between governments right now in Denmark. I need to make that observation. As we are waiting for a new government to
form, I can talk about what we have done and what our current strategy says but, of course,
I can’t say anything about future priorities. We are waiting for a new government to be
formed. Maybe just to say that when the Danish government
stressed the issue of civic space, it’s a reflection of our priority for civil society
in the Global South. Basically, the underlying threat is here that
we see civil society as a value in itself and we stress the importance of an independent
civic professional that’s holding authorities to account. For that reason, we have taken quite a clear
stance on the importance of civic space and both developed… a response you can say that
both involves the programming side` which we represent but it’s an effort that we
do quite closely with our human rights colleagues in the ministry and our representation in
Geneva, for example. So you can say we have sort of a four-pronged
approach, which I will try to briefly outline on the slide here. The first part of our engagement is what we
call International Norms and Standards. You can see we have learned from David Moore
in his previous presentation and we have had a very useful relationship with ICNL, I should
stress, to see how we as donors better can engage. So credit to ICNL for having influenced, I
could say, how we address these issues. We are currently a member of the UN Human
Rights Council and there, our colleagues in Geneva and our human rights colleagues in
Copenhagen will of course have a clear focus on how civic space is being addressed in the
work there. Notably, the UPR, Universal Periodic Review
mechanism, is one tool where our colleagues in Geneva are seeing other specific recommendations
to governments that are related to this area that can be used. We try to make the link here between the countries
where we had a problematic engagement in the Global South. That’s a challenge for any government. We are a little bit helped by the fact that
we are a one-pillar system with both the programming and the policy under the guidance of our ministry. Then I would just like to reflect briefly
on the importance of the SDGs. We’re trying to see how we can better showcase
the importance of an independent, strong civil society for achievement of the SDGs. We are right now engaging with them along
with many others in how we can use the forthcoming high-level political forum in New York to
shed light on that. So there’s an increased awareness of why civil
society and, notably, a civic space enabling environment is crucial. Then I should certainly stress the role of
the EU that’s not only at country level in the dialogue but certainly also the policies
and instruments that are developed in Brussels. I can point to instruments like UN Human Rights
counterstrategies, civil society roadmaps, etc. These kinds of tools we try to engage on through
our representation in Brussels to make sure these are aligned and support civic space. And lastly, but not least, we have on the
donor side quite a close coordination on these issues. There have been numerous events in the past
year where we’ve come together to see how we can better craft them and learn from each
other and work better together on these issues. That’s speaking for International Norms
and Standards. Then that’s not all done. We try to globally support civil society,
both on the advocacy side but also on the awareness side. Here, we have a number of engagement in grants. And, again, I mentioned ICNL before, which
is one of our partners, so is CIVICUS. And on the more humanitarian side, we have
engagement with the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation. In that sense we’re trying to fuel awareness,
knowledge on the importance of civic space. I believe it was Emma O’Leary who said that
we need to do a lot more advocacy on this topic and that’s what we’re trying to
do with these different relations. Of course ICVA is also part of the package
here from a Danish perspective. Then if we go to the country level, again
these are things that are in process. I’m not saying this is all done spic and
span but we’re trying to have a systematic approach to how we address civic space in
the instruments we have at country policies, country programs. For us, of course, the EU and the larger like-minded
group of donors is the forum for where we can have a dialogue with authorities. Denmark, with all justice, is a small country. Of course we should not be naïve in terms
of what we can do singlehandedly. We shouldn’t. So we attach a lot of importance to the EU
dialogue here. Then, as the ICVA paper said, governments
are not monolithic. In some cases it’s a lack of faith. In others, it’s a lack of capacity and a
combination. Each context is, of course, specific. But there are often change agents inside authorities
at local levels, regional, whatever, and there we try to find agents through which we can
work and support this agenda. Finally, and most importantly, the dialogue
and support to local civil society I think there is from our side no question that the
most important thing is to contribute to a strong local civil society. We do that through partnerships with our Danish
CSO partners. So the equivalent of Norwegian Refugee Council
we have a number of partners similar in Denmark. There we have really put a focus on civic
space as an area where we need to build capacity and contribute to that. Then there’s the emergency side of things. One thing is the long-term capacity development. The other thing is the need for rapid response
where, for example, we have engaged with an organisation like Front Line Defenders. I’d also just like to refer that Emma mentioned
that the relation between a donor and an organisation is not a donor interrelation. We really tried to see if we can develop what
we call strategic clusters. For example, we have a regular discussion
with a number of our CSO partners on, for example, The Grand Bargain commitments and
how we can lift those. That’s more a shared responsibility, I believe
was the word used by Emma. Then Pius’ excellent presentation just before
underlines the importance of my second bulletin, the direct support to and dialogue with local
CSO platforms. I was quite impressed to hear the range of
activities that are being launched in the case of South Sudan. That’s exactly the coalition building at
country and regionally is an important factor. Let me just stop with a few dilemmas and then,
once I’m done with this slide, I would just ask if my colleague Thomas could contribute
with a few ending remarks from our side. But maybe just to say that the dialogue on
human rights and civic space is a difficult dialogue, of course, and sometimes it has
to be an open dialogue, sometimes it has to be more subtle diplomacy. That requires, of course, a lot of diplomatic
skill. We also see sometimes that maybe it’s not
always the best case to be very open in terms of how the Danish government supports a certain
NGO or not, or a civil society organisation. I’m also here making reference to the foreign
agents’ regulations and laws we see in certain countries where there’s a certain suspicion
of being associated with foreign donors. Of course we try to be more and more proactive
but we also find ourselves jumping from one fire to the next, reacting to legislative
changes or harassments, etc., in different countries. So there’s a lot to keep up with there. I believe also Pius was referring to the fact
that if you’re a formal NGO, registration is no problem. But a lot of the movers and shakers that we
should really engage with are difficult to engage with due to the more informal nature. Then just the hot topic right now for us,
I was just in Tunis all of last week at a conference on human rights and technology. On one side, the increasing tendency of authorities
to close digital space but also the endless opportunities that civil society can take
here. So let me finish here and then if I could
ask the organisers to give the microphone to the other Thomas. Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Thomas. I’ll just take you through a couple of the
more practical elements that we work on in support of our humanitarian partners working
basically in a number of protracted situations where access for civic space is an issue. Looking at the ICVA report, you could actually
categorise that into two. For instance, challenges related to access. We play a relatively limited role in terms
of that, except by advocating to the UN, in particular OCHA and UNHCR on the need for
improved access. It depends on the setting, of course. It’s obvious that OCHA, in particular, plays
a key role in terms of this but a lot also depends in many settings on the skills of
NGOs themselves. We’re interested in that in many ways. We look, for instance, in Afghanistan where
NGO staff for years have been negotiating security at the local level supported by us
in the sense that we provided funding for that, we provide funding for security systems,
etc., and for direct linking with local communities. We are also interested in building general
capacity for this and we are, for the same reason, supporting front line negotiations
which was established by the ICRC, WFP, UNHCR, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, MSF,
etcetera, in the form of the Centre of Competence on Humanitarian Negotiation. With regard to challenges related to bureaucracy
and administrative barriers, as was legal barriers at the national level, we are potentially
more active depending, again, on the context. We may, for instance, in some cases intervene
on behalf of our partners with local authorities, with national authorities. We may do it informally or we may do it formally. Sometimes we take the initiative to generate
joint donor action. For instance, through the European Union or
with other groups of like-minded countries. That could be at the international level,
for instance working through the EU or it could be through conferences or it could be
through donor coordination at the national level. Much depends on the setting and we need, at
all times, to take the risk of backlash into account for all involved, including NGOs themselves. One of the pre-conditions here, if we are
to support NGOs, is clear that NGO partners have adhered to local laws and regulations,
for instance, in terms of being registered. Noncompliance will make it next to impossible
for us to do anything. With regards to counterterrorism, Emma had
an excellent presentation on that. It is a very, very tricky issue. We continuously advocate for necessary exemptions
for humanitarian actors to be in place, for instance in Somalia. Finally, challenges related to intimidation
and harassment. Again, it depends very much in circumstances
as to whether we can do something meaningful and, if so, how. We do have examples of quiet diplomacy either
directly or through the UN. Another thing, generally, it depends in terms
of humanitarian NGO access on their knowledge of the political economy, the legal frameworks,
etc., in places where they set up shop. It is simply necessary for building better
relations and acceptance of spaces for humanitarian access that NGOs really ensure that they have
full overview of the political economy, of legal frameworks in place, etc. Otherwise, you may end up creating greater
harm than good, creating animosity and so forth, apart from transferring risk to local
partners. This is especially the case with NGOs involved
in remote management whereby risks, indeed, are transferred to local partners. That actually also leads potentially to less
knowledge about issues of humanitarian access in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It certainly also leads to less knowledge
about the overall contextual situation. But I think I’ll leave it at that and hand
over to the organisers. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks to both our speakers. It’s very interesting. We have a quick question to you because we
are already almost out of time. But we have Fakhri from United Kingdom who’s
asked us, do all of the member states mainly provide funds to UN agencies or ICRC for obvious
reasons? This is what you mentioned as well, looking
at the risk management aspect, the counterterrorism action that was mentioned by Emma, etcetera. But what is it that needs to be done to change
this approach so that NGOs, especially local national NGOs, are able to feel empowered? And also looking at the trust-building aspect,
how can we do better or what can be done differently? Over to you. I think actually it’s not correct to say
that we, as a donor. I really can’t speak on behalf of other
donors. But I do think we, and a number of other donors
of course as well, do actually prioritise funding for NGOs. A very significant part of our overall humanitarian
budget is channelled through various NGO partners and through them to a range of local partners
in a number of crisis situations worldwide. Secondly, we prioritise very much the country-based
pooled funds. In doing so, one of the reasons for that is
really that the country-based pooled funds have proven increasingly to be excellent channels
for funding local NGO partners in a way that we cannot do ourselves. One of the issues for us is, indeed, capacity. We’re sitting here in Copenhagen. We have limited capacity in embassies that
can actually ensure the necessary dialogue, accountability, etc., with local partners. Therefore we have to work through a lot of
international setups. But, for us, localisation is indeed a priority. We think that the country-based pooled funds
along with NGO networks that we’re working through are actually excellent conduits for
that. So I think the actual situation is somewhat
more diverse. Excellent. Thank you so much. Just to note that we have gone slightly overtime. We are going to wrap everything up now. I would like to go around the virtual table
for a very, very brief 30-second closing remarks to get some final thoughts from each of our
speakers. We’ll go first to David then to Emma then
Pius and then back to you, Thomas and Thomas. So very briefly, over to you, David. Having heard your colleagues on the panel
and seeing the action in the chat, anything you’d like to leave us with today? Yes, thank you, Angharad. Just to say that it’s encouraging to hear
about some of the focused efforts that Emma was addressing in terms of counterterrorism
and some of the country-level efforts that Pius described in South Sudan. ICNL is available as a resource to organisations
at the national and international level that are seeking to deal with effective responses. I encourage those who are participating in
the call to feel free to reach out to ICNL. I also look forward to hopefully receiving
some questions from the organisers so I can get back to participants in writing. That will be very much appreciated. Thanks so much, David, and thanks for joining
us. Now, over to you, Emma. What would you like to leave with us? Thank you. I would just briefly say that, for those on
the call, I would really strongly encourage you if the issue of counterterrorism and its
impact resonates with you at all to encourage you to engage with your colleagues in the
field. If you’re in the field, start looking, if
you haven’t already, about how this issue might be affecting your operations. Is it slowing bank transfers? Is it potentially contributing to risk aversion
in terms of operations in areas under the control of non-state armed groups? Find out how this issue is affecting your
operations and just continue to raise it. Raise it at HCT level and raise it with donors,
raise it with relevant governments, because, really, by continuing to raise these examples
of the impacts that these measures are having on our operations that’s how we can best
effect change. Thank you, Emma. Thanks again for joining and I hope that we’ll
have another opportunity to carry on the discussion. There’s clearly much more to talk about here. Now, to Pius, once again crossing fingers
that we can reach you. Are you on the line? I found it very enlightening. What I can say, really, is that protecting
and expanding civic and humanitarian space is really a work in progress. It is work in progress in building relationships,
building relationships of trust and confidence. Thank you. Okay. Thank you so much, Pius, and thanks for your
patience with the technology today. Now, last but not least, back to you, Thomas. Any final words? Thanks again from our side. I’d just say, first of all, we’re quite
encouraged by, again, as mentioned from Pius, because it really confirms that the strong
civil society in Global South, a strong organisation is really what matters in the long term. I was also confirmed about the importance
of keep stressing the global advocacy, which Emma stressed. Then maybe having this conversation where
we are bringing sort of the development governance type together with the humanitarian community
confirms really that there’s a lot of value added because, in a way, we are pursuing similar
agendas. I think there could be a lot of impact, again,
from continuing this closer conversation between these two camps that should be working together
more. Thank you. Thank you, and absolutely agree on that point. It would be great to continue the discussion
on this theme. So now we’re going to wrap things up. As mentioned, the recordings and all of the
resources that have come up today will be available in the next few days on the event
webpage. They’ll also go out by email as well. Once the event has been translated, ICVA will
be providing subtitles for the recording in French and Arabic. Now, I think Nishanie wanted to come in for
some additional points regarding engagement on the issue. Over to you, Nishanie. Thanks, Angharad. ICVA will continue to engage in various platforms
for humanitarian action on the shrinking space for NGOs and civil society. And this is an ongoing discussion and engagement,
especially under the IASC Results Group 1 Operation response and Results Group 3 Collective
advocacy, ICVA together with Interaction is co-chairing the task force to address bureaucratic
impediments imposed on NGOs. And on the humanitarian financing, ICVA is
looking at supporting NGOs’ access to principled quality funding. We will continue to engage with member states,
multilateral organisations to ensure respect and adequate space for civil society to engage
in policy discussions. We will also continue to work and bring together
discussions and spaces such as this, today, with PHAP, what we had with our webinar and
to bring in organisations like CIVICUS, ICNL and look at other tools available to engage
better on this subject. Just to mention, there are two UN mechanisms:
the ECOSOC and Human Rights Council sessions that are starting next week here in Geneva,
that we are also discussing some of these issues we had. Already the reports were shared with you online. There will also be the Special Rapporteur
for freedom of peaceful assembly and association on the 10th Anniversary of the mandate will
submit a report next year in June to the Human Rights Council that will take stock of the
last 10 years of freedom of peaceful assembly and association relevant to civil society. And do not hesitate to contact ICVA for any
further information. Thank you, everybody, for being part of this
interesting and exciting discussion. Excellent. Thank you, Nishanie. Now, to look to upcoming events in this learning
stream on navigating change, in 2019 we have coming up a session on The Global Compact
on Refugees, GCR, what does it mean for NGOs. And, separately, a session on Sharing and
Mitigating Risk in a Changing Humanitarian Environment. The dates for those will be announced soon
and we hope that you will all consider joining us once again online. So with that, I would like to thank all of
our participants, our panellists, my co-facilitator Nishanie, for their proactive involvement
today. Fascinating, important questions. And to the speakers in particular for their
valuable input, we look forward to following up with all of you on this. With that, we’ll sign off. Please, fill the survey so that we can take
your inputs and lessons learned from this discussion and roll them forward into the
next. Nishanie, a final word? Thanks. We’ll continue the discussion. Terrific. All right. That’s Angharad, the rest of the team of
PHAP, and Nishanie and colleagues signing off from Geneva.

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