Search This Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Report due in NY next month on government support for civil society

Eleven months ago Australia joined 20 other governments in a High Level Forum in New York chaired by President Obama in support of civil society.

The governments later issued a joint statement that noted their "deep concern that many governments are restricting civil society and the rights of freedom of association and expression, both online and offline"; commited to take action "to respond to growing restrictions on civil society that undermine its ability to perform its crucial role.. an alarming trend"; called on "representatives of civil society, the philanthropic community, the private sector, and other governments to partner with us in supporting and defending civil society"; and agreed to meet again at the opening of the 69th United Nations General Assembly to review progress toward these objectives.

The General Assembly convenes on 16 September. 

Someone in DFAT is no doubt beavering away on what Australia can say about our efforts to this end.

Speeches by Minister Andrews and plans for the National Centre for Excellence will feature; so will government financial support for the C20 and facilitation of the Global Summit earlier in the year.

A specific commitment in the joint statement was to strengthen support for existing mechanisms that encourage civil society participation such as the Open Government Partnership. The government's current public position is that whether Australia should join the OGP is still 'under consideration' so there is a month (it's been three years) to tidy that up.

I'm sure the report won't go there, but squaring our stated support for an active civil society with other words and deeds would constitute a challenge:
  • cuts to funding community legal centres and removal of a clause from the funding agreement that confirmed their role in policy debate and advocacy;
We will hear more at home on the last three issues given this recent speech by Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:50 pm

    My comment below relates specifically to the funding cuts to community legal centres and the article "Community Legal Centres Targeted in Coalition Cuts"

    Everything that has been stated in that article clearly shows that this country's politicians and policies are just as morally bankrupt as any other. Gagging clauses are not new. Just look at what the Guardianship Tribunal and its cohorts the Public Trustee & Guardian can do to anyone who tries to expose their breaches of human rights and callous behaviour towards their wards and their families. They do so with total impunity because they can – the legislation allows them to do so! There is no effective avenue for complaint. These govt. funded organisations whose role it is to investigate complaints are simply paper tigers - none of them will bite the hand that feeds them.

    The Government's problem with Community Law Centres is that they do their job too well. Highlighting the gross deficiencies of current laws and practices is not what any politician or government wants to hear or see. Rather, they prefer to be seen as doing something when in fact they are doing nothing at all. A broken system is not an issue of concern for our Government and its politicians as long as it continues to promote their spin and propaganda and delude the general public.

    To acknowledge the need for urgent law reforms or improved services to protect the rights of this country's citizens and actually do something positive about it requires a different type of politician. Unfortunately, not one of them has the moral fortitude, character or sense of decency to actually do anything about it. Instead, they prefer to kill the messenger.

    Before this Government decries the policies of other countries they need look no further than their own front door.