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Fundamental Rights Agency finds that civil society in EU is facing increasing challenges & explores role of business

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) report from January 2018 looked into the different types and patterns of challenges that civil society organizations working on human rights face in the European Union. In September 2018, FRA carried out an online consultation with its civil society network, the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP), to complement the findings of its report. The results of the online consultation confirm earlier messages and point to the need to provide civil society with the resources and the ‘safe space’ that it needs to flourish and operate. At the Fundamental Rights Forum in September 2018, organized by FRA, one of the topics that was explored was the role for businesses in supporting civil society space.

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"Civil society space: Views of organisations - Conference paper", Nov 2018

Civil society organisations (CSOs) play a critical role in democracies, and the importance of their work is widely recognised in international legal and policy documents. However, they face many obstacles when it comes to their day-to-day work... In September 2018, Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) carried out an online consultation with its civil society network, the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP), to complement the findings of its report. The results of the online consultation confirm earlier messages and point to the need to provide civil society with the resources and the ‘safe space’ that it needs to flourish and operate... At Fundamental Rights Forum in September 2018, six sessions explicitly looked at civic space issues: how EU law can protect civil society space; how to promote meaningful citizen participation in public affairs; how to change the narrative on civil society; the role for businesses in supporting civil society space; how to support strategic litigation; and working with different allies... "At a time where European societies are confronted with extremism, radicalism and divisions, it is more important than ever to promote, strengthen and defend justice, rights and EU values. NGOs and civil society play a crucial role in standing up for these European values" [said] Věra Jourová , the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality...

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Autor/in: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU)

"Challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU", 19 Jan 2018

...Civil society organisations identified [several] challenges regarding the regulatory environment [including] [t]ransparency laws that require entities involved in political campaigns to register as third-party campaigners...; National rules sometimes go beyond the restrictions of the freedom of peaceful assembly that can legitimately be imposed under international instruments..; A  number of EU Member States have [also] maintained criminal laws banning defamation or insult of state officials, the state itself, and (foreign) heads of state... CSOs [also] face a number of legal and practical obstacles to accessing funding... Some form of access to the decision-making process exists across all EU Member States, as well as at the level of EU...However... [A]ccess to (and real impact on) the decision-making process is generally inconsistent and not very transparent... CSOs and activists in the EU [also] face physical and verbal attacks, harassment and intimidation by non-state actors. These incidents take place both online and offline. Some state officials even engage in verbal attacks and create negative narratives that stigmatise CSOs or discredit their work, harming both the support base for CSOs in society and activists’ morale and motivation. It is vital for public officials to refrain from attacks, including verbal attacks, and unfounded attempts to discredit organisations that promote human rights and non-discrimination...Private actors...also engage in lawsuits in the area of defamation.

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