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Item 8: General Debate on the Vienna Declaration & Program of Action
March 20, 2017

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
as delivered by Kevin Dolliver.

34th Session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, Switzerland

March 20, 2017

Mr. Vice President,

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action recommends actions to “promote democracy, development and human rights,” with special emphasis on “strengthening of a pluralistic civil society and the protection of groups which have been rendered vulnerable.”  The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action also recommends increasing the allocation of resources to programs that uphold the rule of law and promote human rights awareness, including through civil society.

Civil society reflects the plurality of voices that is the foundation for any open and democratic society.   People working together freely bring us innovation, economic growth, and vibrant, pluralistic democracies.  It is therefore of great concern that systematic action is being taken by a number of governments to suppress the legitimate activities of civil society, including by human rights defenders, NGOs and journalists.

We also condemn reprisals against civil society representatives for their engagement with UN or other international human rights mechanisms, including this body.  All States can do more to protect these individuals and other human rights defenders from harassment, intimidation and all forms of reprisals.

In the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, we call upon States to defend civil society and push back against restrictions on civic space and all acts of reprisals; and to oppose the criminalization of the freedom of association.  We also urge states not to hinder the work of civil society organizations through undue restrictions, such as on communication and financing, including funding from foreign sources.

Thank you.