16th December 2017
New Delhi, India
Condemning the Government of Pakistan’s closure of over 20 international aid agencies “without any verifiable cause”, a group of international civil society organisations have described the decision as part of a growing and worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society and repression of human rights across South Asia.
Condemning the arbitrary banning of these agencies and reiterating the importance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in assisting development projects, the groups, which included CHRI, International Federation for Human Rights, the National Foundation of India and Katiba Institute of Kenya, called for an “immediate reversal of this decision”.
In recent years, Pakistan has restricted the operations of international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) and their local partners by refusing visas, introducing obstructive registration requirements, and demanding layered approvals for new projects.
In 2015, a committee comprising of several ministries sealed Save the Children’s offices and instructed expatriate staff to leave the country. The committee also temporarily rejected the registrations of 15 other NGOs, including Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and Mercy Corps.
Many of the organisations which have now been banned, including Open Society Foundation (OSF) and Action Aid, have worked in Pakistan for decades. Their involvement has enabled access to education, health, food, and emergency relief, to hundreds and thousands of ordinary people, including empowerment of women and children.
The Commonwealth Charter commits Pakistan with an obligation to respect and uphold the role of civil society and “the right to development for all without discrimination on any grounds”. Such action also goes against its international legal commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); which are integral to the basis of a peaceful, just and stable society.
Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Rita Payne, President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association
Yash Ghai, Katiba Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
Richard Bourne, Secretary, the Ramphal Institute; Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation for India
Pralab Barua, Member, Executive Committee, CHRI, UK
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative UK
For further information, contact:
Research Officer, Director’s Office (CHRI)