During a debate in plenary session, PACE deplored that civil society space was shrinking in several member States and that restrictive legislation and regulations were still being applied, particularly in Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Turkey. It is concerned, in particular, about restrictive laws regarding access to funding from abroad.
In adopting a resolution, based on the report by Alexandra Louis (France, ALDE), the Assembly called on member States to “comply with international legal standards with regard to the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression" and to repeal or amend legislation that interferes with NGOs’ ability to work freely and independently.
“Governments should refrain from adopting new laws resulting in unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on NGO activities,” the parliamentarians said, stressing that the Covid-19 pandemic should not be used to justify such restrictions. “NGOs must be able to secure and use financial resources of both domestic and foreign origin, without suffering discrimination or encountering obstacles,” they added.
Finally, PACE called on member States to refrain from all forms of harassment (judicial, administrative or fiscal), negative public statements and smear campaigns aimed at NGOs.