Geneva, Switzerland

11 March 2014

Secretary-General's video message to the Human Rights Council Panel on the Protection of Civil Society Space

Your Excellency, Mr. Baudelaire Ndong Ella, [President of the Human Rights Council], Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Flavia Pansieri,
Distinguished panellists,

A free and independent civil society is the bed-rock of democratic, responsive governance.

Civil society brings vital issues to our attention.  They help us make the case for stronger protection of human rights.  They push for more equal societies. They mobilize action to address violations and injustice. Their constructive criticism strengthens all that we do.

In short, civil society is an indispensable partner of the United Nations.

In campaigning to improve the lives of others, many often risk their own lives.

Civil society actors must be able to do their work freely, independently, safe from fear, retaliation or intimidation.

This requires collective action to denounce reprisals, defend free voices and protect those targeted. I count on your full commitment to support me; the High Commissioner and the United Nations ensure these critical objectives.

We must advance our work for human rights, peace and development. We must expand the space for civil society to meaningfully participate and contribute. 

Your discussion today starts from the correct premise that the space for civil society is a reflection of an entire society’s for respect of human rights within its own borders and indeed around the globe.

Let us seize this opportunity and strengthen the vital role of civil society together.

Thank you.