To governments:

  • Take measures to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment in which civil society activists and journalists can operate freely without fear of harassment, intimidation, attacks, or reprisals, in line with international human rights commitments.
  • Work with civil society to establish effective national protection mechanisms that respond to the needs of those at risk.
  • Repeal any legislation that criminalises HRDs, protesters, journalists and members of excluded groups. Ensure that adequate consultations are carried out with the public and civil society and that their input is taken into account before drafting laws that impact on freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
  • Carry out independent, prompt and impartial investigations into all cases of attacks on and killings of HRDs and journalists and ensure those responsible are brought to justice to deter others from doing the same.
  • Desist from using excessive force against peaceful protesters, stop pre-empting and preventing protests and adopt best practices on freedom of peaceful assembly, ensuring that any restrictions on assemblies comply with international human rights standards.
  • Review and, if necessary, update existing human rights training for police and security forces, with the assistance of independent CSOs, to foster the consistent application of international human rights law and standards during protests, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms.
  • Establish fully independent and effective investigations into the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers and agencies during protests and bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility.
  • Ensure that freedom of expression is safeguarded in all forms by bringing all national legislation into line with international law and standards and refrain from censoring social and conventional media. Any restrictions should be subject to oversight by an independent and impartial judicial authority and be in accordance with due process and standards of legality, necessity and legitimacy.
  • Maintain reliable and unfettered internet access and cease internet shutdowns that prevent people obtaining essential information.
  • Repeal any legislation that criminalises expressions based on vague concepts such as ‘fake news’ or disinformation, as such laws are not compatible with the requirements of proportionality.
  • Publicly condemn defamatory remarks, threats, acts of intimidation and attacks on HRDs and excluded communities.
  • Take appropriate measures to fully implement all recommendations accepted by states made by UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, including those from the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council.

To the United Nations and international bodies:

  • Provide access for communities and civil society to engage in decision-making processes at the UN and work closely with states to ensure that laws, travel restrictions and technologies do not limit access to the UN.
  • Pressure states to repeal or substantially amend restrictive legislation not in accordance with international law and standards in protecting freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
  • Strengthen existing mechanisms and implement new ones to address reprisals against HRDs who cooperate with international and regional mechanisms.
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure that activists and others in civil society are not put at risk because of the information they provide and publicly call out states that impose restrictions on civil society participation.

To the private sector:

  • Businesses should align their policies with international human rights standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to ensure that any censorship request from governments is not enforced.

To donors:

  • Provide long-term, unrestricted and core support for civil society in countries where civil society is facing increasing restrictions from states. Funders should provide specific support to groups conducting advocacy in countries with rapidly closing civic space.
  • Adopt participatory approaches to grant-making. Include human rights organisations in designing schemes and conduct situation assessments with CSOs. Maintain engagement at every stage, including when funding has been granted, to create adaptation and reallocation strategies with grantees in response to difficult working environments.
  • Prioritise security. In sensitive cases, donors need to balance transparency and security needs. Where civil society and human rights work is criminalised or HRDs are under surveillance or facing harassment, key information such as the identity, operations, activities and location of those receiving funds might need to remain undisclosed. Donors should support programmes to ensure that HRDs have appropriate training, skills and equipment to conduct their work safely.
  • Adapt grant-making modalities to the emergence of social movements and youth activists, among other key elements of civil society.