Aid Charities Call on Government to Protect Charities’ Right to Advocate
1 November 2017 at 5:04 pm
Australia’s international development charities have passed a resolution at the sector’s annual conference in Melbourne calling on the federal government to halt “disturbing developments” which are set to restrict Australian charities’ funding and advocacy.
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak-body for Australian non-government organisations involved in international development and humanitarian action, also called on the federal government to “use its position on the UN Human Rights Council to become an international champion for civil society”.
In a preamble, the resolution expressed concern at a “number of disturbing developments in Australia (which) may constrain the role of charities in undertaking advocacy”.
ACFID’s members voted to call on the government not to impose proposals on expenditure-caps advocacy by charities and a ban on international philanthropy to charities who undertake advocacy.
ACFID CEO Marc Purcell said: “Our members deliver programs overseas on behalf of the Australian government to build the means for resilient democracies, which includes an effective civil society.
“We must practice what we preach. If we care about promoting free and open democratic societies abroad, what we do and say at home matters.”
The resolution – proposed by the chief executives of WWF Australia and Oxfam Australia – called on the Australian government to “stand as a bulwark” against an escalating global trend which now sees only 3 per cent of the world’s population living in societies deemed “fully open” by CIVICUS, a non-governmental organisation tracking the conditions for citizen action.
“Faced with this disturbing global trend, it has never been more important for the Australian government to lead by example when it comes to safeguarding and promoting the role of civil society,” Purcell said.
“Increasingly, fear and division are being used around the world as a precursor for draconian laws and regulations which are crippling democratic freedoms and stifling citizen-led groups. ACFID’s members are all too aware of this trend as they are forced to adjust to severely constrained operating environments, instituted by governments overseas.
“A free and vibrant civil society is crucial in maintaining peace; keeping governments accountable; and protecting people’s rights.
“Backed by Australia’s democratic values and with our membership of the Human Rights Council, the Australian government is well-placed to defend civil society space on the international stage. We are calling on the government to embrace this opportunity.”
ACFID said it was continuing to work with its members and a consortium of charities to support and protect space for civil society overseas and in Australia.
Earlier this year ACFID released a position paper outlining concerns about the ban on foreign donations to political parties which it said may result in charities who advocate being prevented from accepting international philanthropy.
The paper was prepared by a consortium of charities, led by ACFID, Philanthropy Australia and the Community Council for Australia.