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Aid Charities call on Government to Protect Charities’ Right to Advocate

Concern rises over a number of “concerning development”.

Australia’s international development charities have passed a resolution at the sector’s annual conference calling on the Australian Government to halt “disturbing developments” which are set to restrict Australian charities’ funding and advocacy and instead 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 Australian Government not to impose proposals on expenditure caps advocacy by charities and a ban on international philanthropy to charities who undertake advocacy.

CEO of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), 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,” said Purcell.

“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.”

ACFID is continuing to work with its members and a consortium of charities to support and protect space for civil society overseas and in Australia.

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