The UN has released the report of Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of assocation, that “addresses concerns about the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of multilateral organizations,” generally defined as groups made of up of three or more countries.  The key finding is that “mulitaleral institutions find themeslves caught between civil society’s demands for real civic participation and inclusiveness and pushback from Governments which are uncomfortable with, or are threated by, citizen involvement.”  The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) recommendations for anti-terrorist financing regulation are criticized for creating a “wave of new restrictions worldwide on funding for civil society.” Kiai cites FATF as an example of multilateral organizations that poes a “serious, disproportinate and unfair threat to those who have no connection with terrorism, includnig civil society organizations.”

The report focuses on multilaterals at the global level, and notes that their State-centric approach to global governance is being challenged by civil socierty, which “insists that discussions and decisions of lultilateral institutions shoudl focus on people’s concerns and human rights rather than benig confined to geopolitical and economic interests that primarily occupy States and corporations.” [paragraph 7]

It then goes on to point out teh similarities between rationales for civil society restrictions offered by governments and multilaterals. These include treating free speech that criticizes authorities as threats to national security, restricting access to resources and accusing nonprofits of lacking acccountability and questioning their motives.

The result is shrinking civil society space at the global level “that can also be attributed to Governments increasingly accommodating private sector contradictory interests with civil society.”  The FATF is a primary example. In paragraph 11 Kiai notes that there are no special global financial regulations for the private sector as a whole (FATF has recommendations that address subsectors such as banking) but that FATF Recommendation 8 requires countries evaluated by FATF to take steps related to civil society as a whole, including reviewing laws and regulations to prevent abuse by terrorist organizations.

This is unequal treatment, despite the fact that “There is no evidence that the civil society sector is more prone than the private sector to money-laundering activities or terrorism-related financial activity or even that any such activity in the civil society sector justifies the sector-wide approach that the Task Force has adopted.” (emphasis added)

This reflects the last decade’s trend of securitization of civil society, “whereby civil society becomes viewed on the one hand as potentially functional to achieving global and national security goals,andon the other hand, as potentially threatening to teh secutrity of liberal democratic states…”  Many governments “view associations and peaceful assemblies as threts to national stability and security.” [paragraph 20] The FATF is further singled out in paragraph 35:

  • “FATF argues in a recommendation paper of 2013 for action against the misuse of non-profit organizations for the financing of terrorism and in a report of 2014 demands that countires review the adequacy of laws and regulations that relate to entities that can be abused for the financing of terrorism. This call has been followed by a wave of new restrictions worldwide on funding for civil society.  Many of these restrictions, unfortunately, do nothing to legitimately advance the fight against money-laundering and terrorism. Rather, the battle against crime and terrorism has been used by some States as a cover for imposing politically motivated restrictions on civil society funding.” (emphasis added)