On Jun. 21, 2023, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism released the Global Study on the Impact of Counter-terrorism on Civil Society and Civic Space and broadcast the launch on UN TV. This landmark study is the “first independent global study on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civil society and civic space.” It addresses the obstacles faced by civil society due to counter-terrorism measures and efforts by States to counter terrorism and violent extremism, including the purposeful misuse of overbroad terrorism and violent extremism laws to target human rights defenders and shrink civic space.

The Global Study was developed through an inclusive, intersectional, and participatory civil society engaged process, with a wide array of opportunities to contribute input, including written submissions, regional civil society consultations, and surveys. The Charity and Security Network (C&SN) engaged in these processes by holding a consultative Roundtable with approximately 30 civil society organizations (CSOs) that experience counter-terrorism measures’ harmful and negative impacts. Civil society partners shared impacts from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Canada, Iraq, Kenya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United States, and Venezuela. C&SN then collated this information and submitted written input for the Global Study. In collaboration with partners, we addressed several key areas where civil society and civic space is negatively impacted by counter-terrorism measures. Additionally, C&SN co-hosted, alongside the Special Rapporteur and her mandate team, the North America Regional Consultation. This Consultation fostered inputs for the Global Study from partners in the United States (U.S.) and Canada.

Civil society plays a critical role in preventing and addressing the conditions conducive to violence in society, particularly in complex, fragile, and conflicted settings. Overbroad and misused counter-terrorism laws and measures and the over-application of these laws to counter terrorist financing and money laundering (CTF/ML) restrict civil society’s ability to operate in these difficult settings. Furthermore, the broad nature of counter-terrorism measures and laws and the lack of international accountability mechanisms allow governments to utilize these measures to silence and create barriers for civil society actors.

This Global Study documents the ways in which counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) measures shrink and restrain civic space across multiple regions and amplifies the voices of civil society actors who have been negatively impacted by States implementing these measures. The Global Study covers overarching thematic issues and trends surrounding counter-terrorism and P/CVE measures, the specific impacts on women and gender minorities, the “playbook for misuse” of counter-terrorism and P/CVE laws and applications, the weaponization of technology, and the importance of the meaningful participation of civil society in the global counter-terrorism architecture and United Nations Human Rights mechanisms. The Global Study also offers recommendations to Member States, the UN, regional organizations, the private sector, and civil society.

C&SN is grateful to have had the opportunity to provide input, to co-host the North America Regional Consultation, and to attend the launch of this groundbreaking Global Study. We applaud the Special Rapporteur and her mandate team for advancing the rights of CSOs across the globe through this work, and continue to be grateful for their leadership, partnership, and allyship.