On Oct. 23, Charity & Security Network’s (C&SN) legal analyst, Katherine Tomaszewski, gave an intervention from the floor during the side event, From Policy to Practice: Implementation of the Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Civil Society & Civic Space, during the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s (GA) Third Committee. The event was hosted by the CSO Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, in partnership with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN. 

Panelists and speakers at the event included: 

The Global Study was developed through an inclusive and participatory process that promoted civil society’s engagement and leadership throughout. To support facilitating civil society inclusion from across the globe, C&SN held a consultative roundtable with approximately 30 CSOs that experience counter-terrorism measures’ harmful and negative impacts. These partners shared experiences 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. Additionally, C&SN co-hosted, alongside the Special Rapporteur and her mandate team, the North America Regional Consultation. This consultation convened civil society from the United States and Canada to elaborate on the discriminatory impacts and the realities of vague and overbroad counter-terrorism legislation and policies in the two countries. Finally, C&SN participated in the launch of the Global Study during the Third United Nations Counter-Terrorism Week in June 2023.  

The Third Committee event served to institutionalize the Global Study’s findings, following the Special Rapporteur’s presentation of the report to the GA. It is the “first independent global study on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civil society and civic space.” The study addresses the obstacles faced by civil society organizations (CSOs) due to counter-terrorism measures and efforts by States to counter terrorism and violent extremism, including the purposeful misuse of overbroad counter-terrorism and violent extremism laws to target human rights defenders and shrink civic space.

At the Third Committee event, civil society, Member States, UN agencies, and additional stakeholders discussed avenues to implement the recommendations presented in the Global Study. Speakers and participants reflected on the opportunities to move the findings of the Global Study forward, noting the importance of bridging the gap between counter-terrorism and human rights bodies within the UN itself. The Special Rapporteur spoke about the layered and cumulative harms of counter-terrorism to civil society actors, who often contribute the most in society to prevent the roots of violence and terrorism in the first place. For this reason, she and other panelists noted that failing to integrate human rights principles and safeguards into counter-terrorism structures not only fails human rights standards, it also generates poor national security frameworks. 

Tomaszewski gave remarks at the event based on C&SN’s participation in the Global Study. She emphasized the importance of the inclusive methodology, including its focus on counter-terrorism’s gendered impacts. She also encouraged Member States and all stakeholders to implement the recommendations presented by the Global Study, and to incorporate appropriate safeguards into national security policies so that counter-terrorism measures do not continue to harm civil society and impede civic space. Find Tomaszewski’s full remarks below:

Good afternoon, and a special thank you to the Special Rapporteur and her excellent team, the CSO Coalition on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, the Permanent Missions of Canada and Switzerland, and the panelists here today.

The Charity & Security Network is proud to have participated in the Global Study by co-leading the regional North America Consultation, as well as separately facilitating input for the Global Study with approximately 30 civil society organizations globally.

Based on our participation in the Global Study, today I’d like to emphasize two main takeaways: 

First, the Global Study is superb in outcome because of its process, which was inclusive, intersectional, participatory, and civil society-engaged-and-led from beginning to end. 

It included extensive regional consultations, and incorporated gender and critical feminist analysis into the study from the beginning, rather than as an afterthought. The Global Study’s methodology should – from here on out – serve as a blueprint for all of us going forward on how to conduct participatory and inclusive research to advance and protect human rights. 

Second, the Global Study highlights the diverse evidence of impacts of counter-terrorism measures on civil society, AND also presents a way forward on how to incorporate the appropriate safeguards to implement counter-terrorism frameworks in a way that avoids harm to civil society actors, who play a critical role in preventing conditions conducive to violence and terrorism.

All stakeholders should take charge to implement these evidence-based recommendations from the Global Study to protect and engage civil society. As civil society, we should harness the Global Study findings to advocate for stronger human rights compliance and more expansive civil society access in our own countries and across the globe. We urge all stakeholders to do the same and stand ready to work with you to do so.

C&SN commends the Special Rapporteur and her team for this landmark study, and for their unwavering commitment, allyship, and partnership to and with civil society throughout her mandate.