Humanitarian organisations 'suffering worst attacks since the war'

The latest annual report on global civil society by Civicus says right-wing extremists are being mobilised to attack migrants and refugees, and those defending them are in the firing line

Civil society organisations that provide humanitarian help are under greater attack than at any time since the Second World War, according to a report published today by Civicus.

Civicus is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists based in South Africa that aims to strengthen citizen action.

Its State of Civil Society Report 2019, which analyses global trends, says right-wing populists and extremists are being mobilised to attack migrants and refugees.

Those defending vulnerable groups increasingly find themselves in the firing line caused by this "rising tide of global mean-spiritedness", it says.

Lysa John, secretary general of Civicus, said: "We believe that the right to provide humanitarian response is under attack in a way unparalleled since the Second World War.

"We need a new campaign, at both global and domestic levels, to reinforce humanitarian values and the rights of progressive civil society groups to act."

The report, which is the eighth produced annually by Civicus, describes 2018 as "a year when regressive forces gained ground".

Civicus, which tracks how well civic rights are protected in each country, continues to rate the UK as "narrowed", which is the second best of five options.

The report highlights fracking, Brexit, safeguarding and deportation laws as areas of concern for UK civil society. It says fracking protesters face restrictions and Brexit has prompted some civil society organisations to relocate their headquarters outside the UK.

"The UK’s rejection of multilateralism could be seen to be having a negative impact on civil society even before Brexit was concluded," the report says.

Laws to prevent terrorism are being used to deport non-terrorists, the report adds. And it questions how NGOs, such as Oxfam, have responded to safeguarding breaches.

"What concerned many in civil society was that the initial response seemed to be one of putting reputational management and the financial bottom line first, rather than one of listening to the survivors of abuse and prioritising their needs," the report says.

"There can be no claim that the ends of our missions as civil society outweigh the means by which we work."

The report recommends that civil society organisations "build better connections" with trade unions, academics and think tanks to "develop economic alternatives" to right-wing populism.

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