Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with
the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association
and
the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises

Statement by Australia, 30 May 2013

 

Australia thanks the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association for their reports.

We note the Working Group’s detailed exploration of existing efforts to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We will study the report and its recommendations carefully. Australia welcomes the Working Group’s ongoing initiatives, including the regional forums to be held later this year.

Australia is a strong supporter of the freedoms of assembly and association. We agree that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association play a fundamental role in the effective functioning of a democracy. These freedoms are explicitly enshrined in Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) respectively, which Australia has ratified.

Although international recognition of these universal principles is long standing, they are rights that cannot be taken for granted. Upholding them provides a channel for dialogue, pluralism and tolerance, where minority or dissenting views or beliefs are respected.

We would reiterate the Special Rapporteur’s view that any restriction to the freedom of assembly and association, including where such a restriction is on an association’s access to financial resources, should fully comply with international human rights laws and norms. We agree that, in addition to directly restricting funding, stigmatising and delegitimising foreign funded associations is an equally problematic constraint. We also firmly agree that these rights should be considered the rule, and their restriction the absolute exception.

Australia particularly welcomes that the Special Rapporteur’s report reflects recent disturbing developments which undermine and unduly restrict human rights defenders. The report clearly outlines that the ability of human rights defenders to access financial resources is a vital element of the right to freedom of association and that laws and practices in a number of countries have severely restricted this. Australia remains deeply concerned by these developments.

Australia would be interested in the Special Rapporteur’s views on the fundamental elements required to guarantee freedom of assembly and association and what might be the simplest and most immediate steps the states noted in this report should be taking to ensure these.