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KIOS organized an international seminar on cooperation and protection of human rights defenders on 29th September 2015. During the event the subject of shrinking space of human rights defenders in several countries was raised. Cooperation should be developed in order to ensure the security of human rights defenders. 11 KIOS’ project partners from South Asia and East Africa attended the seminar.
The activities and functioning of Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human rights organization, have been limited systematically. Adilur Rahman Khan, director of Odhikar describes the situation in Bangladesh: “The question of shrinking space is not there in Bangladesh. In fact, there is no space to shrink.” At the moment Odhikar is unable to access its assets since the government blocked the use of the organization’s account in February 2014. The charges against the directors of Odhikar Adilur Rahman Khan and Nasiruddin Elan are waiting to be dealt with. International human rights organizations have strictly condemned both the charges and the imprisonment of Khan and Elan in 2013.
“A new and concerning development is that Europe is reducing their funding of global human rights work. Many organizations are in a difficult position because of the disappeared support”.
The Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture OMCT Gerald Staberock expressed his concern for counter-terrorism laws. “Counter-terrorism laws are used for preventing and restricting the work of human rights organizations.”
Over the last 3 years more than 60 countries have enacted legislation restricting the functioning of organizations. According to Staberock, the general climate is more negative towards human rights work: “A new and concerning development is that Europe is reducing their funding of global human rights work. Many organizations are in a difficult position because of the disappeared support”.
Western Countries’ declining support to human rights work can in many countries be interpreted as an indirect approval of human rights violations. KIOS’ executive director Ulla Anttila: “We’ve seen organizations that have received foreign funding to end up under special monitoring and be harassed. Preventing this would require both economic and diplomatic support to human rights work as well as developing the cooperation of the organizations. The organizations’ human rights work has a key role in preventing the aggravation of countries’ internal conflicts.”
The main part of KIOS’ budget is allocated directly to local organizations doing human rights work in East Africa and South Asia. The Government of Finland cuts the development cooperation funds received by KIOS with 41% in the beginning of 2016. Thus, KIOS’ funding will be reduced from 1 900 000 euros to 1 120 000 euros. KIOS is currently exploring other options to receive funding. The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights KIOS is founded in 1998 by 11 Finnish organizations working with human rights and development questions. KIOS’ role is to fund human rights projects in developing countries.