The Organization of American States has adopted a resolution on freedom of association that recognizes the importance of respecting this fundamental right for democracy. The resolution was passed on June 8 by all 34 states of the Organization of American States, in its 41st general assembly in El Salvador. This is the first time that Latin American states have formally addressed the issue of freedom of association in the region, said Freedom House, which said it welcomed the decision.
In the resolution, member states commit to promote and encourage various forms of citizen participation in decision-making processes and to protect and respect the rights of peaceful assembly and free association in accordance with international human rights law.
“The adoption of this resolution on freedom of association is a significant step amid mounting legal and administrative restrictions for civil society organizations in several countries in the region,” said Viviana Giacaman, senior program manager for Latin America at Freedom House. “From now on, civil society organizations will have a tool to monitor government action and demand compliance with freedom of association standards.”
In the past few years, at least eight Latin American governments have considered or enacted legal or administrative measures to restrict the activities of civil society organizations. In most cases, these measures allowed governments to use discretion in approving registration of non-government organizations, grant public officials overreaching oversight powers over organizational activities and limit international funding. In addition, many governments tolerate and incite a public opinion climate that is hostile to non-government organizations by issuing public statements that denigrate, insult and question the work of civil society organizations and their leaders, said Freedom House. As a result, direct attacks and intimidation to civil society organizations have become increasingly common in countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, it added..
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.