part of a larger global efforts by states to resist internationalization of politics and retain a greater control of their own internal development within the logic of the politician systems on which they are founded. Russia and Cambodia, for quite distinct reasons have also sought to manage their civil societies more to the liking of the political elites who run those states. The latest state to consider more extensive management of civil society is Kazakhstan, which seeks to deploy the administrative techniques of registration and funding to better align the behavior of civil society to the interests of the state apparatus." (Managing Civil Society--Next Generation NGO Laws and Resistance to the Internationalization of Civil Society and its Normative Elements Oct. 10, 2015)
Globalization thus has produced not only a devolution of power to autonomous economic units that operate across borders, but also given rise to a set of autonomous organizations whose business is to provide one or another sort of services across borders. Both aspects of globalization invoke public power to effect their operations. Yet both also seek to avoid the limits of territory in their operations. Both rely on market and market efficiency ideas, a rhetoric of welfare maximization, to diminish the significance of political borders. Privatization of this sort effectively shifts power down and out of the political sphere to the private sector, just as surely as it does when economic enterprises seek to stand in for the state. (Neo Colonialism in Civil Society Clothing or the Rise of Human Dignity as the First Supra National Principle of International Law?, May 13, 2008)
The UN Human Rights Council has adopted several resolutions of particular importance for civil society, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, intimidation and reprisals, and human rights defenders. In 2013 and 2014, it adopted resolutions 27/31, and 24/21 on civil society space, acknowledging the “crucial importance of the active involvement of civil society, at all levels, in processes of governance and in promoting good governance, including through transparency and accountability, at all levels, which is indispensable for building peaceful, prosperous and democratic societies.” (Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System: A Practical Guide for Civil Society United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2015).
But the U.N. Human Rights Commission has itself proven to be ambiguous about where to draw the line between necessary engagement across borders and the authority to protect the state against threat (The U.N. Human Rights Commission Issues its "OHCHR Management Plan for 2014-2017", April 14, 2014). The internal politics of the United Nations, of course, might explain this flexibility in line drawing. But the political constraints on U.N. institutional analysis ought not to be taken as a necessary constraint on a rigorous approach to the issue.UN expert raises alarm at global trend of restricting civil society space on pretext of national security and counter-terrorism
NEW YORK (26 October 2015) – United Nations human rights expert Ben Emmerson today urged governments across the world to ensure that the NGO sector be allowed to continue to play an indispensable role in co-ordinated efforts to counter the spread of terrorism.
“A functioning civil society is an essential cornerstone of an open society,” he stressed. “The abuse of counter-terrorism measures to stifle legitimate opposition and to choke public interest and human rights organisations around world is gathering pace, and has become a first rank priority for the UN human rights mechanisms,” he noted.
“In the past three years, this ideological pandemic has started to spread.
More than 60 States have proposed or passed laws during that time restricting freedom of assembly, or prohibiting the foreign funding and activities of civil society organisations,” he warned.
“The international crackdown on civil society space has not been confined to those States that have adopted repressive legislation directly targeting the NGO sector,” said Mr. Emmerson in his latest report to the UN General Assembly. “Many of the international and national measures aimed at countering terrorist financing and the provision of material support have also had a direct and chilling impact on public interest groups, restricting the ability of entirely lawful organisations to secure funding or to operate effectively,” he noted.
“NGOs must be formally recognised as indispensable partners in effective and intelligent counter-terrorism initiatives. They have the unique ability to reach out to local communities; to provide assistance in protecting and promoting human rights; to give a voice to the disaffected and marginalised sections of society; to promote the needs of those who are politically, economically or socially excluded; to deliver humanitarian relief in areas affected by conflict; and to play an integral part in the realisation of longer term development goals,” said Mr Emmerson.
“The message of today’s report is that States that make up the UN need to back off and let lawful public interest organisations get on with the vitally important work they do”.
“States need to recognise, in all the regulation that is adopted, that lawful civil society organisations are not enemies of democracy and the rule of law, but key allies,” Mr. Emmerson concluded.
What does pose the largest problem is the contradiction that necessarily arises from the reality of political internationalization through civil society actors, and the formal structures of a state based system in which "States have the primary responsibility to promote and protect freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs. CSAs, together with the UN human rights system and other actors can help States meet these obligations." (Civil Society Space and the United Nations Human Rights System: A Practical Guide for Civil Society supra, p. 27). Where civil society assumes an autonomy and independence within global political discourse that is similar to that of enterprises in global production chains, it is hard to see how that can fit into the territorially limited scope of action that is at the base of the state system--and the United Nations systems itself. Civil society might work with states, but it deals directly with its constituents. Those constituents now engage in multiple roles--as citizens of a traditional state, as members of diverse global communities, as part of global religious communities, and as stakeholders in global production chains. These roles overlap in many respects. Their objectives might be harmonized; they generally do not pose threats to the integrity of each other. But they do affect the power of any one of them to dominate the individual--and to more easily manage their socialization within power systems that each of these communities represent.
Yet at their limit, however, these civil society organizations--like economic organizations--threaten the state's monopoly of power and can compete for authority over individuals and the development of productive forces broadly understood. This was understood in the 20th century when state power was at its apogee. No state, however, has been successful, thus far, in imposing a governance structure in which all civil society organizations, indeed in which all organizations other than those of the state itself, are prohibited. European Marxist states of the 20th century attempted something like that. but that effort failed. Even that partial effort in Cuba appears unlikely to survive (e.g., here). And it has proven impossible, even in theocratic states, to eliminate all forms of mass organization other than those under the control of those who dominate the political structures of the state itself. And globalization--and with it its weakening of the effectiveness of territorial borders as either physical or conceptual barrier (e.g. here)--has made it impossible for states to isolate its civil society structures and to manage them indirectly. Theocratic states have learned this lesson hard, but its greatest effects have been on states more open to the global cross currents of popular movements.
Perhaps, and for the moment--only a functional approach is possible to reconcile the contradictions posed by a global state system interacting with an emerging system of global political organizations. That is, management might turn on the objectives and actions of civil society, even international civil society, within national territory, but not on the "residence" of such organization. But even this standard is of little help when states are free to define acceptable objectives instrumentally either to suppress activity or to eliminate the foreign element in civil society activity.And thus the contradiction stands-- and the threat. The threat to the integrity of the state in the hands of civil society is met at every turn by the threat to the integrity of globalized orders, now deeply enmeshed within national economic life, by the actions of government apparatus to protect themselves against, in the final analysis, their own people.