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Freedom House and other rights organisations launch lifeline for embattled NGOs

Netsanet Belay from CIVICUS with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund launch in Vilnius on 1 July
Netsanet Belay from CIVICUS with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund launch in Vilnius on 1 July

Freedom House

An international consortium, which includes IFEX member Freedom House, has set up the "Embattled NGO Assistance Fund" to help support non-governmental organisations under threat around the world.

According to Freedom House, the fund will help civil society activists withstand crackdowns and pressure from both government and non-state actors and allow them to continue their work to defend citizens' rights and freedoms. Some examples of such pressure include a draft law in Cambodia to increase government control over NGOs, government freezes on NGO bank accounts in Ethiopia, and violent dispersal of demonstrations in Belarus.

"In many countries, civil society activists are being jailed, harassed or targeted with increasing frequency, and their organisations are being threatened, if not shut down," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "The NGO Fund creates a global network to give assistance to civil society organisations when they need it most and to speak out on their behalf."

The Embattled NGO Assistance Fund will be managed by an international consortium of civil society organisations that includes Freedom House, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (United States), FrontLine Defenders (Ireland), CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation (South Africa), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Thailand), People in Need (Czech Republic) and the Swedish International Liberal Center.

Thirteen governments (Australia, Benin, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) have pledged support for the fund, including starting it off with more than US$4 million.

At the launch in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 1 July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the fund would "provide financial assistance to watchdog and advocacy NGOs, by doing everything from paying for new cell phones they need, helping to keep contact with jailed activists, launching legal appeals, paying for medical bills for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of government security."

She added, "We can help NGOs stand up to repressive government action by giving grants to rally local and international support through media campaigns to help build coalitions with civil society."

the Freedom House website

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