Civil Society Space — [Mr Andrew Turner in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 26th January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality) 1:30 pm, 26th January 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered protecting civil society space across the world.

This issue is of some interest to me, as it is to all the right hon. and hon. Members who have turned up to participate in and add their thoughts to the debate. I will focus on three countries: Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Other Members will focus on other countries of interest to them.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting the debate to me and my co-sponsors, Fiona Bruce and, on the Front Bench for the Scottish National party, Patrick Grady. It is good for the three of us collectively to have the opportunity to bring this subject before the House.

This debate came off the back of a meeting that I had here with Christian Aid and other bodies from Pakistan in September 2016, during a recess week. They presented a clear case about Pakistan and its religious minorities to me and some of my colleagues from the all-party parliamentary group on Pakistan minorities. I will introduce and discuss the three main issues.

Throughout the world, civil society space has been under significant pressure as restrictions on funding, barriers to registration, intervention in non-governmental organisations’ internal affairs and other forms of harassment have proliferated. The phenomenon of closing such spaces has a propensity to disrupt and paralyse the important work of such organisations, which is crucial to build and reinforce a peaceful and stable society. As I outline my case, I hope that hon. Members and the audience here, on television and elsewhere will grasp what we mean by protecting civil society space across the world.

Longer term, the closure of civil society threatens to weaken irreversibly the infrastructure of human rights movements, which, in turn, could endanger hard-won progress on human rights globally. That is an issue of great importance to me.