Venezuela’s National Assembly should not approve the Bill on International Cooperation, which would arbitrarily limit the ability of human rights organizations to access international cooperation funds, thus seriously impairing their work, Amnesty International said before debate on 10 November.
The bill stipulates that civil society organizations can only access international cooperation funds if they meet “the President’s set policies and guidelines”.
“Demanding that civil society organizations align their work with criteria set at the discretion of the President in order to access international cooperation funds would be a clear and unacceptable step that would undermine their independence and prevent the continuation of their work,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
Demanding that civil society organizations align their work with criteria set at the discretion of the President in order to access international cooperation funds would be a clear and unacceptable step that would undermine their independence and prevent the continuation of their work.Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“Restricting the work of civil society in this way is a means of limiting the protection of all human rights, both civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.”
In recent months, the President of Venezuela and the President of the National Assembly have publicly attacked human rights defenders, accusing them of receiving funds from governments and organizations outside the country in order to discredit and destabilize the government.
“The bill is another example of the clear disrespect that Venezuelan authorities have towards the work of human rights defenders. Rather than trying to limit their activities, the authorities should encourage their work and participation in the public sphere”, said Guadalupe Marengo.
The Bill on International Cooperation will be discussed by the National Assembly on 10 November 2015 and could be approved later that day. This bill has been previously presented and discussed in 2006 and again in 2010.
The definition of international cooperation in the Bill is broad and vague. It is defined as “The receipt, transfer, and exchange of goods and services, capital and public or private resources, material, human, economic, financial, from abroad to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and vice-versa.”
Discussion of the bill follows statements made by the President of the National Assembly during his television show on 7 October 2015 against recognized human rights defenders. He said: “These NGOs do not defend human rights, they are conspiring against the peace of this country, they receive money from international organizations” and made public his request to the National Assembly “to work on the Bill on International Cooperation again…because it is through these means that imperialism brings the money in to conspire against Venezuela”.