Secretary Kerry's Meeting With Civil Society Leaders

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 8, 2016

The below is attributable to Assistant Secretary and State Department Spokesperson John Kirby:‎‎

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry met with a group of civil society activists from Europe and Central Asia in Hamburg, Germany on the margins of the 23rd Ministerial Council Meeting of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The activists were participants and leaders of a parallel civil society conference convened by the Civic Solidarity Platform, a network of more than 80 non-governmental organizations from the OSCE region.

Secretary Kerry used the meeting to express the United States’ enduring commitment to supporting the essential work of human rights defenders, lawyers, independent journalists, and other members of civil society. He noted that only through strengthening democratic governance, respecting the rule of law, and welcoming the contributions of an informed civil society can governments achieve durable security and prosperity. He welcomed recommendations presented to him by the activists, which identified concrete areas for action by OSCE participating States and OSCE institutions.

The activists from Azerbaijan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine, including Crimea, raised specific cases of concern and broader trends in their countries and regions. Secretary Kerry affirmed that the United States would continue to raise concerns about the shrinking space for civil society activism caused by restrictive laws and practices, such as the false labeling of civil society organizations as “foreign agents,” and the misuse of broad anti-extremism laws to persecute peaceful members of religious and ethnic groups and those with dissenting views.