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Joint Statement on the proposed Hungarian NGO Bill

26 April 2017

We represent 4 independent human rights organizations, whose international mandates cover work across Europe and beyond, working with some of the world’s most marginalized peoples. We are also, all registered entities in Hungary and are proud members of Hungarian civil society. We consider the current draft law on NGOs, which singles out civil society organizations receiving funding from outside Hungary, to be both stigmatising and unnecessary. Its effect threatens the position of Hungary as a vibrant centre for international minority rights protection and risks undermining our future operations as international human rights organisations.

The government of Hungary, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, through different administrations, has played a critical and constructive role in advancing minority rights across the world and is one of the reasons Budapest, at the physical and symbolic heart of Europe, has become our home. Hungary should be proud of the role it has played and it should be proud of its rich domestic civil society, which has provided a unique environment for our organizations and with whom we stand in solidarity.

We all support the highest standards of transparency and openness in civil society, but the proposed law will not achieve these aims. On the contrary, the draft law alongside the government’s recent public consultation entitled ‘Stop Brussels’, misrepresents both our role and work and further risks creating a chilling effect in the relationship between the Hungarian public and its civil society. The diminishing of Hungarian civil society is ultimately not in the public interest, as it will negatively impact on the work of organizations who provide essential access to education, health, social services, sporting and cultural life, employment opportunities, care for the elderly and disabled, for communities representing all aspects of Hungarian society and for whom NGOs provide essential services, humanitarian care and advocacy.

The example of a de facto ‘foreign agents law’ in a EU state, sets a dangerous precedent for the free civil society, which is a cornerstone of our democracies and who act as the primary watchdog of our fundamental freedoms.

  • We call on the government of Hungary, to withdraw Draft Law
  • We call on the government to engage in open and constructive dialogue with civil society organisations as stakeholders and partners.
  • We call on the government to make clear statements retracting the insinuations contained in the Draft Law and ‘Stop Brussels’ consultation that are threatening public trust in civil society in Hungary.
  • We ask the international community, including our donors, to continue to support our work, and to publically re-affirm their support for Hungarian civil society.

Gyorgy Tatar, Chair, Budapest Centre for Mass Atrocities Prevention

Dorde Jovanovic, President, European Roma Rights Centre

Neil Clarke, Managing Director, Minority Rights Group Europe

Geert Ates, Balint Josza, Marcell Lorincz, Management, UNITED for Intercultural Action

Notes to Editors

Photo: Hungarian Parliament, Budapest / John6536